Judging Those Inside vs. Outside the Church – 1 Cor 5

In talking about sexual immorality in the church Paul makes a statement about judging those inside vs. outside the church.

“But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.” – 1 Cor 5:11-13

I think this passage has some implications for how we look at the world and how we evangelize. It also has implications for how we treat each other within the church.

I grew up seeing an evangelistic approach that was pretty judgmental. Sin was pointed out up front with little attempt to actually get to know someone, form a relationship with them, and build enough trust to have the “sin conversation”. Instead people often went on the attack first and never tried to get to know the other person. Here Paul is saying that it is not our place to be the judge of those who are not Christians. Those people are not living a life centered on Christ so of course they are going to do the things they do.

Before we can have the sin conversation with the world we have the Jesus conversation. We have to have a common understanding of the positive alternative before blasting the only thing they know. We also cannot expect non-Christians to act like Christians. I used to get offended when I would be around people who used profanity and things like that. Now, I don’t care to hear it, but I don’t expect a non-Christian to act any better than that. It is amazing how many doors open up when you treat non-Christians with patience and love rather than with quick judgment and condemnation.

I wonder how this passage also impacts the way we interact “on the inside” of the Church. Paul is saying there is a place to judge sin on the inside of the church and try to get things reconciled. Notice Paul is not saying not to have fellowship with those you have minor doctrinal disagreements with. Notice Paul is not saying to expel the immoral “doctrinally challenged” brother. He is saying expel those whose sin is evident to all but who don’t care to do anything about and want to stay in the church like everything is okay. Somehow we have formed the idea that lines in the sand are drawn a lot more freely, quickly, and over much more minor issues than that. The world sees us bickering and squabbling over all these minor variations of doctrines that have split Christianity up into tens of thousands of denominations and wonder why they would want to be a part of that.

How we treat each other has a tremendous impact on how the world sees the church. How we treat non-Christians also has a tremendous impact on whether or not doors into their lives will open or close. This takes a lot of discernment to take this verse and apply it in a way that would be pleasing to God in line with Paul’s intention in 1 Corinthians 5.

Any thoughts?

0 Responses to Judging Those Inside vs. Outside the Church – 1 Cor 5

  1. Brian says:

    i have taught on this recently, and never ceased to be amazed at how we usually reverse that command, and go soft on each other in the church because we are friends, don’t want to make someone mad, etc. even though our souls depend on accountability, yet we bash all those big, fat, hairy sinners on the outside.

  2. Mark says:

    I wrote a paper on this chapter just a semester ago!

    A couple of things that stuck out to me:

    1. In order to use exclusion as a form of discipline, we have to keep the environment within the church so loving and supportive that it would be genuinely painful to be separate from it. As Yogi Berra said, “If they don’t want to come to the ballgame, you can’t stop them.”

    2. There is no such thing as a private sin. Whether it’s in our attitude, or words, or whatever else, sin always affects the people around us, and maybe people we’ll never even know about. Sin has to be treated seriously. It’s not just a made up word to describe bad things, it’s a real ugly problem.

    I agree…this passage has implications primarily for within the church. We are not to use church discipline against people who are not members of the church. It should not surprise us that lost people behave like lost people. It’s those who have a commitment to Christ who know better who need to be kept in check.

    Thanks for the post,
    Mark

  3. Dan Smith says:

    Well said, Matt

    I continue to be amazed at Christians who expect the State to behave Godly, and go to extremes to try to make it happen. I can find NO evidence that ANY nation shold look upon itself as God Blessed. As we pray for His blessing on America, we need to pray the samy for Iran/China/Colubia/etc.

    Keep up the good work.

    Dan in Reno

  4. Terry says:

    Matt,
    You made several very good points. On the subject of how and when to bring up the topic of sin to those outside the church, I was reminded of one of my friends, an urban minister. He has said, “I love being in urban ministry. I got tired of trying to talk people into seeing their need for a Savior. In urban ministry, nearly everyone I meet knows he’s a sinner and needs a Savior.” When he preaches to a congregation or talks with someone individually, he does not hold back about how bad their sin is or what the consequences may be. But he always says, “I care about you and God cares about you. Neither one of us wants you to keep hurting yourself.” He has had an amazingly effective ministry, reaching people most would assume to be unreachable. He has shown me that we can be open about sin and compassionate in calling for repentance at the same time. I have not yet reached his level of maturity or effectiveness, but he has been a good role model for me to try to immitate.

  5. peacebringer says:

    We are quick to judge and quick to seperate. And even if someone has boughten a line of deception, it is easy to write them off as beyond hope. This is different then God’s call. Same with those we encounter who sin in major ways. It is easy to judge and seperate. I did it and have regrets over those actions. We need to exhibit far more grace.

  6. preacherman says:

    Matt,
    Great thoughts.
    Keep up the great work! :-)

  7. hang2gether says:

    I really enjoyed this post, even as an atheist. While I could not relate necessarily to the religious tone, I certainly relate to the overall message you were trying to deliver. I think it’s extremely important to realize that people have their vices and that often times what they need is compassion. Motivation to change and live a better life. People often alienate those who alienate themselves which just seems to exacerbate the problem. Thanks for the post! :]

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