My Thoughts. . .
Sometime Bible students will read into the scriptures the culture and practices that the reader is engaged in rather than what first century believers practiced. This is especially true of those who read 1 Corinthians. The following illustrates that practice.
The Corinthian church had multiple errors that troubled the house of Chloe. Paul’s letter was correcting those false practices. Today, 1 Corinthians is studied to guard against practicing their errors. Despite their numerous doctrinal departures, no present-day student suggests that the Corinthian church was a pseudo church. If a modern-day church was guilty of the same teaching and practices which that congregation was engaged in, would it be addressed as an apostate rather than a true New Testament assembly? To fellowship a congregation like Corinth today would be anathema. Those who would offer their fellowship would be designated as liberal rather than faithful.
Today, Paul would be titled as “a liberal” for limiting withdrawal to only one member when the entire congregation should have been excommunicated. The things which that church was openly practicing would have removed them from the pattern that would identify them as the Lord’s church.
Those who believed, taught, and practiced error continued to be in fellowship with God since Paul told them they were indwelt by God and were the “body of Christ” (12:27). The proof of that indwelling was evident by members continuing to exercise the gift of prophesy, speaking foreign languages, interpreting, healing, and such (12:27-28). The man who was sleeping with his father’s wife was sinful, but false doctrine and practices lead to hell just as quickly. In today’s thinking, to withdraw fellowship from that man alone leaves Paul in fellowship with the sins of those he does not withdraw from. If Paul was living today, his lack of action would identify him with those erroneous practices, and he would be charged with being soft on sin.
It seems strange that no one in the church of God at Corinth was being withdrawn from:
1. Because he questioned Paul’s apostleship or authority (1 Corinthians 9:1-2).
2. Because he supported division by belonging to one of the four manmade divisions (1:10-13).
3. Because he was carnal rather than spiritual (3:1, 3).
4. Because he had “the wisdom of men” rather than the “power of God” (2:5).
5. Because he made invalid claims (4:18-21).
6. Because he was proud that a member was sleeping with his father’s wife (5:1-2).
7. Because he was going to court against another member (6:1-2).
8. Because he was having marital problems (7:1-7).
9. Because he thought nothing of being a stumbling block to another member (8:7-13).
10. Because he did not mind being offensive to another (8:12-13).
11. Because he did not mind being offensive when prophesying or praying (10:31-33).
12. Because he did not mind allowing division to destroy the communion (11:17-22).
13. Because he was not doing the loving thing toward another member (11:21-23).
14. Because as a prophet, a language speaker, interpreter, or some women, were guilty of
promoting confusion in the assembly with nothing being done to stop it (12:27-28; 14:1-39).
15. Because he with others did not believe that there was a resurrection of the dead (15:12).
16. Because he went along with and did not attempt to right the wrongs being practiced (only the house of Chloe seems to want apostolic correction) (1:11).
If a congregation existed today, identified as “the church of God,” but guilty of Corinth’s sins, would a preacher desire to be identified with them? Would a God-fearing believer want to place membership with them? Would gospel papers identify them as faithful and recommend them to others? Would other preachers in town want to be identified with them? If not, why did God and Paul continue their fellowship?
The Corinthian body of believers seem to be a contradiction rather than a copied example for today’s church. To ask, “Why would God want to continue to indwell them?” might be the same question we should ask about the church we belong to! How sinless must a congregation be, in order to experience the Father’s indwelling? Most believers are looking for a congregation that is more perfect than the one they left. When found, will that discovery cause God to stop indwelling those that are equal to Corinth? Since God continued to indwell the Corinthian congregation, are those who leave, leaving God behind?
The Corinthian church can put today’s disciples in an inconsistent position if we ignore God’s lesson. Sometimes we miss the point due to reading our culture and practices into the text.