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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 5

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-5

[A case of incest stated.—Call for Excommunication.—Its form and intent]

1 Corinthians 5:1-5

1It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named [is not even1] among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. 2And ye are puffed up, [?] and have not [did not] rather mourned, [mourn], that he that hath done2 this deed might he taken away [om. away3] from among you [?]. 3For I verily, as4 absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning [om. concerning] him that hath so done3 this deed, 4In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ [om. Christ5], when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, [om. Christ5]. 5To deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.6


Paul here turns to a second topic for animadversion, and what follows might well serve to take down still further the self-conceit of the Corinthians. [“This, practically speaking, forms the crisis of the whole Epistle. It is, as it were, the burst of the storm, the mutterings of which, as Chrysostom observes, had already been heard in the earlier chapters, and of which the echoes are still discernible, not only in this Epistle, but also in the second Epistle, the first half of which is nothing less than an endeavor to allay the excitement and confusion created by this severe remonstrance.” Stanley]. The passage is introduced abruptly without any conjunctive particle.

1 Corinthians 5:1. States the specific ground of complaint.—Commonly ὅλως: not indeed, nor, at all, as it can mean only in negative clauses; [nor “absolutely, as simply adding force to the assertion.” Stanley; nor, in short (Clericus), which Ols. says is the only second meaning that can be justified]; but, as in 1Co 6:7; 1 Corinthians 15:29 : Matthew 5:34, in general. It belongs not to πορνε ία, fornication, but as an adverb to ακούεαι, is heard, and so to the whole clause. [“It implies, however, the general prevalence of the practice spoken of.” Olshausen. So Meyer, de Wette; and Hodge allows it. “The signification, certainly, implying that the matter was no doubtful rumor, but an evident fact (as Calvin, Beza and others), is contrary to the meaning of the word.” Meyer]—there is heard among you, ακούεται ἐνὑμῖν.—By this it is not simply meant, that there was some talk of the subject mentioned in their circles generally, but that the thing, of which the talk was, prevailed there; although this is only to be inferred from the context, and is not directly expressed. (It would then mean: ἐν ὑμῖν οὖσα εἶναι; the former, in case it was a correct report; the latter, if it were only a vague rumor). [The names of the informants are not specified, as in the former instance. It was a case of public rumor, and the sin so notorious as to need no vouchers. See Words.].—fornication, πορνεία.—[“The word is used in a comprehensive sense, including all violations of the seventh commandment.” Hodge]. Of these one in particular was singled out, of the grossest and most astounding sort, viz., of incest. This is introduced byκαί, which points to something special under a general head, and brings it in as a climax,—and indeed, or yea even,—with the repetition of the general term for the sake of emphasis,—such fornification, as not even among the Gentiles.—The ellipsis might be filled up most readily by: ‘is heard,’ or simply by: ‘is.’ [The Rec. text has ‘is named,’ which Alf. calls “a clumsy gloss taken from Ephesians 5:3.”] Paul here sets forth the unparalleled nature of the crime he was about to speak of, and the greatness of the disgrace which thereby fell upon the Christian Church—‘a holy people.’—That one has his father’s wife, i.e., his step-mother (μητρυιά)—comp. Leviticus 18:7-8—and this either as wife, or concubine. The word ἔχειν, to have, is used of both relations, as is seen by such passages as 1 Corinthians 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:29; Matthew 14:4; Matthew 22:28; John 4:18. In this case it most probably stands for an illegitimate concubinal relation (comp. Osiander), which was also a ‘having,’ inasmuch as it was a habitual thing, as well as an act consummated (πράξας: having done, 1 Corinthians 5:2; and κατεργασάμενος: having perpetrated, 1 Corinthians 5:3).7 By the expression—‘his father’s wife,’ the wicked violation of the relation sustained to the father, is brought out more conspiculously than if he said simply ‘step-mother.’ The father, moreover, is to be considered as still living, (against Besser), and as a Christian. See 2 Corinthians 7:12, where the father is spoken of as one ‘that had suffered wrong’ (ἀδικηθείς), and where Paul says ‘he did not write on his account.’ The son, at all events, must have been a member of the church; the woman, however, not, since he, and not she, is made the subject of censure. Further questions, e. g., as to whether the man was a proselyte, and had proceeded on the Jewish maxim, that a person who had become “a new creature,” had severed himself from all former connections, and was at liberty to enter into new relations otherwise forbidden? may be suffered to rest. In speaking of the crime here mentioned as something not existing among the Gentiles, Paul does not mean to say that it never occurred in their history. Cases of this sort are indeed recorded, and tragedies have been founded upon them; but they are always spoken of as rare exceptions, that excited the utmost public horror. Cicero pro Cluentio: “Scelus incredibile, et præter hanc unam in omni vita inauditum.” (comp. Wetstein and others on this passage).

1 Corinthians 5:2. Expressions of astonishment at their conduct in view of the above fact.—And ye are puffed up?—[This and the following clause should be read as questions. So Calvin, Meyer, Alf., Words., et al.]. The ὑμεῖς, ye is emphatic, and points back to ἐν ὑμῖν, among you, q. d. ‘such a thing has occurred among you, and you are, etc. Questions of this sort are often introduced by καί, and, which here does not take the emphasis as though equivalent to: ‘and yet,’ but throws it forward on the word following. The assertion that they were puffed up, refers, not to 1 Corinthians 4:18, where this is affirmed only of some, but to 1 Corinthians 4:8, where he describes the whole Church as filled with the conceit of their spiritual perfection. A great mistake it would be to suppose (with Chrys., Theod., Grot.) that the incestuous person himself was the subject of their pride, on the ground that he was some distinguished teacher among them; or that Paul here alludes to the boasting of other parties over that to which the incestuous belonged.—The proper state of feeling which they ought to have manifested, is expressed in the negative question.—And did not—when ye first knew of the crime—rather mourni.e. mourn, that a member of theirbody had sunk so low, and the Church of the Lord, which ought to have been kept holy, had been thus defiled and dishonored. (The Aorist ἐπενθήσατε indicates the act, expressed by the present, as past and finished, as in ἐπιστεύσατε 1 Corinthians 3:5). This mourning, which has its source in a lively sense of the common interest which all have in what affects all, implied also a combined and energetic movement for the removal of the evil deplored,—in order that he who had done this deed might be removed from among you? ἵναἀρθῇ.—The ἵνα here is not ecbatic, but retains its proper telic force, “unto the end that he,” etc. The removal pointed to, must not be regarded as implying any Divine visitation, a cutting off by death for example, or the like; since it is clear from 1 Corinthians 5:13, that he only contemplated the excommunication of the guilty party by an act of the Church itself—an act to which their sorrow should have prompted them. Bengel says: “Ye had no sorrow to stir you up for the removal,” etc. The manner in which the party under censure is designated, carries force: “he that hath done this deed”—έ̔ργον, facinus, this wicked deed.

1 Corinthians 5:3-5. That such sorrow, leading to such results, should have prevailed in the Church, he confirms by stating the decision, which he, on his part, had reached in the case. [“There is something in the involved structure of this sentence, which gives a strong impression of the emotion, anguish, and indignation with which it was written, and which vented itself in broken and disturbed periods, as it were per singultus.”—Words].—For I, for my part, ἐγὼμ ἒν.—The μὲν puts Paul in strong contrast with the Corinthians, who were so indifferent and remiss in the case. If we are to retainὡςof, as, it must be regarded as embracing in its force the two following participles, and belonging especially to the latter, ‘though absent in body, yet as present in spirit.’ This then reappears in the next clause without any qualifying term, and as carrying the emphasis: κέκρικα ὡς παρών. The same contrast occurs in Colossians 2:5 : “For though I am absent from you in the flesh, yet in spirit I am present with you.” [Meyer, Words., Alf. omit the ὡς, as unauthorized. The sense is clearer without it—‘for I being absent in body, yet present in spirit.’ The participles state the facts in the case, and require no as implying similitude. This appears only in the next clause, where it properly belongs].—Absent in body, yet present in the spirit.—By ‘in the spirit’ we are not to understand the Holy Ghost (as Chrys. and others), but his own spirit, as contrasted with his body. Yet the spirit of the Apostle must not be thought of apart from the Divine illumination and energy which he enjoyed, and by means of which, even in his absence, he looked into and influenced the state of the Corinthian Church; although the τὸ πνεῦμα, the spirit designates even his spiritual nature in contrast with his physical. A similar case occurs in 2 Kings 5:26, where Elisha says to Gehazi: “Went not my spirit with thee ?”—have already judged, ή̓δηκέκρικα.—(comp. on 1 Corinthians 2:2). “Already,”—this energetic and prompt conduct on the part of an absent person forms a contrast all the more striking with the slackness of those among whom the shameful scandal had occurred,—as present,—[Not, in spirit, for he was there already in spirit, but in body; ‘as though he were visibly among them to control and direct in the matter.’ So Meyer, Alf., Hodge].

