the weblog of Alan Knox

Not even to eat with such a one

Posted by on Oct 7, 2009 in discipline, scripture | 12 comments

In the beginning verses of 1 Corinthians 5, Paul instructs the church in Corinth to separate from a person who calls himself a brother in Christ and yet is acting in a way that even the surrounding culture considers reprehensible. I’ve heard alot about the first part of 1 Corinthians 5. We use it to talk about “church discipline”. But, I don’t hear as much about the last half of that chapter:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13 ESV)

It’s seems that Paul is saying that we do not even eat with a brother or sister who is living an immoral life, but that it is okay and even expected that we eat with someone who is not a brother or sister even if they live an immoral lifestyle.

From my experience, the church has this backwards. Is it just me? How should this passage affect us as individual believers? How should it affect us as a church?


12 Comments

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  1. 10-7-2009

    What makes this harder is that some immorality didn’t warrant us seperating with certain brothers. Sexual Immorality in Thessalonians seem to be a problem and even in Corinth there seems to be a problem with brothers and temple prostitutes, maybe they struggled with some of the gnostic heresies of spirit/flesh distinction as that seems to be what Paul is addressing in 1 Corinthians 6 or 7 and that seems to be the appeal he makes in Thessalonians 4 or 5 (can’t remember which chapter).

    Anyway, there is a new awakening of church discipline so these folks ain’t eating with either group. 8)

  2. 10-7-2009

    Lionel,

    I do think there is something more than “immorality” going on in the first half of 1 Corinthians 5. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that even those who are not Christians recognize how bad it is, while the church ignores it.

    But, what about the last half of the chapter? How do apply that last paragraph?

    -Alan

  3. 10-7-2009

    As best I can Alan! I am still struggling with the evangelism relationship model, as that seems to be a goal in scripture but many writers have recently concluded that this should not be a goal in relationships. It seems that Jesus’ sole purpose was to announce the Kingdom in Himself but many today feel that this is selfish. But from co-workers to barbers and others as much as possible I invite them into my life, but my goal again is the Gospel, which others say is wrong.

  4. 10-7-2009

    This is what most of us would relate to when we’ve heard “tough love” was the explanation for why a mom locked her 16 year old son out of the house (or took the door off of the 13 year old’s bedroom), etc. When we are part of a family that provides substantively for us in both physical and emotional ways, we come to rely on that care. When it is withheld, it wakes us up at many levels.

    This has little meaning to the western church today because our practice is universal shunning by default. Apart from the brief weekly hour of “worship” (where interaction is kept to a bare minimum, anyway), most Church members have no real relationship together–at least not one they would notice if it were withdrawn. We are busy people, too busy because (well, what a can of worms that would be…)

    Before we can speak of turning away those among us who begin to live sinful lifestyles, we first need to re-engage one another in foundational intimacy as a lifestyle. The church by design (family, members of one another, baptized into one body) presumes the members develop deep relationships and interactions together, spending substantive time together in everyday life. This will require sacrificing much of what the world values–wealth, position, power,etc. In return, we get the parts of the American Expresss Card commercial that are “priceless” connections woven into each other’s lives.

    IF the church were relational, IF it was commonplace and frequent to share time together frequently, THEN we would sorrowfully but unfailingly turn away from our company and friendship this brother or sister who is living a lifestyle of open/unrepentant sin. Some will will be forced to face and finish with their rebelliousness because of the sanctions and the loss of meaningful familial friendships. Some will continue on, but will no longer influence other brothers and sisters nor will their actions bring reproach to the community.

    Finally, there is certainly an implied practice of finding ways to come alongside those in the world who will naturally be engaged in all sorts of sinful lifestyles and habits. This is a point worth considering even though it is not intended in the text to be the point. The church today should pay attention to this way of seeking/serving the lost outside their assembled meetings (rather than in and through them).

  5. 10-7-2009

    Alan,

    I’m not going to give my answer to your questions, yet, except to say that, if we understand the passage the way it has traditionally been done, then we would be acting contrary to other Scriptures.

    Also, why do we conveniently concentrate on sexual immorality, but close our eyes towards the greedy, the idolater, the reviler, the drunkard, or the swindler, activities which seem to be quite common in the traditional church, both in my country and yours.

