“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.”
(1 Corinthians 5:1)
Thus begins a very challenging chapter in First Corinthians, specifically with calling out the church for not addressing unrepentant sin in its midst. So the picture here is sexual immorality that is detestable, even in the world. Like take the world’s standards of sexual morality, and this is even worse than they would approve of.
God holds the church responsible for the holiness of its members. We need God’s grace to reform our understanding of the church and our role in it. May he keep us from only looking out for our own interests.
Then he uses the example, a man has his father’s wife. So likely a picture of a stepmother. We don’t know all the details, but we do know this is clearly dishonoring to God. This is immoral based on God’s word. It’s even immoral based on the low standards of the world, Paul says. But the issue is notice in this verse that Paul is not actually calling out the person here. He’s calling out the church. So Paul is saying the church is responsible for the holiness or lack of holiness of its members.
Paul’s writing to the Church at Corinth, to these Christians, and he’s saying, you aren’t tolerating sexual immorality, sin in your midst, and this should not be. Now, a lot we’ll develop as we kind of pray through this chapter, but let’s just start with this fundamental reality. God holds the church, the body of Christ, responsible for the holiness of its members. So if there is unrepentant sexual sin in the church, who is responsible for addressing that? Well, certainly the person who is sitting in that case has a responsibility before God.
But the picture here in First Corinthians Five from the very first verse is that the brothers and sisters in Christ, the other members of that church share a responsibility for not addressing sin in their midst. This is a very different way to view our lives, our Christianity, a very different way to view the church. So many people like when they think of church, maybe even you, when you think of church, like yeah, that’s where I go and sit on Sunday and maybe a couple of other events here and there or do different things.
But do you realize if the person sitting next to you is living in unrepentant sexual immorality, that God holds you responsible for their holiness or the lack of holiness in them in the church? And do you realize that? That’s what First Corinthians 5:1 is saying. This changes everything. The people you’re sitting next to on Sunday are not just kind of anonymous churchgoers. You are responsible. They’re like your family. You’re responsible for their growth in Christ. Wow. This changes so much of how we view the church, so much more to dive into as we pray through this chapter.
But let’s stop here and just pray. God, we need you to reform, reshape our understanding of the church and our responsibility in it. God, we are so individualistic. We just confess that, that we are so prone just to look out for ourselves and somebody else’s sin is their problems, not our problem. God, this has led to all kinds of, I don’t hesitate to use the word, disaster in people’s lives and in your church. So we need you to help us. Forgive us for the way we’ve not thought rightly about your church and our roles and responsibilities in your church.
We pray that you would change our thinking and make us the church that you have called us to be. And we know that this is just going to go against the grain of so much that we, the way we think, the way this world thinks, the way even so many churches think. So God, conform our ways to your ways, conform our thoughts to your thoughts. We pray. Help us to live with responsibility humbly, with responsibility for holiness and the people around us. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.