Now as I always do, I want to give a little bit of a brief as to how we got to here from the beginning of the book. You must always keep in the back of your mind that this letter is the second of four corrective letters to the church at Corinth, clearly the one that had the most issues that we read about in the new Testament. We must not initiate the building of theology from this letter without understanding the greater context of the Scriptures as a whole before using 1 Corinthians to draw any theological conclusions. You’ll see what I mean when we talk about our second paragraph this study.
In chapter 1, we learned that basically, everyone is some kind of fool, and concluded from our study that if we have to play the fool anyway, we should play the part of God’s fool, because the so-called “foolishness” of our sovereign God will put any of the logic or wisdom of the world to shame. Come, give your life for a carpenter’s son – for “a madman who died for a dream,” according to Dr. Albert Schweitzer. But only the foolish can tell of the wonderful grace of God in their own salvation and the wisdom found in His word through His Spirit.
That brought us to chapter 2, where we had opportunity to examine the nature of this heavenly wisdom, that the world calls foolish. We learned that not only was that true wisdom a spiritual, and nor earthly wisdom, but also that such wisdom could only be revealed to those who are aiming at maturity in Christ by walking “in the Spirit,” where for lack of better words, we obey what the Holy Spirit informs us through the Word of God and the New Nature that Christ gave us to walk in instead of the old nature that we are still very capable of falling into no matter how long you have been a real Christian.
Then in chapter 3, we considered that God’s reality is the reality to which attention must be paid. We like to manufacture our own at times to avoid responsibility toward God, but believers cannot afford that luxury – all believers are doing a great work, and Paul speaks to the details of that. Our conclusion is that because we are actually collectively building the naos of God, that is the Sanctuary, where God sits and lives and speaks and works, we must take great care with the construction in terms of the material we use. There are good and bad choices, and we want to make the best possible choices, because if we are careless, then we will suffer loss. And that loss is unimaginable, though we will still be saved – “yet so as through the fire, according to Paul.
Then the Apostle presents a choice in chapter 4 – which Paul would you like to face? The angry disciplinarian that wrote the letter to the Galatians, or the loving, humble, meek servant that wrote Ephesians and Philippians, etc.? It seems that the dividers were already hard at work trying to separate the sheep from the fold in Corinth, and it had to be explained that although Paul and his fellow servants perhaps appeared to be without honour, instead of discarding them, they should rather be imitated – because the kingdom of God does not exist in eloquent speeches, but in the power of changed lives, and that should be the measure for a preacher. It seems that we need to obey God and walk in the Spirit at this point, because that is what the Lord is mandating.
That brings us to THIS week, where we will se an example of one that would NOT hear and obey the Lord. More about that in a moment.
Here is how I divided up the chapter:
KV7: Dealing with sin in the church – i.e., Church Discipline
“Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.”
1-2: Arrogance allows sin to remain in the church
3-5: Remove the sin from your church and give the sinner to the Adversary
6-8: Remember that a little leaven spreads through the whole loaf
9-13: Do not fellowship with brothers that do not live Christians
This chapter is striking because we see an actual case of church discipline, and it isn’t just some random sin, it is specifically immorality, and because it involves the individual’s mother or stepmother, it can be labelled actual incest. Suffice it to say that this is so far outside of God’s will and plan for people that even unbelievers realize this isn’t right. Can you imagine the conversations this guy must have had? “Wait, you’re sleeping with your MOTHER? Dude, what are you smoking to make THAT okay?” We’ll talk about the specifics at the appropriate time, but you may want to know ahead of time, that there are some age-sensitive things we are going to be talking about because the chapter does. I’m going to jump right in to the chapter so as to minimize the risk of something being misheard or mishandled.
KV7: Dealing with sin in the church – i.e., Church Discipline
“Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.”
I realize this may be a somewhat new topic in the experience of many believers today. There seems to be an unwritten 11th commandment that says, “Thou shalt not criticize another Christian for any reason.” This is both incorrect and dangerous. It’s incorrect in that even the most Godly men in Scripture were still sinners in need of salvation and the discipline of the Lord. I don’t have to go any further than Romans 3:10 which records for us that “there is none righteous, not even one.” And yet, people will identify as Christians and then say stupid things like “judge not,” or “touch not the Lord’s anointed,” as if those were magical phrases that can ward off any reproach for sins committed for whatever reason. Now I’m sorry, but my Christianity is not that shallow or new and I’m not that gullible. So we’re going to spend a good amount of time defining terms and examining the idea of church discipline this evening.
