Posted by: Heather | April 16, 2009

Tolerance = Arrogance?

A week ago Sunday I preached on 1 Cor. 5.

Here is the text: (I was supposed to start at verse 1 of chapter 5, but for context I started at chapter 4 verse 14)

1 Corinthians 4:14-21
(14) I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.
(15) For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
(16) I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
(17) Therefore I sent to you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.
(18) Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you.
(19) But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power.
(20) For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.
(21) What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

1 Corinthians 5:1-13
(1) It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife.
(2) And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
(3) For though absent in body I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment
(4) in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus,
(5) you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
(6) Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
(7) Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed.
(8) 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.
(9) I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men;
(10) not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.
(11) But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber–not even to eat with such a one.
(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. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”

When we think of 1 Cor chapter 5, we think of immorality in the church, church discipline, and removing immoral people from the assembly. However, as I studied this text, what I realized is that while these are part of the text, they are not the main point. The main error Paul is addressing in the Corinthian church is arrogance! (verses 4:18, 19, and 5:2, 6)

Look at the preceding context:
1 Corinthians 4:7-13
(7) For who sees anything different in you? What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?
(8) Already you are filled! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you!
(9) For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men.
(10) We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.
(11) To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless,
(12) and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure;
(13) when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things.

Paul was correcting the Corinthians for their arrogant attitude, and as an evidence of this arrogance he points out the fact that they were tolerating gross immorality within the church. (It must be noted that this was within the church, he makes a point of saying they do not have the responsibility to judge outside of the church in 5:10-13)

So recognizing this emphasis on arrogance caused me to wonder how tolerance is equivalent to arrogance. Would not the world of our day say just the opposite? Have we not heard the world accuse us of being stuck up and arrogant when we uphold moral standards? One only need listen to a couple of soundbites of the dialogue (if you could call it that) over gay marriage in our nation to verify that this is the accusation.

So again, I would ask, how does tolerance of sin equal arrogance? I believe the answer is that tolerance implies that I am the judge and have the right to tolerate. It removes God from the equation.

Let’s look at marriage for an example. The immorality referenced in chapter 5 was that a man had his father’s wife. This is outside of the biblical standard for marriage. What is the new testament standard for marriage? It is found in Ephesians chapter 5. I have added some emphasis I will explain later.
Ephesians 5:21-33
(21) Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.
(22) Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.
(23) For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.
(24) As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.
(25) Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
(26) that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
(27) that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
(28) Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
(29) For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church,
(30) because we are members of his body.
(31) “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
(32) This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church;
(33) however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

The principle Paul is referring to here is that marriage was instituted from the beginning to be a type of Christ and the church. You see the point of marriage is not our own happiness, it is to be an example of the relationship Christ has with the church. So, to pervert this picture is to blaspheme God! We are to be showing the world who Christ is, and his relationship with the church. One of the vehicles for this picture to take earthly form is in marriage. The popular idea that “any two consenting adults can engage in whatever they want as long as they don’t hurt anyone else” falls flat in light of this truth. This isn’t about us! It is about Him. How arrogant of us to pervert this picture of Christ. This is not unlike the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, the festivals, the list goes on. They were shadows of Christ! Those who perverted the shadow paid with their lives!

This earthly tolerance found in 1 Cor 5 is arrogant because it removes God from the picture. You see, the church has been commissioned to reveal Jesus Christ to a dying world. He ascended almost 2000 years ago, and the world has not seen him since except through us. How dare we remove him from the equation and simply do what we want. How dare we simply adopt a live and let live attitude within the church! If the world cannot see Christ in us, where will they see him?

