I CORINTHIANS 5:4-8.

Dear Elder Beebe: If it is not taxing your time and patience too much, you will confer a favor on me by giving your views on I Corinthians 5:4-8.

Yours in Hope of eternal life,
Mary J. Dinslow.
Bowdoinham, Me.,
December 12, 1866.

Reply: The text submitted is lengthy, and presents a vast field of weighty considerations, involving the order and discipline of a gospel church.

“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

In the preceding verses of this chapter, the apostle calls the attention of the church to a case of disorder, involving not only the guilty party in a wicked course of so great notoriety as to be a common report, but of a magnitude which even the Gentiles would consider degrading and insufferable; but involving, also, gross disorder in the church in neglecting the laws of Christ which he has given for the discipline of the church, by which the offender should have been put away from fellowship. In reproving the delinquency of the church, the apostle points out the course which the order of the house of God demands, and these special instructions are to be strictly adhered to and complied with in all the churches, and throughout all time. In complying with the request of sister Dinslow, we will briefly notice the indispensable rules for the organization of the church for the transaction of church business.

First. The convocation and all her action should be in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Secondly. The church should be convened, every member, if possible, in his place.

Thirdly. The church has no authority to transact any business relating to the order of the house of God, unless the spirit of Paul pervades the church; and,

Fourthly. The power of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the absence of any of these four requisites, no church can be duly organized for administering the laws of the kingdom of Christ.

One. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, is summed up all the right or authority that any assembly or community can possibly have for assuming to be a gospel church. His name is the strong tower of his flock, and the righteous can find safety there, but nowhere else. In his name they have a vital interest. Only in his name can they approach unto God. In his name they are baptized into the one body over which he in all things presides as their head, and on which body and head alone his name is called. And it is in his name, as their Lord, their rightful proprietor, their blessed and only potentate, having a full and unreserved dominion over them, they are authorized to assemble and transact the business of his house. Their convocation, and all their actions should be in his name, as signifying that all is done by, and in obedience to his special and supreme commands. No other authority is sufficient. No king or potentate of earth, no pontiff, cardinal, priest or bishop, can be admitted in his place. Nothing short of “Thus saith the Lord” will be allowed by this apostolic rule. His name alone gives validity to his laws and ordinances, rules and instructions; they are all binding on his disciples, simply because they bear his name, as being enacted by him, and in his name enjoined upon his church. This was the highest, and, indeed, the only authority ever claimed by the apostles of the Lamb. In his name they preached, baptized, wrought miracles, and set all things in order in all the churches. For his name they suffered persecutions and reproaches, and rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for his name. What authority has any church to labor to reclaim delinquents, or to exclude the incorrigible, aside from that authority which bears his name?

Two. “When ye be gathered together.” When the laws of Christ require to be executed in the church, it is required of his disciples to come together for that purpose. No member of the church, unless providentially hindered, has a right to be absent. They are forbidden to forsake the assembling of themselves. The church is required to be gathered together, in the name of Jesus Christ, their Lord, whenever the order of the house of God calls for the assembling of the saints.

Several good reasons may be urged why the church should be convened for the transaction of whatever business Christ has, by his apostles, enjoined. One reason is, because all are alike interested, and equally responsible, according to their ability, for the faithful observance of the laws of Christ, and they cannot shift off their responsibility on others. Much trouble and disorder has been painfully felt when members, instead of assembling with the church for business, have shown a readiness to do their full share in whispering or openly talking over the affairs of the church in private interviews with one or more of the members; and, in such a clandestine manner, are sometimes very free to give their judgment or decisions in regard to difficulties which concern the church or involve any of her members; and thus bias the minds of others by expressing opinions or convictions in private, which if expressed before the whole church could, if wrong, be easily corrected. The whole wisdom of the church and all her gifts, helps and governments are required, and to secure them all the church must be gathered together. No rule is given by the apostle for the church to act, in such cases as he has named, without coming together. Nor is it enough that the church be assembled, but being gathered, it is important:

