1 Corinthians 5:12-13 (What have I to do with judging outsiders?)


(1 Cor 5:12–13 ESV) 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Now here we have perhaps the most disobeyed passage in the entire Bible (which says a lot). Paul could not be more plain:

* We have a duty not to judge those outside the church.

* We have a duty to judge those inside the church.

And we normally have this exactly backwards. We use our pulpits and the ballot box to condemn those outside the church, while tolerating dreadful sins within our congregations.

What does the Bible say about homosexual marriage for non-Christians? “For what have I to do with judging outsiders?”

What does the Bible say about pornography and gambling by non-Christians? “For what have I to do with judging outsiders?”

I’m 60 years old, and I’ve learned that the more messianic the presidential candidate, the worse he is as president. Republican or Democrat, if you think your job is to save the world through the power of the United States, you’re doomed to failure. Salvation is only through the power of the cross.

On the other hand, government does have a proper, God-given role. And that role sometimes overlaps with Christian teaching. The government should protect us from murderers. Christ teaches us not to murder and changes our hearts by the Spirit not to even be tempted. Similar, but distinctly not the same. The government puts murderers in jail. Christ forgives them (ask Paul) — but also transforms them. Try as it might, the government will never pull that off.

Next point:

(Rom 1:28-31 ESV) 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

God does not ask the church to gain control of government and to use the power of police and the military to impose Christianity on an unwilling citizenship. In fact, when God gets his way, those who refuse to serve him are given up to debased living. From God’s perspective, the world without Jesus should not be the Kingdom Built by Man. It should reflect the true depth of the wickedness that abandoning God is.

And there’s something about mixing Christianity with government that tempts the church to gain advantage through the power of the state. But the Scriptures declare —

(2 Cor 12:9 ESV) But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

(Is 40:29–31 ESV) 29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

A constant theme of the Scriptures is God’s desire to work through our weakness. From Abraham, to Joseph, to Moses, to Gideon, to David, to John the Baptist, and finally to Jesus and his apostles,

(1 Cor 1:27–29 ESV) 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Political solutions to what are ultimately spiritual problems turns God’s plan on its head. Paul lays out the exact opposite of a political campaign to bring the blessings of Christianity to a nation.

In Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media, Bradley Wright reviews the research to understand why Christianity declined in the US in the late 20th Century.

[A]bout 7 or 8% of the American adults surveyed stated that they had no religious affiliation. Then in the 1990s, the number doubled to about 14 or 15%, and it’s been above that ever since. …

[M]any Christians left the church because of the church’s active affiliation with conservative politics. In the 1980s and 1990s, high-profile evangelical leaders snuggled up with Republican politicians under the banner of the Moral Majority and Christian Coalition. This drove away more liberal members of the Christian church who were at odds with their leaders’ conservative agenda. In the current decade, most prominent evangelical leaders in America, such as Rick Warren and Bill Hybels, have not actively supported a given political party, and this might have slowed the rate of religious disaffiliation.

(Kindle Locations 243-244, 250-253). Wright gives other examples of times when the politicization of the church cost the church members — and cost God souls.

Now, my own politics tend to be fairly libertarian, in that I don’t think the government can solve many of our problems. There is a place for government, and so I can’t buy many of the stricter forms libertarianism. We do need laws against fraud and all sorts of other corruption. People are capable of evil, and the government is one of God’s answers — but not one of God’s solutions.

The solution to evil is the cross of Christ. It’s the power of God to transform those who have faith in him. And there is no secular alternative.

We cannot bring about the Kingdom through the ballot box or by hiring lobbyists. Just as football will always come down to blocking and tackling, the Kingdom will always be about prayer, worship, evangelism, and benevolence — done by people transformed and empowered by God’s Spirit.

It’s not complicated, and there are no shortcuts. The failure of American society is simply this: the failure of the church to be the church. And there’s no political solution to that problem.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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16 Responses to 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 (What have I to do with judging outsiders?)

