The writer of 2 Kings is constantly diverting his attention from Israel to Judah and vice versa. So, he introduces us to Azariah, also known as Uzziah, anointed king over Judah at age 16. We will read much more about him in 2 Kings 15, but he seems to be referenced here only to give us the chronology for when Jeroboam II is anointed king of Israel. It is in the 16th year of Uzziah’s reign that Jeroboam comes to the throne. This will be the next-to-last generation in the dynasty of Jehu, but his son, Zechariah (29), will be murdered after six months. When he ascends to the throne, Israel only has about 70 years left before they are destroyed by the vicious Assyrians. God has been patient with Israel for almost 150 years, as king after king behaves just as Jeroboam will behave: “He did evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin” (24).
He will reign 41 years over Israel, an evil king over a wicked and disobedient people. But, these are God’s people, Abraham’s descendants and once part of the United Kingdom. If we do the impossible and try to put ourselves in God’s place, can we imagine giving to and doing for a people who are continually unappreciative, rebellious, and unfaithful? How long could we go before we ran out of patience? How many times could we be betrayed and hated by the recipients of our generosity before we gave up on them? Or, having God’s power, how long before we destroyed them all? God will go over 200 years, restraining Himself as His people served other gods and gratified their flesh.
Isn’t it amazing how much grace and kindness God shows to this faithless people? The Jonah who God graciously sends to the Assyrians to preach repentance (Jonah 1:1) is also sent to Israel (25). Despite Jonah’s flaws, his ministry seemed to be to extend God’s grace to an unrighteous people. Then, read what the author says about God and Israel next. “For the Lord saw the affliction of Israel, which was very bitter; for there was neither bond nor free, nor was there any helper for Israel. The Lord did not say that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash” (26-27). You want insight into the heart of God, as He deals with our sins? He cares when His people suffer. He views us with compassion, sympathy, and concern. He doesn’t want to reject us or let us go. God sent His prophet Hosea to this very people and speaks His mind on this subject: “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned over within Me, All My compassions are kindled. I will not execute My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim again. For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, And I will not come in wrath” (Hosea 11:8-9).
No one will be able to legitimately say at the Judgment, “God, you were harsh, hasty, and hateful!” No, even in the face of faithlessness, God shows His matchless grace! His patience can be exhausted and His justice will not allow impenitence to go unpunished (read Exodus 34:7). But let no one accuse God of reckless wrath! He is the God of unending love. May this lead us to repentance (Rom. 2:4) and faithfulness (Rev. 2:10)!
Maybe you’ve heard of this well-known Southeast Asian method of trapping a monkey. This simple method only requires the hunter to get a coconut or some kind of container that’s hard to break and carve a hole that’s big enough for a monkey’s hand that’s open—but not big enough when its clenched up in a fist. What these primates won’t do even as they see the hunter approach them is unhand the bait. Therefore, their fist inside the coconut traps them there until they are caught.
The principle of the monkey trap can be found in many aspects of life, and it is not foreign to the Bible either. In Matthew 19:16-30 (cf. Mk. 17-31; Lk. 18:18-30) is a story we know very well, in which a rich young ruler asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.
Jesus knew in that moment what exactly that young man needed to hear and told him what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life. However, because he was so rich and did not want to part with his wealth, the young man became sad.
We don’t have Jesus in the flesh in front of us to tell us exactly what we need to do in order to get into heaven, but that does not mean that we are lacking in any way. Through the pages of God’s inspired Word, we are being taught and guided what is required for us to enter into Christ and live a faithful life.
The challenge for us, therefore, is not that we do not have Jesus to tell us what to do. No—in fact, we have him right here with us, around us, and within us. All around us is the presence of God and our savior. What it boils down to, then, is our fisted up hand inside the trap.
We may look at the monkey that’s trapped by such a simple device and laugh, but don’t we often find ourselves shackled by the one or two sins that keep plaguing our lives? For the rich young ruler, it was his wealth, but this isn’t about being rich or poor. Even those without money can be chained by their sins that they cannot let go.
It’s the beginning of a new year. A time people usually spend contemplating how this new season of life will play out. How many times have we told ourselves, “I will stop this time,” or “I’ll work on this and get better about it.” When will we loosen our fists that grip so hard on the things that drive us away from God, and finally let go?
The rich young ruler could not let go, and therefore he became sad. Knowing what he needed to do, he still failed. Not because he wasn’t told nor because he didn’t understand. It was a willful decision to choose what’s in his fist rather than Jesus. He teaches us a lesson through this unfortunate outcome. How many times does God tell us through His Word exactly what we need to do, just like Jesus did with the young man? Let us be better in the coming year, to finally thwart off the chains that bind us. Paul tells us in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” God has already rescued us. It comes down to us deciding that we want to be saved, rather than be shackled by what’s in our stubborn fists.
If you want to win on the battlefield, you need to know your enemy and yourself, as Sun Tzu outlined in The Art of War. We are engaged in a spiritual conflict (Ephesians 6.11–13). As a result, in order to arm ourselves against sin, we must first recognize sin and its nature. Additionally, we need to be aware of how God will respond to any sin not atoned for by the blood of His Son. Finally, we must also properly respond to sin’s threat.
How can sin be identified?
First, it is a transgression of the law (1 John 3.4). By definition, transgression is “the act of passing over or beyond any law or rule of moral duty; the violation of a law or known principle of rectitude; breach of command” (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary). Accordingly, “transgression” describes instances in which we break the law, whether on purpose or accidentally. This infringement only needs to happen once to be considered a transgression.
Second, all unrighteousness is regarded as sin (1 John 5.17). Looking back to Webster’s original definition, we can see that unrighteousness “may consist of a single unjust act, but more generally, when applied to persons…denotes a habitual course of wickedness.” In other words, this is a condemnation of willful sinners. This is more than just breaking the law; it’s a deliberate decision to disobey God.
Third, anything not of faith is a sin (Romans 14.23). As Burton Coffman observes: “Where the conscience is in doubt, the definition of proper conduct must be made on the basis of what the word of God says; and, lacking any clear knowledge of what the word says, or, if knowing it, lacking full confidence and faith in it, the person is bound by his scruples.” This principle does not extend to situations where the conscience is not threatened.
Contextually, Paul is referring to the consumption of meat offered to idols. Meat offered to idols was technically forbidden (Acts 15.20). However, if the origin of the meat was unknown, you could gladly accept it. If, on the other hand, your host identified the meat source as coming from a pagan sacrifice, you couldn’t eat it for the sake of your conscience and the consciences of those who might see you and stumble as a result (1 Corinthians 10.27–29).
Fourth, God defines sin as not doing something. “So for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, for him it is sin” (James 4.17 NASB). This sin is the most concerning of all the ways we fall short. We’re aware of potential threats, but can we also spot opportunities? We can become so preoccupied with avoiding what is wrong that we miss out on what is right.
Now that we have identified sin, what is its nature?
First, sin is deceptive (Hebrews 3.13). You’ve probably heard the phrase “bait and switch.” That is what sin is. It makes promises that it cannot keep. It lures us with the appearance of pleasure, success, and freedom only to enslave us with guilt, shame, and emptiness.
Second, sin hardens the heart (Hebrews 3.8). It’s worth noting that the original Webster’s Dictionary from 1828 contains a definition for “harden” in this context. To harden means “to confirm in wickedness, opposition, or enmity; to make obdurate.” Oxford Dictionary defines obdurate as “stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or course of action.” As a result, the practice of sin causes one to become stubborn and reject God’s goodness in favor of the allure of sin.
