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Sexual Sin In the Church
16 January 2014
This article is the fourth of a series. To get up to speed, you might want to read the previous three articles first: "Who am I to judge?"
These five words, spoken by Pope Francis — TIME Magazine's Person of the Year for 2013 — have created quite a stir in the media since they were spoken in July.
An article from National Public Radio — Pope Francis Discusses Gay Catholics: 'Who Am I To Judge?' — reports:
Answering a question about reports of homosexuals in the clergy, the pope answered, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"A more recent article on NBCnews.com — 'Who am I to judge?': The pope's most powerful phrase in 2013 — states:
The pope's view of gays is being seen as diverging from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. As The Associated Press reminds us, Benedict "signed a document in 2005 that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests. Francis was much more conciliatory, saying gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten."
Could five little words uttered in 2013 change the course of the Catholic Church?Just in case you missed it in the above news article quotes, the Pope was not referring to homosexuals OUTSIDE the church who "search for the Lord and have good will," but to supposedly "Christian" homosexuals INSIDE the church — and even worse, to homeosexuals priests who are leaders in the church! This is truly mind-boggling!
"Who am I to judge?" he asked.
Francis was addressing the issue of gays in the church, but it was the tone as much as the topic that caught the public's attention.
The fact that the pope — the infallible leader of the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics — refused to sit in judgment of gay priests (who were banned by his predecessor) was hailed as remarkable, even revolutionary.
Unfortunately for the mistaken Pope, homosexual clergymen cannot be forgiven, because if they are still homosexual, then they have not turned away from their sin. The Bible clearly teaches that if you do not turn away from your sin, then you cannot be forgiven. On the other hand, EX-homosexual clergymen who HAVE renounced homosexuality can most definitely be forgiven and their sins forgotten.
Despite supposedly being the infallible head of the church, if he thinks that he is not one to judge sexual sin in the church, apparently Pope Francis has not been reading his New Testament lately. And if he doesn't even think that homosexuality is sexual immorality — as the Bible clearly teaches — then I'm afraid, as the Apostle Paul described in Romans 1, that the Pope's thinking has become futile, his foolish heart has become darkened, and his mind had become depraved — see my last article Christianity and Homosexuality.
In His Holy Word, through the Apostle Paul, God gives clear instructions about how to deal with sexual sin in His Church. Because this is such an important issue, I will quote the relevant passage in full, even though it is somewhat lengthy:
I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you — something that even pagans don't do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship.Now that we have the entire passage in mind, let's take a closer look at some of the issues addressed, as well as principles that can be learned from what Paul wrote.
Even though I am not with you in person, I am with you in the Spirit. And as though I were there, I have already passed judgment on this man in the name of the Master, Yeshua [Jesus]. You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Master, Yeshua. Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Master returns.
Your boasting about this is terrible. Don't you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old "yeast" by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old bread of wickedness and evil, but with the new bread of sincerity and truth.
When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn't talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don't even eat with such people.
It isn't my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, "You must remove the evil person from among you."
When one of you has a dispute with another believer, how dare you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other believers! Don't you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can't you decide even these little things among yourselves? Don't you realize that we will judge angels? So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disputes in this life. If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? I am saying this to shame you. Isn't there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues? But instead, one believer sues another — right in front of unbelievers!
Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated? Instead, you yourselves are the ones who do wrong and cheat even your fellow believers.
Don't you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people — none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Master, Yeshua the Messiah, and by the Spirit of our God.
You say, "I am allowed to do anything" — but not everything is good for you. And even though "I am allowed to do anything," I must not become a slave to anything. You say, "Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food." (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) But you can't say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Master, and the Master cares about our bodies. And God will raise us from the dead by His power, just as He raised our Master from the dead.
Don't you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Messiah? Should a man take his body, which is part of Messiah, and join it to a prostitute? Never! And don't you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, "The two are united into one." But the person who is joined to the Master is one spirit with Him.
Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter. Yes, it is good to abstain from sexual relations. But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. The husband should fulfill his wife's sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband's needs. (1 Corinthians 5:1-7:3)
First of all, note that Paul was not confused about sexual immorality, nor was he writing in order to determine if such a sexual relationship was sinful. That point was already clear, so there was no need to discuss it further with the Corinthians.
As I wrote in the previous articles in this series, God has instructed mankind through the New Testament that human sexual activity is to be limited to an exclusive marriage relationship between one man and one woman. ANY other sexual activity outside of this kind of heterosexual marriage relationship is considered to be sinful sexual immorality. Each person only has two choices for sexual activity in life: either marriage for life to someone of the opposite sex, or total abstinence. That's it. Period. End of discussion.
Second, note that Paul was not writing to the couple involved in the sexual immorality, confronting and rebuking them for their sin. At this point he seemed much more concerned with the church's role in the affair than in the sexual sin itself, for that is the issue he addressed in the letter. Apparently sexual sin will happen, but it's the church's response to it that is key. And this is exactly where the church and the Pope are failing in our day.
Third, note what is Paul's Divinely-inspired solution to the problem of unrepented sexual immorality in the church — FOUR times he says it: "remove this man from your fellowship"; "you must throw this man out"; "remove this wicked person from among you"; and, quoting the Old Testament, "you must remove the evil person from among you." He also implies this two additional times: don't associate with such people; "don't even eat with such people."
