PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 5:1-5; Sexual Immorality in the Church

09/08 I Corinthians 5:1-5 Sexual Immorality in the Church; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130908_1cor5_1-5.mp3

1Cor 4-5 [ESV2011]

18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

Paul has brought the believers in Corinth back to the cross. Central to all of Christian life is the gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified. This is a message that creates humility, because we are all so bad that the Son of God had to die in our place to pay the debt that we owe, and yet we are so loved that he gladly laid down his life in our place. There is no room in the life of the follower of Jesus for boasting or pride. And yet this had crept in to the church in Corinth. They thought they were wise, they thought they were spiritual, they thought they were powerful, they though they were advanced, they thought they had arrived. Paul has laid out the gospel again for them to remind them that boasting is totally inappropriate for a beggar who has received a gift. He has held up himself as an example to follow, an example characterized by persecution, suffering, dishonor, and a lack of basic needs. He warns them, that, as their father, he intends to return, and if necessary he will come with a rod of discipline to drive the foolishness out of the hearts of his children.

In this passage, he brings forward the first major piece of evidence to show that this church really does not have anything to boast about.

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

In this passage the apostle teaches us much about the responsibilities and expectations on the local church.

Sexual Immorality in the Church

Paul expresses his shock and outrage at what was going on in the church in Corinth.

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.

Sexual immorality of any kind is not appropriate in the church of God. God is very clear in his word that there is one appropriate place for sexual enjoyment, and that is in the context of marriage between one man and his one wife. Any sexual experience or experimentation outside of that exclusive relationship is a violation of God’s command.

This is not because God is a lonely deprived grump who wants to spoil our fun. God invented sex and pleasure and intimacy and beauty and joy. God designed the human body, he created male and female, and he placed them in an exotic garden without clothes, and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. That was his idea. Sexual intimacy was designed to bring glory to God as we enjoy God’s good gift and give him thanks for it (Heb.13:4). Sexual intimacy is so powerful and so sacred that misusing it will spoil it, and will lessen our joy in it. Jesus said that

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

And this applies to all of life, including our sexuality. Satan tempts and twists and distorts and destroys what God meant for our abundant joy. Jesus came to restore us, every part of us, to what we were designed for. Jesus came to reclaim the ground the enemy had stolen. Jesus said about the woman of the city known to be a sinner, who washed his feet with her tears, ‘your sins are forgiven …your faith has saved you; go in peace’ (Lk.7:47-50). To the woman at the well, who had five husbands and was living with someone who was not her husband, Jesus offered the gift of living water (Jn.4:10-18). Jesus said to the woman caught in the act of adultery and brought out for public execution, ‘neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more’ (Jn.8:11). Jesus came to heal what is sick and restore what is broken and give life to what is dead.

In Galatians 5, Paul contrasts the fruit of the Spirit with the works of the flesh. A follower of Jesus, who has experienced the new birth, in whom the Spirit of God now lives, should be characterized by ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’; not by ‘sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these’ (Gal.5:19-26). Paul says in Ephesians 5

Ephesians 5:3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

Followers of Jesus must be different than the rest of the world in every area of life.

A Hindrance to the Gospel

Paul is outraged, because the Corinthian church was tolerating a form of sexual perversion that was even offensive to the morally lax Greek culture in which they lived.

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.

The word translated ‘pagans’ is the word for Gentiles, which is predominantly who made up the church in Corinth. But Paul considers them Gentiles no longer. They are the church of God, a new people. And they ought to be different. Instead, their standards of morality seem to be lower than the unbelieving world around them. Apparently, a man in their fellowship married his step-mother. This is explicitly condemned in the Old Testament (Lev.18:8; Deut.27:20), and it was condemned by Greek culture. At this time, Christianity was looked on with suspicion, and rumors circulated about what these followers of Jesus did when they met together. It was imagined that they practiced cannibalism (because they were said to eat the body and blood of their Lord), and that they practiced incest (because married couples would refer to each other as brother and sister) [Minucius Felix, Octavius, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 4, pp. 177-178]. The fact that an incestuous relationship was actually going on would add substance to the suspicions of unbelievers and give them legitimate grounds for rejecting their message. The fact that rumors were circulating was inevitable, but for believers to conduct themselves in a way that undermined the gospel was unthinkable. The message of the cross is foolishness to unbelievers, but now the moral misconduct of those who claimed to follow Jesus offended people in their community. This would be an unacceptable hindrance to the advance of the gospel.

Pride in the Face of Sin

2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

In light of this sin, the attitude of the Corinthians was totally unjustified. They were puffed up, arrogant, boasting. It could be that they were flaunting this situation as an example of their new found Christian liberty. Some have suggested because ‘in Christ the old has passed away and all things have become new’ (2Cor.5:17), they thought that the person who was your step-mom is no longer your step-mom and is now fair game for pursuit in marriage. Because Paul doesn’t address any flawed theology underlying their behavior, it is more likely that this was simply a situation that the church knew about but neglected to deal with. They were boasting about their advanced spirituality and wisdom, while turning a blind eye to this major blemish in the mirror. Possibly the man was a wealthy donor to the church, and addressing his sin would jeopardize the community.

Whatever the situation, their response was inappropriate. The needed response was clear. Mourning, grief, penitent sorrow would be suitable to the situation. It is important to note that Paul is not rebuking the man who sinned. Neither is he rebuking the leadership of the church for not dealing with the situation. He is rebuking the church as a whole for not responding appropriately to the sin of one of their members. The sin of the individual affects the rest of the body. It was the responsibility of the church body to respond. There is a corporate identity and responsibility of the people of God. In chapter 3, he reminded the entire church of their corporate identity.

