HOPE CHAPEL Sunday Service Notes
Teaching Series: “Be Different” based on 1 Corinthians
Today’s Topic: “Week 4: When Correction is Needed” (Chapters 5+6)
For further study:
“Enduring Word” Commentary - https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/1-corinthians-1/
(retrieved September 9, 2020)
Bible Project - 1 Corinthians - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiHf8klCCc4
New International Biblical Commentary - 1 Corinthians - Marion L. Soards
In the previous chapters we have already examined, Paul has addressed the ridiculous way that the Corinthians had divided themselves into teams around their favourite teachers–“I follow Paul,” “I follow Apollos”....etc. He tells them that it is nonsense for them to try to claim spiritual superiority over others based on these alliances, because each of their teachers has simply been a steward, serving the very same Master; the Church is to be rightly understood as God’s property and everyone in it is a worker who He has assigned specific tasks to, without assigning lesser than or greater than rankings. Last week, in chapters four and nine, Paul demonstrated that his task in the life of the Corinthian church was that of their ‘father’ or founder in Christ Jesus. As such they should be imitating his example, just as he imitates Christ. He has tried to persuade them that they have been set apart for God and should no longer resemble the world from which they have been saved.
As he has argued his points he has utilized rhetorical questions, metaphors and sarcasm–at times desiring to shame them into acknowledging how badly they have gotten off track and at other times encouraging and coaxing them as their father in order to persuade them to correct their behaviours. As we proceed onto chapters five and six we will note that this pattern of sarcasm and shaming for the purpose of recognizing their failings continues...almost biting at times, but deliberate and necessary.
Today, we will examine the section of his letter to the Corinthians where Paul appears to be correcting a number of unrelated topics, but on closer examination there is an apparent thread that connects them all. As Paul writes his letter he uses the word ‘you,’ but not in the singular form. He is not talking to one or two individuals, but rather to the whole church as ‘you’ plural. Though he is addressing particular problems involving specific individuals, his concern is for the whole church. He wants the Corinthian believers to recognize themselves as a single body of Christ, sharing the same Holy Spirit, each individual contributing to the whole. Because they are ‘one’ they need to shift their thinking and behaviour–what a single individual does impacts the whole of the congregation, like yeast in a batch of dough...but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s begin by reading our text...
“I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. 2 You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship.
3 Even though I am not with you in person, I am with you in the Spirit. And as though I were there, I have already passed judgment on this man 4 in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Lord Jesus. 5 Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns.
6 Your boasting about this is terrible. Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. 8 So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old bread of wickedness and evil, but with the new bread of sincerity and truth.
Paul is incredulous, not only because of the blatant sin being committed by an individual member of the church, but also by the congregation’s response, “you are so proud” and “your boasting about this is terrible.” What was going on? A man was living as husband and wife with his step-mother, a practice not only prohibited in God’s Law, but in the secular Roman law of the day as well. Paul points out the ‘sexual immorality’ as beyond even that of pagans–those with no allegiance to God show a higher degree of morality than what is happening in the church. He is quick to pass judgement on the individual: he should be removed from fellowship with the congregation by calling a meeting of the church to barr him from returning. In removing him from the church, he will have their association and protection removed and he is to be left for God to deal with.
But Paul isn’t finished, he is absolutely astounded by the church’s support of this individual and his sexually immoral lifestyle. There are some who are actually boasting about the ‘freedom’ that is being exercised in their midst. Don’t they realize just how dangerous a position they have placed themselves in? By permitting him to continue to fellowship with them, the church has risked having his sin further pollute the whole of the congregation. Paul compares the effects of sin to yeast in dough; he encourages them to get rid of the sin by ejecting the individual from their congregation, just as the Israelites had been commanded to get rid of all yeast for the Passover, to ensure that the bread they made for the feast was untainted. The church is to be like the new bread, untainted by sin, characterized by sincerity and truth.
He then makes reference to an earlier letter he had written that some in the congregation had misunderstood, ignored or misconstrued...
9 When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. 10 But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. 11 I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.
12 It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. 13 God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.”
