Here Paul addresses the case of a member of the Church, a believer, who is engaged in sexual sin. Paul’s response to this issue is that the church should judge and expel this member. We are loath to do anything like this today. (Apparently the Corinthians were too.) Our argument tends to be something like: “Judge not lest you be judged,” or “Who am I to say anything? There but for the grace of God go I.” We see a similar reaction in the secular world to the sins of Roman Polanski. In our culture today, we hate to judge. We prefer tolerance.
The problem, for Christians, resides in that very “grace of God.” If we are to embrace the grace and carry on with our sin we are disgracing God. Yes, we all continue to struggle against sin, but that is the issue… we struggle, this person has embraced it.
I was once on a ministry team in which we had all agreed to certain moral standards. One of our members broke those standards, confessed, and asked to be removed from the team—at least temporarily. I was almost the only person on the team of nearly 20 people willing to do so. Everyone else talked of grace and second chances etc. It seems that we have become so lax on our own standards that we feel ill suited to demand any of others.
Part of the Church’s purpose is to build its members up. We are to hold each other accountable. In love, grace, and mercy—yes; but if one of us embraces sin, we are to do something about that as well. The above quote from Jesus’ sermon on the mount does apply, of course, but we have to balance that with what the Bible says here or even what Jesus says later in chapter 18 of Matthew. We can confront each other without being judgmental.
If someone refuses to repent of sin, however, for their own sake they need to be asked to leave the fellowship. Paul’s hope is that they will come to their senses once they are on their own. Certainly the influence of the fellowship isn’t working!