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Do You Prefer A Whip or Love?

1 Corinthians 5:1-13

Jim Davis

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 head on.

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.

Acts 15:19-21
"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 need revising.

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 immoral lives.

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.

Matthew 18:12-20
"’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 be lost.

"’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 better off."

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 Corinthians.

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 be extended.

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" (NIV).

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.

John 17:13-23
"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.

Conclusion:

"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 comes.

 

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