He now refers back to a previous letter he has sent to them in regards to their associating with people inside the church and how they have misapplied it. “When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin.
10 But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. 11 I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.” Rather than dealing with the sin in their midst, they had chosen to view themselves as superior to those outside of the church. Paul’s previous instruction to disassociate from those who claimed to be believers, but did not live in obedience to God’s laws, was to instruct them on how they were to judge situations that arose within the church; but they had totally missed the point. They had chosen to judge unbelievers as unfit to associate with, rather than applying Paul’s instructions to members of the church. Paul’s concern is for the church’s purity and ability to continue the work of building God’s Kingdom. The immorality in the church had reduced their witness and missional work with those outside of the church.
And Paul’s concern is not just against the sexual immorality happening in the church, but for all practices with the potential to act as sin’s ‘yeast’–greed, idol worship, abuse, drunkenness and cheats...we could go on. Those who claim a relationship with God should demonstrate a desire to serve Christ and be transformed from their former sinful ways through the work of the Holy Spirit. And, it is up to the body of Christ to address the blatant sin that is practiced in the church; they are not to turn a blind eye...or worse, applaud it! Like the Corinthian church, we too can resist making judgements of those in the church, but be quick to judge those who do not have a relationship with Christ. Paul tells the Corinthians that they have this backward. They are to hold one another accountable as members who serve the same Lord; it is God’s job to judge those who reject Him and remain in the world. Paul is flabbergasted by the depth to which the church has failed God, failed itself and even failed the man who was in error.
He then continues with this thread of the church’s need to judge its members...
“When one of you has a dispute with another believer, how dare you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other believers! 2 Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide even these little things among yourselves? 3 Don’t you realize that we will judge angels? So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disputes in this life. 4 If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? 5 I am saying this to shame you. Isn’t there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues? 6 But instead, one believer sues another—right in front of unbelievers!
7 Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated? 8 Instead, you yourselves are the ones who do wrong and cheat even your fellow believers.
9 Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
It is absurd to Paul that a believer would choose to take another believer to an ‘ungodly’ court to have a dispute settled. He asks them a number of rhetorical questions and even states that he is trying to shame them. Is there no one wise enough in your assembly of supposed ‘spiritual superiority’ who is fit to act as judge when disputes arise? He reminds them that at the last days the Church will be given the task of judging–even of angels; how is it that they cannot even settle these lesser disputes on their own?
It appears, that the Corinthian church didn’t trust one another to provide justice, so they went to outside sources–those who judge by the world’s standards and not God’s. Why? Could it be because they knew how dishonest they themselves were, how quick to take advantage of a situation and/or to show favouritism? Paul continues to challenge them further. Wouldn’t it just be better to accept an injustice then to bring shame to themselves and ultimately to God in the eyes of unbelievers? But there’s a problem and Paul hits the nail on the head, “you yourselves are the ones who do wrong and cheat even your fellow believers.” The need for arbitration and third party judgements only exists because they are not even trying to live differently from the world! By parading their problems before non-Christians they have shamed themselves and failed to bear witness for God.
And, Paul continues, living by the standards of the world will ensure only one result–missing out on the inheritance God has promised His children–that of eternity in heaven with Him. Paul reminds them that they were once amongst the list of individuals who were living outside of God’s good will. But not anymore, “Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” So live like it! He warns them not to ‘fool themselves.’ Those who simply want to claim the name of Christ, without obeying Him, are no better off than those who have never known Him; Paul might even argue they are worse off for having known the truth, but refused to live it.
The fact remains that those who have experienced salvation will be transformed through the work of the Holy Spirit. One can only assume that where there is no transformation there has been no salvation. We must learn to live in God’s Kingdom in the here and now or miss out on entry into God’s heavenly Kingdom.
“You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is good for you. And even though ‘I am allowed to do anything,’ I must not become a slave to anything. 13 You say, ‘Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food.’ (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies. 14 And God will raise us from the dead by his power, just as he raised our Lord from the dead.
15 Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never! 16 And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, ‘The two are united into one.’ 17 But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.
