And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:9-10)
Why Jesus Came To Earth
Zacchaeus was a wee little man but his story is one of the great stories of scripture. As Jesus was passing through Jericho he wanted to see the man from Nazareth he had heard so much about. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector and very wealthy. In the Jewish world, he was despised as a traitor to the Jewish people for collaborating with the Roman authorities to collect undesired taxes and most often through avarice or cheating the citizens. As a chief tax collector, Zacchaeus would have been viewed with greater hatred. Because of his small stature, he was not able to see Jesus because of the crowd and decided to climb a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus as He walked by. When the Lord came to the place, He called for the tax collector to come down out of the tree as He wanted to stay at the house of Zacchaeus. This excited the tax collector and he hurriedly came down out of the tree and received Jesus into his house. Luke does not record the conversations of Jesus and Zacchaeus but something remarkable happened to the tax collector. He would give half of his goods the poor and if he had taken things dishonestly he would restore it times four. A change of heart took place in this chief tax collector. This seems to be the design of why Jesus wanted to come into his house and the Lord proclaimed glory to God for the salvation that had come to the house of Zacchaeus. Jesus tells all the people His purpose for coming was to seek and save the lost. There are three lessons learned from the story of Zacchaeus.
Jesus came to find the small people of the world. He did not come to find those physically small but those who were burdened with sin. His greater response came from the common man. The Jewish leaders were so filled with prejudices they could not see Jesus as the Son of God. When John the Baptist was imprisoned and sent messengers to Jesus, the Lord told them to tell John the common people were hearing the good news. The scholars and wise men of the world would not be impressed with a man who was born of a poor family in a city of no note in a place where animals were stalled. Jesus was the son of a carpenter and as far as the world was concerned an uneducated man. The common man readily heard the word of Jesus and many disciples followed Him. Jesus came to call all men to the gospel and their status in the world does not give them any greater privileges or influence because of who they are, what positions they hold or their monetary worth. All men are the same before God and He is no respecter of people. It seems the small people of the world have a greater interest and acceptance to the gospel call than those who fill their lives with the wisdom of man.
Jesus came to find the castaway of the world. Zacchaeus was hated by many and viewed as a person of ill repute. The Lord came to find souls regardless of their place in life. He would often spend time with those who were considered the sinners of His world. Everyone needed the gospel of salvation from the king to the peasant; from the rich man to the poorest beggar; and all nations of people regardless of skin color, height, weight, gender or social status. Jesus came to bring salvation to the homes of people like Zacchaeus that would find peace in the love of God. He was a wealthy man who realized his true worth was in the kingdom of God and riches made no difference for him. The world may have viewed him with disdain but he knew that God loved him and that Jesus had come into his home and changed his life. There are many people burdened with great challenges of sin but God loves them also. Paul would describe in his letter to Corinth how that some of them had been fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers and extortioners but they had been washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus. They found what Zacchaeus experienced in his house – the grace of a loving God.
Jesus came to find the hearts that would turn to the Father. The people complained that Jesus had to be a guest with a man who was a sinner. What they could not see is the fertile ground of a tender heart receptive to the saving grace of God. Whatever Jesus and Zacchaeus talked about is not recorded but one thing that is known is the change of heart that came to that house that day. Zacchaeus was a wealthy man who was now going to become a servant to the poor and an example of fidelity to those he may have cheated. His life changed dramatically because Jesus came into his house. This was not a peripheral feeling of religious pride but a genuine change of heart that would impact all that knew the chief tax collector. Here was a changed man and a fully changed man. When the gospel fills the heart there will be no room for selfishness or pride. Zacchaeus emptied his purse because he had emptied his heart to God. The story is not told but when this chief tax collector died his glory was not in what he left behind but what he found when he climbed into the bosom of Abraham as tall as any man. He found Jesus that day and it changed his life. And that is why Jesus came to earth.
