For many years there has been a passage of Scripture that has haunted me by its meaning. It seemed to be saying that a person who professes to know Christ but continues to lives in aberrant sin can still be saved (that is, he will be saved on the day the Lord returns) but his “flesh” in this life will be destroyed. The passage is found in I Corinthians 5:1-12 (specifically, verse 5) and while it primarily deals with a deviant form of sexual sin (a man sleeping with his stepmother) at the beginning of the passage, it goes on to talk about Christians who are involved in not only sexual immorality, but greed, idolatry and slander, and those who are a drunkard or a swindler (Verse 11). Let’s read it:
1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? 3 Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. 4 When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.
6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
9 I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 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. 11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”
It is very clear here that the Apostle Paul is speaking to Christians who profess to believe in Jesus Christ and not to the outside world. Verse 12 is very specific that we who know Christ should not judge those outside of the church (the culture at large) but rather to judge those who are in the church. It is God’s business to judge the rest of the world, not ours.
Also, in Verses 9-11, Paul is very clear that he is speaking to Christians to not associate with a brother (e.g. another Christian) who calls himself a brother but is “sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.”
Whoa… did you get that?
We who profess to be Christian are not to judge the outside world, but we are to judge sin when it is rampant in the church. I don’t know about you, but over the past several decades what I have observed is that the church has spent a lot of time railing at the culture (those outside of the church) but not dealing with the sin within its own borders, which is exactly the opposite of what Paul is telling us we should be doing.
We don’t even try to clean up our own act, but we tell the rest of the world to clean up theirs. And then we wonder why the church is so ineffective in our culture today.
Let’s go back to the specific sin mentioned in the first few verses–a man who was having sexual relations with his father’s wife (his stepmother). It was apparent that this man had no remorse over what he was doing yet he claimed to be a follower of Jesus Christ. From what I read in Verse 5, he was, indeed, a follower of Christ but unrepentant in his sin and did not want to give it up. Therefore, the very chilling words in Verse 5 spelled out what happened to him– “hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.” Did you get that? He was to be handed over to Satan (yes, this follower of Jesus Christ), so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.
This is not a topic that I ever remember being addressed in churches I’ve attended over the past many years. However, I do want to point out that I am not bringing up this topic to scare anyone who professes to be a follower of Jesus Christ but rather to make them think about their lives in a different way. Because our culture offers us some of the greatest things that have ever been available to mankind, we get caught up in the culture’s mentality. It’s that old, “Bigger, better, more, more, more” mentality that is never, ever appeased. And we all choose our own poison–and yes, it’s pervasive in the church in America. We just don’t recognize it anymore. We’ve been lulled to sleep by the excesses of the culture around us.
Consider this your “wake-up” call if you haven’t already had one. Seriously think about your life and the direction you are headed and, be honest now–does it honor the Lord Jesus Christ whom you profess to follow? Has sexual immorality or greed crept in? How about idolatry? (I’ve already confessed in a previous post about the fact that I had made my male mentor friend a god of my own making for 14 years before the full impact of what I was doing hit me square in the face.) How about slander and gossip? Are they your gods? Are you a closet alcoholic or do you swindle folks out of things that rightfully belong to them? Or, has your heart just grown cold regarding the things of God and you’ve lost your first love–Jesus Christ?
As Christians, I think we should all examine our lives on a very regular basis in order to keep the things of this world that so tempt us out of our lives (and we all know who the father of temptation is–and it’s not God). We need to stop judging the world at large and start judging ourselves. We need to clean up our act if we need to and not be prideful enough to keep saying we have no sin. The father of the prideful is not God.
And we need to run back to our first love, Jesus Christ, who will cleanse us from all sin (I John 1:9) and put us back on the right track so that we never have to experience the horror that the unrepentant man in I Cor. 5 experienced when he was handed over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. But the story does not end there… the really good news is this–that man eventually came to his senses and repented of his sexual immorality and he was restored to fellowship with his fellow Christians and with God (2 Cor. 2:7).
And that’s something worth celebrating! So, let’s destroy those false gods before they destroy us, or repent of them if they currently have a hold on us. I was slowly being devoured for 14 years by a friendship I thought God had put in my life (NOT…), but when I repented, God amazingly and lovingly restored me. And He can restore you, too!
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