Dealing with Gross Sin in the Churches
Robert Wurtz II
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9–11 NKJV)
There is hardly a year that goes by that a scandal involving one of the damnable sins listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 does not rear its ugly head in the churches. On a national and local level, we face catastrophe that, in many cases, could have been avoided and, in all cases, must be Biblically handled. Far too often, an epic lapse in discernment enabled the scandalous person to embed themselves in the church like a wolf waiting to ambush the sheep.
Generally, there are three types of people who attend churches; sheep, goats, and wolves. Goats and wolves are people who were never born again. Wolves are people under the control of Satan who hope to infiltrate the flock. Like Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8, wolves pretended to be saints and may have even fooled themselves. If you ask them, it is doubtful they could relate a convincing testimony of salvation. They couldn’t explain how Christ brought them out of sin because they haven’t experienced it. Some speak of being “saved” since childhood and, at the same time, admit they were in total bondage to sin all their life. How can this be?
Tares Among the Wheat
Jesus answers that question in the parable of the wheat and the tares. We have a clue in the words, “…while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.” (Matthew 13:25 NKJV) Jesus says that the enemy sows these people into the church. They are imposters who “look” like wheat (as it were) but are really the deadly Darnell (tares). Understand that Darnell can be infected with bacteria that cause confusion, loss of consciousness, and even death.
In ancient times, spies would sow Darnell into their enemies’ fields to contaminate food supplies. Paul uses the illustration of leaven in bread to demonstrate how scandal can affect the entire local church. These considerations are why the people involved in scandals must be properly dealt with.
In our text, Paul is writing to the Corinthians who had experienced individually genuine regeneration. This was not merely a mental assent to a creed or the throwing away of a few bad habits. As a consequence of turning to God in true repentance and trusting Christ — they had consciously received the Spirit. They were reborn. In other words, they were no longer “Darnell” they were genuine “wheat.” As Paul told them in his letter, “You were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” The former things had passed away, and all had become new. They were new creatures in Christ.
When Paul showed up at Corinth, he came across people who were bound up with all kinds of sin. Notice how he reminds them of their unsaved condition when he wrote, Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. Paul wanted the people at Corinth to inherit the kingdom of God. He wanted them reconciled to God and to remain in a state of fellowship. However, they were practicing fornicators, idolators, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, and a host of other damnable things. For Paul to be able to say, “… and such were some of you…” something very radical needed to happen to them.
Paul loved the people too much to make excuses for sins that would ultimately destroy their souls, so he preached genuine repentance to everyone. This means he expected the people to agree with God’s estimate of sin and then turn from it — forever. In fact, it was the preaching of repentance that Paul gave as the reason why the Jews caught him in the Temple and tried to kill him (Acts 26:21). Understand the predicament: Paul wanted all people to enter the kingdom of God — but some of the people at Corinth were practicing sins that he warned them time and again would exclude them from the kingdom. What did he do? He preached to them until he confidently said, “But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
In the twenty-first century, we are plagued with the scourge of “political correctness.” It is the enemies’ cat-of-nine-tails in our times. Sin is a lifestyle these days. When a minister or Christian challenges sin, they are subject to verbal scourging. We should expect this from the world. People simply don’t want to be told that their lifestyle is wrong or sinful. They definitely don’t want to be told they will go to Hell for the “lifestyle.” What happens? The minister or Christian is told “not to judge” or some other nonsense designed to allow the sinner to go on with their lifestyle. In other words, the enemy wants damnable sin normalized and accepted. Why wouldn’t he? That’s his business. He wants as many people in Hell as he can possibly get. What better way to do it than to normalize damnable sin and seal the sinners’ fate with the scourge of political correctness? It’s a very effective strategy.
Scandal at Corinth
Paul encountered gross scandal at Corinth. It was the same “type” of sin that often shows up today, sexual immorality. It comes in many forms, such as adultery, homosexuality, promiscuity, or in the case of the Corinthian… incest. A man had actually been having sexual relations with his father’s wife. We don’t know the grizzly details, but Paul took swift action to death with it. He refused to allow this type of sin (sexual immorality) to become normalized in the church. Soon others are encouraged to do similar things. What did he do? He employed the measure of binding and loosening that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 18:18. Not in the way it is found in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles, but in the proper sense of the measure of church discipline.
“But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.” (1 Corinthians 5:11 NKJV)
Paul did not want the saints to fellowship with any person who is called a brother (or sister) who was involved in damnable sin. This did not apply to fellowship with unbelievers — it applied only to people who considered themselves Christians. The Holy Spirit gave this command through Paul as a measure in dealing with gross sin in the church. It accomplished at least two things:
1. It protected the people from the influence of sin so that it did not spread throughout the church.
2. It created a scenario where the sinning Christian would be forced to consider the ramifications of their actions. There is no future in the kingdom of God for a person who practices damnable sins.
“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)
To further set into motion corrective action Paul instructed the church to gather together and, in the power of the Holy Spirit and under the authority of God — turn the person over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (body). “Paul speaks of his own physical suffering as a messenger (aggelos) of Satan. Paul certainly means expulsion from the church (verse 2) and regarding him as outside of the commonwealth of Israel (Eph. 2:11f.). But we are not to infer that expulsion from the local church means the damnation of the offender. The wilful offenders must be expelled and not regarded as enemies, but admonished as brothers (2 Thess. 3:14f.). For the destruction of the flesh (eis olethron teœs sarkos). Both for physical suffering as in the case of Job (Job 2:6) and for overcoming fleshly sins, remedial punishment. That the spirit may be saved (hina to pneuma soœtheœi).” (A.T. Robertson) The ultimate purpose of the expulsion is discipline with a view to Godly sorrow and repentance.
Offenders shun this approach in modern times. This is why true repentance is so rare. They fall in with the politically correct crowd who comfort them right into the arms of Satan and Hell itself. All the while being congratulated for their courage. What madness! Many actually enjoy the attention they get for “coming out of the closet.” But this is the deception. They offer up all kinds of cynical and rebellious phrases such as, “I was kicked to the curb” or “the people who were supposed to love me unconditionally failed me.” However, this is Satan’s rhetoric and jargon — not God’s. Soon they embrace people who will accept their sinful lifestyle, and they go on unrepentant and rebellious. They call the people who accept their sin as those who love them “unconditionally,” while those who truly love them have probably followed Paul’s directives of non-fellowship.
Understand that God’s love, though unmerited, is not unconditional. Agape love in the Biblical sense does not mean “unconditional love” in the absolute sense. Agape means the type of unmerited love that God displayed in sending Christ to die for our sins. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. This is not the same as loving and accepting people who ultimately refuse to repent while trodding the blood of Christ underfoot or even blaspheming the Holy Spirit. To tell a person that God loves them unconditionally suggests He will accept them regardless of their sinful lifestyle. Satan uses this lie frequently to deceive and damn souls. God’s love for sinners’ is displayed on the cross of Calvary. If people reject God’s love, they are subject to the same fate as Satan and his angels.
A Happy Ending
Fortunately, there was a happy ending to the scandal at Corinth. Paul wrote, “This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. For to this end, I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.” (2 Corinthians 2:6–11 NKJV)
When a person who has been caught in a damnable sin is truly repentant, we must be swift to receive them back into fellowship. It is Satan’s device to either prevent repentance or overwhelm those who are repentant with excessive and destructive grief. He wants to destroy people… and it is our responsibility as spiritual Christians to prevent it by carefully obeying the directives of scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit.