Category Archives: Sanctification/holiness

Study 9 – 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Using your temple wisely

Discussion Question

What sort of things do you think every person has a right to?

Background

Let’s not forget how Paul greeted the church in Corinth back in chapter 1. They are the church of God, sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy. Yet the way they are thinking and behaving does not fit with that description. They were quarreling over which leader is the greatest and thinking like people of this world. They were even taking one another to court over matters that could have been resolved with Christian wisdom and unity. And they had somehow allowed sexual immorality to become commendable! Things that even pagans would condemn were being practiced by members of the church. They were not behaving as the people of God.

Paul had instructed them to celebrate and nurture the community of God, cleansed by the blood of the Passover Lamb and love being a community devoted to pursuing holiness – keeping the Festival as though they themselves are unleavened bread. In Chapter 6 Verses 1 to 11, it seems that they were more concerned with their rights than they were with Christian living and forgiveness.

Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”d 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.e

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. They were once sinners but now they have been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God. They need to learn to be the people that God has made them to be.

What did you see?

Structure

  • Rejecting hyper spirituality (12-13)
  • The melding of body and soul (14-17)
  • Trashing someone else’s property (18-20)

Rejecting hyper spirituality (12-13)

“I have the right to do anything” This sentiment is quoted twice by Paul to mimic what he believes the Corinthians to be saying. How pointed to the age that we live in. Which comes as no surprise because sin, when left unchecked, grows into a tree of self worth and the rejection of care for others or God. Human rights is an important topic but to say that we have the right to do anything is not thoughtful on the implications on others. What did the Corinthians have in mind? Well, if you have been taught that Christ’s death has paid for your sins completely (Romans 8:1) and that keeping the Jewish laws are no longer included in the New Covenant, (Acts 19:9-15), then this surely gives us liberty and freedom to eat and enjoy the good things in life without concern. “We are free in Christ” has become for them: “We have the right to do anything.”

“…but not everything is beneficial…I will not be mastered by anything.” Paul has two responses to the statement, “I have the right to do anything”, which are both about discipline and wisdom. From the very beginning, mankind has been given the challenge to be wise. Think about the test in the garden of Eden with regards to the fruit. Binge TV watching is a Christian liberty but is it really beneficial? Enjoying the things of this life is excellent but if something becomes an addiction, is that really helpful? Something may begin as a liberty but grow into a demand. Should I mention coffee? Alcohol? Candy-crush? What about TV and movies with nudity/course language and anything that can train us in ungodliness? What other things could fit the category of not beneficial or possibly addictive?

“Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” This local man-made proverb is capturing the idea that we are just inhabiting a temporary body which will disappear one day and so let’s not care about it. Faith and worship are about the spirit. The body is for food (and sex) and they will not be coming to heaven with us – or so the idea goes. What Paul goes on to talk about is a push-back on the idea that the body does not matter.

“The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” Paul has moved from the proverb about food to what he’s really concerned about: sexual immorality. This is the theme of chapters 5 to 7. We are not made in order to abuse sex. All things that are good in this world come from God. Sex, money and power all have their place when used for the glory of God. But all three can be misused and abused to the detriment of ourselves and others. Our bodies – our fleshly, creaturely matter – are meant for the Lord. And Paul will continue to explain what he means by “and the Lord for the body.”

Notice in Verses 12 and 13 how the Corinthians are celebrating a transient life – what they do in the here and now has no effect on eternity. This is an extreme misuse of the doctrine of grace. But pushes back on this hyper-spirituality and says that the body matters!

The melding of body and soul (14-17)

“By his power God raised the Lord from the dead…” In order to place emphasis on the body, Paul goes to the resurrection! It is no light matter that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead! It is also no light matter that Jesus was made flesh to begin with in order to die! Salvation occurred through the body of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“…and he will raise us also.” The bodily resurrection. A Christian doctrine that says we will not be spirits in the sky but, with a new heaven and a new earth, we will also have new bodies. This current passage is putting emphasis on the point of bodies. The body is meant for the Lord and the Lord for the body. When God gave us life, he also gave us bodies. Our flesh and bones mean something to God. When mankind was made, we were described as being in the image of God. When Adam first laid eyes on Eve, he said “Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” This can have multiple implications but he is saying that they are both flesh! As Christ was raised in bodily form, so we will be raised in body. Jesus is described as the firstborn from among the dead (Colossians 1). His resurrection is not the only one, but the body of Christ will rise in Him also. So, I’ve opened a can of worms, I’m sure. Cremation vs burial. Do we sleep when we die or do we rise straight away? How old will we be in the new heaven and earth? Good questions which I will not answer here.

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?” Now Paul introduces a new level of complexity. We are not simply talking about his body was important and so ours is also. Paul now reminds us that, as Christians, we have died with Christ and we rise and live with him (Romans 6)! Being part of the body of Christ is not just an illustration for church life! There is something extremely practical and real about actually being attached or united with Christ.

“Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!” So, the sexual immorality is unveiled a little here and we see that prostitutes are involved. Unfortunately, some people even in our church may need to hear Paul’s words here. Let’s quickly remind one another also that Jesus equated the thoughts of the mind with adultery in Matthew 5:27-28. The Corinthians may have had easy access to prostitutes in temple worship (most commentaries will talk about that) but we have so much access to virtual prostitution through porn.

“Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body?” This is an amazing statement. It’s all too common to here the idea that sex is just biology. Paul is arguing for a deeper connection with the body and the spirit in this passage. We are united with Christ in the body. When we unite with somebody in sex, there is a connection that transcends probably anything else. Paul wants us to hear that it’s not just biology.

“For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”” Paul quotes from Genesis 2:24. Sex is for marriage and marriage is the place for sex. Our society has so cheapened sex and likewise cheapened marriage. In God’s wisdom, he has created us to be united closest through this physical act. That does not mean that every sexual act is a highly spiritual one. Life is messed up because of sin. But, all things being equal, sex is a wonderful gift of God given for the purpose of bonding two human beings together – for life. Does that mean that if someone has engaged in casual sex is now married with that person in the eyes of God? No. But understanding the place, purpose, and origin of sex teaches us that our bodies were made for a reason. We are not spirits, we are flesh and blood. Our bodies are united with Christ and they are also the temple of the Holy Spirit…

“But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” This sounds awfully new agey and quite bold to think that we can say, “I am one with the Lord in spirit!”  Ever thought that? Paul wants us to stop thinking 2-dimensionally (or 3 or 4 for that matter). When we are here in body, we are also one with God in spirit. There is a unity between body and spirit. Paul wants us to understand the link between our bodies and our spirit and the union of our body with the Spirit of God.

Trashing someone else’s property (18-20)

“Flee from sexual immorality.” I love these direct applications in the bible. Get out of there! See some sexual immorality threats? Run the other way. In case of personally engaging in sexual immorality – run for your freaking life. In the positive, cultivate habits and thought patterns that entertain godly living. In the negative or defensive mode, shut out opportunities for sexual immorality, learn to cry out to God for help when tempted and speak to someone about dangers that you might face. Paul continues to stress why sexual immorality is particularly harmful.

“All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” Paul takes his lesson to the next level. And it is quite a curious thing to say. It fits perfectly with the train of thought so far…if sex means that the two will become one flesh…that sounds quite huge. But gluttony might seem similar. Or self-harm? So, sexual sin is categorised as something that changes you. Let’s remember the two things that Paul said to begin with: not everything is beneficial and I won’t be mastered by anything. Two pair oneself with another liberally is by no means beneficial once we’ve heard Paul’s teaching of the union which that creates. Sexual immorality in deed or in thought can be quite dominating and a dangerous master. For Paul to say that it is a sin against your own body! That’s sobering to hear. Then he says:

