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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 5

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

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Verses 1-13



(Also in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11; 2 Corinthians 7:8-12.)

1 Corinthians 5:1. Commonly.—“Actually” (; widely accepted). Among you.—Join with “there is,” not with “reported.” News not only brought by Chloe’s people (1 Corinthians 1:11); more widely spread, reaching Paul from other quarters also. “Such cases not unknown in Roman society, but regarded with horror. Cic., Pro Cluentio, 5, 6, ‘O mulieris scelus incredibile, et præter hanc unam in vita omni inauditum’ ” (Stanley and Farrar, aptly). This agrees with the true reading; “named” omitted. Father’s wife.—A living, injured husband (2 Corinthians 7:12); probably (not certainly) the father. Hath.—Euphemistic for actual, married possession.

1 Corinthians 5:2.—Prefer affirmative to interrogative form (Ellicott, with Auth., against many moderns). Puffed up.—Not about this, but as in 1 Corinthians 4:6. Q.d. “Even this has not pricked the bladder of your inflation, of which I have been speaking to you! Spite of the occurrence of this in your midst, ye are still,” etc. Observe spiritual and intellectual pretensions of highest order, not accompanied by any sufficient, even elementary, moral sensibility! (See Appended Note, from Farrar.) Observe “Did … had done.”

1 Corinthians 5:3. Absent.—At Ephesus. Present in spirit.—Not the Holy Spirit. Evans puts very strong meaning into phrase: “It appears from this and from other texts that Paul’s own spirit, illumined … and vivified by the Divine, must have been endowed on certain occasions with a more than ordinary insight into the state of a Church at a distance.” He lays (too much?) stress on Colossians 2:5. “We may infer, then, that St. Paul could on occasions exercise this spiritual gift of supernatural immediate intuition even as our Lord on earth in His own greater measure did when He saw Nathanael, etc. (John 1:51). Elisha: ‘Went not my heart with thee?’ If Elisha, why not St. Paul?” Judged.—Word in itself neutral = “have given my decision.” Sentence held—as if unwilling to let fall—till 1 Corinthians 5:5.

1 Corinthians 5:4.—See Homiletic Analysis.

1 Corinthians 5:5.—

1. A physical penalty (viz. sickness supernaturally, directly, inflicted by Paul; which might have been fatal, but as directly, supernaturally, was remitted on the repentance of the offender). So Ananias and Sapphira. Bar-Jesus (Acts 12:0). Such visitation Simon at Samaria feared (Acts 8:24). Paul exercised the power much later on (1 Timothy 1:20) on Hymenæus and Alexander.

2. Consequences more than mere exclusion from Eucharist or the Church. 3. “Many sickly” at Corinth, “many sleep” (1 Corinthians 11:30); i.e. other cases of this form of physical, Divine, chastisement, even of death.

4. See homiletic treatment, further. N.B. “spirit,” not “soul.”

1 Corinthians 5:6.—Evans: “Is this a time to parade your lofty privileges of saintly kingship, or to flaunt and flourish your Christian wisdom embroidered with worldly philosophy, when this scandal of the Church stares you in the face? Theological pomp … a moral plague begun.” Leaven.—Proverbial, as in Galatians 5:9. Leaven (except in Matthew 13:33), an illustration of the pervasive working of evil. The man, and the principle of his action, both included in the “leaven.”

1 Corinthians 5:7.—In Exodus 12:15 sqq. are found two ideas: “No leaven,” “cut off” an offender. Hence the connection of thought. Perhaps emphasised by an actual or recent Passover celebration (letter written soon before Pentecost, 1 Corinthians 16:8); but too precarious to make these allusions give a very definite date. “Ye are unleavened” does not necessarily mean more than, “Ideally ye are, as being a Christian Church at all.” Purge out.—“On the evening [of the 13th] commenced the 14th of Nisan, when a solemn search was made with lighted candle through each house for any leaven that might be hidden or have fallen aside by accident. Such was put by in a safe place, and afterwards destroyed with the rest” (Edersheim, Life of Jesus, ii. 480; and he adds in a note:) “The Jerusalem Talmud gives the most minute details of the places in which search is to be made. One Rabbi proposed that the search should be repeated at three different times!” Our passover.—“Our”; cf. “We (also) have an altar” (Hebrews 13:10). Omit “for us.” Sacrificed.—True idea; word, however, does not necessarily mean more than “slain.” “Vers. 6–8 suggest the practical use and probable design of the Mosaic ritual” (Beet).

