One: 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Corinthians 5:9–5:13
Good Morning! This week we are continuing our series ONE on the book of 1 Corinthians. As a practice we preach straight through books of the Bible so we as a church can be challenged by God’s word in a variety of ways rather than camping in the comfortable areas of this book. When we started preaching through this letter, the first 4 chapters were focused on unity of the church and purity of doctrine all centering on Jesus. Last week we dove into chapter five where the focus of the letter quickly shifted to the moral behavior in the Corinthian church. The point being, what we believe as Christians, and placing faith in Jesus as our savior, should actually impact how we live as individuals and as a church. This is one of those uncomfortable chapters we would prefer to skip over because it talks about sexual immorality, specifically about a member of the Corinthian church hooking up with his step-mom in a way that all the non-Christians in Corinthians found reprehensible. It also speaks of church discipline which is another topic we typically like to avoid. Mark shared a beautiful example of a young man who went through the process of church discipline rejecting our calls to turn from sin towards Jesus after a few years he repented of sin, reconciled with us, and is restored as a brother. Without question this chapter makes us uncomfortable, but going through the bible should make us uncomfortable at times as we actually wrestle with if we are going to try to change or ignore what is in the bible or if we’re going to allow it to change us.
This week we are finishing up chapter 5 verses 9-13 with some remarkably clear but undeniably challenging words Paul writes to the church in Corinth and how they apply to us. Specifically:
-Clarify up a miscommunication on how individually and collectively members of the church should engage with those outside the church, particularly those that live lives contrary to God’s law.
-Reiterate how serious the open flagrant sin of brother and sisters with in the church is to be treated.
-Why and how sin needs to be purged for God’s glory and our joy.
-Discuss the scope and limits of the church’s responsibility and authority to judge the outside world.
There will be parts of this sermon will be difficult to hear and may sound like bad news. Please do not despair. The intent of this sermon or any challenging words is not to condemn, but it may be to convict with hope conviction leads to repentance, greater closeness with God, and comfort from the Holy Spirit.
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people" 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of 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. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corintians 5:9-13
V9-10 Missional Miscommunication
Have you ever written a text or email to someone with some instructions and when you find out what they’re doing you realize they either didn’t understand what you were trying to say or they’ve completely disregarded your instructions? If you’re a parent have you ever told your kids to do something and they either do the wrong thing or they completely ignore you? This happens to me all the time.
To make sure we don’t have major miscommunication, before we can discuss what is happening in these first few verses we need some biblical definitions to some key terms. You may not like how these definitions apply to us, but at least we will all be on the same page with what the text says.
The world - The world is not just the physical planet the God created. When the bible says say something or someone is of “the world”, it refers to the systems, cultural attitudes or practices, and spiritual climate of those who live on this planet but don’t know and worship the God of the Bible. God created the world good but it has been corrupted by sin. “The world” encourages individuals and groups to pursue “bad things”, and even “good things”, to extremes that lead to sinning against yourself, others, and God.
Sexually Immoral- We live in culture with a plethora of meanings for sexual immorality and many who claim nothing sexual is immoral. Scripture is explicitly clear that sexuality is a gift from God to be enjoyed exclusively in a covenant marriage between one man and one women. Anything outside of that definition falls into the “junk drawer” category of the Greek word Pornos translated here as sexual immorality. I preached at a Christian high school last year and this word came up, not wanting to go into explicit detail, I told them simply if they had to ask if something was on the Pornos it likely was. Sin against yourself.
Greedy - Swindlers - This is also called covetousness, wanting what is not yours, grasping for more and being totally unsatisfied with what you already have. Desires lead to actions. The word Swindler translates to; thief, savage, rapist, kidnapper, and even pirate. It’s when you want something bad enough you’ll do anything to get it including all sorts of violence to pursue personal gain. Using people to love stuff (or yourself), rather than using stuff (and yourself) to love people. Sin against others.
Idolaters- Most of us don’t have a great modern definition because we think of bowing down or worshiping a false god in a temple. Idolatry isn’t just limited to our outward actions but the intentions of our heart. We are all worshiping something or someone all the time. Idolatry is when we direct our heart or center or lives around any created thing rather than on the Creator God. Sin against God
In a previous letter, which we no longer have and my not have been as clear as Paul had hoped, Paul told the Corinthians not “get all mixed up with” the sexually immoral, or “mingle with fornicators”. The church in Corinth took Paul’s previous letter mean they should have no contact at all with anyone who practiced sin in the world outside the church. But Paul wasn’t saying since the world is full of people who sin against themselves, sin against others, and ultimately sin against God, “Do not associate with sinners” as the Corinthians misunderstood because that would mean they couldn’t interact with ANYONE! The church in Corinth responded to the sin of the world and a charge “not mingle” with sinners with two errors that are equally common and are still made in by Christians and churches today. Two ditches are to either reject the charge or be religious about it. Both directly harm our mission to show the world the love of God in Jesus.
