Sunday Afternoon Musings

Walking in Holiness

The following is a brief article from Kairos Journal and it is well worth some patient thought and reflection. The first sentence is a powerful sounding of alarm. It sits in my spirit like the blowing of a loud trumpet. Pray that the Church in America would seek purity, holiness, and righteousness over popularity, humor, and comfortable relationships. [Bold emphasis and bracketed comments are added.]

Not Even Among Pagans!

1 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 (NIV)

The Church’s prophetic voice depends on her purity. If the Church fails to deal decisively with sin in her own ranks, she loses the right to speak to the world at all. For no society will listen to a church which has nothing different to offer.

Paul had received reports of a man in the Corinthian church having an affair with his father’s wife. The woman to whom Paul refers was not the man’s mother. He uses the language of Leviticus 18:8, which forbids sexual relations with “his father’s wife.” If the woman had been the man’s mother, the apostle would have used the language of Leviticus 18:7, which forbids that sin specifically. The woman, therefore, was probably the man’s step-mother.

The man’s sin was one “that does not occur even among pagans!” The Greeks called sexual immorality porneia, which had a wide range of meaning covering all extramarital sexual acts [including homosexual sex and premarital sex]. Their moral standards were notoriously low: adultery and fornication were considered by many to be a gentleman’s right. Corinth was especially infamous for its sexual license. People traveled hundreds of miles to take part in the orgies at the Temple of Aphrodite, which rested on a commanding hill, the Acrocorinth. In time, the city was even honored with its own Greek verb: korinthiazomai, “to fornicate.” Yet even these shameless pagans, Paul says, would have been scandalized by a man’s affair with his father’s wife.

Paul upbraids the church for tolerating such an astonishing sin. Instead of being “proud” that they were so “liberated,” they ought to have been “filled with grief” and stricken with shame. Failing to discipline a notorious sinner among them, the church had compromised her witness. The embarrassment was enormous. Paul himself was forced to intervene with apostolic authority—and that by a formal letter—to rebuke them. Moreover, the church’s reputation in Corinth was irreparably damaged. How could she preach against the world’s sins while she celebrated the very same within her own fellowship?

Jesus Himself gave the Church guidelines for dealing with sin in the ranks. In Matthew 18:15-17, He prescribed a step by step approach, starting with discreet counsel. Quiet restoration was His goal: public embarrassment and dismissal were the last resort [but still in the arsenal].

Those who are enthusiastic for church discipline are likely strangers to it, for it can be an agonizing process, as trying to the church as to the one being disciplined. But the pastor who shrinks from it at every turn suffers an even greater sorrow, shared responsibility for a diluted and polluted church.

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