Cleansing the Church
1 Cor. 5:6-13
Sin must be dealt with immediately without further delay specially if the erring person is a Christian.
Though Corinth has been exposed to sexual sins (remember the thousand prostitutes in the temple
of Aphrodite), and to “Corinthianize” means to practice sexual immorality or to practice fornication.
Within the church, we cannot allow this to happen. The offender has already been judged by Paul
and to further clarify his actions even justify it he gives us the explanations so that they can avoid
this sin to happen again and to keep the purity of the church.
Illustration 1: Infidelity
A man on staff with Chuck Swindoll got sexually involved with his secretary. The church chose not to
handle it in public, but rather deal with this privately. The next year, 17 marriages of senior
leadership people in the church broke up! Paul is clear that when a leader sins, he/she needs to be
publicly rebuked so that others will be warned away from the same sin.
Jack DeWolf, in a conference on conflict resolution in Spokane, WA, April 30, 1994
I. Cleansing the church (1 Cor. 5: 6-9)
A. The Corinthians are so satisfied with their present conditions. They are glorifying or
so proud of their riches, wisdom, and “smart ministers” that they failed to see the
shameful and scandalous sin that is going on with one of their members.
B. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
1. Leaven or yeast is symbolic of sin in the Bible. There are two types of leaven:
a. The moral leaven of sin (1 Cor. 5:6)
b. The doctrinal leaven of false teaching (Gal. 5:7-9).
C. Leaven is small but it can spread and spoil the whole lump. Sin and false teaching are
called “leaven” because if moral and doctrinal impurities are not corrected, they
have the potential to spread through the church and corrupt it. One drop of foul
water will contaminate a whole container of pure water. Yet one drop of pure water
will never improve the foul water. A “little sin, if left alone will control the whole
man and all whom he influences (Rom. 6:16, 23)
D. Paul commands them” Purge out therefore the old leaven”. Put away sin or get rid
of it. As the literal yeast is removed from the house during the Feast of unleavened
bread, sin has to be removed from the house of God, the local church.
E. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Jesus is our Passover lamb. He died for us but
also empowered us now to live for Him. Since we have His power, we can live daily
for Him and we can destroy or get rid of any sinfulness that may come.
F. The church must purge itself of “old leaven” – the things that belong to the “old life”
before we trusted Christ. We must also get rid of malice and wickedness and replace
them with sincerity and truth. As a loaf of bread (1 Cor 10:17), the local church must
be as pure as possible
G. Once more Paul emphasizes the need for separation from sinners (1 Cor. 5:9)
specially to fornicators. However, there are other sins that we should purge out of
II. Other sins to be avoided and purged out (1 Cor. 5:10-11):
A. Fornication. This is a broad term for sexual impurity. It refers to fornication outside
marriage (1 Cor. 7:2) and to adultery within marriage (Mat. 5:32). It is likened to
“concupiscence” in 1 Thess. 4:3-5, which refers more particularly to the lusting
aspect of sexual impurity. A believer would be a fornicator, therefore, who engages
in such things as homosexuality, incest, rape, bestiality, and the use of pornography.
B. Covetousness. This means “to desire inordinately; to desire that which it is unlawful
to obtain or possess; excessively eager to obtain and possess” (Webster). A church
member who is covetous and therefore who should be disciplined for this sin will be
characterized by the following:
1. Covetousness is to be greedy. Covetousness is to desire that which is not my
own or that which is forbidden (Ex. 20:17; Deut. 5:21; Josh. 7:21).
2. Covetousness is to enrich oneself at the expense of others; it is to oppress and
use others for one’s own selfish ends (Prov. 28:16; Mic. 5:2).
3. Covetousness is to love and pursue money and personal wealth instead of being
content with the basic needs of life and pursuing the will of God (1 Tim. 6:6-11).
It is to make money and possessions the focus of one’s life (Lk. 12:15).
C. Idolatry. This refers to worshipping idols or to putting some material possession or
pleasure in the place of God and to bestow upon it the love and devotion that
belongs to God alone.
D. Railing. This means to heap abuse upon another, to revile. The same Greek word
(loidoros) is translated “reviler” in 1 Cor. 6:10. “A reproachful man; a man of coarse,
harsh, and bitter words; a man whose characteristic it was to abuse others; to vilify
their character, and wound their feelings” (Barnes).
E. Drunkenness. To be intoxicated with foreign substances, either by alcohol or drugs.
F. Extortion. “The act or practice of wresting anything from a person by force, duress,
menaces, authority, or by any undue exercise of authority, or by any undue exercise
of power; illegal exaction; illegal compulsion to pay money, or to do some other act”
(Webster). See Ps. 109:11; Ezek. 22:12.