[As the words which follow are brought under discussion as to their grammatical construction, it seems best, for the sake of perspicuity, to give them in full and translate them as they stand:—τὸν ὅυτω τοῦτο κατεργασάμενον ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ κνρίου ἡμῶν ’Ιησοῦ συναχθέντων ὑμῶν καὶ τοῦ ἐμοῦ πνεύματος σὺν τῆ δυνάμει τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν ’Ιησοῦ παραδοῦναι τὸν τοιοῦτον τῷ σατανᾷ. lit,—him so having perpetrated this thing, in the name of our Lord Jesus being gathered together, you and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, to give such a one to Satan.—The first question is as to the proper connection of the first clause here: “him having perpetrated this thing.” In the E. V. this is taken as governed by some preposition understood, e. g., κατα, concerning—so Words. Others (Stanley) construe it as the direct object of the verb κέκρικα, judge]. In this case the sentence would read: ‘I have judged or passed sentence on him who has,’ etc. The best way, however, would be to regard it as the object of παραδοῦναι in 1 Corinthians 5:5, so that the τὸν τοιοῦτον, such a one, would then be merely the resumption of the same object under another form. [We should then translate, putting a colon after κέκρικα, ‘I have judged, that the person who has perpetrated this thing, ye in the name of the Lord Jesus, etc., do deliver such a one,’ etc.]. The reason for putting this objective clause first is to give it the emphasis, as bringing the guilty party more prominently in front. And the word ‘so’ is inserted for the sake of intensifying the enormity of the guilt incurred; and it points to certain aggravating circumstances well known to his readers,—“So shamefully, while called a brother.”—Bengel. We might also (with Osiander) here take in view both, the man’s shamlessness in perpetrating his crime and his utter disregard of his Christian obligations. The next question is about the proper connection of the subordinate clauses. These may be combined in four different ways. Either they may all be united with the principal verb παραδοῦναι, to deliver [Mosheim, Schrader and others], to which Bengel and others also join ὡς παρών, as present; or with the participial clause συναχθέντων, being assembled [Chrys., Theoph, Calvin]; or they may be connected partly with this and partly with the other, so that either ἐν τῷ ὀνόμ, in the name, etc., shall be joined to συναχθέντων, being assembled, and σὺν τῇ δυνάμει, with the power, to παραδοῦναι, to deliver [so Beza, Calov., Billr., Olsh.]; or precisely the reverse [Luther, Bengel, de Wette, Meyer, Alf., Hodge]. The last method seems the most suitable, viz: to unite the clause, “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (which stands first by way of emphasis, and which otherwise the analogy of Matthew 18:20 would lead us to join with the participle, ‘being assembled’) with the main verb, as expressing the ground of the chief transaction, so that the act spoken of shall appear to rest on Jesus, the acknowledged Head of the Church, and upon His authority, and so pass for His act. (Com. 2 Thessalonians 3:6; Acts 3:6-16; and respecting the word ‘name,’ 1 Corinthians 1:2). As for the clause, “with the power of the Lord Jesus,” the very position of it makes it probable that this is to be connected with the participle, ‘being assembled’ and its adjuncts, since otherwise this participle would, in a most remarkable manner, be made to separate the more strictly qualifying terms of the main sentence. Besides it must be said that the phrase, “in the name of our Lord Jesus,” better serves to qualify the act of ‘delivering over to Satan,’ and includes also the force of the other phrase, “with the power of our Lord,” letting alone the fact, that in this way we avoid the accumulation of qualifying terms for the main verb (as well as for the participial clause, if both should be joined to this). Nevertheless, it is not to be overlooked that the phrase, “with the power of our Lord,” also serves to qualify the act of “delivering over;” yet not directly, but only as a component part of the clause where it occurs. The entire parenthesis will then mean, that the whole case should be decided in an assembly of the Church,8 where he would also be present in spirit;9 and that in this gathering they would, moreover, be accompanied by the power of the Lord Jesus for their assistance, (Σύν, with, designates association, where, however, the co-worker is not a simple instrumentality in the hand of the other; and δύναμις, power, denotes not merely: ‘disposing influence,’ as Meyer supposes, but: force, might, capability).10

But what are we to understand by ‘the delivering of such a one to Satan?’ That by this phrase excommunication is intended, is evident from 1 Corinthians 5:2 (“that he might be taken away from among you.”) and from 1 Corinthians 5:13 (“Wherefore put away, etc.). But that this is all the expression involves, is improbable from the fact that it is not elsewhere used in this sense. We meet it again only in 1 Timothy 1:20, where it appears, as here, to imply something more. Rather it would seem to convey the additional thought that those, who were ejected from the Church of God—a realm which, as such, is exempt from the dominion of Satan,—were given over again into Satan’s power, and unto his destructive influences; and that hence a certain control over these persons is granted him, viz., in so far as it may please the Lord, who ordains this lot for them through His Church and through the Apostolic office (Meyer). [But the question is, whether this was a miraculous subjection to the power of Satan, such as involved special evils and could be effected only by Apostolic authority, and so was peculiar to that age alone; or, whether it had regard to Satan only as the common source of the manifold miseries by Which men are scourged, and as the unwilling instrument of a Divine discipline over God’s children universally, and hence was something possible for all time, and takes place whenever a man is given over to suffer the bitter consequences of his vices, uncheered by the grace of God’s kingdom? The former is the view which has prevailed in the Romish Church from the earliest times, and it was much used to enhance the terrors of priestly excommunication and justify the deliverance of ecclesiastical offenders into the hands of secular authorities for punishment. It is still advocated by many Protestant commentators, among whom are Meyer, Alford, Barnes, Hodge. The latter thus sums up the reasons in its support: 1. “It is clearly revealed in Scripture that bodily evils are often inflicted by the agency of Satan. 2. The Apostles were invested with the power of miraculously inflicting such evils, Acts 5:1-11; Acts 13:9-11; 2 Corinthians 10:8; 2 Corinthians 13:10. 2 Corinthians 13:3. In 1 Timothy 1:20 the same formula occurs probably in the same sense. 4. There is no evidence that the Jews of that age ever expressed excommunication by this phrase, and therefore it would not, in all probability, be understood by Pauls readers in that sense. 5. Excommunication would not have the effect of destroying the flesh, in the sense in which that expression is used in the following clause. ”The consequence of this view is to exhibit the act under consideration as one done solely by Apostolic authority and power, and therefore as an exceptional case of discipline, which can afford no precedent for after times. The opposite view is the one maintained by Calvin, Beza, Turretin, Owen, Poole, and many others. They regard the formula, ‘to deliver a person to Satan,’ only as a more solemn mode of stating the fact of excommunication as expressed by our Lord in Matthew 18:17,—one designed to exhibit more vividly the sad condition of him who has been cast out from the kingdom of God and so consigned into the hands of his great enemy, uncheered by the light and comforts of the Saviour. This seems the more rational interpretation, only that it does not take sufficient account of the malign agency ascribed to Satan in the Scriptures. For, 1, it accords precisely with the view of the Apostle, that outside the kingdom of God, Satan reigned as “the prince of the power of the air”—as the one that “had the power of death”—as the one who was the source of bodily inflictions, and had sent ‘a messenger to buffet him,’—even as he had “bound the woman who had the spirit of infirmity,” whom our Lord cured—and so was ever working in various ways to afflict mankind. And surely there is nothing in Scripture to warrant our believing that his agency in this respect has been restrained as yet. His power to tempt to sin implies a power also to inflict the evils which sin engenders. 2. The power of Satan, we are also taught, is subordinate to the power of God. He may be suffered to work an utter destruction, or be used as the unwilling instrument of a Divine discipline. Job and Paul are illustrations of the latter case. And we have every reason to believe, that Satan is still employed in God’s hands for this very work of discipline or destruction. Now if this be true, there is nothing miraculous or extraordinary in the case under review, even though we may suppose that physical evils are understood. The instances of Annanias and Sapphira, and of Elymas the sorcerer are not parallel with it. It is no objection that this formula of excommunication has never been found to have been used by the Jews, for it is in keeping with the whole tenor of Paul’s doctrine. Moreover, the results anticipated would be directly conducive to the end proposed, if, as was hoped for, the culprit was no reprobate, but one who promised recovery under this most humbling and chastening discipline].—The end to be subserved by this ‘deliverance unto Satan’ was,—for the destruction of the flesh—εἰςὅλεθροντῆςσαρκός.—That by this no mere moral effect is indicated, such as the mortification of the selfish and sensuous propensities of our nature, is evident both from the connection with what precedes, which points to an operation of Satan, and from the use of the word ὅλεθρος, which nowhere occurs in the above sense (for which rather the terms θανατοῦν., νεκροῦν, σταυροῦν, and the like, are used), and from the antithesis made here between “flesh” and “spirit.” Σάρξ here denotes the physical life in its depraved state, as an organism where sin is seated, and which serves sin. Now this, which had been used in so shameless a manner by the incestuous person as the instrument of sin, Paul wishes to have given over as a prey to Satan, that he might execute upon it a corresponding disorder, and so fulfil the Divine judgment. [And it must be added that there is no vice so fearfully avenged in that which is its seat and source, as this very one under consideration. Its legitimate consequences, so terrible as to carry in them the aspect of Satanic malignity, are, in fact, a ‘destruction of the flesh’].—But the ruin, thus to be wrought in the outer man, was not to be an utter and final one. There was in it a merciful design,—that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.—The idea is, that through the penalties inflicted upon his body the offender might be brought to repentance, so that although the former might perish, yet his spirit—the centre of his personality—being still receptive of Divine impressions, might be snatched from destruction, and be found at last within the circle of the ransomed at the day of final separation and decision. That the Apostle here contemplated something more than a bare possibility, is apparent from the whole tenor of this passage; and he might express such hope without presupposing any irresistible operation of Divine grace.11 [On the general subject of Satan—the nature and extent of his agency, and his relation to the kingdom of God, see the able articles in Kitto’s Enc. 2d ed.; Smith’s Bib. Diet., under the word “Satan,” and the one in Hertzog’s Re. Ency. Teufel; also an article by Moses Stuart in the Bib. Sac. for 1843, p. 117].


