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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 5

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

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Verses 1-13

(b) 5:1-13. The Case of Immorality

The Apostle had written (1 Corinthians 4:21) of coming to exercise authority. Here was a case in which it was needed. A man had created a scandal by marrying his stepmother, and the Corinthians had done nothing. They had allowed him to retain his membership in the Church. St. Paul instructs them to excommunicate the offender, and keep the Church pure.

1-8. Paraphrase. ’A rumour has reached me that unchastity exists among you, and that one of your number has taken his stepmother as his wife, an act which the very heathen abhor. (2) How can you maintain your attitude of self-satisfaction in presence of this scandal? Why do you not rather humiliate yourselves and remove the sinner from your fellowship? (3) For I who am at a distance feel the disgrace as though I were among you, and have already decided what must be done, as if I were in your assembly. (4, 5) When you are gathered together, I being present with you in spirit, proceed to pass sentence of excommunication on this man, delivering him solemnly to Satan in the name of Jesus our Lord, that his soul may be saved even if his body perish. (6) How senseless is your self-conceit in presence of this impurity. Do ye not realise that you are all in danger of being degraded by it? (7) Put away this leaven of unholiness, then, and remain free from it. Remember how at the Passover all leaven was put away; and now that our Paschal Lamb Christ Jesus has been sacrificed, and our feast of unleavened bread begun, (8) let us celebrate our Passover by putting away the leaven of vice and sin and using only the unleavened bread of purity and truth.’

1. It is reported commonly] RV ’It is actually reported.’ His father’s wife] The father may have been dead or separated from his wife: the stepson had then married her. The Corinthian Church was evidently unconscious that there was anything sinful in such a union. Had the man and woman been living in sin without marriage the Church could scarcely have made even a show of defending their conduct. The persons referred to in 2 Corinthians 7:12 have no connexion with this incident: see notes there.

2. Puffed up] This is probably to be taken generally as referring to their boastfulness about their spiritual privileges and attainments: cp. 1 Corinthians 4:6-12. The Apostle expresses surprise that the scandal among them did not humble their pride.

3. Have judged already] taking their concurrence for granted; or giving them a suggestion trusting that they would follow it at once. He here asserts his authority to guide them in matters of discipline; and it was over this question of authority, and not over that of the offender’s conduct, that the dispute between St. Paul and the Church arose.

4. In the name of our Lord Jesus] Placed emphatically at the beginning, to indicate the Church’s final authority for taking this step to enforce discipline: cp. Matthew 18:18, Matthew 18:20. When ye are gathered together, etc.] St. Paul did not take discipline out of the hands of the Church. He stepped in when the Church had failed in duty, pointing out the duty and leaving the Church to perform it.

My spirit] They were to think of him as present in spirit, and to let his influence mould their deliberations.

5. To deliver.. unto Satan] The offender was to be solemnly excommunicated and handed over to Satan, who had power to cause disease, in the belief that sufferings of body would assail him and work repentance and salvation in him, even if they ended in bodily death: cp. Luke 13:16; 2 Corinthians 12:7.

6. Your glorying] see on 1 Corinthians 5:2. A little leaven] Leaven is here used of corrupting influences as elsewhere in the NT., except in our Lord’s parable of the leaven: cp. Matthew 16:6, Matthew 16:12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1; Galatians 5:9. A low ideal of conduct even in one case has farreaching effects upon the whole community.

7. The old leaven] Not (or, at any rate, not only) the unchaste sinner, but the spirit in the Church which is indifferent to the sin. Christ our Passover] The mention of leaven, which was associated with the Passover, causes the Apostle to think of that institution; and leads him to speak of Christ in allegorical fashion as the Christian Church’s Passover. As Christ has been sacrificed the days of the spiritual feast of unleavened bread have begun; and consequently every vestige of impurity and malice and sin must be rigorously excluded.

9-13. Paraphrase. ’This is just what I wrote to you in my former letter—that you were to have no connexion with men of impure life. (10) I did not mean that you were to have nothing to do with the heathen, who are greedy and covetous and idolaters, in matters of business and such like, for that is impossible. (11) But I meant that if any professing Christian were guilty of such wickedness as impurity or drunkenness or evil speaking or greed, you were to have no fellowship with him. (12, 13) I have nothing to do, so far as judgment is concerned, with the world at large. We have to judge those in the Church; whereas the judgment of the world we leave to God. Therefore, excommunicate that wicked man.’

9. In an epistle] This clearly refers to a previous letter no longer extant and prior to any of our Epistles to the Corinthians. See Intro.

11. But now I have written] RM ’As it is, I wrote.’ The meaning is, ’What I wrote was,’ etc. The Corinthians probably asked St. Paul in their letter in reply to his first one, what they were to do when they met non-Christians in business and society. Not to eat] They might be compelled to meet with such men and to have some business or social relations with them, but they were not to have any association with them but what was absolutely unavoidable.

12. Them.. that are without] i.e. the heathen generally; all outside the Church.

Do not ye] They exercised discipline in some cases though they had not recognised its necessity in this one.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 5". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/1-corinthians-5.html. 1909.
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