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” Wow! The great promise of Christ to his disciples was that he must go and he will send the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are not alone because the Spirit of Christ and of the Father are with us (John 14:26; 15:26). I have not the space to talk in detail about the temple and its purpose through the scriptures – except that it is where God dwells with his people. While once it was a physical structure in the centre of Jewish life, Christ declared himself to be the temple when he said, “knock that down and in three days I will rebuild it!” John 2:19-21. Paul has taught us that the Spirit of Christ is in us. This is not to say Christ’s Spirit but the Spirit sent from the Father in the name of Christ. Our bodies are the dwelling place of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. This verse has been abused to teach against smoking cigarettes and eating healthy etc. But clearly the context is about sexual immorality! Can you extend the principal though to smoking? I don’t think you can. Paul said that all other sins are outside the body but sexual sin is different. (it is not a good idea to smoke cigarettes nor eat an unhealthy diet – not all things are beneficial).

“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” This is perhaps the mic-drop moment of Paul’s talk here. We’ve come from the thought that we have the right to do whatever we want with our bodies to this final statement that you don’t even own your own body. Salvation has come to you at a price. It was through the death of Christ physically on the cross. Because of that, we have the Spirit within us. In what sense are we free to do whatever we want? The conclusion, though, is not then to be told what to do with our bodies but to honor God. That is surely what we would want right? If not, then why turn to Christ? We have been given a new life through Christ. Paul is not asking us to become prunes, but to honor God with our lives. Like he says in Colossians 3:17, “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

What did we learn?

Freedom in Christ does not mean that we begin to ruin our souls through sin. We are saved by grace and now live sanctified lives through the Spirit of God and our bodies are involved in the plans of God. He created us with bodies and the resurrection will somehow include resurrected bodies. The place of sex is also a sacred thing in the eyes of God. We now live with the Spirit of God within us and we ought to think like the sanctified people of God, thinking and acting with wisdom and self-control.

Now what?

Topic A: Where might we find the freedom we have in Christ being subverted with unwise living? See the notes for examples like TV watching. How do we spot the difference between being wise and being a prune?

Topic B: Live your spiritual life naturally and your natural life spiritually. This is a quote seen on a sign in front of a church somewhere in Australia. What do you think of this saying? Does Paul agree with this statement according to 1 Corinthians 6:12-20?

Topic C: Understanding the balance between grace and discipline. Grace means that we get rewarded despite not deserving nor earning it. Christ paid the price so that we could be rewarded with his righteousness – not what we have done but what Christ has done. Not who we are but who Christ is. We stand uncondemned because of Christ and we can never repay him for what he has given us by grace. Discipline is about choosing wisely and acting with thought and self-control. Making plans and sticking to them. Deciding to do productive and beneficial things and saying no to other things which we could become enslaved to. These could appear contrary to one another. However, all the discipline in the world will not save us – we need the grace and mercy of God. Once saved, we recognise that we do not want to be married to sin any longer and so we must flee. Living a disciplined life does not make us any closer to God than a fish. Living a saved life will spur us on to love and good deeds because of the hope we have for eternity.

Study 8 – 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

Judgments and Justification

Discussion Question

A child runs to you and cries, “Johnny won’t let me play with his lego!” What would you, as a responsible grown up, say to this child?

Background

The Corinthian church has been described as the church of God in Corinth because they have been called by God to be holy. However, Paul has addressed the first issue among them namely: they are boasting about human wisdom and not simply growing as a church in the knowledge of the gospel. Secondly, Paul rebukes the church for putting up with, and even celebrating evil in their midst. They have welcomed worldly wisdom and they have welcomed worldly activity – or even worse than the world. It seems that the church in Corinth have not grasped the unique and special gift that they have received by God through grace. Their thinking needs to change.

Read 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? 2 Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4 Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? 5 I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6 But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!

7 The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8 Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters. 9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with menr 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

What did you see?

