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.
–1 Corinthians 5:12-13
Paul had to clarify something about his judgment against the Corinthian Christian who was caught up in sin. He said, “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” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10). Before Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he wrote another letter to the church that has since been lost. He was saying, “In my last letter when I wrote, ‘Do not associate with immoral people,’ I was not talking about non-Christians; I was talking about immoral Christians.”
The Corinthians had misunderstood what Paul said. They were trying to withdraw from having any contact with unbelievers. No, the kind of immoral sinners we are to withdraw from are professing Christians. Look at verses 11-13: “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.”
Most of us want to judge the sins of non-Christians but pass over the sins of fellow Christians. But judging unbelievers is not our calling. God says if you want to judge somebody, judge the immoral Christian who is living within your midst.
Let me share two principles from this case study of church discipline. First, sin in the church should be confronted firmly yet lovingly. The Corinthians had made so many compromises with sin that they had lost their influence in the city. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5:13: “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” We are to confront sin, but when we do, the goal is not condemnation; it is restoration.
Second, sin in our own lives should be confronted honestly and quickly. The only way for the church to remain pure is for the members of the church to be pure. Just as the Israelites looked in their homes for any trace of leaven and swept it out, we ought to ask the Holy Spirit to shine His spotlight into the deepest recesses of our hearts and make us aware of anything in our lives that is displeasing to God. And when we find that little bit of sin, we need to deal with it decisively.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Caring Enough to Confront” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.