The word litigious is relatively new in common speech. It means "prone to litigation" or "prone to go to court." The reason this is somewhat of a new word is that a proneness to go to court is something relatively new, at least in American life. Generally, when there was a dispute between people several generations ago, it was settled in an informal way by neighbors helping the opposing parties work out their differences.

Continuing today in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we find that he makes two qualifications about expelling someone from the church. One qualification is disassociating from a believer who is living in open sin. He does not apply this to the world, to the people of the world in general, because, he says, if you do that, where could you live? He said you would have to go out of the world if you're going to live that way. He makes very clear, in verse 9 and following, that he is not talking about a kind of separatism.

Why does Paul insist that the Corinthian church expel this unrepentant person? The first reason is for the good of the individual involved. We find that hard to understand because our ideas of discipline are so lax. We think the worst possible thing we could do to somebody is embarrass them, or put them on the spot, or make a judgment that perhaps they are doing something wrong. But Paul says that isn’t true. Where there is open and flagrant sin, the sin must be confronted, and this must be done for the good of the individual involved. That is why he says, "I want you to hand this man over to Satan so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord."

As we continue to examine this situation in today’s lesson, the second thing we notice is the fact that this sinful relationship was public. It wasn’t even something that had happened in a quiet way, which perhaps, therefore, could be dealt with in a quiet way. There is a good principle here. If a wrong can be made right quietly without broadcasting it abroad, that is certainly the procedure to be followed. But, in this case, that was not possible. This was something that apparently was well known in Corinth. But not only was this situation known in Corinth, apparently it had spread throughout the Roman world, because Paul, writing this letter from Ephesus, had heard about it there.

In addition to what we have here in 1 Corinthians, there are other texts that deal with church discipline. One of the key texts is Matthew 18:15-17. There we find what Jesus Christ said about how to deal with a fellow believer who is living in sin. He said that the first thing to do is go to him with admonishing words. If he won't hear you - that is, if he won't acknowledge the offense, turn from it, repent of it, and seek reconciliation - then take two or three witnesses back to confront him with the events. That follows the Old Testament legal principle.