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Message # 20 | 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 | June 19, 2016

Introduction

1 Corinthians 5:9–13 (ESV) 9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 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. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Purpose Statement:  Paul had sent the Corinthians a letter before this one.  Some of his directions were apparently unclear, and he proceeds to make them clear at this point.  His point being – don’t associate with individuals who claim to be believers but refuse to repent of sin in their lives.  On the other hand, do be light in the world by associating with unbelievers.

A List of Clarifications

Paul was not talking about disassociating from the immoral people of the world.  Instead, you are to disassociate from those within the church who refuse to repent of sin.  And, this disassociation comes by means of judgment.  Therefore, you are not to judge people outside of the church.  God will judge them. You are to judge those within the church.  And yes, I know that settles poorly with us.  We’ll look at that reality in a moment.

First, let’s take a moment to look at a fairly unique word – synanamignysthai, translated in the ESV as “not associate” and in other translations as “keep company.”  There is much debate as to the understanding of this word.  It is used infrequently which makes it more challenging to understand.  Note the different ways it is translated:

BBE 1 Corinthians 5:9 In my letter I said to you that you were not to keep company with those who go after the desires of the flesh;

ESV (NAU, NIV, and NLT) 1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-

KJV 1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

A Greek lexicon would offer the idea of to “mix, mingle together, as when mixing ingredients for medicine.”[1] If we were to view the church as a mixture of all kinds of people – that crazy mixture of people should not include people who claim to be believers but refuse to repent of known and ongoing sin in their lives. [Potentially include the example of my nutritionists directing me to avoid all hydrogenated oils (trans-fat) within my diet.]

These verses would indicate that the Corinthian church had received Paul’s admonition to not associate with immoral people.  The problem is that they applied this principle to immoral people in the world, and failed to apply it to people within their church community.  They had not disassociated with the immoral man in the church – maybe because he was well respected, or maybe they were proud of the appearance of tolerance and patience.  Maybe they gloated in their liberty and didn’t want to be considered legalistic.  We can’t be certain their motive, but we can be certain that they failed to put him out.  Paul intends to correct this confusion.

So then, we ask the question again, “Really, we are supposed to judge those within the church?  There is little else that people in the church strive to avoid more than the accusation that they are judgmental.  We don’t want to be viewed that way and we don’t want to be judged personally.  And yet, does not this verse indicate that we, as members of a church, are to judge one another?  Everything in you may want to scream, “No!”  But take a moment to consider the passage.

1 Corinthians 5:12-13 (ESV) 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Cole, in his message on this same scripture passage, rightly concludes that the verse in Matthew 7:1 (Do not judge so that you will not be judged) is one of the passages in Scripture that is most taken out of context and misapplied.

If you keep reading, in verse 6 Jesus says, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine….” In verse 15 He adds, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” To obey those verses, you must make some fairly astute judgments! You must judge that a person is a dog or a swine or a wolf in sheep’s clothing.[2]

So then, am I espousing that we go around judging everyone?  No, not really – if you mean by that ungraciously scrutinizing everyone’s life and condemning them for their apparent acts of sin.  But, yes – if you mean by that – graciously assessing those in your church family and lovingly confronting them when you see them clearly involved in sin.  The first type of judgment excludes grace and takes on Gods’ role of condemnation.  The second type of judgment embraces grace and love while at the same time not overlooking clear sin in the lives of your church family – and in so doing follows the guidelines as set out by Paul.  And remember – this is to be done only in the context of believers – not the world.

Paul was not talking about just the sin of immorality – any unrepentant and divisive sin is to be dealt with.  Just in case they once again failed to understand his intent, he wants to make another clarification.  This type of disassociation is to take place – not only with those who are unrepentant in their immorality but as well anyone who is involved in ongoing sin and is unrepentant.

1 Corinthians 5:9–11 (ESV) 9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 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.

In verse 9 Paul offers us a list of sins and then adds two more sins to that list in verse 11.  I want to take a moment to briefly consider the six sins mentioned in verse 11, but before we do I think Paul may have been purposeful in the three areas of sin in verse 9.  In essence what Paul does is offer a table of contents for the sins he deals with in the letter to the Corinthians.  There are three areas of sin mentioned in verse 9: sexual immorality, greed (which includes a swindler), and idolatry.

Paul just dealt with the sin of immorality in the first half of chapter 5 and will explain even further in chapters 6 and 7.  He addresses greed in chapter 6:1-11.  And, he is going to address the sin of idolatry in chapters 8-10.  So then, Paul is offering a representative list that is most applicable to these believers.  These sins are specific to this context with the Corinthian church.  The reason that he lists these specific sins are due to the sins present in their community.  Paul addresses other sins in a similar way in other letters.

2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15 (ESV) Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us…. 14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

Titus 3:10 (ESV) As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,

Romans 16:17 (ESV) 17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.

For the Corinthians, Paul mentions some specific issues.  He expands the list in verse 9 to include drunkenness and reviling in verse 11.  Let’s take a moment to briefly define these 6 sins of verse 11.  We’ve already discussed, at some length last week, the sin of sexual immorality.

The second is the sin of greed.  While it isn’t immediately grouped with swindler, in verse 11, the two do go together as seen in verse 9.  The word translated as greed “has the connotation of grasping more and more, being totally unsatisfied with what we already have.”[3]   And as for “swindler,” – this word carries the ideas of not just a robber but vicious, destructive, “to tear apart.”  Greed is the internal motivation and “swindler” is how it can present itself in its most destructive external form.

