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1 Corinthians 5

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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Paul’s Response to Immorality:

A Case of Incest

In the first four chapters of this letter, Paul deals with the sin of division; he now changes to his second point, a serious problem of immoral conduct of some members. The immorality in Corinth is shocking but not necessarily surprising. When a congregation is divided, as the church in Corinth was, the members generally become lax in their behavior.

Verse 1

It is reported commonly 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.

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you: The report of "fornication" among church members at Corinth had reached the Apostle Paul. It appears that this problem was known, not only among all the Christians, but also among the non-believers in Corinth because Paul says, "It is reported commonly...." By the term "commonly" (holos), Paul means "wholly" or "altogether" (Strong #3654). The Revised Standard Version renders this verse: "It is actually reported that there is immorality among you; and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife." The word "fornication" (porneia) means "illicit sexual intercourse in general" (Thayer 532-1-4202), which is "harlotry including adultery and incest" (Strong #4202).

and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles: Acts of "fornication" were prevalent among the Corinthian Gentiles; however, this particular case was condemned even by the pagans (Greeks and Romans) because it involved a man and his father’s wife--it was incest. It seems that many of the Corinthian Christians were living a more promiscuous lifestyle than even the pagans. The "very word ’Corinthianize’ meant to live in sexual wantonness and license" (Robertson, Vol. IV 111).

Acts of incest were strongly forbidden, not only by Christian standards but also by the law of Moses. Moses says, "The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness" (Leviticus 18:8). This same instruction is repeated again in Deuteronomy: "A man shall not take his father’s wife..." (22:30). Under Moses’ law, the penalty for such hideous sins was death. "The man that lieth with his father’s wife hath uncovered his father’s nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them" (Leviticus 20:11).

The fact that "it is called fornication, and not adultery, suggests that there has been either a divorce or a separation" (Vine 71) between the father and his wife. This belief is generally thought to be true and is based upon the idea that the man who "suffered wrong" in 2 Corinthians 7:12 is the "father" in this verse; however, such is mere speculation. Another possibility, which I believe to be more correct, is that the father perhaps had already died. Regardless of what happened to the father, sin was still involved in this relationship.

that one should have his father’s wife: The words "should have" indicate that this was not "a one-time offense"; instead, it was set up as a permanent situation. Very likely a marriage between this man and his father’s wife had already taken place. "It would appear from the verb ’hath’, that this incestuous relationship was entered into as something lasting" (Vine 71). Robertson translates, "So as for one to go on having a wife of the (his) father" (Vol. IV 111). The words "should have" in this verse mean "that someone has taken his father’s wife as his own wife" (Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich 332).

Generally, it is agreed that the "father’s wife" (the son’s wife now) was not the mother but the stepmother of the offender. The context does not necessarily imply this idea to be true; however, in the Old Testament, the words "father’s wife" are used to make a distinction between the natural mother and the stepmother. For example, in Leviticus 18:7: "the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness." Then in verse 8 the writer says, "The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness." Therefore, more than likely this case does involve a man who has married his stepmother and not his natural mother.

Since Paul did not mention the discipline of the "father’s wife," she most likely was not a Christian but a pagan; therefore, the Christian law did not apply to her, but it certainly did apply to the Christian man who married his stepmother (5:12).

Verse 2

And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

And ye are puffed up: Paul says that the members of the church in Corinth are "puffed up" (phusioo) or appear to be "proud" (Thayer 660-2-5448) of events that have taken place. Their pride and haughtiness are not a new thing with them, for Paul mentions it earlier in this letter (4:6-7; 4:18). They were "puffed up" because of wisdom or possibly because of spiritual gifts. Some writers say that they were "puffed up" and did not take disciplinary action against this brother because he was wealthy; others say it was because he was a party leader. The reason the church failed to do its disciplinary duty is immaterial. Regardless of how wise, wealthy, or talented a person is, the church must discipline him when he is involved in immorality. "Puffed up" is a perfect verb that describes a condition that began in the past and continues.