1 Corinthians 5:8. Malice.—Not in modern, narrow, sense of mischievous, personal animosity. Broader; “vitiositas,” evil-heartedness; opposed to “sincerity,” the transparent-heartedness in which is “no darkness at all.” Truth.—A word (opposed to wickedness) of the Johannean dialect; but Paul and John “agree in one.”

1 Corinthians 5:9. In a [lost] epistle.—[No theological difficulty here. A vast amount of literary material (e.g. Chronicles of Kings of Judah and Israel; or the incompletely compiled material for Gospels of which Luke speaks—not necessarily unreliable accounts) connected with the facts of Revelation has perished. All has been preserved which was needful to serve, or perhaps could serve, the purpose of the Spirit of God in conveying an “official,” Divine, account of the history and meaning and future of God’s Redemption-scheme. These two letters to Corinth, under Him, written for preservation. Any other, having answered its temporary purpose, could be left to the fate of ordinary private letters. All of any permanent value in the lost material is in these preserved.] For a lost epistle,

(1) 1 Corinthians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 5:6 are not specific enough to be the injunction referred to;

(2) same words in 2 Corinthians 7:8 refer to a previous (this first) letter;

(3) “now” contrasts with something written before (but query this?). Against,

(1) no trace of it, unless here;
(2) “I wrote,” explained as epistolary aorist;

(3) doctrinal presumption against the loss of anything from an inspired pen. (More fully discussed in the Introduction.)

1 Corinthians 5:10. Covetous.—Paul’s severe estimate of this sin. In Romans 7:0 regarded as in some sort the typical sin. “The accursed desire of having.” A craving for more, particularly that “more” which is possession of others. (Yet not necessarily this. Cf. Luke 12:15, which shows that covetousness may as well be displayed in the spirit in which a man seeks, and holds, his own.) A cuttle-fish sin with many tentacles; in the case at Corinth reaching out for, not money, but another man’s wife. Idolater.—Earliest-known use of the Greek word here employed.

1 Corinthians 5:11. Brother.—In the technical sense, meaning “a Christian.” Presumably, therefore, such a man’s “idolatry” only extended to joining in the heathen public banquets. Cf. “covetousness which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). To eat.—Not merely at the Lord’s Supper, but in any voluntary intercourse in private life.

1 Corinthians 5:12. Judging.—In the sense of exercising a right to pronounce and execute a sentence.

1 Corinthians 5:13.—“Let him be unto you as a heathen man and a publican.” Relegate him to the “world” “without,” to which he really belongs. Yet there God will “judge” him, as one of “those without,” by my sentence (1 Corinthians 5:5), which will still operate on him “in the world” if so be that he may repent and, at least “in spirit,” be found amongst those “within” once more, “in the day of the Lord Jesus.”


I. The dishonour of the Church (1 Corinthians 5:1-2).

II. The discipline of the Church (1 Corinthians 5:3-5).

III. The duty of the Church towards its Lord (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).

IV. The duty of the Church towards the outside world (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).


1. How early manifested the impossibility of making the Church, as men reckon its census, comprise exactly the same persons, neither more nor fewer, as does the Church whose census Christ takes! The distinction between the Real and the Nominal; between the Church which is by spiritual union His Body and the Church which is only a baptized Community holding, generally, the same Creed. As if the very Church institution itself were “made subject to vanity” (Romans 8:20), like all other creaturely, earthly life; “vanity” being, for the creature, “thwarted development, stunted growth, subjection to something worse than perishableness, bondage to something worse than decay” (Ellicott, Dest. of the Creature, lect. i.); or as the word radically suggests, “A yearning after an ideal, often nearly attaining, yet somehow doomed always to miss.” The Master foretold it: the tares spring up amongst the wheat; the bad fish are caught in the sweep of the drag-net of the Gospel invitation; at least one guest without a wedding garment sits down at table with the rest, hoping to enjoy the feast. It is a long way from the Church of (say) Ephesians 2:1-10 to the Church in Corinth, amongst whose members was this flagrant sinner. He will never join a Church who waits for a perfect one.

2. How serious the dishonour to the Church itself! No grave looks so black as that which yawns dark, with new-fallen, untrodden snow around its mouth. Sin is never so black as when its darkness and corruption open dark in the midst of a Church. It is high honour to belong to Christ; but the honour brings commensurate responsibility. God’s appeal is: “Ye shall be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16). [“For” means:

(1) Vindicate your relationship to Me; show the “family likeness,” which is holiness; for your own sake, that your “evidence” may be strengthened.

(2) Remember the honour of being Mine. Your character involves Mine; the world will judge of Me and of religion by you. I am holy; take care therefore that you are holy, in friendships, pleasures, bearing, character, all.

(3) Make possible the communion I desire and design for you. But you must needs, then, be holy, for I am holy.] Here is a Church involved by one of its members in sin almost unheard of, and always abhorred, in the world. The Church sinks lower than the world! Often its reproach still. Business men complain that “if they find a shabby thing done, a Church does it,” etc. They are not always too just to the Church. Yet more is rightly expected than from the world. But too much is sometimes expected; no fair allowance is made for fallible judgments, and for the almost inevitable complication arising from corporate, committee action, rather than personal. Often difficult to bring evidence sufficient for action in a Church court. Yet the Church should pique herself upon her honour; should make a point of being extra careful, especially in dealing with finance, or with sin within its own membership. “You carry Cæsar and his fortunes;” “You carry Christ and His character.”

3. And if the Church connive at or, [as some here understand] defend and glory in, the wrong, how much greater the dishonour. It is a sign of bad health when evil is tolerated; it means that zeal, watchfulness, love, purity, all, are low. May mean, in some cases, a wicked regard for a “respectable,” “important” offender. Health shows always in a sensitive repugnance to, recoil from, resistance of, evil. Flings it off, as a hand tosses off the burning coal. Instinctively shrinks with pain from even mental touch with it. A healthy body has no rest until it has expelled the very last piece of diseased bone. “Canst not bear them that are evil,” is put by Christ in the forefront of the good things He says (and says first) about, and to, Ephesus (Revelation 2:2). Happy when some voice, friendly, like Paul’s, becomes a kind of objective conscience, saying from without what the subjective conscience ought to be saying from within. Shame when the reproach of the unfriendly world has to awaken or educate the conscience of the Church!

4. A real difficulty, often felt, was not existent here. There was no room to doubt about the fact, or about the character of the fact. “Such a thing ought absolutely never to be heard of in connection with the Church; and absolutely nothing else is heard of” [so Stanley; but perhaps rather, “This is absolutely heard of everywhere”]. Many blemished in Christian character, or strongly, though not with too much discrimination, animadverted upon by the world, can scarcely be touched by Church discipline. Very elementary organizations, in their early days of small numbers and intimate mutual knowledge, can keep closer watch over each other, and can prudently suspend or cast out, for causes not wisely to be touched, or clearly to be judged upon, by larger, complex communities. Sin is a subtle thing, and the measure of responsibility is not always easy to gauge, for admonition or formal sentence. Tares and wheat are at some stages not easy to distinguish. This is not to condone criminal negligence, or weakness, or unfaithfulness to the Holy Ideal of a Church. The obligation lies to carry the practicable to the furthest reach of exactitude. Whenever a fair chance offers, as at Corinth—case clear, evidence abundant—not a moment’s hesitation should be permitted. To act, promptly, definitely, is due to the world, and to Christ. Wherever possible the Church should avowedly stand clear of all complicity with sin. Could here proceed safely, even upon “common report.”

5. A Church should “mourn” over sin. No amount of gifts, wealth, knowledge, numerical importance, prestige, can outweigh the dishonour. No room, no time, for complacent dwelling upon these, whilst sin remains uncondemned. Evil entering, spreading, infecting within, outweighs in seriousness of importance any material, social, numerical advantage. The first question should be, “Are we a holy people?” In days of weakness or decline, the first thing to do is to look for, confess, cast out, Church or personal sin. Joshua learned that there were times when it is of no avail to pray over defeat (Joshua 7:10). “Get thee up (from the attitude of prayer); wherefore liest thou upon thy face?… Up; sanctify the people.” First purification, then prayer, then success. The Church must purge itself from its dishonour. How to proceed? As in II.

