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Admonitions to a Worldly Church
1 Corinthians 5:1-46.5.13
1. How quickly bad reports fly. The Apostle wrote, "It is reported commonly." Just so. Evil deeds usually travel on the wings of the wind. They pass from lip to lip, until it seems they never stop.
Isaiah 53:1-23.53.12 opens with the words: "Who hath believed our report?" Good news travels but slowly, and when it reaches the ear is often not believed.
Why are people still quick to hear and to report sin in another, and slow to believe and report the wonderful salvation of the all-blessed Christ?
2. The sin in the Corinthian Church was fornication. What a dark cloud, to rest upon the Church of God, was this! Yet, alas, the church of today is even more sadly involved in shameful conduct.
It has now come to pass that church members may live in all things, as lives the unbelieving world, and remain members of many churches unrebuked. The truth is that in many places it is difficult to determine whether it is a churchly world, or a worldly church.
Sin is excused by the pulpit and practiced by the pew. Preachers often soft pedal the vilest of conduct. This is true not in any one part of our country, but in every part.
Recently we were talking to a Christian Chinese lady who had come to the United States for Bible instruction. She was asked if she would not be happy to have her brothers to come over to study, as they also are in Christian work in China. The Chinese sister in Christ held up her hands, and with horror in her face said: "No, no, I would not want them to come and see the way American Christians live!"
3. The sin in the Corinthian Church was even worse than the sin of the unbelieving Gentiles. The verse reads: "And such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles."
What shall we do when those who profess godliness live blacker lives than the general run of the ungodly? Who are the leaders in the dance? the card tables? the theaters and movies? Do the unsaved outclass the church members in smoking? in wine drinking? in many evil practices? We fear not, at least in many places.
We need once again to hear the question of Romans 6:1 : "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" Then we need to note the horror of the Lord, as the Holy Spirit cries, "God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"
4. The Church at Corinth even fell so low as to be puffed up about the horrible sin in their midst. They had no sorrow, no sense of shame, no aching heart. They even seemed to boast their folly. Perhaps they thought that free grace was a license to licentiousness.
Dear young people, the grace of God teaches "us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world."
Too many are excusing their sinful ways; some are even proud of their folly.
Is there no joy in Christ? No pleasures that never fade? Is the Christian young man or young woman forced to go to the world for their pastimes? God forbid! We are truly happy, only as we walk and talk with the Lord.
I. ARE OTHER CHRISTIANS RESPONSIBLE EVEN THOUGH ABSENT, FOR THE SINS OF OTHERS? (1 Corinthians 5:3 )
1. Paul absent in body, but present in spirit judged the conditions at Corinth. We are willing to grant that Paul had preached in Corinth; that he was the founder, you might say, of the Church. We add, for this cause, Paul felt a personal responsibility for Corinth, and a special love for them.
Should we not be concerned also for conditions in church life in which we, personally, are in no wise a partaker? Is not the Body of Christ one Body? Are we not every one, members one of another?
Did not Jeremiah feel himself weighed down and overwhelmed by the sins of Israel? Hear him cry, "O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness." Then he said, "I am pained at my very heart; * * I cannot hold my peace."
Oh, beloved readers, is it nothing to us who pass by, that we see the professed church mixing herself with sinners?
2. Until we sound the alarm we are held responsible for the sins of others. If we see the people who name His Name, being led into paths of sin and shame; if we see them falling under Satan's wiles, and hold our peace, shall we be held guiltless?
It is still true that no man lives to himself. We are our brother's keeper. Hear the words of the Spirit in Ezekiel: "If the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; * * his blood will I require at the watchman's hand."
Let us not think to absolve ourselves from the present-day worldliness of the church by simply standing aloof therefrom. We must sound the alarm.
II. THE CALL TO CHURCH DISCIPLINE (1 Corinthians 5:4-46.5.5 )
1. The responsibility of the local church. Mark the words: "When ye are gathered together." Paul could not expel the sinning member at Corinth. He could command the Church so to do. Paul could, however, tell the Church that his spirit would be with them. He could tell them what they were ordered to do in the Name of the Lord Jesus.
2. The promised backing of Divine power. Paul told the saints at Corinth that they would have more than the approval of his spirit; they would also have the "power of our Lord Jesus." What Paul was saying, in the Spirit of God, was that God would back the saints at Corinth, in their faithful discipline, with His presence and power.
