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Paul's Method for Talking to Christians Caught in Sin
by Michael Edwards
3/03/2018 / Bible Studies
The Corinthian Church was caught up in a lot of sin, especially sexual sin. The Corinthians were Gentile converts, and leading gentiles to Christ was Paul’s main mission. At times this must have been very difficult for Paul who had been raised a legalistic Jew, growing up to be a Pharisee among Pharisee’s as he states. The Gentiles were never under the law of Moses which was given only to the Jews.
The Gentiles did not immediately cease their old sin filled lifestyle, so the early church was filled with people committing sins. We know this to be true from Paul’s instructions to the church on how to select leaders from the body. His instruction includes avoiding the selection of members of the body involved in various outright sins. If everyone were without sin, there would be no need for these instructions; any member could be chosen.
It is very clear from scripture that Paul does not want Christians to sin but to walk by the spirt of the law, which is love. Love is the only thing that fulfills all of God’s commands – Rom 13:8-10.
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13:8-10).
“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal 5:14).
We are ministers of a New Covenant. The law kills but the spirit gives life. “…who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6 ESV)
Sinning against our brother is not walking in love. But many in the church were sinning then just like today, and we can be certain that Paul was too at times. Romans 7 seems to indicate Paul still had a struggle with sin at times. Paul knew members were sinning and was concerned that obvious gross sin left to grow in the church would be like leaven, silently infecting other believers.
Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 1 Cor 5:6 ESV
It is also clear that Paul must have been preaching radical grace. I say this because four times Paul had to defend his preaching and clarify that he was not encouraging sin because we are under grace where sin is not counted against man.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Rom 6:15 ESV
So, did Paul confront the person and point them back to the law? Definitely not. The law is what gives sin dominion in a person’s life.
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Rom 6:14 ESV
To point the person to the law, would contradict much of Paul’s preaching that believers are dead to and free from the law.
It would also contradict his teaching that tells us the only way to fall from grace is to go back to the law.
You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. Gal 5:4 ESV
Did he tell them they were going to hell because of their sin? No. Or did he point them out and say they were false believers? No. Could they be false believers? Sure, they could. As a matter of fact, since sin had dominion in their lives, the Bible says they were living under the law and not grace.
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Rom 6:14 ESV
This could mean they did not really believe the gospel, lived under the law, thus sin abounded, and pointed others away from Jesus, were anti-Christ. Or it could very well mean they were a believer who was not fully trusting Jesus and salvation by grace through faith alone. Like the Galatians, they had been deceived into adding the law back into the mix so sin had dominion in their lives.
So, what did Paul do?
Paul encouraged believers to walk in a manner worthy of their calling, to do the next right thing, to walk in love.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, Eph 4:1 ESV
For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. 1 Thes 2 11-12 ESV
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 1Thes 4:1 ESV
Love fulfills the Law of Christ.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Gal 6 1-2 ESV
Do You Not Know
“Do you not know” is a favorite phrase Paul uses when addressing Christians who are caught up in sin. Never once does Paul say “Do you not know that you will be condemned for your sin” or “Do you not know that this tells me you are unsaved and a false believer.”
When Paul uses the phrase “Do you not know” he is reminding the Christian of who they used to be and who they are now. You are not the same person now. You are a child of the highest King. You are an Ambassador for the kingdom of God. He does this to get the believer to see themselves in truth. Once a person believes the truth that they are no longer a filthy rotten sinner, they are a child of the King; they will live out what they believe is true.
There once was a son of a King who lived a rebellious and unbecoming life. One day a servant pulled him aside and reminded him that one day he would be King over the entire country. That brief talk opened the eyes of the boy and from that day forward he was transformed.
With “Do you not know,” Paul reminds believers caught in sin that they are the temple of God, they will judge the world and angels, that the unrighteous (those who do not believe) will not inherit the kingdom of God, that their bodies are members of Christs body, that Jesus Christ is within them and more. Paul also places a high priority in his writings about not offending people and doing all it takes to lead them to salvation. If believers live in outright sin, unbelievers use it as an excuse to not come.
1 Corinthians 6:19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?
1 Corinthians 6:2 Or do you not know that the Lord's people will judge the world? And ... Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?
1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? (unrighteous are unbelievers)
1 Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall ... Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?
1 Corinthians 6:3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! ... Do you not know that we are to judge angels?
1 Corinthians 6:16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one
1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. ...
Read several of Paul’s “Do you not know” verses at the following link. Note that most are written to the Corinthian church that was caught up in the most sin: http://biblehub.net/searchnt.php?q=do+you+not+know .
Paul tells us how to run the race and how to have our faith perfected. Take your eyes off yourself and your sins and fix your eyes permanently on Jesus.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, Heb 12:1-2a NAS
Do YOU Not Know?
So, do you not know that as a follower of Jesus Christ you are righteous, holy, sanctified and perfected by His blood?
Do you not know that you are a child of God, a child of the King, a coheir with Christ? Do you not know that you are Christ's ambassador in this fallen world.
Do you not know that you are forgiven for past, present and future sins?
Do you not know that you are no longer under the law, you are under grace and God is not counting your sins?
Do you not know that you will judge the world and angels? Do you not know that your body is a member of Christ himself? Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you? Do you not know that things are good between you and your Father, now and forever? Do you not know that your Father promised never to be angry with you?
Do you not know that the Father loves you as much as he loves Jesus?
I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. John 17:23 ESV
Who Will Not Inherit the Kingdom of God?
The Christian who sins is not the person who fails to inherit the Kingdom of God. Read here to find out who will not inherit the kingdom of God:
How to stop your acts of sin.
What was Paul’s last resort when dealing with a church member caught in gross sin and unwilling to heed Pauls instruction?
He would protect the church from their influence by asking the person to leave the church. This had a two-fold purpose, protect the church and place the person outside of the comfort and protection of the body, leaving them to fend for themselves in the world, a sheep among wolves, so that his spirit may be saved. This action was done in love in hopes that the person would see their gross error and remember who they are in Christ alone, thus returning to the body.
you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord 2 Cor 5:5 ESV
A believer’s flesh is destroyed/crucified when they are crucified with Christ upon accepting Jesus as Savior. That is when they make the shift from trusting themselves to trusting Jesus. Delivering one to Satan to destroy the flesh tells us the person was still trusting their flesh, living under the law that arouses sin, where sin had dominion in their lives. In other words, the person had not seen they were powerless to effect the change they needed themselves. They were still trusting in their own righteousness and not fully in Christ. This could be an unbeliever in the gospel or a baby Christian who was immature.
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