I’m probably stepping into some hot water with this one right out the gate, but that’s okay :). I want to break down some misconceptions about this saying. We all might be surprised to find what the roots have to say about its meaning.
The First Letter To The Corinthians
1 Corinthians was a book written with a very stern tone to a church that could safely be categorized as a little bit on the reckless side. From corrections about how to take communion properly to the extreme of condemning the sin of one man who slept with his stepmother, this letter goes in with guns blazing. In light of the strong level of correction within this book, it’s no surprise that Paul felt the need to help the church understand why it was okay for him to speak into those situations that needed discipline. In chapter 5 we begin to see how the Biblical framework of correction is being shown to the church of the Corinthians.
Chapter 5 Verses 9-13
This section of Scripture is what can be referred to as the “meat” of the Word. It’s a section that is not as easy to swallow as a bottle of milk, but it will help you to mature into a strong believer who is able to do the will of God. Paul wrote:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
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 person from among you.
Let’s break it down piece by piece.
It’s abundantly clear that this is not Paul’s first interaction with this church. He states that he has told them in the past not to associate with those who sin. However, he makes very clear in this section that he was not referring to those who do not know Christ. He was specifically referring to those who claim to be a Christian but still practice a life of sin. He cautions against even eating with such a person! Does this seem a bit extreme? Absolutely, but to understand the full context of this correction you’ve gotta read on into 2 Corinthians to find out why it was such a strong stance (we don’t have time for that in this post so I encourage you to read it in your spare time). But look very closely at those last four sentences in verses 12 and 13. Examine them and really mull them over in your mind. These are very thought provoking statements that we all need to understand.
So Are You A Part Of The Church Or Not?
This whole conversation boils down to this one question. Paul makes very clear that those who are outside the family of God are to be left unjudged by believers as far as sin is concerned. “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” And what an unfortunate judgement that will be. When we say “only God can judge me” we are proclaiming our own refusal to submit to the church’s authority which God has ordained on the earth (Read Ephesians 5). We’re saying that we would rather have God deal with us directly. That’s all well and good, but if you want God to judge you it’s not going to be a very pretty sight. We know this because there was one man who bore that judgement over 2,000 years ago. That same man was marred beyond recognition by the Roman scourging and crucifixion. God’s judgement required death, and only those who by faith receive that gift of forgiveness purchased by Jesus’ sacrifice can claim that God is no longer their Judge, but their loving Father.
In A Nutshell
Let’s not look at the wisdom of Pastors, Elders, and mentors as something to be avoided, but rather as something to be embraced as a safeguard against our own immaturity and inconsistencies. We all have blind spots in our lives, but with the help of the Lord and the guidance of those He has ordained for our lives, we can see farther, work harder, and accomplish more than we could ever do without the full counsel and judgment of the body of Christ.