JUDGING PRIVATE PERSONAL SIN AND SPECIFIC PUBLIC SINS
All sin must be dealt with in the local church but all sin does not get dealt with publically. There are sins in the lives of genuine believers, in a local body, which are to be dealt with privately, personally and discretely. In Galatians 6:1 we read, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness.” To be “overtaken in a fault” means to be taken by surprised, or to be taken unwillingly, in a slip, a slid, an error, or in a transgression. Here is someone who falls into sin. It was not pre-planned and it is not now a continual act. Peter’s denial of Christ three times was such a sin. Such a person does not need to be ejected from the warmth of fellowship. He must be dealt with by spiritually mature and wise believers in meekness, with the purpose of fully restoring them to function in the body with no mark or effect of the failure left upon them.
But First Corinthians 5 deals with sin that must be dealt with publically, by the whole church in removing the person from fellowship. I Cor.5:1, “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife.”This was commonly or publically known. It was not a secret. To “have” his step-mother reveals he was presently continuing in this act of sin. Yet it was not dealt with by the church. Secular Roman law forbade this act yet the church tolerated it. Paul says in verse 2, “And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.” They were actually proud concerning how they dealt with this situation. They thought that they were showing love, grace and wisdom. Actually it was disobedience to the written scriptures. They were exalting their own judgment above God’s judgment on such sin.
Paul then gives specific details about an upcoming gathering at which this sin will be judged publically by the whole church. 5:3-4, “For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged (krino) already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power (dunamis) of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul was not physically there yet he had come to a final conclusion in how this sin was to be dealt with. His heart was totally with them in this act of public Biblical judgment. It should be dealt with publically by the whole church; not privately by a leader or a few of the members. Public sin leading to putting the person out of the church must be dealt with openly. For a leader to put someone out of the church privately without giving facts and details to the whole church prior to the act is not correct Biblical-judgment. Intimidation, manipulation and such things are not acceptable (III Jn.1:9).
He also says that the power, or dunamis, of Christ would be present in this act of judgment. Dunamis of course speaks of manifest supernatural power. Here is judgment against sin by a member of the church who will not repent and as the Church is gathered in judgment Christ will bear witness by manifest power. In this specific case we are told, 5:5, “To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” The real motive for dealing with this man in such a strong way is his own salvation. If he dies in this stubborn state of rebellion he will go to Hell. So they hand him over to Satan to destroy his body that amidst this act of physical sickness inflicted by Satan he will have time to repent—which actually did happen if you read II Corinthians 2:6-11. We only read of one other act of delivering over to Satan in I Tim.1:19-20 and 2:17 which involved false teaching by Hymenaeus and Alexander in spiritualizing the resurrection which overthrew the faith of some. I don’t believe this is something lightly carried out by a group of believers but is an apostolic act which may be carried out through a local church. This was not a natural act. Christ’s power was there to do it. You would be very foolish to go through such a ritual of handing someone over to Satan if you were not 100% sure that Christ was going to supernaturally do this. While we must be all persistent fornicators out of the church we don’t hand all over to Satan.
PURGE OUT THE LEAVEN
This undealt with sin in the church is pictured here like a little bit of leaven. Leaven is yeast or ferment; just a small bit of it has the power to spread throughout the whole dough or flour and change its entire character. Leaven does not remain as a separate entity within the whole. It always affects everything. 5:6-8, “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
During the annual Passover feast held when a lamb was killed and eaten, a great effort was given to search with a candle for leaven within the home. Earnest search was made for seven days prior to the feast for any yeast. All yeast must be removed from each home before the feast is partaken of (Ex.12:18-20; 13:6-7). The leaven was a reminder of their old life in Egypt. The leavenrepresents sin; it is called old leavenbecause it comes from the old nature or the old life. Now in the church our gathering is unto Jesus Christ who is our Passover Lamb. We should be very earnest and diligent in purging sin out of our lives in order to gather unto Christ with real blessing. We are to “purge out” or to cleanse our lives thoroughly from any leaven.
