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Bible Commentaries

Godet's Commentary on Selected Books

1 Corinthians 5

II. Discipline. Chap. 5.

A large number of commentators think that Paul here passes to the vice of impurity. But it is not till 1Co 6:12 that he really attacks this vice. As to chap. 5, they confound the occasion with the subject. The occasion is an act of impurity; but the subject treated, and that in consequence of the laxity which the Church had shown in regard to this scandal, is the duty of every living Church to take action against sin when it manifests itself openly within its pale.

It is impossible with the large number of the unconverted who become members of the Church, and with the sin which the converted themselves still bear in them, that evil should not sometimes break out in the Christian community. But the difference which should ever remain between the Church and the world is, that in the former sin should not manifest itself without falling under the stroke of rebuke and judgment. “There is a Holy One in the midst of thee,” said the prophet Hosea to Israel. A Holy One lives also in the Church, and from Him there go forth, in every true Church which has life and not merely the name to live, a protest and reaction against all notorious wickedness. This reaction, the work of the Holy Spirit who proceeds from Christ, is discipline. Where it is weakened, the Church is in the same measure confounded with the world.

The chapter which we proceed to study is the classical passage of the New Testament on the subject; if the apostle has put it here, it is because the subject belongs, on the one side, to the ecclesiastical questions treated in chaps. 1-4, and on the other to the moral questions which will be treated, chaps. 6-10. It is therefore the natural transition between the two domains of ecclesiastical or collective life and the moral life of each member.

In 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, Paul speaks of discipline in special connection with the particular case which obliges him to treat the subject, to pass thereafter to the condition of discipline in general ( 1Co 5:6-8 ); the passage, 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, is an appendix.

Verse 1

Vv. 1. “In general, it is reported that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not found even among the Gentiles, that one hath his father's wife.”

The first word, ὅλως , has been variously explained. It signifies totally, and hence in general or summarily, but never certainly, as some have sought to understand it here. If this adverb qualifies ἀκούεται , it is reported, we may explain, “it is reported everywhere. ” But Paul would have found a clearer term to express this idea. Or we might understand it, “People talk generally of fornication among you;” but the sequel, καὶ τοιαύτη , and such fornication,...does not at all suit this meaning. The adjunct ἐν ὑμῖν , among you, cannot, of course, depend on ἀκούεται , it is reported; it must necessarily be referred to an οὖσα , being, understood: “It is reported that there is fornication among you.” If it is so, the meaning of ὅλως is determined by the gradation following: καὶ τοιαύτη , and even such: “The vice of fornication exists in general among you, and it is even such a case as would scandalize the Gentiles themselves.” The word ὅλως is used, 1 Corinthians 6:7, exactly in the same way.

The verb ὀνομάζεται , is named, in T. R., is a gloss taken from Ephesians 5:3. The word is wanting in most of the Mjj. We have simply to understand ἐστί .

Instead of saying, his father's wife, Paul might have used the word μητρυιά , step-mother; but the former expression brought out more strongly the enormity of the act. This is also expressed forcibly by the position of the pronoun τινά between the two terms wife and father. Was the father still living? We can hardly think so; the act would be too odious. The marriage of a son with his step-mother was forbidden among the Jews under pain of death ( Lev 18:8 ). The Roman law equally forbade it. It is therefore probable that this union had not been legally sanctioned. Of the impression produced by such acts, even among the heathen, when they did exceptionally take place, we may judge from the words of Cicero in his defence of Cluentius: “O incredible crime for a woman, and such as has never been heard of in this world in any other than her solitary case!”

It appears from the whole chapter that the man only was a Christian; for if the woman had not been still a heathen, would not Paul have judged her as severely as the man? And what has been the conduct of the Corinthians in view of such a scandal?

Verse 2

Vv. 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. ”

Even this fact has not sufficed to disturb the proud self-satisfaction which he has already rebuked in the Corinthians in the previous chapter, or to make them come down from the celestial heights on which they are now walking to the real state of things.

The word πεφυσιωμένοι , puffed up, goes back on the words, 1 Corinthians 4:6 ( φυσιοῦσθε ), and especially v. 19 ( τῶν πεφυσιωμένων ). What have they done, those grand talkers, in view of this monstrous scandal? This is what the apostle called “having speech but not power.” Should not this moral catastrophe have opened their eyes to the fallen state in which their Church lay? Calvin admirably says: “ Ubi luctus est, ibi cessat gloriatio.

A living Church, which had in it the δύναμις of its Head, would have risen as one man, and gone into a common act of humiliation and mourning, like a family for the death of one of its members. This is what is expressed by the verb πενθεῖν , to conduct a mourning.

The aorist ἐπενθήσατε cannot merely designate a feeling of inward grief. It shows that Paul is thinking of a positive, solemn deed, of something like a day of repentance and fasting, on which the whole Church before the Lord deplored the scandal committed, and cried to Him to bring it to an end.

The words, that might be taken away, are referred by most commentators to the excommunication which the Church would not have failed to pronounce upon the guilty one as the result of such an act of humiliation. Calvin says without hesitation, “The power of excommunication is established by this passage.” But it seems to me that neither the conjunction that nor the passive might be taken away is suitable to an act which the Corinthians should have done themselves. The that rather indicates a result which would be produced, independently of them, in consequence of the mourning called for by the apostle. It is the same with the passive form might be taken away. If Paul had thought of an exclusion pronounced by the Church itself, he would have said: “That ye might take away;” or, better still, “Ye have not mourned, and then taken away the offender.” At the most he would have said, “Ye have not mourned, so that ( ὥστε ) he might be taken away.” Whether we refer the ἵνα to the intention which would have dictated the mourning (Meyer, Edwards), or to that of the apostle who calls for it (de Wette), we do not sufficiently account for it, any more than for the passive form might be taken away. It must be confessed, it seems to me, that in Paul's view he who does the act of taking away is different from him who mourns, though the mourning is the condition of his intervening to strike. This is what the Corinthians should have known well, and this is precisely the reason why they should have mourned that he whose part it was to take away might act. The mysterious arm, which, if the Church had felt its shame, would have removed it by striking the guilty one, can only be the arm of God Himself. To the grief and prayer of the Church He would have responded in a way similar to that in which He had acted, on the words of Peter, toward Ananias and Sapphira, or as He was acting at that very time at Corinth, by visiting with sickness, and even with death, the profaners of the Supper ( 1Co 11:30-32 ).

Hofmann sees that in the ordinary construction these expressions cannot apply to an act done by the Church. And, as he does not suppose that the term can designate anything else than excommunication, he begins a new sentence with ἵνα , regarding this conjunction, with Pott, as the periphrasis of an imperative: “Let such a man be taken away from among you (by a sentence of excommunication)!” No doubt the ἵνα , that, is sometimes used thus. But it is hard to see how such an order would harmonize with what follows, where Paul relates what he has done to make up for what the Corinthians had not done. Besides, this construction would here be entirely unexpected and far from natural. The ἐξαρθῇ of the T. R. is taken from 1 Corinthians 5:13. The reading should be ἀρθῇ , with most of the Mjj.

The verb αἴρειν , or ἐξαίρειν , is ordinarily used in Leviticus and Deuteronomy to denote the capital punishment inflicted on malefactors in Israel; comp. also the ἀπαρθῇ , Matthew 9:15, and parallel, applied to the Messiah's violent death.

In saying from among you, Paul is certainly thinking of the way in which he had characterized his readers at the beginning of his letter: “Sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by call.” How could one guilty of adultery and incest have a place in such an assembly!