[Excommunication: its right, occasions, grounds, form, intent and results. 1. The right to excommunicate is both a natural and a delegated right. The right of any community to exist, involves also the right to eject from itself all elements that are inconsistent with its character and integrity and well being. This belongs, therefore, to the Church. But above and beyond this, the injunction of Christ (Matthew 18:17), and the example of the Apostles make it an imperative duty, for the preservation of the Church as a holy body, bearing witness for God and truth and righteousness. 2. The occasion which calls for the act must be some flagrant and habitual offence. Spiritual perfection is not to be looked for in the Church. The tares, which in outward appearance resemble the wheat, must be allowed to remain to the end. Hence many faults in doctrine and practice in the Church at Corinth, Paul was content with rebuking. But the incestuous person was to be cast out. In this forbearance of his towards the one, and severity towards the other, an example is set for all time. To distinguish when the one should end and the other should begin, belongs to the gift of wise government. 3. Its grounds]. The soul of a true evangelical discipline is Christ, His name and power—Christ dwelling in the hearts of believers by faith, and especially present with those whom he has made shepherds in it, with His living, powerful, all-enlightening, penetrating, sifting and dividing word, and hence with the energy of His Spirit operating therein. It is in the light of this word, that sin must be recognized as a reproach and a desecration of His name, and therefore as something which evokes a reaction against it from this Name—a reaction which is nothing else than a manifestation of the might of a holy, divine love.—[4. Its form]. The constraining power of this reaction must be felt and exhibited in the Church, which is Christ’s body, and especially in those who are the stewards of the Divine mysteries, and ambassadors speaking in His name, urging them as by an irresistible impulse, and arousing them to a strong determination to make it effective upon the offender. And the Church in assembling for this purpose when occasion calls, should come together solemnly, attended by the presence and power of the Lord. Thus and thus only, in a manner truly valid, and with unfailing results, can he, who has desecrated the name of Christ, and has proved unworthy of fellowship in His body, be cast out from the sphere of life in Christ, and from a participation in His protecting grace, and given over into the power of Satan to suffer the merited penalties of his sins. [5. The intent of this act is not punitive, but remedial, in consistency with the design of the whole Gospel dispensation, which was “to save and not to destroy;” and with the object of the power intrusted to the Apostle, and so to their successors, “which was for edification and not for destruction.” And this intent must be displayed in the manner in which the act is performed, and in the hopes and prayers with which it is accompanied. For though the act of excommunication is in one sense a cutting off from the means of grace, in another it may itself be made a means of grace through the blessing of God which may follow the offender in his exclusion and turn the very severity of his sufferings into a glorious benefit. And where this result is not hindered by the obduracy of the guilty party, and he has not sinned past forbearance, we may expect 6. as the result, repentance and restoration. Nor is this surprising]. In bringing about such issues Satan, the arch enemy of Christ, is employed as his servant, even while he, on his part, seeks only to gratify his own love of corrupting, plaguing and destroying men. Our sinful nature, the organ of sin and the seat of its impure impulses, is given over into his power to be wasted and destroyed. And while in doing, this, his intention is utterly to ruin, Christ aims at the ultimate deliverance of the spirit, which, having been enthralled by the flesh, is to be liberated through its weakening and destruction. He who inflicts the judgment, prescribes the limits beyond which the Evil One may not pass; yea, compels him to subserve the purposes of his holy love. This is one truth taught us in the Book of Job, although the author there is speaking not of punishment but of proof and trial. The results of such discipline will be brought to light on that day when all things shall be revealed. And they will be brought to light in such a way that Satan will be put to shame, while God will be glorified in the midst of His own, even among those who have deeply fallen, as One who is wonderful in counsel and glorious in execution.

[On this subject it will be profitable to consult Owen. Works, 16 p. 151–183. Edwards Serm. on Excom. Hooker Ec. Pol. Book vi].


[As before we had the picture of a Church imperfectly united—still divided by the prevalence of ambition and conflicting opinions, so here we have a picture of one imperfectly purified, still carrying in itself the corruptions and spots of an earlier depravity. And here we see: 1. How sin may convert the very grace of God into a warrant for a lasciviousness even grosser than any which may be practised without, 1 Corinthians 5:1.—How it shows more flagrant and abominable when seen in a body professing holiness, than elsewhere, 1 Corinthians 5:1-3. The melancholy aspect of a Church unconscious of its defilements, and flaunting in the conceit of its own perfection and beauty; and 4. in contrast with this, the proper attitude of humiliation and sorrow that it ought to assume, 1 Corinthians 5:2-5. The duty of observant and faithful ministers in the premises—to reprove remissness, and exhort the Church to self purgation, 1 Corinthians 5:3-6. The duty of the Church made alive to its disgrace—to cast out the evil it cannot cure, and consign the obdurate offender to the master he serves, a. with united action; b. in the name of the Lord; c. evincing a holy abhorence of sin; d. yet a love for the offender that shows itself in the desires and prayers for his recovery, 1 Corinthians 5:5].

Starke:—Since the scandal of crimes committed in the Church is greater than that of those committed in the world, we should avoid them the more carefully, lament over them the more deeply, and punish them the more scrupulously. The Church must tolerate the public rebuke of open offences, 1 Corinthians 5:1.—Christians should mourn over the sins of their brethren as if these were personal afflictions (Psalms 119:136; Ezekiel 9:4) 1 Corinthians 5:2.—It is possible for us to promote the welfare of a Church even when absent, by prayer and by power [?] by writing and giving counsel, 1 Corinthians 5:3.—Hed.: ‘How glorious the uses of excommunication!’ By it many an offender, who would otherwise continue in sin, and have part with the devil, is saved; by it the Church evinces its abhorence of evil, and shuns disgrace; by it she keeps from participating in others’ sins, which, through connivance, would involve a whole people in guilt and punishment; and finally, by it she prevents the spread of iniquity, 1 Corinthians 5:5.

Berlen. Bib.:—Merely formal assemblies profit nothing; the spirits must be present, and they must first be united by the power of Christ, 1 Corinthians 5:4.—A true church-censure flows from love. Its aim is the preservation of the spirit. It has ever been God’s method to destroy a part, and that the least part, rather than to lose the whole. So the Gospel still keeps the preponderance. And though the act wears a legal aspect, it is evangelical in intent, aiming to save what belongs to Christ.—We shall obtain salvation at the appearing of our Lord, provided we first awake from sleep, arise from the dead, and let Christ give us light, 1 Corinthians 5:5. The toleration of even small things, which originate from impure sources, endangers the whole obedience of faith, 1 Corinthians 5:6.

Rieger:—Conceit and self satisfaction, whether in individuals or communities, open the way for carnal license.—A person must have dug deep in poverty of spirit, if he takes not occasion from others’ trespasses to enhance his own reputation.—He who spares the rod hates his child. The omission of a lesser discipline only exposes the guilty one to greater judgments.

