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LESSON 5 - REVIVING CHRISTIAN IDENTITY (1 CORINTHINAS 5 & 6)

Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations
from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes
the teacher uses a blackboard. 

INTRODUCTION: This week Paul writes a great deal about the
believer's approach to the sexual immoral church member, and a
little bit about lawsuits between believers. Since I have rarely
seen lawsuits between church members, but have more often faced the
issue of how to relate to the sexually immoral, we will concentrate
on Paul's advice on sexual immorality.

I. JUDGMENT

     A. Paul has an apparent conflict between what we studied last
     week and what we are studying this week. Turn with me first to
     1 Corinthians 5:12-13.

          1. Are we to judge the sexually immoral? (Yes. v.12)

          2. What is the extent of our "jurisdiction" for judgment?
          (Those inside the church. We have no business judging
          those outside of the church. That is within the
          "jurisdiction" of God. vv.12&13)

          3. Now read 1 Corinthians 4:5. We agreed last week that
          we were not to judge because: a) that was God's work; and
          b) we cannot know a person's motives. Can you reconcile
          this seemingly inconsistent advice from Paul?

               a. Let me make it worse. In 4:3 Paul seems to say
               the problem is judging him. Does Paul tell the
               Corinthians they are not to judge him, but must
               judge each other?

               b. Is this a standard with which we can all be
               comfortable: you are not to judge me, but I can
               judge you?
 
     (I read seven commentaries on 1 Corinthians, and not one
     mentioned, much less tried to explain, this apparent
     contradiction. I think the answer turns on what is being
     judged. In 1 Corinthians 4:5 Paul is talking about members
     judging the motives and relative standing of the leaders of
     the church. He never says (in that context) he is being
     accused of sin.  The Corinthians are asked not to judge
     relative "goodness." On the other hand, the judgment called
     for in 1 Corinthians 5:12, is open sin that is not even
     accepted by pagans (5:1).  Therefore, I think that when it
     comes to judging the "performance" of church leaders this is
     different than judging open sin.  Paul urges us to leave the
     judgment of "goodness" to God because we cannot know the
     motives of the heart.  But for open (and undisputed) sin, of
     the kind that brings disrepute to the church even among
     unbelievers, he says that we must act to keep the church
     pure.)

               c. Do you think "motivation" is an issue in judging
               open sin?

II. SEXUAL IMMORALITY

     A. Now let's get into the substance of Paul's advice. Read 1
     Corinthians 5:1-3. What is the sin here? Is this fellow having
     sex with his mother? (Paul does not say this fellow's
     "mother," but his "father's wife."  My guess is (the
     commentaries are in dispute on the nature of the relationship)
     that this fellow has an informal sexual relationship with the
     wife of his late father.  The word "has" ("ekho") (as in "has
     his father's wife") is the same word used in John 4:18 when
     Jesus met the woman at the well who had five husbands and
     Jesus said "the man you now have ["ekho"] is not your
     husband.")

     B. Whatever the exact nature of this sin, can we be sure it is
     one that we would all agree is sinful? (Yes. Paul says that
     this sin would not occur "among pagans."  Robertson's
     commentary (Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament)
     reports in the context of these verses that the word
     "Corinthianize" meant to live in sexual wantonness and
     license.  It is like saying today he is a "Playboy."  The
     pagan standard for comparison was very low, and Paul said that
     even the "lowlife" would not do this!)

     C. What is the attitude of the Corinthian church in this?
     (Verse 2 says they are "proud.")

          1. How could they be "proud" of a sin which the pagan
          Corinthians think is wrong?

          2. And, how do you explain 1 Corinthians 1:2 where Paul
          says that this church is "sanctified in Christ Jesus and
          called to be holy?" (I do not think they are proud of the
          sin. Their pride (arrogance) makes them hard to teach. I
          am grateful to see that a group with this kind of serious
          problem is still "sanctified in Christ and called to be
          holy.")

          3. Which sin is worse: sexual immorality or pride?

     D. Read 1 Corinthians 5:4-5.  What is Paul's prescription for
     this situation? (Throw the bum out.)

          1. Is this to keep the church pure and save its
          reputation?
 
          2. Or is this in the best interest of the sinning man?
          (I think Paul suggests that by throwing the man out of
          the church, his sin will become clear to him (or he will
          sink deeper into sin) and will eventually see his need
          for repentance. Compare the story of the prodigal son.
          (Luke 15 generally and especially, 15:17)

          3. Is this true today?  Which is more redemptive: to
          throw the sinner out of church, or, with love and
          patience, hope they will change?

               a. Does it depend upon the person?

               b. Does it also depend upon the nature of the sin?
               (Consider what Paul did here. There were two sins:
               the sexual sin of the man, and the pride of the
               church who tolerated this. Paul did not throw out
               the whole church!  He treated these sins
               differently.)

          4. Let's revisit the pride v. sexual sins question I
          asked you moments ago. Do you think that pride is worse
          than sexual sins for the very reason that sexual sins
          seem sinful? (The person involved in sexual sin is more
          likely to "wake up" and realize his sin.  Pride, on the
          other hand, is nearly hopeless because it keeps you from
          seeing your sin.)

               a. Agree?

               b. If what I just said is true, why "keep" in church
               those who had the more intractable sin (pride) and
               "throw out" the one who had the more treatable sin
               (sexual immorality)? (Consider two possible
               answers. First, different sin merits different
               treatment. "Throwing out the sexual sinner" is the
               right treatment to bring him back. Throwing out the
               proud, will probably further harden their heart.
               Second, the "proud" wanted to do God's will, they
               just did not realize the condition of their heart.
               The sexual sinner was a rebel.)

               c. Jump ahead with me to 1 Corinthians 6:15-20.
               Read. Which do these verses say is the worse sin:
               pride or sexual immorality? (Verse 18 seems to say
               that sexual sins are the worst!)