Structure

  • Taking your disagreements to the world (1-6)
  • As it is, you are not looking like saved people (7-11)

Taking your disagreements to the world (1-6)

“…do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people?” It is difficult to apply this passage universally since we live in a unified culture which promotes the legal system for everyone. What Paul wants to get across, however, is that Christians have the mind of Christ and know what is right and wrong and so we ought not to default to going to the law to settle disputes. I shouldn’t think that Paul nor we should teach that we live outside the law. That is not the point of Paul’s words. He is reacting to the disputes and quarrels among the church and asking them if they don’t see the silliness of running to lawyers over matters that brothers or sisters in Christ could not settle on their own. They are acting like a small club that exists in the more superior realm of society. Paul wants them to think more soberly about who they are in the world and in the context of eternal judgement.

“…or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world?” Mt 19:28; Lk 22:30; John 5:22. The exact understanding of this will not be clear until the end of times I’m afraid. But we, as co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), are not to think too lowly of what we have inherited in Christ! When we have followed him, we have judged him to be king over all and especially over us! This is heavenly wisdom and we will participate somehow in the future. Again, the mechanics and details of what this means is a mystery. Paul, however, is tapping into a privilege that we should own and adopt and think twice before taking matters to the officials of this world to decide for us!

“…are you not competent to judge trivial cases?” Again, put things into perspective and see that we have the mind of Christ (2:16), the Spirit of God is in us (2:12) and we are apparently going to judge with Jesus one day. We ought to be sober-minded about this statement since the details of what that means is yet to be disclosed but we must embrace the logic of what Paul is saying – don’t regard yourselves as incapable of sorting out your own disputes. We need to pursue the same mind (1:10) – being in fellowship together with God’s Son (1:9). We’ve got this!

“…we will judge angels…” Just to repeat: this is interesting stuff that we need to accept in order to understand Paul’s argument but how this will come about is a mystery. We should remember, however, that angels are not guiltless by definition. The fallen angels are still angels! The basis of judgment will be determined by who is for the kingdom of God and who is against. John 9:39 expresses that judgement is about those who see and those who do not see. Paul has already given us a little demonstration of judgement in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 (esp. Verse 3). Any privilege given to us can be abused and misused because it is misunderstood and misapplied. Paul is giving us a high responsibility and wants the church in Corinth to grow up. Give an idiot a gun and they will shoot themselves. Give a wise person a gun and they will use it respectfully. We are being told that our place in the kingdom of God is not as strangers and intruders but as sharing in the glory of God on judgment day. It’s time now for us to meditate on this and grow up.

“…do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church?” If life outside the church follows rules that do not accord with holiness and truth then why would we go there for rulings? We live in a very Christianised society and many laws fit squarely with Christian views. But what cases would people in fellowship together in the church would need to go to court over? Surely disputes and differences can be resolved way before courts are needed. I should just note here that there are areas that should be settled by our courts which include divorces and rulings over property and such – BUT – the principal Paul is giving us is that there are plenty of matters that we can talk about and resolve before things go pear-shaped. If everybody in the church were putting the kingdom of God first and one another’s interests before themselves then we could do amazing things together!

“I say this to shame you.” In 4:14, Paul soothed the readers by saying that he is not trying to shame them with regard to being divisive over who is the best leader! But now, he wants them to be ashamed of running to the authority of unbelievers to resolve matters that could have been handled amongst themselves. The former incident is folly that needed gentle guidance but this matter must be stopped.

“…and this in front of unbelievers!” The church of God consists of people who have declared Jesus as Lord and desire to grow in their understanding of him and of fellowship toward one another. What kind of message would we tell if we take one another to court? Paul is not telling us to hide our disputes or cover up illegal activity, but that brothers and sisters in Christ ought to be better than that! Things that have been covered up in any church organisation in the past should never have been covered up or looked past or whatever has happened. Paul is talking about trivial matters (Verse 2) and not about serious things that definitely need to be dealt with according to both wise church policy and civil law. I hope that is clear enough.

As we close this first half of the text, let’s understand that the people of God need to grow themselves up and understand what an enormous privilege it is to be part of God’s kingdom. Paul wants us to stop being like little children who immediately run to the teacher when someone won’t share their toy. A child is taught to use their words to talk to the other child and come to an agreement on the matter without involving some outside authority over trivial matters. Know what privilege we have in Christ and develop wise approaches to relationships.