Heubner:—The abominableness of incest, from which even the heathen shrank with horror, must have a deep foundation in the nature of things, even in God, and not be sought for in the consequences alone, 1 Corinthians 5:1. Public offences, when tolerated, involve the whole Church in guilt, even the better portion, partly because all are members of one body; and partly, because their toleration is a token of a want in the Church of zeal and watchfulness and care, for its order and welfare, 1 Corinthians 5:2.—This power of censure i.e. of delivering over to Satan, which is now conceded to no one [?], is still invisibly exercised by Christ and His Apostles, over every Church, so that in their sight all unworthy persons are already excommunicated. Oh that we could ever bear in mind this scrutiny and judgment that is exercised over us from above!—The Christian Church is holy. It is a city set upon a hill, whose light shines far. Through offences and crimes its crown is trampled under foot. They are violations of the majesty of Christ.—The stringency of primitive Church discipline is no longer maintained. In congregations so mixed as ours, the consciousness of Christian communion has vanished, and public censure would be deemed a libel, and would fail of its end. Hence it only remains for the better members to withdraw their fellowship from every person who dishonors the Church, and refuses to reform, and so make manifest their displeasure at his conduct (Matthew 18:17). This would be a voluntary discipline wholly within the power of Christians, of which even the guilty party cannot complain, 1Co 5:5.12

Neander:—It is well for the soul if it can be saved, even at the cost of bodily sufferings, 1 Corinthians 5:5.

[W. F. Besser:—It is not indeed granted the Church to know, or to determine what sort of evil Satan will inflict on one given over into His power. That he will not, however, slip the man on from one sin to another (Psalms 69:28; Romans 1:24), but will, on the contrary, sensibly touch him with this or that external evil or misfortune, this the Church knows, because it recognizes Satan as the personal power of evil, and it purposes in Christ that the strokes of the destroyer shall smite the flesh of the condemned party, whether it be to the destruction of his bodily life, or to the loss of his earthly prosperity, in order that the spirit of the returning penitent (and so his body too at last) shall be saved in the day of the Lord].

[F. W. Robertson:—The Church excommunicates in a representative capacity. Man is the image of God, and man is the medium through which God’s absolution and God’s punishment are given and inflicted. Man is the mediator, because he represents God. His acts in this sense are, however, necessarily imperfect. There is but One in whom humanity was completely restored to the Divine Image, whose forgiveness and condemnation are exactly commensurate with God’s. Nevertheless, the Church here is the representation of that ideal man which Christ realized, and hence in a representative capacity condemns and forgives.—The indignation of society is properly representative of the indignation of God. God is angry at sin, and when our hearts are sound and healthy, and our view of moral evil not morbid and sentimental, we feel it too. And in expressing this we represent and make credible God’s wrath. When the offender hears the voice of condemnation and feels himself every where shunned, then conscience, which before had slumbered, begins to do its dreadful work, and the anger incurred becomes a type of coming doom. Thus is there lodged in Humanity a power to bind; and only so far as man is Christ-like can he exercise this power in an entirely true and perfect manner. (Abbreviated13)].


1 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 5:1.—The addition of ὀνομάζεται in the Rec. has the best authorities [A. B. C. D. F. Cod. Sin.] against it, and is perhaps a supplement according to Ephesians 5:3.

1 Corinthians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 5:2.—It is doubtful whether we ought to read ποήσας with Griesbach, Meyer [Alford, Words.], or πράξας with Bückert, Tischendorf. Both are equally suited to the sense, and are about equally supported.

1 Corinthians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 5:2.—The Rec. εξαρθῇ is still less authorized than ὀνομάζεται 1 Corinthians 5:1, and no doubt originated out of 1 Corinthians 5:13.

1 Corinthians 5:3; 1 Corinthians 5:3.—The Rec. ὡς as, before ἀπών, absent, has indeed the oldest MSS. [A. B. C. D.1 Cod. Sin.] against it, and hence is rejected by Lachmann, Meyer [Alf. Words.]. But there are also many and good authorities in its favor. (D.2 F. L. Syr. and many of the Greek Fathers]. And it might as easily have been omitted for the sake of avoiding the repetition (παρών), or, as not suited to ἀπών, as admarginated, and then afterwards inserted according to the analogy of ὡς παρών. We retain it with Tischendorf. [We, on the contrary, omit it as badly supported and wholly needless, and wait for Tischendorf's last Ed. See comments below.]

1 Corinthians 5:4; 1 Corinthians 5:4.—The χριστοῦ of the Rec. was probably added later, because of the solemnity of the title. [it is found in D3. F. L. Cod. Sin. omitted in A. B. D1.]

1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 5:5.—This reading (Rec). is the most probable. Both the omission of ̓Ιησον͂ (Tisch.) as well as the addition ἡμῶν after κνρίον and of χριστοῦ after ̓Ιησοῦ are not sufficiently accredited.

[7][It is not credible that the Corinthian congregation, would have endured that one of their body should live with a harlot, especially his mother-in-law. But because this illicit connection had been palliated by the name of matrimony, therefore they might connive at it, especially if there were any who were the man’s zealous friends, and endeavored to soften the baseness of the thing.” Crellius. And this is the view of Meyer, whose arguments Kling does not seem to have thought it worth while to refute, and which undoubtedly ought to be admitted].

[8]The feeling of absolute control in the matter, which finds expression in 1 Corinthians 5:3, the Apostle softens first by the use of ‘in the name of our Lord Jesus,’ and then by associating with himself, in the republican spirit of primitive Christianity, the whole Church, where he presides in spirit.”—de Wette.]

[9]The Apostle translates himself in spirit to the Church in Corinth, and expresses his decision as if in midst of them.”—Berger.]

[10]Meyer, do Wette and Alford agree in taking the words, “with the power of our Lord Jesus,” not as a third element in the proposed assembly, nor yet as something resident in the whole Church, but as belonging exclusively to Paul, and so connect it directly to “my spirit.” But this seems arbitrary. If the act of ‘delivering over’ was to be the act of the whole Church and not one of independent apostolic authority, we must suppose that it, too, was fully empowered for the purpose by the Lord who had promised to be in it, when assembled in His name, to the end of time, giving force to its decisions. The grammatical question here will be apt to be determined very much in accordance with the preconceived theories of church government entertained by the interpreter. Hodge (e.g.) regards the Church as convened not for the purpose of voting and acting in the premises, but “as mere spectators,” to impart “solemnity to the judicial proceeding.” So he takes the words in question as connected directly either with “my spirit,” or with ‘to deliver’—the sense in either case being substantially the same. Wordsworth goes still farther, and regards the excommunication as not only “promulgated in the presence of the Church,” but also as having “been done without taking council with them,” and “probably against their inclination.” And so the Rheims version:—“Though the act was done in the face of the Church, yet the judgment and authority of giving sentence was in himself and not in the whole multitude, as the Protestant and popular sectaries affirm.” Owen, on the other hand, analyses the matter thus:—1. The supreme efficient cause of the excision is the power and authority of Jesus Christ. 2. The declarative cause of the equity of this sentence, the spirit of tho Apostle. 3. The instrumental, ministerial cause, the Church. They were to “do it in the name of the Lord,” and thereby “purge out the old leaven;” whence the punishment is said in 2 Corinthians 2:6 to be “inflicted by many.” (See a full discussion of this in Owen’s Works, vol. 16 p. 160). And Neander forcibly observes: “The Epistles of Paul, which treat of various controverted ecclesiastical matters, are addressed to whole churches, and he assumes that the decision belonged to the whole body. Had it been otherwise he would have addressed his instructions principally at least to the overseers. When a licentious member of the Church at Corinth was to be excommunicated the Apostlo considered it a measure that ought to proceed from the whole society, and placed himself therefore in spirit among them, to unite with tham in passing judgment.” Furthermore it might be asked, if the Church had no power to act in the premises, where was the ground for Paul to complain of their conduct, in not securing the expulsion of the guilty parties? Plainly his purpose here, in decreeing as he did, was to supplement their lack of duty; and we are not to construe his procedure as pro formâ, but as extraordinary, and based upon that plenitude of power which he had as an Apostle.]

[11]Kling’s refutation of Rückert’s charge of “hasty and indiscreet zeal” on the part of Paul, we venture to omit as unnecessary. No one in this country would think of entertaining it for a moment].

[12]These remarks apply only to churches united with the state; and they bring to view one great evil of the state-church system, and afford evidence of its utter inconsistency with the whole idea of Christianity, and of its incompatibility with the Gospel requirements].

[13]See his striking views on this subject more fully exhibited in his serm, on Absolution in the 3d Vol. of his series.]

Verses 6-13

X—[B. The duty of Church purification in general. Its motives, grounds, and limitations. Rectification of misconceptions as to his meaning in an earlier Epistle]

1 Corinthians 5:6-13

6Your glorying [That in which you glory] is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?14 7Purge out therefore [omit therefore15] the old leaven, that ye may he a new lump, as ye are unleavened. ] For even Christ our pass over is sacrificed for us [omit for us16]: 8Therefore let us keep17 the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; hut with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 9I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with for 10nicators: Yet [omit Yet2] not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or [and18] extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs19 go out 11of the world. But now20 I have written [I wrote] unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be21 a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no not to eat. 12For what have I to do to judge them also22 that are without ? do not ye judge them that are within ? 13But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore [omit therefore] put away23 from among yourselves that wicked person [τὸν πονηρὸν, the wicked one].


