By Pastor Tedd Mathis
In this essay I address how a local church is to respond when a member practices sexual sin. Since the Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever, let’s remind ourselves of what He has commanded His people in the past.
The one, true God, set His love on Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants, promising to make them a nation which He would bless. They were to be a righteous and just people (Gen. 18:19; Deut. 7:7-8).
IN LOVE He protected them as a fledgling nation for 400 years from being amalgamated into the idolatrous Canaanite tribes and their abominable sexual practices (Gen. 15:12-16; Lev. 18:3, 24,25; 20:23).
IN LOVE He preserved them as His people in Egypt and brought them out of that nation’s idolatry and abominations (Lev. 18:3. 30; Ezek. 20:7-12).
IN LOVE He gave them a holy law with a high view of marriage, explicitly commanding them NOT to desire or practice the sexual abominations of Egypt or Canaan (Deut. 6:1-19; Ezek 7:10-11). They were to put to death or cut off Israelites who went after abominable sexual acts of the false gods (Leviticus 18:1-30).
When Israel disobeyed Him, the Lord brought severe judgment on His people (Judges 2:11-23; Isaiah 1:10-17; 3:8-9; Jer. 5:7-9; 6:15-19).
IN LOVE and mercy to foreigners, even those who had been emasculated and served as male prostitutes, who turned from their false gods and abominable desires and practices, and wholly identified themselves with the one true God, the Lord God promised full pardon and eternal hope (Isaiah 56:1-8).
It has always been and always will be, those whom the Lord God loves He brings into a covenant community. And His covenant community is given blessed and glorious standards to live by – good laws that represent God’s own holiness and righteousness (Isaiah 42:21). God’s saving grace has always instructed people to turn from what He says is abominable and pursue and practice what He delights in and blesses (Titus 2:11-14)
Today, God’s people are not gathered in one geographical place with national boundaries like the nation of Israel was under the Mosaic covenant. Today, God’s people are gathered in local churches scattered around the globe. And each local church has the same doctrines and standards to which they are to believe and live by (I Cor. 4:17; 7:17; 11:16; 14:33; I Thess. 4:1-8; I Tim. 3:15; Jude 3,4).
Today, Christ’s expectation for sex and sexuality is rooted in what God designed and blessed from the beginning, and no different than the moral code the Lord God gave the nation Israel. Males are to dress and act like males, not using their virility and physical strength in abusive or undisciplined ways but leading, providing for, protecting, instructing their wives and children. Women are to dress modestly and act like females, not seeking to rule their husbands but giving their bodies to their husbands alone, joining herself to him as his helpmate, nourishing and instructing their offspring to be godly men and women.
It is the local church that is to instruct and hold their members to these God-ordained roles and standards. Should members of that covenant community defile what God has blessed, the church calls them to repent. And if they do not repent, they are to be put out of the local church (Matthew 18:15-20).
Unlike Israel that had the authority to put to death those in their covenant community who defiled God’s law the local church does not. However, it is commanded to respond with holy severity to unrepentant church members.
The church is to remove them from membership (I Cor. 5:2,7,13).
The church is not to allow them access to the Lord’s Supper (I Cor. 5:7-8).
Individual church members are not to associate with them or enjoy fellowship with them as though they were a believer (I Cor. 5:9-12).
The local church is to offer no assurance of salvation until the so-called believer gives clear rejection of their sin. This is the solemn duty and high privilege given by Christ Himself to the local church.
The same Lord God who brought destruction on Sodom and Gomorrah for going after strange flesh (Jude 7) is the same Lord who commanded the Israelites to put to death their own kin who practiced what was abominable. Today that same Lord commands local churches to, in sorrow, remove members who practice sexual immorality. Allowing them to remain ‘leavens the whole lump:’ Other members’ disobedience becomes bolder. The church’s witness is adulterated. It becomes generic, losing its godly influence on the world around it (I Cor. 5:6-13; Rev. 2:18-23; Matthew 5:13-16).
Like the word ‘gay’ that so prettily refers to what should only produce a vomitous gag reflex, so those who advocate gay Christianity defile what Christ came to cleanse and make holy.
The Bible gives everlasting hope to the repentant – from any kind of sin. The reason God can do so is because of the One who saves sinners. Jesus Christ saves with power. He not only provides full forgiveness, He produces a new life! He cleanses our minds. He purifies our desires. What we once loved we now hate and what we once hated we now love (II Cor. 5:17; Col. 3:1-11; Rom. 8:1-14). Is sin still a temptation? Yes. And it must be mortified. But as sons of God, those whom Christ saves gain a wholesome dread of dishonoring the One who bought them and made them sons of the Most High (Rom. 8:12-17; I Peter 1:17-19).
Consider some of the most solemn and hope-filled words ever written to sinners:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. – I Corinthians 6:9-11.