and have not rather mourned: Instead of being arrogant and having a passive attitude about this horrible sin, church members should have "mourned" (pentheo) or "grieved" (Strong #3996) because of it. They should have treated this case as a death of a loved one, for it was a spiritual death. Instead of mourning, however, they ignored it. This failure to take action does not indicate that they sanctioned this sin, for they knew it was wrong; however, they sinned themselves by not doing their duty in removing this immoral person from among them. They were so concerned about exalting one teacher above another that they were blind as to what was going on around them.

that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you: Paul does not name the guilty brother, for they knew who he was. Another reason that he probably did not call him by name is that this chapter is not written to advise the fornicator to repent but to warn the congregation in Corinth of the dangers of not taking disciplinary action when such sins were committed among them. In verse 1, Paul says, "...there is fornication among you"; and now he says that the fornicator is to "be taken away" (exairo) or "removed" (Thayer 221-1-1808) from among them.

Verses 3-5

For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

For the correct understanding of this part of Paul’s teaching, it is necessary to read these three verses together since they make up one sentence. In his commentary, Hodge says,

The construction of the principal clauses is plain. Paul says, ’I have determined to deliver this man unto Satan.’ All the rest is subordinate and circumstantial....Perhaps the best interpretation of the whole passage is the following: ’I, though absent as to the body, yet present as to the spirit, have determined as though present, in the name of the Lord Jesus, ye being gathered together, and my spirit being with you, with the power (i.e. clothed or armed with the power) of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver this man to Satan’ (83).

For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit: In verse 2, Paul uses the pronoun "ye" to refer to the Corinthians. Now he changes to the pronoun "I" to show how he personally would deal with this sinner. By the term "verily" (men), Paul is acknowledging that even though he is not bodily with them, he is with them spiritually. The apostle uses this same technique in writing to other congregations. When he wrote to the church at Colosse, he says, "For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ" (Colossians 2:5). The point Paul is making in the letter to the church in Colosse is that he can rejoice with others, even though he is not present with them; likewise, to the church in Corinth, he says he can make spiritual judgments in matters such as this one, even though he is not present with them.

have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed: The word krino, translated "judged," is the same word translated "determined" in 1 Corinthians 2:2: "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." Paul says that he has determined or "judged already," emphasizing that even though he is not with them personally, he has already "decided" (Strong #2919) how this fornicator must be treated--he should be "deliver(ed) unto Satan" (verse 5).

By the words "that hath so done this deed," Paul refers to the one who has "accomplished" (Thayer 339-1-2716) this terrible deed. Paul deals with this same sin when he writes to other congregations: "But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints" (Ephesians 5:3).

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" means by the authority of our Lord. "In the name" (onoma) means "by one’s command and authority, acting on his behalf, promoting his cause" (Thayer 447-2-3686). Therefore, Paul’s judgment (verse 3) is not based upon his desire or authority but on the command of Jesus Christ. Even if the Corinthians fail to do their duty by taking disciplinary action against this brother, Paul says later that he has determined to act on behalf of Christ by disciplining him when he arrives in Corinth.

when ye are gathered together: This disciplinary action is not to be done in secret but "when (they) are gathered together," indicating a public gathering of the church.

and my spirit: By the words "my spirit," Paul is speaking of his spiritual presence. Paul is letting them know that when they take such action in the name, or by the authority, of the Lord Jesus Christ, he is with them spiritually.

with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ: The "power of our Lord Jesus Christ" goes with the phrase that follows.

To deliver such an one unto Satan: There are two major views about the phrase "deliver such an one unto Satan." The first view is that the church has the miraculous power to turn a person over to Satan. The second view is that the phrase means to excommunicate. The second view seems to be the correct understanding. "To deliver such an one unto Satan" is a stronger way of saying for a person to "be taken away from among you" (verse 2). Paul speaks of disciplinary action of Hymenaeus and Alexander in his letter to Timothy:

Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme (1 Timothy 1:19-20).