Three. To have an evidence that the spirit of Paul is there. “When ye are gathered together, and my spirit.” By the spirit of Paul we understand the spirit which God gave to Paul, and to all the other apostles when they were endued with power from on high, as apostles of Christ, to sit on the twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. The apostles were inspired by the Holy Ghost to set all things in order, and to teach us to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded them. But with all their inspiration, they were barbarians to all who were not quickened and led by the same spirit by which they were inspired. The same spirit by which they were inspired to rule in judgment is required to be in us, that we may be profited by their instructions and decisions. Jesus said to them, “When the Son of man shall sit upon his throne, then shall ye also sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Our Lord now sits on his throne, and so do also all of his apostles on their thrones of judgment. But the apostles are not now present with us in body, neither is the Son of man any more in the flesh. But as Christ, by his Spirit, is with his church and dwells in every heart, so the apostles are in the spirit of their apostleship seated in judgment in every apostolic church, where Jesus is honored as King in Zion, filling the throne of his glory. Hence the apostle says, in the third verse of this chapter, “For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already.” There can no case come up before the church of God which the apostles have not officially already judged, and their decisions could be no more weighty or decisive if they were with us in body. It was not their bodily presence that gave validity to their decisions; but it was the spirit of inspiration which they possessed; and in that spirit they are still in, and compose an important part of, the church of God, the ground and pillar of the truth. A church, therefore, where the spirit of the apostles is not, cannot be an apostolic church, and consequently has no authority to execute any of the laws of the kingdom of our Redeemer.

Four. “With the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.” By the power, in this, as in many other scriptures, is intended the authoritative power, which embraces all power in heaven and in earth. Having supreme and universal authority in his kingdom, no church which disputes the supreme power and unrestricted authority of our Lord Jesus Christ can be competent to transact any of the business of his kingdom. If any man have not his Spirit, he is none of his; and all who have his Spirit recognize in him all the power and glory of the Father, and by that Spirit they will humbly adopt the language taught by him to his disciples, and with them freely acknowledge to him, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever, and ever. Amen.”

A church thus organized is invested to act in the name, and by the authority, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and her acts being performed in his name, in his Spirit, and by his authority, are recognized by him as his acts, and therefore most solemnly binding. But mere decisions by a professed church, carried by a majority, where this order is not preserved, cannot be so regarded.

Having thus shown, in the case of the Corinthians, what should be the order of the church for the transaction of her legitimate business, the apostle proceeds to instruct them how to proceed, and what to do in the case which was before them. “To deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Satan is the prince of the power of the air; the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. He is the opposite of the Spirit of truth and holiness, in which all who are born of God are called to walk. As many as are led by the Spirit of God are to be recognized in the church as the sons of God, and as long as they manifest that Spirit they are entitled to the fellowship of the church; but when they depart from the faith by giving heed to seducing spirits, and by adhering to doctrines of devils, that fellowship is to be withdrawn from them. The withdrawing of the fellowship from those who walk disorderly is to deliver them over to the spirit by which they are led. As it was said of Ephriam, when he was joined to idols, “Let him alone,” that he might be filled with his own way. When the church by an act of exclusion relinquishes her authority and watch care of one who has had a standing with her, she formally delivers that person to that society and company of the spirit to which he is inclined. As when the Lord withholds from us his presence, we are for the time left to the buffetings of Satan. It was thus when Peter required to be sifted as wheat; he was for a time delivered over to Satan, to the tempter, and for the same purpose, for the destruction of the flesh: that is, of his fleshly propensity to savor the things which were of men. But the intercession of Christ in his behalf secured for him deliverance, and made his severe trial and sifting in the end a benefit to his brethren. To deliver a refractory or disorderly member unto Satan is simply to give them up to their evil passions, or to the spirit by which they are led. It is not to cherish bitter or malignant feelings against them, or to indulge in imprecations or maledictions against them, but the ultimate good of the offender is held in view. If he be indeed a child of God, when cast out of the fellowship and communion of the spirits, he will soon, like the poor prodigal, be reduced to severe poverty, and find himself a companion of swine, and in a starving condition. All his substance being wasted, his fleshly confidence destroyed, and his fleshly temper checked and subdued, he will remember his father’s house, where there is bread enough and to spare. This result will be in the day of the Lord Jesus. That is when the Lord Jesus shall heal his backslidings, and restore to him the joy of his salvation.

