Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.
1 Corinthians 5 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
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. 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.
3 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. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 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.
6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? 7 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. 8 Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11 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. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.
In today’s text Paul deals with one of the great conundrums that faces the church today. He says: I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 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. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves. How can the church be open and welcoming to sinners, as Christ was and also hold those who believe and follow Christ to accountability, to Christ’s standard of righteousness and holiness? Jesus Himself says: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Paul says: Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? This is why it is vital that the church does have the right answer to this question. We see throughout much of the church, that the message of grace, the call for sinners to come as they are, has led to a doctrine of tolerance, acceptance and embracing sin; a doctrine that says stay as you are. When the church began or begins to tolerate, accept and embrace sin among its members, the tendency is that the leaven of sin will grow and spread. Things that were once not accepted by the world are now being embraced in the church. Surely there is no easy answer for the church’s problem, but the question remains and finding the way to truly love sinners but continue to hate sin, is vital for the church and for every follower of Christ. The answer is not, as some have determined, to not be joined to the church, and so have no accountability to man. Jesus says: “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” There is no mention of church membership in His declaration. Those who follow Christ, those who call Him Lord, should not continue to practice lawlessness, whether they are members of the church or not.
In Ephesians 4, Paul speaks to the purpose of the church and to the answer to the question it faces regarding lawlessness in the body. He says: He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. So, the church should build up the members, encouraging and exhorting them, not judging and condemning them. But we are also to grow up, to become more mature. There needs to be an understanding in the church that those who are babies and children in faith may need some time to grow up. This is not to promote a doctrine that embraces sin, but rather to create a place for the Holy Spirit to convict people regarding sin. The church needs to allow them to grow, while the Holy Spirit causes them to grow. The most important thing the church can do to promote growth in the body, is to create a place and an atmosphere for the presence of the Lord and the power of the Spirit to move. If the church focuses on sin and darkness, sin and darkness will prevail. If the church will seek the glory of God, His light and His holiness, then the light itself will dispel the darkness. The most important thing for the church regarding removing the wicked man is to create a place where Christ can remove the wickedness from man.
There is no easy answer, but there is a simple one. John 12:32-33 says: I,if I am lifted up from the earth, will drawall peoples to Myself.”This He said, signifying by what death He would die. If we, the followers of Christ, will continue to lift up the name of Jesus, if we will point the world to the cross, if we will speak the truth that Jesus died for their sins, He will draw them. He will call them and He will cause them to grow and mature. If they will truly see and know Jesus, then they will also be known by Him.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit; may I find the way to truly love the world and not the things of the world. May I love sinners, yet hate sin. May I seek Your kingdom and Your righteousness, may I lift up Jesus and point to the cross, may the world be drawn to Jesus; in whom sins are forgiven, not embraced. May they both know Him and be known by Him. Amen.