The term τὸ ἔργον τοῦτο has a certain emphasis: “An act such as this.” The reading πράξας , in three Alex., might be preferred, because the verb πράσσειν is pretty often used in an unfavourable sense, in opposition to ποιεῖν (see John 3:20-21; John 5:29, etc.). But ποιεῖν better expresses than πράσσειν the accomplishment of the deed.

After characterizing both the guilty pride and softness of the Church, the apostle contrasts with them his own mode of acting.

Verse 3

Vv. 3. “For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have decided already, as though I were present, [to deliver over] him that hath so done this deed...”

The for is thus explained: “Such is what you ought to have done; for, as for me, this is what I have done. The μέν , to which there is no corresponding δέ , serves to isolate Paul, putting him in contrast to the Church, and so strengthens the force of the ἐγώ , I: “I, for my part, while you...!”

The first ὡς , as, is rejected by the majority of the Mjj., perhaps wrongly; it has been thought incompatible with the following ὡς before the second παρών . But these two ὡς may have their distinct value. The first bears strictly on the second participle: present in spirit. It signifies: “So far as absent in body, no doubt, but really present spiritually.” It is the as which serves to express the real character in which the person acts; the second signifies, on the contrary, as if. Paul would bring out this contrast: “As for you who were present, you did nothing; and as for me, distant from you though I am, yet living spiritually among you, this is how I acted!” The word already has great force here, whether it signifies, “while you remained inactive, you wise and eloquent preachers;” or whether Paul rather means, “before even arriving among you.”

The verb κέκρικα may be rendered by I have judged, or I have decided. Not being able to say [in French] judged to deliver, we have used the second term; but in a passage of a judicial character like this the verb ought to express rather the idea of a sentence pronounced than of a simple resolution taken. This is undoubtedly what has led Hofmann and Edwards to give this verb for its direct object the following accusative: τὸν κατεργασάμενον , him who has thus acted. Now, as the verb παραδοῦναι ( 1Co 5:5 ) can be nothing else than the object of κέκρικα , we must hold in this case a mixture of two constructions, “I have judged this man,” and “I have judged to deliver him over to Satan.” This rather forced interpretation seems to me unnecessary. It is simpler to make τὸν κατεργασάμενον the object of παραδοῦναι , and τὸν τοιοῦτον ( 1Co 5:5 ) the grammatical repetition of the object, a repetition occasioned by the interposition of 1 Corinthians 5:4.

But the important question is, whether the παραδοῦναι , the act of delivering over, the object of I have judged, or decided, should be regarded as the result of a future decision which Paul proposes to be taken by the Corinthians themselves, or whether he thinks of it as a decision already taken and decreed between God and him. Commentators agree in holding the first sense. Paul waits, they say, till, in consequence of the decision which he has taken by himself, the Church of Corinth shall assemble and pronounce a sentence in keeping, if one may so speak, with his premonition. This meaning is open to certain doubts. Would not Paul say in that case: “I have decided that the man should be delivered over,” and not: “I have judged to deliver him over ”? It might therefore be supposed that the judicial assembly of which the apostle speaks has already taken place at the time of his writing, and that the three deputies represented the Church in his presence. Thus the three acts would be naturally explained: κέκρικα , συναχθέντων , παραδοῦναι . But the participle συναχθέντων would in this sense require rather to be placed before κέκρικα , and the idea of a purely spiritual presence would rather apply to the Church than to Paul. We must therefore return to the ordinary explanation. Only there is not the faintest hint of making the pronouncing of the sentence dependent on the vote of the assembly which is to be held at Corinth, as if the apostle's decision could be annulled by the contrary opinion of a majority. For his part ( μέν ), everything is decided, and with his apostolical competency he has judged to deliver over [the offender]; there will be joined to him, in the assembly which he convokes to take part in this terrible act, whoever wishes and dares.

The apparent pleonasm, οὕτω τοῦτο , “who has so done this,” has been variously explained. The word so is said to signify, “as a Christian,” or “with the aggravating circumstances which you know,” etc. It seems to me that we have here one of those circumlocutions in which judicial sentences delight. The protocol of a tribunal would be precisely expressed in this way. The object is to exactly define the deed, with all the circumstances known or unknown which make it what it is: its publicity, the shamelessness of its author, etc. In fact, these last words of 1Co 5:3 contain, as it were, the preamble to the sentence delivered; and, in what immediately follows, everything bears a very pronounced judicial character.

But the essential thing with the apostle is not that the sentence be delivered, it is that it be so with the assent of the Church. For his aim, besides the saving of the guilty one, is to awaken the conscience of the whole community, its energetic protest against the scandal which it has witnessed till now in silence. And such is the intent of 1 Corinthians 5:4, which indicates three things: 1. the assembly which is to take place; 2. its competency; 3. its power of execution. We are thus reminded of a tribunal prepared for the sentences delivered by it.

Verses 4-5

Vv. 4, 5. “Ye and my spirit being gathered together in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, 5. to deliver with the power of our Lord Jesus such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”

The tribunal is formed of the Christians of Corinth assembled in Paul's spiritual presence; his competency is the name of Jesus Christ, under whose authority the sentence is given; his ability to execute is the power of Jesus Christ.

There are four ways of connecting the two subordinate clauses, in the name of...and with the power of, with the two verbs, being gathered together and delivering. The first two make the two clauses bear on the same verb, either on being gathered together (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Calvin, Rückert, Holsten), or on delivering (Mosheim, etc.). According to the last two, they are distributed between the two verbs; some ascribing the first clause, in the name of, to the last verb deliver, and the second clause, with the power of, to the first verb, being gathered together (Luther, Bengel, de Wette, Meyer, Kling, Edwards); the others making each clause bear on the verb which immediately follows it: in the name of on being gathered together, and with the power of on delivering (Beza, Olshausen, Ewald, Hofmann, Heinrici). I have no hesitation in preferring this last construction. Independently of the position of the words, which suits this meaning better than it does any of the others, the decisive reason seems to me to be the conformity of the notion of each clause with that of the verb it qualifies. Is it a judicial assembly which is in question, the important thing is its competency; and this is what is indicated by the ἐν ὀνόματι ..., in the name of..., as qualifying being gathered together. Is it, on the contrary, the execution of the sentence which is in question, what is important is force, power de facto; and this is exactly what is expressed by the ἐν δυνάμει , with the power of..., as qualifying to deliver. This construction seems to me also to be confirmed by the striking parallel Matthew 18:18-20, a saying which must have been present to Paul's mind in this case: “Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven....Again I say unto you, that whatever two or three of you shall agree to ask on the earth, it shall be done for them of My Father. For where two or three are gathered together in My name ( συνηγμένοι εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα ), there am I in the midst of them.” This promise certainly served as a ground for the actual conduct of the apostle. The moment has come for the Church to do what Jesus called binding; it has to judge. This judgment is to be pronounced by the faithful gathered together in His name, as many of them as will be found to agree in view of an interest of this kind, should there be only two or three.

The name denotes the person of the Lord in so far as it is revealed to the hearts of believers, recognised and adored by them.

Perhaps we should, with the documents, reject the word Christ, and preserve only the name Jesus, which calls up the historical personality of Him who has promised to be invisibly present at such an act. It is on this promised presence that the authority of the assembly which does it rests. The pronoun ye does not necessarily embrace the whole of the Church, for the matter in question here is not a vote by a majority of voices; it is a spiritual act in which, from the very nature of things, only the man takes part who feels impelled to it, and each in the measure in which he is capable of it. Two or three suffice for this, in case of need, Jesus Himself says; for the means of action in such discipline is agreement in prayer. How could all this apply to a decree of excommunication, pronounced after contradictory debating, and by a majority of voices, perhaps a majority of one? The things of God do not admit of being thus treated.

