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the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 5

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations

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1 Corinthians 5:1,1 Corinthians 5:2 Paul reproveth a scandalous incest committed and protected from censure in the church at Corinth,

1 Corinthians 5:3-5 and by his authority in Christ excommunicateth the offender.

1 Corinthians 5:6-8 The necessity of purging out the old leaven.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 Christians guilty of notorious crimes are not to be consorted with.

Verse 1

The apostle here giveth a reason of the question which he propounded in the former chapter, whether they would be willing that, when he came to them, he should come unto them with a rod? Because such horrid wickedness was committed amongst them, as he, being an apostle to whom Christ had intrusted the government of his church, could not pass over without correction: he instanceth here in one, which he calleth

fornication; by which word is often in Scripture to be understood all species of uncleanness, though, in strict speaking, we by fornication understand the uncleanness of a single person, as by adultery we understand the uncleanness of a person married, and by incest the uncleanness of a person with some near relation, as a mother, a sister: in strict speaking, the sin here reflected on was incest; but the Scripture by this word comprehends all species of unlawful mixtures.

Such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles: this sin he aggravates by saying, that the Gentiles by the light of nature discerned and declined such an abomination; by whom is not to be understood the more brutish part, but the more civilized part of the heathen, such as the Romans, &c. were.

That one should have his father’s wife: by having his father’s wife, in this place, is not to be understood, the marrying of his father’s wife, his father being dead; but the using of his father’s wife as his wife while his father was yet alive, (as some judicious interpreters think), because hardly any nation would have endured a son openly to have married the widow of his father. And in 2 Corinthians 7:12, there is mention made not only of one that had done, but of another that had suffered the wrong; which latter must be the father himself: so as there was both incest and whoredom in this fact.

Verse 2

And ye are puffed up; you are so conceited of your own parts and gifts, and are so full of your contentions about the preference of ministers, and things of little concernment to your souls and the interest of the church, that you have not been able to find leisure to deal with this scandalous person, as a church of Christ ought to have done. This seemeth rather the reason of their not mourning, than any rejoicing in iniquity, as if they had thought the gospel had opened that door against this licentiousness which the law had shut, or triumphed in this incestuous person, being one of their teachers (which can hardly be thought).

And have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you: they ought rather to have mourned, keeping times of fasting and prayer, on the behalf of this scandalous member amongst them, that his sin might (upon his due sense of it, and repentance for it) have been forgiven him, and the blot upon their church, by their having such a one in their fellowship, might be washed out, by his being cast out of their fellowship and communion. It was no time for them to glory in their gifts, and be puffed up with the parts of their teachers or members, when they had such a blot upon them by a putrid member that was amongst them. They had a great deal more cause for humiliation, than for pride and glorying.

Verse 3

Though I be absent as to my bodily presence, yet God having intrusted me with a superintendency and care over his church amongst you, out of the care and solicitude which I have for you, as well as the other churches of Christ, and in discharge of that trust which God hath reposed in me, I do determine, and have determined as much as if I were present amongst you, what ought to be done by you concerning this person so notoriously scandalous.

Verse 4

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; either having solemnly called upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for his counsel and direction, or blessing your action, that it may be of spiritual advantage to the party concerned; or according to the command of Christ, or by his authority, or for his glory. It may be referred either to what went before, I have judged or determined by the authority of Christ; or to what follows after.

When ye are gathered together, and my spirit; when you are gathered together by the authority, or according to the institution, of Jesus Christ, and my spirit with you, you having my judgment in the case. With the power of our Lord Jesus Christ; and the power and authority of Christ committed to me, and to you, as a church of Christ.

Verse 5

What this delivering to Satan is, (of which also we read, 1 Timothy 1:20), is something doubted by interpreters. That by it is to be understood excommunication, or casting out of the communion of the church, can hardly be doubted by any that considereth:

1. That the apostle speaketh of an action which might be, and ought to have been, done by the church of Corinth when they met together, and for the not doing of which the apostle blameth them.

2. That the end of the action was, taking away the scandalous person from the midst amongst them, 1 Corinthians 5:2; purging out the old leaven, that they might become a new lump, 1 Corinthians 5:7.

3. It was a punishment inflicted by many. Those, therefore, who interpret the phrase of an extraordinary power given the apostles or primitive churches, miraculously to give up the scandalous person to the power of the devil, to be afflicted, tormented, or vexed by him, (though not unto death), seem not to have considered, that the apostle would not have blamed the church of Corinth for not working a miracle, and that we no where read of any such power committed to any church of Christ; and one would in reason think, that persons under such circumstances should rather be pitied and helped, than shunned and avoided.

