Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Overview of First Corinthians - Moral Failure

We’re looking at how Paul addressed troublemakers in Corinth. Thus far, we’ve considered divisive and compromising troublemakers. Today, we consider the publicly immoral troublemakers to teach us: God is faithful even in moral failure.

1Cor 5:1 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. 

We’re not told what the sin was. Someone having his father’s wife doesn’t tell the whole story, but it’s generally assumed the son had taken his stepmother away from his father and was having an on-going, illicit relationship. Whatever it was, Paul described it as so bad even the heathens don’t do something like this.  

However, Paul’s problem wasn’t just with the man, but with the church for allowing him to continue in fellowship with them while living in blatant, public sin. Most of us try to keep our sins private. This man paraded his.

1Cor 5:2 You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. 

Why so harsh, we all make mistakes? By not confronting this sin they were condoning it.

Titus 3:10-11 Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned. 

Like the earlier troublemakers who divided the church into clickish groups, creating factions, Paul sees anyone who, when living in public sin being permitted to remain in fellowship within the church, is a source of division. 

Some will condemn. Some will accept. Some will keep from making eye contact to not take a stand. And before long, each will turn on the others – taking up the offense of either side. Just ignore it. No, pray for him. Love him because love covers a multitude of sins. That’s his problem, not ours. You can hear their arguments. Paul’s remedy? Separate the man from the herd. 

We understand quarantine. Someone or something has a contagious disease, we isolate them to keep what they have from spreading to others. 

Place a rotten apple in a basket of fresh apples and soon the rottenness of the first apple will infect the others. For the sake of the good apples, the bad apple has to be removed.

2Cor 6:14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 

For whatever reason, the people within the church were overlooking the sin to maintain fellowship with the man. Paul says: there is no fellowship with someone walking in darkness. Why? We can’t be right with each other when we’re wrong with God. Neither can we be wrong with each other and right with God.

A mom was waking everyone up for church one Sunday morning. When she knocked on one door, a voice said, "I'm not going!" "Why not?" "I'll give you two good reasons. One, they don't like me. Two, I don't like them." She said, "I'll give you two good reasons why YOU WILL go to church. One, you're 47 years old. Two, you're the pastor!"

You’ll remember in Bible terms: Relationship is the result of being right with God. Fellowship is the result of living right with Him. In earthly terms, relationship is our familiar connection with a person and fellowship is how we get along.

In certain relationships, we choose to work around someone’s bad behavior for the sake of fellowship. But, we’re not getting along; we’re overlooking their behavior to keep from losing the relationship.

You’ll see this in abusive marriages. You’ll see it in a volatile workplace. You’ll see it in young love where love is blind to obvious red flags. And you’ll see it in churches.

But Paul isn’t setting up an Inquisition where we establish the rules and chop off the head of anyone who disputes those rules. In fact, though the action of removing him was considered punishment, Paul wasn’t interested in making him pay for his mistakes but to repent and be restored. Only the convicting power of God could bring him to that point. The church was to cooperate with God’s plan.

Rom 12:19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God

Leaving room for God to work is a challenge. We’ll either rush in to forgive where there’s been no repentance or withhold forgiveness even after God has restored them. It’s not our job to stop their suffering or to make them pay. God says, follow my lead. Don’t trust your own feelings to know what’s best.

What was the objective – restoration. Not getting everything back to normal which was the Amish intentions. God is redeeming a life from a bad choice. Being right with God is the ultimate goal. We’re called to help, however God chooses to do that. 

Gal 6:1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. 

Trying to correct someone else is serious business. We have to approach them as if we, but for the grace of God, could be right where they are. 

John 8:3-11 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?" They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more." 

Caught in the very act. A great opportunity for Jesus to publicly cast her away and condemn to hell all who go down the road she had gone down. But instead, he exposed the sins of the others and forgave the sin of the woman.

We have to be careful when confronting. When Peter confronted Ananias and Saphira for lying about a contribution they gave to the church, they dropped dead. That would be hard to explain to law enforcement. “Well, Officer, as soon as their sin was exposed, down they went. I guess God just took them home.” God had to deal harshly and quickly because their sin threatened the whole church. Letting it stay without consequence created a dangerous precedent. 

What’s one of the biggest issues in churches today? Priests and Ministers remaining in office with no consequences after they have sexually violated someone within the church.

Look at how that destroys lives, poisons the church’s reputation and ridicules righteousness. Satan has established a stronghold in their lives. Remove them and keep them removed until they repent. Then keep them out until there is evidence the stronghold has been broken. Most may never serve again. That’s not punishment that’s consequence for their actions.

Sin like that cannot be ignored. Paul compares this sin to leaven.

1Cor 5:6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened.
Leaven influences what it’s added to. When sin is being compared to leaven, that sin is influencing the whole life or the whole church.

So, instead of revulsion against the sin, they were boasting about how accepting they were toward the sinner. Paul reminds them they are to flee immorality, not embrace it. In this case, he tells the church to disassociate with the man. He is no longer welcome until he acknowledges his sin and repents. Now, realize, Paul isn’t setting precedent for every incident of unrighteous behavior, he’s dealing with a blatant, public sin that’s dividing the church. If he did that for all sin, I’m not sure who’d be left to attend?

So, what happened? We learn this in 2Cor 2:6-8 Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. 

It would seem clear the man was a believer, a part of the Corinthian church, but had followed his fleshly impulses into moral failure as a public sin. And it would also seem, after he repented, the church wouldn’t let him back in. 

It was bad enough they wouldn’t deal with the sin at first, but then after he repented wouldn’t forgive. Have you ever felt that someone’s actions were too bad to reconcile with? Like they’ve committed some unpardonable sin we can never forgive? 

Jesus said: Matt 12:31 Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.

It’s unclear what defines blasphemy against the Spirit, however, that’s the only known unforgivable sin. But the first part of that verse is quite clear. There is no sin so horrific God cannot forgive, no rebellion so offensive that God cannot restore, no choice so bad God cannot correct. God will deal with the man. The church must follow God’s direction.

So, what’s the Good News? God is faithful because He doesn’t leave us where He finds us. He will never leave us satisfied with ungodliness and unrighteous behavior without convicting us, convincing us and forgiving us when we repent and return to Him. 

That’s what makes the Good News good news. There is always an answer! Even in moral failure, God is faithful. Why? He wants fellowship with us and will restore us to that fellowship if we repent of our sin and return to Him. 1 John 1:9


  1. Typically, parents are the best people to discipline their children.
  2. They have the perspective of both knowing the child and loving the child.
  3. When parents understand their children, they know what method of correction works best for each child.
  4. It would make sense, then, when God wants to correct His children, He will choose what’s best in each case.
  5. Our job is to not interfere with His job and to receive back those whom He restores.