You Prefer A Whip or Love?
What’s your preference when someone
seeks to correct you? Would you prefer them to use a whip or love?
This may sound like a crazy question, but it is what Paul asks the Corinthians.
"What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love
and with a gentle spirit?" (1 Corinthians 4:21 NIV) But the most
impressive thing about Paul’s questions is—the Corinthians had a choice.
The manner in which Paul would deal with their problems when he arrived
was their choice.
I have heard of parents seeking to discipline
their children give them a choice of their punishment. "You can go to your
room for the rest of the afternoon, or you can wash dishes after every
meal for the rest of the week." Paul asks the Corinthians, "What do you
prefer—a whip or love?" Either way they had to deal with their problem
1 Corinthians 5:1
"It is actually reported that
there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur
even among pagans: A man has his father's wife" (NIV).
Sexuality immorality was as prevalent
in the first century as it is today. If we are not careful sexual
immorality can become as prevalent in the church as it is in the world.
Sexual immorality in the church of the first century was a real problem.
"It is my judgment, therefore,
that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to
God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food
polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals
and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest
times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath" (NIV)
In the context of the preceding verses many
Jews seemed to be more concerned about the circumcision of the Gentiles
than they were about the immoral lifestyles of the Gentiles. It is amazing
how religious people can get so caught up majoring in minors. The Gentiles
had much more serious problems than circumcision.
Religious pride often leads us to become concerned
over what goes on at church while overlooking blatant sins we commit through
the week. Sometimes we may want to major in minor problems. I have seen
Christians so upset over the version of Bible someone is using, while I
know that most aren’t even studying the one they carry to church every
Sunday. They are upset over the issue of the versions, when the one they
study has no effect upon the way they live. We need to remember that the
only version of the Bible the world reads is how we live, and that may
A Powerful Walk Is Needed
The only Bible the world will read is
the daily life of the Christian, and what the world needs is a revised
version. The people in Corinth were in dire need of a revised version.
The Christian walk is not a matter of
talk but of power (1 Corinthians 4:19,20). The power of our walk
is demonstrated in how we live. The Corinthians were boasting about their
spirituality, but that was as far as it went. Their weakness was manifested
in how they lived. They were embracing those in the church that were living
Failing to judge our own lives reveals
a lack of immaturity, which in essence is weakness. If we refuse
to govern our lives, then someone else must govern us. It is nice to rear
your children to a point of maturity where they become responsible to pass
judgment upon their own behavior. Getting them to that point is often heart
wrenching. When they fail to act maturely it forces you to step in—and
sometimes it must be with a whip although it is out of love.
The power of the gospel is revealed
as the message is used to govern our lives. Think about how we
admire the strength of the self-disciplined person. The greatest difficulty
with the church today is that it has failed to discipline itself. Just
as physical discipline keeps our physical body in functioning order, so
does spiritual discipline for the church. The right kind of discipline
brings a family together, but most think that discipline brings division.
This is why there is so much division in the church, we are afraid to confront
our problems head on.
The power of the church is revealed
in its cohesion as a body; for nothing test the strength of the unity of
the body more the way we handle our problems. The church at Corinth
was failing to demonstrate the power of God in their lives because they
were not exercising their spiritual muscles.
1 Corinthians 5:1-5
"It is actually reported that
there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur
even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't
you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship
the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with
you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this,
just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord
Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present,
hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed
and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord" (NIV).
We don’t know how this problem evolved
in the church at Corinth. They may have just turned their heads.
Or it may have been explicit approval. The impression we get is that the
Corinthians would agree that it was morally inexcusable. The question is;
why had they not responded properly?
They seemed to be proud of their religious
tolerance. Their pride was probably the leading cause of their
misconduct. Pride has a tendency to blind us to our faults, individually
and corporately. Ignoring sin causes us to believe it’s not serious and
gives no incentive to repent.
As these Corinthian’s are made free from the
reproach of Satan their newfound freedom may have developed a laissez-faire
sense of morality. They may have concluded that the grace of forgiveness
relieved them from the duties of moral responsibility (Romans 6:1). Today
we may be so concerned about getting the lost into the place of salvation
in Christ, that we develop a laissez-faire attitude toward the sins they
are being saved from. A sense of being free may easily lead to an abuse
of the freedom we enjoy in Christ.
