A Little Leaven

Monday, May 18, 2015, 5:28 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Draw Me Close to You.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Corinthians 5 (NASB).

You Have Not Mourned (vv. 1-2)

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.

This immorality was going on within the church. Evidently the man was a Christian, for he was within the fellowship of the believers. He had either married his step-mother or else he was just sleeping with her (or possibly with his mother). We don’t know if his father was still alive and, if so, if he was divorced from his wife. What we do know is that this man, who was within the fellowship of believers in Christ, was committing incest, and this was a sin that was not even practiced among the unsaved. So, this man was acting worse than those who made no profession of faith in Christ at all, which made it all the more detestable.

The even sadder reality of the whole situation is that this local body of believers, as one united body, possibly, though not necessarily including every individual within the fellowship, did nothing to correct this situation, so obviously they knew about it. The immorality must have been out in the open. Yet, the church did not mourn over the situation at all, it appears, but instead they were proud (arrogant). It may not be that they were proud that the man was committing this sin, but they were proud of themselves as a local fellowship of believers, kind of like what we might see today when people put bumper stickers on their motor vehicles announcing what church they attend.

Though we know this existed within this church at this time, it appears that this was not the norm, for they had very strict rules of church discipline which the apostles took care to make sure were upheld and practiced. Yet, I do believe that the Corinthian church struggled with this sin of sexual immorality, perhaps on a larger scale than the church in other areas.

So, how might this apply to the church today, particularly here in America? I believe the church in America, as one united body, though not necessarily including every individual within the body of Christ here, is much like this Corinthian church that did not mourn over this man’s sin, and that did nothing to correct the situation, and yet were proud of themselves as a local congregation. And, this situation is getting much worse (on the decline) at a very rapid rate in present day America. Sin abounds unchecked within the church and within the church leadership, and is even glorified within a worldly church which is entertained by the sinful practices of the world around them, and which even uses this ungodly entertainment within the church to attract the world to their meetings.

Not only do they not mourn over their sins, but they ostracize, marginalize and criticize those who do, and thus they push those who do out the door, because they “don’t fit” with the “church’s” business plan, goals and objectives for “their church.”

In other words, instead of mourning over sin and removing from their midst those who are living in willful sin and rebellion against God, so that they may be purged of the sin, they are removing those who stand against such sin, and who are calling out for the church to repent and to turn back to God. Why? Because we might offend people with the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and they may not come back. And, because the church of today, for the most part, is not targeting mature followers of Christ, as those they want to include within their fellowships, but they have as their target audience the people of the world who know little of Christ and the Word, I believe, because they are easy targets to mold in this new way of doing “church,” which is really not about the body of Christ or about Christ.

Boasting Not Good (vv. 3-8)

For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

So, what does it mean to hand someone “over to Satan”? I believe it means to let the person go from the fellowship of believers, to let them do what they have determined in their mind to do, so that hopefully they will learn the errors of their ways and will come back to Christ and to the fellowship of the believers. I believe we should first take the appropriate (Biblical) steps to try to restore this person to fellowship with Christ and with the body (See Gal. 6:1-2). Yet, if they refuse to repent of (turn from) their sin, then the church leadership should remove them from the fellowship, not only so that they will hopefully come to their senses and will realize the error of their ways, and turn, but for the sake of the body of Christ, so that the whole body is not influenced and led astray into sin, thinking that it is ok because it goes on unchecked and nothing is done about it.

Harmful Associations (vv. 9-13)

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 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. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.

So, how can we practically apply the teachings in these verses to our lives and church today? There are two situations here to consider: ONE is our relationships with those outside of faith in Jesus Christ, and TWO is our associations with believers who are living in open rebellion and in willful and unrepentant sin against God.

One: Associations with unbelievers living sinful lifestyles is permitted, otherwise, if not, we would have to leave the world, because we must work, shop, and attend school with unbelievers, and we must live among those who do not believe in Jesus Christ. So, at what level are such associations permissible? For one, we know that we are to go out into the world and to make followers of Christ of people of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey Christ and his commandments (his instructions to his followers). We know that we are to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth and that we are to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with unbelievers so that they may be saved. And, we know that we are to love people with the love of Christ, so we should be deliberate about these things.

Yet, how close is too close? Some people claim that Jesus Christ was a friend of sinners and that he spent a lot of time with them, hanging out with them and eating with them, and so they use this as an excuse to just hang out with non-believers and to do the things that they do. For one, scripture does not teach that Jesus was a friend of sinners. He said he was wrongfully accused of such. It does say he came to save sinners, though, which means he was deliberate in his witnessing and in his teaching them about salvation and the life they could have via faith in Jesus Christ, but also of the cost of being one of his followers, i.e. that they must leave their lives of sin behind them, and they must follow him in obedience.

So, what about us? How close is too close for us? We read this in 2 Co. 6:14-16:

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,

“I will dwell in them and walk among them;
And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
“Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord.
“And do not touch what is unclean;
And I will welcome you.
(cf. Rev. 18; Jas. 4:1-10; 1 Jn. 2:15-17)​

Basically, what this means is that we should not have close, intimate friendships with the people of this world so that we end up participating with them in their sinful ways. As God’s people, we are to be holy. “Holy” means to be set apart from (unlike) the world because we are becoming like Christ. We are not to be friends with the world. We are not to love the world of sin nor the things in the world, but not just material things, but the attitudes, values, morals, philosophies and behaviors of this sinful world. Not loving those things means we should also not be entertained by them via TV, movies, the internet, and the like. There is no fellowship (kinship, friendship) between this sinful world and the life of the believer who is unlike the world because he is becoming like Christ. Yet, we should love the people of this world, and we should show them the love of Jesus and be a good neighbor.

Two: We, as the body of Christ, are not to associate with anyone who calls himself a follower of Christ but is living a sinful lifestyle. I believe this goes back to the original thought in this passage which is that the church, in ignoring sin within the church, and in still offering the hand of fellowship to those knowingly and willfully living in open rebellion against God, who are not willing to repent of their sin, thus gives approval to the sin which then allows the leaven of evil to permeate throughout the whole body, infecting everyone else, and possibly leading others down the same path of degradation.

We can’t always remove ourselves individually from all associations with such people, though, because they are in the church, out in the workplace, at school, in stores, in our families and in our communities, and because we are supposed to hopefully lead them to turn from their sinful ways, and to return to Christ (See: Jas. 5:19-20; Gal. 6:1-2). And, within the church, not all of us are in such a position of authority to be able to remove such a one from the fellowship. Nonetheless, we can, as much as it is within our power and control to do so, not fellowship with those who profess faith in Christ and yet are openly and blatantly living in sin, not because we hate them, and not because we are trying to punish them, but by close association with them we give our stamp of approval on their lifestyle, and also we may be influenced to join with them in their sinful path. Instead, we need to walk in close fellowship with our Lord, and lead others out of sin to following Christ Jesus.

Draw Me Close To You / Donnie McClurkin

Draw me close to You
Never let me go
I lay it all down again
To hear You say that I'm Your friend

You are my desire
And no one else will do
'Cause nothing else can take Your place
To feel the warmth of Your embrace

Help me find a way
Bring me back to You