When I was in school, one aspect of math that I never liked was word problems. I could do the equations that they gave us, but then the mean teachers would hit us up with a “real life scenario.” For some reason, the equation never seemed to fit just right.
It reminds me of the teacher who tried to help a student apply his math in real life. “Suppose you had two dollars and your father gave you three more. How many would you have?” “Two” was his answer. The teacher said, “You don’t know your math!” He replied, “You don’t know my Dad!”
It always seemed to me that the creators of those “real life” problems had a knack for wording it so strangely that it was hard to grasp what I was supposed to do. Once I saw the answer, however, it seemed easy.
Case studies are good, because they allow us to use what we have learned in real life. Therefore, we are going to do a case study in this article. Fortunately, this one will be easy because the answer has already been provided.
We have been studying about judging and how it should be done. We have seen that judging is simply considering something and making a decision about it. It does not mean to turn a blind eye to sin or to “live and let live.” The Bible indicates a very different approach.
Before we immerse ourselves in the case study, let’s review our conditions for judging:
- Is it clear disobedience to God’s commands?
- Is it true?
- Am I also guilty?
- What is my purpose?
In this article and the next we will attempt to pull all of this together. Paul had to deal with a very serious problem which serves as an excellent example to us for how to handle similar cases.
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. 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. (I Corinthians 5:1-5 NKJV)
Apparently some guy in the Corinthian church was having an affair with his stepmother. Although the church was overlooking it, Paul could not let it slide. Let’s see how he handled it by applying the “conditions for judging.” We’ll start with the second, because I would like to take a little more time with the first. In the next article, we will consider the third and fourth conditions.
THE REPORT WAS TRUE
Notice that Paul does not merely say that the sin was “reported,” but that it was “actually reported.” The KJV uses the word “commonly.”
The issue in Corinth was not just hearsay. It was not just that one person was spreading gossip. It was a commonly known fact. Apparently the people in Corinth were not even attempting to hide the sin. In fact, they were “puffed up” with pride.
Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? (I Corinthians 5:6 NKJV)
They were bragging about it! Maybe they were boasting about their “freedom in Christ” or how “everyone is welcome” in their church. Whatever the case, they treated this heinous sin as a badge of honor, and Paul was not going to stand for it.
Paul was not just operating based on an unconfirmed piece of gossip. The report was true.
Now we’ll go back to the first “condition for judging.” Was it clear disobedience to God’s commands?
Unfortunately, the answer was affirmative.
THE SIN WAS REAL
Paul was not merely jumping on the case of a person who had a different opinion or tradition about something than he did. He was not defending his hobby horse. He did not have a vendetta against anyone. He realized that there was a public sin that was corrupting the church and it had to be stopped.
The Scriptures often refer to sexual sins as especially heinous because our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your bodyfn and in your spirit, which are God’s. (I Corinthians 6:18-20 NKJV)
Sometimes it is easy to judge other people based upon what we think or have been taught. However, God has established predetermined rules, and what was happening in Corinth was clearly out of bounds. The transgression was not against the opinions of Paul, but the Word of God.
It is important to remember that the only trustworthy source of judgment is the Bible. God has the right to determine what is right and what is wrong because He is the model of perfection.
When God gave the Law to the Israelites, He said,
. . .You shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy. (Leviticus 19:2 NKJV)
Peter later repeated this commandment:
. . .but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:15-16 NKJV)
What God requires of us is far beyond what we can deliver. His model of perfection is our goal.
Of course, the only way we can get it is through our faith. We can do nothing to earn perfection. It is bestowed upon us through faith in Jesus Christ.
But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness (Romans 4:5 NKJV)
Because this was a clear sin, Paul had already made a judgment on the matter. He had looked over the situation, made a decision, and determined the necessary punishment.
Paul knew that if he allowed this practice to continue, it would corrupt the whole church.
Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. (I Corinthians 5:6-7 NKJV)
Just like a little yeast permeates a whole loaf, causing it to rise, a little sin contaminates the whole church. It must therefore be rooted out and removed!