Repeating the Error of the Corinthians

Repeating the Error of the Corinthians July 18, 2022

In all honesty, the Corinthian church of the New Testament had a lot of things going on in it that weren’t good.

There were far more than just one error.Church, Lake, Building, Architecture, Stoneworks

Image via Pixabay

 

And I actually find that really encouraging, as we who pastor and lead today try to prayerfully work through the many theological and practical and people-oriented struggles of ministry.

The first churches of the New Testament also had a lot of problems. This is nothing new.

To read 1 & 2 Corinthians is to see the story of a church caught up in infighting, theological disagreements, selfishness, and significant practical problems in many areas.

I would like to focus on one area, which I think always has been and always will be something that Christ’s Church needs to keep its eye open for.

This error shows up in a number of different places, but here are two clear examples:

 

1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. (1Cor 5.1-7)

 And also:

23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. (1Cor 10.23-24)

 

So, the first passage has this example – a case of extreme sin.

A man is sleeping with his own stepmother. Not even unbelievers think this is OK.

But in Corinth, amongst Christians, not only is it tolerated, but apparently it is celebrated! They are proud of themselves for allowing it! They are boasting that this is happening!

Why?

Apparently because they have taken an extreme view of what grace is all about.

We see it more explicit in the second biblical example above – Paul apparently quotes a common phrase amongst the Corinthians:

“I have the right to do anything!”

That, in a nutshell, is the problem.

It seems that the Corinthian church had taken Gospel truth – that we are forgiven for our sins and they are no longer counted against us by God (e.g. Rom 8.1-2; 2Cor 5.18-19) – and from that concluded that sin wasn’t a thing anymore, that there were no more standards, that God was OK with whatever they wanted to do, since it could be forgiven.

Even sleeping with your own stepmom!

It has been said that Christian liberty taken too far becomes licentiousness, and that is exactly what the church at Corinth is engaging in.

To this attitude, Paul must bring correction, which much of the letters of 1 & 2 Corinthians is doing.

Sin is indeed still a thing, it still does a lot of damage, God still calls us to righteousness – these things are all truth.

We repeat the error of the Corinthians today in a number of ways.

Whenever we ignore sin, we are doing what they did.

Whenever we purposely keep sinning because we believe in grace, we are doing what they did.

Whenever we are rationalizing our sin in light of the forgiveness of God, we are doing what they did.

Whenever we are turning a blind eye to others’ sin instead of helping them get out of it, we are doing what they did.

Whenever we are refusing to call sin “sin,” we are doing what they did.

The list could go on, but the basic idea is there.

Grace can actually be taken too far, when we allow evil in the name of grace.

Freedom from sin that comes in Christ is not just about forgiveness and should not lead us to a lesser view of sin; rather, this freedom comes to set us free to live more righteously (Rom 6.1-23).

We refute the error of the Corinthians when we take to heart the God-breathed words of the apostle Paul who corrected them, when we take sin seriously, when we do not meet it with celebration but with a solemn commitment to holiness, and when we set ourselves to helping one another get free of it.

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