Reading through the Bible together
The Apostle Paul is concerned by the reports about the church, “that there is sexual immorality among you” (vs. 1). The kind of sexual immorality reported was quite startling. A member was having sexual relation with his father’s new wife, which was not even acceptable “among the Gentiles.” This led Paul to counsel the church that such an individual should be separated from the body of faith (vs. 2, 5). The implications for unchecked sin have profound implications for the church, which is the body of Christ. Paul warns, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” He is clearly jealous of the congregation’s and Jesus’ reputation.
As a pastor I remember when another minister in a nearby pastoral district was accused of molesting a child. The pastor lost their job, even though the accuser later confessed that he lied. It was a sad story because the news media covered the story, but did not cover his declaration of innocence. We live in a media driven world where the reputation and purity of the church must be both guarded.
There is a story from Adventist history about W. C. Wales, who as a young man at Battle Creek, fell in love with another student at the college. He followed her home on the train during a semester break, and she finally agreed to run away with him to get married. After their marriage he ministered for a time, and then both left the church and divorced. He repented, remarried, and decided to rejoin the church. Ellen White cautioned church leaders to be redemptive, and not for him to divorce again and return to his first wife, that would cause more harm than good. She even supported the decision that he re-entered the ministry. Sadly, it wasn’t long before he had other affairs. This time he was dismissed from pastoral ministry, but when he personally appealed his case to Ellen White, she refused to meet with him. He was a serial sexual offender, and while grace should be extended to a repentant sinner, what was clear to Ellen White and other church leaders was that here was a man who had a pattern of immorality (read EGW, Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce, pp. 225-235 or the biographical entry in The Ellen G. White Encyclopedia, p. 538).
The Apostle Paul is specific by stating that church members at Corinth must be accountable to God, which also includes their sexual behavior.
Michael W. Campbell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Historical/Theological Studies
Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies