Thoughts on Church and Judging Believers v. Unbelievers

1corinthiansI Corinthians 5: 9-12

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.”

This passage provides two great points for discussion. The first is that there is a distinction between those who are joined to the church and those who are of this world. In order to “expel” there must be a physical group from which this “wicked person” is no longer granted admittance. This expelling includes that he is no longer to be associated with as a member of this community or welcomed to sup at the table with this community. The person is not expelled by believers from being a believer, but expelled from the church, a local community of joined believers.

We see that this immoral behavior is not to be a part of the life of a person who is joined to the church. When it occurs it is dealt with by the unrepentant person being cast out of the assembly in hopes that they will experience the full weight of life outside the church and wish to repent of their ways and return to fellowship.

Today we get this mixed up on so many levels. If there is no being joined to the church, then the above passage becomes completely ineffective. Why should it matter if one is expelled, when many people choose life outside church already? Is not the expelling to produce desire to deal with their sin in order to return? How can this even be practiced if all Christians adopt doctrine where they are excused from joining the church and being the Body of Christ joined together as each joint supplies?

And how would this “wicked person” become repentant if there is no fellowship to return to? Any doctrine that does not work for the whole cannot be healthy for the part.

Let’s switch gears.

The next important point this passage provides is that we are not to sit in judgment of those outside the church. Paul is correcting the thinking of the Corinthians that his teaching to not associate with immoral people is restricted to brothers and sisters in Christ who engage in these types of behaviors. He says that if he meant we could not associate with the immoral across the board, we would have to leave the world. Jesus told us to be in the world and not of it.

Furthermore, Paul is saying that he, even as an apostle, has no business judging the world.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.

Certainly the rest of us have no mandate to judge unbelievers if the Apostle Paul had none. We are free to hang out with sinners of all kinds without judging them. Sinners are already living lives under the weight of sin and death. They are in darkness without Jesus and without the fellowship of the church. Their judgement is God’s department. Our only job is to love them; all of them. Think of the most heinous of sinners, your worst enemy, and remember Jesus says we are to love our enemies.

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