[In this section the specific duty of excommunicating an incestuous church member is expanded into the broader one of individual and social purification in general. And this is exhibited under a familiar metaphor, and enforced by reasons drawn from it. In entering upon it Paul starts with alluding to that state of mind which presented so strange a contrast to their actual condition.]

1 Corinthians 5:6. That in which you boast is not good.—In view of the word here rendered, ‘boasting’ (καύχημα), the question arises, whether it is the act, or the ground of boasting that is intended. The latter meaning is certainly the one which prevails in the New Testament, even 2 Corinthians 9:3, [and this is in accordance with the passive form of the noun]. Then we should render it: ‘that of which you boast;’ and while with the other signification οὐ καλόν would mean: ‘it does not become you,’ etc., it would in the other case be rendered: ‘is not seemly or beautiful,’ implying that it is, rather, hateful. It is not, however, the incestuous person that is meant [as Hammond and Whitby singularly suggest, supposing him to have been a man of some reputation for wisdom and eloquence], but the whole condition of the Church, the complete corruption of which he proceeds to illustrate by a familiar comparison.—Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?—In like manner, he implies, that the whole Church was infected by one crime, tolerated in the midst of it. The “little leaven” here refers not so much to the person in question, as to the vice of fornication, which had broken out upon him in its worst form. “It denotes some impurity of the former state, not yet purged out,—a little remnant of which, if allowed, was sufficient to corrupt again the salvation already obtained, and render it ineffective.” Burger. [It is not, however, says Alford, the “danger of corruption hereafter” by the future spread of the tolerated evil, that he here speaks of, but “the character already tainted” by its presence among them in this one instance.” But are not the consequences merely anticipated in their certainty, and the future and present all included under one view? The leaven and is working must here be taken together]. The same comparison, used to illustrate a corrupting influence, occurs in Galatians 5:9, and Matthew 16:6, and the parallel passages. On the other hand, it appears in Matthew 13:33, and in the parallel passages, to illustrate the penetrating and pervading power of Divine grace.

In consequence of the contagious effects of tolerated evil, Paul gives the following exhortation:—Purge out.—’Εκκαθαίρειν sometimes is followed by the Accus. of the thing cleansed, and sometimes, as here, with that of the thing removed. [Stanley calls it “a strong expression,” and remarks that the duty it enjoins was “carried out in later times with such extreme punctiliousness, that on the fourteenth day they searched with candles into the darkest holes and corners to see whether any leaven remained.”]—The old leaven.—This, in accordance with what has been said, does not indicate the incestuous person, so that the command would only be a repetition of that in 1 Corinthians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 5:13, but the moral evil which was defiling the Church. This he calls ‘old,’ because it was the remains of their former unregenerate state which, like leaven, was still at work vitiating their character.—That ye may be a fresh lump, νέονφύραμα,—wherein there is no leaven, hence a complete whole, morally renewed by purification—a Church holy and free from sin, evincing its early love and zeal. (Starke). (Νέος, fresh differs from καινός, which means new, entirely different from what it was before).—What follows clearly shows that the Apostle had in mind the practice of the Israelites removing leaven from their houses before the Passover began.—As ye are unleavened.—Thus he designates the Church ideally considered, and as it can become only through the power of Divine grace, and shows the divinely postulated character of its member ship; and hence it presents an argument for removing the existing evil, as he enjoins them to do. They are to come up to their true ideal. [Conybeare and Howson, however, interpret this clause literally, as alluding to the condition in which the Jewish portion of the Church were at that moment, it being the time of Passover: “Even as ye, at this Paschal season, are without the taint of leaven.” This view Alf. combats at length. His strongest argument, and one which must be deemed conclusive, is that it is “wholly alien from the habit and spirit of the Apostle. “The ordinances of the Old Law,” he says, “are to Paul not points, on whose actual observance to ground spiritual lessons, but things passed away in their literal acceptance, and become spiritual verities in Christ.” Kling’s view is the one generally adopted, and in refutation of the one above suggested, he adds further]. It would evidently transcend the meaning of the term, ἄζυμοι to make it mean those who eat no leaven, or observe the festival of unleavened bread, i.e., the Jews, nor would such a meaning be applicable to the case of a Church composed mainly of heathen converts. But it may be fitly used of all professing Christians, inasmuch as they are themselves supposed to be free from those sinful corruptions which prevail without in the world, and which are here denoted by the leaven. And such an interpretation accords with the previous phrase “a fresh lump.” The translation of ἐστε by: ‘ye ought to be,’ instead of by: ‘ye are’ [as Chrysostom, Theoph., and after them Billroth, Flatt and Pott, and many others suggest], though in itself incorrect, would point to the ideal view of Christians expressed in the word ‘unleavened.’ [But the strongest argument for the interpretation given, above of the clause before us, is in what follows, where we see that the Apostle’s mind was moving not in the sphere of Jewish carnal ordinances, but among the higher verities which they typified].—For our Passover also has been sacrificed even Christ.—[Such can only be rendering of the words, καὶ γὰρ τὸ πάσχαἡμῶν ἐτύ θη Χριστό ς. The main subject is evidently to τὸ πάσχα; and the intent of the Apostle is to show the propriety of speaking of Christians as unleavened, since they, too, had a paschal offering, which was Christ. Kling, however, goes on to raise the question]. Does this declaration furnish the ground of what Immediately precedes ? or is it a further argument for the whole exhortation? In the former case, the sense would be: ye are free from that corruption by virtue of that redemption achieved by Christ. But such connection would suit, provided only, that we took the term “unleavened” In the sense rejected above. [But why so ? Why not consider it as justifying the application of the term to Christians also, on the ground that they likewise had a passover which obliged them to be free from the corruption which the leaven symbolized?] We, therefore, refer the clause to the whole exhortation, as furnishing an argument for that. [And such, no doubt, is the more extended bearing of it.] As among the Israelites from the first day of the feast to the slaying of the Paschal lamb, it was the rule to put away all leaven and all unleavened bread from their houses, so likewise were Christians under obligation to put away all former sinful practices—the leaven of wickedness—inasmuch as their Paschal lamb, even Christ, had been slain. And here we have an evidence that the ancient Paschal lamb was a type of Christ. And to this also John 19:36, plainly conducts us. The point of comparison is, primarily, the redeeming power of the blood of the victim. It was with this that at the time of their departure from Egypt, the lintels and doorposts of the Israelites were sprinkled, and by reason of this that those within were preserved from the destroying sword, while the Egyptians fell under its stroke. In like manner under the new dispensation, which fulfils the old, it is said the hearts of believers are sprinkled by the blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:22; Hebrews 12:24; 1 Peter 1:12), and thus saved from destruction. The slaying of the Paschal lamb accordingly obtains the character of a sacrifice (θύειν), and indeed of an expiatory, covenant kind, forming a distinction between the members of the covenant, whose sins are covered with its blood, and the others who are left to their doom. Worthy of consideration, though somewhat problematical, is Lücke’s and Meyer’s observation, that this designation of Christ accords with John’s account of the crucifixion which places it on the day of the slaying of the Paschal lamb24 (contrary to the account of the Synoptists), and can only be explained on this ground. But, however this may be, a powerful motive is found in this fact for moral purification. (comp. 1 Peter 2:24).—This is further carried out in

1 Corinthians 5:8. Let us therefore keep the feast.—The previous command in a milder form—that of an exhortation to a social solemnity, for which the expression, “our Pass-over,” forms a fit transition. The whole context alludes to the Easter festival; and it is highly probable that the Apostle wrote the Epistle at or near the approach of Easter (comp. 1 Corinthians 16:8), and, being full of the idea, gave to his exhortation a corresponding form. That the Christian festival of Easter, commemorating the resurrection of our Lord, had already been established, can hardly be affirmed. But that Gentile converts united with the Jewish, to celebrate the Passover in commemoration of its fulfilment through Christ, is too probable to be denied. In any case, it is safe to assert with Osiander, that it was solemnized in spirit. As for the rest, the language is figurative. The duty indicated is not the outward, but the inward spiritual observance, namely, the united offering of praise to God for His redeeming grace, through the maintenance of a Christian conversation (comp. Osiander). [Hodge, Alf., Stanley, agree in the opinion that there is no reference here to the keeping of the Passover festival, nor yet to the observance of the Lord’s Supper (though Wordsworth regards “the text as specially applicable to a consideration of the privileges and duties” connected with this), but, as Kling, to that “continued Passover feast,” that “sacred festival” of a consecrated life, which should follow upon our union to Christ in His death, even as a feast, professedly of holy joy and gladness, protracted through seven days always followed upon the observance of the Pass over among the Jews].

How the feast was to be kept is explained still further; first, negatively.—not with old leaven,—which he had just told them to purge out. (1 Corinthians 5:7), and which he goes on further to describe in words which are to be understood, not as introducing a new thought, but as explanatory of the former.—neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness.—What, in point of fact is one, is here formally distinguished; or we may say with Meyer, that of the kind in general one particular is selected and made prominent. The preposition ἐν with, indicates that with which the feast was accompanied, or in which its character was violated. [The Genitives are those of apposition, ‘the leaven which is,’ &c. See Winer, § 59, 8, a], Κακία denotes the opposite of that love which seeks the welfare of another—a desire and effort to injure a neighbor (Ephesians 4:31); πονηρία [“is a still stronger word” Hodge], and denotes wickedness, villany [“the performance of evil with persistency and delight. Hence Satan is called ὁ πονηρός”—Hodge]. In contrast with these we have the true method expressed.—but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.—Εἰλικρίνεια is purity—the quality of having been proved in the sunlight (εί̔λη) and found (κρίνεται) genuine; ἀλήθεια, the harmony of man with himself, and with Divine truth, which is made known in the uprightness of conduct. To distinguish these terms as indicating, the one the substance, the other the manifestation of goodness, and thus as expressing the opposite to κακία, the substance, and πονηρία, the manifestation of evil would be too abstract. Bengel’s distinction: “κακία is vice, as contrary to virtue, and that virtue unalloyed, or insincerity, and πονηρία, wickedness, as in those who strenuously defend and retain κακίαν, and is opposed to the truth”—is very uncertain. We can better accept the distinction he makes between εἰλικρίν and ἀλήθεια—“the former takes care not to admit evil with the good, the latter not to admit evil instead of good.” For other attempts to discriminate between these words, see Starke in loco. [Also Trench “Syn. of the New Testament.” § 11, and W. Webster “Syntax and Syn. of the New Testament,” pp. 194, 195].

1 Corinthians 5:9-13. We here have an episode to the proper subject of this paragraph, which is resumed again in 1 Corinthians 5:13 The exhortation given above suggests the correction of a misunderstanding in regard to the meaning of a certain passage in a previous letter, which he had written to them about holding intercourse with fornicators.—I wrote to you in the Epistle.—The stringency of theological dogmatism, which refuses to admit the loss of any Apostolic writing, insists that the reference here is to a previous passage in this Epistle, viz., 1 Corinthians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 5:6. But such reference neither suits the expression “in the Epistle,” nor yet the contents of the verses cited. The allusion must therefore be to some earlier letter now lost. [This is the conclusion of Calvin, Beza, Bengel, de Wette, Meyer, Wordsworth, Alford, Hodge, Barnes, and most other modern commentators, and as Words. argues, “is perfectly consistent with the position, ‘that no Canonical Book of Holy Scripture has been lost.’ ” Stanley, however, ingeniously argues for the other view, advocated mainly by the Greek Fathers, also by Hammond and Whitby, and asks whether there are not indications that the whole passage from 1 Corinthians 5:9 to 1 Corinthians 6:8 is, in some sense, a distinct note, a postscript not merely to 5 :6–8, but also to 1 Corinthians 6:9-20? This he says has been already conjectured by two Englishmen, J. Edwards and Dr. Thos. Arnold, and he alludes in the way of comparison to a remarkable passage in Livy. 1 Corinthians 4:20, called by Niebuhr, the only instance of a note in any ancient author. Similar digressions he thinks he finds elsewhere, also in Paul’s Epistles. To say the least, he makes a very plausible case, and his arguments, if not convincing, are very interesting].—not to keep company with fornicators.—Συναναμίγνεσθαι, to mingle oneself up with, as in 2 Thessalonians 3:14; the Inf. after verbs of counselling, or commanding. The warning thus conveyed they had interpreted to mean, that they should hold no intercourse at all with persons of the sort mentioned; and they did this perhaps from a secret disinclination to follow Paul’s instruction, and in their letter had pointed out the utter impracticability of the thing. He therefore goes on now to explain himself more exactly upon the subject.

1 Corinthians 5:10. Not altogether with the fornicators of this world.—The ellipsis here is certainly to be supplied from the foregoing—‘I wrote not to mingle with.’ But the question is, whether these words are to be inserted after ‘not,’ so as to separate it from ‘altogether’ (πάντως), or whether these two words are to be taken together; and then, in the latter case, whether the two are to be joined with ‘I wrote,’ or with the nouns following. In our opinion, the separation of ‘not altogether’ (οὐ πάντως), ought, if possible, to be avoided. But if we connect the words unitedly, to ‘I wrote,’ and render the clause: ‘I did by no means write to you not to associate with the wicked,’ then it has the appearance of promoting directly such intercourse. [“And this, although perhaps the more common explanation, does not give so good sense.” Hodge]. They had better therefore be joined with what follows, in the way of limitation; ‘not entirely and under all circumstances’ with the fornicators of this world. By the epithet, ‘of this world,’ the persons alluded to are distinguished from those of the same class found in the Church.—Since he is treating, in this paragraph, of moral purification in general, he adds yet other sorts of persons who presented a decided contrast to the Christian character, and with whom it was unbecoming in them to associate—persons whom he had already spoken of in his previous letter.—or with the converts and extortioners.—These two classes go together, as may be seen by the καὶ and, which connect them—a reading better supported than ἤ, or of the Rec. The πλεονέκτης is one who means to have more than his neighbors, or, more than belongs to him, and who therefore indulges in frauds, and over-reaching, and oppression. This trait is more prominently brought out in the second term, ἅρπαξ, which denotes one who manifests his greed of gain in robbery and plunder. [Conybeare renders the former of these words: ‘lascivious person,’ and says that “πλέονεξία in St. Paul almost invariably means impurity.” And Stanley advocates this interpretation as being more in accordance with the drift of discourse. And there is not a little to justify the view taken. Sensuality and rapine most frequently go together as branches from the same root of covetousness, and stand in close connection with idolatry. The same view is also maintained by Hammond, who explain πλεον́κταις to mean ‘men of inordinate lusts;’ and in consistency with this, supported by no small show of classic authorities, translates ἅρπαγες, ravishers. But there is no special reason why “the extraordinary sense” should be adopted here; and the conjunction ‘and’ seems to affiliate the words in meaning with the other to which it is thus connected. See Trench, N. T. Syn. § 24]—or with idolaters.—To those who violate the rights of neighbors, he joins such as violate the highest right—that of God. And in this religious aberration is found the source of all moral aberration. [“This is said to be the earliest known instance of the use of the word εἰδωλολάτρης; it is never used in the LXX., although εἴδωλον is constantly employed in that version to denote ‘false gods.’ ” Hodge]. That the prohibition which he had formerly given could not have been meant in the broad sense supposed by his readers, he now shows apagogically by exhibiting the absurdity of the thing.—Since, indeed, ye must then have gone out of the world.—The ἄρα, in that case, following upon ἐπεὶ, since, shows yet more definitely the consequence which would ensue upon the interpretation put on his language. Properly a protasis is here to be supplied. ‘If it were so as you say, why then in that case,’ etc. [For the force of ἄρα, see Winer § LIII. a], Κόσμος, world, in this last clause, is to be taken in its physical, not, as in the first clause, in its ethical sense. The world is full of bad people, with whom we are compelled to deal, in some form, in business or traffic, by the very exigencies of our earthly lot; and if we would avoid them altogether, we can only do it by quitting the world altogether.

1 Corinthians 5:11. But now I wrote to you.—He cannot here be repeating what was in the former Epistle, for had the words which follow been there, the misunderstanding could not have arisen. Νῦν δὲ ἔγραψα must accordingly imply: ‘but now my meaning was,’ νῦν being taken in its logical sense, as referring back to the previous statement (comp. 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 12:18; 1Co 19:6). In like manner λέγω and ἔεγον often stand for: ‘this is what I mean, or meant, by what I say, or said.’ Song of Solomon 1:12 and elsewhere. This interpretation is better suited to the context. We have here the positive explanation of a former declaration, following upon the negative one in 1 Corinthians 5:10,—and not a new declaration made ‘now’ (νῦν), differing from that made “in the Epistle,” 1 Corinthians 5:10; in which case the aorist ἔγραψα: I wrote, must be taken after the old epistolary style as referring to what was said in process of writing (see Meyer in loco). [“Thus by the right rendering, we escape the awkward inference deducible from the ordinary interpretation, that the Apostle had previously given a command and now retracted it.” Alf.].—not to keep company, if any one called a brother be a fornicator.—The participle ὀνομαζόμενος, called, forms an antithesis to ῇ, is, as contrasting profession with reality. To connect the participle with the following noun [as Augustine, Ambrose, Estius, and others], so as to read: ‘be a reputed, or notorious fornicator,’ would be alike opposed to the drift of the passage, and to the usage of language. ’Ονομάζεσθαι can mean only: to be called, or, to be honorably mentioned. Besides in this case the text would have been: ἀ δελφός τις,—or a covetous, or an idolater.—The term idolater, as applied to one called a brother, must denote, [not an open worshipper of idols, for such a person would hardly have been found among the brethren], but one who ate of the heathen sacrifices, and participated in the heathenish customs connected therewith—a practice alluded to in 1 Corinthians 10:14. Then enlarging his catalogue beyond that of 1 Corinthians 5:10, he adds,—or a railer, or a drunkard,—μέθυσος, a term which in old Greek was used of women only,—or an extortioner; with such a one neither to eat.—This does not refer to communion at love-feasts, or at the Lord’s Supper; but to association at ordinary meals, a practice which would indicate intimate companionship. The characters described, they were not to entertain as guests, nor visit as hosts, nor unite with them at a party in the house of a common acquaintance; but they were to cut them off from their society and give it to be understood that they would have nothing in common with them. “Here we learn what sins justify excommunication. We must also suppose that among the converts at Corinth, here and there, a reaction towards their former state had already taken place.” Neander.

