1 Corinthians chapter 14

Body Building

“Since you’re so eager to participate in what God is doing, why don’t you concentrate on doing what helps everyone in the church? – Vs 12 MSG

If you’re not careful, you could easily get hung up on all the talk about tongues and gifts in this chapter. Churches have split over interpretation of what Paul is saying. Arguments have been had. Friendships have been ended. But I think the real issue Paul is making has to do with the overall health of the body of Christ. Paul begins the chapter by commanding the Corinthians to “pursue love.” That is what chapter 13 was all about. The supremacy of love in all things. Now he tells  them  to chase after it. And while you’re loving one another, go ahead and pursue spiritual gifts, but always do it with love as the motivation. Even spiritual gifts can be used in unspiritual ways if we’re not careful. But if they are done in the context of sacrificial love, spiritual gifts can be powerful tools in the life of the church.

So Paul says it’s OK to be excited about your spiritual gift, but just remember that it’s not for you. It is for the rest of the body of Christ. So use it to build up others. Use it to encourage others in their spiritual walk with Christ. The actual definition for the Greek word translated “edifies” is the act of one who promotes another’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, happiness, holiness. That’s why the Holy Spirit gives us gifts. To promote one another’s spiritual growth and maturity. To use your gift selfishly is to act like a child. It is to be self-centered and self-absorbed. That’s why Paul says, “stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults” (Vs 20 NET). Quit thinking about your gifts with only your self in mind. Think of others.

When the church comes together, we are each to use our God-given gifts, but we are to remember to  “Let all these things be done for the strengthening of the church” (Vs 26 NET). We are to build up the body, not ourselves. We are to love others more than we love the recognition of our gifts or any blessing we might receive from using them. It’s as if Paul is telling us, “So here’s what I want you to do. When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all” (Vs 26 MSG).

Father, show us how to love one another, even in the use of our gifts. They are Yours and You are only sharing them with us. Help us to give them away selflessly so that the body of Christ might grow and mature together. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Corinthians chapter 13

All You Need Is Love!

“But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. – Vs 13 MSG

The Beatles were only partially right. There is coming a day when all you will need is love. It’s that day when we stand before the Lord at the end of the age. His kingdom will have come in all its glory and we will have glorified bodies and sinless natures. At that time there will no longer be any need for faith, because all that we have been placing our faith in will have been fulfilled. Christ’s kingdom will have come. Our redemption will have been completed. All of God’s promises will have been kept. There will no longer be any need for hope. Why? Because our eager expectations will have been met. There will no longer be anything we need to hope for. We will have it all! But in that day, there will be a need for love, because God Himself is love. We will spend eternity loving and being loved. Love is eternal. Love lasts. Or as Paul puts it, “love never fails.”

Love is the greatest investment we can make. It’s the only thing that lasts. Right now we need faith and hope. We need to use our gifts. But all of those things are useless without love. Paul says that loveless words are useless words. If I have more gifts than anybody, but no love, I’m just a nobody. If I give everything away, including my life, but don’t give love, it doesn’t profit me anything in God’s eyes. God measures everything by love. Love is how the world knows we are His disciples. Jesus Christ was the greatest expression of God’s love to us. Everything else has its time and place. Gifts are temporary, but love is timeless. Love is the currency of heaven. It gives everything else its value. It is the gold-standard of life, both now and for eternity. If all our religious actions and activities are not backed by love, they are just empty acts. They have no value. They are meaningless and powerless to produce change.

But love isn’t just some feeling. It expresses itself in actions and attitudes. “Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end” (Vs 3-8 MSG).

So in a way, the Beatles were right. All you need is love. Because with love, you will have everything you need to do all you need to do. Love gives meaning to our faith, confidence to our hope, purpose to our gifts, power to our actions, and value to our lives, both in this age and in the one to come.

Father, may I continue to learn the value of love. It isn’t just a feeling, it is the essence of who You are and therefore it should be the expression of who I am and what I do. Thank You for loving me so much that You sent Your Son to die for me. May I learn to love others with the same intensity. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Corinthians chapter 12

One For All and All For One

“Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it. – Vs 27 NLT

Unity. Diversity. Giving. Receiving. Caring. Sharing. Together.

