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The Shameful Church of Sin - Part 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. 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."
I Corinthians 5:1-5

Good Morning Beloved,

Welcome to worship!
We're so glad you're here today

Today, we come to a study of the Word of God that is a very important, very critical, very serious study. We begin the study of Paul's first letter to the Corinthian church, in the fifth chapter.
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I suppose if there is one word to characterize the society in which we live today, I would have to say immoral. And I say that because that seems to be the underlying theme that appears to dominate everything. The world in which we live has problems with morality and immorality. Our world has pretty well developed rather a "barnyard morality." However, I must admit, I can't say that I have even seen barnyard animals commit some of the immoral acts, that have become commonplace, in our culture. Vile, despicable acts of immorality.

In fact, we have somehow, arrived at the place where all kinds of things have become tolerable, acceptable, and even commonplace. And it’s become a reason to have a group and to exist as a minority with a problem. And even the church begins to serve the wants and wishes of certain people with sexual aberrations, a departure from anomaly, and I'm sure I could go on and on and on regarding the immorality of this present age. Beloved, this is the very kind of society that threatens the purity of the church.

First, let's bow our heads in prayer.

Heavenly Father,

We just thank You for Your Word for us today. We gives thanks and praise for each and every soul gathered together in Your presence. Lord, we pray that through Your Holy Spirit, we would do everything in our own lives to be pure morally, that we would do everything we can to be resistant to the inroads of the world system in the areas of immorality and vice, sexually.

Help us to be the kind of pure and holy believers that you redeemed us to be. Help us to look for the purity of the church, that such immorality, would be revealed to us by You, that we would accept our responsibility to go and to seek to see a change, so there might be a purifying in the church, Your church. Lead us, through Your Spirit, you take Your message for us today seriously and help make us pure as only You can, through the Holy Spirit.
This we pray in the precious name of Christ

I'm sure you'll remember, that in the first four chapters, of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul has been addressing the many problems within the Corinthian church. Now, as we come to the fifth chapter, Paul starts to address some more detailed problems. In chapter 5 of I Corinthians, Paul addresses the shameful sin of sexual immorality.

I find it to be quite disturbing, that even today, there are many churches that become involved in shameful sin. I believe that one of the biggest problems we have in the church today, is that so many who claim to be a Christian, their life was previously so saturated with sexual immorality, that they cannot seem to shed that immoral lifestyle once they become believers. And, sadly, the church is very lax in dealing with this problem. The church, however, is to be pure, they are required to address the issue of immorality, or have to say goodbye to it. Regardless of the current cultural "norms," as Christs' church, it can absolutely have nothing to do with immorality.

So, when this happens, what can the church do? What should the church do? Just ignore it and hope it goes away? Pray about it, in hopes that God will take care of it? Or take action, doing everything possible to restore those persons in Christ?

Open with me, if you will, your Bibles to the book of I Corinthians, chapter 5. Follow along with me as I read from our text, I Corinthians 5:1-5.

"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. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. 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. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 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."

Here, in chapter 5, Paul tackles the very important, extremely sensitive subjects of immorality and church discipline. In verse 1, Paul says, "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."

The shameful sin that Paul is addressing is fornication, a case of sexual immorality, public incest in the church. The word used is porneia, from which we get pornography and it means immorality. You might have noticed that there is no interlude between chapters 4 and 5. Paul jumps right in and begins to handle this shameful problem. The problem is that the son is living with his step-mother, his father’s wife, and it is public knowledge. Everyone knows about it.

Paul states, "A man has his father’s wife." This seems to indicate a permanent relationship. The son had either married her or was living with her. The son was a member of the church. He was a faithful enough member to be known by the congregation. He might have even been one of the leaders in the church. Scripture isn't clear on some of the details, however, we do know that the testimony of the church was being ruined.

In verse two, Paul, speaks directly and strongly, saying, "You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst."

