I am continuing to study this passage for a more solid understanding. The key verses for my contention concerning the nature of this discipline are vv. 3-5. These verses are one long sentence in the Greek, with the main idea captured in these words: “For I verily … have judged … to deliver such an one.” Paul made an apostolic judgement which he says the Corinthians should have made themselves. Charles Hodge notes that the sentence of judgement (vv. 3-5) is connected with Paul’s reproach of the Corinthians in v. 2 with the particle ‘for’: “The connection with what precedes is indicated by the particle for. ‘I would ye were in a state of mind to remove this offender, for I have determined to cut him off.’” [Charles Hodge, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 83.]
Paul calls on the Corinthian church to assemble and to pass judgement. He does not call for confrontation on the part of one, consultation on the part of one plus elders, or for the church to gather and call for repentance (the Matthew 18 process). He calls for the church to pass judgement. Hodge gets it mostly right in this note: “The sentence was not to be passed or executed in secret, but openly. It was to have the solemnity of a judicial proceeding, and, therefore, the people were convened, though they were merely spectators.” [Hodge, p. 84.] Hodge misses the point of the assembly because of his Presbyterian polity. The people were assembled to pass the judgment as a body.
One last observation for today. In commenting on verse 2, on the words ‘be taken away from you’, Hodge says this: “It is a right inherent in every society, and necessary for its existence, to judge of the qualification of its own members; to receive those whom it judges worthy, and to exclude the unworthy. This right is here clearly recognized as belonging to the church. It is also clear from this passage that this right belongs to each particular church or congregation. The power was vested in the church of Corinth, and not in some officer presiding over that church. The bishop or pastor was not reproved for neglect of discipline; but the church itself, in its organized capacity.” [Hodge, p. 83.]
The issue in 1 Corinthians 5 is purity, both of the outward testimony and the ongoing life of the local church and its members.
In getting back to the comment that prompted my expressing these thoughts, it was suggested that a period of time must be involved to ‘work with’ an adulterer, attempting to effect repentance and restoration. I find no warrant for such in the text. If you use this approach, it seems to me that you are committing the Corinthian sin. There is ‘fornication among you’ and ‘ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned’.
When uncontrovertible evidence arises of egregious sins (such as those listed in verse 11), the church MUST expel the individual. This is the judgement of the apostle. From that standpoint, you can work with the man (or woman) to attempt to effect repentance. But to fail to expel is to tolerate the besmirched testimony. If true repentance is effected, I think there certainly is grounds for restoration, based on 2 Cor 2.4-11, but the apostle’s instructions are quite clear here.
Finally, as an aside, if you don’t have Hodge on 1 Corinthians, I highly recommend it. He is Presbyterian, so his polity is off in places (an example noted above). But he is an excellent expositor, with tremendous insight into the text. I have heard and read snippets of his personal testimony which reflect a life filled with devotion to the Lord and love of the saints. He was a worthy man.