The Unpopular Teachings of 1 Corinthians 5
In today’s society, we have a misrepresentation of church life and God that many have fallen into. The Bible does teach that God is love. In fact, it is because of God’s love, grace, and mercy that God has provided a way of salvation for all who have faith in Jesus. The problem is that many times Christians believe and even say that you have no right to judge me. The problem that is facing many churches is that they truly believe that we are not to judge one another. Paul in chapter 5 tells us that it is our responsibility to judge each other, to an extent and out of love.
“It is widely reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and the kind of sexual immorality that is not even tolerated among the Gentiles — a man is living with his father’s wife. And you are inflated with pride, instead of filled with grief so that he who has committed this act might be removed from your congregation. For though I am absent in body but present in spirit, I have already decided about the one who has done this thing as though I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus with my spirit and with the power of our Lord Jesus, turn that one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 HCSB ( https://www.bible.com/72/1co.5.1-5.hcsb )
Paul has heard reports of the sexual immorality of one of the members in the church of Corinth, and to make matters worse the sexual immorality was of a greater caliber than what is reported of unbelievers. Paul is astonished that the church of Corinth was boasting of their spirituality when they allowed such behavior to take place among them. Paul’s remedy for the situation was to expel the unrepentant believer that was engaged in such immoral behavior in the hopes that he would repent of his sinfulness.
Paul would say, “Wrong, I judge you because I love you.”
Many in the modern Church would find an issue with what Paul is teaching here for two reasons. The first reason that many find an issue with Paul’s instruction here is that we have a misunderstanding of love. In today’s society, love means, that you agree with everything I do and translates into “You have no right to judge me.” Paul would say, “Wrong, I judge you because I love you.” In chapter thirteen of 1 Corinthians Paul says in verse six “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” Love is not agreeing with everything someone does or believes. Love will not celebrate or rejoice in the sins of others. When we understand love, we will be able to accept Paul’s teaching here.
The second reason that many find an issue with Paul’s instruction here is that we feel that we are not perfect and therefore can not judge others. To an extent, this is true because we are not perfect, but even imperfect people can identify what is immoral and sinful. When we think of judging others many times we will think of what Jesus said in the gospels about judging others. In Matthew 7, Jesus tells about judging others and even says “Do not judge others.” So is what Paul teaching us in 1 Corinthians 5 in contradiction to what Jesus taught us? I would argue no, not when we look at the whole of what Jesus said in that chapter.
““Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:1-6 HCSB ( https://www.bible.com/72/mat.7.1-6.hcsb )
Jesus tells us not to judge but then goes on to explain when we are to judge our brothers and sisters in Christ. He says that if you have a log, referring to a bigger sin, in your eye then how can you remove the spec, smaller sin, from the other believer’s eye. Many when reading this passage will stop here and say, don’t judge me, hypocrite. Jesus didn’t stop there but went on to say that we first have to deal with our sin, and then we can help our fellow Christians deal with theirs. Then Jesus ended with a very interesting saying. “Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs.” Meaning that not everyone will be able to accept you “judging” them out of love, so be wise in who you try to help.
Many Churches get this backwards, they judge the outsiders while allowing the insiders to live in sin.
There are two more aspects of judging others that I want to point out here. The first aspect of judging others is that we are not talking about judging in the sense of condemning, but in the sense of pointing out sin ending in possible ex-communication out of love for the purpose of repentance. It is only God that can judge for condemnation, not the church.
The first aspect of judging others is that we are talking about judging others within the church not outside of the church.
“But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside? But God judges outsiders. Put away the evil person from among yourselves.”
1 Corinthians 5:11-13 HCSB ( https://www.bible.com/72/1co.5.11-13.hcsb )
Paul says plainly that we should not associate with anybody that calls themselves Christians but live immoral lives. The church is not to judge the people outside of the church. When we talk about judging others it is only our responsibility to judge the behavior of fellow believers in light of the teachings of the Bible to bring about repentance. We should not go around judging or condemning non-believers. Many Churches get this backwards, they judge the outsiders while allowing the insiders to live in sin.
The church's responsibility to non-believers is to show them God’s love and moral standards so that they will realize that they are sinners in need of a Savior. Many non-believers may feel that when we talk about sin we are judging them, this is one of the pitfalls of the sinful nature of mankind. Anytime someone says your actions are sinful, the default response is that are unloving and judgmental. We need to remind them that this is God’s standards, not our own. Unfortunately, we have to remind ourselves that not everyone will repent and come to salvation.
If we see another Christian living a sinful life then we have a responsibility out of love to help guide the individual to repentance. If they refuse, then the Church has a responsibility to remove them from the fellowship of the congregation in hopes that they will repent. May God grant us wisdom in recognizing our sins and help us to approach our sinful brothers and sisters with humility and love, but at the same time not allowing immorality to take root within the church.