Reject- There is sin everywhere! To not have any contact with sinners is impossible and at best impractical. Best ignore anything that might set us apart and to try to fit in as much as possible. Whatever the greater culture embraces we’ll embrace, whatever they reject we will reject. Attempting to have no distinction from the word leads the church in Corinth to be so tolerant of sin, they celebrate a member sinning in a way the rest of the pagan city found disgusting. In desiring acceptance by “sinners” they moved beyond/below the standards of the world. The world will not be drawn to a church that are more corrupt than they are.
Religious- There is sin everywhere! Corinth is a scary place; the world is a scary place. No mingling with sinners means we should withdraw and retreat from the world as much as possible. Sin is a disease and if we isolate ourselves from the gross sinners of “the world” we won’t catch it. This used to include the monasteries and closed enclaves, but now it can mean filling your time with only church activities and only having relationships with other Christians. Everything becomes us and them as fear of “others” grows.
“The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not accept this does not want to be of the kingdom of Christ. He wants to be amongst friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people. Oh, you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing, who would ever have been spared?” - Martin Luther
Outsiders are not drawn to the church because they were not engaged at all or they know they are not welcome as a sinner. Religious people read the Bible as good guys verses bad guys. Don’t act like the bad guys and be a good guy. Gospel is there are only bad guys and Jesus, and yet Jesus still came!
Jesus Response- We cannot fully embrace the world and we are not called to retreat from it. The church is called to be an embassy of the Kingdom and Christians are called to be ambassadors of the King.
14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. John 17:14-18
Paul is reminding the Christians in Corinth they are a people sent in to the world as Jesus was sent into the world. Not to be loved by it or fully participate in it, but to be ambassadors and missionaries. Being a Christian ambassador to the world means you are going to actually leave the comfortable confines of the embassy and walk around the foreign country you have been called/sent to genuinely learn about who their citizens are, tell them about your King, and invite/encourage them to come and experience an imperfect representation of His kingdom in your church and in your home. It means practically, you spend time with people who don’t know Jesus or maybe even express hostility to Jesus or the church. You love them where they’re at, you regularly point them to Jesus, while not affirming or participating in sin.
As always, Jesus is our best example of this. He was constantly found taking to, eating with, and even healing; tax collectors (greedy), prostitutes/adulteresses(sexually immoral), gentiles/Romans (Idolaters), and lepers (diseased) Many when they met Jesus were healed, forgiven, converted to place their faith in Him. Others hated Jesus or refused to follow him while they clung to sin, religion, pride, and possessions more because of their encounters with Jesus. We need to be prepared to be hated at times for proclaiming the King to the world around us. When the King came on his missionary journey announcing the Kingdom of God he got murdered by his enemies. But we still go and befriend His enemies as He did us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person, though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die. 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8
This is part of the good news of the Gospel, that we, the sinners, the sexually immoral, the greedy, the swindlers, the idolaters, are loved in our sin enough that Jesus left the comfort and security of heaven, entered into the gross, broken, sinful world, and died on the cross to pay the consequences of our sin. More than being saved from the eternal consequences of our sin, through faith in Jesus we receive freedom from our sin so we no longer have to be enslaved or addicted to our sin because get to be a new person.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away behold the new has come. 2 Cor 5: 17
As a new creation you go from being an isolated individual to part of God’s people. You are now a citizen of a new kingdom and now serve as an ambassador of the King who saved you.
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10
V11-13 Purging for Purity
This section of scripture shifts from clearing up a miscommunication to focusing on excommunication. While Paul was not saying to withdraw from the sinners of this world, he couldn’t be clearer the church is to disassociate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister in Christ but is openly living in a manner contrary to their profession of faith. This seems to be a contradiction to have freedom to associate with the sinners of the world but then be instructed to actively put out sinners found in the church. The contradiction is NOT with how we are to associate or disassociates with sinners in the world or the church. The contradiction IS in someone claiming to be a new creation while consistently looking like the old. There is not a double standard, but there is a higher standard to those who say they are Christians. Because we are to live new lives, empowered by the Holy Spirit, actively turning from sin and walking toward righteousness. In fact, when Paul lists defining sins in verse 11 it is actually longer than the list in verse 10. He’s added two more:
Reviler- Slander who is abusive in their speech, particularly to those in leadership both in and out of the church. They have a deep seeded rebelliousness to all authority they may encounter. This is prevalent in today’s church and society as a whole as we constantly talk down teachers, politicians, parents, and pastors. They’re constantly critical, running down everything and everyone in the community, Christian or not, robbing others of joy, hindering the mission, and failing to build up those around them.