So what is the solution to this problem in our own lives? I would like to point to Moses. In Exodus 33 and 34 we read of the time when Moses went back up on Sinai to get the second tablets of stone. He has a conversation with God where he asks God to show him His glory. He also says that if God won’t go with them, he doesn’t want to go anywhere at all. God took Moses up to a rock and covered Moses with His hand to protect him from His glory. Then God passed by and removed His hand so Moses could see the back side of God. God’s glory was the only force powerful enough to protect Moses from God’s glory. This is how God chose to display His glory. It is God’s glory to cover sin. (See Romans 4:1-8 only God can justify the wicked)

Later, the spies come back from the promised land with a bad report. The nation of Israel tried to stone Joshua, Caleb, Aaron, and Moses. God’s glory appeared at the tabernacle and God told Moses to stand aside, God was going to destroy the entire nation and make a great nation from Moses instead. Moses interceded for the nation with this argument:
Numbers 14:13-19
(13) But Moses said to the LORD, “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for thou didst bring up this people in thy might from among them,
(14) and they will tell the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that thou, O LORD, art in the midst of this people; for thou, O LORD, art seen face to face, and thy cloud stands over them and thou goest before them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.
(15) Now if thou dost kill this people as one man, then the nations who have heard thy fame will say,
(16) ‘Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he swore to give to them, therefore he has slain them in the wilderness.’
(17) And now, I pray thee, let the power of the LORD be great as thou hast promised, saying,
(18) ‘The LORD is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of fathers upon children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation.’
(19) Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray thee, according to the greatness of thy steadfast love, and according as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”

Moses appeals to the power of God to pardon these people who are planning to stone him. When Moses saw God’s glory, he saw God’s power to pardon sinners. This is the fact Moses appeals to as he mediates for the nation.

Moses was consumed with God’s glory, and that was all that mattered to him. Add to that the fact that God is glorified by redeeming sinners, and we see true humility.

To go back to 1 Cor 5, now we see why we are to put the immoral man out. You see, verse 13 says that God judges those who are outside. When we turn someone who is in sin over to God in this life, there is the chance for repentance and restoration and God will be glorified. But when we just pat this person on the shoulder and pretend it is fine, repentance does not happen and God is not glorified. This is stealing God’s glory from Him. What arrogance! Their only hope for things to really be alright is for them to see God’s glory for themselves and be broken by it. Only then can they be covered by it. We must not stand in the way!

Let us be consumed by God’s glory as Moses was. Let us behave as though we truly believe that God is glorified by the forgiveness of sinners who repent. Let us not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. It is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes! Let us not be arrogant and think we can offer mere platitudes to those in sin. Instead, in love we should point them to the glory of God. The only power strong enough to save us from the wrath of God!




  1. "When we turn someone who is in sin over to God in this life, there is the chance for repentance and restoration and God will be glorified. But when we just pat this person on the shoulder and pretend it is fine, repentance does not happen and God is not glorified. This is stealing God's glory from Him. What arrogance! Their only hope for things to really be alright is for them to see God's glory for themselves and be broken by it…"

    Good thoughts Craig. I would find it helpful if you were to post some thoughts on HOW to do this. I am also a little confused (I always have been) on how exactly we 'break apart' sin to categorise what is worthy of being removed from the church? We have all broken Gods law. I am still a sinner, and while I have been broken by my sin & reconciled to God I cant honestly say that I will never disobey God again. I dont know how to clarify what I mean. Unless you are specifically referring to sins concerning marriage?
    Interesting post 🙂

  2. Karina, I’m not Craig but couldn’t resist tossing out my thoughts. The “how do you know how to go about this” aspect of “church discipline” has always troubled me–particularly when I read Jesus’ teaching to “judge not” in Matthew 7. Of course, the way it is often used these days is not the way Jesus meant it. If we read the context, we ARE to offer correction to an errant brother. But *only* if it is done humbly,and out of love. And only after we are certain we are not being hypocritical by ignoring a glaring sin in our own lives as we rush to “fix” another’s issue.

    Another example of “not judging” would be in John, where the Jewish leaders dragged the adulterous woman before Jesus. Their attitude was not “look, Jesus, here is someone who needs your love and forgiveness” but rather, they were self-righteously pointing out HER sin while ignoring their own blasphemous attitude of thinking they were better than she. They were playing God. She knew what she was and what she deserved. Jesus came to give hope to those who see what we are and are broken by it.

