Messy Church Series
  • The local church has had problems from her inception. The local church is about people from all different background trying to discover unity in Christ and enjoy an amazing fellowship with one another through the Spirit's power. But, it is not automatic nor is it easy. In many ways it is very messy. Yet, God promises that His church will overcome and even the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. In the local church is the personification of the Lord Savior Jesus Christ. He will insure that the local church will flourish into eternity.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance - What are the central ideas of this text?
    • While still sinners, Christ died for us and paid for our sin. – Romans 5:8, 19; I Peter 3:18
    • Once our sin has been paid for, we are free from the clutches of sin. – Romans 5:17; 6:6,7
    • As those freed from sin, we are to live holy, righteous lives. – Romans 6:11-14, 17 & 18; I Peter 1:13-19
  • Implications - What questions should the listener be asking?
    • What does it mean for you that your sins have been wiped away?
    • What does it mean in your everyday life that you are free from sin (and sinning)?  How can you escape from past sin habits?
    • How can you live a righteous and holy life without sinning?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
  • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
    • Why do you think the Corinthians were generally accepting of the behavior of the man referred to in chapter 5, verse 1” 
    • What was wrong (literally, sinful) with the behavior of that man?
    • How had the church in Corinth failed as a community of faith in regard to this situation?”
    • How might he Corinthians been arrogant and even boastful?
    • Is sexual sin worse than other sin?  What of Paul’s listing of several sins in addition to the sin of sexual immorality?  How are the sins on this list comparable?
    • What does it mean to “deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh?”  What does it mean that “his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord?”
    • What is Paul’s point about the leaven in verses 6-8 of chapter 5?
    • Why is it not wrong to associate with the sinners of this world?
    • Why is it important to purge the evil among the fellowship of believers?
    • What is the effect of our having been sanctified as it relates to our past sinful behaviors and our future behaviors?
  • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
    • Why is it important to avoid sinful behavior?  Why is it important for you personally?Why is it important for the life of the church?   
    • How can we flee from sin? 
    • What is the implication for you that you were bought with a price by Jesus?  
    • Should the church judge all sins and remove the offender from fellowship?”  If not, why not?  What sins and situations do call for church discipline?  Why was it important for the Corinthians to judge the man referred to in I Corinthians 5:1?
    • Is there a hierarchy among sins? (In other words, is one sin worse than another?)  If not, why not?
    • What is particularly bad about the sin of sexual immorality!
    • What is the main lesson in these verses, and how should you apply it to your life?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as compiled by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
In this lesson, Paul continues to call the Corinthian believers to living lives that reflect who they are in Christ. Again, the subject matter involved is as messy as it is real, and involves individual behavior as well as the life of the community of faith, the called out, set apart ones who together call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 1:2). In addressing the issue at hand, the Apostle Paul refers to a prior letter he had written to the Corinthians (Thus, what we refer to as I Corinthians is actually the second letter to the church) in which he had raised the issue of immorality, among other issues, and to which he had received some response, presumably via Chloe’s people (I Corinthians 1:11).

As such, in this chapter, Paul is actually responding in some measure to the response of the Corinthians (note I Corinthians 5:2, 6) while adjuring them with strong words and admonitions. The big picture of Paul’s admonition is that those who are called out ones are to live a certain way as followers of Jesus Christ, and that way is to be clearly counter-cultural and Spirit-led. In the case of the Corinthians, remember that Corinth was a Roman colony, and the believers there had been saved out of a Greco-Roman culture and lifestyle. That culture was bound up in certain notions of honor and shame. Honor was a male value and had to do with establishing one’s public reputation, principally through public works. Rising in position and doing works that were seen by others was tied up with and led to power and authority, all of which led to one being the recipient of honor. Men in particular sought out the acclaim of others and their praise. Shame was primarily a female matter, or better, had to do with the behavior of the “inferior” members of the society, namely women, slaves and minors.

As opposed to receiving honor, wives avoided shame by upholding the honor of their husbands, eschewing infidelity and illicit sex, while maintaining the family. For a man to engage in any kind of sexual activity outside of marriage was not something that brought shame, so long as his wife maintained the family. Thu, sexual immorality was not considered a matter of right or wrong, since what was right was what either brought honor or did not bring shame. Altogether, then, what we would consider to be immoral sexual activities were not problematic or frowned upon by the average Corinthian, and especially if the one engaging in the activity was a person of higher estate and status. And further, to suggest that one was “wrong” in respect to such behavior would actually be to shame the objector! The genesis of Paul’s letter was that among the Corinthian believers, all of whom had come out of the Greco-Roman culture, and probably only a few of whom were Jewish in background (and who would have a different view of sexual immorality (cf. Leviticus 18:7 & 8), one of them was engaged in an illicit sexual activity involving his stepmother.