As it is, you are not looking like saved people (7-11)

“…means you have been completely defeated already.” Paul says that they have crossed a line. This is not a grey area but a clear indication that they are not living like the church of God that they have been called to be. Their hearts and minds are not operating on a gospel level. They do not behave like kids of the kingdom! Paul goes on…

“Why not rather be wronged…cheated?” How alien does that suggestion sound to you? Is it so far removed from what you could ever imaging happening? Could you just let something go and allow someone else to get more than you did? Or overlook someone else’s exaggeration when they describe their ministry and forget to mention what you contributed? Or that you always seem to bring more than others bring? Has the gospel made an impact on you? The gospel that speaks of you getting all the riches of God at the cost of God’s Son. The gospel that speaks of how little you really deserve but you get it all anyway.

“Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong…wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?” Rather than displaying grace and mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation, Paul accuses some of retaliation, fighting, quarreling and returning evil with evil. This is not right. God has saved us by his blood and called us to be holy as he is holy. We are not saved by being good people but we are not saved in order to continue as people of this world – as mere humans (3:3)!

“Do not be deceived… sexually immoral… idolaters… adulterers… men who have sex with men… thieves… greedy… drunkards… slanderers… swindlers… will [not] inherit the kingdom of God.” We must keep reading on to Verse 11 (which we will) to keep the gospel in view but let’s just stop at this list for a second. Some of these items are stereotypically wrong. But some of these items have moved in our culture from evil to beautiful. I’m not going to talk about the elephant in the room when it comes to this list because I think the passage has said it. But think about adultery. This is clearly a sin and is given its own place in the ten commandments. And yet, our movies and songs and comedies are able to paint adultery as acceptable as long as it is true love! What!!!? Now, what about greed?! We live in a consume and throw away society. Seeking joy in more stuff is not Christ living. Stealing is not acceptable – unless you can do it without getting caught or in a way that everybody else does. Alcohol comes with many dangers and addiction is the worst. I would like people suffering from alcohol addiction to meditate on Verse 11 and keep getting help. The point, though, is that these things are not our life anymore. We can stumble and struggle with every one of the things in this list – the struggle does not disqualify us – but if we are at home in them then we are not at home in the kingdom of God.

“And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Memory verse that! What do they say? God wants you to come to him as you are – but don’t expect to stay as you are. Or it’s ok to not be ok – it’s not ok to stay that way. We are the washed ones. Without blemish or stain (Colossians 1:22). We are the sanctified ones. Made holy by God because of Christ’s holiness and by the renewing of our minds through the word of God (John 17:19; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2). We are the justified ones. Righteous because Jesus has made us so (Romans 3:24; 5:1; Romans 8:1, 30). Don’t overlook the fact that it is through Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God that we are justified and not through works or through any other pathway to God. Jesus is the way! This is what we believe or else we will all be condemned.

What did we learn?

Praise God that he will judge us according to what Christ has done and not on our failure to be holy. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our LORD (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Let us then live as redeemed people who will inherit the kingdom of God. If we will inherit the kingdom of God then why would we bother fighting for what we feel are our rights in this world!

Now what?

Topic A: Seeing the people we go to church and Growth Group with as saved people we will share eternity with. Look at one another in your Growth Group. Potentially, everyone you see will be in heaven for eternity sharing in the kingdom of God! Do we talk and pray about what to be doing in this life with that eternal view? How can we pursue kingdom living together? This group have (hopefully) come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and they have truly understood the grace of God. They are a very unique bunch of people. People whom God loves dearly and cherishes. Do you have that same view of the people in your group? The person sitting next to you will judge angels one day!

Topic B: How do you take serious matters of dispute or hurt and deal with them in the Christian church? Remember that we are not talking about illegal activity that should be dealt with in civil court but about disputes of wrongdoing or being cheated at a trivial level. Discuss some wise strategies for dealing with things that cause a break in fellowship.

