Excommunication: Laboring for Joy and Restoration

Lamentations 2:1-9, 14-17

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11

Anyone who has been part of a business, sports team, class project, social club, any organization made up of other human beings knows the difficulty of harmonious interaction. Church life is no different. It isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. I remember my grandfather, who is a pastor, tell me, “To dwell with the saints above, that’ll be glory, but to dwell with the saints below, that’s another story.” It is another story. One that has needlessly strained relationships because of sin, but sometimes it has strained relationships because it’s a design feature that God has embedded in the church to deal with sin. If you’ve ever known someone who has been excommunicated, the relationship between that person and the rest of the body can be strained, awkward, non-existent, or maybe just bitter. How do you interact with someone in this position? And what’s the purpose of this seemingly harsh, yet instituted, church function?

This is what Paul is dealing with in Corinth. He wants to make it clear that his instruction to excommunicate an incestuous member of the congregation was not done to cause anyone pain. He wasn’t being a bully. He wasn’t being mean. It was done to demonstrate his love for them. He says, “we work with you for your joy.” The Corinthians obeyed his instruction to exercise church discipline, and Paul says this punishment by the majority was enough, indicating that the desired effect had been achieved – repentance of the immoral believer. But with regards to follow on actions by the church, the Corinthians seemed to have missed the point – his restoration. His restoration to fellowship and the restoration of his joy was the point. Paul says, “Forgive him and comfort him…I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.” Paul is laboring for their joy in all these things because he loves them.

This is how God works. This is how He works with us individually, and we see it on the corporate level as well. The Lord disciplines those whom He loves. And He chastens every son whom He receives. And so it is with church discipline. As students of New Saint Andrews, you will most likely be involved in church life at some level, and you need to ensure yourselves and everyone involved in such gritty affairs that discipline is gospel. That the goal of discipline is restoration and joy. And the governing principle for reaching that goal is love.

Ends of the Earth