Third, sin progresses (2 Timothy 3.13). David is a fantastic example of this. When one reads 2 Samuel 11, he finds David atop his palace when he should have been in the field with his soldiers. David could see into Bathsheba’s courtyard from his rooftop. He was moved with lust when he saw her bathing and had her brought to him. He had an affair with her, and she became pregnant.
Instead of admitting his sin, David brought the woman’s husband home, assuming they would have marital relations and that others would perceive his illegitimate child as her husband’s. Because he was such a great soldier, the woman’s husband forsook home comforts while he and his comrades fought. As a result, David orchestrated his death on the battlefield. When David paused atop his roof that fateful day, he had no idea what would happen. We can see, however, how quickly and far sin led him.
Fourth, sin’s pleasure is fleeting (Hebrews 11.25). Consider the phenomenon of intoxication. While under the influence, one may feel giddy or relaxed, but when sobriety returns, there may be things to deal with, such as headaches and the stupid things you did while drunk.
Fifth, sin’s price is astronomically high. (Romans 6.23). What a dreadful boss! Sin rewards you with death for your faithful service.
Sixth, sin dulls the conscience (1 Timothy 4.2). Paul depicts a conscience seared with a branding iron. He is discussing false teachers in the immediate context. One might wonder if such a person would repent if lovingly shown the truth. Unfortunately, there are times when one’s conscience is seared. They continue to teach falsehoods despite knowing they are false.
Note how God responds to sin.
God takes vengeance upon it (2 Thessalonians 1.7-9). We find this thought-provoking discussion about vengeance in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:
“The infliction of pain on another, in return for an injury or offense. Such infliction, when it proceeds from malice or more resentment, and is not necessary for the purposes of justice, is revenge, and a most heinous crime. When such infliction proceeds from a mere love of justice, and the necessity of punishing offenders for the support of the laws, it is vengeance and is warrantable and just. In this case, vengeance is a just retribution, recompense or punishment. In this latter sense the word is used in Scripture, and frequently applied to the punishments inflicted by God on sinners.”
God punishes it (Matthew 25:46). This outcome is because, as Webster stated, God’s actions are just. God does not punish sinners because He is sadistic or because He can. Instead, God takes action because the punished person has done something deserving of the punishment. And this punishment is eternal (Matthew 25:46). Words like “eternity” are mysterious to us as beings defined by time. However, from our perspective, even one second of our skin’s exposure to fire feels like a long time. Consider a scenario in which the flames never die, and one cannot escape them.
Now is the time for a proper response to sin and its character.
We must adequately address sin. (Proverbs 28.13). However, hiding sins will not remove them. God reminds us that sin will eventually betray us, revealing its presence to all (Numbers 32.23). We can’t avoid our sins by pretending they don’t exist (1 John 1.8–10).
No, God has provided the means to save us. This method is known as the plan of salvation. “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins,” Peter says (Acts 2.38 NASB). We must walk in the light of God once He adds us to Christ’s body (1 John 1.7; Acts 2.41, 47).
However, because everyone has sinned, including God’s children, repentance never loses relevance (Acts 8.22). Similarly, we must confess our sins (1 John 1.9). By doing so, we have the assurance of Christ’s cleansing blood.
Lastly, keep away from sin by obeying the Lord’s command. “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9 NASB). Paul also urges us to “abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5.22 NASB). Trust in the Lord and obey Him to cleanse your life of sin and receive your soul’s salvation.
The doctrines of “faith only” and “once-saved, always’ saved” have done so much to deceive religious people into believing things about the doctrine of salvation that are at odds with the Scripture, which teach that faith without works is dead (Js. 2:17,20,26) and that it is possible to fall from grace (Gal. 5:4; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). Therefore, many of our Bible classes and sermons have emphasized what the Bible teaches on these matters. We want to avoid an unscriptural position.
In the midst of emphasizing that a faith that saves is a faith that obeys, we rightly teach that repentance and baptism is part of saving faith (Ac. 2:38). We teach that baptism saves (1 Pet. 3:21). It washes away sins (Ac. 22:16). It clothes us with Christ (Gal. 3:27). These are just some of the Bible’s truths about the essentiality of baptism.