This fornicator in the church was like this leaven; undealt with it would affect everything. This sin would spread through the whole church. Very soon the young members would be committing fornication. In verse 2, we are told let him “be taken away from among you”; in verse13, “put away”; in verse 5, “delivered unto Satan”;and in verse 7 “purged out.” This is God’s compassionate and wise way of dealing with public serious sin in the church. Anyone disobeying this clear example is placing their own judgment and wisdom higher than God’s. 5:9, “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:” This was a written command from an apostle inspired by the Holy Spirit. We have no need to pray about such a case in asking for special revelation or supernatural guidance in dealing with it. Neither can we suggest just leaving it in God’s hands for the Spirit to deal with. This is His written command and His clear direction. This church is commanded to not keep company with this fornicator. This word “Company” means to mix together; to associate with; or to dwell in unity with. Anyone who does this is partaking in the guilt of sin and disobeying the scriptures. God’s will is to purge this unrepentant person out of the midst of the public gathering of the church.
But he clarifies what he means. 5:10, “Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.” He is not talking about separating from sinners in the world but sinners in the church. It would be impossible to live in this world if we were forbidden to not “company” with sinners.
SEPERATION FROM SIN
Paul then lists specific sins which are to be treated like this situation in the church at Corinth. If you cross reference each of these sins you will find that in each case, bar one, the Bible teaches clearly that these sins send a man to Hell. He also clarifies that he is not talking about sinners coming into the church that have never been born-again or professed salvation. He is talking about someone who has been considered a genuine brother who would seem to have had a genuine track record but who are now continuing in sin yet are a regular attender in church gatherings and consider themselves to be a Christian. 5:11, “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a …
- Fornicator [pornos] fornication [porneia] = to sell your body; whoremongor; harlotry; every form of sexual immorality; it includes adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, incest or any sexual relationship outside of that between a husband and wife. It includes every sexual sin performed with the physical body with another person, I Cor.6:18. This word is used 14 times in I Corinthians. Practising homosexuals who think that they are born-again Christians must be put out of the church.
- or covetous[pleonektēs] = holding or desiring more; eager for gain; a desire to have the major portion. Such a person will affect others. Covetousness in one person will act like leaven—it will spread.
- or an idolater [eidōlolatrēs] = idol worshipper; the use of idols in worship; who use idols to worship God; physical images (Ex.20:3; Lev.26:1; Deut.4:16; 16:22; 27:19; I Thess.1:9). Someone who professes to be born-again yet uses idols to aid worship (even if they say it is not the idol they worship) must be separated from.
- or a railer [loidoros] = criticizes with abusive language or in an insulting manner; strife, quarrelling or scolding; pouring forth false accusation; Prov.26:21 (contentious man kindling strife); this cannot and must not be tolerated in the church. All will be affected.
- or a drunkard [methusos] = although I’m utterly against social drinking and believe it can be shown to be a sin yet that is not inferred or meant here. To be a drunkard is to drink well or fully to the point of saturation or capacity. One who dulls the senses and who alters his actions, speech, and ability through alcohol.
- or an extortioner [harpax] = to seize, to catch, to bring into debt or into bondage; false prophets / wolves –Mat.7:15. This could be someone using money or using the gift of prophesy in the church to manipulate in bringing believers into a state of debt or bondage. In ancient Rome this weapon called a harpax was used in capturing enemy boats [do a Google search].
“…with such an one no not to eat.” You are not to even eat a meal with someone who claims to be a Christian yet continues in such sins. 5:12-13, “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” We are commanded to discern, to note, to check the evidence and to come to a clear conclusion based on solid evidence and then implement judgment against such sin in the church by putting the person out. Until you put this person out of the company of the church you have not judged biblically or righteously. Anyone committing such sins is a wicked person who must be put out from amongst believers (Deut.13:5; 17:7,12; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21,24; 24:7; etc).
OTHER CASES OF SEPERATION IN THE CHURCH
Rom.16:17; Eph.5:10-11; II Thess.3:6; 14-15; Tit.3:10; I Tim.6:3-5; II Tim.3:5.
Word study on separation from professing believers who continue walking in serious public sin: i) “avoid them” = to deviate well away from them; go out of your way to avoid them; to make a deliberate deter around them; ii) “have no fellowship” = to not share in company or unity with them; to not participate or be a partaker with them; iii) “withdraw yourselves” = pull up the sails of a ship; shrink back from; void them; iv) “reject;” = to decline; to refuse; to say no to invitations.