New Lumps – 1 Corinthians 5:7
I can identify with Tevye. So much of Christian life, and especially the pastoral ministry, involves working through the tension of “on the other hand.” The Apostle Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthian church is very encouraging. His declaration that these believers are now “unleavened” is an illustration of positional sanctification (compare 1 Corinthians 6:11). These believers – in Christ – are now holy. What an encouragement!
On the other hand, however, this declaration is in the context of a rebuke. The Corinthian church was guilty of tolerating gross sin. More than that, they boasted in their freedom while that sin festered in their midst.
Isn't this tension at the heart of pastoral ministry? We comfort the brokenhearted by pointing them to Christ. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Cornithians 1:30). Our salvation, our sanctification, our very life is found through faith in Christ, not in who we are or in what we do.
On the other hand, we must strive to lead disciplined churches - churches peopled by Christians who know who they are and consciously live godly lives. Many verses could be cited here, particularly those found in the second half of most Epistles. The pattern of these letters is indicative / imperative. The indicative states "the way things are." That is, who God is, what He has done and who we are in Christ. The imperative is usually introduced by "therefore." It is the application, the call to holy living. If we don't get the first part, we will default to moralism and seek to find a righteousness of our own. If we miss the second part, we may become presumptious, sin-tolerating belivers like the first century Corinthians.
I love Reformed theology. I have seen people set free from the guilt of religious performance by understanding the doctrines of grace - I am one of them! On the other hand, I know the temptation to rest on knowledge and fail to grow in love and righteousness. I don't want to sit there like an old lump.
Who wants to be a new lump? May we never get over the tension between the miracle of redemption and the "on the other hand."