The only question therefore is: Why the apostle expresseth excommunication under the notion of being delivered to Satan? Some have thought that the reason is, because God was so pleased to ratify the just censures of his church, delivering such persons as were cast out of it into the hands of Satan, to be vexed and tormented by him; and that this might be in some particular cases, none can deny, but that this was an ordinary dispensation of Providence as to all excommunicated persons, wants better proof than any have yet showed us. It appears to me a more probable account of this phrase which others have given us, telling us, that Satan is called the god of the world, and the prince of the world, as world is taken in opposition to the church of God; so as delivering to Satan, is no more than our Saviour’s—If he neglect to hear the church, let hint be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican, Matthew 18:17. Only for the further terror of it, the apostle expresseth it by this phrase of delivering up to Satan; thereby letting us know, how dreadful a thing it is to be out of God’s special protection, and shut out from the ordinary means of grace and salvation, and exposed to the temptations of our grand adversary the devil, which is the state of all those who are out of the church, either having never been members of it, or, according to the rules of Christ, cast out of the communion of it.

For the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus: the end of excommunication is not for the destruction of the person of him who is cast out, but for the destruction of his flesh, that is, his lusts, which are often in Scripture called flesh, or the maceration and affliction of his body through grief and sorrow; for a determination of his fleshly being cannot be here understood by the destruction of the flesh, for that is no effect of excommunication; and those who interpret the delivery to Satan, of an extraordinary punishment, which the apostles or church in the primitive times had a power to inflict, make it to terminate not in the death, but in the torments only, of the person so punished. Again, the apostle mentioneth this punishment as a means to the eternal salvation of this person’s soul in the day of Christ. There is no text in Scripture which more clearly asserts and opens the ordinance and nature of excommunication, than this text doth. As to those who are to inflict it, it lets us know, that it is to be done by the church, when gathered together; though the elders of the church may put the church upon it, and decree it, yet the consent and approbation of the whole church must be to it; and indeed it is vain for the officers of a church to cast any out of a communion, when the members of that communion will yet have conununion with him or them so cast out. It also lets us know, that it is a censure by which men are not shut out of the fellowship of men as men, but of men as Christians, as a church of Christ, in such religious actions and duties as concern them, considered as such a body: excommunication doth not make it unlawful for persons to buy and sell with the persons excommunicated, but to eat and drink at the Lord’s table with them, or have communion with them in acts proper to a church as the church of Christ. The excommunicated person is in something a better condition than a heathen, for he is not to be counted as an enemy, but admonished as a brother, 2 Thessalonians 3:15. Heathens also may hear the word; he is only to be avoided in acts of church fellowship; and as to intimate communion, though it be not religious, as appeareth from 1 Corinthians 5:11, and from 2 Thessalonians 3:14. Further, we are taught from hence, that none ought to be excommunicated but for notorious, scandalous sins, nor without a solemn invocation on the name of Christ, inquiring his will in the case. We are further taught, that the person that is duly excommunicated is in a miserable state, he is delivered up to Satan, cast out of God’s special protection, which is peculiar to his church, and oftentimes exposed to formidable temptations. Finally, we are from this text instructed, that excommunication ought to be so administered, as may best tend to the saving of the soul of him that falls under that censure: men’s end in excommunications should not be the ruin of persons in their health or estates, only the humbling of them, and bringing them to a sense of their sins, and a true repentance; and all means in order to that end should be used, even to such as are cast out of any church, such are repeated admonitions, the prayers of the church for them, &c.

Verse 6

You boast and glory because you have men of parts amongst you, persons whom the world count wise;

your glorying is not good; what do you glory for, when you have such a scandalous person amongst you, and take no care to cast him out? Can you be ignorant, that as

a little leaven taken into the midst of the meal, and there kept, presently soureth the whole mass, and leaveneth the whole lump; so one notorious, scandalous sinner detained in the bosom of a church, casts a blot upon the whole church?

Verse 7

Purge out therefore the old leaven: if the article την in this place be emphatical (as some think) it ought to have been translated this old leaven, that is, the incestuous person, whose communion with you influenceth your whole communion, which is defiled by it, through your church’s neglect of their duty with reference to him. If the article be not to be taken emphatically, these words may be understood as spoken to every individual member of this church, and is no more than put off the old man; the lusts and corruptions of our hearts, as well as false doctrine, being compared to leaven, which influence our whole man, as leaven doth the whole mass of meal. The first seemeth to be most proper to this place, if we consider what went before, and that the apostle is speaking to the whole church, and had been before speaking of an act to be done by them not singly, but when they should be gathered together in a church assembly; these he commands to purge out the old leaven, that is, this incestuous person.

That ye may be a new lump; that they might be truly a Christian church, reformed from such things as no way agreed with the doctrine and profession of the gospel.

As ye are unleavened; as you are or should be unleavened, like the Jews, who at the passover kept the feast of unleavened bread, when for seven days together they might have no leavened bread in any of their houses, Leviticus 23:6.

For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; for though the feast of the Jewish passover be ceased, and you be tied to none of those Levitical observations, yet you are under as high an obligation; for Christ, who is the true paschal Lamb, is slain or sacrificed for us, and your old man should be crucified with him, and you no longer serve sin.

