Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In Search Of Truth, 1st Corinthians 4:18-5:13


In Paul's absence, some of those in the church in Corinth became arrogant and overconfident, attaching themselves to one teacher or another to gain status by association. Paul warns that he will come to be with them soon and cut through the slick packaging of deceptive ideas and instead evaluate their true power. And yet Paul still desires for the Coritnhians to sort these issues out before he comes, so that he can be gentle with them while he is there. (v.4:21)

Paul continues to express his concern by pointing to the sexual immorality among the Corinthians, and the fact that the Corinthian church is not doing anything about sin that the entire community is aware of! Although the sexual immorality mentioned here is between consenting adults, and is not biologically incestuous, sex between a man and his step-mother is still an activity that God hates. (Leviticus 18:8, Deuteronomy 22:30, 27:20)

The church community not only felt no shame for this activity among them, but they actually boasted about it! (v.2, 6) Scholars seem to agree that this boasting was the result of "grace abuse". If we aren't careful and decide to ignore some parts of scripture, we can start to believe that, because we are freely forgiven by God, we can do whatever we'd like without consequence. But this is not what the Bible teaches. Though we are justified (declared perfect by God and rescued from hell) when we put our trust in Christ, we can still miss out on some eternal rewards because of our sin and experience painful consequences while still in this life.

Paul's solution to this problem is taken from a principle in Deuteronomy 13:5, which he partially quotes in verse 13. "Remove the wicked man from among yourselves." This may seem pretty harsh. Shouldn't the church be a place where everyone is accepted and welcomed? Yes and no.

Paul identifies two groups here: "brothers" and "outsiders". He makes it very clear in verses 9-13 that we are not supposed to separate ourselves from those who are not Christians. We'd have to hide from the world to do that, and that is far from what the Bible teaches us to do! (A shame that we're all so good at it.) Paul also implies that judging outsiders is pointless(v. 12). This makes alot of sense. While we should try to discern whether or not behavior is in line with Biblical commands, we shouldn't be shocked or outraged when an unbeliever does something counter to scripture. If they don't know or value scriptural instruction, they shouldn't be expected to obey it.

But if someone CLAIMS to be a genuine follower of Christ, and yet ignores Biblical commands, resulting in blatant sin, we are supposed to deal with that. Jesus teaches this in Matthew 18:15-17. The goal is for the sinner to repent and remain connected to the church community, without fear of judgment. But if they don't acknowledge and commit to changing their behavior, the final step is removal from the church community.

Even the state of excommunication holds hope for the person removed from the church. Paul implies that the experience of being removed from the Christian community may ultimately result in the salvation of the person in question.(v. 5) Given the multiple meanings attached to the Greek word for saved ("sozo"), this can be true of either a genuine believer or a "so-called" believer.

In the case of a genuine believer, the reference here to being "saved" in the "Day of the Lord Jesus" (which refers to the final judgment of Christ, here) would refer to sanctification. In other words, since the church is not effective in helping this person grow in their relationship and committment to God, difficult trials would be used instead, stimulating growth (although very painful growth) all the way up until the judgment of Christ, if necessary. In the case of a "so-called" believer, the trials associated with separation from the church may result in a genuine repentence and trust in God, granting "justification" at the time of Christ's judgment.

Some challenging stuff here! We have the tendency to ignore sin in the lives of fellow Christians, while blasting message boards with our disdain for non-Christians. But this is the opposite of Biblical teaching! Why not take a minute now, or before that next message board post, and ask God to help you to be honest with the Christians in your life, patient with non-Christians, and genuinely loving toward both?

Next Week- Christians On Trial!

Coffee House Question

What are the "hot-button" issues that make it tough for you to be patient with non-Christians? What kinds of sin issues are hard for you to bring up with Christians?

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