Issues in a Gifted Church (Part 6)

Today's study is based on 1 Corinthians 5. Our next study will cover 1 Corinthians 6:1-11.

Even Pagans Don't Do That!

I told you this one was going to be deep! The problem that Paul addresses is that the church was permitting a brother, a professed believer, to fellowship in the church who was living in sin with his father's wife.

We can assume that the woman was not a believer or Paul would have addressed her too. Verse 10 makes it clear that Paul is saying that Christians, professed believers, are held to a higher standard. 1 Corinthians 5:10:
not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world

Paul is not suggesting that we should cease contact with people we work with or who stand on the step machine beside us at L.A. Fitness. He is not saying we should move out of our neighborhoods. We would have to move out of this world if that were the case! In fact, just the opposite is needed. We need them to see us so they can see the difference that Christ makes in our lives. Paul is saying that we should have no dealings with sexually immoral professed Christians (1 Cor. 5:9).

What is Sexual Immorality?

Author David Prior writes in The Message of 1 Corinthians, "Immorality (Greek word is porneia), which has the literal meaning of ‘resorting to prostitutes’. In Corinth the priestesses of the temple to Aphrodite were sacred prostitutes and the practice of porneia was particularly prevalent in such an atmosphere. The word came to mean, by consistent New Testament usage, any sexual behaviour which transgresses the Christian norm, i.e. all premarital, extramarital and unnatural sexual intercourse. ‘The word is used in a comprehensive sense, including all violations of the seventh commandment.’"

To show you how bad things were in the church at Corinth, you have to go back to John 3:19-20. We read that:
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

Generally speaking, people who do wicked things like to do them in the dark. The Church at Corinth was so messed up that he was bold about it AND, worse still, the church was accepting of it!

There was an easygoing tolerance in the church of a professed believer who was clearly living out of harmony with God's will. Leviticus 18:8:
You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife: it is your father's nakedness.

Paul rebukes the Church at Corinth for tolerating it. In fact, he calls them "arrogant," a term he had used already in 1 Cor. 4:18-19. It is arrogant to think that we can run the church in a way other than the way God has ordained that it operate. We are not at liberty to excuse the sins of people we like. Why not?

Easygoing Tolerance Hurts the Individual

Paul says the church should PUT THE BROTHER OUT! That's pretty serious, isn't it? 1 Cor. 5:5:
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

Every society has the right to determine judge the qualification of its own members. In fact, it is necessary. If the society does not, it may cease to exist as a society. The church must do the same. Of course, it does it not based on its own opinions; but on the authority of Scripture. And it does it for the sake of the unbeliever.

This man's conscience was messed up. He needed to be re-sensitized to the eternal consequences of a decision to live in sin. The church has to remember that Galatians 5:19-21 tells us some people are NOT going to inherit the kingdom of God. If the church truly cares for its individuals, it will take the loving and firm step of excluding from its fellowship those who live in open disobedience to God's Word.

The church is God's appointed agency for the salvation of human beings. That's why we exist! The fellowship is to encourage its members as we "see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:25). We must care for that professed believer who is living in open sin enough to confront them on it. If we excuse it, we don't truly care for that person. To know someone is headed for certain destruction and say nothing to them means that we don't really care. Church discipline is good for the individual.

Easygoing Tolerance Hurts the Church

Paul says that "a little leaven leavens the whole lump" (1 Cor. 5:6). One more quote from David Prior on this:
One persistent, flagrant sinner who remains accepted without discipline within the Christian fellowship taints the whole body. Just as the Jews had to celebrate their deliverance from bondage with no leaven, so Christians must continually celebrate their deliverance from sin without any compromise with the very things from which they have been set free. Otherwise, the whole worship and community-life of the Christian church becomes a charade, full of insincerity and falsehood. We note that Paul is talking of deliberate repeated sin within the fellowship. Godet calls it ‘active connivance’ and Hodge describes it as doing evil ‘with delight and persistency’. We all commit sin, we all need cleansing: but we are all bound to be ruthless with anything that betrays our calling and taints our fellowship in Christ. Paul is not expecting perfect holiness or absolute purity: his plea is for sincerity and truth.

Finally, it should be noted that while Paul uses sexual immorality in a professed believer as the concrete example of someone who should fall under church discipline, he does list "the greedy," and "swindlers," and "idolaters" as well. In other words, we ought to be "ruthless with anything that betrays our calling and taints our fellowship in Christ." If they are believers, they have declared publicly that they have traded in the old man and his ways for new life in Christ. The church cannot have an easygoing tolerance towards flagrant, repeated sin within the fellowship.

Let's not confuse the world by engaging or permitting that which is not even tolerated among those who don't know God (1 Cor. 5:1). May God give us as a community grace to apply His word so that the unbelievers looking in will see the image of Christ when they see us.


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