There are only two kingdoms that we can be a member of: the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Satan. Sometimes the kingdom of Satan is referred to as the kingdom or power of darkness. "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Colossians 1:13). When a person within the kingdom of God (the church) violates certain commands, such as becoming a fornicator, he is to be disciplined by having fellowship withdrawn from him by "delivering such an one unto Satan." He is "delivered unto Satan" in the sense of publicly stating that he is a member of the kingdom of Satan.

The action of "delivering unto Satan" is not to be taken while trying to decide if the person is guilty. This action is to be taken against a person who is clearly known to be guilty. Also, being delivered to Satan does not mean to be placed out of the church building literally and blocked from returning. Certainly this sinner should be in attendance that he might be led back to Christ. However, he should not be placed in a leadership role. Shepherd says,

It probably means that he was separated from the fellowship of the church, from all association with the brethren in Christ, regarded and treated as a heathen; that by these influences he might be brought to realize the enormity of his sin, and turn from fleshly lusts, and be restored to a life of holiness, and to the fellowship of the church that he might at last be saved (75).

for the destruction of the flesh: "Destruction" (olethros) means "ruin" or "death" (Thayer 443-1-3639). According to Thayer, "flesh" (sarx) refers to "the body" (570-1-451). The destruction is not of the physical body but of the corrupt nature of the sinner. The offender is guilty of committing sins of the flesh. Paul names some of these sins or works of the flesh:

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).

To deliver a person unto Satan "for the destruction of the flesh" refers to giving him up to follow his own passions--to let him go and do things he desires without allowing him to hinder other Christians spiritually. Paul speaks of others who were turned over to Satan because "God gave them over":

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them (Romans 1:24-32).

that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus: "Spirit" is used here in contrast to the "flesh" in the previous phrase, referring to the destruction of the flesh. Paul tells the church in Corinth that he is determined to deliver this immoral brother to Satan with the hope that his "spirit" (his soul) may be saved "in the day of the Lord Jesus," when Jesus returns for the judgment. The only hope for this fornicator is for him to learn correct behavior and become so sorrowful for his immorality that he repents. Paul says, "Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing" (2 Corinthians 7:9). The purpose of discipline is to bring the sinning brother back to righteousness. For example, Hymenaeus and Alexander were delivered to Satan "that they may learn not to blaspheme." The immoral brother in Corinth is to be disciplined that he may learn not to be a fornicator.

Verse 6

Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?

Your glorying is not good: "Glorying" (kauchema) means "boasting" (Thayer 342-2-2745). Obviously Paul is referring to verse 2 where he says they are "puffed up." Paul’s concern is not so much in the fact that they are "puffed up" or "glorying" but in the thing in which they are glorying. "Glorying" is "not the act, but the subject of boasting; namely, the condition of the Corinthian church" (Vincent, Vol. III 211). While they were glorying, they were not doing their duty: taking disciplinary action against the immoral brother.

Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump: Paul now gives another reason why the brother should be disciplined and why "glorying is not good": the congregation will be corrupted by tolerating this type of sin.

"A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" provides an obvious comparison, stressing that in the same way that it takes only a small amount of leaven to leaven an entire "mass of dough" (Strong #2219), likewise it takes a very little amount of tolerated immorality to contaminate others and encourage them to do the same. In the scriptures the word "leaven" is often used metaphorically in reference to different forms of evil such as false doctrines that tend to spread quickly. Paul says, "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (Galatians 5:9). Jesus warns, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" (Matthew 16:6).

By failing to discipline the immoral brother, the congregation sends the message to others that committing such acts is not sinful; others then may be influenced to commit the same types of sins of immorality.