Drunkard- Means simply, drunkard. Specifically refers to using drugs, alcohol, or any other substance to seek comfort while handing over our bodily functions and mental faculties besides the Holy Spirit. We have freedom in Christ meaning we do not actively enslave ourselves with substances or addictions.
So now we have a broad or even comprehensive list of habitual sinful behaviors that includes the areas of money, sex, possessions, speech, consumption, and worship. The list is broad because in Corinth and in our own hearts we have certain pet sins we have tons of tolerance for while others we show no mercy with. This list hits nearly every area of our lives and should convict each of us in some way as none of us are perfect and all of us fail to measure up. So how are we to judge or make distinctions? Are we all one sin away from excommunication and condemnation? No! That is not good news! So who does this apply to and why? As Mark said last week we not sin hunters. When sin is exposed or even held up we, pastor and the church, have a responsibility to confront it and encourage brothers and sisters to repent and walk in and manner worth of our calling. We do so lovingly and help them flee from sin because they are part of our family.
If, or when, someone calling themselves a brother or sister decides to pursue sin in overt, explicit, or extreme manner, they are choosing to be identified with their sin more than the Savior. You cannot pursue both. There is no place in the covenant family for those whose lives are defined by sin rather than Christ. It has to be judged, or it’s accepted. It has to be purged or it is received.
Purged for the clarity of the guilty. If someone is in full pursuit of sin they need to be made aware it is not acceptable for citizens of the kingdom to continue to walk in darkness. If they are comfortable in the church/embassy, while serving sin they will become confused and believe wrongly they can experience the benefits of the kingdom in this life and the next without submitting to the King. If you only love and confess a Jesus who forgives your sin but doesn’t free you from it you don’t love Jesus. Don’t expect church attendance, small group participation, or taking communion to balance out an active life serving yourself and your sin. You cannot assume you are part of a family because you crashed a family gathering or shared a family meal. There are no double agent ambassadors; you cannot have dual citizenship with the world and the kingdom. If you continue to purse sin it will be destructive. No love or hope given to someone who is made comfortable on a path of destruction. In Corinth, there was only one church. If you were put out, you were cut off from your social, relational, and economic support. You had to decide quickly where you stood and who you served. Today there are dozens of churches in each city. You can hop and hide in churches fooling yourself for years you are part of the kingdom while serving the world.
Purged for the safety of the church. Besides Jesus, there are no perfect people in the church. Each of us has sin past, present, and future we are confessing, asking forgiveness for and repenting of. We are also seeking to grow in our relationship with our Father, our King. A community defined and made distinct from the world by the gospel cannot be a place where some of us are actively fighting sin while others are flaunting it, where some are repenting from addictions while others are pursing the same sins. We are all recovering sin addicts. We are also seeing rest and refuge from sins committed to us or against us. Embassies have walls and security. If someone has been a victim of sexual immorality or a greedy swindler, seek asylum and becomes a new citizen they need to be able to have some expectation of safety when they are in the embassy. Evil allowed to remain will tear down the walls from the inside. The church needs to be a safe place for missionaries to heal from the world and be equipped to return to the mission.
Purged for the witness to the world. An embassy of a different kingdom needs to remain be distinct from the place it is on mission too. Sin is destructive, sin hurts, and sin is never contained. Someone pursing a life of sin while claiming to be an ambassador and has the silent approval of the embassy, will come in contact with the world and the world will assume their actions or lifestyle are representative of the kingdom they claim. Evil persons cannot be allowed to soil the reputation of the embassy or the King by foolish destructive actions done under the veil of diplomatic immunity. They need their passport revoked.
Our expectations and our interactions with in the church are different than with the world. This world is not our home. As an embassy and as ambassadors, we need to acknowledge where our boarders and authority end. We can grieve the sin of the world, but our place is not to judge the sins of the world. That is the roll of the King. The King will return. There will be judgment. If your faith is in the world, know this world will pass away and there is wrath for those who don’t serve the King. If your faith is in Jesus, he took the wrath on the cross for you, and you will be a full citizen in the new kingdom. That is good news! We are going to take communion, as a family meal. Pause and consider all Jesus accomplished with his shed blood and broken body on the cross to wash away your sin and free you from slavery to sin. We are going to give our tithes and offerings; demonstrating to God our satisfaction is all he has given us. We are going to sing songs as our national anthems praising our King and anticipating the kingdom.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”