1. THE MORAL CONDITION OF THE WORLD
a. What sad picture does Paul present about the last days? 2 Timothy 3:1–5.
“The iniquity which abounds is not merely confined to the unbeliever and the scoffer. Would that this were the case; but it is not. Many men and women who profess the religion of Christ are guilty. Even some who profess to be looking for His appearing are no more prepared for than event that Satan himself. They are not cleansing themselves from all pollution. They have so long served their lust that it is natural for their thoughts to be impure and their imaginations corrupt.”—Counsels on Health, p. 615.
b. Through His wonderful grace, who will be able to see God? Matthew 5:8.
“The words of Jesus, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart,’ have a deeper meaning—not merely pure in the sense in which the world understands purity, free from that which is sensual, pure from lust, but true in the hidden purposes and motives of the soul, free from pride and self-seeking, humble, unselfish, childlike.”—Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 25.
a. How notorious was the city of Corinth with regard to morality?
“At the very beginning of his labors in this thoroughfare of travel, Paul saw on every hand serious obstacles to the progress of his work. The city was almost wholly given up to idolatry. Venus was the favorite goddess, and with the worship of Venus were connected many demoralizing rites and ceremonies. The Corinthians had become conspicuous, even among the heathen, for their gross immorality. They seemed to have little thought or care beyond the pleasures and gaieties of the hour.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 243, 244.
b. How seriously had the church of Corinth become affected by the heathen environment? 1 Corinthians 5:1, 2.
“After the departure of Paul . . . unfavorable conditions arose; tares that had been sown by the enemy appeared among the wheat, and erelong these began to bring forth their evil fruit. This was a time of severe trial to the Corinthian church. The apostle was no longer with them to quicken their zeal and aid them in their endeavors to live in harmony with God, and little by little many became careless and indifferent, and allowed natural tastes and inclinations to control them. He who had so often urged them to high ideals of purity and uprightness was no longer with them, and not a few who, at the time of their conversion, had put away their evil habits, returned to the debasing sins of heathenism.”—Ibid., pp. 299, 300.
c. What did the apostle Paul declare regarding the immoral man—and how did he present the reason to remove the open transgressor from the fellowship of the church? 1 Corinthians 5:3–8.
“Paul had written briefly to the church, admonishing them ‘not to company’ with members who should persist in profligacy; but many of the believers perverted the apostle’s meaning, quibbled over his words, and excused themselves for disregarding his instruction.”—Ibid., p. 300.
3. SEPARATION ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY
a. What is the basic condition for God’s children to be free from moral pollution? 2 Corinthians 6:14–18. At the same time, how can we reach people with the gospel of Christ?
“It was by associating with idolaters and joining in their festivities that the Hebrews were led to transgress God’s law and bring His judgments upon the nation. So now it is by leading the followers of Christ to associate with the ungodly and unite in their amusements that Satan is most successful in alluring them into sin. [2 Corinthians 6:17 quoted.] God requires of His people now as great a distinction from the world, in customs, habits, and principles, as He required of Israel anciently. If they faithfully follow the teachings of His word, this distinction will exist; it cannot be otherwise. The warnings given to the Hebrews against assimilating with the heathen were not more direct or explicit than are those forbidding Christians to conform to the spirit and customs of the ungodly. Christ speaks to us, ‘Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.’ 1 John 2:15. ‘The friendship of the world is enmity with God; whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.’ James 4:4. The followers of Christ are to separate themselves from sinners, choosing their society only when there is opportunity to do them good. We cannot be too decided in shunning the company of those who exert an influence to draw us away from God. While we pray, ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ we are to shun temptation, so far as possible.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 458, 459.
b. What is the instruction of Paul regarding those who live in open sin in the church? 1 Corinthians 5:9–13.
