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God's Commands Are Tests

The church at Corinth included a brother who was having an ongoing sexual relationship with his father's wife. For whatever reason, the rest of the brethren did nothing about it. When the Apostle Paul heard of the situation, he ordered bold action: "Remove the wicked man from among yourselves" (1 Corinthians 5:13).

Withdrawing from the ungodly brother was essential, both for his benefit and theirs. Hopefully it would impress upon him the seriousness of his wrong and lead him to repentance (v. 5). Regardless, it would check the spreading influence of sin within the congregation (vv. 6-8).

In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul spoke of a brother whom the church had punished. Evidently this refers to the same case. If so, the disassociation had produced its desired result. The brother was now seeking forgiveness. Paul advised, "… forgive and comfort him, lest somehow such a one be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore, I urge you to reaffirm your love for him" (2:7-8). Then he added, "For to this end also I wrote that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things" (2 Corinthians 2:9).

How did the instruction to cut off association from this brother test the Corinthians' obedience? Perhaps in several ways:

  • Since taking such action is anything but enjoyable, it was a test of whether they would obey commands of God that are unpleasant.
  • Some in our day question whether withdrawing is an effective way of dealing with brethren in sin. If any of the Corinthians felt the same way, it was a test of whether they would obey a divine command in which they saw little wisdom.
  • This brother may have been popular or influential. If so, it was a test of whether they would put God's will above personal relationships.

You may not often think of it this way, but every command God gives "puts you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things." Anyone will obey requirements that are pleasant, seem wise, and demand no hard choices. That says nothing about us. The real test of our obedience, and therefore the real test of our faith, comes when God's commands are otherwise. How well do you score on this exam?