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Sabbath School Lessons on The Forgiven
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Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 6: Forgiveness and the Church *
Introduction: Many years ago, a pastor asked me to go along with him
on a visit to begin the disciplinary process of a church member who
was involved in a very serious sin. This was not a visit I wanted to
make. My assumption was that this church member knew we were coming
and why. It turned out the member thought this was a social call and
had no idea I was coming. Imagine my discomfort when the pastor began
discussing the sin problem and the member said "What's Bruce doing
here?" Shortly after that, the church member asked, "What business
is this of you guys? (i.e., what are either of you doing here?" Good
question! I was asking myself why I was there! What is the "business"
of the church when it comes to sin among members? Let's dive in and
discover what the Bible says!
- Passing Judgment?
- Read 1 Corinthians 5:1. The Greek text does not initially
describe the sin here. It mentions some type of sexual
sin. Later, in verse 1, we read "a man has his father's
wife?" Is this an indirect way of saying this church
member was having a relationship with his mother? (No.
This is telling us that he is having a sexual relationship
with his step mother.)
- How serious is this sin? Paul mentions that pagans
did not do this. Should we determine the nature of
sin by looking around at what pagans are doing?
( Leviticus 18:8 directly addresses this sin. Not only
had God prohibited this practice, but the pagans
naturally avoided this practice.)
- When sexual sins are mentioned, I commonly hear the
ladies say, "Why don't they go after the man? Why
just the woman?" Ladies, I want you to note who is
being judged by Paul here! Men, why didn't Paul go
after the woman in this story? (I think this gives us
a very interesting insight. The woman must be a
pagan. My bet is that the father is too. This man
probably was "converted" from a wild, pagan family.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 5:2. Consider the reaction of the
church members. Why would they be proud about this?
- Give me some likely set of circumstances that would
cause the church to be proud of this member?
(Sometimes we are particularly critical of the
wealthy, and sometimes money makes up for a host of
sins. My bet is that this man came from a prominent,
wealthy, wild family. The church was proud to have a
prominent society member as a member of the church.
He was probably a high profile "conversion.")
- Notice the two reactions that Paul says the church
members should have had: grief and judgment. Are
those the two reactions you most often see coupled
together when church discipline is applied?
- I remember the sad case of an attractive young
couple divorcing because of adultery. Both of
these young people were my friends. Because of
the nature of the sin, my position in the
church, and our friendship, the wife wanted the
maximum punishment imposed on her husband. How
often do you see anger and judgment involved in
church discipline, rather than grief and
- Read 1 Corinthians 5:3. What do you think about someone
who is not present, who does not know the people involved,
passing judgment from a distance? (As a lawyer, I'm always
concerned about having all the facts before I make a
judgment. However, it is also true that someone a little
removed from a situation can sometimes more clearly judge
the merits of an situation.)
- In the introduction I asked you about church discipline.
What have we learned about church discipline? Is the
church required, in certain circumstances, to impose
- Reason for Judgment?
- Let's read on in our story. Read 1 Corinthians 5:4-5. Wow!
Hand the sinner over to Satan! Is this our mission? Search
out those sinners, and hand them over to Satan? Doesn't
this seem to be "fishing" for the Devil and not the Lord?
- What is Paul's reason for handing a notorious sinner
over to Satan? (His sinful nature may be destroyed.)
- Please explain the logic of this. Why would
handing someone over to Satan destroy his
sinful nature? Would it not strengthen his
- If you hand someone over to the Lord,
isn't the idea to strengthen his Godly
- If this sinner remains a member of the church
in good standing, what message does that convey
to him about his sin? (This is Paul's point. If
you leave him in the church, and are proud of
having him as a member, he will not take his
sin seriously because the church does not take
it seriously. If you point out the seriousness
of the sin, by saying "You are now a fellow
with Satan," well, that gets the man's
attention. As we discussed last week, the
first step in coming to Jesus is to come face
to face with your sins, which leads you to
- You remember the story in our introduction? Recall the
question asked of me: what business of church leaders is
the sin of church members? What answer would you give
based on what we have studied?
- Since the woman was not named by Paul as someone to
discipline, how should church leaders treat sin among
the pagans as opposed to sin among members?
- Read 1 Corinthians 5:6-7. Paul started out speaking about
the effect of "unjudged" sin on the sinning member. Now he
is talking about cooking. What does cooking have to do
with anything? ("Yeast" is a symbolic term for sin.)
- What other church problem does "unjudged" sin create?
(Paul is teaching us that church discipline has two
positive results. First, it helps the sinner to
confront his sin - the first step in repentance.
Second, it helps to keep the church pure. Tolerating
open sin in the church has a negative influence on
other church members.)
- How do you decide what constitutes a "little yeast?"
At what point should sin be disciplined? For
example, if I had an open sexual affair that was
known to church members, then I should clearly be
disciplined by my local church because I am a "high
profile" member. What about the fringe people in the
church? What position should the church take on
people who occasionally show up at church, and who
have a child outside of marriage, have a sexual
affair, steal, etc.? (This is difficult for me. I
have always taken the position that "struggling"
members, marginal members, should not be disciplined.
In the rare cases where I was involved in discipline,
it was for relatively "high profile" members. Paul
uses the term "little yeast" meaning tolerating a
small amount of sin in the church can be a problem.
However, he did not say "any" yeast, thus leaving me
to believe not all sin needs church discipline.
However, there is the idea that discipline helps the
- Read 1 Corinthians 5:9-13. What is the line, the boundary,
for church discipline? (We are not to be judging those
outside the church. Here Paul couples the person's claim
to be a church member with obvious sin. The idea is that
the person is bringing reproach upon the church. He is
hurting the church. On the other hand, sinners outside the
church are our mission field.)
- Love and Judgment
- Read 2 Corinthians 2:6-8. Barnes Notes commentary connects
the discipline that Paul commanded in 1 Corinthians 5
(what we just studied) with this follow-up letter from
Paul. What does v. 6 imply has happened between these two
letters? (That the sinning member that was disciplined has
repented. Paul says the discipline was sufficient.)
- What does this say about Paul's theory that
discipline helps to bring a church member to his
senses? (It worked here.)
- After a member has been disciplined and has repented,
what is the next obligation of the church to that
person? (Forgive, comfort and love.)
- Why? (One of the two major goals of church
discipline is to help the member turn back to
God. Since discipline seems harsh at first,
comfort and love are to be immediately applied
to those who turn away from the sin.)
- Friend, we see a comforting picture of God even in the
context of discipline. God wants His church to be pure. He
also wants those who have sinned to turn away from their
sin. God asks the rest of the members to show love and
comfort and forgiveness to those who have turned from
their sin. The goal is to restore the member to a
continued walk with God.
- Next week: For the Love of God.
* Copr. 2003, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.