God is perfectly holy and calls His children to live holy and blameless lives as well. While on this side of eternity, we are unable to attain perfection in this life, we do need to be actively striving and working towards increased holiness both in our lives individually and as a corporate body of believers. Therefore, as we pursue the holiness God desires, we should have zero tolerance for deliberate, habitual, and public sin within our own lives and within the church.
Throughout 1 Corinthians, Paul urges the church to be unified and to pursue unity. However, in order to attain the unity that God desires, there must be purity within the church. Nothing separates and divides more than sin. While all Christians stumble and struggle with sin in different ways, living in and practicing deliberate and habitual sin breaks fellowship and brings disunity and spiritual separation like nothing else. Therefore, Paul gives the Corinthians a strong exhortation regarding purity within the church and how to handle blatant, active, and unrepentant sin as a church body.
“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—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. 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.”
~1 Corinthians 5:9-11
God holds us individually responsible for our lives and choices. However, as evidenced in the New Testament and the letters to the seven churches of Revelation, God also holds churches corporately accountable for their sin as a group. Therefore, as we seek unity as a church and desire a healthy, growing local body of believers, we must be ruthless with how we deal with sin within the church.
Sin is no light matter. It first and foremost separates us from God and affects our relationship with Him. But it also damages and negatively impacts our relationship with others. No one on earth is perfect and without sin, but Christians should not be actively living a lifestyle of habitual sin and feel comfortable with that. If a believer chooses to live such a life and also walk in fellowship with the church and bear the name Christian, Paul exhorts us to confront that brother or sister and eventually cast them out of fellowship if they refuse to repent.
While this may seem harsh and unloving by the world’s standards, it is the most loving thing we as sincere believers could do. Speaking truth in the midst of a hard situation and when someone is in danger due to their sinful choices, is one of the most difficult and loving things one could do. Furthermore, God’s standard is holiness and absolute purity. Therefore, He cannot bless a body of believers that harbors and does not deal with habitual sin among its members.
Now notice that in Paul’s exhortation he does not say to separate oneself from everyone who sins. That would be impossible! Or as Paul noted with some irony, “you would need to go out of this world.” No, the exhortation here in 1 Corinthians is for believers to separate and disassociate themselves from those who call themselves Christians but are willfully choosing to live a lifestyle that contradicts everything that Christ stands for. Such a person is harmful to the church since they are a hypocrite and thus should not be counted as a believer. For we shall be able to recognize the true children of God by their fruit and life choices.
Therefore, let us lovingly but clearly take a stand for purity within the church, confronting sin head on and not being afraid to draw clear lines between what is and is not accepted in the fellowship of believers. As Paul commanded the Corinthians, God will ultimately judge the world and everyone in it, but in the meantime we must purge evil from within the church so that God’s name may not be defamed and that we might be the holy and pure Bride that Jesus died to redeem.
“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.’”
~1 Corinthians 5:12-13
View the About page for more info on the author.
Receive Posts via Email