1 Corinthians 5:12 (ESV) -- For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?
The church in Corinth was a mess. They had a young man engaged in an inappropriate relationship with his father’s wife. This brought disrepute to the church because the church is called to purity and holiness. Christians are not perfect, but we are called to a standard of holiness that requires constant managing. We cannot drift toward holiness. We must strive for holiness, and God has given us community with others through the church to help us.
Our passage today highlights this reality. Paul is writing to the church of Corinth about this situation. He tells them, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” Paul is telling the church that his primary focus is the standard of conduct and holiness in the church. His concern is the life of the believers. All believers are under judgment from fellow believers to uphold their confession of faith through their conduct.
This is a missing element in the church world today. We believe our lives are only accountable to ourselves, not others. Yet Paul says here that judgment is something that should happen in the church. This isn’t a practice of whispering behind people’s backs about their behavior. It is an intentional willingness to confront others in sin that is detrimental to their lives and faith. Judgment is the act of confronting unhealthy patterns and behaviors in the lives of people we are in community with. We have rights to each other’s lives. We have access to voice what we see.
Does this mean we cannot judge outsiders? No. We see Paul in other places make assessments about the lives and conduct of unbelievers. So why does he say he doesn’t judge outsiders? He’s not saying he can’t or shouldn’t make assessments about the life of people outside the church. He’s saying that he has no role, responsibility, or authority to judge their lives in a way where mutual fellowship might bring repentance. We all need this in our lives. We want people to love us enough to judge our lives. If we get out of step with the faith, we need people who will walk us back to the narrow way. We should also love others enough to do the same. This is biblical community and how churches thrive.
Reflection & Journal:
- How do people use this passage to say Christians shouldn’t make judgments about unbelievers?
- What does Paul mean by judging people inside the church?
- What is the goal of judging Christians for their sinful habits?
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