The Justice System established for God’s Church

“Justice and only justice you shall seek” – Deu 16:20

1. Jesus establishes a justice system for the New Covenant community (Mat 18:15-20).

1.1. Jesus is not inventing something new but rather re-instituting the system of justice established by God for the Old Covenant community. That system of justice was dependent on the following 4 truths:

    1.1.1. Seeking justice as the means to loving one another (15 w/Lev 19:15-18)

    1.1.2. No prosecution without proper evidence (16 w/Deu 16:18-17:7, 19:15; 1Ti 5:19-21)

    1.1.3. Divine authority resides in the covenant community (not the individual) (17-20 w/Deu 17:8-13; Act 15:19-22, 28; 1Ti     3:15; Mat 16:19)

    1.1.4. Apostasy is the reality for the those rejecting the judgment of the covenant community (17b w/Deu 17:8-13 w/Num     15:30-31 -also Deu 29:19-20; Mat 12:31-32 w/Joh 20:21-23; Heb 6:4-8, 10:24-30)

1.2. It is for this reason that Paul speaks of the church as a kind of court (1Co 6:1-5 – no doubt an allusion to Lev 19:15).

1.3. Seeking justice (Deu 16:20) is necessary to:

    1.3.1. The protection of the innocent (Exo 23:7)

    1.3.2. The purity of the covenant community (1Co 5:7)

    1.3.3. The producing of true repentance (2Co 7:8-11)

    1.3.4. The presentation of the gospel and God’s mercy (“mercy seat “- Heb 9:1-14 w/Rom 3:24-26)

    1.3.5. The process of salvation (Luk 19:1-9).

1.4. Such justice requires:

    1.4.1. We are to be unbiased in judgment – i.e. that it is the crime that determines the punishment, not the person (“lady justice is     blind” -1Ti 5:19-21; Deu 19:21a)

    1.4.2. One law for all (Num 15:15-16; Lev 24:22)

    1.4.3. The punishment fit the crime (Exo 21:24; Deu 19:21b; as such each crime must be assessed separately and degrees acknowledged – e.g. child rebellion)

    1.4.4. Capital crimes (now) result in excommunication (1Co 5:2, 13 w/2Co 2:6-7).

2. Excommunication means removal from membership in the covenant community and its saving benefits (1Co 5:1-13).

2.1. As it regards “removal from the covenant community” (1-5a, 12-13)

2.2. As it regards (removal from the covenant community’s) “saving benefits”:

    2.2.1. Exposure to the tyranny/terror of the Satanic realm, loss of justification/right standing with God (5a, 12-13; 1Ti 1:20)

2.2.2. Loss of justification (5 -“Satan” = cannot be justified/right with God and in his realm/reach – 1Jo 5:18-19; Act 26:18 w/Col 1:13; “so that his spirit may be saved” = This kind of language becomes non-sensical unless something re: to salvation has been forfeited since it is clear this person was once a part of Christ and His kingdom and therefore saved. This is why those disciplined are declared “bound” – i.e. no longer justified/freed from their sins but once again tied to them and their subsequent condemnation – Gal 5:4; Jam 5:19-20; 2Pe 1:9, 2:20, 3:17) (Consider also, 12-13 – “judging…purge…” = an allusion to OT capital punishment. Excommunication is therefore also the act by which the guilty are put to death – spiritually – i.e. they lose their right standing w/God)

    2.2.3. Exclusion from the necessary cleansing provided through the Lord’s Table (5-8; Joh 6:53 w/13:8-30 w/Mat 26:20-21; see also Exo 21:14).

