August 18, 2022 John Lee

A PHILOSOPHY FOR ADDRESSING SEXUAL SIN IN THE CHURCH, AS INFORMED BY 1 CORINTHIANS 5-6

A PHILOSOPHY FOR ADDRESSING SEXUAL SIN IN THE CHURCH, AS INFORMED BY 1 CORINTHIANS 5-6

Sin separates us from God. It hinders our relationship with Him and causes disunity within the Church. Sin impacts not only an individual but also the entire community of faith. Therefore, unity with Christ and unity within the Church, the body of Christ, is incompatible with sin. As Christians, we should not live in willing and unrepentant sin but practice confession and repentance while pursuing a holy life. God has set certain boundaries for his children, which mark them as his own and reflect His goodness to a fallen world. For the church to maintain these boundaries and preserve its witness, it must practice Biblical church discipline. Vance Havener once said, "The alternative to discipline is a disaster." 


Without question, all sin impacts not only an individual Christian's unity with Christ but also the unity within their local church, and sexual sin has a particular impact because sexual sin has a spiritual component. Uncomfortable as it may be, sexual sin must be addressed and disciplined within the Church through a clear Biblically informed plan. The following is a plan informed by the principles for how to deal with sexual sin as presented by Paul in 1 Corinthians 5 and 6. 

First, the church should address the problem. The Church should not tolerate willful, unrepentant, and blatant sin but should challenge it directly. In 1 Cor. 5:1, Paul does not beat around the bush but courageously addresses the problem head-on, publicly calling out the corruption causing disunity in the Corinthian church. Paul calls out the individual sin and the sin of the church as they tolerated and allowed the problem to continue in their fellowship.  


Secondly, we should not tolerate and be numb to sexual sin in our fellowship but should mourn the sin. In 1 Cor. 5:2, Paul addresses the Corinthian Church by calling out their arrogance and lack of brokenness, and agony over the shocking presence of sexual sin in their midst. Sin should break us and lead us to repentance as we mourn our disobedience to God. A proper understanding of sin and its implications will lead us to mourn sexual sin and not accept it as our culture does. 


Thirdly, through tears, we should discipline the unrepentant through ex-communication. We see this executed clearly in 1 Cor. 5:3-5. The discipline and the ex-communication are meant to lead the unrepentant to repentance and to bring about his eventual restoration to the church body. Paul shares an analogy, 1 Cor. 5:6-7, about how a small amount of leaven impacts the entirety of the dough. His analogy speaks to what happens when sin is tolerated in the church rather than discipline. Sin will affect and destroy church fellowship unless it is adequately addressed and disciplined. There is absolutely no room in the Church for blatant, flagrant, and unrepentant sexual sin. 

Finally, the Church should expect and demand purity. The Christian's position of being in Christ and their worship of Christ demands purity and separation from the world. (1 Cor. 5:6-13), since "the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 6:9). As Christians, our justification and sanctification must be worked out in a life characterized by growing obedience to the demands of God, for we are the temple of God's Spirit. This life of obedience will only take place when we remember that we belong to Christ, for He "bought us with a price" (1 Cor. 6:15; 20). This truth should not only motivate us to live our lives in pursuit of holiness but also help us to have a proper perspective of sin and how to discipline the unrepentant sinner lovingly.

BIBLIOGRAPHY


S.J. Hafemann, "Corinthians, Letter to the" in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1993)


Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2014)