The body of Christ. What an incredibly unique organism – made up of a host of individuals, but unified by our faith in Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit within each of us. Gifted for service by the Holy Spirit, we are to minister to one another in a spirit of selfless service. “A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church” (Vs 7 NLT). Like the human body, where every single part has a function and a purpose, so each member of the body of Christ has a Spirit-given purpose. No one is more important than the other. No gift is more significant than the other. Each is needed and necessary. But how many of us know what our gift is? For those who do know, how many are actually using it for the benefit of the body of Christ?

We live in an individualized society where the emphasis is all on “me.” The world exists for my benefit. Others are here to serve me. I have to look out for “number one.” It’s every man for himself. But Paul paints a completely different picture for us as believers. We are members of a body, an organism. We are interdependent, not independent. We are unique in many ways, including in our gifting, but it is for a purpose – the purpose of unity. I have something to bring to the body. So do you. Together we complement and complete one another. We are to be, like the Three Musketeers, one for all and all for one. We are not independent agents operating in a vacuum, but team members working toward a common goal and sharing a common purpose. There is a spirit of oneness that should permeate all we do. Paul puts it this way: “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad” (Vs 26 NLT). We are to grow together.  We are to rejoice together. We are to suffer together. We are to celebrate together. We are to worship together. All for the common good. And all for the glory of God.

Father, thank You for placing in my in the body of Christ and equipping me with the gifts to serve. Thank You for all the other individuals who make up the body and who have gifts I don’t have, but that I get to enjoy. What an incredible organism You have created. May we learn to live together in a spirit of unity and share our gifts willingly and regularly. So that Your name might be glorified here on earth. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Corinthians chapter 11

Eating to Remember, Not to Forget

“For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. – Vs 36 NLT

I have no idea how many times I have taken the Lord’s Supper over the years, but it’s been a lot. I became a Christ-follower at the age of seven and have faithfully  taken part in this ordinance of the church since then. But I have not always taken it with a right attitude or with a proper understanding of its significance for my life. I confess that, too often, it has just been another one of those things that you do in church that has little or no meaning at the moment. You just do it. It’s like singing the words to a hymn and not really meaning what you’re saying. The words just come out without your brain even processing what you are saying. The same can be true when taking communion. It can just become rote and repetitive, lacking in meaning and significance. But Paul says that it should be just the opposite. When we do it, we are proclaiming the Lord’s death. We are declaring the reality of the Lord’s substitionary death every time we take the bread and the cup. These elements represent His body and blood, given for us, so that we might have forgiveness of sin and eternal life. Our celebration of the Lord’s Supper is a public declaration of our belief in Christ’s death on our behalf. We are telling everyone around us that our hope of new life is based on His death. But there is another element that Paul stresses: Jesus’ future return. Paul says we are to celebrate communion until He comes again! His death was followed by a resurrection. His resurrection was followed by His glorification. His glorification will culminate with His second coming. The Lord’s Supper is not just about His death. It is about His resurrection and His ultimate return. He is coming back! And we are counting on it.

So when we take part in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, we are to do so with our eyes on the past, the present, and the future. We are to remember what He has done, what He is doing, and what He is going to do. He is going to finish what He started. He is going to complete the task He began. The redemption of man and the recreation of the world, restoring order to God’s creation. So the Lord’s Supper is less a memorial than it is a celebration. It is to be hope-filled and future-oriented. His death leads to life.

Father, thank You for reminding me that Your Son is returning and that every time I take the elements I am to remember that fact. Without Your Son’s sacrificial death, there would be no hope for the future. There would be no salvation. But because He came and died, rose again, and is going to return again, we have hope for the future. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Corinthians chapter 10

When Man-Pleasing Is God-Pleasing!

