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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 5

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

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Verses 1-3

Tolerating Sin in the Church

Fornication was a part of the worship of Aphrodite. A thousand priestesses of the goddess served as prostitutes who were available for the free use of temple visitors. Yet, a variety of fornication considered detestable by the heathens of this wicked city had been reported among the Christians. Apparently Paul learned of the sin in the church at Corinth through public gossip. This outrage came because a man committed fornication either with his stepmother, or else his mother ( 1Co_5:1 ; Lev_18:8 ; Lev_20:11 ; Deu_22:30 ; Deu_27:20 ).

Despite this terrible sin, the church still took pride in man's wisdom and remained divided. Because of the pride, and division caused by it, no disciplinary action had been taken. Such sin should have caused great sorrow in the church. It should have called for immediate action. Paul's quick judgment and action stood in sharp contrast to their lack of shame ( 1Co_5:2-3 ).

Verses 4-5

Deliver the Sinner to Satan

The apostle directed that the whole congregation should act on the basis of Christ's authority. When the church acts on the basis of Christ's word, as delivered by inspiration, the action is taken by his authority ( 1Co_5:4 ; Mat_18:15-20 ).

McGarvey writes, "The offender, being excluded from the kingdom of God, is to be thrust back into the kingdom of Satan, that the sense of his loneliness, shame and lost condition may cause him to repent, and mortify or subdue his flesh, i.e, his lust, after which his spirit, being thus delivered, might be saved." Lipscomb says, "When one has been excluded from the fellowship of the church, Christians should make him feel that he forfeits the esteem and association of all the members of the church, yet he should be warned and admonished as a brother" ( 1Co_5:5 ; 2Th_3:15 ).

Verses 6-8

Warning Against the Leaven of Sin

They had been proud of their tolerance of sin, as if that was a badge of true righteousness. However, Paul warned them that such pride was not good. He also reminded them that even a small amount of leaven would spread through an entire lump of dough. Leaven, in this case, represents evil "illustrating the hidden constant way in which it spreads," according to McGarvey.

The apostle said the leaven of sin must be taken away. The Jews had to put away leaven at Passover time. Jesus, as our Passover lamb, was sacrificed for us once for all, so sin must be put away once for all ( Heb_9:28 ). So, Paul urged them to keep the Christian's Passover feast without the old leaven of sin.

He further urged them to lay aside the new leaven of malice and wickedness. Malice would be ill will in mind, while wickedness would be ill will expressed in action. Those who are in Christ's body should strive to be pure. The church and its members should work to be completely free of flaws. "Sincerity" carries the idea of purity. It has been well depicted as a test accomplished by holding up a piece of cloth between the eye and the sun. When no flaws were found, it was said to be pure. "Truth" is simply the word of God, or the ultimate standard of judgment for Christians ( 1Co_5:6-8 ; Joh_12:48 ; Rom_2:16 ).

Verses 9-10

Disciplining Sinners in the Church

Christ's apostle to the Gentiles had warned them in some previous epistle not to "keep company with sexually immoral people." Those included in such a description could have been involved in any type of sexual immorality. Those Christians who would keep out the leaven of sin were instructed not to keep company with such. Thayer says the word for company means "to mix together," "to keep company with, be intimate." Lipscomb says, "To have company with is to associate with and treat one as worthy of companionship and association...The object, no doubt, is to make the fornicator feel the disgrace and shame of his course and bring him to repentance" ( 1Co_5:9 ).

Paul went on to explain that his instructions did not include those in the world involved in sexual immorality, covetousness, extortioners or idolaters. The word "covetous" would describe those seeking to obtain what is another's in an unlawful way, while an extortioner uses power or threats to take what is not his, or more than is right. An idolater would be anyone who set something above God, especially the false gods served by some in Corinth, like Aphrodite. In 2Th_3:14 , Paul wrote adding another type of Christian other Christians should not associate with in a social way. "And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed."

To avoid associating with these types of people generally would have required a Christian to live somewhere outside the world. Obviously, normal daily activities necessitate Christians associating with sinners in the world, so the rule could not apply to them. Instead, the rule was intended to cause Christians to avoid those who were evil within the church ( 1Co_5:10 ).

Verses 11-13

Christians Must Judge Those Within the Church

It was specifically those Christians in sin that Paul warned the brethren not to keep company with. McGarvey says, "Have no interchange of hospitality which would imply brotherly recognition, lest the church should thereby not only be disgraced, but corrupted1 Corinthians 15:33." In fact, they were not even to eat, or "take food together" as Thayer says, with brethren living in sin. Christians involved in such sins as those Paul has already listed should have been well aware that those participating in them would not gain entrance into heaven ( Gal_5:19-21 ; Eph_5:5 ).

Paul went on to say that he could only deal with those in the church. Discipline for those outside the church is in God's hands alone. His immediate concern was with any Christian living in sin and the way tolerating their sin would impact the effectiveness of the church. Of course, he knew those in the world would be judged one day ( Joh_5:28-29 ; 2Co_5:10 ). Paul completed his discussion by commanding the Corinthian brethren to disfellowship the sinful brother ( 1Co_5:11-13 ). Peter practiced withdrawal of fellowship for the wrong reason and had to be withstood to the face by Paul. He refused to eat, or take food together with, the Gentiles when some came from James in Jerusalem ( Gal_2:12 ). Interestingly, it was Peter who had first defended the Christian's right to eat with Gentiles because the gospel is for all ( Act_11:1-18 ).

One might ask why or how Jesus could receive sinners and eat with them as the Pharisees and scribes said in Luk_15:2 . The answer appears in the series of parables he told. The sinners he ate with needed and were willing to hear the gospel. In contrast, when he sent the twelve out under a limited commission in Mat_10:5-15 , he told them to shake the dust off their feet when they departed from a house or city which would not receive them. The reason for the contrast seems to come from an opportunity to teach the lost in the one case and the appearance of giving tacit approval to the sinful actions of others unwilling to change in the other case.

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 5". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/1-corinthians-5.html. 2014.
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