                    (1) Why? (Paul creates this logical syllogism:

                         (a) You are part of the body of Christ;

                         (b) When you have sex, your body becomes
                         "one" with the other person (Gen. 2:24);

                         (c) Therefore, if you have sex with a
                         prostitute, Christ becomes "one" with the
                         prostitute.)

                    (2) Does Paul's argument make sense to you?
                    (Don't worry if your class members are sliding
                    under the pews at this point. Seriously, this
                    same theme is argued in Proverbs 5 (see
                    especially, vv. 16-18)  What makes sexual sins
                    so bad is that it involves the generation of
                    life. You share your life with the prostitute
                    (or Proverbs 5, the public). Between the AIDS
                    and abortion epidemics (for every two children
                    born alive, one is aborted) can anyone doubt
                    Paul's statement "he who sins sexually sins
                    against his own body?" (v.18))

III. DOUGHBOY, DOUGHGIRL AND DOUGHCHURCH
 
     A. Now lets go back to chapter 5. Read 1 Corinthians 5:6-8.
     What is Paul's meaning about a "little yeast?" ("Yeast" (or
     leaven) is a term that Jesus used to describe sin or sinful
     teachings. In Luke 12:1 He said the "yeast" of the Pharisees
     was "hypocrisy."  In Matthew 16:11-12 Jesus calls "the
     teachings" of the Pharisees and Sadducees "yeast." 1
     Corinthians 5:8 calls "yeast" "malice and wickedness.")

          1. Is the "yeast" also part of what Paul called (1
          Corinthians 1:2) "sanctified...and called to be holy?"
          (No! In 5:7 he says "you really are" a "batch without
          yeast." Paul is not sanitizing serious sexual sins.
          Instead, he is calling the church to be holy.)

          2. Notice in v.6 Paul complains about their "boasting."
          What are they boasting about?  Are they boasting about
          this man's sin? (They are boasting that they are good
          guys (remember our discussion about the v.2 reference to
          being "proud"). They think they are fine and can ignore
          this one fellow.)

               a. What does Paul mean in v.6 "a little yeast works
               through the whole batch of dough? (Ignoring open
               sin in the church tends to corrupt the entire
               church.)

               b. Does this counsel apply to our church today?

IV. SHUNNING?

     A. Read 1 Corinthians 5:9-11.  From time to time in the media
     we hear of some "peculiar" church which "shuns" sinners.

          1. Does Paul require this?

          2. How is this consistent with a redemptive spirit?

          3. Let me shoot you between the eyes. Is it important to
          you to have more money?  If you had more money, would you
          worry less? If you said, "yes" to either of these
          questions, are you not "greedy" (wanting more) or an
          idolater (depending upon something other than God)?

               a. If I am not describing you (beware of pride!), do
               you know someone in the church who should say "yes"
               to either of these questions?

               b.  Do you "associate" with that person? (Since Paul
               is writing to sinners, he obviously cannot be
               counselling the church to throw out everyone who
               has sin.  This would tear the church apart. It
               seems reasonable, from what he says and the context
               of what he says, to believe that he is talking
               about sins that have reached a serious stage: a
               stage that is hurting the church.)

V. LAWSUITS

     A. Read 1 Corinthians 6:1-6. Summarize Paul's advice about
     suing fellow members of the church? (Have church members
     adjudicate disputes; do not bring shame on the gospel by going
     to unbelievers to settle disputes.)

          1. Is this an "ironclad" rule?

               a. What if insurance is involved?

               b. What if you live in a "Christian nation?" (Our
               situation is not the same as that in Corinth.
               However, the idea that we should not bring shame on
               the church by bringing our disputes before
               unbelievers is an eternal principle. Without going
               into detail, I think that even insurance companies
               would agree to an "alternative dispute resolution"
               such as contractual arbitration.)

VI. SORTING OUT THE "GRAY AREAS"

     A. I do not want to close without briefly considering 1
     Corinthians 6:12. Read. How do you decide what to do about
     questions that do not seem to have a clear Biblical answer?
     What standard do you use (other than we have a "rule" against
     that)? (Paul is making the greater point in v.12 about sexual
     immorality, but the small point I think is of extreme
     importance. For example, smoking is not even mentioned, let
     alone discussed, in the Bible. The "standard" answer to
     smoking is 1 Corinthians 6:19 ("Your body is a temple...").
     As we have seen, v.19 refers to sexual immorality and any
     other application fails to properly consider the context. The
     proper test to apply in these areas not clearly covered by the
     Bible, according to v.12, is this: "Is this beneficial?"  No
     matter what the theological debate, no matter what the
     problem, almost every "gray area" can be dealt with by asking
     yourself if involvement in that activity is beneficial to the
     kingdom or to you.)

VII. NEXT WEEK: CHRISTIAN SEXUALITY.  Oh boy! Study! p;   Bible, according to v.12, is this: "Is this beneficial?"  No
     matter what the theological debate, no matter what the
     problem, almost every "gray area" can be dealt with by asking
     yourself if involvement in that activity is beneficial to the
     kingdom or to you.)

VII. NEXT WEEK: CHRISTIAN SEXUALITY.  Oh boy! Study!