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Keeping Your Distance

The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5, is dealing with the matter of how carnal Christians are to be treated.  In many cases, we find ourselves off the track of God’s will in our generation.  There are times we either totally ignore sin in the church, or we kick people out of our fellowship.

As we’ve seen through these last few posts, Paul was not endorsing either of these options.  Instead, he tells mature believers to take authority over the situation in the spirit.

Now Paul shows us the way a carnal believer should be treated on a personal level.

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters.  In that case you would have to leave this world.  But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler.  With such a man do not even eat.
1 Corinthians 5:9-11

Once someone has been identified as a carnal believer who has no desire for repentance, the work of restoration begins.  There must be intercession in the spirit for this person.  But that alone is not enough.

It’s the love shown to them that will draw them closer to God.  That’s why an understanding of this passage is so vital to church leadership.

The word, associate, in the passage literally means an intimate friendship.  It speaks of a mixing together of two lives.  It’s not referring to a casual acquaintance.

Paul is not telling us to cut all ties with this person.  Instead, we’re to love them back to the cross.  We can treat them in a friendly way without being best friends with them.  The goal is for them to desire a closer walk with God without their lifestyle or attitudes rubbing off on us.

The subject of eating together also needs to be addressed.  In our fast-paced society, meeting someone to discuss business over lunch has no intimate associations at all.  When Paul wrote this, eating together was a long process that usually meant a close, intimate friendship.

The key is that we’re not to develop an intimate friendship with carnal believers.  This goes right along with what Christ taught concerning those in unrepentant sin.  Look at what Christ says to do after repeatedly trying to restore this person.

If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Matthew 18:17

I’ve seen people who use this verse to kick members out of their church.  Let’s understand what Jesus is saying here.

I think that I can sum it up in two simple questions.  How did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors?  Did He shun and exclude them or did He spend time with them in order to bring restoration?  I think the answers are obvious.

The Pharisees judged people for their sins and had them expelled from the synagogue.  Jesus loved people and spent time with them to bring them nearer to God.  Would you rather your life imitate Christ or a Pharisee?

It’s time that the church started to deal with sin in a scriptural, Christ-like way.  Our goal should be healing and restoration for the body of Christ.

Question: How have you seen scriptural restoration exemplified?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2019 in Fellowship, Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Discipline or Restoration

We’re continuing our look at Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  I have to warn you!  As we start chapter 5, Paul gets very practical about subjects many believers would rather not talk about.  These were real issues that the churches of his day were dealing with.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife.  And you are proud!  Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?
1 Corinthians 5:1-2

This verse creates a lot of problems for church leadership.  How are we to apply it in our generation?

When it was written, there were no denominations.  There was only one church in the town of Corinth.  People didn’t pick and choose churches based upon personal preference.

Today, in our sexually permissive society, there are believers who are following the ways of the world.  Sexual activity outside of marriage is common.  In many cases, if a Christian was approached by an elder in Christ who lovingly explains the error of such a lifestyle, they would be offended.

“How dare you condemn me?  What I do is none of your business.  I’m going to find a church that will accept me the way I want to live.”

That thought scares a lot of Christian leaders.  They don’t want to lose any of their members.  But there is a response that brings about God’s will.

First, we need to understand that the word proud is the same word translated as arrogance in chapter 4.  The leaders in this church were confident in their own ways.  They were blind to anything else going on around them.

According to Paul, there should have been a spiritual response.  We get the wrong idea because of the English words used to translate this verse.  “Put out of your fellowship” is actually “lift away”.  So the keywords of our response are to mourn and lift away.

This type of mourning is a sorrow that inspires action.  The action is to lift away the one living a life that’s inappropriate for a Christian.  This word lift is used in a number of ways.  I believe in this instance it means lifting up to God.

The apostles were commanded by the Jewish rulers not to heal or preach in the name of Jesus.

When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.  “Sovereign Lord” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.”
Acts 4:24

Too many leaders think that the response to sin in the life of believers is a knee jerk reaction to throw them out of the church.  Instead, it should be mourning and a desire to see God’s power at work to restore this person.

If I burn my finger by touching something hot, my reaction is to pull it away from danger.  I put it to my mouth or under cold water.  My response is not to cut it off because it touched something it shouldn’t have.  My goal is that it be healed and restored to its normal function.

When we lift the offending person to God, we pray for their restoration.  We also pray for wisdom in dealing with them.  It’s very likely that the Holy Spirit will send one of us to talk to them.

However, the goal of the talk is restoration, not discipline.  We’re not going to spank them, but to heal them.  Attitude is everything.  Of course, even done in love, not all help is accepted – especially in regards to sin.

I believe that the body of Christ needs to relearn how to handle sinful lifestyles.  Not ignoring, yet not condemning.  That combination requires leaders who spend quality time in the presence of the Lord.

Question: How have you seen problems like this handled in the church?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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