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The Church with Tough Love - 1 Corinthians 5, HCLD 31

The seventh service plan in a Pentecost series. This service is planned around 1 Corinthians 5 and deals with the somewhat unpopular issue of discipline in the church.

Worship Service
Also in this Series

The Church

This series of worship services explores the nature and the life of the Christian Church as the place where faith is fed and nurtured.

Theme of the Service

The theme of this service deals with issues that are somewhat out-of-vogue in large sections of the Christian Church today: The Christian life should include commitment to obedience expressed through church membership, preaching must declare that belief leads to salvation and disbelief to judgment, and fellowship of the local congregation should include loving care that occasionally leads to confronting a member about sin in his or her life to encourage reconciliation. The Heidelberg Catechism calls these (the preaching of the gospel and the exercise of church discipline) the keys of the kingdom (see Lord's Day 31, Q&A 83). This service examines how the church exercises these keys.

* * * * *


Prelude: "Psalm 95: Come, Worship God" [see music notes]
or: "God Himself Is with Us"

The Call to Worship [see liturgy notes]
Come, bow down and worship,
Kneel to the Lord, our Maker.
This is our God, our shepherd,
We are the flock led with care. (TWS, 1.2.13, Psalm 95:6-7, TP)

*Song: "God Himself Is with Us" PsH 244, RN 8, TWC 799, TH 382

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
Brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, who do you trust?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

*Response: "I Am the Lord Your God" PsH 199
or: "Psalm 95: Come, Worship God" SNC 25

[see liturgy notes]

The Children's Moment

The Call to Confession
When we gather to praise God,
we remember that we are people
who have preferred our wills to his.
Accepting his power to become new persons in Christ,
let us confess our sin before God and one another. (TWS, 2.1.16)

The Prayer of Confession
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgment.
You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me. (TWS, 2.2.8, Psalm 51:1-4, 6, 9-11, NRSV)

The Assurance of Pardon
Hear the good news!
Who is in a position to condemn?
Only Christ,
and Christ died for us,
Christ rose for us,
Christ reigns in power for us,
Christ prays for us.
Anyone who is in Christ
is a new creation.
The old life has gone;
a new life has begun.
Know that you are forgiven, and be at peace.
Thanks be to God. (TWS, 2.4.1, based on Romans 8:34; 2 Corinthians 5:17)

*Our Song of Thanks: "Our Great Savior" TWC 89, RN 194
or: "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" PH 356, PsH 486, RL 449, TH 457, TWC 45, UMH 400

*Our Passing of the Peace


*Song of Preparation: "Blessed Jesus, at Your Word" PH 454, PsH 280, RL 530, RN 93, SFL 56, TH 303, UMH 596

The Prayer for Illumination

The Reading of the Heidelberg Catechism [see liturgy notes]

The Readings from Scripture: 1 Corinthians 5
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: The Church with Tough Love


Sung Prayer: "Spirit of the Living God" PH 322, PsH 424, RN 90, SFL 184, TH 726, TWC 297, UMH 393

*Our Affirmation of Commitment [see liturgy notes]

*Our Sung Call to Dedication: "Come, All Christians, Be Committed" TWC 578

The Prayers of the People

The Offertory Prayer
The Offering of Music: "Come, All Christians, Be Committed" [see music notes]
We offer our gifts for..


*Words of Sending: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "Go Forth for God" RN 291, UMH 670, PsH 325
or: "Benediction/My Friends, May You Grow in Grace" SNC 288

Postlude: "Toccata," Lee [see music notes]

* - You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes

The Scriptures and the Confessions (the Belgic Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism) point to two major responsibilities: On the one hand, Christians have the responsibility to make a commitment of faithful church membership; on the other hand, the church carries the responsibility to exercise supervisory care of its members. However, the individualism of our day easily rejects both of these. The preacher needs to be aware of this conflict and attempt to meet the challenge gently and persuasively.