  1. Gary says:

    Jay, do you really think God wants non Christians to become more wicked? That’s a real stretch even from Romans 1:28-31. It’s one thing for God to give up a limited group of bad folks to the direction they’re already inclined towards and quite another to conclude that He wants all non Christians to become extremely wicked and debased. In Acts 10 we find that the prayers and alms of Cornelius rose as a memorial for him before God. It doesn’t seem that God. wanted Cornelius to be a wicked person.

  2. Orion says:

    Amen and amen. Would that all Christians stop judging those outside the church. When those outside Jesus are sinful and evil they are just being true to their nature. Those without Jesus are lost, so their being “good” or “evil” is really not the issue, their being outside Jesus is the issue. Our job as Christians is to be a light to the world so that those outside the Christ will by that light come to see Jesus. Our light shines more brightly when we love those outside Jesus than is does when we judge them. As my dad would say, “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”.

    You said: “The solution to evil is the cross of Christ. It’s the power of God to transform those who have faith in him. And there is no secular alternative.
    We cannot bring about the Kingdom through the ballot box or by hiring lobbyists.” This is such a powerful truth. It is disturbing that we so often look for our salvation through the political process.

  3. Gary says:

    The true nature of all created in God’s image is good albeit greatly damaged due to sin. It is important to remember that God is the author of all good even when it is done by those who do not yet know Jesus. Cornelius was a just man according to Scripture even before he heard the Gospel. Peter told him that those in every nation who fear God and work righteousness are accepted by God. It is not necessary to exaggerate the sinfulness of the lost to appreciate God’s goodness at work in the lives of the saved. To do so breeds arrogance, pride and contempt for the lost among Christians.

  4. Gary, the light shines the brightest in the darkness. Certainly it is true that God doesn’t desire people to be evil, He surely has a purpose when He does so. Just as the alcoholic must hit the bottom to see how desperate His plight is, this can also be true of societies.

    Of course, the “light” must truly be shining brightly as Jesus’ disciples behold and reflect Him (1 Cor 3:18).

  5. We can also add, as Jay does above, that the light does not shine brightly through political or economic power – but through faithful service in spite of our weakness.

  6. Law cannot save, but it can restrain. And that is its primary purpose. Our purpose is to save.

    As to judging those “outside”, I think of it rather like coming across a man floundering in the lake. For us to begin to criticize his poor swimming technique or his lack of wisdom in not learning sooner or for his foolishness in entering a lake without being able to swim…. well, it’s nothing less than cruelty. Save the man from drowning, if you care about him, otherwise, have the simple manners to leave him alone and don’t talk ill of him. He has troubles enough.

  7. Dwight says:

    Yes, we turn this passage on its head. And then we preach salvation to the saved within the assembly. The judging had to do with holding each other accountable, which God will do to the unGodly and we must do for each other, not to each other and we must take the message of salvation to the lost and not beat ourselves up with it among the saved. We have lost sight of our priorities and purpose as a people.

  8. Mark says:

    Jay wrote, “We use our pulpits and the ballot box to condemn those outside the church, while tolerating dreadful sins within our congregations.”

    I have seen this both ways. I have seen those in the congregation who were condemned and judged. On the flip side, I too have seen sins tolerated within congregations. Now what is the difference between those who are condemned and those who sins are tolerated?

    Well, what are the sins? Gossip, gluttony, ageism, sexism, racism, adultery, lying, unapproved sex, and a host of others.

    Who generally gets condemned within the congregation? I think the young tend to get more than their fair share of the condemnation.

    Who is exempt and why? This gets into a sensitive list of people I was told should not be upset. It seems that large donors and older people (biddies) were on the list.

  9. Jay Guin says:

    Gary wrote,

    It is not necessary to exaggerate the sinfulness of the lost to appreciate God’s goodness at work in the lives of the saved.

    The point of God giving the lost over to their sins in Rom 1 is not to exaggerate their sins but to demonstrate how sin dehumanizes us, in contrast to following Jesus, which causes us to become truly human.

