1 Corinthians 5

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

1 Corinthians 5:1-5

It is uncomfortable to talk about in 2018 America, but since churches must be holy and Christians must be holy, churches can’t keep as members professed Christians who are walking in unrepentant sin.  

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul makes plain that he is not pleased that an especially ugly sexual sin is talked about and heard about among these people, this church, and that nothing has been done. “How have I been gone for just a little while and this happens? And you all know about it and haven’t dealt with it! Are you kidding me! Do you not understand what a church is or what Christians are?”

In this rebuke, he reminds us: We are not our own.

Specifically, with Paul rebuking sexual immorality (“porneia”) we see that our bodies are not our own. We are not autonomous kings. But it’as also a part of the broader point Paul makes. In general, Christians are not just free to roam the world and do as we please. We are not people unto ourselves. We are not each our own self-sustaining little Christian ecosystem. The New Testament does not describe individual, lone Christians who are merely accountable to God but to no other humans. By God’s design, I am accountable to my wife, my children, the other elders of my church, the members of that church, and the government of my land (and there are others).
The Bible does not know of an isolated Christian who answers only to God. Like Mark Dever once said, “If you only submit to God, you’re not submitting to God.”

And because Christians are not their own, because Christians are called to be pure and holy, Paul calls on this church to be a church. It must do what churches are to do in the face of flagrant sin from one of their members. 

Notice how strongly Paul felt about putting the man out. He passed judgment even without being there in body, and he wanted this done in the name and power of Jesus Christ. This is not just a helpful suggestion a church is just free to take or leave. Being a part of a church who takes seriously confronting our sin and helping us repent of it is a part of obedient, healthy Christianity. Churches must hold the believers in their midst accountable for unrepentant sin.

It’s also important to know that is not just someone who sins. If that were the case, we would all be put out (1 John 1:8-10). No, this man was walking in sin with no repentance, no turning, no sorrow over his evil actions. He didn’t act like what what he was doing was sin, and he showed no desire to change. So in response to that, Paul is commanding these people who are the church to put him out. 

To put him of the people.  

There is no concept in the New Testament of a church being a place. It is always a people. Paul does not write to Corinth Church; he writes to the church at Corinth. The church is the people; the address is simply where they meet. Churches are people. Not buildings, not geographical areas. If the people disappear, there is no longer a church. If the building grows the church building has merely grown.  

And God has commanded churches to do certain things, including to proclaim the Gospel, the Word of God, and to teach Christians how to live in obedience to Jesus.  Part of what they are commanded to do is to hold their members accountable for their sins. Hesitancy to be plugged in to a local church is a sign of profound spiritual immaturity. Refusing to be accountable and open up your life to fellow Christians is to be content with spiritual adolescence. If you have no one who can confront you on your sin, you are not living mature, healthy Christianity.

It’s also important to see that Paul does not command the Corinthian Christians who make up this church to go out into the city of Corinth and find sinners and tell them they can’t come to the services. Nor does he say to put out admitted unbelievers. In 5:9-13 he actually says not to do that. Instead it’s this man who is in their midst bearing the name of Christian who he says cannot stay in their midst. In v. 12 he says that there’s an inside and an outside, and that it’s the inside they are to judge.

Since Paul says there is an “out,” it follows that there is an “in.” Our church recognizes the “inside,” the “midst” who Paul wants this sort of a man put out of, by having membership. This is where we prayerfully covenant with someone we have good reason to believe is a true Christian who wants to be a functioning part of the body that is Velocity Church. Like wedding vows and wedding rings, we believe it’s an appropriate application of a Biblical concept. In this case the concept is that the church is a group of Christian people, and that a person must be removed from that group if they refuse to repent.  Paul wants this man puts out of the midst of this church, and since churches are people, not buildings, I don’t think he’s primarily interested in the address. It may involve that, but I believe his main focus is to get this man out of the midst of the people, the people who are this church. He wants this man removed from the midst of this people.