I try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what I like or what is best for me, but what is best for them so they may be saved. – Vs 33 NLT

If you take this verse out of its context, you can end up taking it to extremes. You could come to all kinds of wrong and unbiblical conclusions that Paul never intended. Remember, he is talking about being sensitive to the weaker brothers around you. They are less knowledgeable about the things of God. They are not yet able to enjoy the new-found freedoms they have in Christ. They are still impacted by their past. In Paul’s case, the people to whom he was writing were coming out of various pagan cults that worshiped idols. They were trying to make a clean break with their past. But more mature believers were causing them to stumble by buying and eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. They felt free to do so because they knew there were no such things as other gods. There was only one God. So in their minds, they were free to purchase high-grade meat at low prices. But in doing so, they were causing their weaker brothers to stumble. Why? Because their consciences were telling them that it was wrong. But if they followed their brothers example and ate meat sacrificed to idols like they did, then they would end up violating their consciences and live in guilt.

Paul continues this discussion in chapter 10. He talks about the need for us to live as examples to those around us, especially our weaker brothers and sisters. He wants the believers in Corinth to be wise in their behavior and think about the ramifications of what they are doing. While “everything is permissible”— not everything is beneficial. While “everything is permissible”— not everything is constructive (Vs 23 NASB). He says, “do not seek your own good, but the good of the other person” (Vs 24 NET). This is the central theme of this portion of his letter to the Corinthians. He wants them to glorify God by seeking the welfare of others.

We have to think about the consciences of others. We cannot allow our freedoms to trump their consciences. Paul makes that clear in verses 28-29. “But suppose someone warns you that this meat has been offered to an idol. Don’t eat it, out of consideration for the conscience of the one who told you. It might not be a matter of conscience for you, but it is for the other person” (NLT). Just because you CAN eat it, doesn’t mean you should. Just because you CAN have a glass of wine with your dinner, doesn’t mean you always should. Just because you CAN go to an R-rated movie, doesn’t mean you should. If our actions might cause a brother to struggle or stumble, we should be willing to give up our rights. We need to love them enough to say no to our desires. Now are we to live our entire lives according to the consciences of others? Paul answers that question. He says, “If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it?” (Vs 30 NLT). We shouldn’t be condemned. As long as we are doing it for the glory of God (Vs 31). But when Paul says, “Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God” (Vs 31 NLT), the “whatever you do” part includes not eating or drinking. Even the willful abstinence from certain things can be done for the glory of God if our motivation is the good of others. So if I choose to give up serving alcohol in my home because a weaker brother may struggle with Christians drinking, then I am glorifying God with my actions. Why? Because I have put the welfare of a brother in Christ above my own. I have shown God that His desire for unity is greater than my desire to have my own way. His will takes precedence over my rights. And He ends up being glorified.

Father, I want my life to glorify You. Forgive me for allowing my rights to become an idol in my life. Help me to die to self and live for the sake of others. Even if it means giving up those things that are rightfully mine to enjoy. I want to live my life so that all I do is done for Your glory and not mine. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Corinthians chapter 9

Run To Win!

“Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. – Vs 24 NLT

Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win! (MSG). Sounds like a no-brainer doesn’t it? After all, doesn’t everyone run to win? No, some just run for the fun of it. Others do it just to be a part of the competition. But not everyone who enters a race does so with the mindset that they have a legitimate, realistic chance to make it across the finish line first. But when it comes to our spiritual lives, Paul seems to believe that we need a winner-takes-all attitude. No second place finishes. This has less to do with the idea of winning or success than it does to our motivation and its impact on our effort. If I don’t think I can win, I won’t put my full effort behind it. If winning isn’t a possibility, then losing becomes not only a reality, but an inevitability.

Paul wanted to end well, so he determined to run well. He embraced the idea of beginning with  the end in mind. He had a hard-and-fast goal or objective he was trying to reach. Paul was big on the idea of knowing where you’re going. Compete like you want to get there – and ahead of the pack, not at the end of it. Paul says, “So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified” (Vs 26-27 NLT). Paul was willing to work at reaching his objective. He was willing to discipline himself for the purpose of reaching his goal: Godliness. He told Timothy to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Timothy 4:8b (NASB). Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Have an aim. Have an objective. Paul had one. Do you?

In his book, Search & Rescue: Becoming A Disciple Who Makes A Difference, Neil Cole has this to say: “In writing his last words to his spiritual son, Paul was looking for something that would inspire Timothy to fight the good fight and finish the read as a hero, just as Paul had done. He knew that continuing on in life without transformation is not success but failure. Sometimes I fear that parents and pastors alike will be content if their children and parishioners just hold on and do not fall away. I can understand this fear, but simply holding on is not godly faith. Jesus didn’t die and rise again so that we can stay the same, and for Paul this was abject failure. We are to more than mere survivors; we are to be victors in Christ.” No running just to run. No mere surviving for us Christ followers. We are to run in such a way that we may win. Victory is the goal. Godliness is the objective. But finishing well requires that I run well. In other words, to win!