1 Corinthians 5:12-13. A further reason why he could have designed his exhortation only in a limited sense. The contrary would have been an assumption of authority over those not Christians, an application of discipline to them which was not allowed him.—For what have I to do,—τί γάρ μοι.—The expression is pure Greek. It means, ‘what concern is it of mine? It does not belong to my office.’—to judge also those Without.—Οἱἔξω, was a designation applied by the Jews to the heathen, and by Christians to unbelievers. The latter are without, because they are outside the pale of God’s Church—not to be found among His people. In like manner Col 4:5, 1 Thessalonians 4:12. His refusal to judge such he sustains by a reference to their own procedure.—do not ye judge them that are within?—The τοῦς ἔσω, holding the emphatic place, forms the antithesis to τοῦςἔξω, and ὑμεῖς to μοι. Then the argument is: ‘since you yourselves confine your jurisdiction to those within the Church, you had no reason to ascribe to me advice which went beyond this limit.’ It would be clearly wrong to separate, as some [Theoph. Hammond, Michaelis, Rosenmuller] do, ὂυχί from what follows, and then take the verb in the Imper. q. d., ‘No, judge ye,’ etc. It would then have read, οὐδέν, nothing, as the reply to the previous question; and ἀλλἀ, but, would have appeared after it. In saying ‘ye,’ Paul does not mean to exclude himself. This would be contrary to what he had just enjoined in 1 Corinthians 5:3-5.—But those without God will judge, or judgeth.—This clause is best taken by itself, affirmatively, and not as continuing the previous question: ‘The right to judge unbelievers belongs solely to God, not to you or me.’ Whether the verb here is to be taken in the present or future is doubtful, for the accentuation is uncertain—whether κρίνειͅ or κρινεῖ. If the latter—the future, the reference is to the last judgment. But this is not what Paul has exclusively in mind. Taken in the present, it corresponds best with the previous clauses.25 [“These remarks about judging form a transition point to the subject of the next chapter. But having now furnished his explanation of the prohibition formerly given, and with this subject of the fornicator among them, he gives, before passing on, a plain command in terms for the excommunication (but no more) of the offender. And this he does in the very words of Deuteronomy 24:7, from which the reading καὶ ἐξαρεῖτε has come.” Alf. and this he does without any connecting word, the abruptness being characteristic].—Put away the wicked one from among your own selves.—In this he but resumes the chief topic of this section, which had not been altogether abandoned. Even during the seeming digression, Paul clinches it. There is no sign of that momentary passionate outburst which Rückert detects. The reference in τὸνπονηρόν: that wicked one, is to fornicator, not to the devil, as Calvin supposes, whose power was to be averted by the removal of what was evil and impure. Such a reference is disproved by the plain citation here from Deuteronomy 26:0 ’Εξ ὑμῶν is emphatic: ‘from out of the midst of yourselves.’


[1. Christ the antitype of the Paschal Lamb. Thus the Old Testament pours light upon the New, and reveals to us the meaning of Christ’s mission. As the Paschal Lamb saved the Israelites from destruction through the sprinkling of its blood upon their habitations, so Christ saves His people, not by instruction, not by example, not by the converting grace of His Spirit, though these means are included in His work—but primarily, by giving His blood for their ransom. He is our Redeemer in virtue of His having made Himself a sacrifice for us. This truth is involved in the very word employed to designate the nature of His death, ἐτύθη—a word appropriated to denote the slaying of victims at an altar. And should it be objected that the Paschal Lamb was not, properly speaking, a sacrifice, it not having been offered at an altar, nor through a priest, nor in a consecrated place, thus answering to the requisitions of a sacrifice, it is enough to reply that it is so called in Scripture in various places (Exodus 12:27; Exodus 23:18; Exodus 34:25; Deuteronomy 16:2; Deuteronomy 16:4-6), and had all the effect of an expiatory offering. Indeed, it seems to have been the root out of which the whole sacrificial system grew. And as its offering was the very condition on which the Israelites escaped the doom of Egypt which set them free, and as its observance was the condition of continued membership in the ransomed nation, so is the death of Christ the ground of the sinner’s exemption from the condemnation and curse resting upon the world, and the continued commemoration of that death is a duty imposed on all that would be numbered among His saints].

[2. Both the sanctification of the individual believer, and the purification of the Church as a body, necessarily follow from the fact of our redemption through the sacrifice of Christ. As the Israelites were redeemed to be a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 30:6), so is the Church redeemed to be “a royal priesthood and a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). And this purpose is realized under the inspiring motive of grateful joy for the deliverance vouchsafed. Hence the whole of every truly Christian life becomes a holy festival, an offering of praise to God for the glorious works He hath done for us through Christ. His redemption was nothing less than the achievement of a Divine love that condescended to take upon itself the doom of the sinner, and expiate his guilt by the sacrifice of a life assumed in his nature 1. Now where this fact is known and felt, there the sin thus atoned for can no longer be tolerated in its selfishness and lovelessness. He who truly believes that Christ died for him in love, himself becomes “dead unto sin” (Romans 6:11). In him the body of sin with all its affections and lusts is nailed upon the cross of his Lord, and the life he henceforth leads, is maintained in fellowship with that Saviour who loved him and gave Himself for him. Thus it is that malice and wickedness are purged away, and instead thereof we see a life of simplicity and truth manifesting itself in word and deed; and this, not under the constraints of legal obligation and fear, but under the actuating power of devout gratitude and joyful devotion. Such is the ideal of a Christian life. And so far as this ideal is realized, both the Church as a whole, and every individual in the Church becomes a temple of God where He is perpetually worshipped and where a true and lasting festival goes on].

3. It follows from the above that wherever the Christian life is in full and vigorous exercise, there the Church will, as far as possible, maintain a discipline, which shall separate between the holy and the profane, and preserve its own consistency and integrity; there Christians will withhold the title of ‘brother’ from every professor that walketh disorderly, and will take heed how they countenance by their friendlysociety those who openly dishonor the name after which they are called; there the vices which stain the Christian character will be regarded with greater abhorrence and put under severer censure than those which are openly practised by the world. And this discipline will be the natural operation of that holy love which the death of Christ enkindles, manifesting itself both in the ordinary intercourse of life, and through official acts. Without this vital power, Church discipline, however exercised, may indeed succeed in maintaining a creditable external order, and in carrying on a creditable conflict with public immoralities, but it never can accomplish an inward renovation, or bring to pass deep and lasting results.


[1. The Church of God, as a body redeemed from condemnation by the death of Christ, is thereby put under obligations to purge itself from all sin and immoralities, and to preserve a saintly character and appearance. The inflation of vanity is one evidence of the working of the leaven of wickedness, and should excite suspicion of its presence 1 Corinthians 5:6.—No immoralities should be tolerated under the pretext that they are small, because—1, the toleration of them indicates a general laxity of principle; and 2, endangers the purity of the whole body by a vicious infection 1 Corinthians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 1:0 Corinthians , 3, is contrary to the ideal character of the Church 1 Corinthians 5:7. The sins of our former state are especially to be guarded against, and the remains of them to be searched for and cast out. They both desecrate the purity and mar the joy of what should be the Christian’s life-long feast 1 Corinthians 5:7. The Church, though separate from the world, is yet to exist in the world; and one of the problems it must solve is so to mingle with the ungodly and profane as not to compromise its character or countenance iniquity, and yet so as to maintain peace with all men and win the worst to Christ. The principles which should regulate its intercourse with the world are thus given by Barnes: ‘a. The Church is not to be compared to the world in any of its peculiar and distinguishing features; b. It must treat all men justly and righteously; c. Its members must discharge all obligations and duties belonging to the social relations; d. They must do good to all men; e. They must so associate with sinners as to be able to work for their salvation’ (1 Corinthians 5:9-10).—Those that are justly liable to church censure, and must be excommunicated, are the openly immoral and profane. But while these characters in the Church are to be judged by the Church, the world without is to be left to the judgment of God. And this judgment is to be exercised in the Church in order that those who are judged by it may, if possible, escape the condemnation awaiting the world (1 Corinthians 5:12).]

