VI. THE TEST OF DIVISIONS AND STRIFES
AMONG THE SAINTS IN EXALTING GIFTED PERSONS—
1 CORINTHIANS 1:10-13
This was the case among the Corinthians. Some said, "I am of Paul," some, "I am of Apollos," some, "I am of Peter," and others, "I am of Christ." They exalted the gifted ones, thus creating divisions and strifes among themselves. Saying "I am of Christ" seemed to be very spiritual, but it was condemned by the apostle just as saying "I am of Paul," "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," because it caused division just as much as the other three sayings, which apparently were very fleshly (3:3-4). All of these sayings caused division; hence, all were condemned. The apostle charged all the Corinthians to speak the same thing and to be attuned in the same mind and in the same opinion in order to avoid division among them (1:10-11).
VII. THE TEST OF SOME FLESHLY CORINTHIAN
BELIEVERS BEING PUFFED UP AS THOUGH
THE APOSTLE WERE NOT COMING TO THEM—
1 CORINTHIANS 4:18
In dealing with this case, the apostle as a begetting father admonished the Corinthians as his beloved children (vv. 14-15). Then the apostle told them that he would come to them with a rod, or in love and a spirit of meekness, depending on their preference (vv. 19-21). This was the Apostle Paul’s way to solve this problem, that is, to show his love to the troublemaking believers, who were his children, and to point out to them his God-given authority over them.
VIII. THE TEST OF A CORINTHIAN BROTHER
WHO LIVED IN GROSS SIN AND WOULD NOT REPENT—
1 CORINTHIANS 5:1-5, 9-13
In Corinth there was a brother who lived in gross sin and would not repent. The apostle had already judged such a one in the name of the Lord Jesus, with His power, to deliver him to Satan for the destruction of his flesh (vv. 3-5). The apostle charged the church in Corinth to remove this one from the fellowship among the believers (vv. 2, 9-13). This also was a kind of quarantine exercised over a sinful brother.
We have studied 1 Corinthians 5:13 particularly. The word translated remove here was taken from the Septuagint (Greek) version of the Old Testament. The removal of the sinful brother in 1 Corinthians 5 was like the putting of a leper outside the camp in the Old Testament (Lev. 13:45-46; Num. 5:2). In Numbers 12 Miriam rebelled against Moses, and she was stricken with leprosy. She was removed from the camp for seven days, until her leprosy was cleared up. This was a form of quarantining. There has been much talk among Christians concerning the matter of excommunication. It is wrong to excommunicate a believer. To excommunicate someone is to give him up; but to remove a person is to quarantine him with the hope that he would become sound.
The apostle charged the church in Corinth to remove the sinning one from the fellowship among the believers (1 Cor. 5:2, 9-13). He charged the church not to associate with such a one, not even to eat with him (v. 11).
Later, when the sinful brother repented, the apostle charged the church to forgive him by confirming their love to him, that they might not be taken advantage of by Satan, because the apostle was knowledgeable of Satan’s devices (2 Cor. 2:5-11). Once a sinning brother has repented, the church should immediately forgive him and show its confirmed love to him. Otherwise, Satan will come in to take advantage of the church to devour the fallen and repentant believer. This is the proper way to deal with such a case, a way that takes care of 1) the purity of the church, 2) the discipline of an unrepentant believer, 3) the necessary and urgent forgiveness and confirmed love to a repentant believer, and 4) the devices of Satan.
(Elders' Training, Book 10: The Eldership and the God-Ordained Way (2), Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)