G. Paul wants complete separation from people who practices or commits the above
sins. So strict and urgent was his command that he says “not to eat” or not to have
fellowship with them inside or outside the church.
H. Also, Paul is telling us here that those who are outside the church (not believers) will
be judged by the Lord not us. We can only judge those who are believers and
members of the local church. (1 Cor. 5:13). Our duty to the unbelievers is to tell
them the good news of salvation about Jesus Christ.
Illustration 2: Bonding
Sometimes when I’m talking to teens, I draw an analogy between the bonding capacity of the body
and adhesive tape. Adhesive tape is not made for repetitive use. The strongest bond adhesive tape is
capable of making is formed with the first surface to which it is applied. You can remove the tape
and reapply it to other surfaces several times, and it will still adhere. However, with every
application, some of the adhesiveness has been compromised. Finally, if you continue the practice
long enough, there will not be enough adhesiveness left to make the tape stick to any surface. God
intended that the bond between mates be the closest and strongest one they are capable of
forming. That is why Paul makes it very clear that the body is not for fornication.
Dr. Richard Dobbins in Homemade, Nov., 1987
Illustration 3: Sin Compared to Poison
Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman told of a distinguished minister, Dr. Howard, from Australia who preached
very strongly on the subject of sin. After the service, one of the church officers came to counsel with
him in the study. “Dr. Howard,” he said, “we don’t want you to talk as openly as you do about man’s
guilt and corruption, because if our boys and girls hear you discussing that subject, they will more
easily become sinners. Call it a mistake if you will, but do not speak so plainly about sin.
“The minister took down a small bottle and showing it to the visitor said, “You see that label? It says
strychnine—and underneath in bold, red letters the word ‘Poison!’ Do you know, man, what you are
asking me to do? You are suggesting that I change the label. Suppose I do, and paste over it the
words, ‘Essence of Peppermint’; don’t you see what might happen? Someone would use it, not
knowing the danger involved, and would certainly die. So it is, too, with the matter of sin. The milder
you make your label, the more dangerous you make your poison!” Source unknown
III. Church Discipline needed
A. Church discipline must be imposed for the following reasons:
1. To maintain a good testimony before the unbelieving community (1 Cor. 5:1).
The church bears the name of Jesus Christ and represents Christ in this world. It
is the light that the world sees, and if the light is corrupted by open and grave
sin, the world will be offended at Christ. Compare Phil. 2:14-15; 1 Pet. 2:9-12.
2. Church discipline is to please the Lord (1 Cor. 5:4). Church discipline is what
Christ has commanded and what He desires. In Titus 2:14 we see that a pure
church pleases the Lord because this is His objective in redemption.
3. Church discipline is to correct erring church members (1 Cor. 5:5). See 2
Corinthians 2:6-8, where the sinning member was to be restored. As we exercise
church discipline, we must keep in mind that our goal is not to destroy people
but to help them if at all possible.
4. Church discipline is to protect the church from being permeated with sin and
error (1 Cor. 5:6-8). Sin is a leaven that can quickly spread.
5. Church discipline is to restrain sin (1 Tim. 5:20). See also Deut. 13:11; 17:12-13;
19:18-20; Acts 5:1-11. Judgment upon sin is a warning to others. “Modern
psychology objects to a negative approach and opposes commandments and
warnings. God’s Word does not support such a theory, for the theory ignores
the awful fact of a depraved human nature. It would be ideal if men could be
encouraged to live godly lives. without any warning of judgment upon
ungodliness. But to suppose they will do so is idealistic and contrary to all
observation, as well as to Scripture. God warns of impending judgment and says,
‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Heb. 10:31). ‘Because
there is wrath, beware…’ (Job 36:18). If sin goes unjudged in a church, we are
thereby inviting others to become self-indulgent. It will not do to plead ‘love’ as
a basis for neglect. … God does not put love and punishment in opposition to
each other. He says, ‘For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth…’ (Heb. 12:5-11).
The church has a solemn responsibility to restrain sin by proper discipline. If we
do not exercise the judgment, the Lord will (1 Cor. 11:31-32)” (Paul R. Jackson,
The Doctrine and Administration of the Church (WOLE by D. Cloud)
Sin must be purged or removed immediately from the church or the house of God. We
must deal with it promptly without delay. We can do this through church discipline to
keep the purity of the church, to maintain good testimony to the outside world, to
correct the erring members, as well as to restrain sin and protect the church from errors