The church seemed to have had a shameful complacency about it. Paul says, "You are proud." We have already seen that the Corinthians were a very proud people. That’s a big part of the problem that Paul addressed in the first 4 chapters. However, now, they were allowing a shameful sin to exist in their midst. They should have been mourning over it. They should have been driven to prayer. They should not have been boasting. They should have been mourning over the sin taking place within the church in their midst. They should have prayed for God to restore the fallen brother or to remove him and the sin from their fellowship.
The scientific benefits of pride
How can this church boast? How can they remain prideful? We will learn the answer to this, a little later in this passage, when we get to verse 6, we discover that this person must have been a prominent leader in the community. Just to be clear, they weren’t boasting in his sin. They were, however, boasting because a community leader was a member of their church. The Corinthian church had become infested with immorality. And much more than that, they had become tolerant of it.

In other words, it would be like if we had a professional doctor, a prominent lawyer, a city official, a local celebrity, as a member of our church. And that individual is always appearing on the news, being interviewed on the news and in newspaper. Someone who contributes greatly to the finances of the church. The church is proud to have someone like that in their congregation. However, then he commits this immoral sin. Now what?

Beloved, the answer is abundantly clear! The church cannot be complacent in dealing with evil and sin. That is what Paul says here in this passage, in fact, is the entire thrust of this passage. A church cannot erase completely sin from its midst. Why? Because no person is perfect. However, blatant and unquestionable sin and evil must be addressed. It must be dealt with and corrected, regardless of who the member is. If a church remains complacent about something like this, God cannot bless that church and it will eventually, that will lead the church to destruction.

I don't believe sin exists in isolation. Where you find it, you’re bound to discover more kind. It just kind of shows up. Why? Because, when you have people walking in the flesh, living in carnality, it’s going to manifest itself, and in just about every way possible. Especially, if it's tolerated. That is why the sin of immorality must be quickly addressed, within the church. It must be removed!

So, in verses 3 through 5, Paul says, "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. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 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."

Here, Paul instructs them on what to do. Now, you probably remember, that Paul was away on a mission trip and so he couldn’t be present in Corinth. But his spirit of love toward the church overflowed as he was with them "in spirit." Paul had already judged this matter. He had already made a decision on what needed to be done. The point is, this issue was far too important to just leave hanging until he returned. 

Paul says, three things were to be done:
First, the offender was to be disciplined "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Notice the word "our". Jesus is OUR Lord, my Lord, the church’s Lord, and the Lord of the offending person.
It is YOUR Lord that is being hurt. His name is being damaged.
It is for YOUR Lord that this discipline must be carried out.
It is OUR Lord who can use the discipline to awaken the sinful person’s conscience to repent and to seek reconciliation with God.

Second, the offending person was to be disciplined by the church in a special gathering. Paul says he is going to be with them in spirit as they handle this most difficult matter. When we get into the next passage, later on in verses 6-13, where we will see that Paul tells the church that they must clean the church itself up before discipline is ever carried out.

Third, the offender was to be disciplined through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was to be delivered to Satan. Sounds harsh, doesn't it? However, this person is to be delivered to Satan to destroy the sinful nature and so that his spirit might be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I Timothy 5:22 says, "Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin."

This is basic to any kind of effectiveness in the ministry of Christ and the church of Christ that there must be moral purity. Immorality is certainly nothing new, nor is the fact that it has always been unacceptable to God. This goes clear back to the book of Genesis, when Potiphar's wife and her infatuation with Joseph. And, we know from the event being recorded in Scripture, that Joseph did just what he should have done, he ran. He fled from fornication.

And of course, there was David, who grossly sinned with Bathsheba. However, David, in Psalm 51:3-4, acknowledged his sin before the Lord, saying, "For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge."

The recognition that immorality was an offense to God came from the very beginning, in the Old Testament. God has always been and still is offended by sexual immorality and impurity. Though cultural tolerance and acceptance may have changed, however, God's position on it has not.

So the word "fornication" is a general term that would include adultery, incest, and any kind of perversion, bestiality, anything would be included in the term porneia. "Pornography" is our word today. Which comes from the root word, pornē, meaning a harlot for hire. The masculine form, pornos, meaning a male prostitute. 
Temple of Apollo, Corinth – Joy of Museums Virtual Tours
Athens and Corinth were considered to be the seat of immorality, in fact, according to historians, they were the two most immoral cities. So much so, that even their worship was immoral. They had prostitutes in their temples where the people went to worship. You say, "Are you serious?" Yes, I am. The Greeks’ belief was the idea that sex was a biological urge, sex was just there, so whatever happens, happens, no hang ups, limits or boundaries, with the exception that they forbid any woman to do it outside of her marriage, while a man could do anything he wanted. So, I'm pretty sure you can figure out who was running things there.