Experiencing the Power of Christ
There is something
that we must take note of about this situation; they needed the powerful
presence of the Lord Jesus to solve their problem. Paul
writes, "When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and
I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand
this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and
his spirit saved on the day of the Lord." The spiritual presence
of Jesus Christ in our lives brings the power for self-discipline. This
isn’t some kind of miraculous appearance of Jesus in bodily form in the
church at Corinth, but it is something just as powerful.
The power of Christ is discovered in
the authority of Christ. Paul uses the term "Lord Jesus" to refer
to Christ. Today the word Lord has become a title with little significance
to the church. The term "Lord" reminded them who should be in charge. Christ
would be present as Lord as they submitted to the authority of Christ.
Paul was present in spirit, and so was Jesus. When the church comes together
in the name of the Lord—i.e., by the authority of the Lord—for the purpose
of carrying out the will of the Lord—she discovers the powerful presence
of the Lord.
To experience the power of Christ’s
authority we must follow his three-step process in the following verses.
"’What do you think? If a man
owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the
ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?
And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one
sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way
your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should
"’If your brother sins against
you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens
to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take
one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the
testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them,
tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church,
treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
"’I tell you the truth, whatever
you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth
will be loosed in heaven.
"’Again, I tell you that if
two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for
you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my
name, there am I with them’" (NIV).
When we come together in Jesus name and agree
upon what to do as Christ’s authority directs the decision, we discover
the powerful presence of Christ. Jesus says, "I tell you the truth,
whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose
on earth will be loosed in heaven." Do you see God’s powerful presence
in these verses for those who seek to carry out his will? He is busy binding
and losing whatever we are busy binding and losing by his authority.
The thing that bothers me about the church
today is its inability to come together under the authority of Christ.
The lack of unity in the church is demonstrative of Christ’s absence. Why
is this condition so prevalent among congregations?
Today as in Corinth, many think their newfound
knowledge should guide the church rather than the wisdom of God. Regardless
of how great our biblical knowledge, often it is the wisdom of expediency
that must govern the decisions we make.
1 Corinthians 6:12-17
"Everything is permissible
for me"-but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for
me"-but I will not be mastered by anything. "Food for the stomach and the
stomach for food"-but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant
for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By
his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I
then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!
Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with
her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who
unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit" (NIV).
These verses reveal how we become one
in spirit with the Lord. We unite ourselves in the power of the
risen Christ when we live according to his wisdom rather than depending
upon our knowledge—even though it is a biblical knowledge. Often when an
issue arises in the church we debate it from a standpoint of knowledge.
Then we divide over our understanding of the issue or our lack of understanding
of the issue, but it is only the wisdom of God that can bring us together
through doing what is expedient in spite of our knowledge or lack of it.
Regardless of the issue, it is arrogance that keeps us apart. Boasting
about our knowledge or the lack of it only develops an attitude of arrogance
robbing us of the authoritative power of the risen Christ.
The power of God is seen when we come together
in wisdom and make decisions in the authority of God’s wisdom to keep the
unity of God’s people. A plea for unity falls upon deaf ears if we can’t
manifest how the wisdom of God maintains our unity.
Church leaders may seek to solve their problems
by a heavy-handed use of knowledge and later learn they needed to use a
little wisdom. I talked to a man a few days ago that had part in a church
split years ago. He helped start another church because he didn’t like
how the one he attended dealt with their problems. He told me if he had
it to do it over he would never do it again. He said, "We didn’t solve
any problem. The problems are still there. If we had of stayed, we could
have solved those problems, and the church in this county would have much
A combination of arrogance and knowledge
can deafen our ears to hear the wisdom of God as it robs us of God’s power
to solve our problems. Although knowledge may tell us that there
is nothing wrong in what we are doing, wisdom may tell us that it is not
expedient. Regardless of what knowledge teaches us, if it is not expedient,
it is wrong.
Discipline Is A Means to Unity
There are reasons we don’t respond properly
today. We often say that it is
a private matter, so there’s no discipline. We also forget that discipline
is redemptive and respond too harshly.