Paul’s response to this was that it is wrong, that even the pagans would not go that far, and that this man ought to be ex-communicated from the fellowship of the believers in order to jolt him into changing his behavior. Apparently, the Corinthian believers had tolerated the behavior, and perhaps even resisted Paul’s attempt to deal with the situation in his first letter. Paul calls the Corinthians arrogant (I Corinthians 5:2) and admonishes them for their boasting (Maybe they had said that they knew better than Paul! I Corinthians 5:6). He calls on them to remove this man from the church, indicating that such removal is from Paul as well as from the congregation, and is an extension of the power of Jesus as Lord of the church. The removal was to serve several purposes. First, it would place the man out of the protective shell of the church and instead in the realm of Satan’s authority where he might be brought to understand his sin and in effect “shamed” into obedience.

Second, the effect would be to assure the salvation that ultimately was his in Christ. And third, the removal would remove the evil and tacit acceptance of same from the congregation itself. Paul admonishes the congregation for their failure to understand the implication of allowing evil to remain in their midst: it would infect the entire congregation (I Corinthians 5:6); it would undermine the testimony of Jesus as His kingdom does not tolerate such evil (I Corinthians 6:9 & 10); the removal would cleanse the entire fellowship (I Corinthians 5:7); and the removal would reestablish the principles of sincerity and truth as part of the kingdom (I Corinthians 5:8). In short, the community of believers is to be holy, and stand for the purity and discipline of the purified church (I Corinthians 5:8), and to be such calls for the action that Paul demanded of them.

But Paul doesn’t just call for the removal of the gross offender. He spells out the reasons that the behavior is wrong and therefore unacceptable, and how the believers are to deal with such behavior in the church and outside the church. First, the behavior is wrong because it is a violation of the body of the offender, since his body is no longer his but belongs to Jesus (I Corinthians 13-16). Further, one’s body is a temple of the Holy Spirit of God and is thus holy such that engaging in sexually immoral behaviors profanes the sanctity an holiness of God (I Corinthians 6:19). But what about those of the world? Paul says that not associating with those who habitually engage in sexual (and other) sinful behaviors relates only to those in the church, not to those in the world. The latter don’t know any better, and to not associate with them would mean leaving the world (I Corinthians 5:9 & 10, 12 & 13). No, the issue relates to those of the church who are guilty of sexual immorality, in addition to such things as greed, idolatry, reviling, drunkenness and swindling (I Corinthians 5:11).

The new life in Christ does not countenance the like (I Corinthians 6:9; see II Corinthians 5:17). Sexual immorality, by which Paul meant any sexual aberrant behaviors including incest, prostitution, sex with minors, homosexuality, and other such sexual practices (and all these are included within the meaning of the Greek words used in I Corinthians 5:1 and 6:9-11), do not belong in God’s kingdom. These behaviors are antithetical to God’s holiness, a profaning of the temple of one’s body indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and shameful as well as hurtful to the very person of the participants. The implication of Paul’s words are not that sexual sins are any worse than other sins (including idolatry, greed, drunkenness, reviling, or swindling as noted in I Corinthians 6:9); but they have a particular heinousness as they deal with the body, literally the person, for which Christ died. They are to be avoided assiduously for the sake of purity and the glory of God Himself.

All in all, Paul is dealing with a mess in Corinth, namely the sinful behavior of the man referred to in I Corinthians 5:1, the action (or rather, inaction!) of the rest of the church in tolerating and not dealing with the sin that was infecting the entire church, and the reality that as Christ followers, the One they truly needed to honor was Jesus by changing their behaviors and attitudes to those that represent the principles of the kingdom of God as opposed to those of their society. True honor is service to Jesus; real shame is in engaging in behaviors that violate His principles and holiness. Paul was saying both that one’s personal behavior is at issue, and that one’s behavior affects the entire church which, collectively, is responsible to judge such behavior and take appropriate action. The new life in Christ mandates the foregoing and provides a witness to the world of the life of Christ. One’s prior behaviors have been forgiven in Christ (I Corinthians 6:11), and the follower of Jesus is empowered to be rid of such behaviors as those who are transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2), and by the activity of God within them to make like Christ (Philippians 2:12 & 13).

And oh by the way, don’t sue each other in the world’s courts; there is no honor in that among believers. To the Corinthian, using a lawsuit was another way of shaming someone of lesser status. Instead, believers are to submit to one another, decide grievances against one another within the community using the wisdom of God to judge, and be ready even to suffer wrong for the sake of the body of believers. All these things surely indicate that the life of the believer, and the life of the believing community, the church of Jesus Christ, is to be markedly different from that of the world around. The principles that the believer is to follow, and the community of believers together are to follow, are those of the kingdom, and they include respect and honor to one another, voluntary submission of one to another, a turning away from the past life marked by sin as enabled to do so by Jesus as those washed clean by the blood He shed and set apart for Him and His purposes, and a life that speaks to the world of who He is by the contrast provided. In this life, the believer is not to retreat from the world, but rather continue to live in the world to provide that contrast, that light in the darkness, that would witness to God and His kingdom and give God the honor and glory in all things.