Every congregation today should carefully consider Paul’s warnings in this chapter. Be aware!!! Paul is not speaking to the sinful fornicator but, instead, to the congregation that tolerates such conduct. Such actions will only encourage other Christians to involve themselves in the same sin. Paul teaches the Romans about twenty-three sins and then says, "Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them" (Romans 1:32). When members of a congregation realize that sins will be dealt with properly and consistently, they will refrain from committing the sins. Notice the response of the people after Ananias and Sapphira were disciplined: "And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things" (Acts 5:11).

Verse 7

Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump: By the command to "purge out the old leaven," Paul is declaring a state of urgency. He is instructing "do it now and do it effectively before the whole church is contaminated" (Robertson, Vol. IV 114). Special attention should be placed on the article "the" signifying that Paul is speaking of one particular sin: the sin of fornication. Fornication, obviously, was part of the Corinthians’ lifestyle before their conversion, and now some were returning to this old practice.

The urgent message of Paul was to "purge (it) out...that ye may be a new lump." In this verse "old" (palaios) leaven defined as "ancient" (Thayer 74-1-3820) is contrasted with a "new" (neos) lump or "recently born" (Thayer 424-1-3501) lump. Paul often makes this contrast to show the removal of one thing ("old") for something better, something "new." In writing to the church at Rome, Paul says, "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Romans 6:6). To the Ephesians, he says, "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind" (4:22-23). To the church in Colosse, Paul says, "Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Colossians 3:9-10). In becoming a Christian, a person becomes a "new" creature. He puts off the old life of worldliness and puts on the new life of Christianity. This new life is seen in his having a "new" name: "...And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch" (Acts 11:26). This new life gives the Christian a new destiny to hope for as the Apostle Peter says, "...we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13). The apostle emphasizes to the Romans that a new life should be lived after conversion to Christianity.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection (Romans 6:1-5).

This "new" life in Christ comes only from removing leaven from among us. Similarly, in the Old Testament during the preparation for the Passover, every Jewish family was instructed to remove all leaven out of their houses:

In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even. Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land. Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread (Exodus 12:18-20).

The removal of the leaven from their houses indicates the total break with Egyptian slavery to a new life that they were to enjoy in fellowship with God. In the same way, when Christians are instructed to "purge out" (ekkathairo), meaning "to cleanse out" or to "clean thoroughly" (Thayer 195-2-1571), the "old leaven" that they may "be a new lump," the indication is that, by the removal of one evil sin, the congregation is made pure.

as ye are unleavened: By the Corinthians being "unleavened" (azumos), Paul means that if they are as they should be they are free from the guilt of sin. Paul is speaking of Christians in general. When the Christians in Corinth were washed through baptism, they became children of God. It appears that Paul is urging them to live up to their calling--to be the Christians they should be.

For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: As the slain paschal lamb led to the Israelites’ freedom from Egyptian slavery, so also does the death of Christ make possible freedom from the slavery of sin. Even though the Corinthians have committed many sins, they still have Christ as their perpetual sacrifice; therefore, they could gain freedom from their sins. In short, Paul is saying that the paschal lamb did for the Hebrews what Christ does for us today.

In prophecy, as well as in the New Testament, Christ is often referred to as a sacrificial lamb:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth (Isaiah 53:7).

John the baptist, referring to Jesus, says, "...Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Likewise, the Apostle Peter says, "But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:19).

Verse 8

Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Therefore let us keep the feast: In verse 7, when Paul says to "purge out therefore the old leaven," he is speaking figuratively; therefore, as he continues this same thought, he is still speaking figuratively of keeping "the feast." The words "let us keep the feast" are translated from a Greek verb (heortazo) meaning "to keep a feast-day" or to "celebrate a festival" (Thayer 226-2-1858). The clause literally means the Corinthians were to keep on living their Christian lives.

not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness: The "old leaven" is the same as the one mentioned in the preceding verse in reference to the sin of fornication. Paul then refers to "the leaven of malice and wickedness." The term "malice" (kakia) means "wickedness" and "depravity" (Thayer 320-1-2549) of mind, and "wickedness" (poneria) is defined as "depravity" or "iniquity" (Thayer 530-1-4189). "Malice is ill will in the mind; wickedness is ill will expressed in action" (Shepherd 77). In commenting about the words "malice" and "wickedness," Vine says,

Together they connote everything which is displeasing to God, and which, if indulged in, pollutes our souls, blinds our spiritual intelligence, and proves detrimental to any attempted service for the Lord (76).

