Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Save a Sinner!
The purpose of this section of Scripture is not a matter of whether or not the man was sinning, or about how bad the sin was. The question that Paul brings up is “what to do about it.” Paul proceeds to show not only how to handle the sinful situation -- but who is responsible for dealing with the terrible encroachment on the Church.
by Seth Ogwel
The greater Church of God today is repeating the errors of the past. Time passes and men tend to forget and overlook sinful situations that should have been dealt with long ago. We need to understand that God has no statute of limitation on sin that should have been repented of. Does God forgive? Of course, He does -- and He expects us to do the same. Jesus put it this way: “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). The sin must cease before forgiveness can take place.
It had come to Paul’s attention that there was a depraved state of affairs in the Corinthian congregation that was not being dealt with appropriately. Corinth was notorious for its wide-open sexual immorality. But, this infraction was beyond even the perversions of the heathens. A man in the congregation had enticed the wife of his dad into cohabiting with him. “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife” (1Corinthians 5:1).
In a situation like this one, Christianity demands a responsible approach toward the sinner, and a responsible approach on the part of the faithful congregation. Two incorrect methodologies of the Church of God in the recent past have been: either to disfellowship the sinful party with the clear understanding that he should never darken the door again, or secondly, for the church brethren to simply wink at the grievous sin and go along as if nothing had ever happened. Here is what God requires: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
Paul had written previously to the Corinthians, instructing them not to fellowship or socialize with anyone involved in that kind of illicit behavior (1Corinthians 5:9-11). But the Corinthians justified their behavior by saying to themselves, “We are magnanimous enough to overlook his indulgences -- after all, we were all sinners once before, and we are fair-minded enough not to judge or condemn him.” They could not see that they were spiritually arrogant and smug. Paul’s reply to them was, “You are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:2). The situation called for fasting and prayer.
There is a great deal more to 1 Corinthians 5 than the story of a Church member involved in an incestuous relationship with his stepmother. Everyone in the Church at Corinth already knew that infidelity and sexual sins were against the Ten Commandments. But now, the entire congregation was guilty of aiding and abetting the lawless man and in need of repentance and change themselves.
The purpose of this section of Scripture is not a matter of whether or not the man was sinning, or about how bad the sin was. The question that Paul brings up is “what to do about it.” Paul proceeds to show not only how to handle the sinful situation -- but who is responsible for dealing with the terrible encroachment on the Church. The congregation was not mature or well developed spiritually. Paul had noted, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1).
One of Paul’s most important responsibilities before God was to promote the spiritual growth and development of the church congregations that he pastored. In this epistle, Paul did not address this problem on account of the immoral man, or his father, whom he had so grievously wronged (Leviticus 18:8); Paul’s purpose in writing was for the welfare of the congregation -- to enable them to spiritually mature to the point of handling their problems themselves. “Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you” (2 Corinthians 7:12).
In the same way that a maturing child needs to learn to make decisions that he is personally responsible for, Paul was teaching the Corinthians how to take the responsibility for the affairs of their own congregation. It was the responsibility, not of Paul, but of the local congregation to come to grips with their problem (1 Corinthians 5:3-4). Certainly, Paul told them what the proper judgment of the situation was -- but it was the congregation’s responsibility to maintain the Godly standard in their area.
In effect, Paul says, “I’ve judged the matter already…you’ve got to learn to rise to the occasion and do the same thing.” He told the Corinthians that they had to take matters into their own hands -- and show that wicked person the door -- turning him back into the world (1 Corinthians 5:5, 13). If Paul had decided and carried out every decision that had to be made for them -- the congregation would have never been able to grow in grace and knowledge to the point of ruling themselves. “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” (1 Corinthians 6:2).
Jesus Christ had personally taught this principle during His earthly ministry. In difficult cases the problem is to be brought to the congregation for their adjudication. “If he [the offender] shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the ["ekklesia" -- congregation]: but if he neglect to hear the [called out Christian community], let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican” (Matthew 18:17).
In this particular case, after the sinning man was suspended by the congregation, he came to miss their love and fellowship. He repented and was returned, in good standing, to the fellowship of the congregation. A sinner was saved.
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