Wrestling with 1 Corinthians 5

Where is the grace Paul?!
1It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.


3For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.


6Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.


9I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10not 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. 11But 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. 12For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

So we judge the person inside the church who claims brotherhood not those who do not. Why? Because we lack grace? No because a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Addressing sin in the church is not about legalism it is about maintaining the witness to the world of salt and light. The witness that does not openly condemn the world with words but by our deeds are the unrighteous put to shame. If we allow our good deeds to be clouded by prevailing sin then our message is totally silenced. This is why sin in the church needs to be addressed not because we are loosing our salvation or because we have a poor balance of works and grace but because our testimony is tainted. 

But doesn’t Paul like, talk about grace, like, all the time?  Grace is what this man needs from God in order to address his sin. If this man believes that he can change on his own then he misses the point. Paul’s point is not to get this man to fix himself but to recognize what he is doing needs correction and that he needs to reach out for grace. This guy is already trying it his own way and he needs the grace of God to help him change, if he will only lift his head. This is Paul saying you have started looking elsewhere and you need to rely on God. 

But doesn’t grace mean being nice, why is Paul yelling? He sounds upset.

See we have to let the Bible define grace for us. Jesus actually talks very little of it. Paul gives us most of the information about grace. In Titus 2 he explains that grace enables us to have salvation for sure, but what it does it teach. It teaches us obedience and self-control. It informs out behavior, it enables and teaches us to be Godly. It is not blanket favor that means God looks the other way. 

The problem is we can’t see the heart. For someone lost in sin trying to come to God and actively needing grace, he is granted it, but we do not see it when we see someone lost in sin saying they want God but not changing. 

Let’s be honest Grace is hard to spot when someone is walking through it and forgiveness is hard to grant. We can’t see people’s heart but we can see their deeds. It is deeds that spread and influence in the church. Paul is concerned because the atmosphere is one where the people are arrogant and not instead grieved over the sin. The leaven had spread and the testimony was silenced. “Why go to the church? The people there are involved in more vile sin that we are.” In other words the Gospel is ineffective. The message is undermined the mission is pointless and we are all wasting our time. At least that was probably what Paul was thinking. 

Thankfully Paul wasn’t content to leave it there. He wanted change because there is more grace to go around. There is favor from God that enables salvation and teaches his people Godliness.

Paul absolutely does not want the Gospel of Jesus undermined by the behavior of the church. This is something that we need to take very seriously. This is why it is a big deal when a very prominent Christian leader or any leader falls into moral sin. Their sin has ramifications, their behavior has influence. Their sin speaks about the condition of the church and the condition of the Gospel. Paul is all about about grace, but grace is never supposed to undermine the message. 

Our good deeds are to put the world to shame, not that our sinfulness seems inviting. Because frankly it is not, it is off-putting. Church sin is only appealing to the nominal and hypocritical it is never appealing to the outside world. At least in the sense we think, In fact they love it because it silences us.

Paul speaks about this again in Titus.

 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

Peter says it as well.

16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Paul is all about grace. Christianity is all about grace, but do not undermine the movement. Do not undermine the message. Do not undermine the Gospel. Let God’s grace teach you. 

So where is the grace? It flows down to under-gird his people and the gospel. It does not flow down to help keep the leaven alive to spread throughout the body. The little book of I John is all about this. He is faithful and just to forgive all our sins, so don’t for a moment claim that you are without them. 

So Paul has grace for the repentant and harsh words for the hard of heart, but all are forgiven when we humbly come to the mercy seat of God. Grace teaches and enables salvation. 



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s