There is something we must guard against, however, in our properly emphasizing that baptism not only is part of God’s saving plan but is a pivotal part (1 Co. 12:13; Mk. 16:16; Rom. 6:3-4). We must not believe in “baptism only” or “once-baptized, always saved.” Is it possible to adhere to such a view? Perhaps.
A rush to baptism without grasping why it must be done and what must accompany it is insufficient. We read of people being pierced to the heart by the gospel (Ac. 2:37), asking what they must do, being told to “repent and be baptized” (Ac. 2:38), and receiving that word and doing so (Ac. 2:41). Baptism cannot substitute for the total heart and directional change which the gospel calls for (Rom. 6:17).
The thought that baptism is the end of one’s commitment rather than the beginning is incorrect. As thoughtfully and deliberately as we can, we must teach the totality of discipleship (Mt. 16:24-26) and the necessity of counting the cost of discipleship (Lk. 14:28). Sometimes, the newly baptized conclude that since they have done so everything is settled. While baptism coupled with a correct understanding of Scripture does forgive one’s sins, one must begin and continue a walk in the light of Christ (1 Jn. 1:7-10).
Christ’s Great Commission call to His disciples is to make disciples (Mt. 28:19). That includes baptizing them, but also teaching them (Mt. 28:19-20). In our teaching, we need to do all we can to paint Scripture’s complete picture not only of faith but also of baptism. There is no “magic” in the water (1 Pet. 3:21). Its saving ability comes when done by one who makes “an appeal to God for a good conscience.” We cannot leave babes in Christ to flounder without helping them form roots in Him. They need to know that baptism is not the end, but the beginning.
If someone in our directory has been baptized but shows no other sign of commitment, from attendance to involvement, we need to lovingly help them see that they are not spiritually OK (Gal. 6:1). When they die, we cannot preach them into heaven simply because they were properly taught and baptized years or decades ago. The life in Christ is about a “walk” (Eph. 4:1), not just about a moment when they got wet.
Israel had made political and religious decisions, all of which showed they had left God for the world. Hosea addresses these in Hosea 8. Their national and spiritual interests were to make treaties “among the nations” (10) and make “idols for their own destruction” (4). God did not recognize Israel’s kings and princes (4).
As irrational as Gomer’s decision to leave the love and provision of Hosea for lovers who used and abused her, Israel’s apostasy was self-defeating. On the surface and at the moment, it may have seemed alluring and promised satisfaction. But they were setting themselves up for hurt and failure. Look at how the inspired prophet evaluates their decisions:
They were carrion for the vulture (1).
They were incapable of innocence (5).
They sowed the wind, and they were going to reap the whirlwind (7).
They were swallowed up (8).
They were a useless vessel (8).
They were a wild donkey wandering alone (9).
They were going to writhe in oppression (10).
They had erected multiplied altars for sinning (11).
They regarded God’s laws as a strange thing (12).
They were going to return to a state of bondage (13).
They were going to be devoured by fire (14).
It must have pained Hosea to write those words. No doubt, it pained God to have to say them. But, Israel persisted in her unfaithfulness. What was it like for God to look down, day after day, only to see that His chosen people paid no attention to Him. He never entered their thoughts. They pursued a path He knew would only lead them to hurt and destruction. They sought protection from fallible, wicked people. They offered praise to vain, lifeless idols. All the while, their Creator and caregiver was there wanting to be their shield and salvation!
The application may be obvious. We have the same choices today. We can put our trust in our country and we can make something (work, relationships, pleasure, etc.) the object of our affection in place of God. We may, like Israel, still come to worship (13), but spend our lives with something else laying upon the altar of our heart. That was the condition addressed by Hosea. That was what God illustrates through spiritual adultery. God is belaboring the point, but it’s an eternally important one. He wants us to get it because He loves us so much!