In light of how much sexual immorality is tolerated in the modern church, even amongst the leadership, I would imagine that many "Christians" today would be quite offended by Paul's attitudes and instructions. In the end, they are offended by God and His standards, since these are really God's attitudes and instructions, and not merely Paul's. That is very dangerous ground and very thin ice to be standing on!
Fourth, note the distinction that Paul makes between sexual immorality inside the church and sexual immorality outside the church. I already pointed this out in my last article:
These instructions from the Apostle Paul nicely sum up the balanced approach the church needs to take. The church is NOT to judge non-Christians who engage in sexual immorality, including homosexuality — that is God's responsibility alone. BUT, the church IS responsible to judge those IN the church who are indulging in sexual immorality, including homosexuality. As things stand now, much of the church has things backwards: it condemns the sexual immorality of non-believers while tolerating the sexual sin of those in the church.Pope Francis' statement — "Who am I to judge?" homosexual Catholic priests — stands in direct opposition to God's will as expressed in Paul's letter to the Corinthian believers. Furthermore, Yeshua died so that He might present to Himself "a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, holy and blameless." (Ephesians 5:25-27)
But apparently Pope Francis and many others like him think that a depraved and defiled bride, full of sexual immorality, is good enough for the Heavenly Bridegroom! Such a morality (or more accurately, lack of morality) makes me sick! If it's a choice between what God says and what the Pope says, I'm definitely going with God! What about you?
Fifth, note that in the long passage above, in which Paul starts off by talking about sexual immorality, and finishes on the same subject, he inserts two paragraphs on the somewhat different subject of secular lawsuits between believers. At first glance it seems that he is digressing, but upon closer examination you can see that it is all related, and not really a different subject at all. The entire passage is mostly about not shirking the responsibility to judge the issues God has asked us to judge as His heirs, both in this life and in the life to come.
Paul states unequivocally: "It certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning." (1 Corinthians 5:12) Then, in the following section about civil lawsuits and disagreements among church members, which seems like a change of subject, Paul reinforces his statement by making FIVE similar statements regarding judging:
Don't you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can't you decide even these little things among yourselves? Don't you realize that we will judge angels? So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disputes in this life. If you have legal disputes... isn't there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues? I am saying this to shame you. (1 Corinthians 6:2,3,4a,5)With these words he almost ridicules them for not being able to judge even the little issues and ordinary disputes of this life and the civil legal disagreements between believers. He does so by reminding them that in the age to come, when believers will be ruling the world with Yeshua, they will be judging the people of the world and even the angels. Because of that future reality, the church is also competent to judge in this life the matter of its members living in flagrant, unrepentant sin — especially any who continue to live in sexual immorality yet still call themselves believers.
Sixth, Paul goes on to explain the spiritual reality that as believers our bodies do not belong to ourselves, but to God, who purchased them with the blood of Yeshua, so that our bodies are actually parts of Messiah. Furthermore, Paul reminds them of what the Bible teaches, that when a person has sex with another person, there is a mystical, spiritual inner joining of the two people together, both in sex within marriage and also in sexual immorality.
Therefore, he concludes, sexual sin affects not only our own human body, but also the entire spiritual Body of Messiah. Paul asks, "Should a man take his body, which is part of Messiah, and join it to a prostitute? Never!" (1 Corinthians 6:15)
Using a different analogy, he explains: "Don't you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old "yeast" by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are." (1 Corinthians 5:6b,7a)
Finally, how does this story end? Did the Corinthian church follow Paul's instructions? What happened to the sexually immoral man? We get the answers to these questions in Paul's follow-up letter:
I wrote my previous letter in great anguish, with a troubled heart and many tears. I didn't want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you. I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him. I wrote to you as I did to test you and see if you would fully comply with my instructions. When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Messiah's authority for your benefit." (2 Corinthians 2:4-10)This is why those who persist in sexual immorality must be kicked out of the church — not as a punishment, but in order that such discipline will bring a change of heart, and they turn away from their sexual sin and return to God. As Paul wrote in his first letter: "so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Master returns." (1 Corinthians 5:5b)
I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants His people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There's no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right. (2 Corinthians 7:8-11)
How long will the modern-day church usurp the headship of Yeshua and follow the corrupted wisdom of man rather than the Word of God? Messiah is the true Head of His Church, and according to His will, His command, and His desire for a pure and spotless Bride, He will not tolerate persistent sexual immorality in His Body. And when He returns, the sexually immoral will not inherit His Kingdom either:
Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 5:9b,10)It's time for the entire church to repent, and stop following the sinful example of the Corinthian church by tolerating sexual immorality in its midst. For Yeshua, the coming King, the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, says to His Church:
"I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman — that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet — to lead My servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin.... I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality. Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the One who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve." (Revelation 2:18b,20-23)In the next articles in this series, we'll take a closer look at homosexuality and Christianity, the homosexual agenda, and the Christian response to homosexuality.
This article is 12th a series of articles on this Web site related to Exploring New Testament Realities which also includes (scroll to see the entire list):
On February 9, 2016, Anonymous wrote:
Thanks, your stand is line with biblical injunction on sexual immorality in the new testament. Is high time Christians should have about the main causes of the so many misfortunes bemoaning our generation. The book of prophets Hosea chap. 5:1-10,summaries the negative impact immoral and other acts of wicked living. The earlier the church leaders take positive to condemn the evils which has bane our society, the world will know peace.