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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 5

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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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.

As a puffed-up spirit caused their strifes, Paul humbles them by convicting them of sin. The best community may have an individual offender; but its duty is to punish such a one. In this the Corinthians had failed.

Commonly, [ holoos (G3654)] - rather, 'with all your self-satisfaction, it is actually, or after all, reported,' etc. The Greek word is adversative to a negative sentence understood or expressed. 'There ought to be no fornication at all; but nevertheless, it absolutely is reported.' So I must come invested "with a rod" (1 Corinthians 3:21).

It is reported. The Corinthians, though they "wrote" (1 Corinthians 7:1) on other points, gave Paul no information on those which bore against themselves. These matters reached the apostle indirectly (1 Corinthians 1:11).

So much as named. So 'Aleph ('). But A B Delta G f g, Vulgate, Lucifer, omit "named." 'Fornication so gross as (escapes reprobation) not even among the pagan, so that one (of you) hath (in concubinage; not marriage, as Alford thinks) his father's wife' - i:e., his stepmother, while his father is still alive (as Reuben, Genesis 35:22; Leviticus 18:8). She was a pagan, for which reason he does not direct his rebuke against her (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:12-13). Neither Christian nor Gentile law would have sanctioned such a marriage, however Corinth's profligacy might wink at the concubinage.

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.

Puffed up - with your own wisdom and the eloquence of your favourite teachers, when ye ought to be 'mourning' at the scandal to religion by the incest. Paul mourned because they did not mourn and repent, but were "puffed up" (1 Corinthians 4:19; Jeremiah 13:17; 2 Corinthians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 12:21).

That - ye have not so mourned as to lead to the result that, etc.

Taken away from among you - by excommunication. The incestuous person was brought to repentance, in the interval between the first and second letters (2 Corinthians 2:5-10). Excommunication in the Church corresponded to that in the Synagogue, there being a lighter and heavier form-the latter an utter separation from church-fellowship, the former exclusion from the Lord's supper only, but not from church.

Verse 3

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,

For I. Are YE not grieved? for I for my part have decided.

As absent. So 'Aleph (') G f g. But A B C Delta, Vulgate, read 'being absent.'

Present in spirit (2 Kings 5:26; Colossians 2:5).

So done - rather, 'perpetrated,' as the Greek [ katergasamenon (G2716)] is stronger than that for 'done" in 1 Corinthians 5:2. "So" - i:e., so scandalously, while called a brother.

Verse 4

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ - i:e., invested with His authority, as His earthly representative (2 Corinthians 2:10, end). John this with 'when ye have been gathered together, and my spirit' (wherewith I am "present" as president of your synod, though "absent in body," 1 Corinthians 5:3). Paul, speaking of himself, says, "spirit;" of Christ, "power." Christ's presence is promised to His Church "gathered together in His name" (Matthew 18:18-20). Christ's "power" will ratify their sentence (John 20:23; Matthew 18:18): so join "with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan." Their decree was passed according to Paul's judgment (1 Corinthians 5:3) as presiding in spirit (2 Corinthians 13:3-10). Infallible judgment was limited to the apostles: for they alone could work miracles as credentials to attest it. Their successors, to establish their claim to it, must produce miracles (2 Corinthians 12:12). Even the apostles in ordinary cases, where not specially inspired, were fallible (Acts 8:13; Acts 8:23; Galatians 2:11-14). There degrees of excommunication are mentioned in the Talmud-nidduy (exclusion from eating with others, etc., for thirty days), cherem (anathema for ninety days), shamata (perpetual exclusion).

Verse 5

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.

Besides excommunication (which the Corinthians had the power of), Paul delegates here to them his power as an inspired apostle, of inflicting corporeal disease or death in punishment for sin ("to deliver [ paradounai (G3860), temporarily; not ekdounai (G3860), to give up utterly] unto Satan such an one" - i:e., so heinous a sinner). See instances, Acts 5:1-11; Acts 13:11; 1 Timothy 1:20. As Satan receives power to try the godly, as Job (Job 2:4-7), Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7), and Peter (Luke 22:31), much more the ungodly. Satan, the "accuser of the brethren" (Revelation 12:10), the "adversary" (1 Peter 5:8), demands the sinner's punishment for sin (Zechariah 3:1; Luke 13:16). God lets Satan have his way at times (cf. Psalms 109:6). Here it is not finally, but for the affliction of the body (1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 Corinthians 11:32), so as to destroy fleshly lust (Matthew 5:29). He does not say, 'for the destruction of the body,' for it shall share in redemption (Romans 8:23); but of the corrupt "flesh," which "cannot inherit the kingdom of God," and the lusts of which prompted this offender to incest (Romans 7:5; Romans 8:9-10; Romans 8:13). The "destruction of the flesh" answers to "mortify the deeds of the body," only that this is done by one's self, that by chastisement from God (cf. 1 Peter 4:2; 1 Peter 4:6).

The spirit may be saved - the spiritual part, in believer the organ of the Holy Spirit, involving the salvation of the body too. Temporary affliction often leads to permanent salvation (Psalms 83:16). Satan in God's hand becomes, in spite of himself, an instructor of believers.

Verse 6

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

Your glorying in your attachments and your teachers (1 Corinthians 3:21), while all the while ye connive at such a scandal, is quite unseemly.

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump (Galatians 5:9) - one bad member infects the whole church. Little thieves let in greater ones. With present complicity in the guilt, and danger of future contagion (1 Corinthians 15:33; 2 Timothy 2:17).