The most mysterious expression in this so mysterious passage is the following: καὶ τοῦ ἐμοῦ πνεύματος , and my spirit. At this assembly, which is to take place at Corinth, Paul will be present by his spirit ( 1Co 5:3 ). It would seem that what Paul here affirms of himself ought to be applied to Jesus. But it must not be forgotten that if Jesus is the Head of the Church in general, Paul is the founder and father of the Church of Corinth, and that in virtue of his personal union to Jesus, the spiritual presence of the Lord ( Mat 18:20 ) may become also that of His servant. In chapter xii. of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul does not himself know whether it was with or without his body that he was present at a scene in paradise.

The words σὺν τῇ δυνάμει , with power, cannot be connected with the participle συναχθέντων , being gathered together, whether we make Christ's power a sort of third member of the assembly, or whether we regard this power of Christ as sharing in the judgment in so far as it must carry it into execution. The first meaning needs no refutation; the second is an over-refinement. This regimen, on the contrary, is quite naturally connected with παραδοῦναι : “to deliver with the power of Christ Himself.” There is nothing here opposed, as Edwards thinks, to the natural meaning of σύν . Certainly this preposition does not denote the means by which ( διά , ἐν ); but it can perfectly denote a co-operating circumstance, as in the phrases σὺν θεῷ or σὺν θεοῖς πράττειν , to do with the help of God; comp. Heinrici, ad h. l. Human action does not become efficacious except in union with Divine power.

The repetition of the words, of our Lord Jesus (or Jesus Christ), at the end of the verse, belongs to the forms of language used by the ancients in their formulas of condemnation or consecration ( devotio). The object of deliver is briefly repeated by the τὸν τοιοῦτον , such an one, a form which brings out once more the odious character of his conduct.

The obscure expression παραδοῦναι τῷ Σατανᾷ , to deliver to Satan, is found only elsewhere in 1 Timothy 1:20: “Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.”

It has been understood in three ways. Some have found in it the idea of excommunication pure and simple (Calvin, Beza, Olshausen, Bonnet, Heinrici, etc.). Calvin thus briefly justifies this sense “As Christ reigns in the Church, so Satan outside the Church...He then, who is cast out of the Church, is thereby in a manner delivered to the power of Satan, in so far as he becomes a stranger to the kingdom of God.” But the insufficiency of this sense has been generally felt. Why use an expression so extraordinary to designate a fact so simple as that of exclusion from the Church, especially if, as those commentators hold, Paul had just designated the same act by a wholly different term ( 1Co 5:3 )? Still, if the use of the term had a precedent in the forms of the synagogue! But Lightfoot has proved that this formula was never in use to denote Jewish excommunication. We have besides already called attention to the fact that the δύναμις , the power, of the Lord was not necessary to the execution of a sentence of excommunication. And how could this punishment have prevented Hymenaeus and Alexander from blaspheming? Is it not possible to blaspheme, and that more freely, outside than within the Church? Finally, it remains to explain the following words: for the destruction of the flesh; we do not think it is possible on this explanation to give them a natural meaning.

Moreover, from the earliest times of exegesis down to our own day, the need has been felt of adding another idea to that of excommunication, viz. bodily punishment, regarded either as the proper consequence of excommunication (Calov), or as a chastisement over and above, added to excommunication by the Apostle Paul. To the Church it belongs to exclude from its membership; to the apostle to let loose on the excommunicated one the disciplinary power of Satan to punish him in his body (so nearly Chrysostom, Theodoret, Rückert, Olshausen, Osiander, Meyer). This sense certainly is an approach to the truth; but why seek to combine the idea of excommunication with that of bodily punishment? The former is taken from 1 Corinthians 5:3, from the αἴρειν ἐκ μεσοῦ ; we have seen that it is not really there. But what is graver still is, that it would follow from this explanation that the second chastisement, bodily punishment, would be inflicted on the incestuous person in consequence of the Church's neglecting to inflict on him the first. In fact, it follows from 1Co 5:3 that the apostle's intervention in this matter was rendered necessary by the lax toleration of the Christians of Corinth. In these circumstances the apostle could no doubt inflict the penalty which the Church should have pronounced, but he could not decree an aggravation of punishment; for the fault of the Church added nothing to that of the culprit. In this respect the first explanation would still be preferable to this second. The latter nevertheless contains an element of truth which we should preserve, and which will constitute the third (Lightfoot, Hofmann, Holsten): the idea of a bodily chastisement, of which Satan is to be the instrument. Such is the punishment which Paul inflicts at his own hand, and in virtue of his apostolic power, and which corresponds to the αἴρειν ἐκ μέσου , taking away from among, to the cutting off which the Church had not sought to obtain from God. Satan is often represented as having the power to inflict physical evils. It is he who is God's instrument to try Job when he was stricken with leprosy. It is he, says Jesus, who for eighteen years holds bound the poor woman who was bent double, and whom He cured on the Sabbath day ( Luk 13:6 ). Paul himself ascribes to a messenger of Satan the thorn in the flesh, of which God makes use to keep him in humility ( 2Co 12:7 ). It is Satan who is the murderer of man in consequence of the first sin ( Joh 8:44 ), and he has the dominion of death ( Heb 2:14 ). It is not hard to understand how a painful, perhaps mortal, punishment of this kind might bring the blasphemy on the lips of a heretic to an end. It is obvious how it might bring back to himself and to God a man who was led away by the seduction of the senses. Suffering in the flesh is needed to check the dominion of fleshly inclinations. The only difference between this chastisement decreed by the apostle, and that which the Corinthians should have asked from above, is, that the Church would have referred the mode of execution to God, while Paul, in virtue of his spiritual position superior to that of the Church, feels at liberty to determine the means of which the Lord will make use. For “he knows the mind of the Lord” ( 1Co 2:16 ). It will perhaps be asked how Satan can lend himself to an office contrary to the interests of his own kingdom. But we know not the mysteries of that being, in which the greatest possible amount of blindness is united to the most penetrating intelligence. “Malignity,” says M. de Bonald, “sharpens the mind and kills sound sense.” Was it not the messenger of Satan whom God used to preserve Paul from pride, and who kept him in that consciousness of his weakness by means of which the Divine power could always anew manifest itself in him?

The apostle adds: εἰς ὄλεθρον τῆς σαρκός , for the destruction of the flesh. Those who apply the foregoing expression to excommunication are embarrassed by these words. Calvin takes them as a softening introduced into the punishment, a carnal condemnation importing simply a temporal and temporary condemnation, in opposition to eternal damnation. This interpretation of the genitive σαρκός is its own refutation. Others think of the ruin of the worldly affairs of the excommunicated person, in consequence of his rupture with his former customers, the other members of the Church. How is it possible to ascribe such a thought to the apostle! The only tenable explanation is that which is found already in Augustine, then in Grotius, Gerlach, Bonnet: the destruction of the flesh, in the moral sense of the word, that is to say, of the sinful tendencies, in consequence of the pain and repentance which will be produced in the man by his expulsion from the Church. But, 1. Might not this measure quite as well produce the opposite effect? Thrown back into the world, the man might easily become utterly corrupt. 2. The term ὄλεθρος , destruction, perdition, would here require to denote a beneficent work of the Holy Spirit; that is impossible; see the threatening sense in which the word is always taken in the other passages of the New Testament: 1Th 5:3 and 2 Thessalonians 1:9 ( ὄλεθρος αἰφνίδιος , αἰώνιος , destruction sudden, eternal); 1 Timothy 6:9 ( ὄλεθρος καὶ ἀπώλεια , destruction and perdition). Paul means here to speak of a real loss for the man, according to the uniform meaning of the word ὄλεθρος . The matter in question is the destruction of one of the elements of his being with a view to the salvation of the other, which is the more precious. When Paul wishes to express the moral idea of the destruction of sin, he uses quite other terms: to reduce to impotence, καταργεῖν ( Rom 6:6 ); to cause to die, kill, νεκροῦν , θανατοῦν (Colossians 3:3; Rom 8:13 ); to crucify, σταυροῦν ( Gal 5:24 ); terms which have a different shade from ὄλεθρος . 3. The opposite of σάρξ , the flesh, in the following words, is πνεῦμα , the spirit. Now this second term cannot simply denote spiritual life, to which the expression being saved would not apply; it can only denote the substratum of that life, the spirit itself, as an element of human existence. Hence it follows that neither does the flesh denote fleshly life, but the flesh itself, the substratum of the natural life.

