February 25, 2024 | Doug Sauder
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“For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”—1 Corinthians 5:3–5 (NKJV)
Yesterday, we saw Paul addressing the presence of sexual sin within the Church of Corinth. But today, we’re going to take a close look at the prescription Paul gives the Corinthians for dealing with this sin.
As a reminder, a man was engaged in a sexual relationship with his father’s wife. Everyone knew about this, yet nobody was willing to do anything about it. So, Paul tells them what has to happen: This man was to “be taken away from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:2 NKJV). Physically removing him from the rest of the Church body was the only acceptable course of action. There was no Plan B.
“Wait a minute, that seems harsh! Aren’t Christians supposed to be forgiving, and isn’t the church supposed to be a place of unconditional love?” I’m sure some of us were already asking these questions before even reading them. This is why we need to examine what Paul says next here, because it goes a long way in answering these questions.
Forgiveness is not the same thing as restoration. A Christian is to forgive in all instances in the sense that they release any grievance someone else causes them. We recognize that God forgave our eternal debt of sin on the cross, so who are we to withhold the forgiveness of earthly debts others cause us? We release the temptation to cling to bitterness and anger because we’ve been released from bondage to these things in Christ. But restoration, making things right with those who wrong us, requires the offender to repent and do what they need to do towards us.
We can forgive someone without being fully restored to them, and that’s what Paul is describing here. He’s saying the offender needs to be removed, not in the spirit of unforgiveness, but in the spirit of restoration. The short-term act of putting them out is motivated by the long-term hope they’ll eventually see and do what they need to do, spiritually. Their flesh is afflicted so their spirit can be saved—the temporary suffers so the eternal can be saved and restored.
It was a drastic measure, but also a loving one. What’s more loving, to turn a blind eye to something that leads someone deeper into destruction or to intervene and do what’s clearly better for them (and everyone else) in the end? Love does what is difficult when it has to, and this is what was needed for the man in sin, as well as the Church around him. The goal was restoration, but the step of repentance couldn’t be skipped, and removal moved him closer to repentance.
Is there something or someone that needs to be removed from our lives, but we’re too timid to do it? Are we settling for something in the short-term at the expense of our long-term? Let’s flip that equation and ask God to give us the resolve to remove!
Pause: What underlying motive did Paul have in telling the Corinthians to remove this man from their midst?
Practice: Think about the last time you made a difficult decision in the short-term for the sake of the long-term. How did it turn out? What lessons did it teach you?
Pray: Father, I need to see things in light of their long-term consequences. Help me to look past the immediate and to consider the infinite and to order my life accordingly. Give me the resolve to remove the things that are keeping me from being closer to You. Amen.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.