Who does the Apostle St. Paul address in this fifth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians. Who is to exercise discipline and expel the wicked? Is that just said to the pastors in Corinth? Are they entrusted with keeping discipline all on their own? No – just as little as our Lord Jesus Christ addresses only pastors in Matthews 18. All Christians – the entire congregation and Church – is entrusted with this disciplinary process – especially with good order with regard to the Lord’s Supper. The congregation is responsible for this. It’s a necessary expression of brotherly love and care. Wherever there is no discipline and good order, there is no real cohesion and communion in the congregation and Church. There the congregation lacks the necessary expression of God’s family and people. It is not possible to exercise discipline in a blessed and edifying manner as long as the congregation does not recognize this as its own responsibility and honourable duty of brotherly love and care, which every member should pursue vigorously.
It is totally misplaced to expect this procedure from pastors alone. The pastor is a prominent member of the congregation – no doubt – and he has the special responsibility entrusted to him by the office of the ministry. This he has to bring to bear to maintain proper discipline in the congregation in both doctrine and practice – yet he can only do his part and fair share. He is and remains only one, a brother, a member of the congregation and Church, who can’t do the work and practice the loving discipline entrusted to the entire congregation and church. The pastor does not replace the congregation. He cooperates with it even as he leads it. Never should the pastor allow the congregation to push their godly cross, responsibility and duty off onto him.
Lord, you are the sole helper in this challenge troubling your church. Grant unto us, that we continue to hope, where according to human reason there is no hope. Grant to your Church a new spring, let her dead and dying live once more so that the children of your Church might flourish, bloom and bear fruit like good fruit trees of your liking. Grant this by your glorious resurrection. Amen.
Grant the holy stringency of Elijah, when the mislead blind masses consecrate temples and altars to contemporary idols and may we never bow before them our heads or knees – not even outwardly – but let us remain your faithful witnesses, steadfast and true – even if all alone. (Karl Johann Philipp Spitta, 1801-1859)
This is a rather free translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for Saturday after Easter. It is found on Pg. 165 in Lob sei Dir ewig, o Jesu! (Eternal Praise to you o Jesus!) edited by A. Schuster and published in the Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau 1949.