Redemptive confrontation

Reading 1 Corinthians 5 (Paul’s courageous stand against a man living an immoral lifestyle while being a member-in-good-standing of the church) has caused me to reconsider John 8.  A woman caught in adultery is dragged before Jesus.  When challenged to give his opinion re. the “death sentence”, He hints strongly that none of those present had the moral authority to carry it out.  “Let him who is without sin be the first to throw a stone” (John 8:7)  I often hear people use this story to “prove” that Jesus wants us to be non-judgemental toward others (I agree) and NEVER INTERVENE in someones else’s life unless we can demonstrate a kind of unattainable perfection as a prerequisite ( I wonder).  Was Christ questioning the moral challenge or the death penalty?  Was he saying that we should never get involved or that our motive (checked and rechecked) should be to redeem and not to destroy?  The last line is the desired outcome.  “Go and sin no more.”


1 Corinthians 5 is an assault on the secular mind (and the Christians who have imported it into the church).  It “figures” morality from the perspective of God’s holiness and the church’s full surrender to it.  It assumes we accept/embrace the Biblical standard, “You be holy because I am holy”. (1 Peter 1:16)  We may fail this standard but we NEVER challenge it.  As we read Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians (withdraw fellowship from the man who is living in blatant and unrepented sin) we squirm under the not-so-subtle- challenge to our modern substitute virtue, “Mind your own business”.  Is someone else’s sin my business?  Yes, if he is my brother!  “If your brother sins. . .go to him”  (Matthew 18:15)  Ultimately the secular and the scriptural viewpoints are irreconcilable.  Either we are autonomous with the right to privacy(secular outlook), or we are family with shared responsibility and destiny(scripture outlook).  Only one of these two options can be true.  Which is it?  Are we family or should I MYOB?

An unfamiliar courage

“Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”  (1 Corinthians 5:13)  We will need to think carefully about this passage.  At the end of the week we may still have some unanswered questions.  What we will be clear is that public, scandalous, defiant sin cannot be tolerated in God’s family.  The Lord will require us to confront it.  It was not a new idea.  Paul quotes Deuteronomy 13:5 which commands corporate courage in the face of evil.  It is similar to Revelation 2:20 where Christ challenges the church at Thyatira “because you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and leads my bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality.”  When public and scandalous sin begins to impact others, the Lord will require of us an unfamiliar courage.  It may be unpopular to draw a clear line, but quiet tolerance is not always the path of Christ.  Read carefully, dear friends.  Ask God to guide your thinking.  More tomorrow as we walk this week together.


“We are not divided; all one body we, one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.”–Sabine Baring-Gould   It is not an easy claim to make or defend.  The church of Jesus Christ sure seems divided.  Denominationally.  Theologically.  Interpersonally.  (Read 1 Corinthians 1)  Maybe the unity claimed by the Scripture (and our hymnody) is deeper than the surface.  “There is ONE body, and ONE Spirit and ONE hope.  There is ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism and ONE God.”  (Ephesians 4:4-6)  The Scripture doesn’t say that there should be only ONE.  It says that there is only ONE!   We may split things up to suit our own preferences but God knows there is only ONE family and all who truly belong to Him belong to it!  As we meet today for worship,  please pray for the Lord to teach us the lessons of unity. Soldiers need to stick together.  The world (and the Lord) sees it when we do.  I will see you in a few hours.   Don

Blameless in the day of the Lord

No question, Paul had real reasons for being frustrated with the contentious Corinthian church.  They were argumentative, childish and proud–a constant headache.  He knew, however, that they were also truly saved people.  He vividly remembered their conversion (1 Corinthians 1:4-7) and it gave him great hope to consider what they would be in the future.  Paul believed that God would confirm the Corinthians, and all believers, to the end.  It is a Greek idea formed from the word for foot (standing or walking).  Paul believed that God would keep these people “on their feet and moving forward” until they reached maturity.   If perfection was not available (and it never is), Paul would delight in progress.  By the faithfulness of God,  even stubborn, foolish people eventually grow into radiant children of the Father.   What a great hope this is for sinners like us!  What a reminder for patience and prayer for those who frustrate us.  I will see you tomorrow.  Don

