Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Church Devotion: Problems with Paul - 1 Corinthians 5:3

1 Corinthians 5:3       Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present.

            The apostle Paul didn't pull any of his punches, nor did he mince his words. He spoke directly and firmly, as well as candidly and clearly, which must have made him an awesome preacher in his day. Even now, when we all read his uncompromising words in 1 Corinthians 5, we flinch at his tone. In a sexually liberated society, we all have trouble dealing with his unyielding judgment.

            Does this mean that Paul was wrong to write about sexual immorality? Are his words meant for an ancient time and therefore have no place in our present cultured Christianity? Do we find him offensive because his words reek of archaic authoritarianism and joyless judgmentalism, or are we pushing back because there’s a strong element of truth to his point?

            Traditional Christians are constantly being ridiculed and attacked for trying to maintain nineteenth century standards in a twenty-first century world. They are being pressured to capitulate, so that the whole Church can present itself to the current culture as being worthy of popular ideals. During the last part of the twentieth century, the Church went to war with itself over sexuality and marriage issues. The first two decades of this new century seem doomed to be wrecked with the same conflicts.

            In my darkest moments, I cannot see an end to this cultural civil war and as the Church rips itself apart, the world begins to fall apart. Our ministries become stagnant and our missions are harder to maintain. People become devoted to personal causes instead of the person of Christ. Jesus becomes just another religious teacher instead of the Redeemer Savior of the world.

            And then I remind myself that the Church is the Bride of Christ, so He will not let it be diminished or blemished, anguished or finished. He continues His ministry and mission both in the Church and across the world. His promises are still being fulfilled and His words still bring people to God. His work never ends and His Kingdom will last forever. All we have to do is to continue to follow Him faithfully, even though we are all sinners and imperfect. His Way, His Truth, and His Life will always endure…and in the end, that is all that is important.

Questions for personal reflection

What is Christ doing in my community today? Is the Church there with Him?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, we are all struggling as Christians in a world that is constantly changing. We continually clash with one another and go to war over words, works, and ways. Forgive us and help us to be restored to one another so that we can effectively help to heal this broken world. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to ask questions or make comments about today’s message, please send John an email to He may not answer all emails quickly, but he does read every one of them.

Today’s image is my latest Bible card drawing. It’s taken from Psalm 113v3.

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