When Sin Abounds, Grace Abounds
January 29, 2016 — 1 Corinthians 5:1–5
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
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. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 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.
Continuing on our tour of Corinthians, we come to another passage that is often read in a vacuum. I hope that as I read through this passage I will be able to see the full context of what Paul is trying to say: “don’t you know who you are?”
Right away it seems pretty clear that this is some serious stuff that Paul is addressing here. Right after reminding the church that he is a father to them, he begins his fatherly rebuke. There is a brother who is unrepentantly living in sin, and this is a serious problem.
Now, there is a very subtle, yet massively important way to understand how Paul is addressing the problem of sin. We must first focus in on what he is not saying. He is not saying that this brother’s sin is a slap in the face of God. He does not say that God is angry and must be calmed down or satiated. Although it isn’t easily seen here, we must remember what Paul’s mantra is throughout his writings.
Romans 6 is one of my favorite passages of scripture. Before the center of mass of my faith changed, it was a pep talk on living a better life. However now it means so much more than a call to stop sinning. First of all there is an implication that when sin abounds, grace abounds. Paul is correcting the idea that we should sin more so more grace might come of it, not that when we do that very thing, grace does abound more.
The second massive realization was as to why we shouldn’t go on sinning. Paul does not say, “don’t you know how much Jesus did for you! You should be grateful.” Rather he says, “don’t you know that you were baptized into Christ, and joined with him in His death.” In other words, don’t you know that you actually are dead to sin? Don’t you realize that your sinning is just a sham? Why are you acting like this sin is important when the truth is that you are dead in Christ, and His humanity is your own?
The point is that Paul is serious about sin. He is calling this brother out and saying that the church should go so far as giving him over to Satan. But it is not because he is acting out and being rebellious. It is because by sinning openly and brashly he is actually saying that the reality of his union with Christ is not so true. He is not living out the reality of his union with Christ, but rather the sham that sin has some sort of power over believers.
We should be serious about sin. I don’t do a nearly good enough job of being serious about sin. But we should not be serious about sin because we should work on being more disciplined and loving children, but because we already are those things in Christ. We ought to walk by faith and believe it.