Sexual Immorality in the Church

1 cor 5In a Perfect World
Picture with me a perfect world, a world where love and truth are expressed perfectly. Imagine the sense of belonging, acceptance, and true fulfillment that would take place. This would be a place where people disagreed, but didn’t take offense. Life would be defined through charity, self-sacrifice, and a true sense of belonging.

But then something happens. The principles that this world was nit together with begin to be perverted. Divisiveness, pride, self-gratification and indulgence creep in. Slowly they penetrate the very fabric that threads this perfect world together. The results are devastating. Selflessness is replaced with pride, love is exchanged for lust, and the sense of belonging is overshadowed by insecurity and doubt.

In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul implores the people to rid themselves of anything that does not bring honor and glory to God. Anything that promotes, fosters, encourages, elevates, or indulges a perversion of God’s love and truth.

This chapter delves into some serious concepts that each Christian wrestles with on a daily basis. Lets walk through how the Christian is to handle perversion within the church, outside the church, and look at God’s ultimate goal of reconciliation.

Perversion of the Truth
[1] It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality (sexual inappropriateness of any kind) among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. [2] And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

Sexual immorality is defined as sexual inappropriateness of any kind. When man begins to pervert God’s love and truth, it distorts the natural beauty of God’s plan. Many times these perversions are most vividly expressed through sex. Like most outward expressions, sexual immorality is only a symptom of the inward condition of the soul. There is nothing sinful about sex. Sex is beautiful, mysterious, and a window into the divine. The soul perverts sex. Sexual immorality is an outward expression of the perversion of God’s plan for sex. Sex is intended to unite, fulfill, and communicate sacrificial love to the spouse, but sexual immorality gratifies the self, fulfills the individual’s lustful needs, and communicates that the individual is more important that the spouse.

Sexual immorality is ugly. You must remove it, or yourself, to avoid its influences. This is what Paul was encouraging the Church of Corinth to do. Remove the person that is sexually immoral so their influence is removed. That way God is given space to correct, instruct, love, and redeem the church and the person.

[3] For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. [4] When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, [5] 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.

Here Paul is not expressing that his spirit is with them. He is expressing that the Spirit of God that is within him is with them. It’s important to note that this section of scripture is specifically dealing with Christian’s perversion of love and truth. We will discuss this topic a little more as we progress through this chapter. Paul’s deep reliance and awareness of the Spirit of God has given him the confidence to know what the will of God is in these situations. He is confident that removing the individual from the church body will benefit both the church and the individual. Paul’s goal and God’s goal is reconciliation.

When someone is convinced that their behavior is justifiable in the sight of God, yet it completely contradicts scripture, drastic measures are needed to protect the church and to heal the person. The drastic measures in this case warranted separation. Paul suggests that the separation would put the individual in a place where they would have to wrestle with their immorality alone with God. Without the opportunity to point fingers, deflect, accuse, or insight an argument the individual would be alone with God.  This would take any potential distraction away and give God the mental, emotional, and spiritual “room” to walk the person through the error of their ways.

[6] Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? [7] Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed. [8] Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Here Paul is making a reference to the Old Testament Passover. During the Passover meal it was custom to purify everything before preparing and celebrating the festival. The entire house was to be spotless prior to preparing the fest. Paul notes that Christ is the embodiment of the Passover. He is the spotless lamb. He implies that as Christians we have spiritually partaken of the Passover when we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior. This leads Paul to infer that the church rid itself of the past, when pride and self ruled their thoughts and actions, and live in a new way shaped by Christ’s love and truth.

If the Church would rid itself of “stinkin thinkin” (mentioned in Chapter 3) they would see that God’s way is so much better. It’s hard to release control, change thought patterns, submit to authority, and trust. When it happens we figuratively are removing the old leaven and replacing it with the unleavened bread of God’s love and truth.

Relational Balance
[9] I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—[10] not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. [11] But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. [12] For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? [13] God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5 ESV)

Finally, Paul makes the distinction between the perverse in the church and the perverse in the world. He makes it clear that he is not suggesting that the church not associate with people outside the church. In contrast, he implies that you will (and should) interact with immoral people outside the church. He is clearly suggesting that those that consider Jesus savior and call you brother should not be allowed to live in blatant disregard of God’s ways.

So what is the relational balance? In Chapter 3 Paul suggests that we be influencers rather than influenced. To be influencers we need to be keenly aware of our relationships and how they mold and shape us. I think what Paul is suggesting is that our closest, dearest friends should not be Non-Christians or Christians that are blatantly living in sin. The early church was a tight nit community of friends. For Christians to be encouraged, challenged, and spiritually fed they need to be surrounded by other Christians walking similar journeys. If the Christian is surrounded by immorality it is sure to distort and distract them from God’s goals for their life.


  1. Take the perversion of scripture seriously.
  2. Distance yourself from those in the Church that live in blatant disregard to God’s love and truth.
  3. Distance the Christian that lives in blatant disregard of God’s love and truth from the Church so that God can restore them through his discipline and conviction.
  4. Be a nonjudgmental expression of God’s love, truth, and forgiveness to the lost.
  5. The Christian’s closest friends should be devoted to God.

Small Group Questions

1 Corinthians 5:1-2

  1. How would you define sexual immorality?
  2. If Sexual Immorality is a symptom of a deeper problem within, what types of internal problems do you think cause the perversion?

1 Corinthians 5:3-5

  1. Why is it so important to distance yourself or the individual from the Church?
  2. What benefits does the (a) church (b) the individual receive from the separation?

1 Corinthians 5:6-8

  1. Why did Paul use the words sincerity and truth to describe living the Christian life?
  2. What is the difference between living clean (transformed by the Spirit of God) and believing you’re clean but using that to justify living however you want to?

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

  1. What does this scripture say about judging (a) the world (b) the church? What is the heart behind any expression of judgment?
  2. How can you best find relational balance to ensure you are not being overly influenced by stinkin’ thinkin’ from the church and the world?

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