The flesh must therefore be taken in the sense of the earthly man, or, as Hofmann observes, of the outward man, in Paul's phrase (2 Corinthians 4:16: “If our outward man perish...”). It is in this sense that the word flesh itself is taken a few verses before ( 1Co 5:11 ), in the saying: “That the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh; ” so Philippians 1:22 ( τὸ ζῆν ἐν σαρκί ) and Galatians 2:20 ( ὃ νῦν ζῶ ἐν σαρκί ). The apostle might have two reasons for using the term flesh here rather than body; in the first place, σάρξ expresses the natural life in its totality, physical and psychical; and next, the body in itself is not to be destroyed (chap. 15). It is therefore the destruction of the earthly existence of the man which Paul meant to designate by the words ὄλεθρος τῆς σαρκός ; and M. Renan is not wrong in saying: “There can be no doubt of it; it is a condemnation to death that Paul pronounces.” The sudden death of Ananias and Sapphira offers an analogy to the present case, not that Paul is thinking of so sudden a visitation; the expression he uses rather indicates a slow wasting, leaving to the sinner time for repentance.

This destruction of the flesh has in view the saving of the spirit, in the day of Christ. Some versions translate: “that the soul may be saved...,” as if the soul and spirit were in Paul's eyes one and the same thing. The passage 1Th 5:23 proves the contrary. “The soul is, in man as in the lower animals, the breath of life which animates his organism; but the spirit is the sense with which the human soul is exclusively endowed to experience the contact of the Divine and apprehend it.” This higher sense in the soul once destroyed by the power of the flesh, connection is no longer possible between the soul and God. This is undoubtedly what Scripture calls the second death. As the first is the body's privation of the soul, the second is the soul's privation of the spirit. This is why the apostle wishes at any cost to save the spirit in this man, in which there resides the faculty of contact with God and of life in Him throughout eternity. It need not be said that the spirit, thus understood as an element of human life, can only discharge its part fully when it is open to the working of the Divine Spirit.

The words, in the day of the Lord Jesus, transport us to the time when Jesus glorified will appear again on the earth to take to Him His own ( 1Co 15:23 ); then will be pronounced on each Christian the sentence of his acceptance or rejection. These last words appear to me to confirm the explanation given of the phrase, destruction of the flesh. For if this denoted the destruction of the fleshly inclinations in the incestuous person, the awaking of spiritual life which would follow would not take place only at Christ's coming, it would make itself felt in him in this present life.

Rückert has very severely judged the apostle's conduct on this occasion. He is disposed, indeed, to make good as an excuse in his favour the impetuosity of his zeal, the purity of his intention, and a remnant of Judaic prejudice. But he charges him with having given way to his natural violence; with having compromised the salvation of the guilty person by depriving him, perhaps, if his sentence came to be realized, of time for repentance; and finally, with having acted imprudently towards a Church in which his credit was shaken, by putting it in circumstances to disobey him. We do not accept either these excuses or these charges for the apostle. The phrase deliver to Satan, being foreign to the formulas of the synagogue, was consequently, also, foreign to the apostle's Jewish past. The alleged violence of his temperament does not betray itself in the slightest in the severity of his conduct. The apostle here rather resembles a mother crying to God for her prodigal son and saying to Him: My God, strike him, strike him even to the death, if need be, if only he be saved! As to the Church, Paul no doubt knew better than the critic of our day how far he could and ought to go in his conduct toward it.

Another critic, Baur, has taken up and developed the observations of Rückert, confirming them by the Second Epistle. In the passage 2 Corinthians 2:5-11, he sees the proof that the apostle's injunctions had not been executed, that the sentence pronounced by him against the incestuous person had not been followed with any effect, and that the apostolical power which he claimed was consequently nothing but an illusion; that after all, in short, nothing remained to the apostle but piteously to beat a retreat, “presenting as his desire what was done without his will,” and putting on the appearance of pardoning and asking favour for the guilty one from the Corinthians, who pardoned the delinquent in spite of him.

This entire deduction assumes one thing: to wit, that the passage 2Co 2:5-11 refers to the affair of the incestuous person. But the close relation between this passage and that of 1Co 7:12 demonstrates that it is nothing of the kind, and that all that Paul writes in chap. 2 refers to an entirely different fact, to a personal insult to which he had been subjected at Corinth, and which had taken place posterior to the sending of the first letter. And supposing even that the passage of chap. 2 related to the incestuous person, what would it tell us? That the majority of the Church ( οἱ πλείονες , the larger number) had entered into the apostle's views as to the punishment of the culprit; and that the latter had fallen into such a disheartened state that his danger now was of allowing himself to be driven by Satan from carnal security to despair. If such was the meaning of the passage, what would it contain that was fitted to justify the conclusions of Baur, and the awkward light in which they would place the conduct and character of the apostle?

The apostle has terminated what concerns the particular case of the incestuous person. From this point onwards the subject broadens; he shows in the general state of the Church the reason why it has so badly fulfilled its obligations in this particular case ( 1Co 5:6-8 ).

Verse 6

Vv. 6. “Your glorying is not good; know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?”

There are two ways of understanding the connection between the following passage and that which precedes: either the apostle continues to dwell on the disciplinary obligation of the Church, and we must then regard the leaven to be taken away as either the incestuous person, or rather the vicious in general, or it may be held that Paul, after upbraiding the Church with its negligence, seeks to guide its finger to the true cause of the mischief: the want of moral sincerity and firmness. This is the state which must be remedied without delay. Then reaction against the presence of the vicious will take place of itself. The first words are better explained in the second sense, for they relate to the present state of the Church in general. I have translated καύχημα by vanterie (boasting), as if it had been καύχησις (the act of boasting), because we have no word in French to denote the object of boasting. Chrysostom thought the word should be applied to the incestuous person himself, assuming that he was one of the eminent men in whom the Church gloried. Grotius and Heinrici have reproduced this explanation. It seems to us untenable: the Church was satisfied with its state in general, and in particular with the wealth of its spiritual gifts, on which Paul himself had congratulated it ( 1Co 1:5-7 ), and of which chaps. 12-14 will furnish proof. But this abundance of knowledge and speech was no real good except in so far as it effected the increase of spiritual life in the Church, and the sanctification of its members. As this was not the case, the apostle declares to them that their ground of self-satisfaction is of bad quality; a being vainly puffed up ( 1Co 4:19 ): “Ye are proud of the state of your Church; there is no reason for it!” He thus returns to the idea of 1 Corinthians 5:2.

This judgment is called forth by the softness of their conduct in regard to the evil which shows itself among them. Should they who are so rich in knowledge fail to know the influence exercised on a whole mass by the least particle of corruption which is tolerated in it?

