1 Corinthians 2:14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.
As Paul preached the gospel, he depended on the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of his listeners, so they would believe and be saved. Many were converted, but others never understood what Paul was talking about. The power to convert is not from the preacher, but from the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit can use anyone who is willing to evangelize.
A friend of mine shared the gospel with a high school student, but with little sense that he was getting through. Years later, the young man reached out to my friend, and told him that he was now a pastor. The Spirit had used the words of my friend to awaken that young man to the gospel. We can share the gospel with confidence, knowing that the Spirit can use our feeble words to bring others to God.
1 Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
For many years, God dwelt in a temple of stone in the city of Jerusalem. But when the Spirit came on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), the local church became God’s temple. And If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple (1 Corinthians 3:17), wrote Paul. The Bible does not threaten us for leaving one church and joining another. But to remain in a church and cause division, disruption or any other harm, exposes a person to destruction from God.
A church in a small town flourished for many years until two of the men began to quarrel. They spoke against each other at every opportunity, and refused to reconcile. People took sides and the church became divided. Members sought fellowship elsewhere until nothing was left of the church. Then both men died of unrelated causes, well before their time. If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person.
1 Corinthians 4:7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
Pride was a source of problems in the church, so Paul pointed out an obvious fact: whatever we have is a gift from God. If we have wisdom, it is a gift. If we have eloquence, it is a gift. If we have knowledge, it is a gift. Instead of making us proud, our gifts should make us humble. We did nothing to earn them, and God can take them away. Comparing ourselves to others will make us jealous or proud, unless we understand that whatever we have is a gift from God.
1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.
This would have been a scandal in most churches, but the Corinthian culture was so depraved that the church was not alarmed. Even Paul would not have been alarmed if the man had simply repented. But this was an ongoing relationship for which the man refused to repent or leave the church. He wanted to maintain an inappropriate relationship, and remain in good standing with the church. But Paul would not allow it.
1 Corinthians 5:13 Expel the wicked person from among you.
Paul even outlined a brief ceremony of excommunication to remove the unrepentant man. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:4-5), he wrote.
The purpose of the excommunication was not to harm the man, but to help him repent. Perhaps he would see the error of his way, turn from his sin, and be saved on the day of the Lord. Excommunication is not for Christians who are struggling with sin, repenting, and trying to do better. Nor is it for those who are visiting church but have not become Christians. It is for people who claim to be Christians, but want to bring their sin into the church, as though there is nothing wrong with it.
Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father (Matthew 7:21), said Jesus. And, without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14), says Hebrews. The church does not help people by allowing them to remain in church, along with their open sin, only to die and go to hell. Excommunication is tough love to help people repent and be saved.
1 Corinthians 6:1 If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people?
Legal disputes between fellow believers were hurting the church and its reputation. Instead of using worldly courts, Paul wanted matters to be settled by believers who were wise enough to judge (1 Corinthians 6:5). Then he proposed something even more radical. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? (1 Corinthians 6:7).
If you pay a person from your church to fix your roof, but your roof still leaks, they should make it right. If they refuse, you can bring a complaint to the leaders of your church (Matthew 18:15-19). But you also have the option of letting it go. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt (Luke 6:29), said Jesus. Sometimes the best way to handle injustice is to allow yourself to be wronged.
Reflection and Review
Why do we need the Holy Spirit to believe?
Why should a church excommunicate unrepentant sinners?
Why shouldn’t Christians take each other to court?