It was a great Sunday night crowd. Why not? Between the monthly Q&A sermon, the monthly singing night, and the ice cream fellowship, there were several additional drawing forces. It was so enticing for one grade-school boy that he made the unusual decision to sit on the front row, dead center. If you were there, you probably saw him. If you weren’t, you can see him on YouTube.
This young man had an unobstructed, undistracted view to some significant events. First, he was literally a couple of feet from Hiram as he preached. On multiple occasions, when he posed a question to the audience in his sermon, this young man nodded in silent answer. He was “locked in.” If he moved or squirmed, I didn’t see it.
Second, he witnessed the love, care, and support of the church family during the invitation song. One of our new Christians responded, asking for prayers and expressing a desire to live a more faithful life. Joe not only had the preacher on one side and an elder on the other, but the little boy had to move down to make room for several men who came down front to show their love and support for Joe. This great young man watched the emotion, joy, and concern of a church obeying the command, “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (Jas. 5:16).
Third, he sat there and sang several songs after the response. Each time I looked, he was enthusiastically trying to sing even songs he probably did not know. He has an expressive face, and the prevailing emotions I could see–including when I led–appeared to be all positive and interested.
After services, he was in the multipurpose room (MPR) indulging in some ice cream and having as much fun as a little boy could hope to. He was visiting and playing, and he was eating. Then, he went home.
I did not get the chance to ask him if he enjoyed being at church last night, but I think I know the answer. Children don’t do the best job of pretending, if they do or don’t like something. He appeared to have enjoyed himself. But he did more than that. He served as a great example to me. Not only did he come to the worship, but he came to worship. As he gave, he also received. I’d like to think his experience last night will be something he never forgets, something that serves as a foundation for his spiritual future. His mom brought him last night. Pray for him, that as he grows up, he will develop a faith that brings him to worship and carries him through life (cf. 2 Tim. 1:5).
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me…” (Mat. 18:1-5).
Did you see the candy bar commercial where the tattoo artist was so into her chocolate that she accidentally inked the words “no regerts” onto the arm of the tough, bald guy? When somebody eats something with high calories but that is tasty or stays up too late at our house doing something fun, they might borrow that phrase. There may be some cost involved, but the point is that it was worth it.
Yet, there is really only one area where there can truly be no regrets. There is a word in the New Testament that means “experiencing remorse” (TDNT 589). With this word, there is “the sense that one wishes it could be undone, be very sorry” (BDAG 639). It is found five times and translated “regret,” “feel remorse,” and “change his mind.”
In the parable of the two sons, one was asked by his father to work in his vineyard. He answers, “I will not,” then “afterward he regretted it and went” (Mat. 21:29). In explaining the parable, Jesus rebukes the chief priests and the elders because they did not feel remorse (regret) for not believing the message of John the Baptist (Mat. 21:32).
In Matthew 27:3, Judas felt remorse about betraying Jesus. While he returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, he did not return to Jesus like Peter did. He took his own life.
Paul at first felt regret for causing the Corinthians sorrow, but ultimately he did not regret it. Why? Because he helped them achieve “a repentance without regret” (2 Cor. 7:8,10).
The writer of Hebrews quotes Moses and Samuel to remind us that God “will not change His mind” (7:21). He is perfect and, unlike man, makes no mistake or misstep that he should change it.
These passages give us some great insight about how we can conduct our lives without regret. First, we will not regret serving our Father, even if it goes against the grain of what we prefer or desire. What we will regret is knowing He wants us to work in His vineyard but letting something, anything, to keep us from it. Alexander Graham Bell is credited with saying, “When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” True regret is not seeking the open door of service.
Second, we will not regret the effort and self-denial involved in repentance. It will hurt and cause us sorrow, but it will produce an end we truly want if we are thinking as we should be. That was Paul’s message to Corinth and to us. We cannot let our remorse be so strong that it keeps us, like it kept Judas, from overcoming the overwhelming tendency of guilt which Satan will use to defeat us.