    All that to say: The Bible does not seem to indicate that we must be “sinless” in order to correct others. We are told to not be hypocritically pointing out other people’s crimes while we are not dealing with blaring sin in our own lives. Also, we are not to manufacture a human-based standard of right and wrong but rather REFER BACK TO God’s standard. This is NOT “judging” but simply pointing out the rules that the True Judge has already declared.

    Then there’s the gem in Matt.
    18:15-17: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
    But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
    If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. ” I believe Jesus was speaking to His Jewish followers here. Gentiles and tax collectors represented those who were not of the Jewish faith. I think we are to view an unrepentant, sinning Christian as UNSAVED. This type of person does not display brokenness over sin or a love of God and we shouldn’t continue to meet with him as we would with someone who shares a love of God’s truth.

    Legalistic churches seem to LOVE that passage because it appears to support the notion of “putting out” and shunning any church member who doesn’t conform to an accepted standard of outward “holiness”. But check out the context! Jesus said this RIGHT after He tells the parable of the lost sheep. Church discipline is not something that we should EVER take lightly (ie. someone broke a church by-law, or someone messed up and had a bad day or three but has since been straightened out by God directly or through another brother in private). The Good Shepherd seeks until He finds all His lost sheep and we should not disdainfully discard a brother who respectfully questions the decision of church leaders–or a sister who wears pants–or a pregnant teen who recognizes her mistake and now desperately wants to do what is right–or one who professes to have homosexual feelings but fights it because he/she recognizes God’s standard of right and wrong.

    In Paul’s letter, the Corinthian man was
    1. A professing believer within the church

    2. Behaving in a grossly immoral manner. Apparently, even the local pagan population would have been appalled.

    3. Openly and proudly living his adulterous and sinful lifestyle. He was unrepentant (not EVEN struggling with the fact that it was wrong).

    4. Craig’s ooint: The church’s attitude was apparently a worse crime against God because they could see it and were allowing it–even pleased with themselves that they were so “tolerant” of this man’s behavior. They were playing God like the Jewish leaders were with the adulteress…only from the other end of the “tolerance” spectrum.

    The purpose of church discipline is not simply public humiliation. It appears to be a last resort, after private efforts to correct have failed. We are to do it

    1. Out of concern for a person’s eternal soul. If his conscience is so messed up that he won’t hear that he is happily living a sinful *lifestyle* (meaning the sin is a pattern and there is no brokenness over it), he needs external intervention. If he is a true believer, he will miss the fellowship of other Christians and be willing to repent. If he is not a believer, he will happily go his own way.

    2. To prevent other believers from following his example. If one person “gets away with” open sin, then it encourages others to follow along.

    3. Most importantly, to preserve God’s reputation. If we look the other way when Christians openly disregard God’s standards, how can we expect Him to be taken seriously when we tell people “God says we must turn from our love of sin and TO the One who died to pay the price for sin that we owe.”

    4. The ultimate goal of the separation should be restoration of the errant brother to fellowship.

    I think the “how” of correcting a brother is:

    Whose standard am I using to define “sin”?

    Is he unapologetically living a sinful lifestyle?

    Am I ignoring rebellion in my own heart as I focus on his?

    What is my motive for wanting to correct him? God’s glory and the person’s well-being—-Or: a self-righteous desire to make myself look good.

    Is forgiveness and restoration a primary goal?

    Eh. Too many thoughts. Craig’s awake now, so I’m sure he will straighten me out and give you a more scholarly answer.


  3. That’s a good question Karina. I am not sure I have the answer.

    I do believe the Bible instructs us in this area. The passages that come to mind are James 5, Galatians 6, Matt 7, and Matt 18. I believe there are some principles that can be gleaned from 1 Cor 6 as well.

