Dealing With Sin In the Church
Topic: Sin Passage: 1 Corinthians 5:1–5:13
Church is to be a place of love, peace and unity in the Spirit. It is NOT a place for organizational politics, back stabbing, slander, accusations or cliques. We honor one another, we serve one another, we accept one another, we love each other.
The church is a place of praise and thanksgiving and rejoicing and singing. We come together with one mind and one voice to glorify God.
The Church is a holy place. God is here, among us, by His Spirit! We are saints, holy ones! We are His Temple!
That all is wonderful and so good. What could possibly go wrong! The short answer is sin! Paul said, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?” A little sin, not dealt with, will affect the whole church.
God gives us many pictures to help us understand who we are. We are the Body of Christ. We are the Bride of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 5, we are an unleavened lump of dough.
David Guzik said, “The leaven mentioned isn’t merely yeast, but a pinch of dough left over from the previous batch, as in the making of sourdough bread. This is how bread was commonly leavened in the ancient world, and a little pinch of dough from the old lump could make a whole new lump of dough rise and “puff up”.”
Leaven is from the old lump; it represents something left over, or bad from the past. Leaven is a symbol of corruption or sin. So we are not to bring leaven into the new life. We are not to bring our leftover sins into the church.
When God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, Moses commanded the people: “Nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders.” In the same way the fellowship of the church is to be without leaven.
Paul said, “Clean out the old leaven, so that you may be a new lump”. (vs 7). We all come into the church, with some sins and baggage from our past. There is not one among us with no sin. But the church is a place where we are coming OUT from sin, NOT going into it. We are getting rid of the old leaven!
We don’t just say “nobody is perfect, I’m not either, so sin is no big deal!”. In Eph. 4:12-14 Paul said, “Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception…and put on your new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness”
Look carefully at the end of verse 7 “Clean out the old leaven, so that you may be a new lump” just as you are in fact unleavened. IE Live an unleavened life because that is what you are! You are unleavened bread!!
The New Covenant protects us against sinning, NOT by emphasizing over and over what sinners we are. But by emphasizing that God has made us new people, new creations, holy ones, temples of the Holy Spirit. This does not deny the reality that we actually still do stumble in many ways. But we are to fix our eyes on the miraculous work of grace that Christ has performed for us and in us!
Paul said, “You truly are unleavened bread, for Christ our Passover (Lamb) also has been sacrificed.” Christ died to release us from our sins! He died to make you UNLEAVENED BREAD!
So we are to live that way! Which is what verse 8 says, “Therefore let’s celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” The OT Passover Feast looked back to the night the angel of death passed over the Israelites because the blood of the lamb was sprinkled on the door posts to their homes. They celebrated this great deliverance in a feast without leaven, because they ate unleavened bread that night they left Egypt.
Now Paul says let US also, celebrate our feast without leaven! “Christ is our Passover Lamb”! He released us from our sins by his blood. So we celebrate him and what he has done for us, without leaven, or without malice and wickedness. The Christian life is to be a celebration! Paul told us to rejoice in the Lord..always! But our Christian celebration is different from the world! We celebrate without ill-will towards others, without evil thoughts, without the sins of our old lives.
We celebrate with sincerity and truth. Sincerity and truth are the marks of genuine repentance. Sin, deception and lies always go together, ALWAYS! Sincerity and truth are the foundation of fellowship with God and with each other.
At Corinth Paul was dealing with a sin that required removing a person from the church. Not all sin requires that, but this one did! The Corinthians SHOULD have already done that. Paul rebuked them for NOT doing that, and tells them they must do that now. This is how chapter 5 begins...
5:1 “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and sexual immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, namely, that someone has his father’s wife. 2 You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.” IE If you had a godly attitude about this sin, you would have removed him. He ends saying strongly, “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves!”
It is dangerous and disobedient for any church to NOT deal with sin in the church. It is unloving to the person and to the whole church family. A parent who never corrected a child would be a parent who doesn’t really love his child.
The church at Corinth not only failed to judge this perverse sin in their midst, they were actually proud of themselves for allowing it! Some Christians feel they are more loving or more spiritual by tolerating sin. They are proud that they are NOT narrow minded, and that they do not judge people!
They misuse the verse “judge not, lest you be judged”, to avoid the discomfort of saying that anything anybody does is wrong. When someone in the church, or in their family, or even a public figure is is openly immoral, or godless, they say, “well you know it says, judge not lest you be judged”. They think it is more righteous to pretend not to see good and evil.
Yet, clearly, in that verse, Jesus was condemning judgment that is self righteous and unmerciful – He condemned the kind of judgment that sees the spec of dust in your brother’s eye, but cannot see the log in your own eye. Jesus himself exercised righteous judgment and taught us to do the same. He taught his disciples to know people by their fruits. Jesus is the one who said, “if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault”.