I don’t suppose any of us make it through this life without thoughts, words, and actions we regret. But, there is a difference between momentary regret and a regret you cannot overcome. Thankfully, God gives us the needed insight and encouragement to break free from the prison of regret. He calls us to a life of no regret. Let us live it!
Luke moves from a sample of Jesus’ teaching and work in the synagogues to His teaching and work among the common people in Luke 5:1-11. For the first time, in Luke five, we see individuals responding to His teaching by following Him. Though Luke only identifies one of the men at this point, the three other gospel writers mention that Simon Peter’s brother, Andrew, was also in that number. Matthew and Mark tell us that the men in the other boat were James and John. These four fishermen would soon “be catching men” (10). Luke seems to focus his attention on the reaction these men had to Jesus, His teaching, and the impact the miracle with the fish had on them. Their reaction to Jesus mirrors the reaction we need to have when called by His Word to follow Him.
DISCIPLESHIP REQUIRES EXPOSURE TO JESUS’ WORD (1-4).
Luke shows us Jesus teaching in close proximity to the fishermen, but gives no clear indication of how much or if they are listening to Him. He does show how compelling Jesus’ teaching is and how the people were listening (1). John tells us, though, that Andrew had already been listening to Jesus and was trying to persuade Simon to follow Him (1:40-42). Paul’s teaching that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17) will be apparent in the lives of these followers, as Luke will demonstrate in this gospel and the book of Acts. We cannot follow one whose ideas, instruction, and incentives we do not know or believe.
This is not a one-time act. Submission is a process that must be practiced continually. But, no one can choose to follow who does not surrender his or her own will to Christ’s (cf. 9:23-26). Jesus, the carpenter, tells these fishermen how to fish. Despite their all-night total failure at their craft, they trust Jesus’ word. Simon says, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets” (5). Success followed submission, something they would see in greater, more important ways as they continued to follow Him. Jesus asks us to do difficult and perplexing things. Our task is not to question, but simply to surrender.
DISCIPLESHIP REQUIRES A HUMILITY TO SEE OUR SINFUL SELVES (8).
Simon will show traits which prove him to be a work in progress, from impetuousness to inconsistency. Yet, Jesus could see his heart and the inspired Luke sheds light on it, too. When Peter sees the power of His Lord, he says, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (8). All of us will disappoint Jesus in our walk with Him, but He loves a heart that harbors no stubborn pride. This is the man Jesus will choose as a leader and spokesman, one who does not try to project perfection and superiority. So it is today (1 Pet. 5:5-6).
Exposure to Jesus left these fishermen “seized” (enclosed, completely taken hold of) with “amazement” (9). It made them “fear” (10). Others felt emotion like this who were exposed to Jesus’ power and preaching, and they audaciously reject Him (4:22-30; 8:26-39). These four men, amazed and afraid, will be prompted by this to make the life-changing (and life-giving) choice to follow Him. I have seen people in Bible studies and in their pew who realize the truth of the gospel, showing (and even telling of) remorse, dread, and anxiety over their lostness, but who just cannot make the decision to deny self and follow Jesus. I cannot think of a greater tragedy. In my own life, it is not simply enough to feel sorrow over my sin. I must allow this to move me to obedience (2 Cor. 7:9-11).
DISCIPLESHIP REQUIRES RADICAL CHANGE (11).
Luke will record several positive examples of people whose encounter with Jesus is transformational! Think the sinful woman (7:36-50), the demoniac (8:26-39), the grateful leper (17:11-21), and Zaccheus (19:1-10). Some, though, were just not willing (18:18-27). Luke records multiple occasions where Jesus warns that discipleship requires radical change (cf. 9:57-62). Other writers will contrast it as putting off the old man and putting on the new man (Eph. 4:22-32; Col. 3:5-17; Heb. 12:1; 1 Pet. 2:1ff). Here, Luke simply relates how that they immediately left everything and followed Him. While that may not be a literal necessity today, we cannot hope to have eternal life while holding onto this life so much that we are not following His will.