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

When the ten spies gave a bad report of the promised land to the children of Israel, they all wandered in the desert for 40 years, including Joshua and Caleb (Num.13-14). When Achan sinned and took for himself the items from Jericho which were devoted to destruction, the armies of Israel were defeated in battle (Josh.7). The sin of the individual brought punishment from the Lord on the community. Daniel is a positive example. Daniel was taken captive to Babylon because God had handed Jerusalem over to Nebuchadnezzar due to the persistent sin of the Israelites. No sin of Daniel is recorded in the Bible. In fact, when his enemies were seeking something against him, the only fault they could find was that he scrupulously followed his God. But listen to how Daniel prays in chapter 9

Daniel 9:3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, … 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name… 8 To us, O LORD, belongs open shame, …because we have sinned against you. 9 …for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by walking in his laws, …11 …we have sinned against him. 14 …we have not obeyed his voice. 15 …we have sinned, we have done wickedly. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”

There is no boasting here. There is no ‘God I thank you that I am not like other men’ (Lk.18:11). Daniel owned the sins of his people. He grieved and mourned and confessed them as his own. Paul is demanding that church discipline be carried out on the immoral man, but church discipline must be done with the heart of Daniel. There is no room for discipline to be done with a proud heart. There must be broken-hearted humility and sympathetic grieving. We are one body, each individually members of one another, and in the exercise of discipline we should feel as though we were cutting off our own hand due to gangrene.

Let The One Be Removed From Among You

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

Although the exercise of discipline must be done with humility and grief, it must be done. And it must be done immediately. When this letter was delivered to the church, the church would be gathered to hear it read. Paul is demanding immediate action. ‘Let him who has done this be removed from among you’. Stop reading and take action! The reputation of the gospel and the purity of Christ’s church is at stake. The Corinthian church should have responded as soon as they knew about the situation. Paul responded as soon as he heard. He has already pronounced judgment. He wasn’t physically present. He didn’t know all the details. He hadn’t heard the excuses. He hadn’t heard both sides of the story. Sin is sin, and some issues are black and white. He didn’t need to come to town and conduct a thorough investigation. There was no explaining to be done. His authority was present in spirit, through his letter. But he was not pulling his apostle card and performing a long-distance excommunication. He was calling for the local church to take action. ‘When you are assembled … you are to deliver this man to Satan.’

Deliver This One To Satan

That sounds harsh. Deliver this one to Satan? In Ephesus, there were some who were teaching different doctrine, wandering off into vain discussion and speculation. Paul charges Timothy to

1 Timothy 1:18 …wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

This is strong language. According to Colossians 1, God has

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Paul placed these two false teachers back into the domain of Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. Paul is calling for the church in Corinth to transfer the immoral brother to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. They were to put him out of the church. The destruction of the flesh could mean that his physical body would be destroyed, or it could mean that his fleshly desires and inclinations would be destroyed. Whether by bodily affliction or otherwise, the end goal is that his spirit would be saved in the day of the Lord.

Paul is confident that God can use even the enemy of our souls to bring about our ultimate good. Paul was personally experiencing this in his own life. He writes in 2 Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

In God’s infinite wisdom, Paul was given a messenger of Satan to harass him, to keep him from becoming conceited. The goal of this demonic emissary was certainly not Paul’s spiritual good; he was seeking to steal and kill and destroy, but our sovereign God can employ even the ruthless enemy to unwittingly accomplish his wise purposes. That is the goal here, to see this immoral sinner saved on judgment day.

The Heart and Process of Discipline

Paul is following both the heart and the process of Jesus’ instructions to his disciples on the matter of church discipline found in Matthew 18. Jesus prefaces his instructions with a story about sheep.

Matthew 18:12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

The heart of the Father is going after and restoring the sheep that goes astray. That is the heart behind the process. Then Jesus gives the process:

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 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. 17 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.

In the case in Corinth, the man had not sinned against an individual. He had sinned publicly, and brought disgrace on the entire church. They were to treat him as an outsider. Although he claimed to be a believer, he was not acting like a believer, so they were to stop treating him as a believer. They were to assume that he needed to repent and believe the gospel. They were to treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector. And keep in mind how Jesus treated Gentiles and tax collectors. He extended to them the good news and invited them to trust him for rescue from their sin.

Matthew 18:18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

When the church gathers to go after stray sheep with the attitude and heart of Jesus, Jesus promises to be present with them. His power and authority are at work. Paul applies this to the situation in Corinth. In the name of the Lord Jesus they are to pronounce judgment. When the church is gathered they are to deliver this one to Satan with the power of the Lord Jesus.

Peter responded to this teaching of Jesus with a question.

Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

How many times can the sheep go astray before we just shoot them down? Jesus illustrated with a story. He told of a king who wished to settle accounts and a slave who owed an enormous debt he could not pay. His master released him and forgave him the debt. This servant then went and found a fellow servant who owed him a trivial amount and demanded payment and refused to show mercy. When approaching this sensitive issue of confronting a brother in sin, we must not be like that servant. We must keep in front of us a keen awareness of how great a debt we have been forgiven by God. We must be passionate for the honor of Christ and the purity of his church, and we must be eager to extend his forgiveness to our fellow servants. We must plead and ache and long for restoration. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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September 8, 2013 - Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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