Paul’s point is every child of God must put away every sin (in thought and in action) in his life and the congregation, as a whole, must "purge" itself of every person not willing to do so.

but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth: Paul contrasts two sets of words: "malice and wickedness," representing unrighteousness, with "sincerity and truth," representing righteousness. Having said in verse 7 that "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us," Paul now says, "Therefore let us keep the feast...with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth"; let us continue living a Christian life of sincerity and truth. As leaven represents all that is sinful, unleaven represents purity and righteousness. The word "sincerity" (eilikrineia) means "purity" and "ingenuousness" (Thayer 175-1-1505) while "truth" (aletheia) means "sincerity of mind and integrity of character, or a mode of life in harmony with divine truth" (Thayer 26-2-225). Such terms should be characteristics of every child of God.

Verse 9

Limitation of Christian Association

I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

I wrote unto you in an epistle: It is almost impossible to know for sure whether the epistle Paul refers to here was a previously written letter or whether it refers to things that Paul says earlier in this same letter. It possibly could refer to verse 2 where Paul says, "...he that hath done this deed (committed fornication) might be taken away from among you." If this is Paul’s intention, then he is simply saying, "...as I said earlier in this letter." I doubt, however, that this is the true meaning, for if this were Paul’s intention, he could have better stated it as he did in writing to the church in Galatia:

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9).

A question of interest is: If Paul wrote another letter to the Corinthians before this one, what happened to it? It could have been lost or just not included with the other letters. I see no reason to think that every letter written by every inspired writer for every occasion had to be saved. These letters could be compared to "the things" done by Christ that are not recorded today as referred to by John: "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written" (John 21:25). Whether Paul refers to a previous letter or to this one, the instruction given is true and must be followed.

not to company with fornicators: The words "to company with" (sunanamignumi) mean "to be intimate with" (Thayer 601-1-4874) and are used here and in verse 11, just as in 2 Thessalonians where Paul says, "And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed" (3:14).

"Fornicators" (pornos) are those who indulge in unlawful sexual intercourse. This is precisely the act that the man who had married his father’s wife (verse 1) had committed. Paul tells the congregation how to treat the "fornicators"; they must not keep "company with" or associate with them. Paul is telling them to treat the brother who is a fornicator in the same way God will treat him. Paul says, "For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God" (Ephesians 5:5). In the Thessalonian letter, Paul says not only to "have no company with" but also he gives the purpose of such an action: "that he may be ashamed" of the evil deeds committed.

Verse 10

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.

Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world: Paul is explaining what he means in verse 9 when he says "not to company with fornicators." He now restricts this instruction to those who are in the church. By "not altogether" (pantos), Paul indicates that the Corinthians are "not entirely" (Thayer 476-2-3843) expected to separate their association from all fornicators. He realizes that by living in the world it will become necessary to associate with people of the world, even those who are guilty of the sins named. The term "world" refers to those not in Christ.

or with the covetous, or extortioners: In this verse, Paul names three classes of sin. First is "fornicators." Second he uses the terms "covetous" and "extortioners" to make up one class of sin. For this reason, the Revised Standard Version uses the word "and" instead of "or": "greedy and robbers." The third class of sinner is "idolaters."

By "covetous" (pleonektes), Paul refers to those who are "greedy of gain" (Thayer 516-1-4123). These are the ones who deceitfully take the property that belongs to others. Such people are never satisfied with what they have. It appears that the more they have the more they want. Their property becomes their god. Paul says, "...no...covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God" (Ephesians 5:5). The "extortioners" (harpax) are "robbers" (Thayer 75-1-727), generally associated with embezzling on one’s job.

or with idolaters: "Idolaters" (eidololatres) suggests "a worshipper of false gods" (Thayer 174-2-1496).

for then must ye needs go out of the world: The only way to be separated entirely from the world is to "go out of the world." Certainly neither Paul nor Christ intended for Christians to do that. Jesus says, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:15-16).

