The other day as I was perusing the small Bible section of my large Christian Books and (Especially) Gifts Store I happened upon a tome that arrested my attention. It was plain and unadorned. A simple red book with the title and nothing else. I was immediately offended by the cover, because it was politically […]
I wrote earlier about profanity. I argued that the bible often finds profanity necessary to make it’s point. At the time I said that I wanted to make that point not just to defend profanity, but because there were other points that I felt were important to make, that rested on that point as a premise.
This is one of them
This article used language some may consider offensive, because it deals with topics the bible considers offensive. If you are not okay with that, go here instead.
1 Corinthians 5
English Standard Version (ESV)
1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
This passage is preached on occasionally by pastors who fancy themselves as bold, and willing to talk about what scripture says even if people don’t like it. It is used to justify the power of the governing body of whatever platform the speaker happens to be speaking from to decide whose in and whose out.
I think that interpretation is understandable. After all the plain reading of the text is that Paul is asking for somebody to be kicked out of the church and if Paul did it that means we can do it if we need to. It’s even paralleled in Matthew 18
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church,let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
With these two verses it is not hard to justify a biblical argument for excommunication. The occasional expulsion of a brother from the family of God (or at least from the local expression thereof).
But even though that interpretation is understandable, I think it’s wrong. I think it misunderstands both the role of the church and the church universal, and it has become default because of cultural factors in the 21st century and the desire of sinful men like me to get power.
I vehemently disagree and am considerably bothered by the implication that “let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” should mean “Kick them out of your local church”
We love our gentiles and our tax collectors, we invite them to church. We may think twice before asking them to teach a class, but we certainty don’t sit them down with the elder board and tell them they don’t belong. That flies in the face of just about everything in the book of Acts.
1 Cor 5 However is less obvious. Let’s look at it again closely together, and see if it still seems to be about an example for First Church Main St. to follow.
1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.
”A man has his father’s wife” You know something is up when a translation that was published in 2001 still uses the phrasing from the KJV. Paul’s actually quoting too
Deut: 23:30A man shall not take his father’s wife, nor discover his father’s skirt.
This comes at the end of a long argument about proper and improper practices in ancient Israel, and it arrives as a conclusion to a mounting list of sins that begins with divorce, then follows to adultery, then rape, and finally the most offensive of all: Having sex with your mom, creating a cultural understanding of an incredibly offensive act, and a horrible accusation in the ancient near east, that would be impossible to translate if not for the fact that the exact same offensive accusation exists in English.
”Mother Fucker” worse than a standard fucker, the mother fucker is among the most offensive phrases in the English language. That’s what was going on in Corinth
“There is sexual immorality among you, that is worse than all the orgys and pedophilia that the pagans approve of, this guy right here, Is a bonifide Mother Fucker”
2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn?
Paul has written an earlier letter to the church in Corinth (0 Corinthians) That letter has been lost to time but from this verse we can gather some info about their response to his previous correspondence
”Well yeah we know he’s a mother fucker, Isn’t that awesome? but that’s okay we know how to handle this kind of thing, It’s not a problem”
Paul’s response comes from the opposite posture
Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh
In modern cultural parlance ”This Mother Fucker can go to hell!”
I love verses 9 and 10
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.
Lol true that, Paul. Do you ever realize how funny the bible is? It really is if you take the time to think about what is being said. If you didn’t associate with sinful people there wouldn’t be anyone left to talk to. Good point
Then he goes on
11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.
Ouch. That’s pretty clear. Don’t associate with people who say they’re Christian, but continue to sin. Don’t even eat with them if they have problems with sex or alcohol or putting other things before God, or trying to accumulate money. Don’t just kick them out of your church, refuse to associate with them.
…That’s what it says.
And if we are going to take this passage literally we need to do that. we need to kick all of the sinners out of our church including Paul himself who will confess continuing to struggle in Romans 7. Paul no longer has any place in our church and we won’t listen to anything he says anymore and… wait I’m confused.
Maybe more context
12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
I sure wish more sermons on this chapter would focus on this verse rather than the one before it. Pastors who teach on it want to be brave and conservative, but they pick a verse that nobody has the spine to interpret completely conservatively, meanwhile there is a perfectly good point to be made about not judging non Christians.
The end though brings it home. “Purge the evil from among you” (the word “person” is not actually there in the greek) what is he quoting there?
Why It’s Deuteronomy 22 again
22 “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.
Kill the motherfucker. Says Paul send him to Satan for… the destruction of.. the flesh…
He can go to hell… you mean literally… Oh dear
There is beauty here.
It’s a very raw kind of beauty. But God had called the descendants of Abraham to be a nation set apart, where there would be no place for evil such as adultery. Here Paul is holding the church to that same glorious standard.
His methods may seem extreme, or harsh, but we must not forget that he pens the words of scripture. Inerrant truth, and we must be faithful stewards to believe what it says, not what it wants us to say.
It does not say kick someone out of church. It says kick them out of earth. Are you prepared to believe that since it’s what the bible says?
I think we need to be.
But we should also consider this
2 Corinthians 2
1 For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.
5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
“Maybe I was too harsh in my last letter” says Paul “You should forgive him… I will too”
Paul reveals his motives for writing. “To let you know the love I have for you” “to test you” and he reveals the real work of Satan, not as a last resort to evangelize sinners, but to outwit us if we do not forgive.
The passage has come full circle
So in review.
-The general theme of scripture is one of grace,and adoption into an eternal family.
– Matthew appears to offer an exception in one verse, but upon further examination that turns out not to be the case
– In 1Cor 5 Paul does apparently suggest that sending someone to hell might be justifiable if they are habitually sleeping with their mother (a crime more offensive than serial rape)
-But in 2 Corinthians he seems to regret being so harsh. and calls us all back to forgiveness.
There is no biblical basis to be found in 1 Corinthians to say to a sinner “we love you and that’s why we are sending you away from us until you repent”. If you raise 1 Cor 5 to a christian sinner, what you are telling them is “I think you’re a Mother Fucker, get out!”
I don’t deny that that may be necessary in some circumstances.