But to Israel he says: “All day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. (Romans 10:21-11:1)
A Disobedient And Contrary People And God’s Love
The nation of Israel was the apple of God’s eye enjoying all the favors of a chosen people born of adversity and cherished by the mighty hand of a compassionate Father to His children. With all the blessings, security and needs fulfilled by the providential hand of God, Israel could never grasp the measure of how much they would be cared for if they would obey the will of the Lord God who brought them out of Egypt. The Old Testament is a testimony to the stubborn will of Israel who continually disobeyed the Lord and acted in every contrary manner possible. They saw the mighty works of God through the plagues brought upon Egypt yet doubted Him as they approached the Red Sea. Shortly after their arrival to Mt. Sinai to receive a law the people fell into the carnal pleasures of calf worship with many lives lost. They were promised the land of Canaan as their own special inheritance yet when they arrived at its borders they rebelled against the will of God and failed to believe they could conquer the land with God’s help. Forty years of wandering in the wilderness removed the stubborn will of those who refused to give the Lord His glory but the new generation that would conquer the land struggled with their faith as the period of the Judges and Kings led to the destruction of the ten northern tribes and the final demise of the last remnants of a once powerful and mighty nation. The remnant of Israel came out of the bondage to await the coming Christ. When the Son of God came down from Heaven showing Himself to His own people they rejected Him and killed Him. The final bell was sounded in 70 A. D. when the nation of Israel was removed from the pages of history as the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. It is clear the history of Israel is characterized by the story of a disobedient and contrary people.
Paul’s plea in his letter to Rome was to illustrate the failure of Israel to accept the rule of God in their lives. As a nation, the Lord had rejected Israel because the people had broken the covenant given to them at Sinai. With all of their failures and while their history is filled with disobedience and going against everything God demanded of them, the Lord still loved them and desired they be saved. The apostle would write that his heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they would be saved. As difficult as the nation of Israel had been God did not cast them away. The love of God is seen in the history of Israel for the innumerable times the Lord extended mercy, grace, longsuffering, and patience and in every case offered the people His love if they would repent and return to Him. He did not condone their actions nor approve of their disobedience and demanded they repent. Sadly they rejected the mercy of God and His love. The Jews killed the Son of God but the Son of God died to give them hope. Fifty days after Jesus arose from the dead the first sermon of grace was given to a crowd of men that had assembled in Jerusalem to worship God. Three thousand devout Jews obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ because God had not cast them away. They responded to the first call of grace and the early church was originally made up of the nation that is called a disobedient and contrary people. If Israel is the example of man’s rebellion God’s grace is the example of how much He is willing to love a people that are undeserving.
Reading the story of Israel and seeing how they were a disobedient and contrary people it is easy to see the nature of all men who find themselves before a righteous and merciful God. There was nothing special about Israel that made them worse than any other person on the earth. The Old Testament is filled with the story of how Israel struggled with sin and often they failed to give God the glory. Throughout the story of Israel God’s love and His wrath is clearly defined and illustrated for all men to see that sin is the evil man must overcome and although the struggle with sin is a constant challenge for man God is always faithful. Those who rebelled against the Lord and refused to repent were destroyed. The mercy of God was given to those who were disobedient and contrary and who repented and sought the love of God. That is the story of all men. The word of God is given to show all men the nature of sin and that if they repent God will extend to them His divine mercy and love. No man should ever ignore the wrath of God because it is as real as His love. The severity of God is fully documented as well as the goodness of the Lord is exalted in holy writ. Israel is the example of the struggle all men have. I say then, has God cast away all men? Certainly not! God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son and through the blood of the Savior all men can find the love of God if they would repent and obey His will.
Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. (Acts 12:1-4; King James Version Bible)
The New Testament Pattern Of Holidays
Keeping days of significance has been a way that man enjoys certain milestones in life like birthdays, memorial days, and national days of historical remembrance and a myriad of holidays to commemorate a festival or important event. In our modern world, there is a notation for every day of the calendar year that honors everything from potatoes to bees to national donut day and jelly bean day. These days of holiday are an important part of the fiber of any culture to identify with a national climate or family tradition and on the whole, are harmless and expressions of fun and personal enjoyment. Like most things that are good of themselves, the nature of man is to impose or suggest holidays as a religious pattern and believe over time they are accepted by the will of the Lord and approved. The fourth day of July may be on the calendar of England but it is not celebrated as a day of freedom like it is in the United States because the significance is of no of importance. In like manner, there is no celebration of St. George’s day in America as this is a festival in England. Remarkably the New Testament does not reveal the early church celebrating any holidays or festivals that are so common in the modern view of religious people today. Two major events on the religious calendar are Easter and Christmas for those who profess a belief in Jesus Christ. No record is given where the first-century disciples signified certain days as festivals or holidays to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus (Easter) or the birth of Jesus (Christmas). When the scholars were translating the Bible into the English language for the Church of England (authorized by King James of England in 1604) they included the word “Easter” in the text of Acts 12. Albert Barnes sums up the problem very clearly when he writes, “There never was a more absurd or unhappy translation than this. The original is simply after the Passover. The word ‘Easter’ now denotes the festival observed by many Christian churches in honor of the resurrection of the Savior. But the original has no reference to that, nor is there the slightest evidence that any such festival was observed at the time when this book was written. The translation is not only unhappy, as it does not convey at all the meaning of the original, but because it may contribute to foster an opinion that such a festival was observed in the time of the apostles.”
