1 Corinthians 5
Have you ever been in a hospital? It’s a place where sick people go to become healthy again. The doctor’s responsibility is to identify the problem and make it better with medicine, surgery, advice, whatever. Imagine going to the hospital, having tests done that verified that you had cancer. But instead of the doctor doing anything, they did nothing. They just ignored you and kept telling you that everything was fine. You would either be confused or out-of-your-mind angry.
Like a hospital, the church is a place where people want to find health spiritually. Part of the purpose of the church is to help show people their true spiritual condition. How? The pastor tries to help people see things from God’s point of view. Helps them to understand, grace, repentance, living in spiritual freedom. What is interesting about church is that the pastor can identify sin but many people don’t want to deal with it. Spiritually speaking, it’s like having cancer and doing nothing about it. That sin, if ignored, can do enormous damage to the person and to the community around that person.
That’s what was happening in the church of Corinth. There was a glaring sin that was so bad, it offended the people who didn’t go to church. Instead of dealing with it, the church ignored it. So Paul had to deal with it and teaches how do deal with sin.
Couple of things I want to say before we jump into 1 Corinthians 5. First, dealing with sin isn’t fun. It’s like grabbing a porcupine with no gloves. Nobody wants to do it. If you are a people pleaser, you will want to do nothing. If you want everyone to just get along, have no issues, you will want to do nothing. If you are a normal human being, you will want to do nothing. It’s just easier to ignore.
Secondly, the kind of sin we are talking about is so bad, it damages the person and the community. If you over eat at Hosses or speed through the Franklintown speed trap, that just damages you. If you are fully pursuing and engaging sin with no guilt and it’s damaging those around you, it’s a huge problem.
Third, the reason we grab the porcupine, deal with the sin, is because we love the person. We want the person to be fully redeemed by God. Paul told us why we deal with sin,
…so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved when the Lord returns. NLT 1 Corinthians 5:5
Not only do we want the person redeemed, the other reason to grab the porcupine is because the damage on the community must end. Like dealing with an angry husband who abuses the family. It must end. Spiritual issues that can grow out of control and must end would be areas like; rebellion, pride, negativity, criticism.
Lastly, this issue of confronting and dealing with sin doesn’t really happen much today for several reasons. Our culture, is trying to link truth with hate. So if you tell the truth, you hate. Somehow, if telling the truth makes someone feel awkward, you must stop or water down the truth. So we say things today like, “Don’t judge me.” If you tell the truth, you are viewed as insensitive and filled with hate.
Within the church, leaders can be very weak and feel like if they deal with sin in their volunteers, the volunteers would quit and leave. Some leaders are afraid to deal with ‘the big giver’ who might be offended and stop giving.
Most people who attend church, if confronted, just move quietly to another church while the sin is never dealt with. Or they visit several churches which allows them to stay in control while feeling spiritual. As a result, sin in the Christian community goes underground and is never dealt with. It harms every one because sin grows. Rebellion grows. Pride grows. Greed grows. It’s a problem.
A couple of years ago, we had someone who was very critical of a volunteer leader. We had dealt with this person off and on for years. The common thread through the years was they were always right and they were always critical of others. I finally dealt with the problem head on and shared with them a list of 21 things that specifically addressed this prideful behavior. The couple couldn’t leave fast enough because, they claimed, the spiritual atmosphere was off.
This issue of dealing with sin in today’s day, rarely has impact like previous days. We just move on to another church, smile and say, “God is leading us to other places.”
So Paul grabs the porcupine for the church in Corinth.
V 1 I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you, something so evil that even the pagans don’t do it. I am told that you have a man in your church who is living in sin with his father’s wife. 2 And you are so proud of yourselves! Why aren’t you mourning in sorrow and shame? And why haven’t you removed this man from your fellowship?
There is a scandal in the church. It’s so bad, the people of Corinth wouldn’t be a part of it. A guy is having an ongoing sexual relationship with is step mom. What is interesting is, the church of Corinth is silent about it. They are tolerating the sin because they believe, it makes them loving. It’s like knowing a person has cancer and looking the other way.
As bad as the sin was, Paul was amazed at the church and their lack of dealing with it. Paul says to them, you are so proud and arrogant and above it all you that you think you can look the other way. You should be broken hearted over this. This sin is doing damage to the person and to the community.
