1 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. --- 9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. 11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. 12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? 13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. (King James Bible)
It is possible to corrupt the church. When a member steals, that person as Christ's representative joins Jesus to that theft. When a person goes about picking fights with others, that person as Christ's ambassador is making Jesus a part of it. What a person does as a Christian reflects on our Lord. In the old testament when the Israelites did that which was evil, the people living around them blasphemed God. When a Christian does that which is wrong, or fails to do that which is right, that action or inaction, when repeated time and again, will eventually cause people to swear against our Lord.
It is necessary at times for the church; elders, lay persons and even individuals, to judge the activities of its members. When something becomes known, which is contrary to doctrine and/or harmful to the name of Christ, it should be investigated as per the scriptures. It should always be done in love and for the benefit of all. The failure of the church to correct its own people when necessary opens the door to more abuses. Further along in this direction knowledge of what is right and what is wrong is compromised until all manner of evil takes place. When activities reach the same level of error, sin and evil that was found at certain times in Israel's history, then the community as a whole has lost its moral compass. One of two things will then occur: those outside of the church, in "moral" countries, will blaspheme the name of Jesus, or in amoral countries, will welcome you into their lives as "enlightened" people.
The church at Corinth was practicing a different gospel than the one Paul delivered to them. Feeling free from the law they allowed certain activities to go unchecked. Sexual immorality started to become the norm. The church elders and the lay leaders let the activities go uncorrected. No one was held to account. A carnal pride took over their judgment and sexual sin was allowed a free rein to such an extent it was reported that fornication was commonplace.
Here is a possible scenario derived from the scripture above. A man in the church has a father who most likely lost his wife for an unknown reason. The father remarries and his son has a stepmother. It is not known whether the father is alive or dead when the sexual act occurred between his son and the stepmother. In either case the son having sex with his stepmother was wrong. Even those who were outside of the church knew that it was wrong.
Understand that the leaders of the church at Corinth were teaching a gospel contrary to wisdom. The sexual promiscuity of its members gave them a heightened sense of freedom. Since Jesus sacrificed for our sin, and all sin is under the blood, they believed there were no eternal consequences for indulging the lust of the flesh. The broader the sexual freedom, the more they gloried about their ability to sin without cost. Their message, their gospel, was so contrary to the way of God that judgment from God may have been close at hand. The apostle Paul was heartbroken when he heard of their acts and their strange twist of the gospel. As their elder he rebuked the leadership in a letter and told them to judge the one who committed the sinful act. After repenting themselves, they put the man outside of the church.
There is a right way to live and there is a wrong way to live. Sin has consequences. I am not writing about eternal salvation. Sexual promiscuity causes the spread of sexual diseases. It also weakens the family structure. The more "freedom" that is allowed the more danger becomes inherent in their daily living. There is a holy model of sex between one man and one woman, pledged to each other. When a little bit of compromise is added to that model, the situation becomes plastic and more compromises are sure to follow. Error and sin then become so normal a way of life that people begin to think it is a basic right and they are free to indulge their carnal impulses in any fashion that pleases them. This was the evolving case at Corinth.
You need to understand who Paul is writing about in the above passage. It is Christians, believers in the church. Sexual promiscuity in any of its forms is not allowed among members who confess Jesus as Saviour and call him Lord. Repentance from being led by the lust of the flesh to follow the leading of the Spirit is the responsibility of those who name themselves Christians. Do some need to be taught right from wrong? Do some need help handling their sinful impulses? Do some need deliverance? Then they are in the right place to get the help they need. Do they want to continue living in error as a lifestyle choice... show them the door and keep them out until there is repentance.
As much as we should judge the actions of church members, we are not to judge those who are unbelievers. They are sinners who need to hear the gospel. In life they will be working beside us. They will belong to some of the same secular clubs as we do. Jesus himself did not cast away the sinner but said that he was sent to reach them. We are the light of the world and we are out in the world so that others can see our light and be led to God. The outsider, by continuing his sinful acts, does not reflect badly on the church. He is not a member. The Christian who sins... does.
Correction comes in many styles and in many degrees. There are even levels of who is involved in the correction process. When wisdom is used and love for all concerned is present, then understanding and truth should be sought out and appropriate remedies and corrections applied. This is not optional in the body of Christ. It is said in scriptures, "that judgment must begin at the house of the Lord." (KJV - 1 Peter 4:17) If we do not correct the errors, sins and evil acts of church members... then God will judge. God will hold people accountable for allowing the name of Jesus to be dragged through the mud and his holiness to be smeared by the unrepentant and stiff necked among us. The scripture says... "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." (KJV 1 Cor 11:31) Another way of saying... correct yourselves and you will not have to be corrected, by God.
*note: the person who committed the sexual act with his stepmother (?) upon repentance was eventually allowed back into the fellowship 2 Cor 2:3-11
Webite administrator: Joseph A Raymond
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada