Ambassadors for Christ – 1 Corinthians 5:16-21

You Have Never Met A Mere Mortal…

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Powerful Perception

As humans, we have a tendency to look at people as just physical beings.  We don’t actually “see” the spirit, so we look outwardly.  Before we knew Christ, we did the same.  But God has awakened within us our spirit, and made us alive in Christ.  And we now need to look at everyone in this same way – alive or dead.

Zombies are a fictitious creature that are physically dead, but somehow animated (usually through some type of viral contagion) that makes the body appear alive, but without the ability to consciously be aware or responsible for its actions.  In a way, before we knew Christ, we were spiritual zombies.  Our spirit was dead, but our physical bodies were still going about doing things.  Once we become alive in Christ, we see the spiritually dead for what they are – and they aren’t even aware of their condition.

Each and every human ever created – whether from the dust or rib like Adam and Eve, or through conception by the Holy Spirit or physical relations – has a soul.  And each of us have an eternal end – either spiritually alive in Christ, or spiritually dead in the Lake of Fire.  Since we have been awakened, let us make every effort to see people in this way, and to tell them of the good news of Christ, that more may awaken from their slumber before it becomes permanent death – eternal separation from the Lord God Almighty.

Creation Changed

The translation in verse seventeen is not quite right.  It should read, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation…”  Every time someone is awakened from their spiritual slumber from death to life, a new body part is added to the body.  And when that happens, the body changes – the church (the entire body of Christ) becomes an entirely new creation, having a new part attached to it!  As new parts are attached, the body is able to perform its job better, because it now have more opportunity with its fuller capability to serve the Lord.

And just as Paul said, “The old is gone, the new is here!”, the body is now different and new, and something that it wasn’t before.  The old body now looks different and can act different – it is something new that the world has never seen!  Every time someone accepts Christ, the body of Christ grows and needs to be viewed differently.  We ignore the change to the body to our very peril.  Each piece needs to grow into maturity; otherwise, it will drain the body of resources, and perhaps even make the body look sickly, weak, ineffective, or outright distasteful.  The body must be nurtured, fed well, and exercised in order for it to work effectively.  We cannot ignore new body as it morphs into its new shape and function without severely impacting its health.

Reconciliation Retold

We have been given the message of reconciliation.  Like a messenger who has been given a time-sensitive and urgent message to deliver to key allies in a war, we have been given the message of reconciliation of God and Man through the God-man Jesus Christ.  The message that God is now reconciling us through the shed, perfect blood of His one and only Son Jesus Christ is of paramount importance to get to our allies – those who will listen, receive, and obey the message.

Deliver the Declaration

We have been tasked with getting the message out to all the world.  All people need to hear the message, so that the body can remain healthy and growing, and ensure that all who would be reconciled to God would do so.  You have heard the message.  Be reconciled!

At this time, even in the Middle East, where night has fallen and no one can work, Jesus is sending them dreams and visions, revealing Himself to all who would listen to Him, and imploring them to be reconciled to God.  But even those who have not heard the message will be held to account:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Don’t fall down on the job; be the messenger that God intended for you to be.  Deliver the message to everyone, and let God work on their hearts and the growth of the seed that you have sown.  Remember – You have never seen a mere mortal.  Everyone has an eternal destiny.  Help others find theirs, as you have found yours.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When I look at people, what do I see?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have been gracious to me, and opened my eyes that I would see, and opened my ears that they would hear.  You have redeemed me out of the miry muck of sin, and have given me the robe of righteousness that covered Your Son.  Father, give me a heart that reaches out to those who do not know You.  Help me to model Your character to them, and to treat them as You have treated me, with love, compassion, mercy, and grace.  Help me to reveal You to them, and to speak up regardless of the circumstances.  But in all things, give me a heart of obedience to the Holy Spirit, so that in Your timing, Your way, and with Your words, the message of reconciliation will be properly delivered to all.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Matthew 18:15-17

 Discipline Is a Corporate Issue – Not Just a Personal One

15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Personal Part

In fact, we ARE our brother’s keeper! It has been drilled into our minds that we shouldn’t judge others, or we will be judged in the same fashion.  But Jesus clearly provides us with a path of reconciliation when there has been a wrongdoing between the redeemed.  The hardest part is the initial confrontation. But we are told to do it anyways.  Proverbs 9:8 states that a wise person will love you if you rebuke them.  A person who has tuned their heart to God will want to know if they are doing something unrighteous – they have purposed their heart to do right.  Pointing out a wrongdoing helps them to learn, grow, be wiser, and better honor God.

And while everyone is at a different point in their walk with God, and we aren’t the Holy Spirit, we should confront those who are sinning against us personally or sinning openly.  If you see someone engaging in open sin, it needs to be addressed.  They will become leaven, and a little leaven will leaven the whole lump of dough.  You don’t want your local church to be known as, “the people who do everything the world does.”

Sometimes when the person sins, they are deeply steeped in their sin.  Since sin blinds us to itself, there is the possibility that the person won’t acknowledge that they are doing something wrong.  When that happens, it is time to take it to the next level.

Additional Assistance

When a person refuses to acknowledge their sin against you (or open sin), it is now necessary to confront them with two or more witnesses.  Since you are a witness, you only need one or two more people with you.  The purpose of the additional witnesses is two-fold:

  • By two or more witnesses shall all charges be established
  • Additional people bring weight to what you are saying:
    • They may be upset with you and unable to hear what you are saying, but they might listen to someone else
    • In the event that a confrontation went bad when you were alone, the other person will be much more hesitant to do something with others around

If a second (and possibly third) person sees what you see and agrees that there is an issue, have them accompany you when you go to confront the person again. They will be able to help confirm what you are seeing, or, perhaps they will not see it; perhaps YOU are in error!  Either way, having a fresh set of eyes look at something will help confirm the issue or to eliminate personal bias and show why it is not an issue.

You should carefully choose whom you tell about this issue – anyone that you confide in should be spiritually mature.  If possible, choose Elders in the church that THEY attend for witnesses.  The Elders (hopefully!) have been selected, among other reasons, because they are full of the Spirit of God and spiritually mature.  It is important that when addressing sin within the body that it be done in such a way that it does not appear to be someone gossiping or being petty.  Elders can help with confidentiality as well as guide you in the best manner to approach them again, even and especially if you approached the person prayerfully and with great humility.

The sad part is, some people just won’t listen.  A root of bitterness may have become deeply embedded in their heart.  It could also be a pride issue.  Whatever the reason, the person hasn’t responded to you and the one or two witnesses who came with you to talk to him/her after praying (and I recommend fasting).  When this happens, it is time to take it to the next level.

Church Chastening

Tell it to the Church (the local body of believers where THEY are worshiping).  The purpose of telling the Church is so that they can approach the person with humility, tell them that they are praying for them, and exhort them to do what it right in God’s eyes.  The whole purpose of this exercise is to reconcile people.  The Church isn’t to condemn the person, but to lovingly bring them back from the precipice of sin.

And if after telling the Church the person refuses to repent, it is now time to take it to the next level.

Sorrowful Separation

The local body of believers are now to expel the immoral believer.  Even corporately, they were unable to convince this person to repent.  They should now ask them to leave the body, and refuse them worship and communion.  They shouldn’t even associate with them:

  • Don’t talk to them
  • Don’t eat with them
  • Don’t worship with them
  • And in the power of the Holy Spirit, turn them over to Satan

The purpose of this is to show them that they are in error.  When Satan has his way with them, and God doesn’t help them, they will be miserable and greatly desire fellowship with the Church and God again.

Paul had this to say about separating yourself from unrepentant sinners in the Church (this concerns the sin of sexual immorality, but applies to all unrepentant sin):

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

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 person from among you.”

(Just a quick note – the verb translated “Expel” [exareite in the Greek] is an imperative command, not a suggestion!)

And after a period of painful separation, with the Holy Spirit working on their hearts, they will hopefully turn again to the God who saved them, provides for them, has forgiven them, and joins them to Himself.

Reconciliation is Required

Once they repent, let them come back into the Church.  Monitor them carefully, and when they have proven themselves repentant and following God, restore them.  Again, this entire process is about reconciliation, not shunning or judging.  We are told to judge those within the body.  But also remember – we need to give grace to those who are young in the faith.  For God doesn’t want us to injure those whose faith is young and fragile.

A Qualifying Question

So, let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we corporately following scripture with regard to keeping the leaven out of the Church, and restoring the repentant believers?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for giving us a way to address issues between brothers and sisters in Christ.  We pray that anytime we need to be reconciled, that we would have a right heart attitude, and that the other person would have a heart of humility and repentance as well.  Help me to make sure that I am in the right attitude when I approach any brother or sister in Christ with such an issue.  Give me the words to say, and guide my actions and thoughts as I approach them.  Father, instill in us a greater sense of Your Holiness, that we would desire that the body of Christ would worship You in Truth and Spirit.  Let us not, for the sake of “peace”, ignore sin in the body, and so make it a haven for leaven.  Search our hearts, O God, and see if there is any wrongdoing within us.  Help us to rid ourselves of sin and walk in righteousness before You.  And when politics in the church cause people to be unfairly treated, I pray Lord God Almighty that You would deal with the hearts of those causing the issue, and show them the truth.  And if they don’t respond after repeated attempts, Lord God, remove them from their position of authority or influence, for their hearts are no longer in the right place to righteously lead or counsel Your people.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?