  6. 10-7-2009

    Lionel,

    I don’t think there is anything wrong (but everything right) about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ through our relationships. The question is, do we break the relationship if someone rejects Christ. If so, then perhaps we were not actually interested in the person, but just in getting another notch in our evangelism belt.

    Art,

    Very well said. I think one of the reasons that the church has a hard time reaching the lost outside of their meetings, is that the church generally has a hard time doing almost anything outside of their meetings (and I’m including “small groups” and “Bible studies” in the term meetings).

    Aussie John,

    Yes, we do like to focus on certain sins while ignoring others. I’m looking forward to your answers. :)

    -Alan

  7. 10-8-2009

    I’m currently involved in friendships with three other men who are not followers of Jesus. They have varying degrees of issues with all of the aforementioned sins in this discussion and the passages in 1 Cor. 5.

    I’m not really sure what to say about the thought of cutting off a brother in Christ because he is living a sexually immoral lifestyle…Isn’t that the time to reach out to our brother or sister to help them? Maybe our church is in violation of a Biblical principle here…but that’s what we do. We see need, pain, sin and people that are just run down by life in this world and we try to lead them to the abundant life in Christ. And while some are simply lost, some of these are people who know and love Jesus…they are just stuck in sin. Isn’t anything less than that dysfunctional? If this is not the heart of the church, perhaps the church is not all it’s advertised to be.

    I read somewhere that love never fails…

    Great post Alan!

  8. 10-8-2009

    In regards to caring for the lost, we often bring an obvious agenda that comes off quite manipulative (whether done as a ministry: “you must listen to this sermon before we will feed you, starving man,” or done as a personal act of kindness: “Here, while your dryer is not working you can use ours. Would you like to join us for church Sunday?”). We ought to simply and genuinely seek to alleviate pain and suffering, to be a friend, to serve and be genuinely “doing ood” to these people. Here is a great insight from an unbeliever on this point:
    http://tinyurl.com/y9t9juf

  9. 10-8-2009

    Brandon,

    Yes, primarily Scripture exhorts us to lovingly forgive and to help those who are struggling with sin. That’s one of the reasons that I think there’s something extraordinary about problem that Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 5:1ff.

    Art,

    Yes. Good examples. Thanks for the link also.

    -Alan

  10. 10-8-2009

    Alan,

    I waited to see how others would respond. This is an issue that causes me to grieve, because of enormous amounts of hot air, clap-trap and self-righteous indignation it evokes from those who ought to know better.

    “Is it just me?” No, it’s not just you.

    “How should this passage affect us as individual believers?” This passage should cause us, as individual believers, to grieve for this brother, to have great compassion and concern for this one who “bears the name of brother”, and instigate in us the intent to pray for, and serve that person with the intent and desire for his repentance and restoration.

    “How should it affect us as a church?” It ought to cause a genuine assembly of God’s family, a church, to take notice of Jesus words in Matthew 7:1-5, and remember Galatians 6:1-5. It ought to cause a church to be “wise as serpents and as gentle as doves”.

    We ought to remember that this person IS a brother. The words “so-called” are added in some versions giving a wrong slant to the meaning of the sentence.

    Paul is not talking generally about dealing with sin, nor is he talking about a brother who, in a time of weakness has fallen. This fellow is a particular case requiring a particular response. He is publicly living with his father’s wife (maybe not his mother) as if they were married.

    He has chosen HABITUAL sin, but still partaking in the gathering of the church for the purpose of “the teaching of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to times of prayer”.

    He needs to be deprived of this privilege, to show him the seriousness of what he is doing, carefully told of the desire of his brethren to see him repent, forsake his sin, and be restored to fellowship. and shown the utmost love and concern.

  11. 10-8-2009

    Aussie John,

    Thanks for the extended explanation. I notice in your explanation that you assume (as I do) that choosing not to fellowship with someone will actually affect their life. That means there must be a close relationships there to begin with.

    -Alan

  12. 8-1-2012

    Thankful for your blog, Alan and all who post! I’ve learned a ton and for that I’m grateful!