Learning how to Live

Do you think it is amazing?  For all the problems of the Corinthian church, despite their embarassing public behavior, Paul never once questions that they are saved people.  He thanks God for them (1 Corinthians 1:4)  He calls them brothers (vs 10).  What he does do is confront their childish conflict as proof that they have much to learn.  They have life.  Now, they have to learn to live it.  Consider verse 9 as the first lesson.  They (we) have been called into fellowship with Christ.  The English is inadequate here.  Koinoinia is more than fellowship.  It is partnership.  It is shared life and common goals.  Not a partnership of equals, it is a Kingdom!  No longer my goals–His.  No longer my pride–His glory.  Conflict and bickering, whether in the church or the family is an indication that we have not surrendered to Him and therefore cannot surrender to each other.  Even for those who have life, there is still much to learn.

God’s nickname for you

“To the church of God in Corinth. . .saints by calling” (1 Corinthians 1:2)  My wife Holly has certain names for me.  Some I like better than others, but all of them rise from her affection for me.  (OK, some of them rise from her affection)  Did you know that the Father has names for us?  The world calls us “christians” (little Christs–cf Acts 11:26)  Originally an insult (they have no thoughts or their own, they are just copies), it now seems like a compliment.  God’s names for us are “saints” and “called people”.  It is clearer in Greek than English, but “calling “in verse 2 is not a verb it is an adjective.  It is a seperate category.  We are holy people (saints) and we are called people.  More on this tomorrow, but would it change the way you lived if you could get in your mind (and keep it there) how God thinks of you?  You and I are His “called ones”

Those who call on His name

“To the church at Corinth. . .with all who in every place call on the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  (1 Corinthians 1:2)  It is another nickname that the Father has for us.  (see yesterday’s blog for the on ramp to this discussion)  His name/description of us is “those who call on the name of the Lord.” It is what he observes in us.  People who live in Christ do not accept life and it’s sinful limitations, we are not content to let the world be lost, we CALL on HIS NAME!   We access His life for our lives.  The bible says that “those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved”  (Romans 10:13)  and will continue to be saved by the same means!  What a powerful promise!  Since God has called us into life, we have the privilege to call on Him for the power to live it.  As we rest before Him today, consider His prayer as an instruction on what you should ask.  Bless you, friend.  Don

A new possibility

It seems IMPOSSIBLE.  “I exhort you, brethren . . .that you all agree. . .and that there be no divisions among you.”  (1 Corinthians 1:10)  Was Paul not aware?    Christians, then and now, are SO divided–opinions, preferences, theology, denomination.  The secret is in the sentence that follows.  “that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.”  G Campbell Morgan believes that Paul was thinking of the mind of Christ and our complete surrender of every personal preference and thought to it.  When we do this, He becomes our unity.  We will still not be exactly alike (this by the very plan of God)  but we will share one unifying priority and passion–Jesus.  It is like the Tower of Babel in reverse (cf Genesis 11)  In Christ, the human race has its first opportunity to stand together in unity.  Not because I agree with you or you agree with me, but because we agree with Christ.  What an intriguing new possibility!

I thank my God

“I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus”  (1 Corinthians 1:4)  In the weeks ahead, we may look back and wonder how Paul could have been thankful for this group.  For 16 chapters in 1 Corinthians and 12 more in 2 Corinthians he struggles with these folks on many theological and moral issues.  They are arguing among themselves.  They condone immorality and misuse spiritual gifts.  This church is a mess!  But they are also people in whom Paul sees the grace of God at work and he is thankful.  It is a good reminder to  me.  No wrong or weakness should take away my gratitude for people in God’s family.  We are all flawed.  Rather than reject others for their imperfections, I am to be thankful and vested in their growth.  If God has given me grace, and He has, then I should return the favor by giving it to others.  More as the week continues.  My love to you, dear friends.  Don