1 Corinthians 5:11b ….. — not even to eat with such a person. (NKJV)
(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)
Take a random survey of 1000 professing Christians across the board and ask this question, “What does the Bible say about judging?” Probably 950 would immediately reply, “the Bible says don’t judge”. Was that your first thought?
What would you think if I told you that the following is my opinion:
“We should judge other Christians and if they are found to be greedy, immoral, a drunk or consider anything in their life more important than God, we should not have anything to do with them – in fact, you shouldn’t even go out to eat with them.”
Wow, that makes me a pretty judgmental, harsh, unloving, unChristlike, intolerant, narrow-minded, self righteous, holier-than-thou person – doesn’t it? There’s only one little catch though. That’s not an opinion from Brent Riggs. It’s a command from the Apostle Paul himself:
1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner— not even to eat with such a person. (NKJV)
Paul was rebuking the Corinthian church because of the rampant materialism and immorality that was present. He didn’t question their inclusion in God’s Kingdom, in general, because he still addressed them as “brethren” (4:6). In chapter 3, Paul chastens them for having divisions in the church centered around personalities (do we have that in our churches today?) In chapter 4, Paul sarcastically rebukes the Corinthians for their belief that material prosperity equated to spiritual maturity/value. In chapter 5, Paul goes on to indict them for the gross immorality that was well known in the area.
1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! (NKJV)
The Corinthians were guilty of sexual sin that even the heathen unbelievers wouldn’t tolerate. Paul busted them not because the sin occurred – gross sin always happens where people are present – but because the sin had occurred and they were tolerating it.
Here are Paul’s points in 1Corinthians, chapter 5:
- Sin cannot be ignored; you should be crying over its existence, not taking pride in it – v. 2
- Christians do not judge sin outside of the Church; that is God’s job – v.12-13
- The purpose of judging sin inside the church is not self-righteousness; the purpose is to allow the sinner to suffer the consequences of the sin, so that they may return to the Lord – v.5
- Sin is not to be tolerated because a little bit grows to destroy the whole body – v.6-8
- When someone is judged to be guilty of sin, we are to not associate or fellowship with them at all, not even eat a meal with them – v. 9-11
“So we’re supposed to run around checking people out, and when we see them sin, tell them we are not going to eat with them anymore?” Nope, not exactly. The Bible gives us instructions.
First, how do we know when someone is “guilty” of sin? The term “guilty” in context means someone who practices sin in an unrepentant manner. The person becomes “guilty worthy of judgment” after the instructions in Matthew 18:15-18 are followed. Jesus gives the church clearly defined steps on how to address and identify this “guilty” person. The sinner has several chances to confess and repent before the decision is made to shun them from the Christian body.
Most true Christians who sin, are subsequently repentant upon being convicted by the Holy Spirit, or confronted by their fellow Christians. Humility, hatred of sin and repentance are characteristics of true Christians (1John). So Paul is talking about the persistent, unrepentant sinner, which SHOULD be the exception in churches, not the rule.
Here’s the bothersome dilemma that these verses leave us with, and frankly, I don’t have any answers. Consider that:
- The church today has fallen prey to the world’s pressure to “not judge” and not discriminate – but rather to only “love” at all costs. Remember, the command is NOT to judge unbelievers (God’s job!), but to only judge those who are voluntarily part of the church
- The average church member today is hardly recognizable from the outside world in dress, language, goals, entertainment and recreation
- The leadership of churches for the most part aren’t leading by example with holy, blameless lives – so they are in no position to pass judgment on others
- To follow church discipline and put someone out of the Chrisitian fellowship is to invite not only the hatred and ridicule of the world, but also lawsuits and government intervention
The modern Western church has lost the
moral and holy foundation upon
which they can rightly judge the sin
that exists within its own walls.
That leaves the church today fairly impotent when it comes to “purging” (cleaning out; v.7) the “leaven” (sin; v. 6) as we have been commanded to do. The result is a terribly weak and worldly church whose affect on the Western world is in meteoric decline.
Is there an answer? Can it be fixed? Short of a complete refinement of Western Christianity in the fires of persecution, I’m not sure. In truth, I exist within, and part of, the problem – so I’m hardly someone to be able to answer this question. We may have reached a point of no return where only God Himself can dramatically intervene and purify His Body.
I don’t typically enjoy writing Devotionals where I point out a problem, then end with no answer. But I have none today.
Lord, Help us to see the danger of what tolerating a little sin can do. Help us to start with ourselves, and purge out the sin from our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Application: Paul hammered the Corinthians for tolerating sin. A casual venture into our churches today leaves little doubt that we have also become unqualified cowards in purging sin from God’s church. Remember, Paul says that a LITTLE sin destroys the whole body. A LITTLE bit of unrepented, willful sin can destroy an entire congregation. We believe it “unloving” to put someone out of church. We have rather decided that “loving” them and including them is the “best way to reach them”. There’s only one problem with that very nice logical sentiment: it’s not what GOD says. We can’t change the entire culture of Western Christianity by any other means than starting with ourselves and setting the example. We need to teach God’s Word, and personally live God’s Word to the very best of our ability. God can handle the “big mess”; we just need to each individually make sure we are doing what God says.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?