If you’re not a careful reader of Scripture you may have never noticed what Paul says to the church in Corinth:
“For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” 1 Corinthians 5:12
We are a society so enamored with autonomy that we find it quite surprising (or even initially appalling!) that Paul would say part of a local church’s job is to judge!
Often we think it noble to say things like “our church doesn’t judge anybody!” or “you’ll find no judging here.” But let’s be clear, a church that doesn’t judge is a church not faithful to Her Master (at best), and at worst, is not an actual church at all.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean that we have a license for legalism or holding people to unbiblical standards. But this does mean we NEED a church willing to judge us with right judgment in accordance with the truth of the glorious gospel. With that in mind, here are a few reasons we need to belong to a church that will judge us:
1. For Accountability
I need to know that if I sin I am part of a church that is willing to graciously confront me about it. Is accountability the best motivation for me not to sin? No! But it is helpful.
I need accountability for my duties as a Christian, father, husband, and overall life as a man. Christianity was never meant to be a solo project. And true love doesn’t desire for me to just figure these things out on my own so as not to ‘offend’ me. More on this in the next point.
2. To call me to repentance
One of the most loving things a church can do for me is to call me to repentance when I mess up. I need this, and so do you. When we continue on in unrepentance there is only more sorrow and pain to be had. While being confronted with sin may seem uncomfortable at first, it is far better than letting me continue down a road of wickedness. There is nothing loving about letting people continue in sin without humbly and graciously addressing it.
3. Because I might be an Unbeliever
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” Hebrews 3:12-14
If I continue in unrepentant sin without ever being confronted by people that supposedly love me, I actually may not even be a true believer. The truth is, our hearts have the ability to deceive us into thinking we are true Christians even if we actually are not. This is one of the reasons Paul told the Corinthians to judge. While She won’t ever do this perfectly, the local church is charged with the responsibility of distinguishing between who’s in and who’s not in the Kingdom. A church that never confronts Her members about sin may actually be letting many unbelievers slip quietly off into Hell without ever showing them their need for the gospel.
We Ought to Judge Lovingly
The truth is that many churches have unspoken pacts between their members in which they silently agree not to interfere too deeply in each other’s lives when it comes to spiritual matters. The reason is that deep down too many church members aren’t converted, and to discuss things of Christ below a surface level is extremely uncomfortable. But may we strive to be a part of a church that won’t let that happen on our watch. I would much rather make someone a little uncomfortable in dealing with their heart than to watch them go comfortably to Hell.
A church that refuses to judge biblically won’t ever see Her members grow in holiness. When we paint a picture of Christianity as a solo religion and that no one has any business in my life, we inevitably create a standard of holiness that is very low.
Sure, there will always be mature Christians who rise above the overall expectations of the church, but the majority of people will stay just under what is expected of them. And if nothing is expected of them, where will they remain? I submit to you that the majority will be living on milk with no solid roots. They will be tossed around by every wind of doctrine.
A church that has biblical requirements for me will be a church that I will actually find freedom for which to mature. It will be a church that promotes my personal holiness instead of stifling it with the rancid undiscerning idolatrous promotion of autonomy.
A church that is faithful in judging biblically is a church that rightly understands the gospel. The gospel isn’t something I need just to ‘get into’ the Christian faith. The gospel is what I need to remain in the faith and to grow in the faith!
I need reminding of Christ’s work for me. I need to be told that God’s being for me is not based on my faulty performance but on the perfect and unchanging performance of Jesus. A church that refuses to follow Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 5 is a church that doesn’t rightly understand the gospel and all of its implications. We aren’t saved because we are holy or because we strive to be holy. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone and that is unto holiness: which in part means that we can have victory over the power of sin now, albeit not perfectly.
A church that judges rightly shows me that Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).
So there you have it. As strange as it may sound to our 21st Century American ears, I need a church that will judge me. While this blog post has been brief, I hope it has convinced you of (or at least will get you thinking more seriously about) this vital truth. I’m happy to hear of more reasons you may have thought of or to discuss this matter further!
To God be the glory.