Now here is a fun topic. I am currently preaching through 1 Corinthians at my church. This week I am studying 1 Corinthians 5. Paul addresses a public immorality issue in the church at Corinth. Apparently some young Corinthian Christian is living in a very inappropriate relationship with his step mother. Paul’s concern is that this brother’s sin is very known in the church and the church is boasting about it’s openness in the face of sin. Paul says they should “mourn” instead of boasting.
The church at Corinth was situated in an influential and sexually charged cultural context. Corinth was the hub of worship offered to the goddess Aphrodite. The expression of worship in Corinth was nothing less than religiously motivated sexual immorality and prostitution. In the midst of that culture, God’s standard for the church remained the same: “Be Holy for I am Holy” (Leviticus 11:44). Living a holy lifestyle in a culture of perverse sexuality causes Christians to stand out bringing Glory to the One True God. In Corinth, the church was more impacted by the culture than the culture was influenced by the church. When that happens God’s people neglect to bring Glory to God.
Sexual Immorality in the World
In our day sexual immorality is as big an issue as it was in Corinth. As a pastor I have noticed that Christians sometimes become expert finger pointers blaming the people of the world for the evil and sexual perversity associated with a given culture. Read what Paul says:
“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people, not at all meaning the people of the world, or the greedy swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who bears the name brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one. For what I have I to do with judging outsiders?”
God will judge the world. We can judge right and wrong and teach our children accordingly, but would we expect any different behavior from people who do not know Christ? The tone of this passage is simple. Sexual immorality inside the church is much worse than sexual immorality in the world. Maybe we need to stop pointing the finger at the world and instead handle sexual immorality in the church.
Sexual Immorality in the Church
The church is responding to sexual immorality in many ways today. Some churches consider themselves open minded and inclusive even endorsing church leaders who live a publicly immoral lifestyle. Other churches show no grace at all alienating hurting people at even the hint of immorality… offering no opportunity for repentance and restoration. What is the right course of action?
1 Corinthians 5 ends this way. “Purge the evil person from among you.” Does this mean that anyone who has ever committed sexual sin should be removed from the church? Consider the whole counsel of Scripture as it relates to church discipline.
Jesus said, ” If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens you have gained a brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen to the church, let him be to you as a gentile and a tax collector.” (Translation, throw him out at that point.)
Paul said, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him with a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
The church should confront sexual sin with the sincere hope that a brother or sister will repent and be restored to the body. However, as is the case in 1 Corinthians 5, an unrepentant public sexual sin must receive the discipline of the church. It is tragic when church leadership neglects to offer the loving discipline of a father to wayward brothers and sisters. As Paul indicated, that kind of sin effects the entire church body. It also tarnishes the view of God in the world. Christ-followers have a new nature. Though not exempt from temptation and sin, the biblical expectation is a new life in the Spirit. Not perfect but humble, repentant, and in the pursuit of holiness.
In a sexually immoral culture the church brings Glory to God when it loves lost sinners no matter the level of their immorality and when it disciplines sexual sin in the church for the purpose of repentance and restoration. To bring glory to God we can not neglect administering loving church discipline in the matter of sexual immorality.