This month we are looking at I Corinthians verse by verse. In January, we looked at the Book of Romans verse by verse. Last month, we looked at Salvation in order to get background to better understand this month's topic. Throughout this month, I will be referencing both of these series. Please take the time to review both of these series if you aren't familiar with them.
In the previous post on I Corinthians 4, we saw:
Not only ought we to be able to understand the mysteries of God, we ought to be able to handle them so well (know when to explain them and when not to) that others can go on record that we are "stewards of the mysteries of God".
Paul said NOT to judge anyone until the Lord comes and then BLATANTLY gave the reason WHY he was saying NOT to judge each other: so that no one of you be puffed up for the one against the other. REMEMBER, Paul was writing to a CHURCH! An immature church...and very early in this letter he made this HUGE point: DON'T JUDGE each other or it will lead to division...
Paul then emphasized that he was the Apostle of this church and he could bring order through understanding or experience.
I CORINTHIANS 5
The previous chapter ended with Paul talking about how he brought order to the church because he was the Apostle ("father") of the church. Today's chapter was short, powerful, and often misunderstood! (Which also means the post will be long...but you do have the whole weekend to digest it.)
The first four chapters were foundational: Paul was establishing that the church in Corinth was immature and still under the direction of an Apostle. Notice, there was NO mention of them having a pastor yet. This letter was written to the WHOLE church. He wanted them to have the wisdom of God by walking in the Spirit, however, they were so immature, he needed to go slow...which causes readers today to misunderstand this letter. The most important fact to remember is that Paul was writing to a CHURCH...his focus was on how to keep order in the CHURCH...a community. His focus was NOT the individual.
The rest of this letter demonstrated how Paul dealt with a GROUP of people, NOT individuals. If a person focuses on an individual, they will misinterpret the rest of this letter!
This was a short chapter and we are going to take this very slowly...
"1 It is actually reported that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not even among the Gentiles, that one of you hath his father's wife."
There was a lot in this one sentence...
First of all, remember what fornication is: to commit idolatry. Furthermore, idolatry is to worship an image...to give one's self to an image. In The Sequel, we see that worshiping God AND having sex are BOTH covenantal. To do both of these things with an image, rather than with complete sharing, acceptance, etc. is "fornication". If you limit your understanding of "fornication" to sex, you are going to miss the great point in the rest of this letter. So, Paul's point was that there was image worship AMONG YOU...unbelief. So, what was Paul's focus: the fornicator (unbeliever) or the church (body of believers)?
Second, notice this fornication was "reported"...it was well known. Again, was Paul's focus the fornicator (unbeliever) or the church (body of believers)?
Take a moment and reread this first verse, then answer both of the previous questions. If a person thinks Paul's focus was on the fornicator, then the rest of this chapter takes on a narrow view that contradicts the first four chapters. When a person realizes Paul's focus was on the church...a group of believers...the rest of this chapter and letter take on additional profitable dimensions...
"2 And ye are puffed up, and did not rather mourn, that he that had done this deed might be taken away from among you."
OUCH!!!! Do you still think Paul's focus was on the fornicator (unbeliever)? How can a person read this verse and stay focused on the fornicator? Paul's letter was to the church (believers)! Paul's focus was bringing order to this church that he "fathered". He was focused on this body of believers taking the unbeliever from among them. For the rest of this chapter, notice if Paul was speaking to the fornicator or to the church...
"3 For I verily, being absent in body but present in spirit, have already as though I were present judged him that hath so wrought this thing,"
This verse can trip a person up VERY EASILY...let's look at it alone before we examine it with the rest of the sentence.
Paul was judging! Didn't Paul tell people NOT to judge? Was Paul a hypocrite? What was going on here?
First of all, Paul was the "father" of this church and there was NO pastor. If there was, Paul would have written this letter to the pastor OR he would have told the church how to relate to the pastor. He did NEITHER of these things. It was Paul's job to bring order and part of that was to judge. When someone points to this verse and tells me that they are allowed to judge, I ask the person if they are the Apostle (or Pastor) of that church. The gifts have responsibilities FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE BODY. That brings up my other question: How is your judgment benefiting the BODY (church)? Most people judge to benefit themselves or an individual.