First, we must understand what the “church” actually is. I know this won’t be news to most of you that join us regularly, but the church is not the building you go to for an hour or so per week. The church is the people in that building. The Greek word ekklesia is the word that is used, and that word was used to describe their political assembly in the city-state of Athens, for example. It literally means a group of individuals that have been called out of a larger group. In this case, that group could be called the “elect,” or those chosen by God from before the foundation of the world. It is this called-out group that is also called “the Bride of Christ,” or “the body of Christ” in repeated fashion by the Apostles. In 1 Corinthians 3, we learned that we collectively are in fact the very sanctuary of Almighty God, where God sits, and speaks, and acts, and such. That collective group are to be the living stones that are built into that dwelling of God, and should therefore remain sinless and pure, especially as we cooperate with God in our own sanctification. But we aren’t, are we? They sure weren’t in Corinth.
Now all along, we have been talking about the individual need to sanctify ourselves so that we could not be accused as sin. It turns out that some of our visible gathering have not been doing so. Is it possible that these people are tares, or goats, or whatever term you wish to use to describe false converts? Sure it is – but it is also possible that real Christians are caught in this situation, having failed to walk in the Spirit with the Lord Jesus. That seems to be what happened here, although we don’t officially know that until 2 Corinthians. I’ve just read ahead a bit.
All of this points to a clear need for some kind of multi-level disciplinary system. The individual is supposed to discipline himself with the aid of the Holy Spirit. When that doesn’t happen, it falls to other brothers and sisters in the same gathering to help them discipline themselves. When that doesn’t work, the entire church gets involved, and that’s usually not good for that unrepentant individual. We talk last week about this, in that really in the church, there is really only one thing that will get you tossed out on your ear as sure as we’re all here – that is our own foolish resistance to repent of our own sins. But why does this happen?
1-2: Arrogance allows sin to remain in the church
We talked about this last time in verse 18. I asked the question of what happens when the unbeliever is confronted about the lack of reality with God in his or her life. I showed that the usual response of the unbeliever was arrogance coupled with belligerence, at least these days. They resort to calling you names. They will accuse you of the very things that they are now displaying. How dare you say that I’m living in the sin of homosexuality with my gay lover who is my brother in Christ when all we want is to be our gay selves and run your church? My, how tolerant and longsuffering. And not on the Holy Spirit’s watch if you want to maintain your status as the body of Christ.
Right now, in our denomination, there is a bunch of “ecumenical” ministers dedicated to bringing in the “homosexual Christian” to our midst, and is willing to marry them, and even to ordain them into positions of teaching and leadership. Given what it says about homosexuality in the Scriptures, I don’t think that’s allowable. Now, if they want to come in and join the congregation, that’s great! A gathering of Christians should attract sinners that want to be cleansed and forgiven. But to hand them the keys and say take over? Well, let me ask you – would you want your treasury run by a known forger and embezzler? Yeah, neither would I. The main characteristic of a church leader is, as you will recall, high moral character. If you haven’t got that, you cannot be in church leadership, and that’s a fact, Jack.
Arrogance emerges as a response to moral discipline in many ways and from many angles. Hey, if you’re a thief, and you’re still stealing, that is, that known sin is still an active part of your lifestyle, you should not be in any positions of leadership, especially if it controls purse strings. What’s that buddy? You callin’ me a thief? You must be scelerophobic! No, I’m not afraid of thieves. Or homosexuals. But the fact is, those are described as sins in Scripture, and any known sin shuts you out of leadership until by the grace of God and with His help you can sanctify your life and demonstrate some repentance. Don’t be so arrogant as to presume anyone can be in church leadership! The church is the dwelling-place of the holy and almighty sovereign God! You think you can just bring your sin into His presence? Really! Let’s get into the text then.
1: It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife.
- I did mention that there was going to be some sensitive stuff. Let me start with the obvious. Class participation time. Your father’s wife is your _______________? (Mother, maybe step-mother – either way, this is incest.) Paul calls the sin exactly what it is – sin. He NAMES it. And he explains that this is such bad sin that even the unclean and unconverted Gentiles view this as really bad. The worst part is that it is reported – and no one has done anything about it!
- Now we run into that unwritten commandment – Thou shalt not criticize another professing Christian. As my Grandpa used to say, POPPYCOCK! That commandment isn’t written because it isn’t a commandment! You MUST identify the sin and hold the sinner accountable!
- This situation in Corinth reminded me of Joshua and the battle of Ai, which was immediately after the battle of Jericho. Let’s look at that passage – Joshua 7:
- But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.
- Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.
- Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”
- The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the Lord takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the Lord takes shall come near by households. And the household that the Lord takes shall come near man by man. And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’”
- So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
- So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the Lord. And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.
- That was a lot of Scripture to tell one very sad story and how that sin was dealt with in that camp. Now, we aren’t under the same kind of legal penology as they were at that time in history, but the point is that drastic and separating measures MUST be taken to remove sin from the dwelling of God, the church! I’m not suggesting we have the death penalty for things either. I need to state categorically that I am NOT a Theonomist, someone that thinks we should return to the Old Testament peal code for things.
