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Monday, June 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 5

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

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Verses 1-13

Let's turn in our Bibles now to I Corinthians, chapter 5.

The Corinthian letter of Paul was mainly corrective. The Corinthian church had innumerable problems. Those from the house of Chloe had reported to Paul many of the situations that did exist there in the Corinthian church. Part of the problem was the divisions that existed within the church as they were dividing off into little sects of sorts, little denominations. "I am of Paul, I am of Peter, I am of Apollos." And Paul said this was a mark of carnality; Christ was not divided. Those ministers who ministered to them should have had complementary ministries, not competing ministries. And surely we should see the church and the various ministries within the church as complementary rather than competing. I don't feel that our church is really in competition with any other church, nor should it be in competition with another church. We should be complementary to the other churches, filling up a part of what they are not doing as they fill up a part that we do not do. And thus, the churches should be complementary, never competing. But yet, the Corinthian church had fallen into this competition, little competing groups dividing the body of Christ, the mark of carnality.

Now, with the end of chapter 4, Paul has completed, really, his rebuke concerning the divisions that existed within the church and moves on now to even more serious problems, problems of immorality that did exist within the church.

It is reported commonly ( 1 Corinthians 5:1 )

That word "reported commonly" is really "it has been noised abroad," or "it is common knowledge,"

that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife ( 1 Corinthians 5:1 ).

So there was in the church of Corinth a man who was living incestuously with his stepmother, his father's wife. And the Corinthian church was so busy with their little squabbles over "I'm of Cephas, I'm of Paul, I'm of Apollos," that they allowed this condition to exist within the church. In fact, they almost took pride in the fact that they could tolerate this kind of goings on within the body. They sort of prided themselves in their broadness of view, as, unfortunately, there are some churches that pride themselves in their liberal views today.

You are puffed up ( 1 Corinthians 5:2 ),

You're actually priding yourselves in your liberal attitude towards this condition.

and you have not rather mourned ( 1 Corinthians 5:2 ),

Or grieved over this condition that was existing.

that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For though I am absent in my body, I am present in my spirit, and I have already judged, as though I were present, concerning him which has done this deed ( 1 Corinthians 5:2-3 ).

I already have made up my mind. I've already made my judgment on this situation. And,

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus ( 1 Corinthians 5:4-5 ).

Jesus said that if your brother sinned against you, that you should go to your brother and deal with him. And if he receives you then you have gained a brother. But if he will not receive you, then you should take some witnesses with you and you should go to him in order that the sin might be dealt with. But if he will not receive then the witnesses, let him be as an outcast, let him be as a heathen or a publican unto you.

The first thought always of the brother in sin within the church is restoration, going first seeking to restore, seeking to bring about a rectifying of the bad situation. Paul exhorted the Galatians, "If a brother be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering yourselves, lest you also be tempted" ( Galatians 6:1 ).

So the first duty concerning that brother who has fallen into sin is going to him in a spirit of meekness, grieving over his situation, seeking to restore him to a proper walk with the Lord. Always, even in the excommunicating, the idea is that of restoration.

So even with this brother, in Paul saying, "I've already judged, kick him out. Deliver him over unto Satan that the flesh, not the body, but the flesh, that is, that life after the flesh, might be destroyed." That by his being excommunicated from the fellowship of the church, he will realize the seriousness of the sin that he is committing, that it is alienating him from the life of the church and the life of Christ within the church.

But even in the putting him out, the idea was to destroy this work of the flesh in order that he might be ultimately restored into the fellowship of the church. And always the ultimate view is that of restoration, for that is the work of Jesus Christ, is to seek and to save that which is lost. And thus is the church, when we have to deal with issues within the church. And there are times here where we have to deal with serious moral problems where we have asked people not to return to Calvary Chapel. "Don't come back until you've taken care of this situation in your life." But the idea is that of restoration.

Now, just what involves turning them over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, I'm not quite certain. Paul, in writing to Timothy, speaks of a couple of fellows, one Hymeneus, who was really a crummy character, no doubt. And Paul said that he had turned him over to Satan that he might learn not to blaspheme. And so here, putting them outside of the umbrella, the covering of the church, that Satan might really take them on down and let them see the end result of this kind of sin and tolerated sin in their life, or practicing sin in their life. Let them see what it does, let them come to the destruction of the flesh.

You know, sometimes the best cure for adultery is for the person to marry the person they're involved with. You know, Satan can so delude you, you think, "Oh, I can't live without them. Oh, this is the love of my life. This is the love of the ages. Oh, my." Just let them get married and they find out that they could have lived very well without each other. It was just a big lie that Satan had built up in their minds.

So turning them over to this, so oftentimes, brings the destruction of the flesh, the excitement, the glamour, the allure of the whole thing. And Paul's admonition to "deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh in order that the spirit might be saved in that day of judgment." Again, salvation is the ultimate desire and goal here, even if it involves the destruction of the flesh, the important thing is that the spirit be saved in the day of the Lord.