We believe that if true discipline secures the power of the Christ, that the lack of that same discipline keeps back the power of the Lord Jesus.
Why are so many churches helpless today? It is because God hath written "Ichabod" over their doors. When sin is in the camp, unjudged, God steps out of the camp. He cannot and He will not bless the church that permits Achans to stay in, unpunished.
3. The call to discipline. Our verse says, "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."
Many a saint has been blessed and helped by being turned over to Satan. The Lord said to Peter, "Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat." When the Lord permitted Satan to have Peter, did Peter forever forsake his Master? Nay. He was, by the very fiery sifting, made the man who could preach the Pentecostal sermon. True discipline is restorative, not destructive.
III. THE LEAVEN OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS (1 Corinthians 5:6 )
1. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. Leaven in the Word of God always stands for false doctrine and sin. In this study the one who was sinning, and retained in the church fellowship was compared to leaven, and the Spirit said, "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?"
Here is a warning to which we should all give heed. If we allow sin to remain in the church, the sinning one will lead others to sin. We sadly believe that it is next to impossible for the average young person to live in the twentieth century worldly church, without becoming worldly. When the pastor and deacons and elders and stewards wink at sin, they are only encouraging it.
Young people have told me again and again that their pastors have said that such things were all right.
2. The old leaven must be purged out. This is God's command. Remember that the writer is not voicing his own opinion. God is speaking in His Word. When God speaks, every tongue should remain silent. There is no "if" about it. The Bible says, "Purge out * * the old leaven."
Church discipline is almost a thing of the past. Church members may live as they list, and they still be retained in membership and in full fellowship.
Churches that used to stand for separation, have now utterly repudiated their former position. Worse than that, mammon and pleasure have come in and manned the church. How long, O Lord, how long shall these things be?
IV. THE CALL OF THE CROSS IS TO SEPARATION (1 Corinthians 5:7 ; 1 Corinthians 5:1 .c., 1 Corinthians 5:8 )
1. We eat an unleavened bread in commemoration of the death of Christ. There is a wide significance in all of this. It tells us that Christ, the sinless One, was sacrificed for us. The offering of God, on Calvary was a holy offering. From time immemorial the lambs of commanded sacrifice were designated to be firstlings of the flock, without spot and without blemish.
If He who died for our sins was a spotless, holy offering, shall we who are redeemed from sin by His precious Blood come and offer unto Him a sacrifice of evil? God forbid.
Besides this, we are told that the Cross in which we glory is a Cross by which we are crucified to the world, and the world is crucified unto us.
If our sins demanded a sinless Christ for our sacrifice; Christ demands a sin-washed and sin-delivered saint to follow Him.
2. We must therefore, offer not the leaven of malice and wickedness, but the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Romans 12:1-45.12.21 tells us that we arc to offer our bodies unto God as "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." We dare not come into His presence therefore, in the adoration of worship, with unclean hands and hearts, Isaiah cried, in the Spirit, "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me?" Then the Spirit said, "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well."
God wants, yea, God demands, clean lips and clean hands from those who serve in His House. He cannot receive and He cannot approve and bless any man who is unclean.
3. God places a premium on Christian sincerity and truth. Anything that is a camouflage, or a "put on"; anything that is not truth, or that does not ring true, God cannot receive. How we poor mortals need to be filled with the Spirit that we may conquer the baser motives of the flesh and live out the fruit of the Spirit!
V. OUR COMPANY REVEALS OUR CHARACTER (1 Corinthians 5:9 )
1. The old adage We are like those with whom we associate. This adage generally speaking, is true. If we keep close fellowship with any class of people it is because we choose to belong to that class, and we will soon become like them. How can two walk together, unless they be agreed? Shall righteousness walk with unrighteousness? Shall light dwell with darkness? Shall a believer have comradeship with an unbeliever?
When a Christian turns aside and enters into the pathway of unbelievers, and of the wicked, he will, beyond doubt, become contaminated with their evil ways. The Word of God is final and without controversy. That Word says, "Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away."
Evil communications will corrupt good manners. Here is God's warning to young people concerning the ways of the evil woman: "Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths."
When Christians have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, they simply reject God's admonition and walk in the ways of death.