Topic C: We are the washed, sanctified and justified ones. Be sure about your salvation. It is by grace that you have been saved through faith. Truly understanding the grace of God is the most important lesson you will ever learn in your life! No exception. Do you understand what it means to be saved by grace? Does everybody in your group understand this? Looking at the list of wrongs in Verses 9 and 10 will cause all of us to be shamed but some, perhaps, more than others. We all need to be taught about the cross of Christ and be lead to a repentance that leads to forgiveness. Once forgiven, we need to hear the gospel again and again and again. Be sure that you and your group understand the gospel and have accepted it by faith.

Study 7 – 1 Corinthians 5:1-13

Study 7 – 1 Corinthians 5:1-13

Discussion Question

“How did it come to this!?” Can you think of any light hearted stories of how a small thing grew into something big or massive?

Background

From Chapter 1 Paul has been talking to the church of God in Corinth who are called by God to be his holy people. They already have every spiritual blessing and have heard and received the grace of God through Jesus Christ. And yet, they were a church divided because they celebrated and boasted about particular church leaders. Paul has reminded his readers that there is no wisdom on earth that compares to the wisdom of God and that wisdom, although it looks weak and foolish, is the cross of Christ.  Human leadership is about humble submission to Christ as our head and wise service to those entrusted in our care.

Paul reminds them that he will be visiting soon and continues in this chapter as he raises the alarming issue of the Corinthian sexual ethics.

Read 1 Corinthians 5:1-13

5 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 3 For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,,  so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”  

What did you see?

Structure

  • 5:1-5 Outlining the case of incest and Paul’s verdict
  • 5:6-8 Jesus transformed you yeasterday.
  • 5:9-13 Judgement of sin inside and outside the church.

Outlining the case of incest and Paul’s verdict

‘It is reported’ – Paul here is moving on from the previous discussion of wisdom and leadership to address a new topic that has been testified to him.

‘there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife’ – The language here suggests that this is unlikely to be his mother, but more likely that it could be a step-mother or a mother-in-law.  Almost certainly, the reason for committing this deed is financial… a wealthy step-mother / M-i-L might remarry into a different family and take her wealth with her.  It also provides good explanatory power for why the description in verses 10 and 11 includes the sexually immoral as well as those whose financial morality is corrupt (‘greedy and swindlers’).

‘and you are proud!’ – Instead of calling out this man (see Lev 18:8, 20:11) and expelling him from the community, Paul is utterly shocked at their complacency.  Not only has pride set in to this Corinthian church, but an incredible insensitivity towards sin! In their arrogance they are deadened to the sinfulness of this man and their complicities in failing to call a brother out of his sin!

‘you should have gone into mourning’ – The actions of this man reveal his heart… that his will is for what he desires and not for the things of God.  As Paul later says – he path is headed towards destruction. We should mourn the brother who turns from God towards such wickedness.

But there is an element in here also of mourning for the community.  We get these pictures in Ezra 10:6 and Nehemiah 1:4 of mourning for the sinfulness of the exiles… Ezra 10 is particularly helpful. Ezra mourns their sin corporately, he calls for repentance individually and corporately, and those who continue with their foreign wives are excluded from the community.  In the same way the Corinthians ought to mourn the sin of their brother and their sin, they ought to repent of his sin (incest) and their sin (pride -> insensitivity to sin), and if this man does not repent and leave his illicit relationship, they ought to remove him from the community.

‘For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit’ – Paul here, carrying the full weight of apostleship which he has outlined in Ch 3 and 4, outlines his verdict that the wicked man should be removed from the Corinthian fellowship.  Paul’s use of the Spirit here can be confusing in verse 3 and 4 – what he is suggesting though is that the communication and reading of his letter is a tangible way in which the Holy Spirit uses him in communicating his apostolic ministry in their midst.  i.e. God is using him to speak the words that the Corinthians need to hear, so they might repent of their sin and turn back to God.

