Fellowship, Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5

#Matthew #article #Corinthians #Fellowship
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Drew Leonard

September 16, 2022

Luke has reached out and wants to know about finding “harmony” between Jesus' teachings in Matthew 18:15-20 and the procedure laid out there and Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 5 with withdrawal. He asks, “Is it possible that the Corinthians had already learned Jesus' process and that Paul implies that it must be done before withdrawing fellowship?”

This is a good question.

Here’s what I presently think . . .

I think that Matthew 18:15-20 is a block that deals with PERSONAL differences. That is, the block deals with an issue that stands between two individuals. In other words, it is a PRIVATE matter – so 18:15's “in private” – (as opposed to 1 Corinthians 5's quite PUBLIC matter).

The “sins” listed explicitly in 1 Corinthians 5 (immorality, covetousness, idolater, reviler, drunkard, swindler) appear to take on more of a PUBLIC nature.

So, in short, I do NOT think that Paul assumes Jesus' template (from Matthew 18) as the method that must be taken. In the case where a severe false teaching or a severe public sin is carried out in rebellion, I think that Paul would (or could?) altogether avoid the steps of 1) going to the individual in private and 2) taking two or three witnesses and would advance immediately to a PUBLIC action (cf. Titus 3:10).

The episode with Apollos might show that some flexibility/judgment is to be exercised in how to approach various matters (cf. Acts 18:24-28); I think that Apollos' error is severe/serious and would naturally lead to catastrophic ramifications; however, there are variables . . . Obviously, his ignorance is a variable that changes things; ignorance is different from rebellion. In 1 Corinthians 5 (or texts like Romans 16:17,18 and/or Titus 3:10), Paul assumes a rebelliousness about the individual.

We must exercise judgment in distinguishing between ignorance and rebellion. They are different. May God help us discern.

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