A Christian in Corinth was in an incestuous relationship with his stepmother. Paul calls the congregation to banish him. [UPDATED]
VERSE 1. It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles, that one has his father’s wife.
not even named among the Gentiles. Christian believers were outdoing non-Christians in immorality.
one has his father’s wife. That is, incest. This is the crux of the matter. In the days of the Old Testament, such offenders would have been put to death:
Leviticus 20:11. The man who lies with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
VERSE 2. You are arrogant, and didn’t mourn instead, that he who had done this deed might be removed from among you.
You are arrogant. They were proud that their brother in Christ was in an incestuous relationship. For them it was a type of excellence, something to be congratulated. Elsewhere, Paul wrote about such pride:
Romans 1:32. who, knowing the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also approve of those who practice them.
be removed from among you. In those early days, Christian believers monitored each other’s morality. They kicked out individuals who did not perform as expected.
In our day, there are some small congregations that still do that. Jesus Christ provides a road-map for how to render such decisions:
Matthew 18:15-17. If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained back your brother. 16 But if he doesn’t listen, take one or two more with you, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly. If he refuses to hear the assembly also, let him be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector.
VERSE 3. For I most certainly, as being absent in body but present in spirit, have already, as though I were present, judged him who has done this thing.
present in spirit. Paul was with them in spirit. What does that mean?
Maybe it means Paul was enthusiastic about the congregation and zealous for their continued growth.
Or maybe it means Paul was invisibly present in a spiritual way, and was surveilling them. Think of a ghost floating around, watching you without your knowing it.
judged him. Paul has already passed judgment. If those early believers actually monitored each other’s morality, they must have relied on the mechanism from Jesus Christ as to how to make the decision. However, Corinth was not able to make that difficult decision. So Paul steps in and makes it.
VERSE 4. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, you being gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
you being gathered together. Now we see how they decided to kick somebody out. They were to call a meeting of the church. The whole congregation would meet.
my spirit. Paul would be present with them in spirit. Does this mean that Paul’s spirit would be invisibly present, like a ghost, when they met?
Such a thing is not unheard of. A famous example is Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. He was said to have the gift of bilocation.
the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. If God gives us power, what are we empowered to do?
Isaiah 32:15. until the Spirit is poured on us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is considered a forest.
Acts 1:8. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.
1 Corinthians 5:4. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, you being gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
VERSE 5. are to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
deliver such a one to Satan. This is very severe. However, it only means kicking the person out of the congregation, as we see in verse 13 below.
for the destruction of the flesh. The flesh of the offender is to be destroyed. This seems hardcore.
However, most people say it means if the offender does not repent, they will eventually burn in hell.
a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Similarly, a small sickness can kill the whole body. Or one misbehaving believer can poison a whole congregation.
VERSE 7. Purge out the old yeast, that you may be a new lump, even as you are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed in our place.
Purge out the old yeast. The immoral believer has to be kicked out.
that you may be a new lump. After kicking out the immoral believer, the congregation would no longer be poisoned. It could become altogether new.
our Passover. To prepare for the Passover, people needed to get rid of all leaven. Everything had to be unleavened
VERSE 8. Therefore let’s keep the feast, not with old yeast, neither with the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
I wrote to you in my letter. This probably alludes to a previous letter from Paul, one that is not included in the Bible.
have no company with sexual sinners. Paul wanted them to have a radical separation from fallen Christians.
VERSE 10. yet not at all meaning with the sexual sinners of this world, or with the covetous and extortionists, or with idolaters; for then you would have to leave the world.
not at all meaning. There is no need for a Christian to be alienated from non-Christians.
sexual sinners of this world. Paul says Christian believers should NOT distance themselves from sexual immoral non-Christians.
Yet in our day, many Christians condemn those whose sexual ethic is different from their own. Think of all the Christian leaders who demonize the gay community, for example.
you would have to leave the world. We cannot escape people who do not agree with our own worldview. Retreating from non-Christians would be counterproductive to the greater good of evangelizing all people.
VERSE 11. But as it is, I wrote to you not to associate with anyone who is called a brother who is a sexual sinner, or covetous, or an idolater, or a slanderer, or a drunkard, or an extortionist. Don’t even eat with such a person.
anyone who is called a brother. Paul is only talking about Christian believers. The congregation is to kick out Christian believers who are guilty of sin. The congregation cannot even eat with them.
VERSE 12. For what do I have to do with also judging those who are outside? Don’t you judge those who are within?
what have I to do with. Paul recused himself from judging non-Christians. The believer has no authority to judge outsiders. And shouldn’t.
Yet church history is filled with harsh judgments against non-Christians.
put away the wicked man. To “hand the man over to Satan,” as we saw in verse 5 above, means to kick him out of the congregation.
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