1 CORINTHIANS 5
“Hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:5). Sex is the main topic in today’s reading. There are sexual unions that God blesses and encourages, and sexual unions that he regards as sinful and destructive. We need to grasp two things about God’s relationship to sex: firstly, the sexual act is a wonderful gift from God that He created for our pleasure, enjoyment and a deepening of relationship – and therefore for his glory. God encourages sexual activity in the right environment. Secondly, sexual sin is not the result of what you do, but with whom you do it.
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul rebukes the church members for not only tolerating a notorious case of incest involving a fellow-believer, but actually congratulating themselves on how ‘enlightened’ and ‘free’ they are. For the Greek Christians, the separation of the physical and the spiritual was inbred in their national culture; the physical was regarded as evil and worthless, whilst the ‘spiritual’ was valued highly. It was not seen as contradictory by some to be a very ‘spiritual’ disciple of Jesus and to visit prostitutes and temple ‘virgins’ (of both sexes) as well. Furthermore, the gospel of grace that Paul had preached to them appeared to fit in very well, since salvation came through faith, not works. In their minds, then, they could do exactly what they liked since they were already forgiven.
Paul takes a very different view – whilst agreeing wholeheartedly with the gospel of grace – and reasons that the power of a living faith in Christ leads to holy living; so therefore persistent un-holy living must spring from a counterfeit faith! To salvage this particular church member’s soul, he commands that he be put out of the church community until he repents – effectively handing back control of the man to the Devil (which is where he had been all the time) so that the need for genuine repentance would become obvious to that sinner. The imagery there is that the church, as part of God’s Kingdom, is within God’s domain – just as the Land of Israel was viewed as the Lord’s land; but outside the church – and previously, outside the Land of Israel – this was the domain of Satan and the forces of darkness. For the church to shun this unrepentant sinner was, de facto, to hand him over to Satan, therefore.
I am happy to report that, later on in 2 Corinthians, the man seems to have repented fully and is received joyfully back into the church. Paul goes on to broaden this principle to cover all overt sinners who call themselves Christians – they have the choice of one lifestyle or the other – the church should not indulge the lie that these lifestyles can co-exist; therefore, the other believers must not associate with any such person. Of course this does not apply to avoiding the un-saved, otherwise they would never hear the gospel at all! Furthermore, Paul fully expects church members to judge one another in terms of their behaviour (see 1 Corinthians 5:9-13); but not to judge outsiders. Sadly, we often do things the other way around, which is one of the reasons the church is seen as so judgmental and old-fashioned! And we had better be very careful how we judge even one another, since God will make sure that the same standards are applied to us too (Matthew 7:1-2).
1 CHRONICLES 28 and 29
In 1 Chronicles 28, David begins to hand over his kingdom and the work on the temple to his son Solomon. He gave his son the full plans for the building and for the operation of the temple. David then encouraged Solomon, his successor, with almost exactly the same words that Moses encouraged Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:7. It may have been the purpose of the writer to draw parallels between Moses and David, in terms of their greatness and legacy.
David praised the Lord at the very end of his life, using the famous words in 1 Chronicles 29:10-13. He then anointed Solomon a second time and sat him on the throne as the new King of Israel. Soon after, David died, having reigned for 40 years over Judah and Israel. Interestingly, his successor and his predecessor also both reigned 40 years. This period of time signifies a ‘generation’, and the baton was handed over for the next generation and its king. As Acts 13:36 comments: “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed”.