Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All Scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard.
INTRODUCTION: This week Paul writes a great deal about the believer’s approach to the sexual immoral church member, and a little bit about lawsuits between believers. Since I have rarely seen lawsuits between church members, but have more often faced the issue of how to relate to the sexually immoral, we will concentrate on Paul’s advice on sexual immorality.
A. Paul has an apparent conflict between what we studied last week and what we are studying this week. Turn with me first to 1 Corinthians 5:12-13.
1. Are we to judge the sexually immoral? (Yes. v.12)
2. What is the extent of our “jurisdiction” for judgment? (Those insidethe church. We have no business judging those outsideof the church. That is within the “jurisdiction”of God. vv.12&13)
3. Now read 1 Corinthians 4:5. We agreed last week that we were notto judge because: a) that was God’s work; and b) we cannotknow a person’s motives. Can you reconcile this seeminglyinconsistent advice from Paul?
a. Let me make it worse. In 4:3 Paul seems to say the problem is judging him. Does Paul tell the Corinthians they are not to judge him, but must judge each other?
b. Is this a standard with which we can all be comfortable: you are not to judge me, but I can judge you?
(I read seven commentaries on 1 Corinthians, and not one mentioned, much less tried to explain, this apparent contradiction. I think the answer turns on what is being judged. In 1 Corinthians 4:5 Paul is talking about members judging the motives and relative standing of the leaders of the church. He never says (in that context) he is being accused of sin. The Corinthians are asked not to judge relative “goodness.” On the other hand, the judgment called for in 1 Corinthians 5:12, is open sin that is not even accepted by pagans (5:1). Therefore, I think that when it comes to judging the “performance” of church leaders this is different than judging open sin. Paul urges us to leave the judgment of “goodness” to God because we cannot know the motives of the heart. But for open (and undisputed) sin, of the kind that brings disrepute to the church even among unbelievers, he says that we must act to keep the church pure.)
c. Do you think “motivation” is an issue in judging open sin?
II. SEXUAL IMMORALITY
A. Now let’s get into the substance of Paul’s advice. Read 1 Corinthians 5:1-3. What is the sin here? Is this fellow having sex with his mother? (Paul does not say this fellow’s “mother,” but his “father’s wife.” My guess is (the commentaries are in dispute on the nature of the relationship) that this fellow has an informal sexual relationship with the wife of his late father. The word “has” (“ekho”) (as in “has his father’s wife”) is the same word used in John 4:18 when Jesus met the woman at the well who had five husbands and Jesus said “the man you now have [“ekho”] is not your husband.”)
B. Whatever the exact nature of this sin, can we be sure it is one that we would all agree is sinful? (Yes. Paul says that this sin would not occur “among pagans.” Robertson’s commentary (Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament) reports in the context of these verses that the word “Corinthianize” meant to live in sexual wantonness and license. It is like saying today he is a “Playboy.” The pagan standard for comparison was very low, and Paul said that even the “lowlife” would not do this!)
C. What is the attitude of the Corinthian church
in this? (Verse 2 says they are “proud.”)
1. How could they be “proud” of a sin which the pagan Corinthiansthink is wrong?
2. And, how do you explain 1 Corinthians 1:2 where Paul says that thischurch is “sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to beholy?” (I do not think they are proud of the sin. Their pride(arrogance) makes them hard to teach. I am gratefulto see that a group with this kind of serious problem is still”sanctified in Christ and called to be holy.”)
3. Which sin is worse: sexual immorality or pride?
D. Read 1 Corinthians 5:4-5. What is Paul’s prescription for this situation? (Throw the bum out.)
1. Is this to
keep the church pure and save its reputation?
2. Or is thisin the best interest of the sinning man? (I think Paulsuggests that by throwing the man out of the church,his sin will become clear to him (or he will sink deeperinto sin) and will eventually see his need for repentance.Compare the story of the prodigal son. (Luke 15 generallyand especially, 15:17)
3. Is this true
today? Which is more redemptive: to throw the sinnerout of church, or, with love and patience, hopethey will change?
a. Does it depend upon the person?
b. Does it also depend upon the nature of the sin? (Consider what Paul did here. There were two sins: the sexual sin of the man, and the pride of the church who tolerated this. Paul did not throw out the whole church! He treated these sins differently.)
4. Let’s revisit
the pride v. sexual sins question I asked you momentsago. Do you think that pride is worse than sexualsins for the very reason that sexual sins seem sinful?(The person involved in sexual sin is more likely to “wakeup” and realize his sin. Pride, on the other hand,is nearly hopeless because it keeps you from seeing yoursin.)
b. If what I just said is true, why “keep” in church those who had the more intractable sin (pride) and “throw out” the one who had the more treatable sin (sexual immorality)? (Consider two possible answers. First, different sin merits different treatment. “Throwing out the sexual sinner” is the right treatment to bring him back. Throwing out the proud, will probably further harden their heart. Second, the “proud” wanted to do God’s will, they just did not realize the condition of their heart. The sexual sinner was a rebel.)
c. Jump ahead with me to 1 Corinthians 6:15-20. Read. Which do these verses say is the worse sin: pride or sexual immorality? (Verse 18 seems to say that sexual sins are the worst!)
(1) Why? (Paul creates this logical syllogism:
(a) You are part of the body of Christ;
(b) When you have sex, your body becomes “one” with the other person (Gen. 2:24);
(c) Therefore, if you have sex with a prostitute, Christ becomes “one” with the prostitute.)
(2) Does Paul’s argument make sense to you? (Don’t worry if your class members are sliding under the pews at this point. Seriously, this same theme is argued in Proverbs 5 (see especially, vv. 16-18) What makes sexual sins so bad is that it involves the generation of life. You share your life with the prostitute (or Proverbs 5, the public). Between the AIDS and abortion epidemics (for every two children born alive, one is aborted) can anyone doubt Paul’s statement “he who sins sexually sins against his own body?” (v.18))
III. DOUGHBOY, DOUGHGIRL AND DOUGHCHURCH
A. Now lets go back to chapter 5. Read 1 Corinthians 5:6-8. What is Paul’s meaning about a “little yeast?” (“Yeast” (or leaven) is a term that Jesus used to describe sin or sinful teachings. In Luke 12:1 He said the “yeast” of the Pharisees was “hypocrisy.” In Matthew 16:11-12 Jesus calls “the teachings” of the Pharisees and Sadducees “yeast.” 1 Corinthians 5:8 calls “yeast” “malice and wickedness.”)
1. Is the “yeast”
also part of what Paul called (1 Corinthians1:2) “sanctified…and called to be holy?” (No! In 5:7he says “you really are” a “batch without yeast.” Paulis not sanitizing serious sexual sins. Instead, heis calling the church to be holy.)
2. Notice in
v.6 Paul complains about their “boasting.” What are theyboasting about? Are they boasting about this man’s sin?(They are boasting that they are good guys (rememberour discussion about the v.2 reference to being “proud”).They think they are fine and can ignore this one fellow.)
a. What does Paul mean in v.6 “a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? (Ignoring open sin in the church tends to corrupt the entire church.)
b. Does this counsel apply to our church today?
A. Read 1 Corinthians 5:9-11. From time
to time in the media we hear of some “peculiar” church which “shuns”
1. Does Paul
2. How is this
consistent with a redemptive spirit?
3. Let me shoot
you between the eyes. Is it important to you to havemore money? If you had more money, would you worry less?If you said, “yes” to either of these questions, areyou not “greedy” (wanting more) or an idolater (dependingupon something other than God)?
a. If I am not describing you (beware of pride!), do you know someone in the church who should say “yes” to either of these questions?
b. Do you “associate” with that person? (Since Paul is writing to sinners, he obviously cannot be counselling the church to throw out everyone who has sin. This would tear the church apart. It seems reasonable, from what he says and the context of what he says, to believe that he is talking about sins that have reached a serious stage: a stage that is hurting the church.)
A. Read 1 Corinthians 6:1-6. Summarize Paul’s advice about suing fellow members of the church? (Have church members adjudicate disputes; do not bring shame on the gospel by going to unbelievers to settle disputes.)
1. Is this an “ironclad” rule?
a. What if insurance is involved?
b. What if you live in a “Christian nation?” (Our situation is not the same as that in Corinth. However, the idea that we should not bring shame on the church by bringing our disputes before unbelievers is an eternal principle. Without going into detail, I think that even insurance companies would agree to an “alternative dispute resolution” such as contractual arbitration.)
VI. SORTING OUT THE “GRAY AREAS”
A. I do not want to close without briefly considering 1 Corinthians 6:12. Read. How do you decide what to do about questions that do not seem to have a clear Biblical answer? What standard do you use (other than we have a “rule” against that)? (Paul is making the greater point in v.12 about sexual immorality, but the small point I think is of extreme importance. For example, smoking is not even mentioned, let alone discussed, in the Bible. The “standard” answer to smoking is 1 Corinthians 6:19 (“Your body is a temple…”). As we have seen, v.19 refers to sexual immorality and any other application fails to properly consider the context. The proper test to apply in these areas not clearly covered by the Bible, according to v.12, is this: “Is this beneficial?” No matter what the theological debate, no matter what the problem, almost every “gray area” can be dealt with by asking yourself if involvement in that activity is beneficial to the kingdom or to you.)
VII. NEXT WEEK: CHRISTIAN SEXUALITY. Oh boy! Study!
Bible, according to v.12, is this: “Is this beneficial?” No matter what the theological debate, no matter what the problem, almost every “gray area” can be dealt with by asking yourself if involvement in that activity is beneficial to the kingdom or to you.)
VII. NEXT WEEK: CHRISTIAN SEXUALITY. Oh boy! Study!