Lest we look at the Early Church as some ideal that we should be emulating, we should take note of this warning passage. Obviously, the church at Corinth had its struggles: a group of mainly new believers brought together from all levels of society in a city known for its moral turpitude and idolatry is going to have its challenges, the amazing thing was that there was a church in a place like Corinth!
We must read into Paul's words again and it appears that when Paul had visited Corinth there had been a ring-leader to the opposition. He had personally insulted Paul and in doing so had not only hurt Paul, but the good name of the Corinthian church. Paul had insisted that the man be disciplined, which had happened by the time Paul wrote this letter, but there were some in the fellowship who had felt that it had not gone far enough and wanted to extend it. Paul, in his wisdom, declares that it has been enough and to impose more would do more harm than good. Gracious Paul pleads for mercy for the man who had publicly hurt him so much!
This is an example to us of Christian conduct in the face of public insult:
1. He didn't take it personally. He was anxious about the discipline and peace of the church, rather than his own hurt. We should be prepared to take constructive criticism and advice from those who know us best, whether in a church context or work or family.
2. His motive in encouraging the use of discipline was not vengeance, but correction. He sought to judge a man not by the standards of human justice, but of Christian love. His aim was that the qualities the man used in order to oppose him could rather be used to bless the church and bring glory to God. The Christian duty is not to render the sinner harmless by battering him or her into submission, but to inspire him or her to goodness.
3. Paul understood that the wrong kind of treatment can push someone into the welcoming arms of Satan. Punishment can encourage the person disciplined if they understand that it is done because others believe in them. My friend's Dad had very recently become a Christian when the church went away for a weekend together. He was a blunt-speaking man and managed to upset a few people that Saturday. There were mutterings within the fellowship that something should be done, but he pre-empted them by standing up at the start of the Sunday service and apologising to everyone there. God had spoken to him and told him that his conduct was not acceptable and instead of reacting against the message, he responded positively, because he knew God wanted the best for him.