Sermon: “Judging Insiders” (1 Corinthians 5:9–13)
Listen to the Sermon:
I want to ask you a question as we get started. I know that we usually start with reading the text will get there in just a moment, I promise. I want to ask you to imagine what you would think if you got a letter like this this week from me. I’m not sure if you can see it from there but this is the Harvest letterhead, I signed it just for effect, this is a fake letter but just use your imaginations.
Harvest Community Church,
In light of growing unholiness, the session of Harvest Community Church urges you not to associate with sexually immoral people. Additionally, we would urge you to avoid associating with those given over to greed, materialism, idolaters, those who are abusive in their speech or with drunkards. Remember that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Therefore, we plead with you do not even eat with such people. By the grace of God, do whatever it takes to protect and preserve the holiness that is yours in Christ Jesus, as you live out your calling to be saints through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Pastor Jacob Gerber
For the session of Harvest Community Church.
Now I didn’t run this by the session so if you’re on the session forgive me. If you got that letter from me this week on behalf of the session, who would you think I was encouraging you to not to associate with? You probably have a quick list that you just generated in your mind. You think about the immoral people who may be in your extended family. Maybe you have the person who lives down the street whose lifestyle, boy it’s just tough to reconcile with Biblical values. Maybe you have someone in your workplace who is just always talking about their various immoralities in their life and they are quite proud of them.
You have this quick list and you get this letter from me and you think about these people and you think, okay I guess I’m not supposed to associate with those people out there. I need to build bigger fences in my life. I’ve got to keep people at an arm’s length distance.
Understand that the letter that I have written here is a fake letter. You won’t get it. After all we’re together so I can save some postage for the church if we can just talk about it this morning. This letter is based off of the letter that Paul apparently sent to the Corinthian church before 1st Corinthians. Paul mentions in here in the letter, the verses that we are going to look at, that he wrote a letter earlier to the Corinthian church and they received a letter just like the one that I just read to you.
They read it and interpreted it probably in the way that we do when we hear these kinds of things. Don’t associate with sexually immoral and they think about those in the wider world. But Paul says that’s not at all who I was talking to you about. I wasn’t talking about those people out there; I was urging you to think about those people in here. Listen to what Paul writes in 1st Corinthians 5:9-13.
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”1 Corinthians 5:9-13, ESV
This is the word of the Lord it is given to us in love. Let us consider what God has this to say by his Spirit through his word together this morning.
As we consider this text here’s our big idea for this morning
Holiness reaches out to heathens but rejects hypocrites.
What Paul has to say to us in this text is that there are two fundamentally different instructions for us on how we need to protect and defend the holiness that we have as the people of God. Depending on whether or not people claim to be professing Christians. Whether they go by the name of a brother, “bears the name of brother” from verse eleven. These are people who profess to be brethren in the Lord.
Paul says it is one thing if you have someone who is living a wildly immoral lifestyle out in the world. You don’t have to avoid associating with them Paul says. It’s a completely different thing if you’re dealing with someone who is guilty of these very severe sins who goes on without any kind of repentance. Any kind of turning to the Lord again in faith and turning from their sins, but yet continues to pretend that they are a Christian in good standing in the church. There are two fundamentally different ways of approaching such people and the way in which we deal with both has to do with our holiness but in different ways.
Holiness reaches out to heathens but rejects hypocrites. Whenever I craft these things, I always want them to be memorable so there’s usually alliteration or some kind of rhyming so you might see those three “h” words; holiness, heathens, hypocrites. You may take exception to the heathen. Heathen is someone who is the furthest off of the furthest off and you may think of the unbelieving neighbor down the street. OR the very polite person who does not believe in Jesus with whom you work. You may be thinking that’s entirely too strong of a word to use about those people.