- The point here is that someone sinned, and he was anything but repentant. Did you note how long he waited until he actually admitted it? Who knows if he wouldn’t have been spared if he had admitted to the crime when it was first discovered? No, instead, he waited until it was narrowed down precisely to himself. My friends, that arrogance that says, “I know it was me, but they don’t know! They have no proof! They got nuthin’!” Until our greater Joshua is standing there with the proof in His hands.
2: You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.
- See? There was no mourning and real repentance! There was this same basic arrogance as Achan displayed to Israel, to Joshua, and the God Himself. No, there was an arrogance about it. What? What are you talking about? Stop judging me! Touch not the Lord’s anointed! (I trust you realize that applies to Christ and not you, right?)
- Also, Paul’s statement here seems to imply that the church has a responsibility here to remove the one responsible. Friends, we may not stone people and burn them anymore, but that responsibility for keeping the gathering pure and free from stain of sin is still there. The one causing the stain MUST be removed for the sake of the testimony of the gathering to God.
- This is a position today that is steadily declining in favour. Many, including among what the world would call Baptists are arguing for what they call a “cultural relevance” to Scripture. They suggest that because society has changed, the church must change with it or become irrelevant. What they mean by that is that we openly accept things like homosexuality and gender issues, critical race theory, intersectionality, divisions based on people groups, and such like moronic garbage. I argue the exact opposite. Beloved, the Word of God is timeless, and meant for all ages. We should not care what the world wants us to become like, that to the church should be irrelevant. When the church begins to look like the world, it will lose its relevance until it can no longer be called a church but a social club, and not one to which I would wish to belong.
The issue here is not really one of “relevance” to the world. The issue here is the faithfulness of the gathering for the sake of the testimony to Jesus Christ. God said that we must make disciples of all the nations, teaching whatsoever things He has commanded us to those disciples. If we teach them that sin is okay to allow, we will end up on the wrong end of the relevance equation. And we will be found in the midst of the emptying churches that seem to be growing in number. When the church abandons the commands of her King, it becomes irrelevant and stands for nothing important. Let’s not go down that road, beloved. That result looks scary to me, and very dark – no matter who is arguing for that – it is abandoning the King of kings for stupidity.
3-5: Remove the sin from your church and give the sinner to the Adversary
What then should our response to sin in the camp be? It should be one of sober sadness, but also of decisive action. It MUST be dealt with. If it is not, then the Holy Spirit is grieved by this. Does that mean He will leave? I don’t know, and I don’t want to find out. In my thinking, we have to RUN from that idea, as far and as fast as possible.
This is where the actual case of church discipline occurs. If you are paying attention, there is a real pattern that develops. It is seen most clearly in Matthew 18:15-20:
“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
So there we see it, and we assume that this has occurred already. Someone discovered that this brother was sinning with his mother or stepmother like this, and he or she would have said something in private to him. Likely, this was rebuffed by the man. Step two would have been to take at least one more, probably two people with himself or herself to establish what was going on, and the man’s responses to the attempt to reason with him. This is the last step we are at – they have taken it to the church, and the church is about to announce its decision and exercise itself to apply the appropriate discipline. Let’s jump in and read along.
3: For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present.
- Even though Paul was not in Corinth at the time, Paul had already made his decision on what needed to be done here. Actually for him, I doubt there was even a question. And he didn’t need to be present to express his decision to the congregation, he just went ahead and did it. So what did he decide?
4: In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus,
- Well, before we find out that decision was, there is some decorum to observe, and this is kind of a “how it happens” description that I have observed in action several times over the years in more than one gathering. I saw it most recently in the Sun Valley gathering of John MacArthur when a man was put out of fellowship because he would not repent of some very bad behaviour. I saw it in a gathering where I fellowshipped many years ago when a young couple wanted to get married and ended up cohabiting before the engagement was announced. I can understand making a mistake and being caught in the act so to speak, but the response is what the problem actually was. It was in both cases a recalcitrance to admit their wrong and cease from sin until the marriage. I remember a very gracious servant of God named Tim speaking to them, and they basically told him to take a long walk off a short dock. Tim’s response was to gently tell them that they could do anything they wanted, it was their choice, but they couldn’t do what they were doing here. Two days later, they moved in together, and the sisters that had been renting from the sister involved had to move out post haste. I was on the moving crew, and we worked very fast. So fast in fact, that I accidentally broke one of the homeowner’s lamps. She “magnanimously” forgave me (that is she made a bid show of forgiving me in public though her tone of voice said otherwise), but to this day I still feel like there is something unresolved there, and there isn’t anything I can do about it. About 6 months later, I heard that they moved out to Nova Scotia and were fellowshipping at a Brethren Bible Chapel out there, and had quite the Christ-honouring and God-glorifying wedding, so I don’t know. I’ve seen neither of them since, and that was in the late 1980s. They were both really good friends, too. That has nothing to do with it though.