Now your glorying in your broadness is not good ( 1 Corinthians 5:6 ).

The fact that you're puffed up over this and you glory in the fact that, "Well, sure, you know, we can accept these kind of things." That's not good, Paul said.

For do you not know that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? ( 1 Corinthians 5:6 )

Leaven was the sourdough starter that the women used in making their bread, always keeping a little bit of the dough from the last batch to mix it in with the new batch of dough. And leaven is used in the scripture always in an evil sense. Because the leavening process is actually a putrefying process, the air that gets into it by the rotting process. And a little starter into the new batch of dough will work its way through the whole batch of dough. A little leaven will leaven the whole lump.

And it is such a classic picture of sin, how that just allowing, tolerating, a little area of evil, it can permeate the whole life of the body. It can affect the whole body. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

Therefore, purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us ( 1 Corinthians 5:7 ):

Now Paul brings in here the picture of the Passover. The Passover was the time of unleavened bread. In preparing for the Passover, the fourteenth of April, the Jews would go through their whole house in a search for leaven, to remove from the house any leaven that may exist. And then they would make the bread for the Passover out of unleavened bread, or the flat bread, the unleavened bread; leaven being a type of sin. And so the Feast of the Passover was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and it was known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread. A beautiful type is involved, because of Jesus Christ, of which the Passover was a type, being without sin, our Passover, our sacrifice, without sin. And so, leaven being related to sin and the old life in sin. Now, "Purge out the leaven from the church that we might be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us." So Christ our Passover, the one in whom the whole Passover scene is fulfilled, the unleavened bread, the broken bread, and all, the whole beautiful symbolism there, Christ our Passover sacrificed for us.

Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven ( 1 Corinthians 5:8 ),

That would be the feast of love within the church.

not with the old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth ( 1 Corinthians 5:8 ).

As we meet together, let us meet together in sincerity, let us meet together in truth, let us worship together in sincerity and truth. Let us love one another in sincerity and truth. Within the body of Christ, we should not have the malice; we should not have the strife, the wickedness, but there should be a purity of heart before the Lord when we gather together to worship Him.

Now Paul refers to an epistle that he wrote to the Corinthians which we do not possess. So we call this I Corinthians, but it really is II Corinthians or maybe even more. We do not know how many letters Paul wrote to them. But he does refer to a letter that he had already written to them.

I wrote unto you in an epistle not to keep company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world ( 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 ).

Paul now here is making a definite separation and distinction between our fellowship in the church and our life in the world. Within the church we are not to have fellowship with fornicators, nor with the covetous, or with idolaters. Outside of the church we live in a world that is filled with fornicators, filled with covetous people, filled with idolaters. And the Christian life is never intended to be a monastic existence.

In order to live a pure life, God never intended for you to go and cloister yourself behind some high walls and be shut out totally from the world. God intends that you be a light to the world, and the light is not to be placed under a bushel or behind closed walls, but shining in the world to give light to those that are in the world. Therefore, as I deal with the world, I have to deal with people who are immoral, who are greedy, and who are idolaters.

But when I come to church and meet together with the people of God, I should be able to meet in a totally different environment. There should be a holiness, there should be a purity within the body as we meet together.

Now it is interesting as Paul lists these three basic sins: fornication, greediness, and idolatry. As you look at fornication, it is really a sin against yourself. It is a sin that is marked, really, by selfishness. But it is that of taking advantage of another person, thinking of them only for sexual gratification. Not really caring so much for them as a person, but only that you can satisfy your own biological urges. They become an object, so it is really a sin against the other person, a sin that is marked by selfishness.

Greed, of course, is totally selfish. Covetousness or extortioning. That is really out for myself to get from you what I can by whatever means possible.

But idolatry is sin against God. That is worshipping something other than God. When a person establishes an idol, and let us not think of an idol only in terms of some little figure that's been carved out of wood or made out of silver or gold. For a person can make an idol of a car, or of a garden, or of a building. It's amazing how many people make idols of buildings.

There were a lot of people who had much misgivings when we moved from the little chapel a block away. "Oh my, you know, I was saved here. Oh, you know, we can't leave this place, you know. Let's build three tabernacles and stay right here. This is where God met me." Whenever a person establishes an idol, a representation, it indicates, first of all, that they have lost the true consciousness of the presence of God within their lives. And so this is a reminder of what I once had or experienced.

In the Old Testament when Hezekiah became the king, Israel had lapsed into idolatry. Hezekiah was a reformer and one of his first actions was to cut down the groves in which they had worshipped the false gods and had set up their idols. And he broke down the various altars unto the gods that had been built. And then it says, "And he took the serpent that Moses had made in the wilderness and he broke it in pieces and he said 'nehushtan'" ( 2 Kings 18:4 ).