“Your glorying is not good.” The manner and circumstances of the glorying of the Corinthians, in the case under consideration, are not stated, only that they were puffed up, and had not rather mourned, that the discipline had not taken its course in putting the offender away from them. And their glorying was not good. “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” This figure of the nature and effects of leaven is very appropriate, and full of instruction, and had a powerful bearing on their case. As the nature of leaven is to ferment, expand, and puff up the lump in which it is hidden, so the old leaven of malice and wickedness is active and operative in fomenting discord, disorder and confusion when allowed to remain in the church. It should therefore be purged out.

The leaven of the Scribes and Pharisees, which, our Lord said, was hypocrisy, and of which he bade them beware, had the effect to puff them up, to inflate them with pride, and cause them to expand themselves with the most extravagant notions of their own self-importance. If Christians were not liable to this kind of inflation, they would not have been warned to beware of it. Leaven is secret in its workings, but certain in its operations, and diffusive in its nature; and where it has its course, it will ultimately conform the whole lump to its own nature and quality, so that the whole lump that is leavened, itself becomes leaven of the same kind and quality of that by which it has been leavened.

A Christian, who in his fleshly nature is subject to this fermentation when malice or wickedness is hidden in his mind, comes to think more highly of himself than he ought, and holds depreciating views of others. So also when the leaven of pride, malice or heresy is concealed in a church, its nature is to spread its poison through all the members, and it is certain to do so, unless it be thoroughly purged out. Thus if a wicked or malicious person be allowed to remain in the church without reproof, like the one in the Corinthian church, the effect must be like allowing a piece of leaven in a lump of dough, as exemplified in their case, until all the members become “puffed up,” as they were.

Now, as the church of Christ is redeemed from the world, and washed, purged and purified, she is to be a new lump, “Laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby.” Dead to the law by the body of Christ, and married to him that is risen from the dead. Crucified with him, and now quickened and living by the faith of the Son of God. Put off the old man with his affections and lusts, and put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness. With the old leaven purged out, “Ye are now unleavened.” And here the apostle reminds us that, “Even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us,” and urges from that consideration that we shall keep the feast, “not with old leaven,” etc. The feast of the Passover was kept by the Hebrews, as God himself ordained, throughout their generations, in commemoration of their redemption from bondage, and deliverance from Egypt, by the uplifted arm of the Lord, by which he broke their yoke and led them forth in triumph. On that memorable night when God smote the first-born of every family of the Egyptians, the Passover was instituted, and special instruction was given that a lamb of the first year, without blemish, should be slain on the evening of the night of their redemption, its blood sprinkled on the door posts of the dwellings of the Hebrews, and the flesh prepared by fire for the feast, according to the families of the Hebrews. And it was the command of God to them that they should eat the flesh of it on that night, roast with fire, and with unleavened bread, and with bitter herbs they should eat it. (See Exodus 12.) And forever, throughout their generations, they should perpetuate the celebration of that Passover feast annually, in the precise manner and form in which it was instituted. This very expressive ceremony was enjoined, not only as a memorial of their temporal deliverance from the house of bondage and God’s judgments executed upon the pride of Egypt, but as typical of Christ our Passover, which was to be sacrificed for us, and our deliverance from the wrath and dominion of the law, and from the guilt and penalty of our transgressions, and also to signify the feast which God has prepared in the gospel for his redeemed. While eating of the gospel feast, God has ordained that his people shall taste the bitter herbs, or the trials and afflictions which, like bitter herbs, are needful to correct and sharpen our appetites for the provisions of his table; that we, on whom the blood of our Passover has been applied as a peaceful sign, shall relish the food, and eat the flesh and drink the blood of him who as our Passover was sacrificed for us.

In eating this Passover, it is most expressly commanded that no leaven shall be allowed even in our dwellings during the seven days of the feast. “Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses; for whosoever eateth leavened bread, from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.”

