How shocked Paul was when he heard what was happening in his beloved church at Corinth! He knew they were born again, but what in the world were they thinking? How could they possibly countenance certain activities going on in their midst? Paul minced no words. They must deal with the sin in their congregation immediately. Why was that?
The reports that came to Paul were that a man was having sexual relations with his stepmother, i.e. his father’s wife, not his own blood mother. This transgressed all that God made and said was good. It violated the Ten Commandments in several ways and was sure to bring down His wrath upon the assembly if they didn’t purge that iniquity. In fact, Paul gave them an interesting instruction in 1 Corinthians 5:5:
… 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.
Within the church is where the presence of God is to dwell. Outside the church is where Satan resides. The church is to be a place of holiness and righteousness. The world is the sea of chaos, violence, lawlessness, and sin. As God’s tabernacle for the collection of saints, i.e. those who love Him and obey His commands, there should be no taint of iniquity within the hearts of His followers or inside the four walls where they gather. Such wickedness and evil is expected outside the church.
The reason for such strict adherence to this concept is what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:6:
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
Wherever people congregate, there is a tendency for the least common denominator to prevail. This is the concept of how yeast ferments dough. It takes only a little bit as a starter, and it works its way throughout all the flour mixture in the bowl. Before long, the mass has risen because it’s been permeated by the leavening agent. So it is with sin among people. When sin is tolerated, it becomes acceptable. It doesn’t take long before someone else rationalizes that a certain other sin is alright to commit, and on it goes. We’ve seen the vivid example of this in the mainline churches. Instead of homosexuality being purged, it was given a place at the table. That acceptance grew so that all remaining in these churches embraced homosexuality. Where did it lead? Now “pastors” in many of those churches, i.e. the ones leading the flock, are themselves homosexual, trans, or worse.
Paul made it clear that judgment begins at home, in the church; that those within the congregation were absolutely to judge others in their midst. If righteous judgment isn’t applied to the people of Christ, that allows the leaven of sin to take hold. Paul’s commandment was without recourse as he stated in 1 Corinthians 5:11:
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.
By delivering the immoral sinner to the world, this accomplished two objectives:
- It removed the corrupting influence from the church so that it could get back to true holiness.
- It placed the sinner back in the world subject to all the pressures and thinking of the world. He no longer had access to prayer for healing; rather heaped up sin would have its way in his body. He no longer had Godly influence around him; this would likely lead him further into the surrounding darkness. Because of these things, he would further descend into the morass of humanity’s mess. The hope would be that he would come to his senses. Perhaps he would realize his brokenness as he looked up from the bottom of the pit. If that were so, he might once more call out for God’s mercy and be delivered. Only then could he be restored to the fellowship of the church.
Furthermore, Paul reminded the believers at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 about their attitude toward those outside the church:
For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
Judging the world was not an activity of the church. They were to go out into the world and make disciples. If they were judging everyone, that Godly directive couldn’t be accomplished because they would alien them all. God was the One responsible for judging the world outside the church.
The bottom line is that the church was to take care of its own affairs, and to do so with Godly wisdom; the Lord would handle those in the world with grace, mercy, and wrath.