Perhaps a classic example of the individualism which desires a church that has no authority (the major obstacle here!) comes through a story told by Charles Colson in Kingdoms in Conflict (pp. 205-208). After her church terminated her membership for unrepentant sinful living, Pat sued her church for invasion of privacy and emotional distress. When she won in court, one juror reported, "I just don't see what right the church has to tell people how to live!"

The Christian church believes that it has the authority to open the doors of the kingdom of heaven through preaching and the declaration to all believers that, as surely as they accept the gospel promise in faith, their sins are forgiven, they are welcomed as members of the body of Christ to the table of the Lord. The preaching of the church speaks for Christ in declaring that the benefits of the gospel can be and are received.

At the same time, the Scriptures and Creeds tell us that there are times when the church must also exercise the difficult task of using the "keys" to close the doors of the kingdom. Preaching declares that those who refuse to believe are not saved (see John 3:36 e.g.), and the Christian community may at times exercise a caring confrontation that aims to correct errors in the life of a fellow believer. In the broad picture of the Scriptures, we are told there are five methods for such correction:

  • Our own internal corrections are expressed through self-discipline (see Proverbs 25:28)
  • The Word of God corrects us (see 2 Timothy 3:16)
  • Preaching points out our errors and calls for repentance (see 2 Timothy 4:1-5)
  • Fellow believers lovingly correct us (see James 5:19-20)
  • Formal action by the church body corrects us (see 1 Corinthians 5)

It should be pointed out that the story in 1 Corinthians 5 serves as a case study for this task of the church. Public sinful behavior which contradicts one's profession will severely damage both individuals and the church unless it is corrected. The goal of such correction is to "save the sinner" (see v.5) and to serve the health and welfare of the church (see v.6-8).

This sermon provides an excellent opportunity to exercise meaningful pastoral care to the congregation. Assurance and peace can be communicated by the firm promises of the gospel to all who believe. The individual Christian can be warned to exercise personal self-control and avoid habitual sins. The Christian community can be encouraged to care for one another enough to be willing to confront one another in love when necessary. The congregation can also be taught about the importance and authority of church officers. In all of this, the emphasis is on the positive work of helping one another live our lives of discipleship and experience God's renewing and reconciling grace.

Music Notes
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Suggestions for prelude can be found in the following resources:


Albrecht, Timothy. Grace Notes VIII. Augsburg 11-10970 [1999] (E-M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-752 [1989] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 1. AMSI OR1 [1980] (E-M)
Leupold, A. W. An Organ Book. Chantry Music Press [1960] (M)
Peeters, Flor. Hymn Preludes for the Liturgical Year, vol. 6. Peters 6406 [1966] (E-M)

O QUANTA QUALIA ["Psalm 95: Come, Worship God"]
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 7. AMSI SP-104 [1988] (E-M)
Edmundson, Garth. Seven Service Preludes. Fischer 9206 [1960] (E-M)

Suggestions for alternative harmonizations and offertory music based on the Sung Call for Dedication are as follows:

BEACH SPRING ["Come, All Christians, Be Committed]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Busarow, Donald. All Praise to You, Eternal God. Augsburg 11-9076 [1980]
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations, bk. 5. Ludwig O-14 [1992]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Porter, Rachel Trelstad. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 7. AMSI SP-104 [1988] (E-M)
Haan, Raymond H. Be Present Now. Morningstar MSM-10-566 [2004] (E-M)
Held, Wilbur. Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ, vol. 4. Concordia 97-7032 [2005]
Held, Wilbur. Seven Settings of American Folk Hymns. Concordia 97-5829 [1984] (E-M)
Linker, Janet. Sunday Morning Suite. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7560-6 [2002] (E-M)
Wold, Wayne L. Augsburg Organ Library - Lent. Augsburg 11-11036 [2000] (E-M)
Wood, Dale. Wood Works, bk. 2. SMP KK400 [1989] (E-M)

Porter, Rachel Trelstad. Day by Day. Augsburg 11-10772 [1996] (M)
Leavitt, John. How Sweet the Sound. CPH 97-6891 [2000] (M)

Hopson, Hal H. Reflections on Beach Spring. Genevox 4184-18 [1986] (3-5 octaves, E-M)

The organ postlude suggestion "Toccata" by John Lee can be found in "Five Postludes," published by GIA 701 [1969] (E; adaptable to piano).