You can see Jesus referencing someone who is apparently a professing believer in the midst of a church being treated as one who is not any longer in the body in Matthew 18:15-20. And in 1 Corinthians 5 and Matthew 18 (and the pastoral epistles and elsewhere) we see these depictions of God’s will for the church to publicly say, “This one who was our brother will not repent despite our best efforts, and so he can no longer be treated like a brother.”

And when done right, this putting out is an act of love. And to not do it is unloving. 

One reason that you know that this discipline is loving in that Paul tells the church they ought to have mourned. This is not self-righteous. Church discipline should never be self-righteous or gossipy or snarky. Always remember, discipline is discipleship. It is teaching. It is applying some pain or pressure in order to save someone from greater pain or greater pressure. Paul wants this man’s flesh destroyed that his spirit might be saved. It is unloving to not deal with sin in an area in which you have authority. So it is unloving for the members of Velocity to not deal with sin in Velocity. It is unloving for parents to not deal with sin in their homes. It is unloving for husbands not to deal with sin in their wives. And it is unloving for you not to deal with sin your own heart. 

Another reason you know that this church discipline is supposed to be loving is Paul is hoping that this leads to the man being restored. Paul wants this man removed from the fellowship of these people as a part of the discipline of God that will hopefully restore him to fellowship with them. Paul has committed or handed this man over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh so that his spirit might be saved.

And it is loving for the rest of the church. Paul does not want sin spreading throughout a church. He says that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Unchecked, unsorrowful sin among a church’s people is church suicide. His encouragement in v. 7-8 is that we, as a church, really are unleavened. People who are Christ’s really have been made, in at least one sense righteous. They have been clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. 

And so they are to live like it. 

Clean out the old leaven, so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

1 Corinthians 5:7-8

Christ has fundamentally changed the people who make up a church. If this crazy church at Corinth, with all her folly and sin, really was unleavened, then believe me when I say all of Jesus’ churches are! Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Jesus died as a bloody sacrifice for sin. But He did not spill His blood to cleanse addresses. He is not coming back for a Bride made up of church buildings (or church logos or church web sites or cool church names). Jesus shed His innocent blood for people, and those people make up a family called His Church. He has planted little instances, little seedlings of that family throughout the world, and He has cleansed them, and so commands them to live like it.

So how do we worship with sincerity and truth? What does worshiping in sincerity and truth, as opposed to hypocrisy and immorality, look like? I think Paul’s answer to this Corinthian church would be that it is an honest commitment to the Word of Word of God, that it is true heartfelt obedience to Jesus Christ and what He says is good. He would want them to hate sin and what it does (like he clearly does), and to love God and what He’s done (like he does). 

Paul is not here advocating for churches to retreat from sexually immoral (or otherwise wicked) unbelievers. Paul makes a clear line of demarcation, a huge distinction, between people of the world and people who bear the name of Christian. If someone claims to be a part of the brotherhood, then these principles begin to apply, because Christians need to be holy and churches need to be holy. That impulse to purge the world or totally hide from the world misunderstands what the church is. She is not a people meant to stay holy by running from the world, but a people made holy so she can run to the world. She is not a helpless baby meant to be quarantined from the world’s sick; she is a nurse with the only cure that can save them. True, she can’t become sick herself or she’ll be of no use to the dying, but she is meant to go out and offer the cure, not to run from them and hide herself.

But it is those who claim the Name of Christ who cannot be left to unrepentant sin as though everything is fine. We shouldn’t have confidence in our salvation if we are in sin and don’t desire to change. Paul makes clear that there is such a thing as a so-called Christian. V. 11 says, “But actually I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler, not even to eat with such a one.” And why? Love for the man, love for the church. So that he can be restored to God via being broken (v. 5), and because a little leaven leavens the whole lump (v. 6).  

God loves this man, He loves this church, and for those reasons this man must be put out of their midst.

True love seeks the well-being of the beloved. It wants the one it loves to be whole and healthy and happy. There is no way that you can really love someone, or some group of people, and turn a blind eye to sin. Sin kills. It destroys. It separates from God and it violates others (and even self). If we love our brothers and sisters, we must graciously confront them in their sin. If we love the church, we must remove those who claim Christ but won’t repent. 