‘hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord’ – Paul’s judgement is that if this man is unrepentant, he needs to cast out of the Corinthians church for his own good. ‘Over to Satan for the destruction of flesh’ refers not to putting him to death, but rather to turning him back to outside the church where God is at work – to the realm of Satan.  This is done with a view to revealing to this man his sinfulness and his need to turn from evil to Christ. The hope is that he will see his sin and will put to death his sexual immorality. The hope is that he will trust Christ as his saviour and listen to him as his Lord, that he might turn and be saved on the last day.

Jesus transformed you yesterday.

‘Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are.’   –  The expulsion of the wicked man is not only good for this man, Paul argues, but for the Corinthians as well.  The warning here in verse 6 is that the Corinthian church is in danger of becoming stale bread. By failing to call out sin in one instance, they danger themselves of becoming calloused towards sin as a whole.  The command is that by removing the wicked man; calling sin, sin, and declaring it’s unsuitability within the church – they free themselves from the tainted yeast and become the fresh bread that they were meant to be.

‘For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.’ –  Why stand against sin?  Why ferret it out of the church so seriously?  Because while the sin deserved our death (Passover), Jesus took that punishment for us.  This means we need to understand the severity of sin… it is really, truly worthy of death.  But we have been saved by Jesus – not to continue in wickedness, but to embrace a new life, by the Spirit of sincere trust in Jesus and the truth revealed by him (see wisdom of the last 4 chapters).

Judgement of sin inside and outside the church.

‘not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters’ – Paul’s previous letter had met with some disagreement or confusion… (historically, we don’t have this letter)  and Paul now seeks to clarify in this letter. The Corinthians are to engage with people who are immoral who are outside of the church.  The entire world outside the church engages in acts of immorality fitting with being people who neither listen to nor care to hear God. The Corinthians are to engage with this world… holding out the gospel of Jesus, the wisdom of the cross.

‘But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”’ – However, a distinction must be made with how we operate with those who claim the name of Jesus.  Jesus isn’t just saviour… but he is Lord also. And he calls for us to continue to amend our lives in following him.  This leaves no room for those who persist in sinfulness, unrepentant. The responsibility of church leadership is to point out sin and to call for Christians to repent and continue to amend their lives in line with Christ.

Our business is not to judge the morality decisions of those outside the church… they will make poor decisions which don’t align with Christ, because they do not have the Holy Spirit.  Ours is the responsibility for ourselves, to continue to heed the message of the gospel – to strive to align our life with that of Christ and for us to encourage all of those who are in our care to stand against sin and to strive to live as Christ would.

Now what?

Sin matters in the Christian life!!  We are called to ferret sin out of our lives and to conform our lives to the mind set of Christ.  Christian leaders need to lead those in their care to continue to do so… and in the case of gross, public, unrepentant sin, they may need to remove someone from fellowship with Christ, so they may see their sin clearly and may be caused to repent.

Topic A: Soft on sin. The Corinthians let their pride get in the way of calling out the sexual immorality of the wicked brother.  What kind of things might be taboo topics that we would refuse to call out each other about? How might we engage with those kinds of topics with one another helpfully?

Topic B: Ethics and Engagement with the outside world. A friend of yours, Emily, is not a Christian, but sympathises strongly with the values that she was raised with in a Christian family. “Christians need to tell people in our society to get back to the morals that we used to have and everything will be better.”  Where does Emily get this right and wrong according to this passage? How might you engage with her view point and point her to Christ?

Topic C: Sexual immorality. (Personal reflection ONLY) Taking your step mum as your wife to keep the money seems pretty crude… and yet sexual immorality still rears its head in our modern society even amongst Christians.  Where do you feel most vulnerable to sexual immorality? What are 3 measures that you might put in place to flee it? What is 2 things which are great about Jesus’ vision for sexuality that you think is so much better than our societies view? Who is one person that you can be honest with and can pray with in being accountable regarding sexual immorality?