Paul clothes his thought in a proverbial form ( Gal 5:9 ). Leaven is here, as in many other passages (Matthew 13:33; Luk 12:1 ), the emblem of a principle apparently insignificant in quantity, but possessing a real penetrating force, and that either for good ( Mat 13:33 ) or for evil (Matthew 16:6; Gal 5:9 ). Does Paul understand by this little leaven (the literal sense), the incestuous person or any other vicious member of the same kind, whose tolerated presence is a principle of corruption for the whole community? This is the meaning generally held. Or is he rather thinking of evil in general, which, when tolerated even in a limited and slightly scandalous form, gradually lowers the standard of the Christian conscience in all? It does not seem to me likely that Paul would designate as a little leaven a sinner guilty of so revolting an act as that in question ( 1Co 5:1 ), or other not less scandalous offenders. It is therefore better to apply this figure to all sin, even the least, voluntarily tolerated by the individual or the Church. This meaning, held by Meyer, de Wette, Hofmann, Gerlach, is confirmed by 1 Corinthians 5:7-8.

Verses 7-8

Vv. 7, 8. “Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ, our Paschal lamb, hath been sacrificed. 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 purity and truth.”

If the figure applied to the incestuous man or to the vicious, the word ἐκκαθάρειν , to purify by removing, would apply to an act such as the: taking away from among ( 1Co 5:2 ), and the: delivering to Satan ( 1Co 5:5 ); and the words: that ye may be a new lump, would signify: that ye may present the spectacle of a Church renewed by the absence of every vicious member. But the epithet old, given to leaven, and 1Co 5:8 show that leaven is here taken in an abstract sense: “the leaven which consists of natural malignity and perversity.” The exhortation to purging applies therefore to the action of each on himself, and of all on all, in order to leave in the Church not a single manifestation of the old man, of the corrupt nature, undiscovered and unchecked.

The οὖν , therefore, of T. R. ought, according to most of the Mjj., to be suppressed. It only goes to weaken the vivacity of the imperative. It is well known that among the Jews, on the 14th Nisan, the eve of the first and great day of the feast of Passover, there was removed with great care all the leaven ( pain levé, raised bread) which could be found in their houses; and in the evening, along with the celebration of the Paschal feast, the sacred week began, during which nothing was eaten but cakes of unleavened bread. Leaven represented, according to the particular ceremonial of this feast, the pollutions of the idolatry and vices of Egypt with which Israel had broken in coming forth from it. As Israel had providentially carried to the desert that night only unleavened bread, the permanent rite had been borrowed from the historical circumstance (Exodus 12:39; Exo 13:6-9 ). The apostle spiritualizes the ceremony. As the Israelites at every Passover feast were bound to leave behind them the pollutions of their Egyptian life, in order to become a new people of God, so the Church is bound to break with all the evil dispositions of the natural heart, or that which is elsewhere called the old man.

The desired result of this breaking on the part of each one with his own known sin, will be the renewing of the whole Church: that ye may be a new lump. Another allusion to Jewish customs. On the eve of the feast, a fresh piece of dough was kneaded with pure water, and from it were prepared the cakes of unleavened bread which were eaten during the feast. The word νέον , new, does not signify: new as to quality (as καινόν would do), but recent, as to time. The whole community, by this work of purification wrought on itself, should become like a piece of dough newly kneaded. Has not the awakening of a whole Church been seen more than once to begin with submission to an old censure which weighed on the conscience of one sinner? This confession drew forth others, and the holy breath passed over the whole community.

The phrase which follows, as ye are unleavened, has greatly embarrassed commentators, who have explained it as if it were, “ye should be,” which grammatically is inadmissible. Chrysostom thinks of final sanctification, others of baptismal regeneration, meanings equally impossible. In saying, ye are, the apostle thinks of what they are, not in point of fact, but of right; the idea is the same as in Romans 6:11: death to sin and life to God, virtually contained in faith in the dead and risen Christ. For the believer nothing more is needed than to become what he is already (in Christ). He must become holy in fact, as he is in idea.

Grotius has proposed to give to ἄζυμος , unleavened, the active meaning belonging to the adjectives ἄσιτος , ἄοινος (abstaining from bread, from wine); according to him, Paul characterizes the Corinthians as persons who no longer feed on leavened bread (in the spiritual sense). But this term cannot be twisted from the definite meaning which it has in the Jewish ritual, and which is perfectly appropriate. They ought to become individually the organs of a new nature, which is in accordance with their true character as beings unleavened so far as they are believers.

The proof that this is what they are in point of right is given in the sequel.

From the time when the Paschal lamb was sacrificed in the temple, no leaven bread was allowed to appear on an Israelitish table; and this continued during the whole feast. Similarly the expiatory death of Christ, containing the principle of death to sin, there begins with His death in the case of the Church and of each believer the great spiritual Passover, from which all sin is banished, as leaven was from the Jewish feast. Every Christian is an azyme (unleavened one).

The particle καὶ γάρ , for also, has for its characteristic the connecting of two facts of an analogous nature ( also), the second of which is the ground of the first ( for): this is exactly the case here.

The work πάσχα , strictly speaking, passing, denoted God's passing over Egypt, on the night when He smote the first-born and spared the houses of the Israelites sprinkled with the blood of the lamb. The word was afterwards applied to the lamb itself; in this sense it is taken here.

The words for us, read by T. R., are omitted in the majority of the Mjj.

By the complement ἡμῶν , our, Paul contrasts the Christian Passover with that of the Jews. As the latter began with the slaying of the lamb, ours began with the bloody death of Christ; Χριστός is in apposition to πάσχα . The practical consequence of His death thus understood, and of the new state in which it places believers, is drawn in the following verse.

Verse 8

Vv. 8. The Christian's Paschal feast does not last a week, but all his life. In an admirable discourse Chrysostom has developed this idea: “For the true Christian, it is always Easter, always Pentecost, always Christmas.” Such is the sense in which the apostle exhorts the Corinthians to keep the feast.

The words, not with old leaven, signify, in accordance with what precedes: not by persisting in the corrupt dispositions of the old man.

The particle μηδέ , nor any more, according to Edwards, does not introduce an additional thought, but only the explanation of the preceding allegorical phrase. I do not think this meaning possible. The μηδέ seems to me intended to bring out a special feature in the general idea in direct connection with present circumstances; so, or nearly so, de Wette, Rückert, Meyer, etc. The word κακία denotes rather corruption of the nature or state, and the word πονηρία , deliberate malice of the will. In the context, the first of these terms relates to a corrupt state of the soul, which does not allow it to be indignant against evil, but leaves it to act toward it with lax toleration; the second goes further: it denotes active connivance and protection. These two vices, both proceeding from the leaven of the old nature, had been prominently manifested in the Church's conduct towards the incestuous person. With these dispositions Paul contrasts those which should characterize the renewing of the purified mass. The two complements εἰλικρινείας and ἀληθείας are, like the two preceding, genitives of apposition: “unleavened bread consisting of...” The word εἰλικρίνεια , according to the most probable etymology, πρὸς εἴλην κρίνειν , to judge by the light of the sun, denotes proved transparency, and so the purity of a heart perfectly sincere before God, to which all sympathy with evil is completely foreign. This pure crystal is the opposite of κακία , the corrupted nature.