  10. Gary says:

    Jay, I agree that sin dehumanizes us in contrast with the abundant life that God wants us to have in Christ. But Paul’s therefore statement in Romans 2:1 shows that his purpose in Romans 1 is to show those who think that they are righteous that they are just as dehumanized by sin as the terrible sinners Paul has described in chapter 1. Paul tells the good people of Romans 2 right off the bat in verse 1 that they in effect do the same things as the scumbags of chapter 1. It’s a pretty astounding accusation when you think about it. Romans 1-3 shows that all humankind is on level ground and in equal need of Christ. Paul makes that point explicitly in chapter 3 when he states that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and that there is none who is righteous no not one. I’m pursuing this point because I believe the influence of conservative Calvinism leads many Christians to exaggerate the depravity of the lost and then in comparison to unduly elevate their own righteousness. That mentality often leads to a circling of the wagons mindset among Christians and an irrational paranoia about the world we live in.

  11. Dwight says:

    I would have to diagree. I think sin definitely humanizes us. What sin does is make us look less like a creation of God. Sin is part of the human and earthly condition. Grace and mercy only come through Christ. We are called to rise above our condition in Christ. Unfortunately we often generalize our problems. When Paul spoke to the Corinthians and Galations, etc. he was very specific with thier issues. We often preach the next lesson in our rotation order. Either we have problems or we don’t and we always have problems that need to be addressed, such as not going to the lost, doing more, giving more, etc. We can preach all we want on the steps of salvation, but why revisit over and over again something that we as Christians should already be past?

  12. Dwight says:

    Gary, the depravity of the lost is indeded great, but our own self-righteousness can bring us lower than they in God’s eyes. Jesus didn’t go around calling the people vipers, but He did the Pharisees who thought they were better than everyone around them and made sure the other knew it. I hate to say it, but generally speaking the more conservative a church gets, the more judgmental as now everything must be matched against it’s standard. If it looks different, than it must be wrong.

  13. Mark says:

    Dwight, I agree with your statement on the letters from Paul. Those paragraphs of response were church-specific and problem-specific. When single sentences from those responses becomes the teaching of the faith, a major problem arises that leads to immature Christians at best and atheists at worst.

  14. Dwight,
    You and Gary are obviously using the word “human” with diametrically different meanings. <In Genesis, when God created "Man" (Hebrew, Adam) the word used is not specificaly male, for it goes on to say, "male and female, created He them." This word can easily be understood as meaning "human."

    In other words, man before the fall was fully “human.” Adam and Eve were not super-human, or more than human. They were simply what God meant “human” to be.

    Fallen man is less than God has created man to be. Why is this so? It is because sin “dehumanizes” us. Sin is not what makes us “human.” Being in God’s image does. When the icon of God is broken, we are less than human. To say, in excuse of our sin, “But I’m only human” is to misunderstand what being human really means!

    It is in Christ that we again become (or in reality, are becoming) what God created us to be.

  15. Dwight says:

    No, I think we use the term human in the same sense, probably. Adam and Eve were indeed both human before the fall, but if we think about it what did they fall to, and yes I know that Satan told them a lie, but they convinced thier selves that he was right. But again what did they fall to-Lust of the eyes “saw that it was good”, Lust of the flesh “tasted good” and Pride of life “will make one like God”, which are the same three that Jesus was tempted with while he defied the flesh in fasting. Three out of the three are human specific problems and really detail our human struggle. IF sin is not a human issue, then what is it, since God doesn’t sin. Sin came into the world because of man, even though Satan was involved. If sin dehumanizes us, then what does that make us, animals and yet animals are not burdend with the reponsibility of sin. I agree “fallen man is less than what God created us to be”. But what God created us to be is not what we have become by our own hand and we cannot rise above this without God’s help. It doesn’t really matter what we were in the beginning, as we were all sinless children at one point in time, but it only matters what we are, corrupted, and what we must become, Holy.

  16. Dwight says:

    Last point for the moment is that Jesus had to become like us to experience the human and fleshly conditon and be tempted as we are to show that we can indeed over come it according to Hebrews and thus be able to be a mediator between man and God. Just because Jesus didn’t and couldn’t sin, didn’t mean that He didn’t feel what it means to be tempted and pulled and under pressure and have human feelings of need and stress. These are things he couldn’t have expereinced as God in the spirit.

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