Father, I want my goal to be godliness. I want to run with my eye on the goal. I do not want to settle for just being in the race. I don’t want the T-Shirt, I want the crown. Show me how to run the race before me with an attitude that says I am going to win in the end. Help me keep my eyes fixed on the finish line. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Corinthians chapter 8

When Rights Become Wrong

“But God [does] care when you use your freedom carelessly in a way that leads a Christian still vulnerable to those old associations to be thrown off track. – Vs 9 MSG

“I’m free in Christ!”

That’s a wonderful statement that any believer in Christ should be able to make. We are free. Free from slavery to sin. Free to live a new life. Free from having to try to earn favor with God through our own feeble attempts at keeping some impossible set of rules. Jesus Himself said, “So if the son sets you free, you will be really free” (John 8:36 NET). So we really are free. But with that freedom comes a degree of responsibility. Because of our faith in Christ, we have been made aware of certain truths we didn’t know before. We have knowledge of certain realities we didn’t know before. We know we can’t earn our way into heaven. We know there is only one true God. We know that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to God except through Him (John 14:6). We know we are saved by grace through faith any not according to our works so that none of us can take credit for it (Ephesians 2:8-9). We know we are not defiled by what we eat, but by what we say and do (Matthew 15:11). But Paul says that all this knowledge can end up making us arrogant and prideful. Especially when it comes to how we act around those brothers and sisters who don’t know as much as we do. Knowledge puffs up. Love builds up.

Love trumps knowledge. Knowing all the things listed above is great, but is we allow that knowledge to get in the way of our love for our fellow believer, we have missed the point. Not everyone who attends church with us shares the same degree of knowledge or spiritual insight. There are new believers who bring to the table some immature beliefs and worldly viewpoints. They may bring inaccurate doctrine or teaching from a previous church relationship. They may bring a hodge-podge of religious and psychological input that is unbiblical, but in their mind it is real. We may have the desire to correct them, but Paul seems to be calling us to love them first. He is dealing with practical issues of faith. In his day it was the believers freedom to eat meat sacrificed to idols. The logic went like this: Since God is the only god,  idols are nothing more than man-made objects. Therefore the meat that was sacrificed to them was not polluted or unclean, because that god did not exist to begin with. So Christians were free to buy this meat from the priests who ran the temples to those gods. Their knowledge of the truth gave certain believers in the Corinthian church the freedom to eat this meat with a clear conscience.

But there were others in their fellowship who did not have the same level of knowledge. They had come to Christ out of a pagan background, having at one time worshiped those false gods. They had eaten that meat sacrificed to an idol. Now that they were Christians, they felt compelled to leave all that behind. They wanted nothing to do with their former way of life, including buying and eating meat sacrificed in the temple of their former god. Now they saw their fellow believers doing just that. They were confused. They were torn. And because of the actions of their more knowledgeable brothers, they were stumbling – falling back into their old habits and wrestling with their old beliefs. This is where Paul draws the line on our rights or freedoms. He says, “But you must be careful with this freedom of yours. Do not cause a brother or sister with a weaker conscience to stumble” (Vs 9 NLT). Sure, these more mature believers were free to eat that meat. That was not the point. The point was that their love for their weaker brother should outweigh their right to take advantage of low-priced, high-quality meat. Did they have a responsibility to share their knowledge of the truth with their weaker brothers? Yes. But until they did, they had a responsibility to love them in their ignorance. Otherwise, “… because of your superior knowledge, a weak Christian, for whom Christ died, will be destroyed” (Vs 11 NLT). Knowledge puffs up. Love builds up. Knowledge can lead to pride. Love leads to sacrifice. You can be right and oh so wrong. To stand for our rights and to cause a brother to fall at the same time is sin. Paul makes it clear. May we have the attitude that Paul had. “If what I eat is going to make another Christian sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live––for I don’t want to make another Christian stumble” (Vs 13 NLT).