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:

Old leaven - the remnant of the "old" (Ephesians 4:22-24) paganish and natural corruption. The Jews used extreme care in searching their houses, and 'purging out' every particle of leaven at the Passover (Deuteronomy 16:3-4). So Christians are continually to search and purify their hearts (Psalms 139:23-24).

As ye are unleavened - in relation to your Christian calling, free from the leaven of sin (1 Corinthians 6:11). Paul often grounds exhortations on the assumption of Christian professors realizing their high calling (Romans 6:3-4). Regarding the Church as the Passover 'unleavened lump,' he entreats them to correspond in fact with the Christian normal state. 'For Christ our Passover (Exodus 12:1-51; John 1:29) was once for all (aorist: English version, "is") sacrificed.' The feast of unleavened bread followed the slaying of the lamb: so Christ having been once for all sacrificed, the feast is now going on, in which let there be no leaven of evil left unpurged from among you, the 'unleavened lump.' He alludes to the Passover two or three weeks before kept by the Jewish Christians (1 Corinthians 16:8). The Jewish Passover naturally gave place to our Christian Easter. The time, however, of keeping feast (of which the Lord's supper is representative) - i:e., leading the Christian life of joy in Christ's finished work (cf. Proverbs 15:15) - is not limited, as the Passover, to one season, but is ALL our time: for the benefits of the once-for-all completed sacrifice of our Lamb extends through all this Christian dispensation: in no part of our time is the leaven of evil to be admitted.

For us. So 'Aleph ('). But A B Delta G f g, Vulgate, omit.

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.

Not ... old leaven - of our unconverted state.

Malice - the opposite of "sincerity," which allows no leaven of evil to be mixed up with good (Matthew 16:6).

Wickedness - the opposite of "truth," which allows not evil to be mistaken for good. "Malice" [ kakia (G2549)] means the evil habit of mind; "wickedness" [ poneeria (G4189)] its outcoming in word and deed. "Sincerity" [ eilikrineia (G1505)] expresses literally a thing which, examined by sunlight, is found unadulterated.

Verse 9

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

I wrote unto you in an letter - Greek, 'in THE letter:' a former one not now extant. That Paul does not refer to the present letter is clear, as no direction 'not to company with fornicators' occurs in the previous part; also the words, 'in the letter,' could not have been added if he meant, 'I have just written' (2 Corinthians 10:10). 'His letters' (plural) confirm this. 2 Corinthians 7:8 uses the same phrase, in referring to our first letter, as here is used in referring to a former one. It probably was a brief reply to inquiries of the Corinthians: our first letter, as it enters more fully into the same subject, has superseded the former, which the Holy Spirit did not design for the Church in general. See my 'Introduction.'

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. Limitation of the prohibition, alluded to in 1 Corinthians 5:9. As in dissolute Corinth to 'company with no fornicators,' etc., would be almost to company with none in the (unbelieving) world, ye need not 'altogether' forego contact (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:27). As "fornicators" sin against themselves, so "extortioners" against their neighbours, and "idolaters" against God. The attempt to get "out of the world," in violation of God's will (John 17:15), led to monasticism and its evils.

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 - "now," not time; but, 'the case being so'-namely, that 'to avoid fornicators,' etc., of the world, you would have to leave it altogether. So "now" Hebrews 11:16. Thus we avoid making the apostle now retract what he had before commanded.

I have written - i:e., my meaning in what I wrote was, etc.

A brother - contrasted with a 'fornicator, etc., of the world' (1 Corinthians 5:10). There is less danger in associating with open worldlings than with carnal professors. Here, as in Ephesians 5:3; Ephesians 5:5, "covetousness" is joined with "fornication," the common fount of both being 'the fierce longing of the creature, which has turned from God, to fill itself with inferior objects of sense' (Trench). Hence, idolatry and lust go together; and the covetous man is termed an "idolater" (Numbers 25:1-2). The Corinthians were not open idolaters, but ate things offered to idols, making a compromise with the pagan; so they connived at fornication, (1 Corinthians 8:4, etc.) Compare, similarly, fornication combined with idolatrous compromise, after the pattern of Israel (Revelation 2:14).

No not to eat - at the same table; whether at the love feasts ( agapai (G26)) or in private, much more at the Lord's table. Too often the guests 'are not as children in one family, but like a heterogeneous crowd at an inn' (Bengel) (cf. 2 John 1:10:11 ).

Verse 12

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

For. 'Ye might have known my meaning so; FOR,' etc.

What have I to do. My concern is not with unbelievers outside, I referred to those within the Church.

Also. Those within give me enough to do without those outside also.

Do not ye ... - ought ye not to judge them that are within? God shall judge them that are without. By your Do not ye ... - ought ye not to judge them that are within? God shall judge them that are without. By your judging them within, as I do, you will save them from His condemning judgment.

Verse 13

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

God judgeth. - g, Vulgate, read 'will judge.' God is the Judge of the pagan, not we (Romans 2:12-16). Paul prepares the way for the censure of their going to law with saints before pagan tribunals, instead of judging such cases themselves (1 Corinthians 6:1-8).

Therefore. So 'Aleph ('). But A B C Delta G f g, Vulgate, omit it.

Put away ... that wicked - sentence of excommunication, from Deuteronomy 24:7.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/1-corinthians-5.html. 1871-8.
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