- That following Sunday, when everyone was gathered (except the two of them who had no intention of coming, you’ll see why in a moment), after the worship meeting was over, the itinerant brother Tim stood at the front of the room, and you could tell it really bothered him to do what he was doing. They were his friends too. He announced in brief detail what had happened, the choices that they had made, we looked at the scriptures, and he clearly showed where their choices were sin, and further was rebellion against God in their responses, and they were put out of fellowship. If they had been there, one or more of our ushers (we called them door-keepers) would have escorted them from the building. I don’t think I would have enjoyed that duty.
- So note the order – first alone, then with witnesses, and then to the church – and then discipline if necessary is done in full assembly of the congregation, and it is done in the “power” of the Lord Jesus. The word is dunamis, that miraculous power of God that has explosive potential. What is it that is done? And what did Paul decide?
5: I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
- Here it is. Paul has decided to “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh!” WHAT?!? Whatever does THAT mean? Well, beloved, that’s church discipline. If you won’t humbly and painstakingly deal with your own sin so that you can be sanctified, that is made holy, so that you can be a part of that great building Paul was talking about in chapter 3, then the collective church cannot allow that sin to dwell in its midst, lest if profane US! Don’t think of it as kicking people out of the church, it’s more like removing the covering protection of Christ from one that WILL not repent.
- And even here, Paul isn’t saying that he’s taking away this person’s salvation. See the second half of the verse! It reads, “…so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” No flesh, broken and sinful as it is, will see God. But our spirits will, and the destruction of this person’s fleshly desires will sanctify him and save him in the final analysis!
- So then – Paul has decided with the church, like in Matthew 18:19, in agreement with the elders in that place, and all the saints besides, to remove the covering grace of the church from an individual, to drive him to the end of his own resources, so that he may find the Lord’s resources and be saved. That isn’t being cliquish, that’s teaching your brother the hard way by his own choices, beloved.
- Now maybe I can say it again with the accompanying text for context – the only sin that will get you removed from the church is a refusal to repent of your sins! Doing that will get Christ’s covering protection of grace removed from you, with the goal of bringing you to an end of yourself and to prepare your heart to actually repent, the very thing you need to save you from yourself, as it turns out, because this kind of judgement is meant to be corrective in nature, just like this letter to Corinth.
Now, I said we’d look at Matthew 18 Church discipline in chapter 5, and we have – but there is more to the story, because we’re only halfway through the paragraph count! The reason we need to remove sin from our midst as a local church is because if we allow it, we become complicit with sin, and it taints the local testimony so that we will have the smell of sin, which I equate with the stink of death and decay. There are times when I can almost smell it on certain people, and later I turn out to be right. And if we are aware of sin in our midst, we MUST deal with it according to the method laid down in Matthew 18 and seen here.
6-8: Remember that a little leaven spreads through the whole loaf
The Apostle here returns to a very old symbol for sin, yeast, or leaven. That thing that makes bread rise. Did you know that it is actually a living organism? If you have just a little bit, you can actually grow it, and sin is exactly like that. If there is just a little bit, it will grow to consume you. In our last John Owen Friday, when we read through chapter 11 of his work called The Mortification of Sin, we read that sin is progressive. You cannot just go so far and no further. If you let it have an inch, it will push for a foot. If you give up that ground, it will take a mile or more. Don’t get me wrong, I like fresh-baked bread like everyone else. I think the Earl of Sandwich had a great idea – but we’re not talking about sandwiches, we’re talking about sin. You cannot let even a grain of that yeast in or you will have an out-of-control problem before you even realize you have a problem. Let’s see what that means.
6: Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?
- You know, I have to confess here that I don’t get what could possibly BE good enough about sin to brag about it. Sin is usually behaviour people try to hide for a REASON. Case in point, a dude schlepping his mom (or his stepmom)! Look, there’s nothing to brag about there, and I don’t care how “hot” she looks, or how good she is in the sack! YOU didn’t marry her, YOUR DAD DID! That’s DISGUSTING! And you’re BRAGGING ABOUT IT? Are you kidding me?