Verse 8

Therefore let us keep the feast: here is a manifest allusion to the feast of the Jewish passover, which was immediately followed with the feast of unleavened bread for seven days. As the passover prefigured Christ, who is our paschal Lamb, whose flesh we eat and whose blood we drink by believing, and sacramentally in the Lord’s supper; so the Jewish subsequent feast of unleavened bread prefigured all the days of a Christian’s life, which are to be spent,

not with the old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth: which may be either understood of those evil and good habits which they signify, and so let us know the duty of every particular Christian to take heed of any malice or wickedness; or else (which seemeth most proper to this place) the abstract is put for the concrete, malice and wickedness for wicked and malicious men, and sincerity and truth for persons that are true and sincere. So that we are from hence taught, both the duty of every particular Christian, considering that Christ hath died as a sacrifice for his sin, to live up to the rule which he hath given us, abhorring malice and all wickedness, and acting truth and sincerity; and also the duty of every true church of Christ, to keep their communion pure from the society of wicked and malicious men, and made up of men of truth and sincerity. The latter seemeth to be principally intended.

Verse 9

It should seem that Paul had wrote so in some former epistle which he had directed to this church, which is lost; for we must think that Paul wrote more epistles to the several churches than those left us upon record in holy writ (yet so as not to undermine the perfection of the Holy Scriptures). By

fornicators are meant any sorts of unclean persons known to them; and the keeping company with them, which the apostle had prohibited to the Corinthians, was not a mere fellowship with them in their works of darkness, but any intimacy of communion with any such persons.

Verse 10

Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world; I did not intend that admonition as to such persons as were no Christians, no members of the church (so this term world is used, John 15:19; John 17:14; and so it is to be interpreted here). He extendeth this admonition to other scandalous sinners, such as covetous persons, by which he understandeth such as by any open and scandalous acts discover their too great love of money, whether by oppression, or by cheating and defrauding, &c.;

or extortioners, such as exact more than their due; or with idolaters, by which he understandeth such as worship images: and under these few species of scandalous sinners here mentioned, the apostle understands all others alike scandalous.

For then must ye needs go out of the world; for (saith he) you could have no commerce nor trading with men in the world, if you might keep no company with such as these. Which is true at this day, when the world is much more Christianized than it was at that time.

Verse 11

Of late there have been some disputes what eating is here intended, whether at the Lord’s table, or at our common tables. Intimacy of communion is that which undoubtedly is here signified by eating; and the apostle’s meaning is, that the members of this church should forbear any unnecessary fellowship and communion with any persons that went under the name of Christians, and yet indulged themselves in any notorious and scandalous courses of life; of which he reckoneth up several sorts.

1. Unclean persons, noted for any kind of uncleanness.

2. Covetous persons; by which he understands all such as, out of their too great love of money, either scandalously sought to add to their heap, or to detain what was others’ just due.

3. Idolaters; by which he understands such as out of fear, or to gain favour with the heathen amongst whom they lived, would frequent and perform Divine worship in the idol’s temple.

4. Railers, such as used their tongues intemperately and scandalously, to the prejudice of others’ reputation.

5. Drunkards; under which notion he comprehends all such as drank hot liquors intemperately, whether they had such an effect upon them as to deprive them of the use of their reason or not.

6. Extortioners, viz. such as, being in any place, exacted more than was their due of those that were under their power.

But yet by this interpretation the argument is not lost against eating with such at the table of the Lord, which is no more necessary communion with them, than civil eating is; for neither hath God spread that table for any such, neither ought any church to endure any such persons in its communion: nor are any Christians bound for ever to abide in the communion of that church, which shall wilfully neglect the purging out of such old leaven. Admitting this precept prohibitive of a civil intimacy with scandalous persons, though they be called brethren, it holds a fortiori, as a stronger argument against religious communion with such, in ordinances to which, apparently, they have no proximate right.

Verse 12

For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? My jurisdiction extendeth not to heathens; God hath intrusted to me not the government of the world, but the government of his church.

Do not ye judge them that are within? Nor would I have you concern yourselves further, than in judging your own members, those that are within the pale of your church, and who, by a voluntary joining with you, have given you a power over them.

Verse 13

But them that are without God judgeth; for heathens that live brutish and scandalous lives, God will judge them; the church hath nothing to do with them, they never gave up themselves to them, and are only under the justice of God in the administrations of his providence.

Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person: do you, therefore, what belongs to you to do. This incestuous person, besides his subjection to God’s judgment, who is the Judge of all, whether within or without the church, is subjected also to your judicature; therefore use that power which God hath given you, and put away from amongst you that evil person. The conclusion of this discourse helps us clearly to understand those former precepts, Purge out the old leaven, 1 Corinthians 5:7, and: Let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, 1 Corinthians 5:8; that they are not so properly to be interpreted of particular Christians’ purging out their lusts and corruptions, (though that be every good Christian’s duty), as of every Christian church’s duty to purge themselves of flagitious and scandalous persons.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 5". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/1-corinthians-5.html. 1685.
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