“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. 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. But now I am writing 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.”
(1 Corinthians 5:9–11)
Those are strong verses. Let’s make sure we understand what the Bible is saying here. First, the Bible is not saying don’t associate with sinners in the world. Like Paul says, if that were the case, you couldn’t be in the world. Sinners are everywhere in the world and by the way, we are some of them. So yes, yes, you associate with all kinds of people in the world and the whole picture in our association with them is that we proclaim the good news of God’s grace in Christ, a forgiveness from sin of reconciliation to God. Yes, throughout the world, in your workplace, in your neighborhood, in your city, in your community, in your family, share the gospel with all kinds of people with all kinds of backgrounds, believing God has the power to save them from sin. So share that gospel all the time. What Paul’s writing about here, he says, not talking about people outside the church. He said, I’m running about those who are inside the church. I’m writing about those who bear the name of brother or sister. And then he goes on to talk about the pictures, not just of sexual immorality, which has been kind of the subject and a lot of this one instance in first Corinthians chapter five, but greed, idolatry, reviling, drunkenness, swindling.
We’ve got to be really, really careful not to be selective about sin that we would confront in the church.How do we confront, yes, sexual immorality, but also greed? Also idolatry in all kinds of forms. So we’ve got to be careful not to be selective in our gracious confrontation of sin and one another’s lives. We need to help one another in all kinds of ways. And the picture here again is somebody who is unrepentant in these ways, who continues in these things, don’t act like they’re a brother or sister in Christ. That’s the whole picture. So yes, basically treat them and this is exactly what Jesus says in Matthew chapter 18, he says, treat them as a Gentile or a tax collector. The whole picture there is someone who is outside the people of God. And the picture here is someone who’s outside the church.
So basically you’re calling them to repent and believe in Christ. So once this person who was in the church continued unrepentant sin is excommunicated from the church, you’re calling to Christ, but you are not associating with as a brother or sister in Christ anymore. So your relationship with that person is fundamentally different in the same way that your relationship with a follower of Christ is different than someone who’s not a follower of Christ. Because this person is now basically showing they’re not a follower of Christ. That doesn’t mean we don’t love that person. Pray for that person. Call that person to faith in Christ, just like we do all kinds of people who aren’t followers of Jesus. But that’s just it, they’re now in the category of outside the church, not a part of the church, not a follower of Jesus, but someone who’s not following Jesus.
Oh God, we pray that you’d help us to love the people around us well according to your word. We pray you’d help us to love the church well, according to your word. Help us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ well, according to your word. We know. John 13:35, by this will all men know that you’re my disciples if you love one another. So we pray for a love for one another in the church that would show your love to the world. And we pray that you’d have us to love well, those who are outside the church, those who are not in Christ. I just think about the millions of people in the city around me right now who don’t know your love, who are not a part of the church. God, please help me. Help us to love them well. Help us to point them to Christ, helps us to serve them, care for them. Show your love to them. God, please, please, please use this to show your love to them and we pray the same.
We pray the same for those who may be once we’re in the church but are now outside the church. Those who once were saying they were in Christ, but at this point it seems like they’re not in Christ. Not that they lost their salvation. Obviously we know that’s a whole other dive into your word, but we know, we know. We’ve already seen in first Corinthians chapter one, you keep those you save. And so we think about first Corinthians chapter two, when those who go out from us show that they were never really of us, that they were never actually followers of Jesus. And so God we pray, we pray that you’d help us to love those who’ve gone out from us, that they might follow Jesus, that they would come to Jesus we pray, help us. Help us to love people well, according to your word. Those in the church, those outside the church. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.