Churches: If we love Jesus, if we love the church, if we love each other, we will not tolerate unrepentant sin.   

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She Must Not Be Silent


It seems to me that 21st century Western culture says that the church may be fine, but should stay in its own sphere and not really effect public life.  By contrast, God says that the church is His instrument of salvation and reconciliation in the world, and that, however much Hell would like to triumph over her, she will stand forever.  

Two very different views.  

Our day and place seem to view the Christian church with ambivalence mixed with a smidgen of scorn.  I argue that the Bible paints her as a blemished but divine sword, being forged (and slowly refined) in a fire to cut through Hell and sin and death and damnation.  She is an imperfect instrument being used perfectly.  She is a flawed body whose Head (Jesus Christ) knows exactly what He is doing.  The church is not a joke.  She is not irrelevant.  She should not stay in her Sunday school room and leave the world to do what it thinks best.  

She has the only message of freedom to an enslaved world, and she should not stay silent, no matter what the world says.  

“But we don’t want you speaking about that sin.”

You mean that thing over there, the one that will kill you and those around you?  That evil that promises God’s wrath on you and will afflict our fellow human beings and will bring judgment on our nation?  That’s the one you want us to pipe down about?  Well then I dare say our finger is actually on a very important nerve there, I’m afraid.  For I venture to say there is a reason you want us to stay quiet about that sin, as opposed to others.  

“But you must not carry that into work or public life.”

You mean I should check my Savior at the door, then?  I’m sorry, but that’s the very thing I must not do.  Both for your good and for mine.

“But you churches don’t even agree amongst yourselves.”

In some ways and in some things we don’t, it’s true.  But if we believe and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are a part of His massive body, His Church.  And He is faithful to help us speak His Word, albeit imperfectly, for the salvation of souls and the blessing of the world, even though each of our individual churches or denominations is almost certainly honestly wrong about some things.  The beautiful thing is that His Word is clearest where it is most crucial, and so Gospel-preaching churches will always be able to agree where it matters most:  The sinfulness of man, the perfectness of Christ, His death and resurrection as God and God’s Son to save those who will believe in Him, and His future return to make all things right.  

The church of Jesus Christ should not seek to be as harmless and quiet as our present culture would like her to be.  True, she is not a belligerent Bride, but she absolutely shares the convictions and the mission of her Husband:  The rescue and repentance of sinners to the glory of God.  

Christian churches, we are not to stay in a corner and do our best to not to bother anybody.  Read the book of Acts.  We have a grand mission.  And though it will frustrate many who are hardhearted (like our Savior frustrated many who were hardhearted), it will transform the lives of many others forever.   

We have a calling that only we can perform.  

And we cannot perform it by being silent. 

60 Seconds Exhorting You Not to Complain


Ultimately, complaining is you indicting God. 

And that is neither a safe nor a wise thing to do.  

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.  And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.  Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity?  Curse God and die.’  But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak.  Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’  In all this Job did not sin with his lips. 

Job 2:7-10

When you complain, at least 2 sinful assumptions in your heart are being revealed.  

  1. You believe you deserve better than the thing you’re complaining about.  This is sinful because you are denying God’s pronouncement that you have sinned gravely against Him, and the only thing that you truly deserve is His eternal wrath.  You are indicting God’s goodness.  
  2. You believe you know better than God.  After all, you certainly would not have chosen this thing that happened, which is of course why you are huffing and puffing about the fact that it did.  This is sinful because you are placing your own wisdom above God’s.  You are indicting God’s wisdom.  

For a complainer, the chief problem is not the thing he is complaining about.  The biggest issue at hand is the sin in his heart that his complaining is revealing.  

To complain is to indict God for not being good enough and not being wise enough.  And the fact that we are not right this moment in His Hell, the place our wickedness and selfishness merits, is proof that He is plenty good.  And His rocksteady Word and the fact that in contrast to Him I am a fickle, petty, shortsighted man remind me He darn sure is wise

So the answer to the bitterness and anger and fear and rage that swirl around your complaint is not merely to fix what ticked you off.  That won’t fix the underlying cause.  That’s just treating the symptom.  

