The Sin of Immorality. – 1 Corinthians 5:1-5
The 7th Message in our series of messages on The Corinthians.
(Find the other messages from this series here)
The Sin of Immorality
1 Corinthians 5:1-5
In this passage Paul tackles the subject of immorality so the bad news is that we are about to have another one of those awkward talks about sex, but the good news is that we are not going to have that talk next week when you bring your friends for Friend Day.
In Chapter 4 Paul established his place as a leader with authority and for good reason because he going to hand down some judgments and directives.Now, it may be that in your spirit you recoil at the word judgment- what we are going to see this week at the beginning of chapter 5 and especially next week in the end of chapter 5-
Paul had no right to judge unbelievers, but he had every responsibility to challenge believers.
Paul didn’t expect unbelievers to live like Jesus, but he did expect believers to live like Jesus. We would do well to pick up some of Paul’s perspective in this passage because we often acted so shocked when the those who do not believe in Jesus don’t act like him.
At the same time we seem to have a low standard of conduct for believers. Our calling is not to judge outsiders, but we are called to challenge one another to live more and more like Jesus.
Paul’s issue isn’t the immorality of Corinth, his issue is the immorality within the church and even more specifically Paul takes issue with the lack of action on the part of the Corinth Church.This was taking place within their body of believers and nothing was being done about it.
1It 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.
2And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.
3For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,
4In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
5To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
6Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
8Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Do you remember when on Easter I told you that Corinth has been considered by many to be the Jerry Springer Show of the New Testament?
This passage is one of the main reasons.
Apparently a man was having an ongoing affair with his stepmother. Paul doesn’t say his mother but the wife of his father. The word that Paul uses here communicates “Having” so it was not he had an affair, but he was having. This was an ongoing situation within the Corinthian church. This was taking place and the man was a full fledged, participating member of the congregation.
Now, I want to remind you of the cartoon that I showed you on Easter.
This is supposed to be Paul writing the letter to the Corinthians saying, “I can not believe these people!”
Now that’s just a comical depiction and I’m sure some of the Spirit of this is true- Paul was clearly frustrated with the Corinthians by the use of irony and sarcasm in his letter. But Paul wasn’t frustrated with Corinth. He was frustrated with the Corinthian Church. This is not a letter to the Editor of the Corinthians Times. This is a letter for the Corinthian Church.
Paul’s main issue with the Corinthians is, “you are boasting!? You are proud of yourselves!? You’ve got this ongoing sin within your church and you are arrogant and proud!?”
Based on the argument that Paul builds it seems that the Corinthian believers had justified the situation by saying well this is Corinth and the culture here is a very sexual one, by comparison we are much better off than we were and we are much better than the city, and we’d hate to confront him and hurt his feelings…
Regardless of culture, immorality is sin.
Christianity started among the Jews.
Jesus was a jew, the disciples and apostles were Jews.
The Church started in Jerusalem.
However, the gospel was for all people including the gentiles or the non-jews. Because everyone that was a Christian in the beginning was a jew, they all had some inherited cultural practices.
In their culture it was shameful for someone to become pregnant out of wedlock. Just look as the shame and stigma that Mary, Jesus’ mother carried.
So the Jews lived life that way-
However, the greeks didn’t see life quite the same way.
While the Jews had the weekly practice of a day of rest and worship, the greeks didn’t.
While the Jews had the jewish religious holidays built into their culture, the greeks had holidays dedicated to pagan Gods.
So when Greeks started to become believers there was some confrontation and controversy about whether or not Greeks needed to live like Jews or if they could live out the gospel in their own culture. There was a major meeting and it’s recorded in Acts 15.
Paul and Barnabas were leading the church in Antioch and some people came up from Jerusalem and they were teaching that you weren’t saved until you were circumcised.
Paul said, I fear we are making it unnecessarily difficult for the Greeks to come to Christ.
Paul recognized that their cultural setting was different and that for them living out the gospel would look different than it would be in Jerusalem.
However, while issues like holidays and circumcision weren’t something to get hung up on, Paul didn’t say well it’s just greek culture to have multiple mistresses and go to prostitutes.
Paul drew a line in the sand. While Paul didn’t expect Greek believers to live as Jews, he did expect them to live for Jesus. Paul points to the passover meal that the Jews celebrated. They would eat unleavened break. The leaven represent sin and the passover was the celebration of God freeing the jews from the slavery and bondage of Egypt.
