Our church is reading through the bible together in a year and recently we were reading in Leviticus 20. This is the chapter that lists a bunch of sexual sins and is often scoffed at by people today who try to paint the bible out as out of touch with modern day. After all, the penalty for most of the sins listed there is death, and no one advocates going around killing people for adultery, for example, any more. A while ago I was listening to a talk radio show addressing the issue of homosexuality and of course someone called in saying how the bible calls homosexuality an abomination to God. Well, unfortunately the caller didn’t know where this was found in the bible and the talk show host proceeded to quote chapter and verse and deride the caller that he really didn’t know what he was talking about. He attacked the bible as an antiquated book full of fables and inconsistencies. He made the caller out to be just plain dumb. Score another one for the atheists.
So why is all that stuff in Leviticus 20 and what should we do with it, if anything. Well, as I was reading I was struck especially by this verse:
11 “‘If a man has sexual relations with his father’s wife, he has dishonored his father. Both the man and the woman are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” Leviticus 20:11
I was struck by it because this exact sin is one of the reasons the apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the church at Corinth. Here is his charge:
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?” 1 Corinthians 5:1-2
Paul is saying that the person guilty of this sin should be “put out of [the] fellowship”. Wait. That isn’t death. Surely the apostle Paul, “a Hebrew of Hebrews”, “a pharisee” (Philippians 3) would know what was written in the law in Leviticus 20. Why would he let this man off easy and only expel him from the fellowship? Isn’t that inconsistent? Is Paul telling the Corinthian church to go against God’s law? Maybe Paul would agree with the radio talk show host that the Old Testament is out of date.
Then it occurred to me. The sin listed in Leviticus 20 was still a sin in 1 Corinthians 5; the only difference was the penalty. The man in 1 Corinthians 5 was no longer under the penalty of death. Why? Well, because he was a Christian. His sins were forgiven. Jesus had paid the death penalty for this sin for him. That is grace. You see, under the law, all of us are guilty of sin and deserve death. Maybe your sin isn’t listed in Leviticus 20, but it’s probably listed elsewhere. Hey, there are so many laws listed in the Old Testament, that it would be impossible to NOT break one of them. So really, all of us deserve the death penalty. The only cure for this is grace. Jesus paid the penalty for sin. He offers you his grace. All you need do is repent and trust him to save you. He can do this because he never broke any of the laws. His death on the cross was payment enough to satisfy a righteous and holy God on your behalf. He did it for you. Check out the “Get Started” link on this site to see how you can be saved.
Now about that expulsion penalty the man in 1 Corinthians received…it was actually for his own good and for the good of the church. Sometimes we need to be cut-off to appreciate what we had and to bring us to our senses. While we cannot be certain it is the same man, it would appear that the man guilty of the sexual sin in 1 Corinthians 5 did indeed repent of his sin and was forgiven and restored to the fellowship (2 Corinthians 2). So you see, there were consequences to his sin, but there is always grace sufficient for every sinner. Get real love.
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