The second term, truth, ἀλήθεια , denotes righteousness in its active form, inflexible firmness, constancy in maintaining all that is revealed to the conscience as good, and consequently in struggling against evil without making the smallest compromise; it is the opposite of πονηρία . Hofmann has taken up the unfortunate idea and he has been followed by Heinrici of explaining the charge of malice contained in this verse by the misunderstanding, to some extent voluntary, on the part of the Corinthians, which Paul now proceeds to rectify. The apostle does not condescend to such petty recriminations.

Must it be concluded from these verses that the apostle wrote this letter at the time of the Passover? The figures used do not, as we have seen, contain anything which does not admit of explanation independently of all connection with the actual celebration of the Passover. Yet it is certain, that if we hold this feast and the composition of our letter to have been simultaneous, the choice of the figures, which come on us somewhat abruptly, is more naturally explained. This induction is confirmed by 1 Corinthians 16:8: “I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.” And as Act 20:6 shows that St. Paul, as well as the Churches founded by him, observed the Passover and celebrated it at the same time as the Jews, we shall not assuredly be going beyond his thought if we find in the words, “Let us keep the feast,” an allusion to that which was being celebrated at the time in the Churches.

A second question often discussed is the following: May the words, “Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed,” be regarded as a testimony in favour of John's narrative, according to which Jesus died on the day (14th Nisan) when the Paschal lamb was sacrificed, and not, as it has been thought necessary to conclude from the synoptics, on the afternoon of the 15th Nisan? It seems to me that the name Paschal lamb, given to Jesus by St. Paul, does not depend in the least on the day or hour when He died. His relation to the Paschal lamb lies in the essence of things, and does not depend on a chronological coincidence. But there is one aspect in which Paul's words cannot be well understood, as it appears to me, except from that point of view which the narrative of John brings into light. The feast of unleavened bread began on the 14th in the evening, after the slaying of the lamb. Now this relation, which forms the basis of our passage, would be disturbed if Jesus, in Paul's view, did not die till the afternoon of the 15th, after the feast of unleavened bread had already lasted for a whole day.

After pointing out to the Church what it should have done, the apostle gives it to understand the reason why it has not done so: it is because the old leaven has regained the upper hand in its moral life, and that it requires to undergo a complete renovation. This said, the subject of discipline is finished; if Pauls adds a few more observations, it is to dissipate a misunderstanding arising from a passage of his on the subject in a letter which he had previously addressed to them.

Verses 9-10

Vv. 9, 10. “I wrote unto you in my epistle not to company with fornicators; 10. not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous and extortioners or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.”

Paul begins with recalling the terms of which he made use ( 1Co 5:9 ); then he sets aside the false sense which had been attached to them ( 1Co 5:10 ), and states his real judgment ( 1Co 5:11 ); finally, he justifies his judgment in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13. ᾿Εν τῇ ἐπιστολῇ , literally, in the Epistle, the one you know. It is vain for Chrysostom, Erasmus, Lange, to allege that Paul alludes to 1 Corinthians 5:2; 1Co 5:6-7 of this same chapter, or for Lardner to attempt to find here the announcement of what is about to follow, 1 Corinthians 5:10-13. It is easy to see that nothing in what precedes contained the direction given here, and that the ἔγραψα , I wrote, can only refer to the rectification of an idea which had been fathered on Paul, and which had been reported to him. A correspondence between Paul and the Church had certainly preceded our Epistle; comp. 1 Corinthians 7:1: “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me.” In 2 Corinthians 7:8, Paul refers, using the same expression, to a previous letter. Had there not been dogmatic reasons for denying the possibility of the loss of an apostolic document, this meaning would not have been contested.

The term to company (mingle) with, συναναμίγνυσθαι , strictly denotes living in an intimate and continuous relation with one, σύν emphasizing the intimacy, and ἀνά the repetition of the acts. Does the rupture demanded by the apostle refer to the conduct of Christians in private life, or to ecclesiastical communion? In any case, the Corinthians could not have thought of an ecclesiastical rupture with people with whom no ecclesiastical bond existed. Did they not apply Paul's regulation to sinners who were yet outside of the Church? We may see in 2Th 3:14 how the expression “not to company with” is synonymous with στέλλεσθαι ἀπό , to hold aloof from, of 1 Corinthians 5:6; and in that context the term certainly refers to private life. Finally, if the matter in question here were the ecclesiastical relation, the apostle would not have to say to believers, “Do not company with the vicious,” but, “Do not allow the vicious to company with you.” This precept of Paul's is parallel to that of John, Second Epistle, 1 Corinthians 5:10: “If any one bringeth not this teaching, receive him not into your house, and give him no greeting.”

Verse 10

Vv. 10. The καί , and, which begins this verse in the T. R., is too little supported to be authentic.

The words οὐ πάντως τοῖς πόρνοις naturally have the effect of an explanatory apposition added to the πόρνοις at the end of 1 Corinthians 5:9, in this sense: “When I spoke of fornicators in my letter, I did not thereby mean all the fornicators of this world in general.” After all attempts to explain this οὐ πάντως differently, it seems to me that this is the interpretation which holds good. Only, it logically implies that by the phrase, the fornicators of this world, Paul denotes, not only those who are without the Church, but those also who profess the gospel. It is the only way of explaining the οὐ πάντως , which is not the absolute negative, like πάντως οὐ , absolutely not, but, on the contrary, a restricted negative ( not absolutely, not entirely): I wrote to you to break with fornicators, not with fornicators in general, which would oblige you to go out of the world, but with those only who profess the gospel. This is the meaning adopted by Neander, Hofmann, and others. It is objected that the phrase, the fornicators of this world, must be exclusive of those of the Church. Why so? The idea is simply, “not generally with all the fornicators living with you in this world.” Such is evidently the meaning of the word world in the following sentence. Meyer has thought that it is to mark the difference between these two meanings given to the word world that Paul rejects the τούτου , this, in the following sentence. But it may also be to avoid an awkward and useless repetition. As to those who, like Meyer, de Wette, Edwards, hold that the fornicators of this world must here be necessarily contrasted with those of the Church, they are thrown into embarrassment by the οὐ πάντως , and they apply it solely to the limitation of relations with these fornicators: “I meant you not to have relations too complete ( πάντως ) with non-Christian fornicators,” which would authorize restricted relations, without which life in the world would be impossible. But this meaning is not natural; for what Paul here distinguishes is not the greater or less degree of intimacy in relations to impure heathen; he is contrasting with the relation to impure heathen, which he authorizes, the relation to impure Christians, which he forbids.

We do not take account here of the interpretations which separate οὐ from πάντως , connecting the former with the verb ἔγραψα , and the latter with the verb συναναμίγνυσθαι , a separation far from natural, nor of that of Rückert, who understands οὐ πάντως almost as if it were πάντως οὐ , absolutely not, though Paul knows perfectly the use and meaning of this form; comp. 1 Corinthians 16:12. However this may be, the view of the apostle remains substantially the same: the rupture which he demands is not applicable to the vicious in general, but only to those who lay claim to the name of Christians.

To libertinism Paul adds covetousness as to earthly goods, and that in the two forms of πλεονεξία , which, to have more, uses fraudulent and indelicate processes, like usury, and that of ἁρπαγή , injustice by violent means. These two words are connected, not by ἤ , or, but by καί , and, as two species of one and the same genus.

Idolaters, as such, would seem to be an impossibility in the Church; but there might be Corinthians who, after believing, had kept up habits of idolatry; and chap. 8 will show us that many of them could not bring themselves to give up the banquets to which they were invited in idol temples. These three vices, fornication, covetousness, idolatry, are related, as Estius and Edwards observe, the first to the individual himself, the second to his neighbours, the third to God.