Ultimately, the solution you need in the midst of your complaint is repentance, followed by wholeheartedly casting yourself on the mercy and wisdom of the God of Jesus Christ.  You must call your sin sin and then entrust yourself to the undeserved love of Jesus Christ.  

But don’t ever think that getting rid of the annoying or frustrating thing will be the ultimate answer.  

Complaining is the symptom.  

Sin is the disease.  

To the Lost and Abused


You are not forgotten. 

You are not irrelevant.  

This world of sin and sinners is often a place where young girls are sexually abused.  Where little boys are ignored by their fathers or beaten by their fists.  Where the small or disadvantaged are trampled by the anger or selfishness of warped men with warped hearts.  

Creation groans under sin.  

And Satan delights in it.  

He hates truth, hates Jesus, and loves pain.  

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?

Genesis 3:5

And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years.  She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.  When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from your disability.’  And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.  But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, ‘There are six days in which work ought to be done.  Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.’  Then the Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites!  Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it?  And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?’  As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. 

Like 13:11-17

This is a world where Satan often whispers a violent and treasonous song over the most helpless of people, and then dances to their fear and their pain and their bewilderment.  And it is a world where others join his twisted song.  

But it is not his world.  

Hear me.  

Let Hell and death and sin clamor for your soul.  Let them.  But their loudest ragings will not prevail if you will despair of all other hopes and instead call out to Jesus, like a lost and helpless child.  

Let your anxieties and all your most jagged memories creep up on you like old ghosts with sharp teeth.  They will not get to claim you if you are ransomed by the King of Kings.  

Let pain be pain and fear be fear.  Neither will have the last word if you will believe in Jesus.  

I know you have been wounded to the bone.  

You don’t trust people.  You don’t trust God. And you don’t trust “the world,” by which you probably mean people and God.  

You have heard that God is different from the one who abused you, but you don’t believe it.  

Believe.  

The one who violated you?  I know he used you.  But this is a God who was obliterated to bless people just like you.  

He lied to you.  But this is a God who speaks only truth; He can do no other.  

He promised to change, to be better, only to hurt you time and time and time and time again.  But this is a God who endured Hell and shame and death and agony to keep His promises. 

This God is different from the one who hated and harmed you.  Unimaginably different.  This Jesus will never leave, never forsake, never forget you.  He would rather die than lose those He claims, and the Cross stands as a vertical proof of it.  This is a Lord with a heart for the lowly and the bruised, and who breaks all the violent who refuse to repent. 

You have suffered.  

So has He.  

And at the place your suffering and His meet, namely your faith, a new song starts.  One that sin and death and Satan hate to the core.  

And one that is no whisper, no lie, and that never, ever ends.  

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 

1 Peter 5:8-9

Long, Long Shadows and A Light


Sin never stops where you think it will. 

Your repeated anger leads to latent bitterness which leads to relationship-destroying gossip.  

Your pornography-viewing leads to unmarital sex which leads to one parent raising a child in isolation which leads to crippling resentment.  

Unchecked sin always spreads, and kills where it does.  Like cancer.  

But one of the beautiful mercies of God is that He has given us a community where sin and its scars can be dealt with.  

The church.  


Churches are little cities of imperfect people, people who have been miraculously remade and who, by the grace of a very real and very compassionate God, continually confess and continually turn from the sins they still commit.  They know who they were (spiritually dead evil people), they know who they are (spiritually alive people being slowly made more and more like Jesus), and they know who God is (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who love to save sinners).  And because of these 3 things, these little collections of Gospel people are able to bring wicked and broken and scared and angry humans into their midst and minister to them.  Serve them.  Help to stop the bleeding in their lives.  

The world is home to all stripes of sinners who are in different stages of the pain or disarray or death that sin brings along as its trail.  And there is no one else who can get to the root of the chaos or who can apply supernatural salve to the wounds of all this sin like the church can.  She has been given the Good News that can heal and can save people from their evils, and from the evils that were committed against them.  She can rescue them from the worst of the violence and the trouble and the affliction of this world.  