Hebrews 5:14 says the mature as those who have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Don’t let your fear of being accused of being judgmental keep you from obeying God, or from obeying your God-given discernment. Paul said, “Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them” Eph. 5:11 NLT
Of course we are to be gracious and forgiving to one another. Peter said “Love covers a multitude of sins”. We are not going around breathing down each other’s neck, finding faults. We should not be going around with a suspicious or critical eye on people..at all! We believe the best about one another! YET..There are times when a Christian must be corrected OR in some cases, must even be removed from the fellowship.
Where churches do not or will not exclude anyone for any sin, they are no longer functioning under the authority of Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Jesus himself established the principle of removing a person from the fellowship for unrepentant sin.
Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Jesus said to deal with a person’s sins in private first. Only bring others in, if the sinning person is unrepentant. But eventually, if there is no repentance, the person must be removed from the church. This was the situation in Corinth.
We think only of the human feelings or consequences of this removal. And they are dramatic! But what is going on in the spiritual realm is far more dramatic and important. In the mind of Paul and the NT church, to be cast outside the fellowship of the church was to be handed over to Satan. It was to be removed from the spiritual protection of the church family and to be in the domain of Satan.
There are unseen heavenly hosts at work for us INSIDE the fellowship of the church and there are unseen demonic forces at work on those OUTSIDE the church. I think this explains what Paul said. “I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus”.
We trivialize being part of a church family today because we do not see these spiritual realities. In the church we are on God’s territory. But as John said, the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. It is very sad to see so many VOLUNTARILY live outside the fellowship of the church; they are in effect handing themselves over to Satan! They have placed themselves in grave spiritual danger and do not even realize it.
The goal of this strong discipline was that his flesh might be destroyed “that his spirit may be saved”. This might mean the goal of discipline was that his sinful deeds of the flesh would be destroyed. Or it may mean that this man would experience some kind of supernatural physical affliction so that he might repent and be saved from spiritual destruction. But either way, the goal was to restore him and that his spirit may be saved.
Then Paul clarifies that he did not mean to not associate with non-Christians who are sinning. (Then you would have to go out of this world!) No! But “I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is a sexually immoral person, or a greedy person, or an idolater, or is verbally abusive, or habitually drunk, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a person. 12 For what business of mine is it to judge outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the evil person from among yourselves.” 5:11-13
Paul said we should no longer fellowship with someone who claims to be a Christian and yet is a sexually immoral person, or a greedy person, or an idolater, or is verbally abusive, or habitually drunk, or a swindler.
In other places Paul emphasized removing people from church who sow division and strife among the church family. Paul said, Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. Paul also said, “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed”.
*Clearly we confront or exclude from fellowship ONLY for sins that are sinful per God’s word. We do not confront people about our own convictions or rules or ideas, but on what God has said.
*Of course not every sin, or failure means someone should be asked to leave the church. Galatian 6:1 gives us, I think, the more normal way sin is dealt with. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” ESV
Here is a person “caught”, or ensnared in a sin. He is not openly rebelling, or stubbornly unrepentant, yet he is doing something that is clearly sinful. So...Spiritual brothers or sisters in the church, are to go to this person and help them out of their sin! They do this without being harsh, but with gentleness and with humility.
Hebrews 5:2 says a priest under the Old Covenant was “able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.” That’s how we come to people. We do not come as a self righteous judge. We do not cruelly gossip about them or slander them. We come aware of our own weaknesses.
*We help people our of their sin, according to their personal condition and response. 1 Thess 5:14 NASB Paul said, “We urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. There are three kinds of people here: weak, fainthearted, and unruly.
Some are weak and just need help. So you come to some and say, “You know I see you are struggling with this or living in defeat, and I want to help you get free from this attitude, or way of talking or living. Gods has better things for you to set your mind on, and more joy for you to live in. I just want to help you. And with some people that is all that is needed.
Others lack courage to do the right thing and need encouragement. So you come to this person and say, I know you may feel fearful or intimidated but God has called you to obey him. God’s Spirit is in you to help you love this person or forgive this person or give up this habit. I’m praying for you to be strong and courageous and do the right thing. That is what some need.
And then some are unruly, and need warning or admonishment. Some people just need a stronger word than others. They will not get the message without that. Subtle hints or gentle reminders about doing the right thing won’t work. They will roll right off these people. Thank God for courageous men and women who love people enough to admonish the unruly.
*Then Paul added that we are to be patient with all people.
So Church is a place to celebrate Christ and love one another. We rejoice and sing together. But we do that in holiness. Church is a holy place! We are God’s dwelling place. Sin has no place here. Our bodies are now God’s temple. And as members of one another we gently, but faithfully deal with sin in the church, to keep the church holy, pure, sincere, like an unleavened loaf of bread.
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