Starke:—If evil be allowed free course, the result will be a settled wantonness of character, leading the person to commit iniquity without reserve—yea, even with pleasure and determination; and then to ignore guilt, or so to varnish it over that the villain beneath shall not be suspected under the fair outside. Sin has its lurking holes, and must be hunted out through them all. Alas, for the few genuine Easter days which Christians enjoy, 1 Corinthians 5:8.—Of what profit is it to leave the world and skulk away in the mountains and clefts of the wilderness? The old Adam will skulk with thee even there. Drive him out, and then will thy heart itself be a blessed solitude, where Christ will come and converse with thee. So associate with open sinners as to teach, not learn—warn, not confirm—help to life, not hasten to death (1 Corinthians 5:9-10).—Look out for home; God will take care of things abroad.—In order to effective Church discipline, the majority of the Church must themselves be sound 1 Corinthians 5:13.

Berlen. Bibel:—If thy wrong is made public and judged, count it not as an injury; for a genuine purification requires that we do not withdraw our iniquity from condemnation and destruction. Now that Christ has died for our justification, and sent us His Spirit for our sanctification, this personal purification may be justly required. We ought to do it, because now we can do it—not, however, in our own strength, but in that of our risen Saviour (1 Corinthians 5:7).—The true Passover festival of Christians is followed by a constant succession of Sabbaths, wherein they daily rise with Christ to newness of life. He who has learned this, keeps Easter all the time, Christ’s life is his life; and this life is peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. His festival will terminate only when Christ ceases to be 1 Corinthians 5:8.—If we must be surrounded by the world, let us take care to abide with ourselves through a constant inward intercourse with God. In such a case the world will not harm us.

Heubner:—The Pericope on Easter. To the worthy celebration of Easter there belongs—1, repentance 1 Corinthians 5:6-7; 1 Corinthians 2:0, faith and joy, because of redemption 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Corinthians 3:0, new resolves for greater sanctification (1 Corinthians 5:8).—The life of a Christian is a continuous Easter—1, in ceaseless repentance and sorrow for man’s fall; 2, in constant looking to Christ, the risen, reigning Lord.—Easter as the festival of a spiritual resurrection—1. Its necessity as a memorial of the Apostacy, since from one sin the whole race has been corrupted 1 Corinthians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 7:2. It shows the possibility of redemption. Only One, Christ, can raise us from our fall 1 Corinthians 5:7. 1 Corinthians 5:3. It is a general demand to walk in newness of life, in order to become fit for eternal life through sanctification (1 Corinthians 5:8). Heubner.

F. W. Besser:—We, too, have a Paschal Lamb. It was a gift from God. What has God from us in return? We have the true-Paschal Lamb. God requires of us the true Easter-cake. What vile ingratitude, if we are disobedient! (1 Corinthians 5:7). Daily would we celebrate Easter in spirit, provided we daily acknowledge, enjoy and praise our Paschal Lamb, ‘who was slain for us once for all’ (Hebrews 10:10). “The time of the N. T. is a perpetual festal period,” says Augustine. God’s word exhorts you to purge out the old leaven, and if you refuse, you make your natural- sourness altogether sourer through the vinegar and the gall of your opposition; weakness turns to stiff-neckedness and malice, and indolence, to spite and wickedness. But if, on the contrary, our old leaven is sweetened:—if, we admit the purifying influence of the Spirit, then instead of wicked resistance we show honest repentance; instead of cherishing malice, we accept the truth in love. In the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth we celebrate our Easter by allowing ourselves to be reproved by the light (Ephesians 5:13), and by giving honor to the truth.

[F. W. Robertson:—’Ye are unleavened.’ Here is the true conception of the Church: regenerated humanity—new life without the leaven of old evil. The Church visible and invisible, however, to be distinguished; the former composed of the men who in this age or that profess Christ, the latter such as every Church is only potentially and conceivably, according to its idea. For want of keeping these distinct, two grand errors arise: 1. Undue severity towards the lapsed. 2. Wrong purism in the matter of association with the world, its people, its business, its amusements. Under, 1. The attempt to make the Church entirely pure must ever fail. Only as a Church visible she must separate from her all visible evil; she must sever from herself all such foreign elements as bear unmistakable marks of their alien birth. Her purity must be visible purity, not ideal; representative, not perfect. Under, 2. We are not to go out of the world, but only to take care, in associating with sinners, not to recognize them as brothers, or as fulfilling in any degree the Christian idea].

[J. Edwards: 1 Corinthians 5:11. The Nature and End of Excommunication. I. The nature of excommunication: 1. Wherein it consists: a. It is privative of the charity of the Church, of brotherly society with its members, of its fellowship, and of its internal privileges; b. Positively it is a deliverance unto the calamities to which those are subject who belong to the visible kingdom of the devil, and into the special power of Satan, who may be employed by God for the infliction of such chastisement, as their apostacy deserves. 2. By whom inflicted: a. Primarily, by Christ; b. Ministerially, by the Church. II. The proper subjects for excommunication. 1. Those visibly wicked by gross sin. 2. The obdurately impenitent. III. The ends of excommunication. 1. That the Church may be kept pure, and its ordinances undefiled. 2. That others may be deterred from wickedness. 3. That the guilty parties may be reclaimed. IV. Motives to the duty. 1. The honor of Jesus, and of His religion, and His Church. 2. Our own good. 3. The good of those who are without. 4. Benevolence towards offending brethren. 5. The absolute authority of Christ].


1 Corinthians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 5:6.—The variations δολοῖ and φθείρει are glosses.

1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Corinthians 5:7.—The οὖν of the Rec. as well as the καί before οὐ, 1 Corinthians 5:10, and the καί before ἐξάρατε, 1 Corinthians 5:13, are connective particles that are feebly supported. [They are not found in A. B. D. P. Cod. Sin.]

1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Corinthians 5:7.—ὐπὲρ ἡμῶν after ἡμῶν is a dogmatic gloss, which has all the most important authorities against it. [This sentence ought to be rendered: ‘For our passover has been sacrificed, even Christ.’]

1 Corinthians 5:8; 1 Corinthians 5:8.—[“εορτάζομεν, A. D., but εορτάζωμεν, B. C. F L. Cod. Sin.” Alf.]

1 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 5:10.—The Rec. ἤ is feebly supported and is an alteration to conform to the general context. [A. B. C. D1. F. Cod. Sin. all have καί.]

1 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 5:10.—[The Rec. has ὀφείλετε with B3., which Alf. calls “a correction from misunderstanding.” Wordsworth and Meyer retain it. A. B1. C. D. F. L. Cod. Sin. have ὠφείλετε. It would then read: ‘Ye ought to have gone.’ “The necessity would long ago have occurred and the act passed. And this Lachmann, Tisch., Rückert, approve.]

1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 5:11.—[The Rec. has νυνὶ with C. D. Cod. Sin1.; and so Meyer, Words. But A. B. F. L. Cod. Sin3., have all νῦν, which Alf. adopts.]

1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 5:11.—The Rec. ἤ is accented according to the analogy of what follows. But ἥ is best authorized [being supported by nearly all the ancient versions.]

1 Corinthians 5:12; 1 Corinthians 5:12.—The καί has indeed many important authorities against it. [A. B. C. F. Cod. Sin.] But it might very easily have been omitted as dispensable, and ought to be retained with Meyer arid Tischendorf. [Alf. omits it.]

1 Corinthians 5:13; 1 Corinthians 5:13.—The Rec. καὶ ἐξάρεῖτε arose from Deuteronomy 24:7. Ἐξάράτε is decidedly better supported. A. B. C. D1. F. Cod. Sin.]

[24]See this disproved, and the whole chronology of our Lord’s last acts fully discussed in Andrew’s “Life of our Lord,” pp. 423–460: also Lange on Matth. pp. 456 and 468].

[25]And yet Calvin’s interpretation is more in accordance with the enlarged course of thought pursued in the latter part of the chapter, and carries with it greater force. It also explains the abruptness with which the injunction is introduced. The grand finale of the whole matter is: ‘Put the wicked one away from tho midst of you—the wicked one and all that belongs to him.’ This seems more natural than to suppose a recurrence to a matter already settled].

[26]See Archb. Magee’s conclusive argument on this subject in his “Atonement and Sacrifice,” Note 35 Kurtz Sacrificial Worship, § 180, and articles on “Passover” in Kitto Bib. Ency., and Smith’s Bible Dict. Also Bahr Symbolik, Vol. II., p. 627 ff., Lange Life of Christ, Edinburgh. Tran., IV., p. 149, and Lange Matthew 26:1-5].

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 5". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/1-corinthians-5.html. 1857-84.
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