- We just talked about how sin in our lives is progressive, and if you give an inch it will take a whole mile or more. Did you know that about 3 days before his execution in Florida, Ted Bundy was interviewed by James Dobson of “Focus on the Family” fame? That’s right, he was. Doctor Dobson had opportunity to ask him how he got started in the serial killer business, so to speak. Ted Bundy said that it was because as a boy, he gave himself over to pornography. Eventually, he became more and more bold in his sin, raping several women first, and then escalating to the point where he took their lives and then a ritual of sorts evolved. You can see a classic pattern. Sin enters by invitation, and pretty soon, it’s running the show. As John Owen said, we need to be killing sin, or we can rest assured that sin will be killing us. I don’t think Mr. Bundy would disagree, nor would his 30 victims that we know of. (The count is likely much higher.) But it doesn’t start this way – it requires what are called logistics or operational parameters.
- Think of how yeast works as a living organism. It grows to match the carrying capacity of its environment. So does sin. Now – not everyone has the capacity to become a prolific serial killer – but what about a serial adulterer? Or a serial fornicator? Or a serial hateful person (remember Jesus’ take on murder in Matt. 5)? If you can’t excise (cut it out) all of it at once (which Christ did for us when he justified us and caused us to be born from above), then you will never get ahead of it. It will grow until it fills the whole lump of dough. And let’s not forget, we don’t have to speak allegorically here. If you don’t mortify sin, that is if you do not put it to death when and where you find it every time, it will grow to fill its environment – that’s you. Ultimately it will kill YOU, just like it killed Ted Bundy. His sin killed him. The very tragic thing is that his sin also killed all those women. It also killed the Lord Jesus. I hope with his last conscious breaths he was able to repent. We will see.
7: Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.
- Here is Paul again alluding to the old leaven versus the new lump. We are no longer under the old order of things where sin holds sway. We have been regenerated, caused by God to be born from above if we are true Christians. That “new lump,” a new creation in Christ, is unleavened, that is untainted by sin, because Christ, our Passover has been sacrificed. What does Paul mean by that?
- We have to examine what is meant by Passover. Exodus 12, beginning in verse 1 through 13:
- Now the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the Lord’s Passover. For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
- This is the first occasion of Passover in Scripture, and it is the very night that Israel was delivered from Egypt. For those with an allegorical bent, you may see this as an ancient type of the sinner being delivered from the world, and Scripture does support that symbology. Hang onto your seat here, I have a lot of ground to cover, and I want to be mindful of time.
- The Passover was the most important event in Jewish history. It was the night that God struck the Egyptians with the worst plague – the death of all their firstborn sons. For the angel of death to pass the Israelites by, the children of Israel had to sacrifice a lamb (or a goat it says here), and not only splash blood on the side doorposts and the top lintel (where it would drip down to the bottom threshold of the door to form a cross!), but had specific instructions about how to eat it, what to eat with it, and how to dispose of the leftovers! God even says that this event actually starts their calendar year! If I were going to fully exposit this, we would be here a very long time, I think so I will skip ahead.
- Using the symbology mentioned above, that this is a type of how the sinner is delivered from the world system where that sinner is under judgement and condemnation, the category of specific sinner is instructed to apply the blood of the lamb to the doorposts and lintel, and then the judgement on the world system would pass over the specific sinner.
- Skip ahead again. John the Baptist identifies the Lamb of God for us in John 1:29, where it says “The next day he *saw Jesus coming to him and *said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'” Our Lord Jesus was that Lamb of God, and we are that specific category of sinner that has been invited to apply that blood of the very Lamb of God to the door. What? Door? John 10:9 says, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” What does it mean we are to apply the blood to the posts and lintel of the door? To really understand this, you have to bear in mind that Christianity is a religion of the heart and not of deeds, so I take this to mean along the lines of what it says in Romans 10:9 – “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…” For the moment, let’s not worry about how this applies to the doorposts and such. What is important is that God must invite you to participate, and if He has, then you are to let your heart be remade and persuaded that Christ really did die for your sins, and so much so that it forces you to confess with your mouth that this is so! And that’s the extremely short version of this! Jesus our Passover, ladies and gentlemen! He HAS been sacrificed, and you have been invited on the journey to your new homeland, which is in heaven at the moment. Are you willing to accept that invitation? If so, do so!
8: Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
- Paul then makes an invitation in the middle of this most serious of events in the life of the church, the casting out of a sinner, also known as excommunication (please note it is not removing that person from the rolls of Heaven as is taught in several of the near-Christian cults, notably the Roman one that claims to be Christian and isn’t at all), Paul makes this invitation to “celebrate the feast.” To what feast does he refer? I think The Feast of Unleavened Bread is a likely candidate here as it is the seven days that follow the Passover, which as we saw was a type of Christ saving the sinner out of the world system. Also, Paul is eschewing leaven here, “not with old leaven.” Remember, in our symbology, leaven represents sin. Those who have come out of the world must now turn away from sin. Wow, does that sound like a general call to repent of one’s sins to you? It does to me.
- Paul the specifically refers to the specific “leaven” or sin of malice [kakia, just plain “badness,” hence naughtiness] and wickedness [poneeria, badness, but implies something you work at or spend your energy on]. We are to leave all the stuff that is just part of our old nature, and we are to cease working towards those old goals that somehow brought us payoff if not pleasure outright. Rather, Paul says as a part of the same breath, we should be working for that unleavened (remember, without sin) bread of sincerity [clarity, therefore purity and sincerity] and truth [aleethia, used here in what must be a subjective sense as “truthfulness,” because it is referring to sincerity and integrity of character]. So I think what the net upshot is here is very simply, “out with the old and in with the new,” but Paul lets us know here that if we WERE to do a deep dive on the topic, we can go very deep indeed.
What can we say here but that Christ Himself has done all of the hard work for us? It is also clear that if He had not done it, that no one else could. To die as a substitute for sinners actually requires that the sacrifice be without blemish – so Christ had to have a sinless life, lived in submission to God all the years He was alive – or it could not have been done! And with the word “Tetelestai,” uttered from the cross with His dying breath, it really WAS finished! All of our sin, all of our wrongdoing, in thought, in word, and in deed, was paid for, and because of that single atoning sacrifice, WE may be regenerated! WE may be born again! Think of the enormity of that! And, my friends, WHOSOEVER WILL may come! Oh, come to the foot of the cross with me, friends! See what He has done for you! Accept the gift of His atoning sacrifice as your proxy.
Paul has some further instructions for us, however, and they are as serious as my heart attack – even more so, really. Let’s look and see what those are.
9-13: Do not fellowship with brothers that do not live as Christians
I can hear the accusations now. That’s unloving! You’re not being forgiving with people! You’re being legalistic! (That’s racist!) Stop judging or God will judge you! (I find that one interesting, because an analysis of the statement shows that they are claiming the moral high ground – but I can’t let any of that bother me so as to influence my decisions, because Paul says it, and it’s in the Word of God! And that kind of brings me to the point of the question here – who ARE you going to try to please? For me and my house, we have to please God and not men.
In verse 11 of this paragraph/though unit, Paul says don’t even eat with such a person. You know why? Not only is sin progressive, but it’s contagious. I don’t want to catch it! And that isn’t the only reason. The most important reason of all is that one who lives like his faith in Jesus Christ makes no difference to him SHAMES Him. I in no way want to be involved in THAT. Come on, people! You want to lock us in our own basements because of a contagion! You should GET this! You want to make me wear a useless mask in public, and you try to shame me when I don’t! I don’t understand what your problem with any of this is – oh, wait, yes I do – you must be born again or born from above (same words in Greek). Those of you who have had other people live with you must surely get this. These people are not YOU! They do things you don’t LIKE! They can disrupt the whole household! (Sometimes that’s okay, by the way.) So picture this. You like your apartment tidy. Your best friend from work needs a place to stay, and you jump to help. Turns out their a slob. And now your parents are coming for dinner. Does this make any sense to you yet? You’re ashamed of the state of your home, and it isn’t even your fault! And I bet you look at your friend differently too.
Right, now you’re getting it – now think of this – you are part of the house of Christ. That man schtupping his own mother is living under the same roof as you and bragging about it. Is that what you are wanting to project about Christ? No, of course not. And this is what Paul is talking about. Let’s see.
9: I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people;
- Here is where Paul makes an oblique reference to what is known as “the lost epistle,” in that he is speaking of a letter that must have been previously written, but of which no one has ever found a trace.
- In that missing letter, Paul said not to “associate” with [that is, get mixed up with, to keep company with – or Ger’s version – don’t hang around with] “immoral” [pornos, one who engages in either the practice or business of fornication – people that do it, or people that enable it, or worse sell it] people.
- That Paul had to write that TO A CHURCH is telling about the society of Corinth. Remember we looked at how the city and its culture turned into a verb, to “Corinthianize?” How that meant to convert something or someone to total debauchery? Well, this is at least one reason why. At the time, I did note that Corinth was the home of the main temple of Aphrodite, and there were at least 1000 temple prostitutes that worked all day at the temple and then went down to the city at night to “entertain” the folks there.
- And I don’t really see this as any different than today. We live in a world where sexual experimentation of ANY kind is not only encouraged, but openly supported. It is a grief to the very heart of God, my friends. The only proper context of a sexual relationship is between a man and his woman, the one he married. Outside of that is just plain out of bounds. Yet it is rampant, because after all, we’re just animals, aren’t we? No, beloved, we are meant for so much more. You be just an animal if you choose – but please don’t do it around me or tell me about it – especially don’t brag to me about it – you may get a piece of my mind you weren’t expecting and will not like, I can guarantee it.
10: I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.
- Paul is revising his statement in case it was misunderstood, I think. When Paul says we should not keep company with these people, he is NOT saying avoid society and go live in a monastery. He quite clearly says that here, that we are not to leave the world. Why is that?
- Well, Jesus said that WE are to be the salt of the earth. (Mt. 5:13, Mk. 9:30, Lk. 14:34) And making the same point before Paul ever did, he said – and what if salt becomes “un-salt?” I have heard for years about how salt is a preservative, and yes, that’s true, but it is NOT the characteristic of salt that Jesus spoke about. You red-letter guys out there know what I mean. He spoke of its quality of flavour. Jesus said that if salt lost it’s flavour, that is, lost its defining characteristic, nothing could ever make it salty again, and it was good for nothing but to be thrown underfoot and trodden on by men on their way somewhere – and God forbid – somewhere other than heaven, because our JOB is make disciples! Dear ones, it’s hard to make disciples if you’re lost your defining characteristic – the grace to stand for something different – for the kingdom of God.
- Paul uses the word “salt” in this way in another place. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” Sometimes that grace is the gracious speech that heals the soul. It has been for me many times, and I needed it. Sometimes it is the grace to say hard things to friends, and I’ve had to do that with some of you. Now before you start to worry, I will not speak your secrets unless you tell me its okay or for legal reasons (I am a mandated reporter in my role as pastor).
- And look at the people that Paul is listing for us to reach out to with the gospel of the kingdom! Not just the immoral, but with the covetous (the jealous and greedy ones), the swindlers (like ravenous wolves, extortioners – and I daresay I know a few of those), or idolaters (and it doesn’t take much to figure out someone’s idol – where do they spend their time?) On that note, did you know that theology can become an idol? Oh yes, my friends. You know these folks primarily because they know ALL the arguments, and can argue both sides of it, but aren’t really adhering to any of the right sides of anything. I daresay I’ve known men like that as well, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth, as if by their great wisdom they will be able to save themselves or others. No, my friends, we must be born from above.
- If we had to avoid people, we would have to go live in some kind of sacred community like a cloister, a convent, or a monastery. Paul is saying we should NOT do that, but rather that we should be lights of the world, who carefully maintain our testimony so as not to be overrun and trampled down by the world – or if we are, to make a good show of it. If you’re wondering what I mean, think about how the Apostles died. Only one died of old age. The others were murdered for their faith in Jesus as the anointed One of God.
11: But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.
- It’s like Paul feels the need to clarify what he previously wrote. “Look,” he says, “Here’s what I actually said: I didn’t say don’t reach out to them with the gospel of Jesus Christ, I said don’t hang around with them and participate in their activities! Don’t accept invitations to their dinner parties!”
- Why is that? Later in this letter (15:33), Paul is going to tell us – “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.'” Think of it like this. Stand on a chair to “elevate” your figurative moral position. Now, pull your friend up on the chair with you. Friend, no helping. You will be hard pressed to do it unless you are VERY strong, or your friend is VERY small. Now, friend, just gently tug on the arm he’s got you by. Easy now, be careful – see how easy it is to pull you off the moral high ground? I’ll say it too: Bad company corrupts good morals.”
- For that very reason, isn’t it a great thing we’re never just moralizing when we preach the gospel? I mean, there’s no need if we’re doing it properly, telling people that they need to repent (metanoia, change your mind) of their sins and believe that Jesus successfully paid our sin-debt and rose from the dead! Never mind the so-called “benefits,” just get the story straight – God will do the rest as they are discipled – hopefully by you!
12: For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?
- Paul says 2 things in this verse. First, we should not judge outsiders. Now before all the “judge not” people get excited, the Greek word is krino, condemnation. We don’t condemn outsiders to the church. Jesus was pretty clear, as was Paul, as was James, as was Peter, as was John, as was Luke, as was Mark, as was Matthew, as was the writer of Hebrews: Those outside the church are already condemned. That has nothing to do with us – God the Father made that determination when man fell in the garden, and we’ll see that in the next verse.
- Second, Paul is saying we MUST judge those within the church. See how he says it. It’s in the interrogative, meaning it is stated as a question? Don’t YOU judge those who are in the church? Beloved, who is in the church? All those that name the name of Christ! Anyone who says, “I am a Christian!” By whose standard? God’s standard, His Holy Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and with His guidance!
- Okay, okay, I heard the insulting question in the back of the internet room. “Where does it say that’s it’s a sin to sleep with your father’s wife?” Leviticus 18:8, actually. We’ll look.
- You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is your father’s nakedness. (Leviticus 18:8)
- Oh will you shut up back there? Yes, I know that Ham “uncovered Noah’s nakedness” and it didn’t mean that he slept with him. Keep your yaps shut for a second, I’m getting there. It also says it in Leviticus 20:11:
- If there is a man who lies with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death, their bloodguiltiness is upon them. (Leviticus 20:11)
- And that, my annoying vocal internet pests, certainly DOES mean they slept with each other and did the very deed. Also please note that there is an argument in the comparison of the penalogies between Old and New Testaments, and it means I am NOT a Theonomist, nor can I be, because I hold to what I am about to say.
- It is clear from the text in Leviticus 20:11 that both the man and the father’s wife are to die because of their actions, making this a capital offence under the Mosaic law. Ostensibly, this was to protect the sons of Israel from the awful genetic mutations that can occur when close relatives marry, and they ARE tragic when they happen.
- Now in this section of Scripture, if Theonomy has any Scriptural basis, Paul should be calling for these two to be executed. He is not, and I will explain why. New Testament Christianity is a faith of the heart and spiritual reality, not of the flesh and earthly reality. We are just travelers here. My Friends, it is very clear to me that Paul as a Pharisee of the strictest sect, knew the Levitical law. He knew the penalty it called for. So he updated what he called for under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He called for the brother making this brag to be “delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,” so that the spirit of said man could be saved in the day of Christ Jesus. And my friends, if you can find one place in the New Testament that disagrees with your theology, it is your theology that is suspect, not the New Testament.
- Does that mean that the putting someone out of the church for sin is some kind of spiritual execution? I won’t go that far because I don’t think Paul does. The man will still be saved, after the very thing that is destroying him, his flesh, is dealt with. Wait – does that mean that the man could be let back in if he stopped? I’m so glad you asked, yes it does! See what Paul says in 2 Cor. 2:6-8!
- Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.
- Why is that? Because Christianity is not about stomping out sinners, it is about forgiving them. Sometimes, people will only learn the hard way. Sometimes, I’m like that. I mean look at where I am in life! I’m 53 years of age, and if I don’t find a real job in the next month, I’m in danger of losing my house. My friends, at least some of that was self-inflicted by poor life choices. Maybe not all of that, but my point is, God is not out to destroy us when we undergo suffering. It is chastizement, like when we discipline our own children. And we’ve read that before also, have we not? (Romans among other places, when Paul calls it momentary light affliction.)
13: But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.
- Remember I said that you would see it in the next verse that God judges those outside the church? Here it is, and Paul wrote it down so we could see it in black and white. We’ve already covered this, so I won’t spend more time on it, but he also said something else here, and it is the whole point of the chapter.
- Paul quotes the Old Testament from several places with this statement, “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” Those references, for the sake of completeness are: Deut. 13:5; 17:7, 12; 21:21; 22:21. For the sake of time, we won’t look at them, but I give them to you so you can check them out later. However, I DID look them all up. ALL of those references were regarding the ancient death penalty with stoning, and that last reference deals with the sexual sin of a female, so this isn’t sexist. All of these things were capital crimes under Mosaic Law.
- It is clear that Paul is as serious as a heart attack about removing Sin from the camp. He just wasn’t calling for a physical death penalty, and if Theonomy was at all Scriptural, he should have been. Instead, Paul said, “remove the man from your midst.” There are other places (notably in the Matthew 18 passage about church discipline) where it says to let them be to the gathered saints as one of the Gentiles or a Tax Collector to you (v.17 specifically). In other words, anyone that is so “excommunicated” is to be like an unbeliever to you. And what are we supposed to do with an unbeliever? Well, personally, I say PREACH THE GOSPEL TO HIM! Remind him of what he’s missing! It might just win them back, as it eventually did here – but you have to wait until 2 Corinthians 2 until we study that.
So we’ve covered a LOT of ground in this chapter, and we’ve had to involve at least 3 other books of the Bible to understand and unpack what Paul put into these 13 verses. You know what? Sometimes it’s just like that. And we learned when and how to apply church discipline, and that the only thing that can get you kicked out of a real New Testament church is your stubborn failure to repent of your sins and be reconciled to God and your brethren in Christ. Church discipline these days is very rarely used because of that unwritten 11th commandment of never criticizing another person over anything. I’ve seen it misapplied, I’ve seen it under-applied, and I’ve seen it over-applied, all in places I used to fellowship. In one place, it was dangled over your head like the sword of Damocles if you spoke out against church leadership even if you knew they were wrong and could demonstrate with actual Scriptural chapter and verse! (I wasn’t actually in that gathering, it was on the left coast.) For all of that, I still believe that Church Discipline SHOULD be a rare thing, not because of a fear of criticizing another person, but because we are ALL trying to cooperate with God Himself in our own sanctification. Nevertheless, it does still have occasion, and we should all know about it.
And that’s what I saw in Chapter 5!