These men were about to see things they could not have imagined, experience highs and lows they did not know existed, and be given opportunities they could not have anticipated. It wasn’t going to be an easy life; in fact, it would demand everything they had. But it gave them something only Jesus could give them. This hasn’t changed. If we want what they received, we must do what they did!
As Paul works his way through some of the challenges and issues the Corinth congregation was dealing with, he turns his attention to an awful situation. As he says, “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife” (1 Cor. 5:1). This was being openly practiced at the congregation, and Paul compares how they were reacting to how they should react. Even if the congregation unanimously embraced this situation, the end result would not be unity in truth. As Moses said in his day, “You shall not follow a multitude in doing evil” (Ex. 23:2).
Paul rallies them to unite in doing what pleased God. This began with amending their hearts, mourning rather than being arrogant (2). It should be followed by removing this man from their midst (2). Based on the report (presumably from Chloe’s household), Paul already knew what needed to be done (3). While the term “church discipline” is not used in the text, that is the action. Paul uses such words and phrases as “deliver to Satan” (5), “clean out” (purge, 7), “do not associate” (9,12), and “remove” (13). Why was such a drastic action necessary?
“THAT HIS SPIRIT MAY BE SAVED IN THE DAY OF THE LORD JESUS” (5)
By withdrawing fellowship from him, the goal was to induce his sorrow and cause his repentance. This relationship was unrighteous, and it would cost him his soul if he did not end it. How uncaring is it to validate an unscriptural relationship, knowing what Scripture says about it? Paul is about to write that fornicators and adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God (6:9).
“A LITTLE LEAVEN LEAVENS THE WHOLE LUMP OF DOUGH” (6-8)
Paul calls this the leaven of “malice and wickedness” (8). Allowing sin unchecked and unaddressed to continue in a congregation does not make the sin all right. It allows the influence of sin to spread throughout the congregation. Remembering that the church is the body of Christ (see chapter 12), how can the body act in rebellion to its head and still please God? For the purity of Christ’s body, this action must be taken.
THERE IS GUILT BY ASSOCIATION (9-11)
Paul expands this beyond just the situation of the man with his father’s wife. He says not to associate with the immoral, covetous, idolatrous, reviling, drunkard, or swindling brother in Christ (11). Even eating a fellowship meal with them sent them the message that they were okay living in rebellion against God. Remember, this is not about vengeance or angry resentment. This was about honoring God’s will in a matter that God’s word clearly addresses.
IT IS AN EXERCISE OF DIVINE JUDGMENT (12-13)
This was not a matter for human courts, which in most civilizations do not legislate morality. This is an “internal matter,” a child of God “judged” by the people of God according to the will of God. God established the pattern.
When I preached in Virginia and Colorado, the elders in both churches practiced church discipline. It was done in such a loving way, with the elders first going to the individuals in various sinful situations and pleading for them to repent. When they refused, the elders brought the matter before the congregation urging any and all with any influence and relationship to plead with them. When that did not work, they announced that it was necessary to withdraw fellowship from them. There was no angry or hateful rhetoric, no gleeful attitude that such an action would be taken. To the contrary, it was as sad and solemn a moment as I’ve experienced in the family of God. I am happy to say that I have witnessed on several occasions the ultimate repentance and return of some of these wayward Christians. That was the goal in every situation. It would seem to me that one of the most neglected, disobeyed commands among God’s people is the practice of church discipline. It is unpleasant, frightening, and unpopular, but it is what God commands. God knows what is best and what is the best way to handle every situation among us. We should always trust Him and submit to His pattern for handling every difficulty and dilemma among us. The end result is biblical unity.