Liturgy Notes

1. Because of the sensitive nature of this service, we suggest that a spirit of warmth and loving care be evident from the beginning. The words of Psalm 95 in the Call to Worship evoke the security of sheep under the loving care of the shepherd even though at times the shepherd may have to correct or discipline them.

2. The Children's Moment is a good time to explain that we all come with sins to confess and that we come willingly because we know that God is eager to forgive when we confess. The Call to Confession and the Prayer of Confession should continue with a spirit of honesty within warm security. The Assurance of Pardon should be very clear, firm and reassuring.

3. Reading sections of the Heidelberg Catechism before the sermon will help the congregation understand this sermon and the reason for selecting this subject. Other sections, especially from the Belgic Confession, may be used after the sermon to form an affirmation of commitment to live faithfully as the body of Christ together. Please note that we have reformulated the structure of the Belgic Confession readings so they are in litany form. We have also slightly altered the reading from the Belgic Confession to reflect more gender inclusive language.
To reprint for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom use, include this credit line: © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI. Reprinted with permission.

Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day 31, Q&A 83-85

What are the keys of the kingdom?
The preaching of the holy gospel
and Christian discipline toward repentance.
Both preaching and discipline
open the kingdom of heaven to believers
and close it to unbelievers.
How does preaching the gospel open and close the kingdom of heaven?
According to the command of Christ:
The kingdom of heaven is opened
by proclaiming and publicly declaring
to all believers, each and every one, that,
as often as they accept the gospel promise in true faith,
God, because of what Christ has done, truly forgives all their sins.
The kingdom of heaven is closed, however,
by proclaiming and publicly declaring to unbelievers and hypocrites that,
as long as they do not repent,
the anger of God and eternal condemnation rest on them.
God's judgment, both in this life and in the life to come,
is based on this gospel testimony.
How is the kingdom of heaven closed and opened by Christian discipline?
According to the command of Christ:
Those who, though called Christians,
profess unchristian teachings or live unchristian lives,
and after repeated and loving counsel
refuse to abandon their errors and wickedness,
and after being reported to the church, that is, to its officers,
fail to respond also to their admonition-
such persons the officers exclude from the Christian fellowship
by withholding the sacraments from them,
and God himself excludes them from the kingdom of Christ.
Such persons, when promising and demonstrating genuine reform,
are received again as members of Christ and of his church.

Belgic Confession of Faith art. 28-29

How important is church membership?
We believe that since this holy assembly and congregation
is the gathering of those who are saved
and there is no salvation apart from it,
no one ought to withdraw from it,
content to be alone,
regardless of status or condition.
What is our obligation and duty toward the church of Christ ?
All people are obliged
to join and unite with it,
keeping the unity of the church
by submitting to its instruction and discipline,
by bending their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ,
and by serving to build up one another,
according to the gifts God has given them
as members of each other in the same body.

Must we distinguish the true church from others?
We believe that we ought to discern
diligently and very carefully,
by the Word of God,
what is the true church-for all sects in the world today
claim for themselves the name of "the church".
How do we distinguish the true church?
The true church can be recognized
if it has the following marks:
The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel;
it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them;
it practices church discipline for correcting faults.
In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God,
rejecting all things contrary to it
and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head.
And how do we recognize those who belong to the true Church?
We can recognize them by the distinguishing marks of Christians:
namely by faith,
and by their fleeing from sin and pursuing righteousness,
once they have received the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ.
They love the true God and their neighbors,
without turning to the right or left,
and they crucify the flesh and its works.