He says, now we celebrate Jesus the unleavened bread (without sin) and the Passover Lamb (the sacrifice for our freedom) so let’s celebrate by living without sin. Paul argument was: You don’t need to live with the symbols of the Jews but you must live freed from sin by Jesus. You don’t need the symbols, but you need who they point to- Jesus.
Paul was arguing for and leading toward keeping the main things the main thing. Paul didn’t expect the Corinthians to get circumcised so that they would be like the Jews, but he did expect them to abstain from immorality.
Our culture is constantly and quickly changing the cultural norms for sexuality, for sexual conduct, on marriage- on all of it. We don’t need to focus on Jewish culture or Baptist Culture or American Culture from 1950. We need to focus on morality. Just like the Corinthians in AD 50, God doesn’t call us to live like anyone else but Jesus. We are called to look like a particular culture, but we are called to morality.
Regardless of comparison, the church should be humbled by sin.
Let’s get honest for a moment. Think back to that image of Paul saying, “I can not believe these people.”
We like that feeling of saying, “can you believe these people!?”
We like that feeling of superiority.
There’s a reason that shows like Jerry Springer do well.
There’s a reason that reality TV that depicts people whose lives are an absolute mess get’s great rating.
It’s common to hear people say about these shows that they are a guilty pleasure- we know that it’s garbage and flith, but we enjoy watching it like we enjoy watching a train wreck- we just can’t look away…
We all enjoy feeling better about ourselves in comparison to others. When you go to the gym, you don’t enjoy seeing the guy who apparently doesn’t have a home, he just stays at the gym and lives off of protein shakes. No, you look at the guy that is more out of shape than you are.
When you go to a buffet, you don’t like to see a person with sensible portions of healthy foods- you look at the guy who has a plate that requires two hands to hold….
Paul has dealt with Pride and Arrogance often already in this letter. The Corinthians were proud because they had many spiritual gifts and because they were “better” than their neighbors. Paul says in this passage, I can’t believe that you are proud and arrogant when you have this sin going on within the church.
Don’t you realize that a little leaven makes the whole loaf leavened. The passover wasn’t about lightly leavened bread, it was about unleavened bread.
Christianity isn’t living less sinful than the culture or doing more good than the culture. Christianity is being freed from sin by the work of Jesus.
It didn’t matter that the Corinthians had lots of spiritual gifts to do good works or that they weren’t as bad as the city they lived in, they should have been humbled by the fact that they had open and ongoing sin within their midst.
As our culture accelerates toward debauchery- As our culture takes principle after principle off of the foundations of our society- we should not be standing to the side shaking our heads. We should be looking at our own lives. We should be looking at our own hearts. We should be humbled by our own sin.
We should be broken over the ineffectiveness of our churches. We might be doing good works and deeds, but we are not experiencing revival. We are not holding back the tide of moral relativism…
I’d bet that every one of us have been disgusted or angered at the culture within the past week, and with good reason-but when was the last time we were broken over our own sin?
The guy at the buffet getting his 5th plate doesn’t make it no big deal that you got 3! When you see your doctor and he says your heart is really struggling to pump the gravy of your blood through your arteries, it will not matter that the other guy at Golden Corral ate more than you.
The current state of our culture does not give us license to relax our view on morality, in fact it should be just the opposite. The proud Corinthian church was boasting when they had plenty of reason to be humbly confessing. If they were humbly confessing their faults, that would have led to dealing with the sin regardless of the confrontation it would bring.
Regardless of confrontation, the church can not condone sin.
Paul tells the Corinthians that they must remove this person. They were to remove him from membership. This would have been a removal from participation as a member, leadership opportunities, and the taking of communion.
Paul says turn him over to the devil for the destruction of the flesh. The idea here is that release him into his sin so that he can experience that absolute emptiness of it. Allow Satan to work on him and allow him to see the vanity of this relationship, that it will not fill the void that will be left by a vibrant relationship with Jesus and let’s be hopeful that such an experience will help him see his need for the Lord.
When the church removes someone from fellowship, it isn’t because we don’t want anything to do with that person or because we want get them out of our hair- it’s because we hope that they experience the full consequences of their actions and recognize their need of living with Jesus and for Jesus.
Church discipline isn’t a way of disposing of problems, it’s a means of leading people back toward a relationship with Christ.
Co-habitation and premarital sex become commonplace, as pornography becomes more and more rampant, as homosexuality becomes culturally normalized, many churches will let their guard down and fall in line with culture.
No matter the conflict it will bring among those around us or among us, we must not condone sin. We will not condone sin.