Corinth was a rough and tumble city filled with the worship of many gods and evil practices. Many, not all, who came to know God through Jesus merely added Him to their traditions of idol worship of an exhaustive list of gods. They also continued to live the sins that were acceptable to the unbelieving world. So, it is no wonder these sins were brought into the new church who were learning to follow in the ways of God. It was a confusing time.
So, Paul, motivated with the love of Jesus, writes a letter to the leaders to help them understand that sin has to be dealt with but with the motive of saving the sinner! Please note that this is a huge difference between the Pharisaical motives of power with suppressive and hypocritical judgements with man-made rules; instead this came from a broken heart for their brothers and sisters caught up in the world of sin that would destroy them.
Brokenhearted Paul made the motive clear—”You want him on his feet and forgiven before the Master on the Day of Judgment.” God-led leaders care enough to confront the sinner so that he/she does not continue in sin. It breaks God’s heart when we sin. It breaks our hearts when our brothers and sisters are caught in sin that will destroy their relationship to God. Only with the love of God and the authority of Jesus should leaders confront, but care enough to do so! Not for you but for the brother or sister so the church Body can be made whole through Jesus’ forgiveness. Unity is threatened in the Body of Christ when we don’t care enough to confront the sinner but leaders must be led by God, with His Holy Spirit of His love, motivated for the benefit of the sinner, giving ultimate glory to God who forgives because of Jesus.
Paul shows the church how to do this with love for the sinner which is who Jesus was, is and always will be…” Friend to the sinners”. The precise phrase — “friend of sinners” — is mentioned twice in the Gospels, in Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34. They called Jesus this because it was true. He was a friend of sinners. Jesus himself said that he didn’t come for the spiritually healthy, but for the sick. “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31–32).
Just like he greeted children that others thought were a nuisance, he welcomed sinners that others didn’t (Matthew 19:14; Luke 7:37–39). He looked at them, as Mark says he did with the rich young man, and he loved them (Mark 10:21). He had compassion on them. And most glorious of all, he wielded his authority to speak those wondrous words, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48).
This is all very important for us because, as some have noted recently, we Christians pattern our lives after Jesus’s example. He has, after all, sent us into the world in the same Spirit of his own mission (John 20:21–22). As humbly, forgiven people, we are to lovingly point people to Jesus for His forgiveness. All people. Jesus saves. Only Jesus.
CORINTHIANS—CALLED AND SENT
1 Corinthians 5, The Message
The Mystery of Sex
5 1-2 I also received a report of scandalous sex within your church family, a kind that wouldn’t be tolerated even outside the church: One of your men is sleeping with his stepmother. And you’re so above it all that it doesn’t even faze you! Shouldn’t this break your hearts? Shouldn’t it bring you to your knees in tears? Shouldn’t this person and his conduct be confronted and dealt with?
3-5 I’ll tell you what I would do. Even though I’m not there in person, consider me right there with you, because I can fully see what’s going on. I’m telling you that this is wrong. You must not simply look the other way and hope it goes away on its own. Bring it out in the open and deal with it in the authority of Jesus our Master. Assemble the community—I’ll be present in spirit with you and our Master Jesus will be present in power. Hold this man’s conduct up to public scrutiny. Let him defend it if he can! But if he can’t, then out with him! It will be totally devastating to him, of course, and embarrassing to you. But better devastation and embarrassment than damnation. You want him on his feet and forgiven before the Master on the Day of Judgment.
6-8 Your flip and callous arrogance in these things bothers me. You pass it off as a small thing, but it’s anything but that. Yeast, too, is a “small thing,” but it works its way through a whole batch of bread dough pretty fast. So get rid of this “yeast.” Our true identity is flat and plain, not puffed up with the wrong kind of ingredient. The Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has already been sacrificed for the Passover meal, and we are the Unraised Bread part of the Feast. So let’s live out our part in the Feast, not as raised bread swollen with the yeast of evil, but as flat bread—simple, genuine, unpretentious.
9-13 I wrote you in my earlier letter that you shouldn’t make yourselves at home among the sexually promiscuous. I didn’t mean that you should have nothing at all to do with outsiders of that sort. Or with criminals, whether blue- or white-collar. Or with spiritual phonies, for that matter. You’d have to leave the world entirely to do that! But I am saying that you shouldn’t act as if everything is just fine when a friend who claims to be a Christian is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory. You can’t just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior. I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers? God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decide when our brothers and sisters are out of line and, if necessary, clean house.
We have learned that we cannot confront unless we love. Help us to love like you love us. Help us to care enough to confront our brother or sister with your love in us, guiding us. I am reminded from Paul to speak Truth in the Spirit of your love in us. May our motives always be to redirect our friends to you to be saved and restored by you.
In Jesus Name, Amen