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By no means!

By no means!

Words of Faith 5-16-17

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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1 Corinthians 5

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. [2] And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? [3] Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. [4] When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, [5] hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

The arrogance of believers in Corinth had produced more than just disunity. It had also produced indifference toward sin and an unwillingness to exercise discipline within the church.

There was a scandalous situation going on in the church at Corinth. A Christian believer was carrying on an incestuous affair with his stepmother. This relationship was prohibited both in the Old Testament (Lev. 18:8, Deut. 22:22) and in Roman law. The fact that Paul said nothing about disciplining the woman suggests that she was not a Christian. Corinth was noted for its loose and licentious living and the church there was becoming conformed to that worldly standard.

To add to the problem, this shameful situation did not seem to faze the Corinthians in the least. If anything, the affair may have even bloated their arrogant spirits. The Gnostics taught that indulgence of the flesh showed a freedom from the flesh. Some of the believers in Corinth may have similarly taken pride in the sin, somehow reasoning that their "openness" and acceptance of this couple caused "grace to abound".

Paul obliterates this reasoning in his letter to the Romans-- What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (6:1-2)

The godly response to this situation would have been grief for this brother, a call for him to repent and be restored, and the application of church discipline which would exclude him from intimacy with the congregation until he would repent. These are all scriptural responses.

Paul will later write that believers are the Body of Christ with many parts; "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it" (12:26). Paul had instructed the believers in Galatia-- "If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (6:1-2).

Jesus was very clear about the efforts to be made toward restoration-- "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector (Matt. 8:15-17).

In view of the Corinthian indifference to this situation, Paul was compelled to act. Apparently, he was confident in the testimony of the leaders that had reported this situation to him and the details that were common knowledge. Without even coming to hear other sides of the matter, he rendered a sort of "summary judgment". By the authority vested in him as an apostle, he passed judgment on the offender, which he asked the church to enact at their next meeting. Here was an example of the power he had earlier referred to (4:20-21).

By saying, "Hand this man over to Satan, so that his sinful nature [or body] may be destroyed," Paul saw this action as a last and final effort to bring the unrepentant man to repentance even if his suffering physically could go as far as death. That Satan had power to afflict the body is evident from frequent New Testament references to the effects of demon possession and to satanic activity in causing affliction or limitation.

This bodily punishment by Satan, Paul hoped, would have the effect of causing the man to repent so that his spirit (his person) might be saved in the day of the Lord at the second coming of Christ.

What do we gather from this for today? What might Paul write to the modern church? Grievously, the modern church has grown increasingly conformed to the morality of the world. Sexual immorality of many various types is not only tolerated in many streams of the modern church, it is actually blessed and ordained. Paul would very likely render a similar summary judgment upon a variety of situations. Furthermore, Paul would call the modern church to repentance for falling into the same sort of arrogance that was present in Corinth with the end result of enacting careful church discipline.

Does this mean we should judge immoral people outside the church? Paul did not do that in this situation. He did not even mention the step-mother. Paul only judged this believer who considered himself a part of the Body but then acted in ways that wounded the Body. Paul would clearly exhort the modern church to make every effort to bring those members of the Body, Christian believers, who are engaged in immorality to a place of repentance and restoration (Gal. 6:1-2, Matt. 18:15-17). He would also advise some form of separation or excommunication for those who are ultimately unrepentant.

What does it mean to "treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector" (Matthew 18:17)? Jesus treated pagans and tax collectors with kindness and love, yet also with a direct call for repentance. He ate with them but He did not invite them into His close circle of disciples, unless their hearts were changed.

Paul called for the situation of unrepentant sin to be published to the gathering of the Body and the person to be turned over to Satan. Turning someone over to Satan certainly means that they are excluded from intimate fellowship and leadership in the Body. They are prayed for in the sense of asking the protections of God to be removed so that they may be brought to repentance. This does not necessarily mean "shunning" or exclusion from receiving ministry that would help in restoration, but it does mean this becomes a matter of prayer that is greatly grieved.

These historic responses guide us but do not tie us in modern times.

Father God, help us as the modern church to find our way through the confusion of our culture. Help us to find the place where we can call people to the wonder of New Life in You and repentance from the ways of the world. Help me to see with Your eyes those You are drawing to Yourself so that I may offer to them the Word of Life. In Jesus' Name.