You’re probably right, but when we go back to the original context and we think about the people in the wider world in which Paul was writing to. Understand that these people who were actually idolaters. Now this morning we confessed sins of heart idolatries and that is right and good and proper for us to do. But these are people who actually went into pagan temples actually bowed down worship gods represented by statues and graven images made out of wood or stone or some kind of precious metals.
They actually offered blood sacrifices, usually of animals, but sometimes of human blood to these idols in their heathen pagan worship. In association with the worship, or sometimes just personally, they would enter into kinds of sexual immorality that would make our culture blush. Understand these were the people that Paul was talking about he says, don’t worry about them.
These are people who were rank pagan heathens and what Paul is saying is they corrupt, they won’t defile, they won’t contaminate your holiness. If that is true, how much more is it true that the nice, polite people down the street also will not contaminate your holiness. We are called to reach out to such people, even as we take a very different perspective to hypocrites in the church.
All that said here are the three points that we are going to see this morning.
- Holiness reaches out to heathens
- Holiness rejects Hypocrites
- Holiness Responds to God’s Judgment
Holiness Reaches Out to Heathens
Let’s start with the first point, holiness reaches out to heathens. In 1st Corinthians 5:9-10 Paul writes,
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. .”1 Corinthians 5:9-13, ESV
Pause talking letter that he sent before 1st Corinthians, that we no longer have. Again, just like us they probably had a list of people that they’re now thinking about not associating with. But Paul says in verse ten, the people you’re probably thinking that are not the people that I was talking about.
Not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers. Not those who are so covetous that they will do anything transgress any boundary to take whatever it is that they want. Not at all meaning the idolaters of this world, those people who worship idols whether actual graven images or heart idolatry of riches or comfort or security or pleasure something along those lines.
He says if you were going to avoid all of those people who are trapped to those sins you would have to entirely depart from this world. Now think about how remarkable it is for Paul to say this. In order to understand what Paul is really saying here we have to understand the way that holiness works, especially under the Old Covenant.
Under the Old Covenant holiness was fragile, it was easily defiled. In order to set something apart as holy, that is maybe the furniture or instruments that were going to be used in the worship in the tabernacle or in the temple of the Lord. Whatever you would set apart is holy had to go through a very specific detail set of rituals to purify and to sanctify so that they could be appropriately used in the holy consuming fire presence of the Lord. If you didn’t those things could be burned up or you could be struck down like Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus ten who offered strange fire in the presence of the Lord and were struck dead for what they did. It was a very serious thing in the way in which you sanctified things and as holy to the Lord.
Understand that if any of those things, that had gone through the extensive process to be cleansed, then came in contact with something that was unclean. It wasn’t that the holiness of those things would lift up and would cleanse or sanctify these unclean things, maybe something that had come into contact with death or leprous people or maybe people who are struggling with different diseases or things along those lines. Rather the unclean things would defile what was holy.
Then what was holy would be defiled and no longer was it set apart is holy until you take it back through the process of making it holy again. Imagine this was happening all the time, again and again. It was a very detailed thing to keep your distance from the profanities of the world so that you could remain clean and so that what was holy could remain holy.
Ancient Israel then had to adopt a very complicated strategy of keeping their distance from the rest of the world. It wasn’t that outsiders couldn’t come in, but Old Covenant faith was a faith that proclaimed, come and see. You can come in, but it’s a very complicated process to get in. We’re not going to come to you because we actually have to protect our holy boundaries, otherwise we might be defiled or profaned. Old Covenant cleanliness and holiness with easily corrupted and profaned. Everything was about coming and seeing the holiness of the Lord in the middle of Israel.
But in the New Covenant everything changed. Think about what a radical thing it was for the holy Son of God to take upon himself a human body. A human body that was liable to becoming profaned.
Think about the company that Jesus kept. Remember he hung out with lepers; they could make you unclean. They had to literally live outside of the city limits and shout unclean to anyone who might come near them because there was a very real threat. By coming in contact with them you would be rendered unclean and have to go through the process of being cleansed again.