“Christ’s example forbids exclusiveness at the Lord’s Supper. It is true that open sin excludes the guilty. This the Holy Spirit plainly teaches. 1 Corinthians 5:11. But beyond this none are to pass judgment. God has not left it with men to say who shall present themselves on these occasions. For who can read the heart? Who can distinguish the tares from the wheat? ‘Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.’ For ‘whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.’ ‘He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.’ 1 Corinthians 11:28, 27, 29.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 656.
4. CHURCH DISCIPLINE
a. What clear instructions are given with regard to the erring? Proverbs 25:8, 9; Matthew 18:15.
“In dealing with erring church members, God’s people are carefully to follow the instruction given by the Saviour in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew. . . . [See Matthew 18:15–18] Do not tell others of the wrong. One person is told, then another, and still another; and continually the report grows, and the evil increases, till the whole church is made to suffer. Settle the matter ‘between thee and him alone.’ This is God’s plan. . . .
“Do not suffer sin upon your brother; but do not expose him, and thus increase the difficulty, making the reproof seem like a revenge. Correct him in the way outlined in the word of God.”—Gospel Workers, pp. 498, 499.
“[Matthew 18:15 quoted.] If you disregard the words of Christ, and walk in sparks of your own kindling, you will fail to work righteousness, and will come under the bewitching power of Satan.”—The Review and Herald, August 16, 1892.
b. If—and only if—the first step fails, what is the next step in the process of recovering the erring member? Matthew 18:16.
“Take with you those who are spiritually minded, and talk with the one in error in regard to the wrong. He may yield to the united appeals of his brethren. As he sees their agreement in the matter, his mind may be enlightened.”—Gospel Workers, p. 500.
c. If—and only if—the first two steps fail, what is the next step regarding the one in error? Matthew 18:17, 18.
“ ‘And if he shall neglect to hear them,’ what then shall be done? Shall a few persons in a board meeting take upon themselves the responsibility of disfellowshiping the erring one? ‘If he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church.’ Let the church take action in regard to its members. . . .
“If he will not heed the voice of the church, if he refuses all the efforts made to reclaim him, upon the church rests the responsibility of separating him from fellowship. His name should then be stricken from the books.”—Ibid., pp. 500, 501.
5. CHURCH DISCIPLINE (CONTINUED)
a. What should we learn from how the church of Corinth was to deal openly and decisively with open transgression? 1 Corinthians 5:12, 13.
“No church officer should advise, no committee should recommend, nor should any church vote, that the name of a wrongdoer shall be removed from the church books, until the instruction given by Christ has been faithfully followed. When this has been done, the church has cleared herself before God.”—Gospel Workers, p. 501.
“When every specification which Christ has given has been carried out in the true, Christian spirit, then, and then only, Heaven ratifies the decision of the church, because its members have the mind of Christ, and do as He would do were He upon the earth.”—Selected Messages, bk. 3, p. 22.
“Sin and sinners in the church must be promptly dealt with, that others may not be contaminated. . . .
“When the individual members of the church shall act as true followers of the meek and lowly Saviour, there will be less covering up and excusing of sin. All will strive to act as if in God’s presence.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 147.
“Christ has plainly taught that those who persist in open sin must be separated from the church, but He has not committed to us the work of judging character and motive. He knows our nature too well to entrust this work to us. Should we try to uproot from the church those whom we suppose to be spurious Christians, we should be sure to make mistakes. Often we regard as hopeless subjects the very ones whom Christ is drawing to Himself. Were we to deal with these souls according to our imperfect judgment, it would perhaps extinguish their last hope. Many who think themselves Christians will at last be found wanting. Many will be in heaven who their neighbors supposed would never enter there. Man judges from appearance, but God judges the heart.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 71, 72.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Describe the depth of purity the Lord wants to instill in each of us.
2. Why must open transgression of God’s law be dealt with seriously?
3. When addressing sinful behavior, what what should be our aim?
4. What is to be my attitude and action if I see someone doing wrong?
5. When is church discipline and possible disfellowshipment necessary?