You Can’t Have It Both Ways
[1st Corinthians chapter 5]
In today’s Bible study we will move on to First Corinthians chapter five. In this particular chapter the apostle Paul gives the church at Corinth a real good scolding for putting up with evil and immorality within their church. This passage of Scripture is just as applicable to the church today, and probably even more so, than when these words were first written nearly 2,000 years ago. With all the molestation scandals ongoing (mainly, but not limited to, the Catholic church), all the financial improprieties both visible and hidden, as well as all the cliques and internal politics that are present in every church I’ve ever seen, the modern Church in general has developed a credibility problem with fairly large segments of the population. If you think that is bad, what was going on in the early church at Corinth was equally so or worse. Paul takes up this uncomfortable topic without hesitation beginning in verse 1.
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not even occur among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature will be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.” (I Corinthians 5; verses 1-5 NIV)
As you can see, a member of that church had apparently divorced and remarried, and his son from a previous marriage was having an affair with his new wife. I think we can all agree here that this situation was a little bizarre even by modern standards. It is easy to see that Paul was truly outraged about this. It is also apparent from what has been written that the members of the church at Corinth were active in their faith and spent much time talking about the Lord and recruiting new members. Paul is demanding to know how everybody at the Corinthian church was going around acting really religious and spiritual while they knew that this little love triangle existed within their congregation. He is admonishing them that they can’t have it both ways, and that if they are serious about living for Christ then it is their responsibility to keep their lives and their church free from sin. Paul then uses baking bread to illustrate his point starting in verse 6.
“Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through a whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast – as you really are. For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.” (I Corinthians 5; verses 6-8 NIV)
When Paul rebukes them for boasting he was referring to his earlier rebuke about them being proud without cause (“And you are proud!”). He then compares evil within the church to a small amount of yeast in a batch of flour. It only takes a little yeast to make the bread rise when it bakes. In the same way it only takes a little evil within the human heart to make it swell up with pride and boasting, and to lose sight of all humility while losing touch with Christ. Paul then finishes the chapter beginning in verse 9.
“I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all, meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? ‘Expel the wicked man from among you’.” (I Corinthians 5; verses 9-13 NIV)
Paul isn’t finished chewing this congregation out just yet. As you just read, he takes it up a notch instead. It is not enough, Paul writes, to keep sexual immorality and all that goes with it out of the church. All the brothers and sisters in Christ have a Christian duty and a moral obligation to stay away from and avoid sexually immoral people and other persons of ill repute. It would be hypocritical for those professing to believe to behave in any other way. Paul warns them not to even sit down and eat with such people. Instead he quotes Deuteronomy 17, verse 7, from the Old Testament, “Expel the wicked man from among you.”
We all need to follow Paul’s example as he followed Christ and steer clear of all things immoral, malevolent, crooked, unseemly, perverse and off-color. If we fail to keep these kinds of things out of our lives during our walk with Christ, we compromise that walk with Him and compromise our faith as believers. And if we are using our faith to be a witness to non-believers while evil exists within our own lives, then our preaching and witnessing to them loses much of its credibility and we become poor witnesses for Jesus.
Let us therefore examine ourselves, our hearts, minds and motives, and see if the way in which we lead our lives is compatible with Christ. This means we are to be mindful of everything we say and watchful of everything we do, knowing full well as we go about doing these things that we are emulating Christ. If the sum of our lives comes up to anything less when we examine ourselves, then it is up to us to make the necessary corrections. The day to start doing this is today, and the time to start is right now. You know, Jesus is coming back soon, and I’m not writing that just to seem more spiritual or because I’m a conspiracy theorist. I’m writing that to say that since He is returning soon for His Bride, his Church, how then should we be conducting ourselves? If we find that we are talking Christ but walking in our own way instead of His way, then we have our work cut out for us. Let’s be sure and not be like some of the early Corinthians by claiming to be good while tolerating evil. Instead let’s all constantly practice becoming examples of Christ and so let our lights shine in this dark world in which we live. By doing so we can be beacons in a dark world for those who are seeking the right path. We can all be good examples and witnesses for Jesus, starting today.