The Know-Bodies

March 13, 2017 at 11:06 am | Posted in I Corinthians | 2 Comments
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Paul had received the true report of gross sin being tolerated in the church at Corinth.

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.

I Corinthians 5:1

This may or may not have been technically considered what we call “incest” (sexual relations between blood-relatives) if the “father’s wife” was not the son’s biological mother, but it was legally considered to be incest, and it was a violation of the law of God.

The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness.

Leviticus 18:7-8

Most Bible commentators believe that this was a a step-mother/step-son relationship, but it was still considered wrong (sinful), even among the gentiles, and the worst thing about this behavior was not even that it was occurring (Paul was not shocked to hear of sinners sinning), nor even even that it was being allowed to go unchecked among the Knows (confusing the Knows and the Know-Nots), but that the church members were PROUD OF IT!

And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

I Corinthians 5:2

They were congratulating themselves on how nonjudgmental they were. They should have been grieved as though someone had died, but instead they were bragging about their liberality and tolerance!

Today’s pop culture Christianity would ask: “So, why is this such a big deal? Shouldn’t a Christian church be just the place for the very worst sinners? Isn’t it a hospital for sinners, not a showplace for saints? Who are we to judge? Jesus didn’t tell anyone to be mean – ever.”

The reason it is so serious is because open undisciplined sin practiced openly by members of a Christian church, and allowed to go unchecked by the leaders and the congregation, affects more than just the specific sinners involved. Consider some of our metaphors for the Church:

1. The body

a. An infected hand must be taken out of general service.
b. It must be especially tended to.
c. It must be watched closely.
d. If the infection can’t be cured quickly, it needs to be cut off to prevent the whole body from becoming infected.
e. Amputation is harsh – mean – no one wants to be the “ax-man.”
f. But it is sometimes necessary for the preservation of the rest of the body.

2. The family

a. A family member must be loved.
b. But also corrected
c. Sometimes not allowed to take part in every family activity
d. If you won’t set the table, you can’t eat with the rest of us.
e. If you are hurting the family, sometimes, for the good of the rest of the family and your own good, you must be kicked out of the house

3. A business enterprise

a. Like a bank teller whose drawer keeps coming up short
b. May have to be demoted to parking lot security guard for a while
c. And, ultimately, may have to be fired

Church discipline can be a tricky and a messy business, but these things are not to be done out of malice, spite, or joy. They are done with broken hearts and trepidation, but they are to be done decisively.

For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,

I Corinthians 5:3-4

The Corinthian church could administer discipline in this particular case by explicit Apostolic authority. Today, in a case like this, where the sin was being indulged openly and unrepentantly, we would have authority to administer the discipline publicly within the church – not hatefully, but harshly, and, yes, decisively: “taken away from you” (V. 2); “purged” (V. 7); “put away” (V. 13).

This is how extreme the matter was:

To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

I Corinthians 5:5

This may sound, upon a superficial reading, like they were trying to take away his salvation, but it was just the opposite (notice the woman is not dealt with at all – because she was apparently not a Christian). This was an attempt to: (1) prove his salvation, for the Holy Spirit’s seal may never be broken; (2) aid in his sanctification by drastic means, knowing that the destruction of the flesh was the most loving thing they could do. The hope was that this man would learn the error of his ways, and it seems to have worked.

For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.

II Corinthians 2:4-8

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  1. […] Corinthians 5 moves from an up-close view of a specific instance of church discipline to a big-picture view of how pride can infect an entire local church […]

  2. […] was another problem in the Corinthian church. The Knows were taking their legal disputes before the Know-Nots […]


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