18 Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”
After admonishing the believers for taking other believers to court and then addressing them on their resistance to living according to God’s standards, Paul revisits the Corinthian church’s belief that they are now ‘free in Christ’...to live any way they choose! They have heard Paul’s teaching about our ‘freedom in Christ,’ but have twisted it for their own purposes. In verses twelve and thirteen, Paul quotes them, “I am allowed to do anything,” to which he counters that, “not everything is good for you” nor should we allow ourselves to become enslaved to anything. And while they may argue that our bodies were designed with specific purposes–for food and even sexual relations–Paul counters that there is absolutely no support for using our bodies for sexual immorality. Our bodies belong to God.
It is at this point that it is good to remind ourselves of the culture of first century Corinth, which as you’ll remember I have dubbed ‘sin city.’ Prostitution was openly and regularly practiced, not only as we understand prostitution today, but also in their worship of Greek and Roman gods. Speaking against the practice of prostitution could be a hard sell in the first century. The Corinthian church had taken Paul’s teaching about freedom in Christ and applied it to mean that they were at liberty to gratify their every physical appetite; in essence they had determined that they were free to act worldly. But that is not what ‘Christian freedom’ means at all! Paul is determined that they understand that their freedom should not lead them into another form of slavery–to the fulfillment of personal pleasure.
As believers, Christ-followers, their bodies are no longer their own but are actually parts of Christ’s body. Jesus lives for, in and through the words and deeds of His people. Paul’s statement that God has purchased the believers for a price alludes to the slave markets of the first century. Before they knew God, it was as though they had been placed on the slave auction block; when God paid their purchase price, they became His property and they have come under His complete authority. Nothing the Corinthian believers have is theirs to have and to do with as they please. As a result, they are to run from sexual sin, not give into it or excuse it. Their bodies are God’s Temple and must be kept holy in order to honour the One to whom they belong.
Application - So how can we apply this passage of Scripture to our lives?
We are not to ignore sin within the church. We are to hold ourselves to a higher standard. We are to serve as an accountability group for one another. As a singular body, when one rejoices we all rejoice and when one suffers we all suffer. To provide the most effective witness for Christ, we need to be careful that the way we live as a group is different from the world and gives credit to God, not shame. Does this mean that we should become like the pharisees, ferreting out sin and demanding strict adherence to a set of laws. Absolutely not! We are not to tolerate and even encourage sin in the body (like the Corinthian church was doing), but neither are we to look down on those who struggle. You don’t chop off a finger because it has a splinter and you don’t leave the splinter in; you deal with the splinter and apply ointment and a bandage. It’s a good picture for how we need to treat one another in the church.
Condemnation of the world is not our job–it’s God’s. We are too quick to judge and condemn people outside of the Church and attempt to hold them to a Christian standard of living; but the fact of the matter is that they are not Christians and it is not our job. God has already judged them condemned, just as we all were prior to entering a relationship with Him through Christ. As Jesus’ disciples, our job is to go into all the world–teaching, baptizing, extending God’s love and grace, and telling others of the way of forgiveness through Jesus. We are to be fishers of men, casting out nets of God’s truth and love rather than expending our efforts on trying to ‘clean the fish before they are caught!’
‘Salvation’ without transformation is not salvation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” It is simply not enough to claim the name of Christ, in order to secure the benefits of being a Christian, but then live under your own direction. One of God’s gifts to every believer is the Holy Spirit, who guides, teaches, indwells and transforms us; one must question another’s faith in whom none of the Spirit’s fruit resides–love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, kindness and self-control. Being a Christian means giving over control of self to God’s greater purposes for our lives and the lives of others around us.
Our ‘freedom in Christ’ should never be understood as freedom to fulfill personal pleasure. We are freed from making futile attempts to gain our salvation through works because of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, but we are not freed from God’s ownership. We are not to live life as though there were no rules; we are, in fact, now to live our lives by a set of new rules–to obey, to forgive, to love, to set aside selfishness, to pray, to submit every aspect of our lives to the Will of God who has paid the price of our redemption. Our allegiance, loyalty, service and our very bodies belong to Him.
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!