Father, thank You for the freedoms I have in You. Thank You for the rights and privileges that are mine because of my relationship with Jesus Christ. But may I never allow my freedoms to become a stumbling-block to another brother in Christ. I want my love for them to far outweigh my love for my own rights. May I learn to give up everything in order that they might not fall into sin because of me. Open my eyes and help me see where my freedoms might be causing another believer to sin against his or her conscience. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Corinthians chapter 7

Undivided Attention

“Now I say this for your profit; not to make things hard for you, but because of what is right, and so that you may be able to give all your attention to the things of the Lord. – Vs 35 BBE

Distractions. We all have them. They’re a normal part of life and they’re all around us. Especially when it comes to pursuing a deeper relationship with God. I mean, have you ever sat down to spend some time reading your Bible, only to find that your mind wanders off in a thousand different directions? You can’t concentrate on what you’re reading. You keep thinking about things you need to do that day. Every little noise distracts you. Things in the room that would normally be of little or no interest to you suddenly seem to have some kind of gravitation pull that slowly pulls your mind away from what you’re doing

Distractions come in all shapes and sizes – family, friends, work, entertainment, noise, worries, cares, bills, dreams, the newspaper, television, etc. Paul even seems to say that being married can be a distraction. That’s a tough one to understand considering all that the Bible has to say about the God-ordained institution of marriage. I think Paul was for marriage, but he was more for the Corinthians each being sold-out followers of Jesus Christ. So he encouraged them that “whatever situation you were in when you became a believer, stay there in your new relationship with God” (Vs 25 NLT). If you were unmarried when you came to Christ, stay that way. Don’t let getting married become your obsession. But if you find yourself lacking in self-control and overcome by sexual desire, then get married (Vs 9). If you were married when you came to Christ, stay that way. Don’t seek to get out of it. Instead, honor each other and pursue Christ-likeness together.

Then Paul says something really interesting. It’s in verse 29: “Now let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short, so husbands should not let marriage be their major concern” (NLT). It’s as if Paul is saying that due to the nature of the times in which we live, we should prioritize our lives in such as a way that even being married does not become a distraction when it comes to our devotion to God. And let’s face it, the cares and concerns of married life CAN become a distraction if we let them. Paul wants his readers to be free from concern. But that’s not always easy.Why? Because “… a married man can’t do that so well. He has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife” (Vs 33  NLT). But if his wife shares his passion for the things of God then he doesn’t have to spend his time trying to please her. If he shares his wife’s passion for spiritual growth and inner transformation, then she won’t have to distract herself with trying to keep him pleased. That is why we are called to oneness in marriage. We are to be unified in our desire for God and our pursuit of spiritual things. In marriage, we can and should share a common love for the things of God and experience undistracted devotion to the Lord. We  should encourage each other to put God first. If my wife is up having her time in the Word and I have to make my own breakfast, so be it. If I need to take care of the kids one night a week so she can attend a Bible study, I should be more than happy to do so. My greatest desire for her should be her spiritual maturity. And the same should be true of her for me.

Yet we find ourselves distracted by so many things: Work, kids, soccer and piano practice, volunteer opportunities, housework, yard work, paying the bills, watching TV, reading books, etc. And our interests become divided (Vs 34). We lose sight of what is really important. The things of God.

Father, I find myself so easily distracted. I feel like every little shiny thing that gets dangled in front of me distracts me and turns my attention away from You. I thank You that You have blessed me with a beautiful, godly wife and wonderful children. May we grow in our unity and common desire to put You first in all things. Forgive me for letting the things of this world draw me away from You. Show me how to lead my wife and kids into sharing a common devotion for You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Corinthians chapter 6

Under new management

“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?. – Vs 20 NET

I’m a control freak. At least when it comes to controlling me. I want to control everything about me – what I do, where I go, what I think about, what I enjoy, what I classify as sin, and what I’m willing to give up. I want to control the hours in my day and how I use them. I want to control all my possessions and who I share them with. I want to control the present and the future. And if anyone tries to wrestle control away from me, they will be in for quite a fight. Sadly to say, I sometime even find myself fighting God for control of my life. Paul says that I am no longer the manager of my life. My life, my body, my soul … it all belongs to God. He purchased my life with the life of His own Son. Paul reminds me, “for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body” (Vs 20 NLT). I was purchased out of slavery to sin by God, and at a very high price. Peter puts it this way: “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (1 Peter 1:18-19 NLT).

