I have this picture while I am singing of Jesus inviting me to step onto the water with Him.
“Yes Ian I am inviting you to give up trusting in all the “certainties” of this world. Those things which make you feel secure and to step into the unknown, onto water which has no stability in it – which is impossible to do without the miraculous intervention of the One who created it. As you relinquish your hold on the things you rely on you will start to experience the freedom of a relationship with Me where I provide all your stability. Water has so many connotations – it is life-giving and essential for us – yet at the same time it carries the danger of storms and floods and damage and death. But I am the controller of water and walking with Me is the safest place you can ever be. So once again on a daily basis – made that decision to step out of the boat and onto the water with Me.”
As we proceed with 1 Cor from 5:5 we are faced with a few seemingly unrelated matters of questionable behaviour in this church. As I was reading this section it occurred to me that although these particular “offences” were probably unlikely to happen in our church, there were nevertheless some lessons to be learned.
Firstly the classic view of the church is that there are only two types of people one will find in church. Those who have been saved and are part of the kingdom and those who have not yet been saved. Jesus warned His disciples of this and said it was not up to them to separate the wheat from the tares. Yet as I read this section I was again aware that there are often people in the church who one is not sure about. So while it is not up to us to judge we nevertheless need to take heed.
Paul makes no bones about the seriousness of sin and in the section from 5:6 ff he instructs the elders of the church to apply the strictest discipline to a member who is openly sinning. “Expel the offender”. Turning a blind eye to blatant sin in the church will open the door for sin to spread and contaminate the whole church. A little yeast can cause the whole batch to go off. Some who are sinning in the church can divert the whole purpose and power of the Chrurch.
Small quarrels can later lead to great dissension and even ultimately a split. Satan loves this and we have examples all over now and historically of this happening.
Paul comes to the point where he warns the members to avoid contact with others who “call themselves brothers” (5:11) yet behave in a way where their fruit shows that they are actually not saved at all. Now the thought occurred to me, in an ordinary church how do you distinguish the one who is borderline, claiming to be a brother yet living in a way which does not bring glory to Christ, from the one who is saved yet very immature also not producing fruit which honours Christ?
So in a way, the Corinthian church was very similar to our average church. There is obviously a huge time and cultural difference. Yet the way forward is the same for us today. Discipline those who are openly sininig and seek to help those who are weak, to grow. Paul once again uses the reminder in 6:11 of the huge legacy we have as Christians. “washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God”. And further on 6:19 “Do you not know you are a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price”. It is this continual reminder which we should preach to ourselves as we struggle with the wiles of the devil and our own inner thoughts dragging us away from Jesus to prevent ourselves from slipping away.
Finally there is a huge warning in 6:12, “Everything is permissible for me” – but not everything is beneficial ……….etc. Paul is obviously repeating sayings going through the church with these comments. They were seemingly claiming the Gnostic teaching that what we do with our body does not affect our soul. But this highlights an attitude by many Christians who try and walk as close to the edge without stepping over it, as they can. The attitude that our sin is forgiven and therefore we may behave in a certain way. It is a hugely perilous place to be, because the chance of slipping over the edge is always there.
It is far better to be in the position where we are secure in Christ. Where we are keeping our relationship with Him dynamic. Where we can freely produce the fruit of the Spirit because we are walking the gospel road with Him. Flirting with sin has caused the downfall of many brothers and sisters in the past.
Does this only affect others, I asked myself? Then I decided that I should take heed of this warning myself. I was also reminded again of the importance of the “Body of Christ” functioning as a unit to God’s glory. Encourage those who are struggling and preaching the gospel to those who have not yet entered the kingdom and joined the mighty throng who will one day be worshipping Christ and singing His praises.
Let us all get a new vision of the importance of the Church where we are part of God’s family and vitally interact with each other’s for benefit and the glory of God.