It is evident that in a city like Corinth, to break off all connection with persons of these three categories would have been for a man to condemn himself to live as a hermit. This is probably what the Corinthians had retorted with a measure of irony; and so the apostle, no less than they, rejects an idea so absurd. The majority of the Mjj. read ὠφείλετε , ye would need, which gives a simple sense. T. R. with P and Chrysostom reads ὀφείλετε , ye need, a form which is also, though less easily, intelligible: “Since, if it is so, ye need...” Calvin, starting from this reading, has given the sentence a quite different meaning: “For ye need really to separate yourselves from the world (morally).” But the particle ἄρα , then, indicates, on the contrary, a consequence from what precedes.

And now Paul establishes his true thought.

Verse 11

Vv. 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.”

The words but now can only express a logical contrast. The νῦν contrasts Paul's true thought, which remains, with his thought as it was disfigured by the Corinthians, which is relegated to the past. The emphasis is on the words, who is called a brother; as Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 5:12, he has not to exercise discipline on those who do not profess the faith. But when a man, who parades the title of Christian, exhibits this profession side by side with vice, the Church is bound to protest against this lying union, and with this view, so far as depends on it, to break off all relations with such a man. This is the way to tear from him the mask with which he covers himself to the shame of the Church and of Christ Himself.

The six following terms have been grouped, either in threes (Meyer) or in three pairs (Hofmann), with more or less ingenuity. It seems to me that, as in the enumeration Rom 1:29 seq., we have here rather an unstudied accumulation than a classification, strictly so called. It may be said that in such cases disgust excludes order. To the four terms of 1Co 5:10 Paul adds two new ones: λοίδορος , a man who speaks rudely, who calumniates, and μέθυσος , the intemperate man.

We have already shown that the not to company with indicates the rupture of private relations. But should not the last words, with such a man, no, not to eat, be applied to the rupture of the ecclesiastical relation by his exclusion from worship and from the Holy Supper? The word μηδέ , nay, no more, not even, does not allow this explanation of συνεσθίειν , to eat with. For this act is thus characterized as a matter of less gravity, and Paul could never so speak of the Holy Supper. Among the ancients, for a man to receive any at his table was much more a sign of intimacy than in our day; and the apostle is unwilling that by the sign of so close a personal relation the idea should be authorized that the vicious man is acknowledged by other Christians as worthy of the name. Meyer, indeed, admits that the phrase, no, not to eat with..., can only refer to the believer's private table. But by an argument à fortiori, he concludes that it applies with still more certainty to the Holy Supper. Theodoret had already argued in the same way: “Not to eat, with stronger reason not to hold communion with him.” In such a matter it is dangerous to proceed by way of logical deduction. In arguing thus, account is not taken of this difference, that the table prepared in my house is my own, while the Holy Supper is the Lord's Table. I am therefore responsible for those whom I admit to the former, but not for those who appear at the latter. It appears from 1 Corinthians 11:28-29, that the Lord thinks good to leave each one liberty to eat and drink his condemnation at the holy table, and will not prevent him from doing so by external means. The parable of the tares already suggested such a course, the only one in keeping with God's regard for human liberty. The apostle justifies the distinction which he has just made between believers and unbelievers.

Verses 12-13

Vv. 12, 13. “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do ye not judge them that are within? 13. But them that are without, God judgeth. And put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”

The first question is the justification ( for) of 1 Corinthians 5:10: “We have not to judge unbelievers.” The second is the justification of 1 Corinthians 5:11: “But we have to judge believers.”

Our competency to exercise discipline does not extend further than the solidarity established by confession of the common faith. This general truth the apostle expresses in his own person ( μοί , mine), as is often done in stating moral maxims (1 Corinthians 6:12, for example); this form does not therefore assume, as has been sometimes thought, that the word κρίνειν , to judge, has here a particular meaning, applicable exclusively to the apostle; for example, that of laying down disciplinary rules: “The rules which I prescribe to you on this subject are not to be applied to those who are without.” This sense of κρίνειν is inadmissible. In any case, had it been the part which he had to take personally on which Paul wished to lay stress, he would not have used the enclitic form ( μοι ), but the full form ( ἐμοί ). He speaks of himself, not as an apostle, but as a Christian; and what he says applies consequently to every Christian. Every Christian has individually the mission to exercise the judgment of which he speaks in 1 Corinthians 5:11. We have already pointed out the profound analogy which prevails between this chapter and the disciplinary direction given to the apostles by the Lord ( Mat 18:15-20 ). We find in the latter (in Mat 5:17 ) the same use of the singular pronoun, which strikes us here in the language of the apostle; only the pronoun is in the second person, because it is Jesus who is addressing the believer: “Let him be to thee as a heathen and publican.” It is therefore every believer who is bound freely at his own hand to pronounce this rupture of relations with the unbelieving brother which Paul prescribes to the Church in general. For if it is in itself the duty of all, it cannot be other in point of fact than a completely individual act.

T. R. with 3 Mjj. reads: “What have I to do to judge those also ( καί ) that are without?” This καί may, after all, be authentic: “The competency which I have in regard to my brethren, should I not also extend to others?” The Jews called the heathen chitsonim, those without (Lightfoot, Hor. hebr., p. 6). The apostle borrows the name from them to designate, not only the heathen, but the Jews themselves; comp. the analogous term used by Jesus, Mark 4:11. In all the synagogues dispersed throughout heathen countries careful watch was kept over the respectability of the members of the community. Should the Church in this point remain behind the synagogue?

The term judge can only be explained in the context by what precedes. It can only therefore refer to the means which have just been indicated, viz. private rupture.

The second question (1 Corinthians 5:12 b) is in the same relation to 1Co 5:11 as the first (1 Corinthians 5:12 a) to 1 Corinthians 5:10. “I have not the task of judging them that are without; but have not you that of judging them that are within, the vicious among believers, and that in name of the faith which they profess along with you?” We are called to remark the emphasis put on the word ὑμεῖς , ye, in opposition to θεός , God, the subject of the following proposition.

Verse 13

Vv. 13 justifies by a remark, and moreover by a Scriptural quotation, the distinction laid down in 1 Corinthians 5:12. There are two domains, each subject to a different jurisdiction: the Christian judges the Christian; the man of the world is judged by God. It is needless to say that this contrast is only relative. The unfaithful Christian is also judged by God ( 1Co 11:30-32 ); but he has at the same time to do with another judge, the Christian community to which he belongs; while the non-Christian can sin without being subjected to any judgment of the latter kind. It seems at the first glance as if this saying were in contradiction to that of our Lord: “Judge not....Why seest thou the mote in thy brother's eye?” ( Mat 7:1-3 ). But when Jesus speaks thus, the judgment which He would exclude is that of secret malevolence, which condemns precipitately, on simple presumptions, or putting a malignant construction on motives. St. Paul is equally averse to such judging, 1 Corinthians 13:7. The judgment he lays on the Christian as a duty is that of charity, which, in view of notorious facts, seeks the best means to bring a brother back to himself who is self-deceived as to his spiritual state, and to save him ( 1Co 5:5 ). The former of these judgments is accompanied with a haughty joy, the other is an act of self-humiliation and mourning ( 1Co 5:2 ). The first proposition of 1Co 5:13 might be made the continuation of the second question of 1 Corinthians 5:12: “Do not ye judge...and does not God judge?” But the affirmative meaning seems simpler.

The verb κρινει might be a future ( κρινεῖ ): “God shall judge; ” the words would then refer to the last judgment. But, after the presents κρίνειν , κρίνετε , the verb is rather a present ( κρίνει ), the present of the idea and competency: “It is God who is their Judge.”