The right kind of church discipline
is a means to saving souls and bonding the church together as a unit.
We recognize these results of discipline in Paul’s second letter to the
2 Corinthians 2:5-11
If anyone has caused grief,
he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent-not
to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority
is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him,
so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore,
to reaffirm your love for him. The reason I wrote you was to see if you
would stand the test and be obedient in everything. If you forgive anyone,
I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven-if there was anything to forgive-I
have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan
might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes" (NIV).
Discipline forces the church to face her problems
as the body of Christ; forgiveness also forces the church to come together
as one to reaffirm their love for the sinner.
Discipline is not to humiliate, it is to purge
the body of Christ of sin. We must not become excessive or we will tend
to humiliate the person disciplined. Humiliation leads to excessive sorrow,
which may destroy the one disciplined. Discipline is only used to bring
the sinner to repentance. When repentance occurs total forgiveness must
Discipline is necessary because sin
is as contagious as yeast in a lump of dough.
1 Corinthians 5:6-8
Your boasting is not good.
Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?
Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast-as you
really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore
let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and
wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth"
We cannot take seriously the sacrifice Christ
made for us as a sacrificial Lamb, without taking sin seriously. If we
come together to worship Christ with a laissez-faire attitude toward sin
we diminish the importance of his sacrifices.
"Get rid of the old yeast that you may
be a new batch without yeast-as you really are."
This sinning church member was like a piece
of yeast, as his influence spread through the church at Corinth. Members
are already becoming arrogant and boastful about his problem. Their arrogance
was giving way to malice and wickedness. Developing the right attitude
toward this man’s sin would help them face their own arrogance. There was
a cancer that needed to be removed from Christ body.
Edith Schaeffer said, "When I was a little
girl my mother would often say to me, "Edith, I know just who you've been
playing with today." She knew because I had become something like the other
little girl, whichever one it was, enough like her that the girl could
be identified by my changed accent, my mannerisms, and other telltale changes.
Children often copy other children quite unconsciously. So do adults. The
people we spend time with, in one way or another affect us. God makes clear
to us that not only is it sin to bow down to idols and worship or serve
them, but that there is an effect which follows very definitely. People
who worship idols become like them" (Edith Schaeffer in The Art of Life.
Christianity Today, Vol. 35, no. 8.in The Art of Life. Christianity Today,
Vol. 35, no. 8.)
We must purge the church of evil, but
it is not our job to judge the world.
1 Corinthians 5:9-13
"I have written 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 you
that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but
is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or
a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
"What business is it of mine
to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God
will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked man from among you’" (NIV)
Preachers often spend their time teaching
what is wrong with the world. However, the world isn’t present
in our assemblies. We must spend our time preaching to mature the church
to live in an evil world without becoming a part of it. The problems at
Corinth were matters of sanctification. They had been born again, but they
were having trouble allowing Christ to become ruler of their lives.
A Christian does not have an out of
this world existence. Jesus’ prayer reveals the fact that we must
learn how to live in an evil world.
"I am coming to you now, but
I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have
the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and
the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I
am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but
that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even
as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you
sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify
myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
"My prayer is not for them alone.
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that
all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.
May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent
me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one
as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete
unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as
you have loved me" (NIV).
Jesus doesn’t pray for us to live an
out of the world existence. He simply prays that God will sanctify
us through the truth as we live in this evil world. The best way to preach
to a lost world is to allow God to sanctify the way we live. When the world
witnesses how God’s truth has changed our lives, it will know something
about Christ’s love. Nothing demonstrates Christ love more than Christian
living together in an evil world in unity.
"I shall tell you a great secret, my friend.
Do not wait for the last judgment. It takes place every day." Albert Camus,
Leadership, Vol. 7, no. 2.
Sexual sin has a more painful personal impact
than other sins, because it touches something deep inside each of us. It
threatens us and stirs in us a great deal of anxiety. But there are a lot
of sins that can create as much havoc: judgmentalism, hypocrisy, gossip--even
speeding, which can kill people.
Sin must be dealt with in whatever form it