2. The meaning of the expression "not to company." The word does not mean that the saint should stand aloof from contacting fornicators in the everyday walk of life, for then we would, as 1 Corinthians 5:10 says, needs go out of the world. We are not to company in the sense of personal fellowship with evil men and women.
In a certain church a man of the world said to us, "We have been accustomed to hunt and fish and have comradeship with the former pastor, and we had hoped to have the same with you," I told him that I would eat with him, or sit with him, in case of need, if he wanted me to point him to God; but I could not make him a close companion or chum. How could I? His ideals of life and separation from evil were as far from mine, as the east is far from the west. I could not link up with him.
He who runs along with the wicked will soon become partaker with them in their evil deeds.
VI. THE MESSAGE OF SEPARATION OF CHRISTIAN FROM CHRISTIAN (1 Corinthians 5:11 )
1. Abraham could not fellowship with Lot. In Genesis we read of how Lot went with Abraham. Time, however, showed that the two were by no means alike in their conception of life. The moment came when Abram said, "Separate thyself, * * from me." The way of Lot soon revealed the wide and different ideals which prompted them.
Abraham walked with God, was a friend of God. Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom. Abraham looked to God for guidance, made God His leader; Lot judged after the sight of his eyes, and made selfish gain his guiding star. Abraham was a confessed tent-dweller, looking for a City whose Builder and Maker was God; Lot was a dweller in the gates of Sodom, looking for his rewards from the city which the wicked had built.
Abraham guided his children into the ways of God. Lot was as one who mocked to his sons-in-law. There was no common ground that could tie them together.
2. Carnal babes among those called, "brothers," find no place of union with the spiritual who know God. How the Word rings forth, "I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." The incompatibility of so-called worldly church members who live after the flesh, and walk in the ways of worldiness, with those who are spiritual, walking after the Holy Ghost is everywhere seen in the churches of this day.
Where is the fellowship between those who love the world and those who are other-worldly?
If you smoke cigarettes, and I dare not, could not, would not, where is the fellowship? If you play cards, and revel in pastimes which to me are sinful, fleshly, and dangerous to moral and spiritual life, where is the fellowship?
VII. THE QUESTION OF JUDGMENT (1 Corinthians 5:12-46.5.13 )
1. The Church does not judge the world. Our verse says, "What have I to do to judge them also that are without? * * Them that are without God judgeth."
Here is room for earnest thought. We were pastor in a southern city. The pastors met together and sought to start something to clean up the city. They asked our church to join them in closing up the houses of ill fame, and the gambling dens, the pool rooms, and the drinking joints. We, to be sure, deplored all of these contaminating things. However, we quickly replied: "Brethren, we are commanded to judge those who are within, not without."
Churches have a responsibility to judge those within their folds, who walk not after godliness. Paul, in the Spirit, says in the last verse of our chapter, "Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person." That word is still spoken to the churches of this very hour. Yet, where is the church which obeys? Church discipline is, for the most part, a thing of the past.
2. God will judge them who are without. The task is too great for us. We cannot run the government, or attempt to clean up the filth of our cities. Why? Simply because of what we said, the task is impossible, and is not given unto the church. How helpless, hopeless, weak is all human reform business. Evil men and seducers will continue to wax worse and worse. Iniquity continues to abound. Perilous times still come. God's judgment slumbereth not. He will judge the world for its sins.
We make one final plea let us judge this rather, that we hold high among ourselves, the standards of right living given by the Lord to the Church. Let us judge this rather, that our members keep those things which are written in the Book.
Pure religion and undefiled is to keep oneself "unspotted" from the world. That expression is taken from the old custom in the purchase of sheep. When a shepherd sold a part of his flock, they marked the sheep with the name or monogram of the new owner, and those sheep then belonged to the new fold. They were to go to another enclosure, and when, that night, they sought for shelter, they were to go to the new fold. And to keep oneself "unmarked from the world" means to keep the world's mark off, so that you will return to God's Fold, and not in the world's fold.
There is a perennial European herb called samphire, which grows by the cliffs of the sea, yet it is never found, it is said, on any part of the cliff which is not above the level of the tide. Just so Christian believers cannot grow, or indeed maintain their spiritual existence at all, unless they take care, however near they may be to the surging currents of humanity's eager ambitions to secure themselves at a safe level above the changing tides of this world's lower things and desires. "In" this new century world, but "not of it," is the necessary condition of soul preservation.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on 1 Corinthians 5". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent