Read 1 Corinthians 5
God is love.
God loves you.
Love one another.
Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead and you will be saved.
Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
God is for us so what do we care about who is against us.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God that we know in Christ Jesus.
Judge your fellow believer.
Whoa! Hold your holy horses! How did that one get in there?
Turn him over to Satan.
Who sneaked this chapter into the Bible?
Love one another to kick ‘em to the curb in a single chapter?
What in the world could Paul be talking about here? Is Paul in conflict with Jesus? Has Paul contradicted himself? What’s up?
Apparently, the church at Corinth did not quite have a grasp on the concept of freedom in Christ. Paul was another 5 chapters away from everything is permissible for me, but not everything is profitable.
But in the case in point in the present chapter, Paul just says that dog don’t hunt. He is saying that if he was still there with them, they would not have tried to pull this sort of thing, much less be boasting about it.
This guy who is shacking up with his stepmother—cut him off from the body. Don’t tolerate this. Don’t encourage it. Tell him to “stop it” and then give him the boot if he doesn’t respond immediately.
Let him see what it is like to live as a pagan again. Now that he knows the one true God and the salvation and peace that comes with accepting God’s love—send him back to what he was and see how he likes it.
Let him live solely among people who do not know God and see if he does not become ready for a wholesale life change.
Paul writes that he mentioned previously that the church should not associate with people doing sinful things. Now he says, he wasn’t talking about the people of the world. That’s the mission field. We are going to be surrounded by sinful people all of our lives.
He is talking about those who have said that they follow Jesus.
Paul is saying that we need to hold ourselves to standards that mean nothing in the world. We need to be accountable to each other as the body of Christ.
We are accountable not only to God but to each other.
Paul’s methodology seems extreme but not unprecedented. Jesus said, when these hard cases won’t respond to 2 or 3 believers confronting them in love, and then do not respond to the entire body confronting them about their sin; then treat them like you would a pagan.
They are not welcome in the fellowship of believers.
Paul and Jesus are not in conflict. They both are telling us not to ignore the elephant in the room. Godless behavior among the ungodly is just a way of life, but among God’s people it must not go unaddressed.
It is what we are called to do. Ouch! The cross in pick up your cross daily and follow me just got really heavy.
We don’t like to do this sort of stuff so most of the time, we just don’t do it, or we go to the other extreme and we like it too much and start judging all the time.
Wow! Christianity just got really difficult, or did it?
What is our perspective on sin? Is sin something desirable that now we have to give up or is it something harmful that degrades our lives and might just outright kill us?
What is our perspective on freedom? Is the freedom that we know in Christ something to be used to gratify our selfish desires or something to be enjoyed to bring glory to God?
If you had a family member who smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day, would you just smirk and say, “Those things are going to kill you one day?” You might be inclined to be more direct. “Those things are killing you. Please quit. How can I help?”
There is the old story of the two preachers standing on the side of the road out in the country holding signs that read, “The end is near.”
The road did not have a lot of traffic, but what did come by didn’t even slow down. Car after car just sped on by without slowing down. Then there was the inevitable squealing of tires and screaming as the vehicles plunged into the river.
After a couple of hours on the side of the road, one preacher said to the other, “I think you were right. A sign that read BRIDGE OUT would have been more effective.”
Sometimes we just need to be very direct. Sometimes we just need to be courageous and speak the truth in love. Sometimes should happen more times than it oftentimes does.
Consider Paul’s counsel again, especially the part about turning this sinner over to Satan. This sounds like something out of left field, but that is not the end of the statement. The motivation here is that the sinful nature may be destroyed and the soul saved on the day of the Lord.
The motivation is love.
It is not righteousness.
It is not justice.
It is not perception.
The motivation is love. It is the divine heart that we know through Christ Jesus. It is that divine love that desires none to perish.
There is nothing wrong with righteousness and justice and perceptions are a part of life. These are good things, but when we judge other believers by these standards instead of approaching this area motivated by love, we are just dogmatic.
We become modern day Pharisees.
When we judge without love we have condemned others when in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation.
We walk on a razor’s edge in all forms of judgment involving other believers.
If we ignore something that is truly sinful, not just repulsive to us, but truly sinful; then we have not met our obligations to each other.
If we judge someone with anything but the purest of motives—if we have not removed the lumberyard from our own eyes first—then we exercise authority that we don’t have.
If we judge the nonbeliever, we are just wasting our time. We have no relationship there, only a mission of evangelism. To judge the nonbeliever is to cast our pearls before swine. It is to use the best of our gifts and talents for something without a corresponding good purpose.
The best of what we have should be used to evangelize the nonbeliever and to encourage and counsel fellow believers. Our best is always employed with the motivation of love.
Now the season for Passover must have been approaching for Paul uses the example of yeast and unleavened bread. He said to get the yeast of sin out of the bread, actually to start over with a new batch of dough.
Jesus had talked about the yeast of the Pharisees.
Paul would elsewhere use analogies of the old self and the new self but he is talking about believers being set apart from the world. We are different. We are made new.
