Question:

My girlfriend and I are both virgins, but last month she gave me a handjob. We know it is bad. We asked for forgiveness and have decided we will stop sexually touching each other. My question is do I need to be taken out of the church? Like the brother in I Corinthians chapter 5? I am like the ones that Paul writes about, a fornicator, whom we are not even to eat with (I Corinthians 5:11, I think it is). Does this apply even though I did not have sex?

Some of my not so good friends tell me if I had a handjob, then just go all the way and have sex because it is almost the same thing. I respond no, even though it is bad, intercourse worse. Am I judging badly?

Answer:

I'm glad you and your girlfriend recognize that what you did was sinful. Paul stated, "It is good for a man not to touch a woman" (I Corinthians 7:1). By that Paul is speaking sexual touching between a man and woman who aren't married to each other. It is false to say that you did not have sex. You haven't had sexual intercourse. What you did do was go part way -- you were involved in foreplay, which is an essential part of sex. The fact that you ejaculated externally and didn't put your penis into your girlfriend doesn't make it any less a sexual act.

In I Corinthians 5, the problem Paul was addressing was, "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles--that a man has his father's wife!" (I Corinthians 5:1). In other words, the man was actively engaged in immoral sex and yet was still being accepted by the people in the church. It is clearly seen in "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner--not even to eat with such a person" (I Corinthians 5:11). By saying "who is" Paul is talking about people currently engaged in sinful activity.

This doesn't fit your situation. You sinned, but you are not remaining in your sin. You aren't trying to justify it, you know that it was wrong and you repented of it. In other words, you are like some of the members of the church in Corinth. "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (I Corinthians 6:9-11). Notice the use of the past tense in verse 11. Some of the Corinthian members had been involved in these sins, but no longer.

"My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent" (Proverbs 1:10). Sounds to me that you need to stop calling these people "friends." Perhaps "acquaintances" would be better. What they are saying is foolish. Doing one sin doesn't justify doing more sin. Being given a handjob was a sin, you don't justify doing it again by saying you've already done it once. For the same reason, you don't justify intercourse because you've had a handjob.

In one sense, all sins are alike. They are all wrong. The unrepentant sinners all end up in the same place. "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). In another sense, some sins are worse because of the impact that sin has on the world. Getting a handjob could in very rare cases lead to pregnancy, but having sexual intercourse increases the odds greatly. If such happens, it can impact not just your life, but hers and possibly a child's. So in that sense, sexual intercourse can be a worse sin. The point is that sins have consequences. They cause damage to people's lives and to the world around them. That is why Christians need to avoid them as much as possible.

Even this sin has impacted your life. At a minimum, you don't look at yourself the same way as you did before. What concerns me is that it leaves both of you vulnerable to repeating the sin. I'm glad you are committed to keeping your hands off each other, and I strongly urge you to keep that commitment until after you are married.

Question:

Thank you for the answer, brother. I have wondered about that verse. I know I did wrong, and I know it is hard to stop, but with God's help, it is possible. My girlfriend lives far from me so that helps.

So I understand, when you say you're worried that we might do it again, do you mean that if it happens we do need to be kicked out of the church, or do you mean if we do it again we will end up having intercourse?

Answer:

Yes, with Christ all things are possible. But that means you need to stay with Christ. As God warned King Asa, "The LORD is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you" (II Chronicles 15:2).

My concern is that I understand the lure of sin, especially sexual sins. I've seen many young people slip into sin, even though they had firm intentions to do what was right. Habits are hard to break. You and your girlfriend had formed a bad habit of sexually arousing each other through touch when you got together. That eventually led to you allowing her to give you a handjob. Now that you realize the sinfulness of that action, you need to not only stop the handjobs but also to stop the sexual touching that led up to the handjob. That is going to be hard. It means you are going to have to find a new (though better) way of relating to your girlfriend. You are going to have to spend more time communicating and no time of fooling around with each other's bodies.

Many relationships can survive such a drastic change. Many end up going back to old habits, sometimes out of desperation of trying to make the relationship work. I'm hoping and praying that doesn't happen to you.

And, yes, there is a strong danger that if you slip up again that you'll give up for the moment and go further, perhaps even to fornication.

Withdrawal from someone comes when it is shown to them that their actions are wrong and they refuse to give up their sins. Then the congregation, to keep itself pure, withdraws from the sinners until such time that they do repent of their sins. It is a way to get people to stop continuing in sin. It is not a punishment given each time a person sins (assuming they also repent of their sins).

Question:

Thank you for your thoughts. See, I have been taught differently and have always been suspicious about what I had been taught. I will give you an example: Let's say a member of the church has intercourse outside of marriage, they need to come and tell the elders of the congregation. The elders then tell the whole church that the brother is kicked out of the church, even if he has repented and asked for forgiveness already from God. Even if you fornicated six months ago and have since repented and have been living for God until now, you still need to be kicked out for what happened six months ago because you did not confess it. That's what I have been taught. I see it differently. I believe that it is only for those who practice or live in sin and don't want to give sin up.

Thank you, though, for your insight.

Answer:

Among true Christians, it doesn't matter what you or I want to believe. What matters is what God teaches.

The primary purpose of withdrawing is the salvation of the person who is in sin.

"In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (I Corinthians 5:4-5).

"This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme" (I Timothy 1:20).

It is not a tool to punish people who have sinned in the past and have left their sins behind. Jesus gives this instruction for handling sins which are between two brethren:

"Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector" (Matthew 18:15-17).

Notice that additional people are brought into the matter only if the sinner refuses to repent. If a sinner does repent, then nothing further is needed because the goal of saving the person from his sins has been gained.

When the Corinthian church withdrew from the man committing fornication, it accomplished its purpose -- the man repented of his sins. Sadly the Corinthians went overboard and refused to accept the man back into their number. So in Paul's second letter to them, he scolds them once again:

"For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you. But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent--not to be too severe. This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him" (II Corinthians 2:4-8).

Like the early Corinthians, the church you are currently attending is not practicing forgiveness. "Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him" (Luke 17:3). Withdrawal is a form of rebuke. It is the furthest a congregation can go to say someone is sinning and the congregation will not tolerate the sin. But when a person has left their sin, then the goal of saving a person from sin has been accomplished.

When a person sins, the primary need is to confess to God what we did wrong. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9). Sometimes a person feels that he has done so much wrong that he isn't worthy of approaching God. Or, he might feel the need to have brethren help him as he struggles to get control over his life again. James tells us, "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16).

There is no requirement that a repentant sinner must have his sins announced before the church. The only time the church must get involved is when a person refuses to repent of his sins. There are times when a person may want the prayers of all his brethren. There are times when a person may have sinned such that he has harmed all his brethren and he wants to let them know that he is sorry and that he has changed. Many congregations make opportunities available for such needs to be handled. But it is false to say it is required.

The sin you committed was between you and your girlfriend. You repented of that sin, you went to God to ask for forgiveness. I assume that both you and your girlfriend apologized to each other for allowing each other to use the other for sin. You've also put into place rules for yourselves to prevent a repeat of these sins. You also decided to talk to a few others, such as myself, about what happened, about what you needed to do for forgiveness, and about what you plan to do to prevent future sin. All of this matches God's teachings. Nothing more than staying out of sin is necessary.

Since your church is not teaching the truth in this matter, it makes me wonder what other untruths are being taught. Perhaps it is time to find a congregation that follows the Bible more accurately. If you need help locating such a congregation, let me know.

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