The third is the sin of idolatry.   The idolatry of Corinth manifest itself much differently than it does for us.  It was much more visible and tangible.  Our idolatry, in the Western World, tends to be idolatrous lusts – idols of the heart.  Anytime we set up something within our heart that is more important than God, we possess an idolatrous lust.  When we are willing to sin against God – when we move from the desire of a thing to a demand – we can identify those idolatrous lusts.  Idolatry can be external, but it is always rooted in our hearts.  We crave, demand, strive after – something other than God.

The fourth is the sin of reviling.  This is a sin of the tongue.  A reviler abuses people with their tongue.  They insult, rail against, and slander.  This abuse of the tongue is often directed towards those people who threaten the idol in our heart.  Reviling is an external and verbal assault revealing the thing we crave.  And in our context – reviling is now done quite regularly through social media.  Things we would never say to someone’s face we are willing to spew through our keyboard.

The final sin mentioned in verse 11 is that of drunkenness.  The sin of drunkenness was apparently prevalent in Corinth – as it is today.  American Evangelicalism seems to pride itself at times in its escape from the teetotalism following the World Wars.  And, while we may have rejected the legalism that accompanied it, we now find drunkenness within the church community as a valid concern.  Instead of a sin to be rejected it has become a “lapse in judgment” and a “party joke” instead of the handing over of oneself to a substance other than the control of the Holy Spirit.

Now let’s see this in context once again – it is these sins, if they are present in someone who claims to be a believer – and they are unrepentant sins – those people are to be avoided.  Let me remind us that it is an unrepentant individual that claims to be a believer, not people in the world – outside of the church – that we are to not associate with.  In fact, Paul makes the point that we will be associating with people in the world – that is of course unless you want to be taken out of the world.

[Luther said] The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not accept this does not want to be of the kingdom of Christ. He wants to be amongst friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people. Oh, you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing, who would ever have been spared?[4]

Salt and light, the two metaphors used by Jesus to describe the distinctiveness of the church, both assume involvement in corruption and darkness. The example of Jesus also points in the same direction: he was entirely without sin, and yet he was accused of being ‘a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’.  The tragedy of so much modern Christianity— and, incidentally, the basic reason for so much ineffective evangelization— is that the Christian community is both remote from unbelievers and lax with fellow-believers who persist in sin of one kind or another. In a word, there is no distinctiveness.[5]

This isolationism can reveal itself in a number of different ways.  The church has at times isolated itself through the guise of spiritual piety.  We escaped the world, driven be a fear of potential defilement – failing to see the source of defilement rooted within our own sinful hearts.  We saw people, not as individuals to whom we would have a relationship but as souls needing to be saved.  While some may have built up bubbles of spiritual safety in their lives – others created monasteries in which they could actually leave the world – at least to some degree.  Their connection with people was limited to primarily the poor and needy.  Others withdrew mentally from the world.  They may have been present physically, but their minds couldn’t process redemptive relationships of any kind and in fear became spiritual introverts.  And all of these have failed to see the beautiful imagery of actually being salt and light in a dark world.

How far should this disassociation be taken?  Don’t even eat with someone who claims to be a Christian and refuses to repent of sin in their life.   This instruction in verse 13, “purge the evil person from among you,” is a quote from 5 places in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 13:5 (ESV) But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.  [Idolatry]

Deuteronomy 17:7 (ESV) [in reference to a man or woman who had begun to serve other gods] The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. [Idolatry]

Deuteronomy 24:7 (ESV) If a man is found stealing one of his brothers of the people of Israel, and if he treats him as a slave or sells him, then that thief shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. [Greed]

Deuteronomy 22:21 (ESV) then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.  [Immorality]

Deuteronomy 22:24 (ESV) then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. [Immorality]

Deuteronomy 19:19 (ESV) [In reference to a person who brought false witness against another] then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. [Reviler]

Note the similarities between the sins mentioned in Deuteronomy and the ones mentioned in 1 Corinthians.  With the exception of drunkenness, 4 of the other 5 are present in both.  In the same way that Israel was to strive for a purity within the people of God, we as the church are to as well strive for that same purity.  This striving may require us to take such drastic steps as disassociating from someone who claims to be a believer – not even to eat with them.

It is likely that this command to not even eat with them finds its source in the fact that, like we would even today, when believers got together they would break bread and fellowship with one another – in each other’s homes.  It was this “breaking bread” and “fellowship” that expressed the fundamental unity that is to be present within the church.  While this command would inevitably include communion, it is not limited to that feast.  This command is extended to any association with the unrepentant individual.

Conclusion

What appears to be (and is) a hard and challenging step to take results in a few beneficial things. (1) The unrepentant individual is placed in a dramatic position in which God will hopefully use to draw them to himself in repentance. (2) It keeps the unrepentant individual from further affecting the unity and purity of the church fellowship. (3) And, finally, it allows the church to reflect to an unbelieving world a consistent testimony.

 

 

[1] Friberg, T., Friberg, B., & Miller, N. F. (2000). Analytical lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Vol. 4, p. 364). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] Steven Cole, Dealing With Sinning Christians, accessed July 10, 2016,  https://bible.org/article/dealing-sinning-christians-overview-church-discipline-matthew-1815-17-1-corinthians-51-13

[3] Martin Luther (1483-1546), paraphrase from “Sermon on Psalm 110” [1518], WA, 1:696, quoted in Life Together [1954], Dietrich Bonhoeffer & tr. Daniel W. Bloesch & James H. Burtness, Fortress Press, 2004, p. 27

[4] Prior, David. The Message of 1 Corinthians (The Bible Speaks Today Series) (Kindle Locations 1288-1291). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

[5] Prior, David. The Message of 1 Corinthians (The Bible Speaks Today Series) (Kindle Locations 1282-1287). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

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