But it is tough to live that way. We need the encouragement of other believers. Sometimes we need counsel and sometimes we need a good chewing out from a friend.
While Paul does not use the term here, he is talking about the responsibilities of the body of Christ. Paul tells this congregation that if he were there he would be dealing with this matter, but he also tells them that he is still dealing with the matter even though he is away.
He is talking about the spiritual unity of believers. We are to be of one accord. We are to put our mission and commission ahead of our individual gratification.
We have not given up everything. Christ gave up everything, only to take it back again. We make only reasonable sacrifices. One of those is that we deal with sin in the body of Christ.
· Not by punishment.
· Not by condemnation.
· Not by ridicule.
Sometimes if a believer is not responding to the body of Christ, we do it by separation. When encouragement and counsel do not work, we are told to separate ourselves from the one who has professed Jesus as Lord yet continues to defy God.
The good news for us is that we don’t have to do this very often. Most of us when we sin desire to confess our sins and receive the promised pardon sooner than later. Our lives are out of balance until we do.
But we are also our brother’s keeper. When we see someone about to step out in front of the bus of hurt and heartache, we don’t just say, “Now that’s going to hurt.” That’s what the world does.
When we see a sister in Christ who is an alcoholic with a dozen years of sobriety about to take a drink because life has become more than she can bear, we don’t say, “She had a good run but we knew this would happen eventually.” That’s what the world does.
Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is a train and we need to tell our friends to turn around and run!
When we see a marriage about to fall apart, we don’t just say, “Another one bites the dust.” That’s what the world does.
If you have never been to a wedding that I officiated, then you may have never been challenged in this way, but my message during the wedding has never been to the couple. It is always to the body of Christ and it is simple and straightforward.
From this point forward you can no longer be spectators and bystanders. You have a mission to encourage and to reconcile this couple. You have forfeited your right to take sides. The only side you may take is the side of reconciliation.
The body of Christ is active in the lives of its members. We don’t pry. We don’t spy. We don’t interrogate. We don’t investigate. We don’t evaluate the lives of each other.
We know each other as friends, as brothers and sisters in Christ, and as children in the family of God. And when it seems that we are losing a family member to a life of sin, we don’t hesitate to step in.
Encourage, counsel, rebuke are surely biblical. Sometimes they are more effective with a headlock, but when the believer sets himself or herself in opposition to God and stubbornly sticks to this path, separation from the fellowship of believers is the prescribed medicine.
Doing this without a heart that condemns is the mark of the mature believer. Maintaining one accord in the body during these times is the path to effective recovery for the rebel.
Paul was writing to one church in one location about two millennia ago, but his message is for the entire body of Christ that extends to the end of the age.
We are not spectators.
We are not bystanders.
Those who do not know God are our mission field.
Those who do know him and are slipping away deserve urgent care and sometimes radical treatment. Consider the celebrations that occurred in the three parables that Jesus told in Luke 15. There is much celebration in heaven over one sinner who returns to the fold.
It is that celebration that brings us to do what is not natural for us—confrontation and separation. It is a metric by which we might see our heart being shaped like God’s—a desire for none to perish and all to truly know life in Christ.
Is this a teaching that seems to contradict once save always saved? I don’t think so. It is a teaching about growing in grace.
Confession, forgiveness, and growth are the model for most believers.
Some have to do it the hard way. Some want to hold on to the sinful nature fearful that they are giving up something of value.
Some just don’t have eyes to see abundant life.
Some choose sin out of fear that they are missing out on the good stuff denied to believers and end up missing out on the fullness of life.
But the motivation for the separation of the sinner from the fellowship of the body is the destruction of the sinful nature. The body in one accord desires all to come to the fullness and abundance of life.
Elsewhere Paul introduced a phrase most applicable here: Speaking the truth in love. The context was growing in grace, growing to maturity in Christ.
The example in the 5th chapter of 1 Corinthians is of a man who has professed Christ but continued in a sinful lifestyle and the people of the congregation seem to be good with it. Paul provides the needed counsel.
The message to us is that we grow in grace as individuals and we grow in grace as the body of Christ. We run our own race of faith but we are to help each other stay the course.
Prayer, encouraging, counseling, and fellowship are the tools that we use most often; but we must know deep within us that we will confront another believer in love if necessary. If separation from the fellowship is needed, we do this as the body of Christ, not as the Lone Ranger.
We will use the standard tools of discipleship most of the time, but will not be afraid to use extraordinary measures when needed—when love compels us to confront another believer—for their benefit and for the benefit of the body.
This is an odd sort of chapter. It doesn’t have the same poetic ring to it that faith, hope, love—abide these three—but the greatest of these is love has.
It doesn’t have the promise of salvation that we find in other words that Paul wrote: That if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
It’s just different. Some might call it tough love, but truly it is just another expression of love.
It is part of what we signed up for when we agreed to love one another.
We might call it Tuff Stuff but really it comes from a heart being shaped by divine love.