The final proposition, containing a Scripture quotation, is usually separated from what immediately precedes, to form, as it were, a last peremptory order summing up the whole chapter. It is clear that in this sense the καί , and (before the imperative ἐξάρατε or the future ἐξαρεῖτε ), is out of place. It is omitted therefore in the Alex. and Greco-Latin readings, which evidently proceed on this interpretation. But what is overlooked in adopting this sense is the close connection established by the last words: ἐξ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν , from among yourselves, with what immediately precedes (1 Corinthians 5:12-13 a): “Thou shalt take away the wicked, not from human society, as if thou hadst to judge also them that are without, but from the midst of thyself, from those that are within.” Such then is the Scriptural justification of the distinction laid down by Paul, 1 Corinthians 5:10-13 a, between the judgment of those without and of those within. As Israel was bound to cut off the malefactor, not from heathen nations, but from its own midst, so with the Church. From this point of view we cannot but adopt the καί , and, of the T. R. and of the Byzantines, to which must be added the support of the Peschito, a support by no means to be despised, notwithstanding all that Westcott and Hort say: “ And finally, you remember the Bible rule...!” This is the final proof.

The same reason which led to the suppression of the καί , and, no doubt led also to the change of the future ἐξαρεῖτε , ye shall take away, into the aor. imperative ἐξάρατε , take away! Once this last word was held to be the summary of the chapter, it is evident the imperative alone was suitable. If, on the contrary, the explanation here proposed is the true one, the future ought to be preserved, as giving more literally the formula quoted; comp. Deuteronomy 17:7-12; Deuteronomy 22:21; Deuteronomy 24:7. It has been suspected that the reading ἐξαρεῖτε , ye shall take away, was borrowed from these passages; but the text of the LXX. has in all these sentences the sing. ἐξαρεῖς , thou shalt take away. Why should the Byzantine copyists have transformed it into a plural?

The term take away, like that of judge ( 1Co 5:12 ), should be determined by what precedes. The means of execution, of which the apostle is thinking, can only be the two indicated by himself, that of mourning, 1 Corinthians 5:2, which appeals to the intervention of God (with or without the παραδιδόναι ), and that of the personal rupture, indicated 1 Corinthians 5:11, which plunges the sinner into isolation. Such are the weapons of Christian discipline, which correspond to Israelitish stoning; Paul knows no others, when once the first warnings have failed. The very act of delivering to Satan, which he does as an apostle, not without the co-operation of the Church, is not essentially different from the judgment which it should itself have carried out according to 1 Corinthians 5:2.

Rückert, who always takes a very close grip of questions, does not think that the term τὸν πονηρόν , the wicked, can possibly designate any other than the incestuous person. These last words would thus be the summary of chap. 5: “Exclude that guilty one!” But then, how explain the two passages, 1 Corinthians 5:6-13 a, which seem to deviate from the subject properly so called? The first, according to him, is intended to prove the necessity of the exclusion; the second, its possibility; then, lastly, would come the final order, as an abrupt conclusion. This is able, but inadmissible. The passage 1Co 5:6-8 has a wholly different meaning, as we have seen. The passage 1Co 5:9-13 is introduced, not by a logical connection, but by an accidental circumstance, the misunderstanding on the part of the Corinthians. The τὸν πονηρόν , the wicked, does not therefore refer in the least to the incestuous man personally, but, as in the precepts of Deuteronomy, to the whole category of the vicious who are within. Paul does not return to the case of the incestuous man, but continues to treat the general subject of discipline to which he had passed from 1 Corinthians 5:6.

Ecclesiastical Discipline.

Let us briefly study the few passages of the New Testament which bear on this subject.

Matthew 5:22. Jesus here distinguishes three judicial stages: the judgment ( κρίσις ), the Sanhedrim, and the Gehenna of fire. These phrases are borrowed from the Israelitish order of things, in which they denote the district tribunal, the superior court, and, finally, the immediate judgment of God. If we apply these terms to the new surroundings which are formed about Jesus, and regard the first as brotherly admonition, the second as that of the heads of the future community of which the little existing flock is the germ, the third as God's judgment falling on the incorrigible sinner, we shall have a gradation of punishments corresponding, on the one hand, to the received Israelitish forms, and, on the other, to the passages of the New Testament, including that which we are explaining.

Matthew 18:15-20. Here is the fullest passage. Jesus begins with admonition; there are three degrees of it: 1. personal, as it is a private offence which is in question, the offended man takes the initiative; then 2. it takes a graver character by the addition of two witnesses; 3. it is the whole assembly together which admonishes the culprit. In the second place, admonition is followed by judgment; the dealing of the Church having failed, the offended person and every member of the congregation regard the brother, now recognised to be guilty, as a heathen or publican, which, in Jewish language, signifies that they break off all personal connection with him. Finally, the Church does not yet abandon the guilty man; it prays that he may repent, or, if not, that God may punish him visibly. Two or three brethren are sufficient to carry out this appeal to God effectually. The last stage, final perdition, is not here mentioned by Jesus; but it had been indicated by Him in the saying Matthew 5:0.

2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15. The first stage, that of warning, is here satisfied by the apostle's own letters; comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 1Th 4:2 and 1 Thessalonians 3:6-12. The second stage, that of judgment, begins at 1 Thessalonians 5:14. It is the σημείωσις , the public declaration, probably a communication from the rulers of the flock regarding what has taken place, and the invitation to the congregation to break off private relations with the culprit, without however ceasing to love him, and to act accordingly by praying for him and seeking to bring him back. The apostle stops here, like Jesus, in the second passage of Matthew.

Revelation 2:19-22. A false prophetess, whom the bishop has not checked, is to be punished by a disease sent by the Lord. This threat corresponds to the judgment whereby Paul gives over the incestuous person to Satan; and John's position in delivering this message is not without analogy to Paul's in our chapter. With this punishment coming directly from the Lord might be compared the punishment drawn down by profane communions, of which mention is made in chap. 11 of our Epistle. But we would not anticipate the explanation of the passage.

It is clear that the means of excommunication cannot be supported by any passage of the New Testament, but that the Church is not for all that defenceless against the scandals which arise within it. After admonitions, if they are useless, it has two arms: 1st. humiliation, with prayer to God to Acts , 2 nd. private rupture. The use of these means depends on individual believers, and may dispense with all decision by way of a numerical majority. And how much ought we to admire the Lord's wisdom, who took care not to confide the exercise of discipline to such uncertain hands as those of the half plus one of the members of the Church. To be convinced of this, it is enough to cast our eyes on the use which the Church has made of excommunication. There is not on the earth at this hour a Christian who is not excommunicated: Protestants are so by the Roman Church; the Roman Church by the Greek Church, and vice versa; the Reformed by the Lutherans, who refuse to admit them to their Holy Supper; the Darbyites by one another. Is there not then enough here to cure the Church of the use of this means? “The weapons of our warfare,” says St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 10:4, “are not carnal, but are powerful by God.” It is certainly probable that the incestuous member of the Corinthian Church, visited with judgment from above, and abandoned for the time by all his brethren, did not present himself at the love-feast and the Holy Supper. And even at this hour it is hard to believe that a scandalous sinner, with whom the most of his brethren have broken, and for whom they besiege the throne of God, would have the audacity to present himself with them at the holy table; but if he chooses, he should have it in his power as Judas had. If the Church lives, the Lord will show that He also is living. Excommunication may have been a measure pedagogically useful at a time when the whole Church was under a system of legality. Now the Church has recovered consciousness of its spirituality; ought not its mode of discipline to follow this impulse, and return to the order of primitive spiritual discipline?

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Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 5". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gsc/1-corinthians-5.html.