You see, that serpent that Moses set up in the wilderness when the children of Israel were being plagued by these poisonous serpents into the camp, and as they were bitten and dying, the Lord said to Moses, "Make a serpent of brass, put it on the pole in the middle of the camp, and whoever is bitten by the serpent, if they will look upon that serpent of brass in the middle of the camp, he will be saved" ( Numbers 21:8 ). Again, a very beautiful picture of Jesus Christ as Jesus Himself pointed out to Nicodemus, "For as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up that whosoever believes in Him should not perish" ( John 3:14-15 ). So the serpent's the symbol of sin, the serpent of brass the symbol of the judgment of sin, for brass a metal of judgment, the serpent a symbol of sin. So to look at Jesus and see my sin judged, you see, my sin doesn't then kill me, it doesn't destroy me, but I live by looking at Jesus crucified for me.

But the people took this serpent. Someone kept it. And gradually, through the process of time, this had become an idol. And the people used to make pilgrimages to look at the serpent of brass that Moses had made in the wilderness. And it had become an idolatrous thing. And so he broke it in pieces and he said, "Nehushtan," which in the Hebrew means, "a thing of brass." It's not a god. It's not a representation of God. This is only a thing of brass. And when we're prone to get attached to buildings, we need to realize, a thing of stone, a thing of wood, it's only a building. And we mustn't get attached just because that's the place where God met me.

You see, I should be having a fresh experience with God each day. And the fact that I want to erect an idol means that I have lost that consciousness of God's presence. I'm reaching back for something that I have lost, trying to regain it by establishing a relic. Idolatry, the sin against God.

But yet, as I'm in the world I mix with these people. I have to. I don't say to the person checking out the groceries, "Is your life pure before God? Now, I don't know if I should allow you to touch my groceries unless you're born again, you know." I'm in the world and I have to live among the world. I will confess, I don't like it at times, and there are times when I frankly hate it. I hate it when I have to listen to the filth that pours out of some people's mouths. It disgusts me when they open the door to their sewer and just let it pour out through the room.

I hate it when I'm sitting in a restaurant and people light up. And why is it they always hold the thing up over their shoulder, you know. I'll tell you why they do, they don't want to smell the stinking thing themselves. But that's so totally inconsiderate. But I'm living in the world, and I cannot escape it, and God doesn't intend that I try to escape it by moving off.

Now I will confess, I've had real yearnings to say, "Let's all go together and let's purchase an island in the Caribbean. And let's just have a totally Christian community, you know, where our kids could just grow up with no jails, no police departments, none of the need for this, because we just live together according to the principals of the Word and just in a loving community." Oh my, how I would love to see my grandkids being able to walk down the street without having to worry about some nut trying to entice them in a car or to forcefully abuse them. It concerns me the direction our world is going in, and I would oftentimes, in my mind, I would love to escape.

But God didn't intend that we escape and that we just have our own little heaven on earth. We're living in a world that is filled with sin. We're living in a world that's corrupted by sin, but we look for that city which hath foundation, whose builder and maker is God. And we're just pilgrims here; we're just passing through. One of these days we will come to the kingdom and it will be a place of beauty and rejoicing and the scripture says, "And the children shall play in the streets and not be afraid." But not now, not yet. I cannot escape it. I must be a light in this dark place.

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother ( 1 Corinthians 5:11 )

This is a different sense. If he's in the church and he's called a brother, and yet, he is a fornicator or he's covetous or he's an idolater or a railer or a drunkard or an extortioner, I'm not to have close fellowship with him. And that is what the term "to eat" signifies. For you see, according to the Oriental tradition of the Middle East, to eat together with a person is to become one with that person. For in their society they usually have a common bowl of soup of sorts in the middle of the table and then a common loaf of bread. And you take and you pull off a portion of the bread and you dip it in the bowl. And the person next to you, they don't use utensils, they just take their hands and pull it off and you pass the bread around. Everyone pulls off a hunk and then you dip it in the same bowl of soup in the middle of the table and you're all eating from the same bowl of soup and the same loaf of bread. Well, that makes me one with you, because the bread that is now being assimilated and becoming a part of my body, is being assimilated into your body and becoming a part of your body. So the same loaf of bread is nourishing and assimilating in both of us, so I become a part of you and you become a part of me. And they really looked at it like that. We're being joined together as one by the eating together. That's why the Jew would never eat with a Gentile; he didn't want to become one with a Gentile.

So if a man within the church is a fornicator, an extortioner, or covetous, or an idolater, a drunkard, [or whatever,] then don't have this close communion with him ( 1 Corinthians 5:11 ).

You shouldn't have this close fellowship with him.

For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not you judge those that are within? Those that are on the outside God will judge ( 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 ).

But we should have a certain judgment within the church.

Therefore put away from among you that wicked person ( 1 Corinthians 5:13 ).

Referring back to this fellow who was having an incestuous relationship with his stepmother.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 5". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/1-corinthians-5.html. 2014.
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