Or when he came into contact woman who had the disease of the discharge of blood for so many years. Whe was unclean and yet she reached out and touched the hems of Jesus’ robes. That defiled the tabernacle of the Lord according to Old Testament Israel. But it didn’t defile the New Covenant tabernacle of the Lord, the dwelling place of God in our midst. It didn’t defile Jesus.
His holiness cleansed her. His holiness purified the lepers. Think not just about the people who suffered from diseases but look at this list of sins and verse ten the sexually immoral; Jesus spoke to prostitutes. The greeting the swindlers; Jesus reached out to tax collectors, the epitome of the greedy and a swindlers in their midst.
In verse eleven notice there’s another sin of drunkenness, the drunkards. Jesus was so often associated with the drunkards and the gluttons that they called him one. They said you’re a drunkard and a glutton. It wasn’t that Jesus was taking part in the sin. Jesus absolutely wasn’t, he was calling people to repent from their sins, to come out of their sins through a repentance and faith in him.
Jesus was holy, he never transgressed the law of God whatsoever because he was the lawgiver himself. He loved the law; he loved the holiness of God. But holiness was not defined for Jesus by keeping his distance, otherwise he never would have come into this world. Holiness compelled Jesus to come into a holy world, not for fear that his wobbly holiness would be toppled but rather to make things, clean to make people holy through blood.
When Jesus went to the cross, understand that he was defiled, he was degraded, he was profaned, upon him was the guilt and the curse not of himself but us put on him. The holy God was made sin for us and for our salvation that through his shed blood we might be saved.
What Paul is saying here, and of course Paul himself was always preaching to the rank pagan heathen Gentiles, is that new covenant holiness is no longer about come and see. We will have the doors open and if you care to you can come on inside. Certainly, we invite anyone here. I see we have some visitors here. You’re welcome here wherever you’re coming from.
New Covenant holiness drives us out to fulfill the great commission, go and tell. Don’t be just content to have people come into our midst here, it’s a go and tell gospel faith. Holiness is not defiled when we reach out to even to the rankest most pagan heathens. Holiness compels us to do it. Not to partake of the sin, but to reach out with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ that there is charity, and holiness, and forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus Christ.
It’s not reasonable to try to think that you can avoid all of these different sinners in the world; the sexual immoral, the swindlers, the idolatrous. You would have to go out of the world to do it. Even more than that, new covenant holiness compels you to go out to share the good news of Jesus with them. Holiness reaches out to heathens.
But Paul does have a concern that our holiness as the people of God might be corrupted in some way. It’s not by those people out there Paul says. Shockingly he says the problem isn’t with those people out there, it’s us in here. So, what Paul says is the thing that you really have to look out for isn’t so much for heathens but for hypocrites.
Holiness Rejects Hypocrites
In verse eleven Paul says,
11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. ”1 Corinthians 5:11, ESV
Paul says there is a holiness that we have to be concerned about. It’s not that anyone who sins in any of those ways must be immediately expelled from the church. He is talking about an ongoing unrepentant kind of lifestyle that remains in these sins, remains what we were before coming to Christ rather than becoming who we are in Christ as saints, the holy ones of God.
Now you notice this list is kind of interesting. I would encourage you to look at the sermon notes this week. You can see that I’ve done a bit more work about the various things that are going on in these two lists of sins. There are two more sins, reviler and drunkard are added in the verse eleven to the list that was in verse ten.
The list in verse eleven are all sins, as a Biblical scholar Brian Rosner points out, that correlate to sins that deserve the death penalty in Deuteronomy. In each of the cases where these various sins are listed you get the quotation that we find here at the end of verse thirteen, “purge the evil” or the evil person you can interpret it either way “purge the evil from among you” or from your midst.
