September 17, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.”—1 Corinthians 5:9–11 (NIV)
As I read through this book, three things stick out to me regarding the worldview Paul is trying to emphasize:
In light of this, chapter 5 is dealing with a professing believer at Corinth who’s having an affair with his stepmother.
Some implications here:
And in today’s passage, Paul instructs them to not “associate with sexually immoral people,” reminding them he isn’t speaking of nonbelievers, but of professing believers who live openly and unrepentantly in a sinful lifestyle in active rebellion of God. Instead, without approving of or affirming sin, we shouldn’t expect nonbelievers to live as believers, but lovingly point them to Christ through our lifestyle!
Paul then says, “do not even eat with such people.” Culturally, this was an expression of intimate friendship and fellowship. David Guzik wrote, “In some cultures, if a man eats at your table, you are bound to regard him as a friend and a partner. Paul warns the Corinthian Christians they cannot continue in Christian fellowship with a notorious sinner who calls himself a Christian.” Essentially, it’s like cutting off a loved one to show them the severity of their transgressions, to stop enabling their lifestyle, and to hopefully bring about real change in them.
I’m sure this sounds harsh and unloving, but it’s not. Paul loves this man and desires that he repent and walk in the Spirit. Paul knows his path “gives birth to death” (James 1:15 NIV). He cares for this man, but also for the wellbeing of his other spiritual children at Corinth.
Sin like this spreads. New believers coming into the church, children growing up in the church, or others struggling with a similar sin will see his unrepentant sinful lifestyle, and see the church, as Paul put it, “proud” to have him in their fellowship. What message and example does that set for others believers or for the children?
Friends, the most loving thing that can be done for everyone in any church is to remove an unrepentant person who calls themselves a Christian from the fellowship for the protection of the flock, but also to have leaders, ministers, and pastors check in with him to continue to point him to repentance. I pray these words hit you with the right heart, not legalistically, but as truth for the wellbeing of every member of the body of Christ!
Pause: Cite the difference between the way Christians should see, interact with, and deal with sin, biblical lifestyle, and worldview from nonbelievers? Why does Paul emphasize this distinction so intently in this letter? In light of this, why do churches and believers consistently take the opposite approach with these groups, often harshly holding nonbelievers to biblical standards and being extremely lax with believers, overlooking sinful lifestyle choices, beliefs, and habits?
Practice: Today’s passage must lead to deep conviction in us regarding church life, church discipline, and the Christian’s witness and interactions with nonbelievers. So, first, I encourage you to reflect deeply on what we’ve explored here. What is your genuine viewpoint of people who aren’t believers and who live in such a way that is in stark opposition to your biblical worldview? What is your opinion of them? How much mercy, compassion, and grace do you have for them? What’s your heart toward them? Does it look like Jesus’ heart toward them? What about toward believers who are living in sin? Close friends and relatives who profess Christ but live in active rebellion? How are you actively working to hold them accountable and call them to repentance? What steps are you taking to help them?
Pray: Father, when I read a passage like this, I need Your guidance, wisdom, and heart to maneuver it properly. Help me to have Your heart for those who don’t know You. Help me to have Your compassion and mercy for people who are far from You. Give me the boldness, courage, love, and wisdom to help and hold accountable believers who are not walking by the Spirit. Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.