How Should We Respond to Sin in Others?   


1 Corinthians 5:1-13

“Don’t judge me” . . “Be more tolerant” . . “Coexist” . . “You’re an extremist”.

These are common allegations that Christians often struggle to answer. As Paul corrects the Corinthians lack of response to sin in their midst, he helps us answers those concerns we may not know how to answer.


Why is Paul Upset?

A church member is sexually involved with his stepmother, which violated Jewish and Roman law

His father died or is an unbeliever, and the stepmother is apparently not in church

Paul was offended by this sin, and their lack of response

Paul accuses them of ‘arrogance’ v2 and ‘boasting’ v6

They were taking pride in their tolerance, or more likely, this is further proof that their sense of maturity is empty

Either way, pride has led them to a perspective of inaction

This scene is a strong example for why pride is dangerous

Instead of holding a perspective that exalts God, pride holds to our own thinking

If we love God, we will hate sin (anything that rebels against God)

v2 humility would not only ‘mourn’ the sin, it would act to ‘remove’ it. This is because humility submits to and fully embraces God’s ways


Paul guides them in ways we may need clarity

1.  Paul Addresses Judging One Another 

The Corinthians failed to correctly assess the situation, Paul didn’t v3

v12 instructs us to ‘judge’ fellow-believers. Yet elsewhere Jesus and Paul say “Don’t judge”. What are we to do?

We saw the answer in 4:6, when Paul told them not to go “beyond what is written”

God is the Judge v13. When we repeat what’s ‘written’, we are not judging – we are faithfully echoing his judgments

We cannot live obedient and discerning lives unless we apply God’s judgments

However, holding people to our standards and opinions is improper judgment

If we love God more than ourselves, we will be grateful for biblical correction from others

2.  Paul Addresses Church Discipline   

Paul gives the church specific action to take vs 4-5. It’s the ultimate action Jesus tells us to take with believers who don’t repent (Matthew 18:15-17)

Notice when there is serious and unrepentant sin, the whole church (believers) is called to participate v4

To “deliver over to Satan” is to put them out of the fellowship and care of the church

They should never be out of our hearts or prayers. Rather church discipline is a time that guides and unites us in prayer for them

“But that’s not loving.” God knows what is loving far better than you. His purpose is greater than for their comfort, it is for their soul’s eternal condition

The ultimate purpose of discipline is always gospel fulfillment v5 (this is also true for discipline of our children)

In the church today, discipline is widely ignored, because it is hard, messy and potentially explosive. But we don’t want to be guilty of v2

3.  Paul Addresses Zeal for Purity vs 6-8

Paul points out the broader context of why the church must respond. The nature of sin is to aggressively spread. A little sin acts like “leaven”

v7-8 Paul refers to the Passover festival to illustrate our new life in Christ

At Passover, all leaven was removed from the house. It symbolized putting away all sin to follow God

We cleanse out the old leaven, so we can have a “new lump” made with new leaven v7

Just as sin spreads so should the “new lump” of zealous purity

Purity and zeal should not be fearful or limiting concepts to us. In truth they are freeing and fulfilling!

4.  Paul Addresses Coexistence vs 9-13

Christ is Lord of all, he has authority over everyone. Matthew 28 says in his “authority’”, he sends us with the gospel to “make disciples”

Unbelievers are not disciples, they are under judgment and outside the church

To them we are ambassadors for Christ

We have authority from Christ to freely offer the gospel to them

Those in the church, claim to be disciples

They are citizens of Christ’s Kingdom

This brings them under the authority of the local church as we exercise the rules and benefits of Scripture for the church

We are to mourn what grieves God, wherever it is found

We are to celebrate what honors God, and spread it wherever we can


‘Judging People and Ourselves’

Matthew 7:1-5

We Are Not To Judge Each Other

1. v2 reminds us, God already holds that role

This is his right as Creator – all the world’s kicking and screaming won’t change it

As the just God, he will judge the world (Acts 17:30-31)

This is not just about being nicer; it’s about God’s role (James 4:11-12)

2. We don’t have the capacity to judge hearts and actions well

At the center of Jesus’ argument is that we do a lousy job of judging (v3)

Our perspectives are too limited to judge well (Job’s friends are a good example)

God alone knows all truth and can judge with perfect justice

3. When we become judgmental, we have forsaken Great Commandment living

When we are judgmental, we forsake godly character

Jesus illustration of the “log and the speck” points out how hypocritical our judging can be (v5)

Being judgmental sweeps aside what we are meant to be (Ephesians 4:1-3)

When we are judgmental, we forsake what it means to be the Church (Romans 14:10)

It pushes fellow believers down and away – which is the opposite of biblical community

Instead, God gives us the responsibility to care for one another (Ro 15:1)

When we are judgmental, we leave the gospel behind

We create moral or social lepers that are ‘undeserving’ of our attention

Do we truly think that anyone is too undesirable for us to keep the gospel’s agenda with them?

