A Philosophy for Addressing Sexual Sin In the Church
When asked by the Pharisees about marriage, more specifically about divorce, the Lord gave this answer; "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ' For this reason A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh '? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." (Mt 19:4-6) This was not asked because the Pharisees wanted an answer, but because they were challenging the Lord’s authority as the new and better Moses. Their follow up question demonstrates that point, but I have quoted the Lord’s words because in saying it, the Lord defined marriage from creation.
The more a society as a whole becomes sexually immoral, the more likely it is that sexual immorality will invade the church. Sex was created by God and given to men and women with a two fold purpose; (1) it binds the man and woman together, (2) and by it a new human being is created. It is nessasary for the man and woman to be bond together to effectively raise up the child in fear and adminition of the Lord.
Sexual immorality is becoming more prevelent in our society as a whole, and therefore threatens to invade the church. Paul in one of his epistles to the church at Corinth addresses the subject of sexual immorality within the church in 1 Corinthians 5 and 6. Corinth was a large and important city in the Roman empire and controlled the overland between Italy and Asia. It was literally at the cross roads of the world. Also being a sea port Corinth was renowned for its sexual corruption and other vices.1 It is said that Plato used the term “Corinthian girl” when speaking about a prostitute.2
In 1 Corinthians chapter 5 Paul is rebuking the Corinthians for having a man among them that has his fathers wife. Paul is amazed by this, because this kind of thing does not even exist among the gentiles. The Corinthians had become lackadaisical in their persuit of holiness and had become concerned with boasting about their human wisdom. Paul had previously told them not to associate with immoral people, not the immoral people in the society, but immoral people within the church, not even to eat with such a person. Paul is telling the Corinthians to excommunicate this man.3 Christianity is a community faith, it is impossible for someone to live out the faith on their own; his hope is that by putting this person out of the church his flesh well die and he will repent.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 6 Paul then tells the Corinthians that they need to judge their own disputes. The Corinthians need to look at things differently and not go to judges outside of the church, but judge their own affairs because the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.4 (1 Cor 6:9-10) Paul then begins to talk about the body and how the body of the redeemed belongs to the Lord. Paul then brings it back around to the understanding that sex binds. “Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, ‘The two shall become one flesh.’” (1 Cor 6:16)
Since the Lord defined sexual relationship (marriage) as the binding together of a man and woman for life, any other sexual relationship by definition is immoral. Paul in 1 Corinthians has given the frame work of how to deal with sexual immorality within the church. It is not to be tolerated within the body, because like leaven in bread it will spread throughout the entire body. (1 Cor 5:6) Therefore, it must be cleaned out (1 Cor 5:7) and is done so by the whole body judging the members of the body who are envolved in sexual immorality for the sake of love.
1 S. J. Hafemann, “Corinthians, Letter to the” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1993), 172.
2 S. J. Hafemann, “Corinthians, Letter to the” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1993), 173.
3 S. J. Hafemann, “Corinthians, Letter to the” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1993), 172-173.