being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. [2 corinthians 10:6]
the church is a very precious thing, both the local manifestation of the body (i.e. matthias’ lot or the church in corinth) and the whole of the body–the church universal, that which has outlasted nations, institutions, kings and queens, wars, famines, pandemics, persecution and more. she is Christ’s bride, and he gave himself up for her, and he will protect her.
husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. in the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. he who loves his wife loves himself. for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, [ephesians 5:25-29]
while the passage cited above is often an admonition to husbands, it is also more about Jesus than it is about earthly marriages–earthly marriage exists as a picture to show us what Jesus is like. Jesus is a husband who lovingly protects and cares for his bride the church, nourishing her, cherishing her. even though she is unfaithful, he continues to love her and never grows bitter. his love never grows cold. if we love the church like Jesus does, and as paul does, we have an obligation to protect her, and paul makes it clear that he will do it by the means given to him. what tools does paul have to punish?
excommunication, putting outside the fellowship
as for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. [titus 3:10-11]
delivering them over to satan
when you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord [1 corinthians 5:4-5]
among whom are hymenaeus and alexander, whom i have handed over to satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. [1 timothy 1:20]
but even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. as we have said before, so now i say again: if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. [galatians 1:8-9]
other supernatural punishments
as when ananias and sapphira lie to the assembly, they are struck down as a punishment. [acts 5: 1-9]
when paul punishes, he does not intend that the punishment be final, but as a means to call people back to Christ, to restore them–remember 2 corinthians 7:9-10?
as it is, i rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. for you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. for godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. [2 corinthians 7:9-10]
as you pursue God’s presence today, ask yourself–
what godly grief am i experiencing?
what do i need to repent of? what sin still needs to be rooted out of my heart?
do i have a brother or sister in Christ i need to confess something to?
our vulnerability, our display of weakness, our reverence for the purity and beauty of Christ’s church must outweigh our personal pride and hiding our sins for fear of punishment. let us seek to make our obedience complete and live a life of repentance, pursuing unity with the bride of Christ–and Christ himself.