God has made Himself clear, abundantly clear on the issue of sexual impurity, impure sexual activity.
Now, I'm not going to go into to all of that today, however, I encourage you to read Deuteronomy 22, I believe its around verse 13 and following. That'll will give you an idea about how serious God is about sexual immorality. In fact, it was the cause of execution in the Old Testament. There was to be no tolerance of it, and there was certainly no place for it. There still isn't. No, I'm not trying to be some kind of cosmic killjoy, I'm simply stating the truth about what Scripture says. Now, in doing so, I know that this is not a popular subject in most churches today, however, I believe, that if the Word of God says it, it must be taught.

Now, I know that many within the modern church say, "But Jesus did away with all of that, when he said the greatest commandment was love." Again, like most arguments against biblical truths, that's one verse taken out of context, like "judge not less you be judged." However, as I stated many times before, it's best to let Scripture interpret Scripture! So, in order to fully understand what is being said, you must read the surrounding text.

Ok, where were we, there are two interpretations of this discipline Paul was speaking about.
1. One is that this man must be excommunicated from the church. The idea is that outside the church is the domain of Satan, and inside the church is the domain of God. So this man is to be sent back to Satan’s world to which he belongs. Maybe that would humiliate him and bring him to his senses. It was not only to punish him but also to hopefully bring him back to righteousness. Maybe it will stir him to repent.

2. The discipline means more than excommunication. It is subjecting that person to the power of Satan and if repentance doesn’t follow, then death. This points to there being physical consequences for spiritual failings. A similar case was with Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 who suddenly died when they lied about their tithes and offerings. Paul is hoping for this man to be saved from his sinful way and he expects to see this man on judgment day. That’s why he uses the words "in the day of the Lord."

In Closing...

Allow me to note a few things as we study this passage more carefully. The church desperately needs to exercise discipline more than it has in the past in order to strengthen its witness for the Lord. The actual discipline of the offending brother is carried out in "the power of our Lord Jesus." It’s the power of Christ that executes judgment on the spirit. All the church does is what it can do: make the decision that the brother’s sin must be dealt with and then, with a broken heart and full of love, pronounce that the man has to leave the church. Any physical or spiritual punishment is in the hands of the Lord, and I want to stress this part, it's not in the hands of church!

How does God handle it? Let's take a look at Revelation chapter 2, verse 18-23, where the Lord says,
"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this: 
‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds." 

Beloved, Jesus Christ, gave us the guidelines on how to deal with situations such as this. We find it in the Gospel of Matthew 18:15-18. Allow me to quickly read it to you, "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven."
Jesus' message here is quite clear, that every church should do what He said and if the offending party still refuses to listen and repent, then the church should act.
The Holy Spirit: God's Transforming Power | United Church of God

Lastly, it seems that Paul meant something more than excommunication. Scripture teaches that there is spiritual power that inflicts punishment upon sin. It shouldn’t surprise us because modern medicine and psychology shows this as well. It has been shown that misbehavior even causes physical, emotional, and mental punishment. Maybe that is what Paul is referring to here. The misbehavior is publicly noted and if that person refuses to listen, he is tormented within; physically, emotionally, and mentally to the point of repentance.
Do Christians not realize that the modern church is shocking the world with its sin? Is it any wonder the world think of the church as hypocrites?

The church cannot tolerate sin. The church doesn't exist, as a form of musical entertainment, giving uplifting philosophical messages, administering modern philosophy to make people feel better. The church exists to teach the truth about God's Word, to bring the lost to Christ, we're here to get involved in your lives, to make sure that the church is what God intended it to be, and that involves purity. And if we find out about sexual immorality, something must be done about it, we may be living in the present however, that means doing what God has called us to do, uphold His truths, preach the Gospel message, bring others to Christ and to keep His church pure.

We'll pick up from here next time.

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name

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