Not only did God purchase me, He filled me. He filled me with His own Spirit. I have the very Spirit of Christ living in me. So as Paul puts it, “Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for?” (Vs 20 MSG). My body is a sacred place. It is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. I am under new management and I have a new tenant. On top of that, I am under a constant state of renovation as God transforms me into the likeness of His Son. I am being sanctified daily…a process Paul explains in verse 11: “…now your sins have been washed away, and you have been set apart for God. You have been made right with God because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God have done for you.”

I am no longer in control. Sure, I try to take back control all the time. But the Holy Spirit gently reminds me that He lives in me so that He might direct my life. He knows the will of God and wants to direct me life into that will each and every day. He wants to use my body and my life to glorify God. That is what it means to be set apart or sanctified. I have been set apart by God for His use. I belong to Him. I am not to be used for anything else. My hands, feet, mind, eyes, heart, emotions…they all belong to Him. And I am not to take what is holy and use them for unholy purposes. “The person who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (Vs 17 NLT). I am His and He is mine. I am under new management.

Father, may my life increasingly reflect the fact that I am under new management. May I show with my actions that it is You who are is control of my life and not me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Corinthians chapter 5

Bad company corrupts good morals

“What I meant was that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a Christian yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Don’t even eat with such people. – Vs 11 NLT

Whoa! In a world that worship at the altar of inclusivity, Paul sounds like some kind of stone-age, moralistic, authoritarian figure. He’s delivering people over to Satan, commanding people to “clean out the old leaven,” and not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. It all sounds rather harsh and condemning. But we have to keep in mind that Paul is writing to believers, to members of the church at Corinth. He is talking about the family of God, the church, the organism that he described to Timothy as the pillar and foundation of the truth. The health of the church is vital to the spread of the truth about Jesus Christ. If the church is morally weak and indistinct from the rest of the world, the truth will appear to have no power and the Gospel message will have no attraction to it.

So Paul says to, in essence, clean house. In their case, the Corinthians had a man in their midst who was having sexual relations with his own mother. And rather than the church doing anything about it, their lack of action came across as arrogant and indifferent. They would rather tolerate this man’s sinful behavior in their midst than stand up for the truth of God’s Word and the integrity of the Gospel. But Paul would not tolerate it. He was going to do something about it. And so should we.

We wrestle with the idea of judging someone else, lest we be judged. But Paul makes it clear. We have every right and responsibility to judge those who claim to be Christ followers but who are dragging His name in the mud through their persistent acts of sinfulness. Listen to what Paul says:

“It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning in these ways. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, You must remove the evil person from among you.” – Vs 12-13 NLT

Why are we so willing to tolerate blatant sin in the church? Why are we so afraid to speak up and confront someone who we know is living a lie? Maybe it’s because we fear someone discovering the hidden parts of our lives and pointing the finger at us. But we are called to live lives of distinctiveness. We are called to be salt and light. We are called to confront the sin in our own lives and the lives of those around us. We need to take our faith seriously. Paul did. Later on in this letter to the Corinthian believers he makes the often quoted statement that “bad company corrupts good morals.” He tells them to “come back to your senses as you should, and stop sinning! For some of you – I say this to your shame – don’t fully know God” (1 Corinthians 15:34 ISV). Paul was calling for them to live according to their new identity. Stop putting up with sin. Stop tolerating the hypocrisy that spreads through the body like a cancer. The church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. We exist to uphold the integrity of the Gospel message by the purity of our lives. Willful, continual, unrepentant sin in our midst cannot be tolerated. Paul wouldn’t put up with it. So why do we?

Father, give me a boldness to speak truth even when it might hurt those who hear it. Give me the strength to stand up for what I know to be right. Forgive me for tolerating sin in my own life and in the body of Christ. May we be willing to clean house if necessary in order to restore the integrity and distinctiveness of Christ’s body, the church. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men