This includes after people become believers. We are often the harshest toward fellow Christians!

Yet, as God’s representatives, we must make judgments

Examples where judgments are required of us:

To exercise church discipline (1 Corinth 5:1-13)

Who is appropriate to marry

Affirming who can be baptized

Choosing deacons and elders (judging their character)

Guarding against false teachers by examining their fruit (Matt 7:15-20)

It is part of how we care for one another (Eph 4 “speaking the truth in love”)

Are you getting confused?

There is a clear rule about biblical or unbiblical judging:

Are we echoing God’s Word or imposing our opinions?

If we are simply repeating what God has said, then we are not judging – God is

Other principles to help us disagree without disharmony

1. Our lack of comfort with someone’s actions is not God’s standard for judging them

2. We must always judge fruit (actions), but we must beware of judging the root (heart)

3. Distinguish moral discernment from personal condemnation

Maturity should increase our discernment in what we observe

Responsibility requires we exercise that discernment

But we jump the tracks when we are critical instead of discerning

Indications we may have a critical spirit:

1.  When our first thoughts are usually about where we disagree, or what we don’t like

2.  When disagreement keeps us from seeing any good in other believers

3.  When we refuse fellowship with other believers because of their position or opinions

4.  When we keep a list of what we don’t like about them

Jesus lets us know that sinful judging is a serious matter

We risk bringing judgment upon ourselves (v2)

If we have no grace for people, what does it say about our possession of grace?

Start With Ourselves

We like to correct sin in others and be offended by their failures

Jesus redirects our perspective and actions in (v5)

1. Notice the log in our eye

2. Be offended by our sin

3. Take action and remove it

Examining ourselves must be biblically driven, because we cannot judge our own heart (1 Corinth 4:3)

As we examine our own heart, we are better prepared to gracefully help others

v5 ends with the person who removes the log, being able to help remove a speck from their brother’s eye

Jesus is not directing us in how to be meddlesome churches; he is directing us in how to “speak the truth with love”

How should we respond when someone judges us?

Don’t ask yourself – was it done properly, ask yourself – was it needed?

We should love God enough to accept and apply correction whether or not it is done graciously

Be thankful for God’s grace in whatever reveals the ‘specks’ in our eye



You have a friend who is a Christian and recently you learned they were practicing a clearly unbiblical lifestyle in the area of _____. After a lot of prayer and wrestling inside with what to do, you final broached the subject as gently as you could. 

The response was indignation like the blast of an old furnace. “Why are you judging me? Jesus didn’t judge people, so where do you get off judging me!”. You were left not knowing what to say and wondering why you felt like the one who did wrong.

We seem to have a very hard time in the church knowing what to do with the practice of judging one another.

On one hand, the Bible has clear statements telling us in essence to “knock it off”! Jesus made the most famous of these statements in Matthew 7:1-2 

Judge not, that you be not judged”

Yet, then we read the Apostle Paul’s equally authoritative declaration to the church in Corinth which had ignored sexual sin,

“I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed” 1 Corinthians 5:3

In the next chapter, Paul goes on to chastise the church for not being able to make judgments in conflicts between believers.

“Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?”  1 Corinthians 6:2-3

So what is it?? Are we to judge other believers or not?

The answer is actually rather straight forward:

1.  We are NOT to make our own judgments about people, concerning what we think they should be or do

2.  We ARE to echo GOD’S judgments about what people should be or do

When we declare God’s judgments such as sex outside of marriage is sin, or a believer neglecting to attend church is being unfaithful; we have not judged the person or their behavior – God has, and we are simply repeating the standards of the One who is the final Judge of us all.

Now God wants us to use the “full counsel” of His word in all we do. Which means even when we have biblical reason to declare what someone may construe as a judgment against them, we also apply the biblical principles of grace, patience, love and humility. God has been quite gentle and gracious with our huge bag of sins, we are called to be like Him.

However, my chief concern in today’s blog is to take away the false defense believers are increasing using to defy the righteous correction of their sin. God does judge sin and it is a grace when someone lets you know when you are holding some of it in your heart.