The Christian community is called to be “salt” and “light” in a dark and tasteless world (Matthew 5.13-16).
Paul definitely wanted the church to be an alternative to the pagan views of Corinth, but he never taught that they should legislate change in the Roman Empire.
— 1 Corinthians 5.9-10 – I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons –
Not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world.
Paul’s counsel is a continuation of his admonition to the congregation that they ex-communicate a man who was living with his step-mother (1 Corinthians 5.1-8).
He did not intend for the 60 members of the church to set the standards for the 50,000 inhabitants of Corinth.
They were to live a Jesus-kind-of-life and be an example of an attractive way of life. However, Paul did not propose a plan for the church to legislate Christian morality in the city.
At a time of culture wars in America, we do well to ask ourselves whether the church should focus on “hot button” culture issues or on their living like Jesus.
Paul’s Standard of Ethics
Jesus’ obedience to the Father was the lifestyle that Paul wanted to be imitated in Corinth. This is evident from his teaching in the first four chapters of the letter.
The practical application of his message was to hold the members of the church to a high ethical standard.
— 1 Corinthians 5.11 – But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one.
Paul’s emphasis is on the behavior of fellow members of the family of God. In his letters, he often made lists of acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
— Sexually immoral – This includes all forms of sexual activity outside of marriage. Prostitution and fornication are two key translations of the word.
— Greedy – Some words that translate this Greek word are avarice, grasping, predatory, covetous, and swindlers.
Greedy people have an excessive or insatiable desire for wealth or gain.
— Idolater – An idol is anything we substitute for God.
Whatever we rely on instead of God is an idol.
— Reviler – This person uses insults to injure someone’s reputation. They use insults to abuse other people.
— Drunkard – Drunkards are people who have no control over the use of alcohol.
— Robber – Greek definitions for robber are: rapacious, ravenous; a robber, an extortioner.
Rapacious people are “excessively grasping or covetous,” according to Webster’s Dictionary. They live off of the prey whom they swindle.
I have emphasized this list because the church has often criticized the sins that we don’t commit while minimizing the sins that we do.
Like the man who stood on top of another to make himself look taller, we must ask if we focus on some sins in others to excuse those of our own.
Sweep in front of your own doorstep.
If everyone swept the ground in front of their own doorstep, the whole city would be clean.
Paul used similar logic with the church in Corinth.
— 1 Corinthians 5.12-13 – For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge?
God will judge those outside.
I wonder what Paul would say to leaders of the culture wars in America.
Would he join with Peter and say, “For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God” (1 Peter 4.17)?
My opinion is that legalism always fails to achieve its aim.
I believe it is impossible to legislate morality, especially when we are dealing with the world’s system under the influence of the evil one.
When Jesus’ followers begin to live the Jesus-kind-of-life, we will testify to the transforming power of the Savior.
When our witness is received by faith, people will experience the grace of God and be transformed by the indwelling Spirit.
The church is to exercise grace toward outsiders, but enforce standards and boundaries with members.
Paul emphasized discipline for the offending member. “Drive out the wicked person from among you” (1 Corinthians 5.13).
Prayer for Ukraine
Members of the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches populate Russia and Ukraine.
For many years, Missouri Baptists were partners with Baptists in Belarus.
Christian aid agencies frequently appear in the news coverage of the refuge crisis.
Poland has experienced a resurgence of the Roman Catholic Church.
If we think culture wars are intense in America, imagine the sentiments of church leaders in the “hot” war in Ukraine.
Paul’s message about idolatry, placing loyalty to the nation above devotion to God’s kingdom, needs to penetrate the hearts of church leaders.
Please pray for God’s people to overcome the temptation to be more devoted to nationalism than to Christ.
Ask God to give them the ability to hear what the Spirit is saying to them.
Also, ask God to give them grace as they are ministering to the suffering of their countries.
Rudy Ross and I produce a daily video on 1 Corinthians. Rudy has insights you will want to see. The video is on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
Please email your prayer request to firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.