When you think of the word holiness, what comes to your mind? Maybe, you think of behavior or conduct. Maybe you think of something that sounds good, but is impossible for you. Maybe, you think of something that is stuffy or boring. There’s no shortage of ways that we may be tempted to think about holiness, but in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul makes it clear that holiness matters! He shows us that God calls the church to live in holiness and call out unholy living.
- Holiness Calls Believers to Action: v.1-5
Paul focuses his attention on a situation in the church that is highly disturbing; a man is engaged in a sexual relationship with his father’s wife. Whether this is his biological mother or his step-mother doesn’t minimize this disturbing nature of this situation. Yet, Paul’s concern is that the church is apathetic and indifferent to what is unfolding. Holiness calls believers to action. We see here that we are called to address sin. We’re not to ignore it, or pretend as if it isn’t present, but instead to address it. We cannot minimize the seriousness of sin! Further, we see the church’s role in pronouncing judgment. The judgment is not a claim to some moral superiority, but instead to point this unrepentant individual toward their ultimate need for Jesus.
- Holiness is Rooted in the Saving Work of Jesus: v.6-8
While there is a sharpness toward the call to action that comes from holiness, we should be so grateful for these verses that remind us that holiness isn’t accomplished by us, but instead through the saving work of Jesus. In verses 6-8, we see a sharp contrast that the whole church is corrupted by sin, but that the entire church is cleansed through Jesus! The image of leaven is often equated with sin. Paul is telling the Corinthians that they have been corrupted by their sin; but praise God, they are cleansed by Jesus! This is true for us as well. We too are cleansed by the redemptive work of Jesus in our lives! Have you thanked God today for His cleansing work in your life?
- Holiness Makes the Church Distinct: v.9-13
Paul finishes this section by calling the church to be distinct. This plays out in two ways. First, we are to be distinct from the world, but we are to have association with the world. We are not to separate ourselves from the world, but instead to lean into the world in a distinct or holy way. But that is held in tension with how we treat those who profess to be believers, but show no evidence that they are walking with the Lord. We are commanded to separate from those who find themselves in this place. Again, the purpose of this is to help them grip the seriousness of their sin, to see the grave reality of their standing before God and for them to repent and be restored. We should be far more concerned with one’s standing before God, than their social or relational comfort.
God calls us to live in holiness. Church, are we willing to live in holiness? This is what God is calling us to. He is doing so because holiness matters!