People in Corinth were generally wicked. They were made up of fornicators, covetous people, extortioners, and idolaters. Therefore, not to associate with them would be impossible because Christians in that city were to teach them the crucified Christ. Paul’s words, however, are not a license for Christians to choose such worldly people with whom to be intimately associated. We should associate with them only to teach them about Christ. Later, in this same letter, Paul warns: "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners" (15:33).

Verse 11

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner: In verse 9, Paul refers to a previous misunderstood letter; however, he now refers to this present letter in which he is clearing up the misunderstandings. Paul sees the importance of restating that Christians are "not to keep company" with "a brother" who is a fornicator, covetous, idolater, railer, drunkard, or extortioner. (For explanation of "not to keep company," see verse 9; and for definitions of fornicator, covetous people, idolater, and extortioner, see verse 10).

A "railer" (loidoros) is a "reviler" (Thayer 382-1-3060).

A "drunkard" (methusos) refers to one who is "intoxicated" (Thayer 396-1-3183).

with such an one no not to eat: This phrase refers not to the Lord’s Supper but to a common meal. Paul is saying that all "social contacts with such ’a brother’ are forbidden" (Robertson, Vol. IV 116). The message is that if Christians treat these sinful Christians as if they are faithful, it would appear they are sanctioning their evil acts. Peter also teaches about this situation:

But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? (Galatians 2:11-14).

While Christians should not associate with a brother guilty of immoral sins in a social sense, we have an obligation to continue encouraging him to change from his wickedness, for he is a brother in Christ. Paul says, "Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother" (2 Thessalonians 3:15). To "keep company" with, or even "to eat" with, a brother guilty of these sins is a sign of the church condoning and approving the sin.

Verse 12

For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?

There are only two classes of people: those "without" and those "within." The ones Paul refers to as being "without" are those of the world who have never known God; those "that are within" are Christians, regardless if they are faithful or not. When discipline is considered, there should never be a distinction made between those who attend services and those who do not. Regardless of whether sinful Christians are presently worshiping or no longer worshiping, they must be treated as "them that are within." Paul has emphasized the importance of discipline of those "that are within" when they sin, and now he clearly says that this responsibility is confined only to them. For example, if the "wife" mentioned in verse 1 were, indeed, not a Christian, the church would have no concern or responsibility toward her; but for the brother who married her, the church must "deliver such a one unto Satan" (verse 5).

Verse 13

But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

But them that are without God judgeth: Church members have no responsibility to judge the world. Not only do they not have the responsibility to judge the world, but they also have no right to because the world (those who are "without") already belong to Satan. Since they already belong to Satan, they cannot be "delivered...unto Satan" as is mentioned in verse 5. This fact does not mean that the world will escape judgment--for God will judge them.

Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person: Paul concludes the teaching of this chapter by instructing the Corinthians once again to "put away" that "wicked person"--the brother who is guilty of fornication.


In this chapter, Paul clearly explains the course of action that congregations are to take toward a brother guilty of immorality:

1. "take (him) away from among you" (verse 2).

2. "deliver such a one unto Satan" (verse 5).

3. "purge out the old leaven" (verse 7).

4. "not to company with fornicators" (verse 9).

5. "with such a one, no, not to eat" (verse 11).

6. "put away from among you that wicked person" (verse 13).

The removal of the immoral person has a twofold purpose. First, it is done to keep the church pure. If such immoral acts are allowed to continue, the entire congregation (verse 6) may be destroyed. Second, the removal of the sinful brother is done so, not out of hatred, but from love that he may recognize his error and thereby "be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (verse 5).

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 5". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/1-corinthians-5.html. 1993-2022.
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