Second, Paul was judging a "special case". I write "special case" because this was a case where there was NO POSSIBLE reason this WASN'T a sin! In the Book of Romans, Paul stated that we ought to judge causes, NOT effects...because we open ourselves up to judgment if we are wrong. We can be wrong about the cause if we ONLY focus on the effect. There are valid reasons for a lot of things that we (wrongly) consider to ALWAYS be "sin". (We are going to see in two weeks that within this letter Paul specifically explained how an action that could be sin isn't sin.) However, there is NO POSSIBLE way that a man having sex with his father's wife could be right! His father is STILL married to her! Worse, it doesn't appear to be something ANYONE was ashamed of because A GROUP of people knew about it! THAT was what was getting Paul worked up...
Third, do you believe that this was the ONLY bad effect that was occurring in this immature church? Do you believe this was the ONLY sin that had been made aware to Paul? If not, why didn't Paul mention the others?
I believe Paul was highlighting this sin because:
1) There was NO POSSIBLE way he could misjudge this and
2) He was using this example to teach the group how to handle fornicators (unbelievers) in the church.
His focus was to bring order to the church.
I believe Paul would have this church do what he wrote to the Romans: Judge causes by getting to know people and when they have proven they don't believe in God...that they are fornicators...deal with them in the same manner as what he was about to present.
I also believe Paul would have this church do what he wrote to the Romans: Judge ONE effect ONLY...that a believer puts a stumblingblock in the path of another believer. Remember, THAT as we go forward in this chapter...
I want to keep this pivotal sentence together...
"3 For I verily, being absent in body but present in spirit, have already as though I were present judged him that hath so wrought this thing,
4 in the name of our Lord Jesus, ye being gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus,
5 to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."
Paul was saying that this person ought to be treated like an unbeliever SO THAT they could become a believer. This became a Salvation issue. Months prior to this letter, this person was a believer and had Salvation...they were NOT open to eternal punishment. At the time of this letter, he was a fornicator (unbeliever)...he was open to eternal punishment. He had lost his Salvation. Paul's goal was to get him saved AGAIN. He wanted the flesh destroyed...he wanted the enemy to chew on this person's "dust" so that he would have to push inside (grace ) because the Holy Spirit was still inside because they had been born from above (what we traditionally call "born again").
Paul was NOT saying that the person couldn't lose his Salvation or never had it. I hope you can see why we spent last month on Salvation...this sentence from Paul made no sense if you don't understand Salvation. (Take this weekend to review the links.) In fact, when people misunderstand this passage, they are showing they don't understand Salvation.
I had an encounter with a person who currently appears on a Christian television network. He got so mad at me that he told me he was praying for me. I thanked him. He asked me if I wanted to know what he was praying. I said I just appreciate his prayers. He said he was praying LIKE PAUL DID that I was turned over to Satan so that I would get saved.
Did Paul mention PRAYING in this passage?
What would it mean to PRAY someone gets turned over to Satan?
Who are you PRAYING to in order for this to happen?
HOW does the Being/being you are praying to respond to bring about this prayer?
Paul said "ye being gathered together" prior to turning the individual over to Satan. Reread the passage...Paul was telling this GROUP of people that THEY had his approval to take the action (power) to turn this person over to Satan AS A GROUP...this meant to remove from the church (believers) the unbeliever who was stating that he was a believer. THAT objective was stated by Paul in VERSE 2! Do you need more proof than what Paul had already written that his focus was order within the group?
"6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
7 Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, even as ye are unleavened. For our passover also hath been sacrificed, even Christ:
8 wherefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."
Again, I ask you: What and who was Paul's focus?
Paul was NOT happy with the group's "glorying" (boasting) about this fornicator. Paul was BLATANTLY telling the GROUP...AS A GROUP...to get the unbeliever out of the church FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE CHURCH!!!! Allowing this unbeliever to stay and glorying in him AS A BELIEVER was a stumblingblock to the believers in the church!!!! THIS was something they COULD judge!
Remember, the Greek word for "judge" was krino which meant "to equal out Justice"...to take an action that gives or takes value. This chapter actually gave an accurate example of the effects of Judging! The Greek word krino was used throughout this chapter and the effect was Justice would be equalled out on the fornicator by his removal from the church.
Paul was focused on order and the group. How can ANYONE see this differently?
"9 I wrote unto you in my epistle to have no company with fornicators;
10 not at all meaning with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous and extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world:
11 but as it is, I wrote unto you not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no, not to eat."
PLEASE REREAD PAUL'S PREVIOUS SENTENCE AGAIN!
What do YOU think Paul was saying?
POP QUIZ: Take as much time as you need to draw your own conclusion from this sentence (verses 9-11) before reading my conclusion.
One of the things that I "get" about Paul's writings is what I call "guard rails". My analogy is that Paul wanted us to be on "the path", however, we are off the path. In order to get on the path, he told us to go towards the path...he wrote a sentence to give us direction. However, if we continue with that direction ONLY, we will cross the path...we will keep going with that ONE direction and end up on the other side of the path...off the path. Paul realized this, so he immediately followed the direction verse with another direction verse that appeared to be contrary, but actually modified the first direction verse by going back the other way. BOTH of these statements are needed to keep us on the path...they serve as "guard rails".
For example, in I Corinthians 2 we saw Paul said in the last verse (16):
"16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct him?" (Don't think you know more than Christ...and then in the SAME VERSE...) "But we have the mind of Christ." (Don't think you can't think like Christ.)
These "guard rail" verses were throughout all of Paul's writings. In this chapter (5) we just saw another example:
1) Paul said don't have company with fornicators
2) Paul didn't mean NOT AT ALL to have company with fornicators in the world
Then Paul gave the WHY: you would have to remove yourself from the world!
Then Paul BLATANTLY explained "that one named a brother" was who he was describing! Don't miss this HUGE distinction:
Paul was saying to interact with sinful people (unbelievers) OUTSIDE THE CHURCH.
Paul was saying NOT to interact with sinful people (unbelievers stating they are believers) INSIDE THE CHURCH.
WOW!!!! Have you EVER heard a pastor or teacher preach THIS POINT?
If Paul prevented us from interacting with sinful people (unbelievers) outside of church, then we couldn't help people become believers and we would have to completely remove ourselves from the world.
If Paul encouraged us to interact with sinful people inside the church (unbelievers who state they are believers), then he would be encouraging us to be a stumblingblock to believers.
Paul was stating that we shouldn't judge ANYONE outside of church...the SAME thing he stated in Romans 1 and Romans 2!
Do you need more proof of this?
"12 For what have I to do with judging them that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within?
13 But them that are without God judgeth. Put away the wicked man from among yourselves."
Paul stated the focus of this chapter in a very straightforward fashion: THE GROUP ought to put away the wicked man from among yourselves.
Next week we will look in depth at this Doctrine of PUTTING AWAY FORNICATORS. For now, notice that Paul was stating to the church that they OUGHT to put away this fornicator...remove the individual from community, FOR THE BENEFIT of the community, because of unbelief.
Paul said that we ONLY ought to judge causes...belief in God.
The church as a whole ought to remove people from community who state they are a believer but don't actually believe in God (have the causes) so that they aren't a stumblingblock to other believers.
Notice, a person who attends church and states they are NOT a believer would NOT be a stumblingblock to others. Paul would NOT tell you to remove this person.
What would Paul tell your pastor/apostle about the "order" in your church?
Take this weekend to reread this chapter again, look at the links, and notice the number of verses people have to ignore in order to focus on believing they are encouraged to judge others...
Monday, we will look at I Corinthians 6...