2.3. What excommunication DOES NOT include = social shunning by the covenant community:

2.3.1. Where the idea of social shunning comes from (9-11: “not to associate…not even to eat with such a one” = fellowship w/the guilty party is forbidden even in its most basic form – sharing a meal together). This translation has     become     the predominant view within Christianity today (though this was not true in the past): Jay Adams:”The congregation may no longer fellowship with him…They are told, ‘Don’t mix or mingle with him, withdraw from him, stand aloof. ‘Not to eat’ means two things: (1) that normal fellowship is broken. Eating with another, in biblical times, was the sign of fellowship; (2) that the offender is forbidden to partake of the Lord’s Table.”(Handbook of Church Discipline) Edwards:Particularly, we are forbidden such a degree of associating ourselves with excommunicants), as there is in making them our guests at our tables, or in being their guests at their tables; as is manifest in the text, where we are commanded to have no company with them, no not to eat. That this     respects not eating with them at the Lord’s supper, but a common eating, is evident by the words, that the eating here forbidden, is one of the lowest degrees of keeping company, which are forbidden. Keep no company     with such a one, saith the apostle, no not to eat — as much as to say, no not in so low a degree as to eat with him. But eating with him at the Lord’s supper, is the very highest degree of visible Christian communion. Who can suppose that the apostle meant this: Take heed and have no company with a man, no not so much as in the highest degree of communion that you can have (by excluding one is he not excluding the other)?”(The Nature and End of Excommunication) Leon Morris: “‘Do not eat’ will refer primarily to the ordinary meal, not to Holy Communion, though that     too, would be included. Believers are not to have intimate intercourse (i.e. conversation) with (such) people (i.e. the excommunicated).” (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – 1Corinthians) John Gill: “Such persons remaining impenitent and incorrigible, still persisting, in such a vicious course of life, after due admonition given them, were not only to be removed from their religious society, from the communion of the church, and be debarred sitting down, and eating with them at the Lord’s table, or at their love feasts, but also were to be denied civil conversation and familiarity with them, and even not suffered to eat common food at the same table with them: which though lawful to be used with the men of the world, yet for some reasons were not advisable to be used with such; partly for vindicating the honour of religion, and preventing the stumbling of the weak; and partly to make such offenders ashamed, and bring them to repentance.” (Commentary on 1Corinthians)

2.3.2. However, proper hermeneutics requires that context determines meaning. How we can be confident that Paul is speaking only of removal from membership in the covenant community and the Lord’s Table in 1Co 5:1-11: The phrase rendered “not even” in verse 11 is inaccurate. It should be rendered “no longer” (Mar 2:2). Hence Paul is not giving extension to his prohibition, but rather specific explanation (“do not associate” = “no longer eat w/such a one”). Removal from membership in the covenant community is the only type of disassociation     communicated by Paul in these verses (2 – “Let him who has done this be removed from among you”, 5 – “deliver to [the domain of] Satan”, 7 – “Cleanse out the old leaven”). Hence (11) “not to associate” = no longer regard as a Christian and part of the church. The Passover/Communion meal is the only kind of eating mentioned by Paul in these verses (6-8). Hence (11) “not (even) to eat with such a one” = do not partake of the Lord’s Table with the excommunicated (see also 10:16-17). Verses 9-11 are the explanation to Paul’s initial shock in verses 1-2 (versus some schizophrenic hiatus to play “dear Abby”). He had previously given them instruction on this subject that they had incorrectly attempted to apply to unbelievers (non-covenant members)

2.3.3. In addition, rarely (never?) does a particular word used within a didactic context carry dual meaning – which is exactly how those embracing social shunning are choosing to understand Paul’s command since all would agree it is (also) referring to the Lord’s Table.

2.4. How 1Co 5:11 teaches that the church must fence the Lord’s Table (i.e. practice a closed communion) in relation to not only the excommunicated but all people not in a good standing w/Christ and His church= Not all the sins mentioned by Paul in this verse are capital crimes (i.e. resulting in excommunication). They instead are meant to represent the kind of person who professes to be a Christian, but in practice refuses to submit to His Lordship and Church (a “so-called brother”; Tit 1:16). Paul makes it clear that they are also among those we are not to extend/invite to the Lord’s Table (“not to eat with such a one”).

2.5. Before moving on, it is important to note again Paul’s expectation/hope in 5b -“his spirit will be saved in the day of the Lord”(i.e. that they will respond to the discipline in repentance and be restored to a right standing w/God).We should have the same “hope” and expectation.

3. Christian separation from those embracing false gospels and refusing to support/sustain the lazy are still a part of the justice (or discipline) we as the Church are called to practice (Rom 16:17; Phi 3:2; 1Ti 6:20-21; 2Ti 2:14-21; Tit 3:10-11; 2Jo 1:9-11; 2Th 3:6-15).

3.1. As it regards Christian separation (Rom 16:17; Phi 3:2; 1Ti 6:20-21; 2Ti 2:14-21; 2Jo 1:9-11; Tit 3:9-11)

3.2. As it regards the lazy (2Th 3:6-15).