When You Must Judge

“For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present.” (I Corinthians 5:3)

It should be instructive to us that Paul says here that he has “already judged him.” (Context tells us that this man was living in immorality with his father’s wife.) Obviously Paul didn’t “get the memo” from Jesus that we are not to judge, right? Or perhaps that is not what Jesus meant?! Because Paul definitely condemned the immorality in this situation, and in fact the whole thrust of this chapter is how Paul reprimands the Corinthians for not mourning the sin of this unrepentant offender. He commands them to cast him out of the church. They are to judge sin in their midst.

True, there are things which we cannot and should not judge. Paul had just asserted in Chapter 4:5 that we are not to pass judgment on God’s servants (like Apollos and himself) before the time, because we don’t have all the information about what they are doing, and we can’t see their heart. So he commanded: “do not go on passing judgment before the time.”
But that does not mean that there is NOTHING that the church is to exercise judgment on.

Despite the fact that the only verse many people in this modern age can seem to quote is: “don’t judge”, Paul shows us that it definitely IS the responsibility of the church to make moral judgments regarding right and wrong. The man in I Corinthians 5 was living in blatant immorality, and the church was to recognize that, and not allow it in their membership. They were to exercise moral judgment. Paul taught here that where there is clear-cut sin in contradiction to God’s word, you are not on the wrong side of God if you “judge”; in fact, he asserts, you are on the wrong side of God if you DON’T!

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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