The Exercise of Church Discipline - The Warrior's Journey®

The Exercise of Church Discipline

Author: Chaplain, COL Scott McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

. Photo by is licensed under CC By 2.0

“Expel the wicked person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:13) 

This is not the only biblical passage on church discipline. There is, for instance, Jesus’ discussion in Matthew 18:15-18. However, Matthew 18 pertains to a case in which one brother has offended another. And this discipline is tempered by Christ’s stern warning that we need to forgive our brothers and sisters. The implication is that, somewhere in the process of the church dealing with an offense, reconciliation and forgiveness must take place. Even here in 1 Corinthians 5:5 the salvation of the immoral brother is the ultimate goal. Another “disciplinary passage” can be found in Galatians 6:1-8. But here, the brother who falls into sin must be restored gently and with humility. And those who do the “restoring” are to guard themselves, lest they too stumble. Paul authored these words. It makes one wonder why his instruction to the Corinthians is so much harsher. 

One reason is the seriousness of this so-called brother’s sin. It involves a level of perversion that unbelievers refused to tolerate and is therefore destructive to the church’s witness. Another reason for Paul’s harsh admonition has to do with the Corinthian church’s attitude toward this sinning brother. They were proud of themselves for being so tolerant and open-minded about his deviant behavior. Remember, not only was Corinth steeped in immorality. It was near Athens where people prided themselves on their intellectual superiority. Therefore, Paul had to “shake them” back to reality. Instead of celebrating this man’s perverse behavior they should be mourning over it – and their own lack of concern for the salvation of his soul. 

Today there are serious challenges to administering church discipline. In Paul’s day, church discipline was far more effective in redeeming an immoral brother. There was only one church in town – if any at all. He had no choice but to repent or suffer isolation. Today, however, if a church expels a sinful believer, there are dozens of other churches in town that will gladly welcome him. Another challenge is that churches are at risk of being sued and paying huge settlements if they expel a member. Perhaps the biggest challenge, however, is that the nature of church services has changed. Today, in the fastest growing churches, Sunday worship is the primary venue for evangelism. Pastors freely invite sinners to “come as they are,” in hope of calling them to receive Jesus. After all, how many sinners did Jesus turn away? The church discipline described here in 1 Corinthians 5 is most appropriate for situations in which a long-standing member is caught in some immorality and their sin is hurting other believers – as well as the church’s witness. Remaining silent will be interpreted as approval. Therefore, the immoral brother must be confronted and, if unrepentant, removed. 


  • Did Paul expect Christian believers to be sinless? (Read Romans 7:14-24) 
  • If sin is present in all of us, should we be eager to judge? (Matthew 7:1-5) 
  • We should do all things for the spiritual good of our fellow believers. 

Let's Talk

100% Confidential | Warrior-to-warrior

We respond within 24 hours and can provide community support, resources, and referrals.