Monday, August 12, 2013

Lancing the Boil

1 Corinthians 5:
1 ¶  It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.
2  And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

The assembly of believers at Corinth, a city in first century Greece, had a problem.  There was a member who had decided to shack up with his step-mother.  This was so abhorrent an idea that even the pagans in Corinth - a very worldly town indeed - railed against this.  But, alas, the leadership supported the man's behavior, citing Christian liberty and "love" as the reason.

The apostle Paul says that they were "puffed up."  The Greek word is phusio-o from a root phuo meaning "to blow."  The noun form of the word is phusis, from which we get the words "physics" and "physical," which is translated "nature."  The assembly was acting "naturally" rather than adhering to the law of God.  "Nature" is synonymous with "life" in both Hebrew and Greek.  Verbs and noun-cognates for the soul and spirit all contain the idea of the breath of life.

Being "puffed up" physically, though, is not caused by excess air, but rather excess fluid.  This brings the picture of an infected sore -- a boil -- that is taxing the immune system.  The lymph system is working overtime to kill the poison that has entered the blood stream.  The boil fills up with pus to such an extent that the bacteria leaves, but spreads to other nearby places.  If left untreated, the body will die.  The word "pus" is a Latin word derived from the Greek phuo (see above).

In effect, Paul is saying the assembly is infected and in grave danger because it has not disciplined one who has sinned grossly.  Paul will go on to explain that sexual sin is in a way the worst of sins in the church.  The world is watching, and when this most natural of temptations arises it is hard to hide.  If a believer yields, he will be drawn deeper into a lifestyle that includes breaking not just the seventh commandment, but the ninth and tenth as well.  Living a lie becomes hard, and eventually affairs become public.

Even before that, though, damage is done to the body of believers to whom such a sinner looks for support.  Assuming the "member" is a believer, when other believers look the other way, they become enablers.  The infection grows, endangering the whole assembly. As with a physical boil, "surgery" is required.  The wound must be cut open and cleaned out.  It must be then treated to eliminate any lingering bacteria.  In time, the body will heal.  Does this mean that the sinner must be removed, or just disciplined?  It depends on the extent of the "infection." If it has spread, there will be "supporters" within the body, new "boils" if you will, that are enabling the sinner.  Removal of the sinner (excommunication) often leads to "church splits," but it will always improve the health of the faithful assembly.

The modern church is facing much of the same problem.  Sexual sin is running rampant -- from adultery, to promiscuity (and the attendant sin of murder -- i.e. abortion), to homosexual activity (and the very real threat of related diseases).  We cannot allow an emphasis on "love" to lead to acceptance of such behavior in the church.  Let us not be afraid to get out the scalpel and lance the boil at the first signs of infection.  If we do, then we can promote optimum health to the "body" of Christ on the earth.