Sexual immorality required the death penalty Deuteronomy 22: 21. Idolaters death penalty Deuteronomy 17:3,7. Bearing malicious false witness like the reviler, death penalty Deuteronomy 19:18-19. There was a son who was rebellious and various ways. one of the issues was that he was a drunkard and Deuteronomy 21:2-0-21, that required the death penalty under the old Covenant. Those who are greedy swindlers to the extreme where they steal human beings and sell them into slavery, that also required the death penalty Deuteronomy 24:7. Again each of these ends with, “so you shall purge evil from your midst.”
The point that Paul is making, again don’t forget a few weeks ago when we were talking about this, he’s dealing with someone who persistently remained in an incestuous sinful relationship. The Corinthians were boasting and arrogance as if nothing was wrong, as if they were very spiritual kinds of people.
Looking what was in their midst, Paul was saying you not realize that you can just a little bit of leaven corrupts the whole lump? It takes just a little bit. Remember that leaven, you takes a bit and you let it ferment for a week and it becomes contaminated with all kind of bacteria and mold and then you take that and that’s what you mix in and they use that instead of yeast. The whole loaf would rise, but it also brings the contamination week after week into the next set of bread.
Paul says it just takes a little bit. You’re worried about holiness, that’s a good thing. Your threat is not out there, your threat is in here. Brothers and sisters let’s be very clear, it’s in you and me. Because sometimes we can think that it’s the person sitting over there or doing this over there. This is in you and me. The biggest threat to our and holiness is me. Holiness however rejects hypocrisy and rejects hypocrites.
Holiness Responds to God’s Judgement
What’s the guiding principle though? How should this inform the way we live our lives? This brings us to our third point in verses twelve and thirteen, where we see that holiness responds to God’s judgment.
12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”1 Corinthians 5:12-13, ESV
I have four principles here from the four sentences in verse twelve.
First principle is that we don’t have a responsibility to judge outsiders. Look at verse twelve, first Paul says, “for what have I to do with judging outsiders?” Now understand what the word judge means here. It doesn’t mean that we just give all kinds of tolerance and don’t say that anything that anyone ever does is wrong. It means to pass judgement, to actually render a verdict in a judicial sort of setting.
Earlier Paul use this word to talk about pronouncing judgment, in verse three, on the one who committed the sin sexual sin. He pronounced judgment, it was one judgment of guilt and so the verdict was excommunication. Since we don’t have that kind of role, we aren’t appointed as judges over the world right now. So, we don’t have the responsibility right now to judge outsiders.
Yes, there is much to be concerned about in the wider world. No, this doesn’t mean that we should ignore concerning things within society. Instead it reshapes the way we think about holiness. The issue of holiness does not have to do with those people out there, it has to do with us in here. We do not have a responsibility to judge the outsiders.
The second point is that we do have a responsibility to judge insiders. In the second half of verse twelve Paul says, “is it not this those inside the church who you are to judge?” We don’t pass sentence against those outside the church, but sometimes ongoing unrepentant sin requires that we have to bring formal charges in church discipline against those who persist in their sin. It’s not pleasant, it will tear your heart into pieces as you do it, but sometimes in order for the holiness of the church to be preserved there has to be church discipline that is concerned with our internal holiness. Because only a little leaven leavens the whole lump.
For principal number three look at it verse thirteen, because we have to still ask the question what do we do about unbelievers? What do we do about those who are still in their sin? Look at what Paul says, “God judges those outside.” It doesn’t mean the truth is relative, it doesn’t mean that we should just live and live. It doesn’t mean we should ignore immoralities in the world and pretend that they are fine. It means that rather than pronouncing judgment, our responsibility is to bear witness to God’s coming judgment.
The role that we play isn’t just to pat people on the back and affirm them in their sin. It’s to recognize, like we talked about last week if you are here at the unity service when I preached on 2nd Corinthians chapter four, that the God of this world, Satan, has blinded the minds of unbelievers. They do not know that they are captive and enslaved to sin. They do not see the glory of Jesus Christ to know why they should even want to repent of their sins and follow after Jesus. Just got to announce to proclaim God’s coming judgment.
