Archive for November, 2019

1 Corinthians 5:11-13

In 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 Paul hands down some pretty strong guidance for how we should live as Christ Followers. The short version is that if we know someone who is guilty of sin, we should avoid them. Does this mean habitual sinners, or everyone who sins. If the later we’ll have a pretty quiet existence because all have sinned and fall short of God’s obedience. Paul is referring here to habitually make the choice to continue in a sinful behavior even after being confronted or convicted about it. All sin is a choice. Satan doesn’t make us sin. We choose to sin, sometimes helped along that path by the enemy or people we associate with, but make no mistake that all sin is a choice we make first and foremost.

Paul is warning us not to hang out with people who might lead us into the ongoing choice to continue in a sin, or may actually bring us along into a new area of sinfulness. We certainly don’t need those kind of influences in our life. So he warns us not to associate with them, even to the point of sharing a meal together. We need to isolate ourselves and be sure we don’t intentionally do things that will cause us to fall. “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one.”

Does Paul’s directive apply to people around us who are not Christ Followers? The text seems to indicate that what matters is those who are Christ Followers. They have a different level of accountability and expectation to keep. So while it wold be easy to apply the same filter to all, Paul is clear it begins within the body of Christ. God’s standards must first be applied to those who call Him Lord. We may prefer to do it the other way around, but that is not God’s way. He’s about cleaning His house first, and we play a role in that process, first in cleaning up the sin in our own life, and then by confronting sin in the lives of other Christ Followers we are connected with. “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”

Paul summarizes his teaching on sin very succinctly. God alone will address the sins of the world. That’s not our job from within the body of Christ. “God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” What is our responsibility is to purge sin from within the walls of the church. Not by pointing fingers or posting pictures on social media. It has to begin with ourselves and an honest assessment of where we fall short and have a sin problem. Scripture is clear that we do – so this isn’t a case where some get a pass and others have to change their ways. We look inside, we look at the lives of those around us, and we deal with sin or should face the reality that the church should discipline us until we choose to live God’s way.

1 Corinthians 5:6-10

In 1 Corinthians 5:6-10 Paul continues rebuking the church for their failure to handle sin directly. Church discipline is an area that many prefer to stay clear of. There can be differing opinions as to the severity of the sin and the action that should be taken as a result, so often things may be talked about but seldom truly dealt with. Paul makes clear the problem with that approach, or lack thereof. If we overlook or ignore sin, really at any level, we lower the standard of expectations to a point where sin just becomes accepted. “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?”

Ignoring or accepting sin is never ok with God. Sin is mankind’s biggest problem – it is what causes our separation from God and ultimately eternity in hell if not addressed through the grace of Jesus Christ expressed freely for us on the Cross. “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” Man has a sin problem, and God graciously offered up a complete and everlasting solution. He sent Jesus as a sacrifice to die on a cross, be buried in a tomb, and raise after three days to give us victory over death. God has given us the solution, but we have to get rid our our sin problem by accepting His gift of grace.

Paul exhorts the church to celebrate the new way of receiving the forgiveness of sin – the shed blood of Jesus. Sin has been around since the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve experienced it then, and it’s been with us ever since. But the method of dealing with it changed when Jesus went to Calvary. Before that, it had been based on the law and obedience to God’s commands. Those things still guide how we should live, but the forgiveness of sin now happens through receiving Christ as Savior and Lord. That is the new truth we need to understand and accept. “Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

Paul has instructed the church to remove the sinful behavior and person choosing to live in it. But now he goes further to blanket the sin of sexual immorality. Actually he addresses a broader subject of sin itself. We’re not to hang with people who are sinners. “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.” We need to understand that sin carries a price tag and certainly can cause those in its patch to be swayed toward it if not careful. We need to associate with those who are not consumed by sin, and not just sexual sin. Any sin can cause us to fall and be separated from God.

1 Corinthians 5:1-5

In 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 Paul tackles some sensitive issues in the church. He begins with a focus on sexual immorality – not a topic most churches want to address publicly. Paul puts it out there front and center, calling out behavior that is not acceptable in any situation, where a man is sexually engaging with his fathers wife, which would be his mom or step mom. Even in our permissive world today, that stretches the boundary of acceptability. “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.”

Paul gets after the church for being less than quick and decisive with how to address this behavior. The leadership was not addressing it, acting as if it wasn’t their problem to deal with. Their attitude was somewhat ‘above this lowly behavior’ and they were coming across as arrogant as a result. Paul tells them they should not only deal with it, but mourn the fact it occurred under their leadership and oversight. But more than that, he is extremely blunt with what should happen – the guilty party should be removed from the body. There is no place for tolerance here. “And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” Decisive and quick action is what Paul expects.

Paul realizes that he is writing from afar, but the news has gotten to him and he’s not going to remain quiet and let it slide. He is not there physically, but he cares deeply for the church and makes it clear that he is part of that body and feels responsible to direct action as if he was there. He knows this is a divisive and sinful act that has to be addressed. So there is no need to wait for him to arrive in person – he passes judgment and demands action by the leadership of the church. Sin cannot be tolerated. Blatant sin must be addressed quickly. “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.”

Paul goes further than just a hand slapping for this sinful behavior. He wants him thrown out of the church, but beyond that, they are to completely separate themselves from his sinful and destructive behavior. Paul instructs them to hand him over to Satan, that he will experience the penalty of his sin, but with the hope that he will repent and be saved. No matter the sin, there is not one so bad that we can’t be forgiven. We need to confess, repent and receive God’s grace, but it is offered freely to all of us, even someone who commits sin at this blatant level. “When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” Each of us needs to examine ourselves and see where we need to confess and repent.

1 Corinthians 4:16-21

In 1 Corinthians 4:16-21 Paul tells the church at Corinth what they need to do – imitate him. That’s a pretty bold statement. “I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” The first reaction of many of the Corinthian Christians would probably be that Paul was regarded as a fool, as weak, as dishonored; he was hungry and thirsty and poorly clothed, homeless and beaten; he worked hard to support himself with manual labor. Why would we want to imitate him? Why would that make sense and be the right thing to do? Because the glory and power of Jesus Christ shines through Paul. He is an instrument being used by God to change lives for eternity as a minister of the gospel.

Paul reminds them why he sent Timothy. “That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.” The message was to reinforce what Paul had been teaching them. Timothy seemed to be Paul’s chief “trouble shooter,” often being sent to problem churches. The church in Corinth was certainly a church running adrift and in need of some strong leadership. They were arrogant and doing whatever they wanted without regard to the authority of Paul and others over them. “Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you.”

So while the leaders in the church at Corinth were blatantly ignoring Paul and his instruction, he calls them out and reminds them that if God allows he was going to come and confront them face to face. “But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power.” Paul leaves the ball in their court. Which Paul did they want to come? The Paul with the rod of correction or the Paul with the spirit of gentleness?  There is no doubt Paul would prefer to come in gentleness, but he’ll leave that decision up to the Corinthians! But Paul isn’t going to let their bad prideful behavior go unchallenged.

Paul knows what needs to happen won’t be easy. And it won’t be repaired with words alone. “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” The Holy Spirit will have to do a work. Guzik says “Paul is facing some of the real challenges of ministry; how to confront sin without being too harsh, or implying that you are above sin; how to get people to conform their lives to the gospel when they think too highly of themselves. This is tough work in a heart to do, and only a great work by the Holy Spirit can accomplish it!” Paul wants the church to think about how they are living and the reality of correction that will come if they don’t shape up. “What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?”

1 Corinthians 4:11-15

In 1 Corinthians 4:11-15 Paul talks about the condition of those ministering to the church. They were not physically blessed in any way with comforts of the world. The Corinthians, in their love of Greek wisdom, embraced the Greek idea that manual labor was fit only for slaves. It offended them that one of God’s apostles would actually work with his own hands! “To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat.” But more than the abuse they took for working with their hands to earn a living (Paul was a tentmaker), they were also mistreated by words and attacks.

Paul is saying that when they were slandered, the apostles would reach out in kindness to the one who spoke against them. This also was offensive to the Greek ideal; they thought a man was a wimp if he didn’t fight back when slandered. Paul paints a pretty dismal picture of how those ministering the gospel were being treated by the church in Corinth. “We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” Think of Paul’s resume: bounced from church to church, run out of many towns, accused of starting riots, rarely supported by the church, arrested and imprisoned several times—he put up with much to serve Christ.

Yet he doesn’t attempt to shame the church into taking action and change things. “I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” With his biting sarcasm, Paul knows the Corinthian Christians might (and should) be pretty ashamed. He wants them to know his purpose hasn’t been to make them feel ashamed, but to warn them of a significant spiritual danger: pride. Paul’s effort is to instruct the church in how they should support the ministers of the gospel. The church at Corinth was focused on self, not those serving them. That needed to change.

