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The Archimedean Point

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The Archimedean Point

12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."

1 Corinthians 5:12-13 (NIV)

From time to time throughout history, those calling themselves “Christian” have flirted with totalitarianism. In the 16th century, the Roman Catholic Inquisition in Spain was a terror to Jews and Muslims. In the 17th century, New England Puritans fined those who missed church and whipped or banished citizens who denied the truth of any portion of Scripture. Scripture cannot support these practices, and the Church has always come to regret them. Tyranny is not an ecclesiastical option.

On the other hand, the Church must not retreat from its prophetic role. When Paul said it was not his business to “judge those outside the church” (v. 12), he did not mean it was wrong to criticize. As a church leader, he denounced various cultures. For instance, he agreed with the man who said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12). And sometimes he would add a touch of drama, as when he shook the dust off his feet as he left Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:51).

By “judge,” in this context, he meant the exercise of Church discipline. A man in the Corinthian church “had his father’s wife” (v. 1), and the congregation was proud of it (v. 2)! No doubt, they were congratulating themselves on their “progressive,” “liberated” point of view. Perhaps they parroted the observation, “Who are we to judge? We’re all sinners. ‘Let the one without sin cast the first stone.’”

Not surprisingly, Paul was beside himself. He insisted that they throw this sinner out of the Church (v. 2). But he wanted to be sure they did not throw their cultural contacts out with him. Church discipline was for brothers, not the unregenerate (vv. 9-12).

If the Church does not police wickedness in the world at large, who will? God will (v. 13). The government, and not the Church, is His armed agent (Rom. 13:1-7).

Thus disarmed, how can the church hope for sweeping impact? Paul’s prescription was precisely to the point—“Cleanse yourself”—and it was working. Early in his ministry, Christians were already known as “these that have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6 KJV), even though their political leverage was less than nothing in the Roman Empire. Jesus’ Kingdom was spreading by “holy infection,” not tyrannical sanction.

The ancient scientist Archimedes, a student of mechanical levers, said, “Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth.” The pastor who would “turn the world upside down” stands in that very place, and it is not in the halls of government. It is in the prophetic pulpit of a people who would show Christ in their individual lives and in their fellowship.

GracePointe Baptist Church

2209 N Post Road

Oklahoma City, OK 73141

Phone: (405) 769-5050

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