The New Testament pattern of keeping holidays is nonexistent. Nothing in the writings of the early disciples suggests God approved of keeping certain days as religious holidays or festivals. Paul warned the saints in the churches of Galatia of imposing religious rites with days and months and seasons and years. He would also express concern to the church at Colosse for those judged by food or drink or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbath. The Jews were very familiar with religious holidays. Under the Law of Moses, there were festivals, Sabbaths and certain days that were an integral part of the worship of the nation of Israel. The days were restricted to the Jews alone and not binding on those not under the Law. When the church was established and the Law of Moses was done away with there were no holy days to keep in the significance of new moons or Sabbaths or the like. Easter was never celebrated by the early church no more than Christmas was celebrated by those who knew exactly when Jesus was born. The mother of Jesus was a part of the early church and yet the Holy Spirit never revealed the month or day of His birth. Easter and Christmas are part of the fabrication of the imagination of man to worship God in a secular and carnal fashion. These holidays do not honor God but they give a man a sense of identity to soothe his conscience for denying the Lord the other weeks of the year. Great fanfare will go into rising early on Easter morning to engage in a solemn service of Easter sunrise and by the middle of the same week, most individuals have returned to the pagan pursuits of the carnal mind. Christmas has become nothing more than a maddening pace of materialistic pursuit of spending and giving gifts to see who can outdo the Jones family that lives around the mystical corner of every neighborhood.
There is a day given by the Lord to remember, celebrate and acknowledge His majesty. It is a day that is in many ways as common as the other six days of the week it shares company with. However, from time beginning the Creator has desired for His creation to stop and spend time on a day to contemplate his place in the universe and the blessings of an eternal Father. For the Jews, this day became the seventh day of the week called Sabbath. When the Law of Moses was taken out of the way the law of Sabbath was removed and is no longer binding. A new day came from the mind of God for man to reflect upon the holiness of eternal grace and love: the first day of the week. On the first day of every week, the early church assembled to worship, praise and honor the love of God and His sacrifice found in the death of Jesus Christ on a cross. This is the day of worship inscribed by the Holy Spirit for all men to subject themselves to the will of the Father. Every first day of the week is imposed upon the soul of man to remember the sacrifice of Jesus. The Lord’s Supper is engaged each week as a reminder of the price for salvation. This is not a holiday but a day of joy and sadness reflecting the deep spiritual need of man for a loving Father. There is a pattern for the first day of the week in the New Testament. It is upon this pattern that all men should worship in spirit and in truth.
But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me. (Luke 19:27)
Slaughter Them Before Me
The parables of Jesus were simple stories to drive home the point of an eternal truth offered for man to learn the will of the Father. They were direct in their nature and for the interested student conclusive in the lessons taught. There would be no room for doubt as to the meaning of the parable and Jesus used these storytelling events to impress upon His hearers the character of truth, righteousness and eternal judgment of God upon those who disobeyed Him. The parable of the talents and the parable of the minas are very similar with similar lessons for the Jews of Jesus day and for all men throughout the ages. In the parable of the minas, the concluding scene is very direct in its message of the wrath of God. Ten servants had received from their lord an equal amount with equal responsibility to do business until he returned. When the day of accounting came one of the servants came and because of fear he had not done anything with what was entrusted to him. The servant was fearful of his master because he knew what a severe lord he was. This did not excuse the man from receiving a harsh judgment from the Lord and was condemned for his lack of faith. At the end of the parable, the Lord calls together those who had early refused to serve under his lordship. When the nobleman went off into a far country the citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him saying they would not have him reign over them. Their rebellion was clear. When the Lord returned, judgment came against the rebellious citizens when the Lord called for them to be brought before Him and slain in His presence. The word suggests a slaughter because they refused to subject themselves to the will of the Lord.
Jesus taught many lessons to the Jewish people concerning events that would take place shortly in their own history. He knew of the coming Roman persecution against Jerusalem that would find fulfillment in A.D. 70 and the destruction of God’s city. The Lord also knew His own people would reject Him as Christ and suffer Him to be killed on a cross. They would bear the blood of rejecting Him as responsible for killing the Chosen One of God which Peter plainly preached on the Day of Pentecost. The parable of the minas was a lesson on how the people would refuse the rule of Christ and find judgment by the hand of the Romans but also by the hand of God in the eternal judgment. Beyond the scope of the judgment against the Jews, the parable of the minas teaches the reality of God’s wrath upon those who refuse to submit themselves to His will. There are many who will not obey the word of God and like the citizens of the parable saying, “We will not have this man rule over us.” Jesus tells the story of the judgment of God where all men will be gathered before Him and like the nobleman demand justice against those who did not want Him to reign over them. In the final day of reckoning, the fierce wrath of the Lord will be meted out upon those who reject the blood of Christ. The reality of the lake of fire and brimstone is the eternal slaughter of souls that will never perish. Jesus taught the wrath of God. He did not check His words to soften the message of those who would refuse to submit to His Father. The Son of God is very clear in the reality of a place of punishment. Refusing to believe in a place like Hell is refusing to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
It is easy for the theology of man to refuse to teach or preach the eternal consequences of rejecting the authority of God. For most men the idea of a loving God that would punish anyone in eternal fire is unacceptable. They must reason how Jesus could use language found in the parable of the minas. The destruction of Jerusalem was a terrible slaughter of the Jews by the hand of the Romans. Jesus warned the nation years before the event and clearly illustrated how severe the judgment would be. If Jesus was correct about the terrible nature of the destruction of Jerusalem why would anyone think the eternal judgment would be anything less; if not more severe because it never ends? The nobleman in the parable demanded all those who did not want Him to reign over them to be brought and slaughtered before him. God is that nobleman and all those who refuse to submit to the will of the Father will be cast into an eternal fire where there are weeping and gnashing of teeth and total darkness. The cost of salvation was the life of the Son of God which measures the severity of the punishment against those who refuse to accept the gift of God in Christ. Not everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved but only those who do the will of the Father. Refusing to submit to God will bring about a great slaughter.
Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, pressing him to your bottle, even to make him drunk, that you may look on his nakedness! You are filled with shame instead of glory. You also—drink! And be exposed as uncircumcised! The cup of the Lord’s right hand will be turned against you, and utter shame will be on your glory. (Habakkuk 2:15-16)
Causing Another To Be Drunk
The burden which Habakkuk the prophet declared in his book is a message of the cruelty of nations oppressing other nations and individual applications to the same principles. This man of God is perplexed over the vile sins of his own people and is told by God that a foreign nation will bring divine justice upon them to execute the righteousness of the Lord upon an unrighteous people. The prophet is also assured that while a heathen nation is used to punish the nation of God this same nation will feel the wrath of God in their own destruction. His conclusion fills the New Testament covenant in the expression the righteous is to live by his faith in God and trust His plan of divine retribution. Habakkuk is a questioning prophet who wants to know why the Lord permits injustice and why to use the wicked to punish the righteous. The Lord does not leave him without understanding the way of God is the path of truth and Habakkuk humbly accepts the will of the Lord as right praising God for his divine righteousness. Part of his dissertation of judgment against the wicked the prophet talks of how one nation will bring another nation low by having them drunk on the pleasures of sin. Causing the people of God to follow the drunken stupor of idolatry, the Chaldeans influenced righteous souls to follow an unrighteous path. Like in the story of Noah when he became drunk and was uncovered to his shame, the nation of God drank of the vile intoxicating drink of the nations around them and was exposed in their own shame. There would be the punishment of the Lord upon His own people and the nation that caused the apple of His eye to stray from His love.
There is included in the charge against foreign nations causing the people of God to become drunk with the wine of their unrighteousness, a message for the individual and how he can also bring shame to another by causing them to put their hand to the bottle. Drunkenness has always been a sin before the Lord as a man takes something created by God to possess a spirit that is ungodly and defiles the body. Not only is the man who is drunk accountable to the divine judgment but also the hand of the one who gives his neighbor drink, putting the bottle to him and making him drunk to look upon his nakedness. God does not withhold His wrath upon those who put a stumbling block in the path of others to cause them to be drunk. This is a clear warning to those under the covenant of Christ to see the futility of social drinking and the casual approach many take to the matter of alcohol. Many use the story of Jesus turning water into wine in John’s gospel as a proof text that drinking is acceptable. They are misled by their own prejudice to teach something that is impossible for Jesus to have done. The amount of wine created by Jesus at His first miracle was around 130+ gallons of the best wine as noted by the master. If Jesus created 130+ gallons of intoxicating drink and caused anyone at the wedding feast to become drunk, Jesus would have sinned against His Father. Habakkuk establishes the penalty of a man who causes another to be drunk and Jesus never would have created one ounce of intoxicating drink to cause another man to stumble. The principles used by the prophet Habakkuk prove the impossibility of Jesus creating intoxicating drink thereby making useless the arguments children of God try to dissuade their conscience to drink responsibly.
Another lesson found in the text of Habakkuk is the power of influence on others. The apostle Paul will spend a great deal of time exhorting the early Christians to be careful of their influence on others, especially the weak brethren. There have always been matters that can offend the weak conscience and the influence of others to mislead others can bring about sinful attitudes. One of the great principles of Christian duty is to be mindful of the lives of others and to humbly seek the welfare of others. No man has a right to think more highly of himself than others. The actions of one can influence another to stumble. To offend a brother with disregard for their conscience is doing the same thing against Christ Himself. In the book of Habakkuk the prophet shows the penalty against not only the people of God for allowing the Chaldeans to influence them but also the charge against the Chaldeans for their actions. Such is the case of the individual who causes others to stumble. Those who sin will be judged according to their actions but those who cause others to sin will be held to a higher standard of accountability. Jesus is a perfect example of one who always taught the will of the Lord by His actions towards others. He paid the temple tax so as not to offend. The Lord gave His life for all men to save them and left an example of serving others. No man can live his own life without thinking of his influence upon others. If there is any charge to be made in the manner of life that influences others, let it be the goodness of God that leads men to repentance.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:17-18)
What Condemns A Man?
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus that came to Jesus by night inquiring of the teachings of the man from Nazareth. Nicodemus acknowledged the people viewed Jesus as a teacher come from God and that His teaching had authority. As the Lord explained the need for men to be born again, the ruler of the Jews was puzzled how a man could be literally be born of his mother a second time. Jesus was referring to the spiritual birth that was found in the acceptance of the heart to the will of God consummated in the waters of baptism. The Lord explained to Nicodemus that like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of man must be sacrificed for the sins of the world. Declaring God’s eternal love Jesus told His inquirer that God so loved the world to offer His only begotten Son as a sacrifice and for those who believed in the Son of God would be saved. Most people are familiar with the passage of John 3:16 but few know Jesus had more to say about salvation in the context of His conversation with Nicodemus. To better understand the love of God to send His only begotten Son, the honest student of scripture must see what else qualifies the teaching of Jesus. The purpose of the coming of Christ was not to condemn the world but to save men from the wrath of God. In the text of John 3:16 the love of God and the wrath of God are found. First, the love of God is seen in that He gave His only begotten Son for men to believe in Him. Jesus did say that if a man did not believe on the Son of God he would perish, suggesting an eternal punishment instead of everlasting life. Before time began the Father established that all men would find grace through His Son in His death on the cross. Jesus came to save men. He taught the message of salvation beginning with the first word of the gospel: repent. His desire was to save all men and bring them to the love and mercy of the Father. However, Jesus was killed on a cross through the ignorance of men who denied Him being the Son of God. They did not believe He was the Christ, rejected Him and delivered Him up to die. Jews and Gentiles stand guilty of the murder of God’s Son and yet through that sacrifice all men have the grace of God afforded to them for salvation.
Jesus Christ is the sacrificial lamb offered by God to show men His love and grace. Believing Jesus is the Son of God will bring the heart into obedience and a willingness to follow His teaching. This kind of belief is not a shallow type of feeling that only acknowledges the name of Jesus without complete allegiance to the will and word of the Father. To believe in Jesus is to submit to His will, His authority, and His word. Faith comes from hearing and when one hears the word of God they will subject their lives to the will of the Father. When a man believes in Jesus he will not be condemned. His heart is open to the teachings of the Lord. On the day of Pentecost when the twelve apostles preached the first lessons of God’s grace to a crowd of devout Jews, three-thousand souls obeyed the message of the gospel because they believed and accepted the will of God. There were no arguments or literary debating on what a man must do to be saved but willing hearts that gladly accepted the word of God and those who gladly received the word were baptized for the remission of sins. This was in keeping with what Jesus told Nicodemus in the new birth. To be born again is not a feeling of the heart alone where salvation comes through faith alone. Those on Pentecost followed the command of God in doing all that was needed to be saved.
What condemns a man? When a person hears the story of Jesus Christ and does not believe he is condemned already because he is unwilling to accept the name of Jesus as being the saving power of God’s love. Jesus explained to Nicodemus there are those who will be condemned because they refuse to accept the will of the Father. If a man is not born again he cannot enter into the body of Christ. Failing to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, a man will be condemned and this condemnation comes from his heart in refusing to accept the grace of God. On the day of Pentecost, there were many devout Jews that did not obey the gospel as the three-thousand did. Throughout the Acts of the Apostles, Luke tells the story of how the church grew and multitudes obeyed the gospel but there were many people who never accepted the teaching Jesus as the Son of God. They did not find salvation in death because they were condemned already for refusing to accept the teachings of the Father. God had done all He could do in sending His Son. When men refuse to believe that Jesus is the Son of God there is nothing left to save man. Death becomes a horrible experience when men learn that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God but it is then too late. Jesus taught in His sermon on the mountain that most men would be lost because they are unwilling to embrace the teachings of the Father and will be condemned. On the final day of Judgment, there will be those who are saved and there will be a vast multitude of people who will be lost. Condemnation will come upon those who refuse to make Jesus king of their lives and live in the word of the Father.
I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “Put away from yourselves the evil person.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)
If They Are Named A Brother
The New Testament church is a unique organization that adheres to a strict set of directives given by God. In a world that is not comfortable with absolutes and commandment keeping, the modern church is reluctant to adhere to the teaching of the pattern established by the first disciples. Reading of the early church and how they dealt with problems arising within local congregations, students of scripture quickly realize there are some tough decisions that must be made. Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth is filled with strong language exhorting the saints to establish some clear teachings among the brethren setting a pattern for generations to come. There was a serious problem at Corinth where a man had his father’s wife of such a nature the apostle remarks this is not even named among the Gentiles. The church ignored the blatant and wicked union of this man demanding an immediate response from the apostle of Christ. Paul demands the church take punitive action against the situation not to destroy the church but to save it. The purpose was to save the souls of those involved and bring glory to the church. As the apostle explains what the church must do, he commands them to refuse fellowship or company with the one who is called a brother who remains in his sinful state. It was clear in the writings of Paul that he instructed the church not to keep company with sexually immoral people. As the apostle explained the Lord did not suggest His people become hermits living apart from the world in a monastic fashion but to purge from their midst as pertaining to the church those who refused to submit to the will of God. Christians must live in the world working and carrying on the affairs of the world which means they will be in constant contact with ungodly and wicked hearts. His point was to establish within the body of Christ the need to keep the purity of the body in the love of Christ.
There is an important lesson from Paul’s letter to Corinth that still must be followed today. The bride of Christ must be kept as pure as possible and to allow sin to dwell in the midst of God’s people does not bring glory to the Lord. God demands his people not to keep company with anyone named a brother (by inference a sister) who is in a covenant relationship with God refusing to submit to the will of God. Those who are outside the church will be governed by a loving and merciful Lord. For the individuals within a local congregation, the apostle enjoins they be refused fellowship in accepting their state of life as being in an unrighteous and unholy part with the world. The key is to whom this discipline must be administered: those who are brethren. Every congregation has a God-given responsibility to maintain the purity of the church and part of this includes the punitive discipline of those saints that are in rebellion to the commandments of God. All men struggle with sin and the apostle is not suggesting no company can be kept with anyone. The man in Corinth was in an unscriptural relationship that would destroy his soul before judgment and the church was doing nothing to save him. To their shame, the Corinthian church was puffed up to ignore such a matter. They were commanded to take an action that would establish the purity of the word of God, seek the salvation of the lost soul and show the world the impact of a church that seeks to follow the sovereign will of God. This was something that was to be done with a brother in Christ.
There are limitations the church has with regard to relationships. Paul illustrated there are many sexually immoral people in the world but the church has a responsibility to discipline those named a brother or sister who are in a state of digression and sin. A congregation that refuses to exercise punitive discipline is a congregation in rebellion to the word of God. What is also sad is when a congregation refuses to follow the New Testament teachings they endanger the souls of those brethren who could be saved if only the church would show the love to discipline them. There is nothing more tragic than a child of God being lost. Peter said the last state is worse than the first and it would be better for them to not know the way of truth and then to know the truth and find themselves apart from God. How sad it will be when those who could have been saved were never taught the truth by a congregation that did not follow the teaching of God to His saints. Those who are named brothers and sisters of Christ are to be treated differently than those in the world. It is the work of the church to save those outside the church and show them the way of grace, mercy, love, and truth. There is a special responsibility for the church to discipline the members of the Lord’s body to follow the path of righteousness if they are named a brother or sister.