So Paul deals with the sin.
V 3 Even though I am not there with you in person, I am with you in the Spirit. Concerning the one who has done this, I have already passed judgment 4 in the name of the Lord Jesus. You are to call a meeting of the church, and I will be there in spirit, and the power of the Lord Jesus will be with you as you meet. 5 Then you must cast this man out of the church and into Satan’s hands, so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved when the Lord returns.
I’m not there and I am telling you in capital letters, this is wrong.
How offensive would this be today? What do people say today? Don’t judge me! – right? In fact, didn’t Jesus say, ‘Do not judge?’ Actually, yes, but we need to understand the context of what Jesus said.
“Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. For others will treat you as you treat them. Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. ” NLT Matthew 7:1-5
Jesus was saying, don’t be a hypocrite. Before you address others, look at your own life. Be ready how you treat others because they will treat you the same way. Don’t judge others by a standard you don’t hold yourself to.
So Paul was well within his authority to address this issue and call it sin.
Paul continues to explain why the church must deal with sin. Paul doesn’t stop. He continues to grab the porcupine of sin.
V 6 How terrible that you should boast about your spirituality, and yet you let this sort of thing go on. Don’t you realize that if even one person is allowed to go on sinning, soon all will be affected? 7 Remove this wicked person from among you so that you can stay pure. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. 8 So let us celebrate the festival, not by eating the old bread of wickedness and evil, but by eating the new bread of purity and truth.
Your callous arrogance to sin is because you don’t realize the damage sin does inside that person and to the whole community. It’s like leaven in bread. You take a little from the old batch and put it into the new batch, mix it up and the new bread rises. Leaven grows. Sin grows.
We deal with this to redeem the person and protect the community from more harm. You know this right? Have you ever been to a game? If a player is getting out of control, hurting those around them, they get kicked out of the game – right? They can do serious harm to themselves and everyone around them. Same thing with sin.
When we started MRC, we had a person volunteer. In the area he volunteered, there was always problems and drama. It was unreal. We would do church on Sunday and I would get scathing emails on Monday about how bad his volunteer leader was. We met for breakfast and I discovered how badly wounded he was. I prayed with him. Walked through a forgiveness book with him. We continued to meet and He would just cry and admit his wounds but never deal with them.
Things with his wife were disintegrating. Things with his family were damaged beyond repair. One year, became three and he was still a major source of wasted time and energy. It became so bad, others wouldn’t serve with him. We had a team meeting to address everything, temporarily things changed, then back to normal. Finally, I was done. I wanted to deal with this issue in a redemptive way so I prayed about it. I read the following in my time with God,
Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. NIV Titus 3:9-11
I simply clarified what was happening and encouraged him to move on. Why would I do that? Because I had to. I had to protect people coming to church to experience God’s grace. He was damaging himself with unforgiveness and wounding everyone around a him and it needed to end. By the way, I didn’t enjoy it.
So Paul wraps up Chapter 5 with common sense.
9 When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. 10 But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or who are greedy or are swindlers or idol worshipers. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. 11 What I meant was that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a Christian yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Don’t even eat with such people. 12 It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning in these ways. 13 God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.” NLT 1 Corinthians 5
Common sense says, don’t expect godly behavior from people who don’t care about God. It’s actually impossible to avoid people with sin because we are all sinful. But, you can make sure they don’t damage or influence you.
So what does 1 Corinthians 5 apply to us today?
A couple of questions to think through. Are you avoiding sin in your life? What would you do, if someone who loved you, wanted to talk about your sin?
Notice what the church of Corinth did. They were very arrogant and prideful and ignored sin. That is a wakeup call for us today. Avoiding God is us being arrogant and prideful. Ignoring our true spiritual condition is arrogant and prideful.
That’s why James wrote,
You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud… MSG James 4:4-6
God literally turns His back on pride. His blessing is not present. As a result of ignoring sin, the church of Corinth didn’t realize the damage. Sin grows, it never stays stagnant. Not dealing with our personal sin is an invitation for it to grow. Please hear me, rebellion grows. Pride grows. Greed grows.
That’s why James wrote,
“God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.” MSG James 4:4-6
Why grab the porcupine of our lives? …so that [your] sinful nature will be destroyed and [you] will be saved when the Lord returns. NLT 1 Corinthians 5:5
So how do you deal with sin in your life?