Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
(Psalm 119:105)

Mount
Baker
Beacon

Volume 03, Number 03
01/21/2024

Published by
Mt. Baker
church of Christ

Location:
  
1860 Mt. Baker HWY

Mailing Address:

       P.O. Box 30821
  Bellingham, WA 98228
       (360) 752-2692

Sunday:
Bible Classes..........9:30 AM
Worship..10:30AM; 6:00PM

Wednesday:
Bible Classes.........7:00 PM

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Editor......John Bass


 

In this issue:


SIN IN THE CHURCH
Danny Linden

One of the goals of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was to address a serious problem with sin in the church. The situation described in chapter 5 seems to be private and personal, but it has infected the whole church nonetheless.

Congregational arrogance (1 Cor. 5:1-2). 
Paul begins this section with an indignant tone: “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife” (1 Cor. 5:1). What is going on in the church in Corinth is shocking by every standard. Corinth was a wicked city that did not blush at sin, but even here there were limits. Greek, Roman, and Jewish law all condemned incest and had harsh penalties for offenders. This relationship between a man and his stepmother was sinful and was a rare case where even the nonbelievers knew better. Evidently, this had been going on for some time. It was public knowledge and word had spread to the church, the community, and even Paul at a distance (cf. HCSB “it is widely reported” and KJV “it is reported commonly”).

It’s bad enough that this is happening among them, but we can understand the possibility of a single bad actor. Every group has a minority of people who don’t follow the rules and cause trouble or otherwise don’t represent the beliefs and practices of the rest of the group. What makes the situation in Corinth so much worse is that they were proud of this man and his sin! What could make a church distort God’s law so dramatically?

We don’t know the thinking of the Corinthians, but the common rationale is that freedom in Christ liberates us from the consequences of sin without necessitating a change in behavior. It’s likely that the Corinthians believed that their so-called “open-mindedness” toward sin was an expression of the blessings they had in Christ. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2)


Keeping the church pure (1 Cor. 5:3-8). 
Paul reveals how serious the matter is and pronounces his judgment on the sinner. Since the law of God was clearly broken, Paul is right to be this definitive.

At this point, the Corinthians need to do far more than encourage or warn their brother. His sin is flagrant, public, and stubborn. He has no place among them and must be delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. This should be done while they are assembled together in the name of Jesus—it is a somber and official act of the whole church.

What is the purpose of this drastic action? Paul gives two reasons. First, the “destruction of the flesh” is designed to help him avoid the wrath of God in the final judgment. Withdrawal is a difficult and emotional process, but it could be the shock that he needs to reconsider his choices. Second, the church’s purity is protected. So long as the church condones and celebrates the man’s sin, they take on his guilt and the corruption in his life will spread and change the church like yeast changes a lump of dough. The church must remain pure—Christ died for it!


A higher standard (1 Cor. 5:9-13). 
This standard of behavior that they should apply to the man is stricter than the standard they apply to people of the world. We cannot be surprised when those who have never come to Christ sin. It is what they know and who they are. Disciples are different—we have been forgiven and regenerated. We have “tasted the heavenly gift” and “shared in the Holy Spirit” (Heb. 6:4). We are expected to know better, and when we stubbornly sin, we show our rejection of God’s blessings. It is appropriate and necessary for us to hold each other accountable more than we do the people of the world.

There is a tough application here. Sometimes we Christians spend all our time taking the easy way out—bemoaning the ever-increasing evil of the world around us. It is good for us to call out sin and to preach the gospel, for that is how people will learn that there is a better way. However, if we only sit in our pews looking down on the world, we fail in our duty to encourage and admonish one another. The harder conversations are when we need to address sin in the church, but it must be done.


Conclusion. 
We should hate sin and treat it seriously, particularly when it infects the church. Never glorify sin or shroud it in a cloak of liberty.  God expects us to remain pure and to help each other get to heaven.

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GAIUS AND DIOTREPHES
Danny Linden

Third John is a short letter written by the apostle John to a Christian named Gaius. It is a personal and heartfelt letter containing praise for Gaius’ faith along with a serious condemnation of another man—Diotrephes—who was causing problems in the church.

Gaius (3 John 1-8). 
We are not sure who Gaius was. There are a few people by that name in the New Testament: in Ephesus (Acts 19:29), in Derbe (Acts 20:4), and in Corinth[1] (Rom. 16:23). But, Gaius was such a common name in the Roman Empire at that time that it is impossible to prove or disprove that that this Gaius is one of those others mentioned. Probably it is someone else entirely. Though we can’t identify him personally, the way John talks about him reveals much about his character.

We can empathize with John’s affection for Gaius and relief at hearing that Gaius was walking in truth (3 John 2-4). We all have brothers and sisters in Christ who live in far away places and at times we wonder how they are doing and if they are remaining firm in their faith and service. A good report or visit in person is encouraging and brings us “no greater joy” as it did John.

Gaius’ walk in truth was seen in how he faithfully served brethren and strangers (3 John 5-8). Traveling brethren were in Gaius’ town. These were people he did not know and were not associated with him in any way other than being fellow Christians. Despite this, he showed them hospitality and sent them on their way refreshed and encouraged. Gaius did not demand to be treated with deference; we actually see no indication that he cared about his image and status in any self-centered way. As soon as the opportunity presented itself, he received them as brethren and served them faithfully.


Diotrephes (3 John 9-11). 
Diotrephes is another member of the local church with Gaius. It is unclear whether he was an elder or leader of the church or merely had aspirations of leadership. He is the opposite of Gaius in spirit and actions, and John needs to address his evil in this letter.

In contrast with Gaius, Diotrephes “loved to have the preeminence” (3 John 9, NKJV). He was obsessed with power and needed to be in control of the church. If he was an elder, he was a grossly unfit one who was “domineering over those in [his] charge” (1 Pet. 5:3). If not, he still was trying to assert himself in a selfish manner and was not properly submitting to his brethren.

One way that Diotrephes sought preeminence was that he rejected the authority of John, who was an inspired apostle of Jesus. Here we get a better picture of who the traveling Christians were from earlier in the letter that Gaius received and served—they had come from John bearing instructions for this church. This seems to be similar to what Paul did when he wrote to various churches he was connected with to give inspired instructions to them addressing whatever problems they had. John and Paul were apostles, so they had the authority to do this, but Diotrephes views the emissaries of John as a threat to his power in the church.

Diotrephes’ solution was to speak “wicked nonsense” (3 John 10) against them. His words were designed to make others in the church ignore the message from John and even to reject their fellow Christians. Can you imagine telling your brethren that they should not show hospitality and kindness toward their fellow brethren? Diotrephes was so ironfisted that he kicked people out of the church who didn’t listen to him. Whether he was an elder or not, he had no right to such a thing when the only offense was faithful service. How shameful for a disciple to be acting more like a persecutor. If John comes in person, he will deal with Diotrephes harshly, but really it is the obligation of the rest of the brethren to restrain Diotrephes’ evil behavior or to mark him as a divisive influence if he will not repent.


Conclusion. 
The church needs many disciples like Gaius who are faithful, humble, and look for opportunities to receive and serve brethren. If there are any like Diotrephes, they must be rebuked. There is no place in the church for people who seek their own benefit and want to control others. As John said, “Do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11).

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Created by John Bass, last updated.  01/20/2024

The Mount Baker Beacon is a weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA.
Send all questions, comments to the editor, John Bass at (360) 325-5149 or johnbass2468@gmail.com