The Problem Of Tolerating Sexual Immorality; Paul’s Decision To Remove The Sexually Immoral Man Must Be Respected; The Need For Holy Living; We Are Not To Judge Sinners Outside The Community; We Are To Judge Those Sinning Inside The Community
Corinth was known for its sexual immorality. Since I was young, the sexual morality of the United States has dramatically deteriorated, so that we have become a center of sexual immorality like Corinth was. And the situation is even worse because the Church has not been immune from the sexual immorality of the culture. Sexual immorality has infected the Church. The morals of many people who identify themselves as Christians and Messianic Jews reflect the standards of the world. Many are sexually promiscuous. There are entire denominations which embrace sexual perversion like homosexuality, including ordaining spiritual leaders who are homosexuals.
Rabbi Paul has been dealing with the problem of division in Messiah’s Community in Corinth. Now he turns his attention to another problem – the problem of sexual immorality. Sexual immorality was being tolerated within the community. The Rabbi demands Messiah’s followers stop tolerating it. It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.
The sexual morals of Messiah’s followers are to reflect the standards found in the Word of God, not the standards of the world. The Lord created sex. He made us to be able to have sex. He made us male and female. However, the Lord has standards for sexual activity. Sexual activity is to only take place between a man and a woman who are married. Any sexual activity that takes place outside of the male/female marriage relationship is wrong – for many reasons. It is a sin which must not be tolerated within Messiah’s Community. However, it was being tolerated in Corinth. A man was in a sexually immoral relationship with his father’s wife. The people in the community knew about it and were tolerating it.
And, while they were tolerating this sin, they had a high opinion of themselves. Paul tells them: And you are proud! They believed that they were functioning at a high spiritual level because they had a lot of knowledge and spiritual gifts, but the Rabbi knew better. They were thinking more highly of themselves than they should. Elevated thoughts about their spirituality was the wrong response for a community that was tolerating sexual immorality in their midst.
Paul tells them the right response. Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? The community should not be feeling pride because of their spiritual attainments. They should be grieving because of the sin in their fellowship. And, they should not have tolerated this immorality in their midst. They should have removed the immoral man from their fellowship. They had not done the right thing. They had been negligent.
The Rabbi informs them that he has taken matters into his own hands. He has made a decision that the man who is involved in sexual immorality is to be immediately excommunicated. For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Yeshua on the one who has been doing this. Paul made a decision. He already passed judgment and they need to respect his decision. Why? Because even though he was distant from them in space, he was with them in spirit. He was connected to them. He was part of them. He was close to them. Since he was with them in spirit, he had the right to make this decision.
And there was another reason they should respect his decision: he passed judgment in the name of the Lord Yeshua. When Paul states that he passed judgment in the name of the Lord Yeshua, it means that what he decided is in agreement with what the Lord Yeshua stands for, what the Lord Yeshua wanted. And it means something else – that Paul was using the authority that the Lord Yeshua had delegated to him. Paul was a representative of the Lord Yeshua, and as an apostle, he had been given great spiritual authority. So, what Paul had bound and loosed on Earth had been bound and loosed in Heaven. The Lord Yeshua recognized Paul’s authority and fully supported Paul’s decision.
The Rabbi had passed judgment. The community must recognize his authority, honor his decision and carry it out immediately. This is what they needed to do. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Yeshua is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. When someone is doing something wrong, it’s almost always easier to tolerate the situation than confront it. But it’s almost always better to confront it. The next time the community assembled, Paul would be with them in spirit. He would be close to them and connected to them. And of course, the Lord Yeshua, who is always present with His followers, would be with them, giving them all the power they needed to do what was necessary – even if it was hard. The situation with the immoral man was no longer to be tolerated. He was to be excommunicated. He was to be removed from the fellowship of the community.
That’s a very serious thing. It’s a frightening thing. No one should want to be removed from Messiah’s Community, because Messiah’s Community protects us. It’s a spiritual fortress protected by God the Father, Messiah the Son and the Holy Spirit. It’s protected by God-ordained spiritual leaders. It’s protected by the love and prayers and fellowship of the saints. Satan and the other fallen angles are real. They are powerful and they are cruel. Satan is the god of this world, and so, those who are removed from Messiah’s Community lose their spiritual protection. They are returned to the authority of the god of this world, and he has the power to harm them in various ways.
The purpose of handing someone over to the god of this world is not to destroy him, but to redeem him. The hope is that the suffering that he will experience – the spiritual suffering that comes from being removed from Messiah’s Community, and the various unpleasantries that the Adversary may inflict on him, will cause the one who has been removed from the fellowship to reassess his life and repent. The hope is that he will turn back to God, and turn from his sin. That will show that, in spite of his previous sins, his faith was genuine. He slipped and he fell, but with God’s help, he picked himself up. He will be saved.
I wonder if it was close to Passover when Paul wrote this letter. Regardless, this next section, which continues Paul’s correction, uses Passover themes. Your boasting is not good. The community thought of themselves as spiritually rich, spiritually powerful, full of spiritual knowledge and spiritual gifts. But the reality was that they had no right to boast about their spiritual attainments while they were divided; while they were tolerating sexual immorality; while they were thinking of themselves more highly than they should.
They needed to recognize and remove their sins. If they didn’t, things would get worse, because sin is like yeast. Sin, if tolerated, grows and spreads and affects every area of an individual’s life, or a community’s life. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?
The Corinthians needed to remove their sins just like Jewish families need to remove the yeast from their homes to observe Passover. Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch – as you really are.
Get rid of the old yeast: They needed to remove the sins of pride and tolerating sexual immorality and division.
Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch – as you really are. Sin was no longer in accordance with who they now were. They were not the same people they were before they encountered the Three-In-One God. They had been given a new, godly nature. They had the Spirit of God living in them. They were new creatures. That was their new reality. As new human beings, with a new nature and with the Holy Spirit of God living in us and empowering us, we are able to live according to our new, godly nature. We are expected to live according to that new nature. We are expected to turn from sin. We are expected to live godly and holy lives.
Just as eating Passover lamb and unleavened bread go together, faith in Messiah and the holiness of Messiah’s followers go together. For Messiah, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Messiah died on Passover, so that not just the lives of the first born sons of Israel could be spared, but the lives of everyone who has faith in Yeshua can be spared in a much greater way.
Messiah died on Passover, so that, just as the Jewish people were freed from Egypt, which was a place of sin and slavery and suffering, we can leave our Egypts – those sinful things that enslave us and cause us to suffer.
Just as the Jewish people eat the Passover lamb, we are united to Messiah, our Passover Lamb, by having faith in Him, by believing in Him, by becoming loyal to Him.
Just as Israel observes Passover by eating unleavened bread, we are to remove the sin from our lives. We are not to tolerate sin in our lives or the life of Messiah’s Community. We are to live holy lives.
Just as the Passover lamb and unleavened bread go together, faith in Messiah and holy living go together. Instead of yielding to sins like malice and wickedness, we are to be living virtuous lives characterized by sincerity and truth.
This was not the first time the Rabbi had written to the Corinthians about not associating with sexually immoral people. He had written to them in a previous letter. I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. That letter was not preserved, so we don’t have it.
In order to prevent any misunderstanding by what he meant about the Corinthians not associating with sexually immoral people, the Rabbi clarifies which people he meant. I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral. Paul did not mean that Messiah’s followers were not to associate with sexually immoral people who were outside the community of salvation, but sexually immoral people who were inside the community of salvation.
In addition to not associating with sexually immoral people who claimed to be Christians or Messianic Jews, they were not to associate with so-called followers of Messiah who were practicing other sins. I wrote to 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.
The greedy: those who are never satisfied with what they have. They always want more – more money, more possessions, more things.
Swindlers: Those who lie and cheat to take the possessions of others.
Idolaters: those who put other things before God, whether it is a literal idol, or a non-literal idol – which can be a person or a thing. They are devoted to someone; they are devoted something more than they are devoted to God.
Then Paul adds a little humor to reinforce that he did not mean that they should disassociate from non-believers who were involved with these sins. I wrote to 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. The world is full of people who are immoral, greedy, swindlers and idolaters. They are everywhere. The Corinthians would have to leave the world in order to disassociate themselves from all of them. And that’s impossible.
No, he meant they were not to associate with those within the community. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
Paul adds two other sins to the list that results in disassociation:
A slanderer: a person who makes false or malicious statements about others that are intended to harm them.
A drunkard. Drinking alcohol is permitted. Drunkenness is not permitted. A drunkard drinks to excess and does so frequently. Drunkenness results in loss of control and irresponsible and damaging behaviors.
So, anyone who claims to be a Christian or a Messianic Jew, but is sexually immoral, greedy, an idolater, a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler, is to be avoided. We don’t have fellowship with him. We do not associate with him. We don’t eat a meal with him, which is an expression of closeness and sharing. This preserves the holiness of Messiah’s Community, and it warns the person that he not in a good place, and need to make some serious changes.
The Rabbi makes it clear that it is not our responsibility to pass judgment on those outside the community. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? It is not our responsibility to make a determination about their failings and seek to punish them for those failings. It is the responsibility of governmental authorities, the police and prosecutors and judges to punish those who are doing wrong.
Our responsibility to sinners outside the community of salvation is not to judge them and try to see them punished, but to love them and bring them the Good News; encourage them to turn from their sins and turn to God, who will make them into new creatures.
However, when it comes to Messiah’s Community, it is our responsibility to set godly standards and enforce those standards within the community. Are you not to judge those inside? There is nothing wrong with calling out those who are sinning inside Messiah’s Community. In fact, it is our duty to do that. We are negligent if we aren’t doing that.
Another reason why we don’t judge those outside the community is because God will judge those outside. God, whose judgment is perfect, will in His own time, and in His own way, punish those outside the community who are sinning. He will do that by using things like sickness or loss of wealth or premature death. Or, He will punish evildoers by using government officials to arrest them, put them on trial and sentence them to punishments that fit their crimes.
Paul’s conclusion is simple. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”
Heavenly Father, we know that sin is like yeast. Sin, if tolerated, grows and spreads and affects every area of an individual’s life, or a community’s life. Help us remove our sins from our lives and from our spiritual community just as Jewish families remove the yeast from their homes for Passover.
Thank You that we are a new unleavened batch; that we are not the same people we before we were saved. Thank You for the new, godly nature You have given us. Help us live according to that new nature.
Heavenly Father, we know Messiah is our Passover lamb. Just as the Passover lamb and unleavened bread go together, faith in Messiah and holy living go together. Instead of yielding to sins like malice and wickedness, help us live virtuous lives based on sincerity and truth.
Heavenly Father, many are fond of quoting Your Son’s statement: Don’t judge so that you will not be judged. However, that statement is so often misunderstood and misused.
You teach us that it is not our responsibility to pass judgment on those who are sinning outside the community of salvation, but it is our responsibility to love them and call them to repentance and proclaim the Good News to them. Help us fulfill our responsibilities to those outside the community.
You teach us that it is our responsibility to set godly standards for the community, and enforce those standards. Help us do so with wisdom and with grace.
Help us know how and when to confront those who are sinning; how to best help them turn from their sins and turn back to You.