We continue our study of Paul’s letter this week with 1 Corinthians 5. It was reported to Paul that there was sexual immorality, incest, going on in the church and nothing was being done to stop it.
It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.
For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
v. 1-5 (NASB)
Last week, in 1 Corinthians 4, we read how Paul instructed the Corinthians not to judge: “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes” (1 Corinthians 4:3-5, NASB). In chapter five, Paul tells them he has judged the man who committed incest and he instructs them to do the same. We know that God’s Word does not contradict itself, so the judging mentioned in these chapters has to be two different types—unrighteous and righteous.
In the last chapter, after Paul told them to judge nothing, he explained that the Lord will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. I believe unrighteous judging is when we judge what we can’t see. Unrighteous judging is when we judge people’s hearts and are critical and condemning. Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5, NIV).
Righteous judging, as Paul explains in chapter five, is when we are clearly led by God with the purpose of leading someone out of darkness and into the light. Leading them out of sin and into freedom.
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.
Galatians 6:1 (NIV)
Paul explains in the rest of chapter five why they were to judge the sexually immoral man.
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.
v. 6-13 (NASB)
Leaven and unleaven figuratively mean “corrupted” and “uncorrupted.” Paul was warning them that if they allow and are proud of sin in the church, it will spread to and corrupt the entire church. A little leaven (corruption) leavens (corrupts) the whole lump of dough. Paul said to “clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened.” We are uncorrupted in Christ. We are a new creation. The old things passed away, and new things have come (2 Cor. 5:17). We must stand guard and not allow the old things (sin) back in.
Jesus gave us clear instruction how to deal with sin in the body of Christ:
“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
Matthew 18:15-20 (NASB)
Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.
2 Timothy 2:14-19 (NIV)
In church discipline, once we have followed the steps Jesus’ instructed us to take, when the man or woman repents, Paul instructs us to forgive and reaffirm our love for them.
Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.
2 Corinthians 2:6-11 (NASB)
Righteous judging will always be for the good of the one who is being judged, and good for the body of Christ as a whole.
We praise You that You are our righteous Judge. Everything You’ve given us and instructed us to do and not to do is for our own good. Help us not to unrighteously judge ourselves and others. Remove the strongholds of sin in our lives. Remove the planks from our eyes so we can see clearly to help and lead others out of sin. Help us to use the authority Jesus’ has given us and bind-prohibit sin, and loose-destroy it’s power from corrupting us. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
*This series will continue next week as we study 1 Corinthians 6. Have a blessed week with the Lord keeping your hearts guarded against sin!