    I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I believe as Christian brothers and sisters we are to look at the fruit of each others’ lives and continually provoke one another to love and good works. In so doing, we are going to get a “feel” for each others’ hearts. One who has no repentance in their lives, and shows no brokenness over sin will show themselves to be unregenerate. This would not have to be tied to any specific sin, but to an ongoing hardness of heart. As we recognize this, we will treat that person as an unregenerate person. Now I do believe there are times when someone has to be removed from the assembly, and I think we have instructions on how this takes place. In Matt 18, we are told to go to a person who sins, first one on one, second with a witness, and third we take it before the church. Each step is focused on repentance and restoration. In Matt 18, I believe there is a very instructive clue to how this happens. Matthew 18:18
    “Truly I say to you, Whatever you shall bind on earth shall occur, having been bound in Heaven; and whatever you shall loose on earth shall occur, having been loosed in Heaven.” This is the verse directly following the instruction to take it to the church and then if they don’t repent to treat them as a tax collector or Gentile. When you look closely at the verb tenses of this verse, you find that what is decided on earth has already been decided in heaven. The point of this “deliberation” is to be sure you are in tune with heaven.

    I believe that as we follow the principles put forward in James 5, Galatians 6, Matt 7 (concerning removing the speck) and Matt 18, God will give us wisdom for each situation.

    So I think that is the roadmap for our obedience in this area. I am not sure I have ever seen it followed and I am not sure what it looks like. I mentioned 1 Cor 6: I think the Bible puts forth a concept of “church court” where disputes are resolved among the church. This is a concept I have never seen employed, but I believe it is scriptural and may be part of the solution.

    You mentioned “breaking apart sin” into categories. I believe we are to focus on the hearts of those around us, not the particular sins. This would be the guide in this instance, not the particular sins. A rather difficult task, but if as 1 Cor 6 says we will judge angels, we should learn to apply scripture to real life. Beginning with the log in my own eye . . .

    Hope that helps.


  4. They are both really good answers to a challenging question.
    I found Heather’s “break down” quite useful. Also Heather said “Also, we are not to manufacture a human-based standard of right and wrong but rather REFER BACK TO God’s standard.”
    I remember being very upset and ‘offended’ once at someone who I felt had sinned and also personally sinned against me. Sig just laughed at me! He kept asking me, how can they ‘offend’ YOU? It took me a while to realise that he was talking about how they were God’s standards and since we have all broken them, only God can really be ‘offended’ by the breaking of them. Just to be clear, I dont think he was advocating a ‘pat on the back tolerance=arrogance’ approach, nor do I think he was unfeeling or requiring me to be unaffected by the situation, but it did make me pause and stop and think. And has done many times since.
    I find a balance when Craig said
    “You mentioned “breaking apart sin” into categories. I believe we are to focus on the hearts of those around us, not the particular sins….. we should learn to apply scripture to real life. Beginning with the log in my own eye . . ” this was what I had felt and so found this reassuring.

    I know I wasnt very clear in my own question but I do think I have gleaned more of an idea on what I was asking you to clarify.

    I should also mention that while Im not aware of a situation like this in our church, I had read your post after being heavily discouraged with an issue that I dont need to hog your blog over. 🙂 Your reminder to look at hearts, including my own, is always a valuable one.

    Love you both!

  5. I think the “judge not” that Jesus was talking about was “don’t make hypocritical judgments”. Don’t condemn somebody when your sin is worse: taking the speck out of somebody’s eye when there is a beam in your own.

    And, I think I Cor. 5 shows that we should expell those in the church who call themselves Christians, but are involved in gross immorality (or other sins to a gross extent) that would horrify even unbelievers, and they are encouraging others to do the same, and everybody in the church is proud of their tolerance of such gross sin.

  6. One pastor I heard preach on judge vs. judge not broke it down like this:

    We are NOT to judge someone’s motives or their standing before God (subjective)

    We ARE to judge their actions (objective)

    As you said, with the desire to bring them to repentance and restoration.

    Love these words:

    <>So again, I would ask, how does tolerance of sin equal arrogance? I believe the answer is that tolerance implies that I am the judge and have the right to tolerate. It removes God from the equation<>.



  7. Oops. That is, trying to judge their motives is subjective. Their standing before God is not subjective, but not for us to decide 0)

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