Paul explains the difference between the kinds of teachers/instructors the church in Corinth had. There were many who were guides for the journey to follow Christ and live a Christian life. But there is a completely different class of leader that Paul wants them to understand. “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Paul had a unique place of authority and leadership among the Corinthian Christians, not only because he fathered the church itself in Corinth but also because of his authority as an apostle. He was not merely a guide or instructor. He was literally the one appointed by God to direct them in their walk with Christ.

1 Corinthians 4:7-10

In 1 Corinthians 4:7-10 Paul reminds the church that if there is anything we think we’ve done on our own, we have a pride problem. If there is a difference between us, it is because of what God has done in us. Everything we have or will ever have is not a result of our own work but a gift from God. He alone provides what we have. “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” So there is nothing for us to boast about or have any thought that we did it ourselves. It is from God alone.

Whether we think so or not, we are blessed beyond what we need. We may incorrectly focus on what else we might want, but the truth is that God has blessed us indeed. “Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you!” Gratitude is a matter of the heart. Guzik suggests that these three questions should prompt other questions in our heart:

  1. Do I truly I give God the credit for my salvation and all I have?
  2. Do I live with a spirit of humble gratitude?
  3. Seeing that I have received everything from God, what can I give to Him?

Paul lays it out there with sarcasm regarding the Corinthian church. They were wealthy, had far more than was needed, yet were still focused on gaining more and were filled with pride around what they had. Paul contrasts that to the way the apostles lived as ministers of the gospel. “For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.” Instead of being full, and rich, and reigning as royalty, the apostles were on display in a humiliating spectacle to the world. The Corinthian Christians looked at themselves so highly, while God has displayed the apostles so low! Paul is not complaining, but contrasting the two.

And he goes further in how he differentiates the church from those who were serving it. With contrast after contrast, Paul sarcastically shows how foolish it is for the Corinthians to think that they are more spiritually privileged, or blessed, or endowed, than the apostles were. “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.” Today, the church is heavy with this same attitude of the Corinthian Christians. They are concerned about the image of worldly success and power. There is no shortage of ministers who want to display the image of worldly success and power, and no shortage of Christians who will value that in their ministry.

1 Corinthians 4:3-6

In 1 Corinthians 4:3-6 Paul begins by reminding the church that there is only One that we should be focused on serving. It doesn’t matter what others think of us, only God himself. Paul doesn’t really care that the church in Corinth wasn’t that crazy about him or what he was teaching them. He was serving an audience of One, and that’s how we need to live as well. “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.” Paul goes further to explain our estimation of our self is usually wrong. We are almost always too hard or too easy on ourselves. There is one true measuring stick – God’s Word. That’s what we need to be concerned with living up to.

We can deceive ourselves in thinking that we are in good standing with God based on what we think of ourselves, but be completely off track. Paul recognizes that he does not stand in a perfect state of justification or innocence just because his conscience was clear. Paul knew his righteousness came from Jesus, not from his own personal life – even though he had a godly walk. “I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.” It is impossible for us to live a life worthy of God on our own. We all sin, and we all need Jesus. So if we are trying to make it on our own, we’re going to come up short.

Paul is clear that ultimately there will be only One true judge. We live our lives and as Christ Followers should walk according to God’s Word. But that alone isn’t going to be enough when we stand at the judgment seat. We’ll fall short because we are not perfect. “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” But if we stand there with the blood of Jesus covering us, we’ll be granted eternal life with God in heaven.

Paul applies this teaching about judgment to himself and other Apostles serving the church. They had a job to do in teaching and leading the church in Corinth, but that congregation was continually judging these leaders on their own standards. Many people today evaluate a pastor or a minister on unbiblical standards. They judge him on the basis of his humor, or entertainment value, his appearance, or his skill at marketing and sales. “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” The truth is that there is only one standard for church leaders – the Word of God. That alone is how we need to consider those who lead the church.

It used to be that something was considered Biblical if it came from the Bible; today, people say things are “Biblical” if can’t find a verse which specifically condemns it. This is to think beyond what is written. Paul is clear that serving God is not a contest where we should compete with each other to determine who is doing the most. This shouldn’t be a pride thing. There is only one measure – how we are doing compared to what we could do if we walked with God and His Word completely and totally. This isn’t between people, but between how we live and how we could and should live. Don’t get puffed up comparing yourself to anyone else.

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