Summary: How do you deal with sin - in your life, or in the life of someone else? Paul gives us some adivse in how to keep sin away without ruining our relationships.
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Don’t you just love the tabloids? I love the headlines like: “Space Alien Father of Elvis” or something like that.
When they don’t have a juicy story, they usually just make it up. But more often than not, our society’s famous supply enough fodder to feed years worth of the “National Enquirer.”
But what if the headline read – “Christian leader caught sleeping with step-mom”? Or “Christian Church Cesspool of Sin?” That is in a sense what Paul had discovered about the church at Corinth. It shows how immature they really were, and how important it is for us to remain vigilant against sin, while compassionate towards the sinner.
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?
The whole chapter is summed up in these two verses – there are three main points Paul makes:
1. The Story. “actually reported” is an unusual phrase for Paul – but it essentially means: “People are saying …” The idea is that the story of what happened in Corinth had become front page news in the supermarket tabloids. When Paul was in Safeway he picked up a copy of The Greek World News to read about the latest Elvis sighting – and saw the story on the Corinthian sexual scandal – only it wasn’t a scandal, but a story on how “tolerant” these Christians were being – THAT was the amazing part of the story.
So point 1 – what was happening was so widespread it had reached to Paul in Ephesus (?).
2. The Sin. We’re not talking about cheating on your income taxes to Rome here – but on a kind of sin that even the pagans around would cringe at.
3. The Response. Instead of shock, there is a yawn – no, an acceptance of the sin, even pride in tolerating the sin. Far from tolerating it, the people should have dealt with the sin, and not fellowshipped with this guy until he repented.
The pride of the Corinthians is the same word for “arrogant” used just a couple of verses previous. They were proud of their divisions and proud of their tolerance for sin.
But both attacking on the outside and rotting on the inside both cause death and destruction in the body of Christ. And both must be dealt with.
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.
In other words – Paul says “I don’t need to be there to know what to do – I don’t need a fact finding mission or to hear this guy’s side of the story – this should be a no-brainer.”
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.
Paul is not calling for a ceremony where someone would say “Okay, Satan, here he is, come get him” – and the Devil would arrive and carry the guy off kicking and screaming to be tortured until he confessed his sin.
But the body of Christ needs to agree that this guy is not to be fellowshipped with. It effectively removes the covering of the church, the insulation – and puts this guy in an atmosphere where the true effects of his sin will come out.
Sometimes when we do things that are in direct disobedience to God’s Word we don’t see the full impact because we are surrounded by other Christians and the atmosphere of the church – which is filled with love and acceptance.
But remove that influence and we begin to see just how depraved we are – hopefully. Paul wants the enemy to have more access to this guy – not so that he’ll be punished, but so that he’ll realize what he’s doing and turn away from it. He’s not going to turn away if the church not only doesn’t let him know that what he’s doing is wrong, but actually accepts it.
I remember a time when I was an assistant pastor at Applegate Christian Fellowship and I counseled a guy who said he wanted to come back to the Lord. I thought this is great – and I talked to the guy and he said that he was a homosexual. He said that he wanted to come back and fellowship with believers – he missed that part of his life – but the catch was that he didn’t want to stop living in the homosexual lifestyle. I told him that wouldn’t work – and he didn’t come back – he wasn’t ready.