Which is great, because this is not Mayberry.  This is a world of adultery and ulterior motives and hearts who will cast those they love aside for pleasure or power.  This is a world where sin has left some long, long shadows.  Sons deserted by their fathers, marriages in flames because of selfishness, grown men and women who don’t know how to be men or women.  And there in the heart of this world stands the church, giving the hope and the truth and the life that only she can give.  

This world needs her.  The single mothers and the heroin addicts and the workaholics and the shallowest of womanizers need her.  She is a city on a hill.  

She is where they can come for possibility.  For hope.  For adoption into a forever family.  She is where they can sojourn for all of the things that only Jesus can hand over.  

For everyone trapped in what sin has spoiled, churches are households of transforming mercy.  They are families of forgiveness.  They are little peoples of honest confession and honest love and honest Gospel.  

This is a world of long shadows.  Because sin never stops where it whispers it will.   Sin never keeps that promise.  

But the God of the Cross has given a light that can beat those shadows back.  His church holds that light in her hands, for any and all to come see.  

The Only Good Christmas

  
If you think you can do life and morality on your own, if you think there is some native ability in your own soul to please God, Jesus’ Christmas won’t be the good news for you that it can be.  

If you think you’re ethical enough or strong enough on your own, then God becoming man to rescue you and invite you into His family won’t sound like the incredible happiness it’s being offered to you as.  

If you’re trusting in you, Christmas as Christmas can’t be a joyous message for you at all.  The holiday trappings may still be nice, but what the day was created to commemorate will go right over your head. 

There’s a parable Jesus told about trusting in yourself.  It applies to a Christian whose confidence is in his theological precision, to an academic whose identity is in her degree and high-minded dialogue, to a social reformer who finds his value in being on the cutting edge of a societal revolution, to a cultural conservative whose sense of achievement is in her being different from most of 2015 America, and to a liberal Christian whose meaning comes from being (in his own estimation) beyond the other Christians around him in his day and place.  It applies to every heart that trusts in anything other than the free righteousness of Jesus Christ, offered only by grace through faith. 

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed:  God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.  But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, God, have mercy on me, a sinner.  I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.  For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Luke 18:9-14

God having come to rescue us from what we deserve is startling and beautiful, but only if you’re like sinner #2.  Only if you realize how wicked and helpless you are and call upon the sole person with the authority (and willingness) to forgive you.  

If you’re heart is hardened like sinner #1, it doesn’t matter what else is on your resume.  You’ll miss the point of Christmas.  God’s Gospel won’t break you and put you back together, like it did the sinner Zacchaeus in the chapter after the one this parable is from.  If you’re trusting in you, in any way, you’ll miss the point of Christmas.  

And, on a much grander scale, you’ll miss the point of life altogether:  Worshiping the glory and beauty of the Jesus Christ who offers pardon.  And for broken-hearted wretches, that’s ultimately why Christmas is a happy and hopeful day.

30 Seconds on the Right Kind of Compassion

  
It is not compassion to be vague on that which God is clear. If you speak with great clarity and force on the parts of the Bible our wider culture likes (mercy, the sinfulness of oppression, etc.) but suddenly find yourself hemming and hawing when it comes to clear teachings of God our culture doesn’t like (that sex is meant for Godly marriage, that repentance is necessary for salvation, etc.) you’re probably not being governed by compassion. You’re probably being governed by fear of man.

That kind of compassion, the kind without conviction, is usually cheap veneer covering a heart that craves fitting in.  It’s misguided, self-seeking, and it doesn’t usually accomplish much eternal good.

But compassion made strong by the truth of God and love for God?  That is kindling and spark for a world freezing to death.  

Jesus spoke unimaginably hard words from a heart of unimaginably deep love.  Real compassion is like that, like Him.  It can wound temporarily so that it can heal eternally.  The fake kind can’t even tell you where your problem is.