Having thus briefly examined the figure referred to by the apostle, let us observe his application of it in admonition to the Corinthians and to the saints in all subsequent ages of the church. “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Christ, the unblemished Lamb of God, the firstling of his flock, the first-born among many brethren, first begotten from the dead, and in all things having the pre-eminence, is the Passover of the spiritual Israel. The consecrated Lamb, whose blood was shed for the remission of our sins, and is applied as a sure token and certain pledge that the angel of divine wrath which shall find out and crush all the adversaries of the Lord, shall pass over us, and shield and protect us from all condemnation. We are not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot, (every way answering to the figure of the paschal lamb of the Hebrews). Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but manifested in these last days for you who by him do believe in God that raised him up from the dead and gave him glory, etc. “Christ our Passover was sacrificed,” according to the import of the type. And for us, for his church, his spiritual Israel, and he the real, and not the lamb in the type, is our Passover, and as such was sacrificed for us. We are therefore to relinquish the type and accept the anti-type, and in coming to the feast which our anti-typical Lamb supplies, purge out the old leaven of Judaism, abandon the types and shadows, and worship God, not in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the Spirit. Purging out the old legal leaven, we become a new lump, though we were leavened, yet now the old leaven being purged out, “Ye are unleavened,” and “Therefore let us keep the feast,” the gospel, which is our Passover feast, at which the saints eat abundantly, and drink as Christ’s beloved, and live by faith upon the Son of God.

Old things are now passed away; all things are become new. We are no more under the law, but under grace. The old leaven is purged out. Those who retain the old Jewish, or legal, leaven are cut off from Israel; for they cannot live on their own works and at the same time live by faith upon the Son of God. If it be of works it is no more of grace; and if of grace, it is no more of works. “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle (Hebrews 13:10).” Banish, then, all workmongrel leaven from your houses, ye blood-sprinkled tribes who come to the gospel feast. Grace, free, sovereign, saving, almighty grace, be your theme, and Christ your Passover be your song.

“Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness.” Can a Christian feed on Jesus, as the bread of life, digest the heavenly food, and enjoy its life-inspiring and heart-cheering power, while cherishing malice and wickedness in his heart? Let Christians answer. The apostle Peter also admonishes the saints to lay aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies and envies, and all evil speaking. As it requires but little leaven to leaven a whole lump, so a little malice, or envy, or guile, hypocrisy, or evil speaking, will be sufficient, if allowed to be entertained in a church, to diffuse itself until a whole church may be thrown into a state of fermentation and disorder. What can be more unbecoming in the children of God, coming to the Passover feast to feed upon the provisions of the house of God, than to harbor in their breasts a sullen, morose, and malicious feeling towards a brother or sister of the same household, or even towards an alien, or an enemy? Can we ask our Father in heaven to forgive us our trespasses, while we hold a brother who has trespassed against us by the throat and refuse from our heart to forgive him? We are perfectly certain that with the leaven of malice or wickedness concealed in us, we cannot eat this Passover. Nothing can be more directly calculated to provoke a similar feeling of bitterness in our brethren than for us to indulge in ill feeling towards them, for it works like leaven, secretly producing its malignant effects on those around us. God commands that all this pernicious leaven shall be banished from our dwellings, or the offender who retains it shall be cut off from Israel; he shall not eat the Passover, or feast upon Christ our Passover, or enjoy the melting power of his love in our hearts, unless all this unholy leaven be purged out of us. The love of God shed abroad in us will make us love our brethren and esteem them better than ourselves. Instead of feeling maliciously inclined to injure any one of them, or to speak evil or disparangly of any one of them, we are amazed at the greatness of the grace of God which has given us the privilege to occupy a humble place among those who seem to us as far superior to us in all Christian gifts and virtues.

To enjoy the gospel feast, let us eat it with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. May the God of all grace thoroughly purge out from us all unholy influences, and evermore give us the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, and may we eat and drink abundantly in his kingdom, and go forth and grow up as the calves of the stall.

Middletown, N.Y.
June 1, 1867.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 29 – 38