The fourth principal is we must actively purge hypocrites from our midst. In verse thirteen Paul says, “purge the evil person from among you.” This doesn’t mean that every time someone sins, they’re gone. He’s talking here about someone who persists in their sin, who refuses to repent.
Jesus talks about in Matthew eighteen that it isn’t all or nothing, rather it’s a process you start by approaching someone individually. If that person listens to you fantastic, if they repent that’s the goal. Everything is done. If they don’t listen to you then you bring two or three witnesses along with you. If they don’t listen to them then you begin to tell the church leaders of the church where we can go through formal church discipline processes. The goal is to resolve it on a smallest scale as possible.
That’s the hope and that’s the goal, but when people consistently say both “I am a Christian” and “I can live however I want” Paul says that is a threat to our holiness. We need to be mindful that we need to purge that evil from our midst. It’s a hard text. What do we do with this how do we apply this?
I have three applications as we close today.
- Recognize that God has sent you as an ambassador of the gospel to the very sinners whose lives most offend you. Remember that initial letter I read? Was there a list of people that you thought of? Those are the people whose lives most offend me. Those are the peoples whose lives most conform to the list of sins.
If they’re in the wider world, Jesus Christ hasn’t told you to keep your distance from them. This isn’t just the wait passively model come and see of proclaiming the gospel. We are called to go and tell, therefore go and make disciples of all nations. We are called to go and to tell the good news of Jesus Christ.
If there are those in your families, in your neighborhoods, in your workplace who remain in their sin and even if they’re quite proud of it, remember the god of this world has blinded them. They genuinely do not see what’s going on. Satan has kept a veil over their eyes to keep them from beholding the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ who is the image of God. They cannot see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. They don’t know what they would gain if they repented from what brings them comfort and some measure satisfaction in this life. We are called to pity and to pray for them.
Imagine that your friend or neighbor or family member wasn’t still bound under captivity and their sins, but they work diagnose cancer. They recently got this diagnosis. How would you interact with that person? You’d probably try to find opportunities to help them, right? If you saw that they need to go to the doctor and they’re just two weak to drive there, you would probably give them a ride. If it was summer and their lawn was getting overgrown and you know that they’re still reeling from chemotherapy, you’d probably mow their lawn. You look for opportunities, places where you can help them in the way that they need help.
The same thing is true in the gospel. God has put you in the lives of these people to look for opportunities, sometimes it is to serve them physically with deeds of mercy. But one of the best ways that you can serve them with deeds of mercy for those who are blinded in captive in their sin is to look opportunity where you can begin to share the gospel. You may not get an opportunity to walk all the way from Genesis to Revelation, but just to begin to bear witness to Jesus Christ and to trust that simply sharing the gospel of Jesus in small ways or large ways, whatever Gods gives you opportunity to do so. God uses that and his Spirit takes that and begins to transform the lives and hearts of people by that.
A new covenant holiness compels you in fact to reach out as an ambassador with the gospel of Jesus. Seeking opportunities, wherever you can, to serve them by sharing with them the gospel. Number one, recognized that God has sent you as an ambassador of the gospel to the sinners whose lives most offend you.
- We are called to cleanse out the old leaven. We talked about this a few weeks ago. Individually you and I have to look for these ongoing areas of corruption in our lives. Because what happens is just a little bit of sin that we allowed to take root in our lives begins to permeate and contaminates the rest of us.
We just start over here and we think it’s not that big a deal and what’s happened is that begins to affect it and corrupt the rest of our lives. So that things that we never dreamed we would do, when we were just harboring this one little thing over here begins to have this ongoing pervasive effect on their lives. And in the congregation the same thing is true.
