Corinth was a port town, a destination. And I suspect its reputation would rival Las Vegas. Paul in 1 Corinthians 5 wrote to rebuke the immortality that was raging through the church. He had just talked about them being the holy temple of God. And a sobering verse he added in chapter 2, “17 If any man destroys the [g]temple of God, God will destroy him, for the [h]temple of God is holy, and [i]that is what you are. ” When God calls us His representatives on earth, He means it, and expects us to act to the best we know how. He is so gracious for our stumbling, but the church must be distinct from the world.
This immortality in the church was not even found among the Gentiles, and the other believers did not mourn, but allowed its presence. Paul told them that he fully supported them in sending the person out of their midst to experience the full consequence of his actions so that he might repent.
Allowing even a little immortality contaminates the whole portion. Just like a few specks of leaven works through bread dough. Or a little spot of mold devours the cheese. Or a little spot of cancer can spread through an entire body. Paul tells them to clean it out, as they are unleavened. He calls on the Passover imagery that Jesus used in applying the title of Lamb to Himself. He died to save us, so we need to take that seriously. Especially as we represent Him to the world.
Paul refers to another letter, and adds some clarification: “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.”
No, you don’t hide yourself in a corner and try to keep yourself away from all the sin of the world. In my experience, the church as a whole has swung to the side of trying to hide from the evil of the world. How then are we representing Christ to them, as a stand-off?
Paul’s appeal was for them to not let the world root into their fellowship. God told them the bottom line on this one. Anyone whose life was showing a tendency towards evil and not the redemption of the Spirit was not even supposed to join them for a meal, the basic social level of friendship. It’s that serious.
God likes to use repetition. He started with Israel, giving them a set of instructions to make them distinct from the world so that they could be a clearer witness. He calls Christians to be distinct as well. And often in the church, we have a hard time confronting lifestyles of sin. I pray that God will help me, and all believers lovingly confront the sin so that we may remain a distinct reminder of God’s ways in this fallen world.
A teacher shared this song on Sunday. It is powerful to ponder.