Theology is thinking about God. When humans think wrong thoughts about God, bad behavior is the result.
Paul devoted the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians to correct the way the fledgling church thought about God.
Their arrogance, status-seeking, and acceptance of the norms of Corinthian culture had a negative effect on their behavior.
— 1 Corinthians 5.1-2 – It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife.
And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you?
How could it be that such offensive behavior was tolerated by the church?
(1) Corinthian culture permitted men to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage. There was no shame attached to such behavior.
Women did not receive the same treatment. They were expected to be faithful to their husbands for life.
(2) It is difficult for modern audiences to understand how status and wealth shaped life in the first century.
The powerful, wealthy, and high-status persons were virtually exempt from criticism and shame.
Women, children, and slaves were the typical objects of shame in Corinth.
If the man who was having sexual relations with his stepmother was a high-status person, it would be hard for the church to bring him to task.
(3) Life expectancy was short in the first century. In addition, women were married at a very early age.
It is possible that the man’s stepmother was near his age.
Despite the circumstances and despite the rationalizations of the church, God’s word highly objected to the man’s behavior.
“Cursed be anyone who lies with his father’s wife, because he has violated his father’s rights” (Deuteronomy 27.20).
One of Paul’s major themes is the issue of pride and arrogance. A wrong theology that accepts pride and arrogance will produce behavior that exceeds the respectability of pagans.
I have written in other articles that church attendance has dropped from 34% to 17% in the 50 years I have been in the ministry. What is worse is that church attendance among young adults is 7% in 2021.
There are several factors involved in these despairing numbers. I believe one troubling problem is how the message of Christ does not match the behavior of his followers.
The church should mourn and repent over shameful behavior that often reaches the media and shocks the “pagans” of America.
For the sake of the church, the man was to be disciplined.
— 1 Corinthians 5.3-5 – For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing.
When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus,
You are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
To “hand the man over to Satan” was the equivalent of ex-communication. The man would no longer be welcome to attend house church meetings. He would be excluded from any church fellowship.
The shame of exclusion was intended to shock the man into repentance.
Difficult, but Necessary
As we return to the subject of bad theology – pride, arrogance, and boasting – we recall that it produces bad behavior.
— 1 Corinthians 5.6-8 – Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?
Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.
Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
I have refrained from listing what I believe are the many problems that the church in America faces.
The point I’d like to emphasize is that arrogant bad behavior needs to be removed from our lives.
It should be replaced by humble, sincere, and truthful obedience to the Lord.
Prayer for Ukraine
Please join me in praying Psalm 5 for the war in Ukraine. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct and empower your prayer for this situation.
Consider these words in the light of Paul’s strong words to the church in Corinth.
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil will not sojourn with you.
The boastful will not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful. (Psalm 5.4-6)
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me. (Psalm 5.8)
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
so that those who love your name may exult in you. (Psalm 5.11)
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube. Rudy adds insights that you will appreciate.
Please email your prayer request to email@example.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.