We have to love one another enough to recognize you are ruining your life by what you’re doing. Please come back, repent, turn from your sin to Jesus Christ. We cannot tolerate sin in our midst, not because we are legalistic and judgmental and wanting to constantly be bringing charges against everyone because we just watched a hold our noses up and self-righteous judgementalism. But because we love so much, and we see the truth. We see what people need more than anything is the holiness of Jesus Christ. The problem is in here, the problem is with me. We’ve got to have that attitude as we relentlessly root out our sin. Cleanse out the old leaven because just a little bit of leaven leavens the whole loaf.
- The third application is this. That all of us believers and unbelievers alike need to stand in fear of the coming judgement of God.
What Paul is talking about is a situation, which is still true today, where everything that is happening is provisional. There are some who are excommunicated from the church who recognized, after being delivered over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, they recognize what a foolish mistake they’ve made. They recognize how deep and blinded they were in their sin. So, they repent and come back to Jesus.
We read about such people in verse five earlier, “you deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” People come back okay. But there are some people in this world, who while they profess to believe while they profess that their lives are just fine, are hardening themselves in a kind of sin that we may not even seen in this world.
Understand that God is coming to judge both insiders and outsiders. Judgement will begin with the household of God. We have to be so diligent about cleansing out sin from our midst. We’ve got to be ruthless about that because God is coming as the righteous judge to judge the whole earth. He knows all things. He is from whom nothing is hidden.
He’s coming back in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ who has been given all authority on heaven and on earth and he will judge every last one of us. And that is true even if you don’t believe in Jesus this morning. If you’re an unbeliever know that my job to judge you to pass judgment on you. I’m not here to do that, but I’m also not here to tell you that it’s okay to stand in ongoing unrepentant unbelief against the Lord Jesus Christ. Understand that to be a Christian is not to have your life so well together that God looks at you and says, “Wow that person qualifies to be a Christian.”
See all of us are sinners, all of us have to confess and acknowledge our sin. To be a Christian means to be someone who has been in the midst of these sins listed in these two lists and has acknowledged that and has repented for that and has confessed that before the Lord. To be a Christian is to be someone who goes to Jesus Christ and says, “I understand I have no holiness that can qualify me to stand in your presence Lord. My only hope, my only prayer is that the blood of Jesus would be enough to sanctify and to justify even me. To make me righteous and holy before God.”
The bad news the gospel is that the righteous judge of all the earth is coming. He’s coming one day, and I may not be here to judge you today, but he is coming. You will stand before him and give account before his throne. That is the bad news of the gospel; that you stand condemned. But the good news of the gospel is that God loved sinners so much that he himself came into this world, the Son of God who is God himself, came into this world and took upon a human nature. He didn’t keep his distance from sinners like us.
He pursued us all the way to death, so that he took upon himself the wrath and judgment of God against our sin. And if you right now confess your sins to Jesus Christ and you acknowledge that they are wrong, and you want to turn from them, and you pray right now that God would forgive you for the sake of his son Jesus Christ. Thankfully God promises that he will do that, and he promises that he will begin a process of purging the evil out of your life. Not by your own strength and efforts, but by his grace through the power of the Holy Spirit who will indwell you. The hope of the gospel is that Jesus saves sinners. And that could be true for you this morning if you looked at him in faith.
Let’s pray. Gracious father, we are such an unholy people and yet you tell us that in fact we have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, through the blood of Christ. Not because of anything we have done or learned, but through the blood of Jesus Christ we have been made holy. So father we pray that we would live out the calling that we have on our lives, the calling to be holy ones, saints. Not by our strength but by the grace of the Holy Spirit who lives and indwells us, who gives us Jesus Christ and him crucified. It is this that would be our hope this morning and, in the days to come, and throughout all eternity as we enjoy Jesus Christ more and more. We pray father that Jesus Christ, the judge of all the earth, would come quickly and that he would have mercy on us in recognition that the blood that he shed for us. We pray that if there are those here today who haven’t trusted him that you would prompt their heart by your Spirit to believe in him. In Christ name. Amen.