II. The discipline of the Church.—The constitution and procedure of a Church court. Admirably expository of Matthew 18:19-20, with its significant “For.” [Twice, twice only, did Christ use His own new name, His “Church” (Matthew 16:18; Matthew 18:17). In first case referring to dangers from without; in second to difficulties arising within. Matthew 18:19 true, and fully applicable to all Church gatherings, but primarily deals with disciplinary gatherings (e.g. about an “offending brother”).] Notice:—

1. The fundamental thing: “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [In Matthew (ubi supr.) lit. “unto the name.” Here, “in.” “Unto” pictorially sets forth the gathering together toward it, as the central point and rallying-place and object of their assembling. Here the movement towards is over; the Church is assembled “in the name.”] This differentiates the gathering from all other meetings of Christian men. Two meet in street; talk of business, family, etc.; no difference between such a meeting and that of many worldly men round them. They meet in Parliament, or on boards of societies, even philanthropic; but their meeting even thus is not a gathering of the Church. But, so soon as they meet “unto His name,” and as long as they meet “in His name,” then a distinctively Church assembly is constituted,—if even of “two or three,”—having all the character, privileges, prerogatives, which belong to the Church. Worship, or business, begins when “His name” is made definitely the object of the gathering. [Cf. the ways of formally opening courts of judicature. In Russia a small, crowned baton lies by the magistrate, who sits under a portrait of the Czar. He sets this baton on end, by his side. That is the emperor come to judgment: “The court is sitting.”] That Head of the Church, who is revealed by “His name,” is the fountain of authority and wisdom in action. “Where two or three are gathered, … there am I; (and therefore) what they agree on earth to ask shall be done of My Father.”

2. This carries with it authority to judge, and “power” (1 Corinthians 5:3) to execute sentence.—The “power” of the Lord Jesus Himself is there. If “he that hath done this thing” is visited with judicial sickness by Paul and the assembled Church (for the “spirit” of Paul is assembled with those who are gathered together [in counting those present don’t leave out Paul and the Lord Jesus Christ, both are really there]), it is “this name, through faith in His name, hath made this man” sick (cf. the reversed parallel of Acts 3:16. Paul might have said, “Why look ye on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to” sicken?) [All this is normal, except the presence of Paul “in spirit,” presumably in order, by his special Apostolic, miracle-working gift, to inflict the extraordinary, abnormal sentence. The rest is essential to every true gathering, in due Church meeting assembled. The “Name of their Lord” is their “objective.” Around It they gather. It gives the meeting special character, cohesion, unity, for Himself is there amongst them. How often loyal hearts go homeward saying, “We have been very near to our Lord there”!] [Any questions as to the seat of authority to excommunicate, are not to be discussed or decided, with any fairness, upon the facts of an elementary time like this. As the structure of the Church grew more complex, by similar specialisation of organ and function to that seen in nature, the meeting for discipline conveniently became, in principle, a disciplinary “committee” of the Church, variously constituted, either advisory to the whole Church, or the depository of its power and the executive on its behalf. All these are matters of prudential, variable regulation. The only appearance of vital principle is in the fact that Paul makes the sentence his own: “I have judged.” The beginning of the pastoral office, and prerogative of admitting to, and excluding from, the visible fold. Yet not without the Church, as at least assessors. Perhaps rather as a jury, the pastor being a judge contributing to, and acting upon, their verdict as to the facts. In ultimate analysis, there is no “power” except that of the Lord Jesus present in the gathering.]

3. The sentence was exclusion, with physical accompaniments.—

(1) The very fact of sinning thus flagrantly, revealed a real self-exclusion to have taken place before Church action was taken. Such a man is no real member of the Church, though still on the roll and meeting with brethren, even at the Lord’s Table. [May have been really a member at first, but fallen through unwatchfulness and temptation. May have been a name too hastily enrolled; an unfit, not living, stone, in error or ignorance built into the “house” (1 Peter 2:5). Or, the “living stone,” more likely, may have ceased to grow and live, and so falls out of its place in the living, growing fabric.]

(2) So then (a) excommunication here is the ascertaining, the public recognition, and the official registration, of a separation which has been already made by the man’s own sin, entailing the withdrawal of the “grieved Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30). [As, similarly, divorce is only permissible where it recognises and registers a real dissolution of the marriage bond by the sin of one of the parties.] Outside the fold the man is exposed—more directly, and without the help and safeguard of the means of grace, and of the prayers and fellowship of his brethren—to the working of the “lion going about,” apparently able to inflict physical harm. The demonology of Job 1:0; Job 2:0 is not lightly to be rejected, harmonising, as it does, with this inspired statement of Paul. Yet here, as there, Satan is but the servant of God, with limited power; and here God’s minister to mark His displeasure. If we had known this man, we should probably have seen, or suspected, nothing but a quite natural illness, which we might, or might not, have noticed was coincident with his exclusion from the Church. The Corinthians themselves seem to have had no idea of the moral causes behind the epidemic sickness, and the numerous deaths just now occurring amongst them (1 Corinthians 11:30). (The spiritual, whether good or evil, behind the natural is a pure matter of revelation; but, when revealed, is not an incredible, or unreasonable, explanation of the facts [cf. Trench, Miracles, in initio]. In fact, Bible histories stand distinguished from secular accounts of the same facts—whether actual, or such as might be written—in this, that we are in them taken “behind the scenes” and permitted to see God and the spiritual world actively influencing what in all ordinary cases we only see from the natural side. Bible history is a specimen history, analysed and dissected, so that in other, ordinary, cases we may see where to look for, and how to find, the spiritual behind the natural.) It is contemplated by Paul that this man may die, or even would die. The “flesh” (more than the body?), the seat and instrument of his sin, is to be destroyed [an inexact word, never to be pressed too much]. But the “spirit,” the part of manhood capable of God, and once in fact illumined and indwelt by the Spirit of God, is to be saved. The man, it is presumed, will be brought to consideration and repentance in his illness: “It was good for me that I was afflicted.” “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now,” etc. (Psalms 119:67). “In the day of the Lord Jesus Christ” he will be found amongst the “saved of Jesus Christ.” [Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:14; 1 Corinthians 1:8; Philippians 2:16; Philippians 1:6 (“until”); 2 Timothy 1:12 (“against”); 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (“in the coming”).] (b) The object of excommunication is, quâ the Church, the public clearing of it from all suspicion of complicity with, or toleration of, sin, and the securing from dishonour the very name of Christ; quâ the offender, to make his conscience see the gravity of sin, to arouse to repentance and to amendment (where opportunity offers), and thus to make possible the way for restored communion with God and man. Must not be vindictive, but judicial, and (if possible) reformatory: hence (c) The method, extends only to exclusion from formal connection and from privileges of membership; but not to any attempt to follow a man outside with any direct infliction of temporal, or· social, or personal penalties (1 Corinthians 5:12-13 apply also to an excluded “brother”). Any consequences that follow exclusion should only be of God’s own infliction, generally in the ordinary course of His chastening providence. [Paul’s action in this case was rather the action of God, by His specially accredited and empowered messenger, than anything analogous to the ordinary action of the Church. No precedent in it for ecclesiastical power attempting to pursue into the secular sphere the life, goods, family, of an offender; least of all, of an offender against “doctrine” only.] This is a good case of “binding”; as 2 Corinthians 2:7 is of “loosing.”

III. Duty of the Church towards its Lord.—

1. The exodus of the new Israel is now in progress.—In transit from Egypt to Canaan. A very real deliverance has been accomplished. The old bondage has been broken (Romans 6:14, “Sin shall not have dominion over you”). We have had our song of deliverance by the Red Sea. We have had our Sinai, only now the law is written within, on our own hearts. We shall have our Canaan (Hebrews 4:9). A day of redemption lies behind us; another, more complete, “day of redemption” before us (Ephesians 4:30). [Divine history repeats itself; or, reversing order of thought, anticipates itself. The history of Redemption, extending through the ages, has special points at which it summarises itself, on a small scale gathering up all the essential features of the whole process. The Author, both of the Facts and of the Record of them, traced the earlier stages or embodiments of Redemption on lines which are the basal lines of the later, more fully detailed, perfect stage and embodiment in the historical Work of Christ and the founding and history of His Church. This is not a mere happy adaptation of a piece of ancient history (or of a pretty myth of the past). It is one of the thousand illustrations, which gather year by year with cumulative force of evidence to every student of the Bible, of the profound internal harmony, arising from the organic unity, of the Redemption record. This is a case of the authentic discovery and development of the full meaning of the old story and Deliverance. We are thus told, on His own authority, what God “had in His view” in the earlier incidents. The Passover and Exodus (like all in Creation, Colossians 1:16) were “created in Christ.” His own warrant for this is abundant: “The blood of the new covenant” (the blood of the old, Exodus 24:8); His cross is the uplifting of the serpent (John 3:14); He is the manna (John 6:32-33); a pillar of fire to His people (“followeth Me shall not walk in darkness,” ib. John 8:12); the water from the rock (John 7:38); [as He is also Jacob’s ladder, John 1:51; and John finds Him in a trivial regulation about the integrity of the body of the Paschal Lamb, John 19:36; Exodus 12:46; Psalms 34:20]. [Not in pre-resurrection days, but afterwards, when all time or occasion for (alleged) ad homines arguments from, and use of, the Old Testament Scriptures had passed away, and He spoke as having already begun the eternal life of the Incarnate Son, He found Himself in all the Scriptures (Luke 24:27; Luke 24:43-47)].] All the points of prerogative, distinction, privilege, of the Old Israel reappear in the New, purified from their temporary, pedagogic accompaniments. We have a sanctuary and a Shekinah (John 1:14; John 2:21. N.B. when its fleshly veil was rent, the accompanying type had its veil rent too); we have a Sabbath; we have the “circumcision of Christ” (Colossians 2:11); we have our “altar” (Hebrews 13:10). So we have a Passover lamb and a Passover supper, the birthday “feast” of the New Israel. (See Appended Note from Fairbairn.) [Fairbairn, Typology, ii. 442 sqq., very full here. The Passover lamb must not be denied to be a real sacrifice in any fear of giving support to “high” doctrine re the Lord’s Supper. Twice God calls it “sacrifice” (Exodus 23:18; Exodus 34:25).] In its combination of sacrifice for release from bondage, of atoning sacrifice for sin, and of feast for sustenance on pilgrimage, it best (better than even the ordinary peace offering) exhibits the whole truth about the Passover character of Christ and His work. The Cross and the Supper combine to exhibit the same whole truth for us. “Is slain.” Then why remain in bondage, with the door open to go out?

2. One emphatic law of the old ordinance is in principle continued unrepealed.—“No leaven with the Passover.” The sprinkling of the blood was not certainly continued in the post-Exodus celebrations. The bitter herbs and the rigorous search for leaven were essential, and continued, with increased stringency of observance, to the last. [Good reason for thinking that, like the modern Samaritan Passover lamb, that of Paul’s day was roasted on a cruciform spit of wood. But no Divine ordaining in this, so far as we know.] The Passover must not be killed “upon leaven” (so Exodus 34:25, literally). “The putting away of the leaven, that there might be the use only of unleavened bread, may also be regarded as carrying some respect to the circumstances of the people at the first institution of the feast.… But there can be no doubt that it mainly pointed, as already shown in connection with the meat offering, to holiness in heart and conduct, which became the ransomed people of the Lord—the incorrupt sincerity and truth that should appear in all their behaviour. Hence, while the bitter herbs were only to be eaten with the lamb itself [as the tears of repentance belong only to the first stage of the spiritual life, the first appropriation of Christ as the soul’s deliverer from bondage and from guilt], the unleavened bread was to be used through the whole seven days of the feast—the primary sabbatical circle—as a sign that the religious and moral purity which it imaged was to be their abiding and settled character. It taught in symbol what is now directly revealed, when it is declared that the end for which Christ died is that He might redeem to Himself a people who must put off the old man with his evil deeds, and be created anew after the image of God” (Fairbairn). “Sin is a malignant leaven

(1) In its nature; corrupting, spreading, assimilating;

(2) In its effects upon communities, upon individuals. It works—(a) constantly; (b) imperceptibly; (c) powerfully; (d) perniciously” (J. L., adapted). Preparation for partaking of Christ’s salvation at all involves this. No saving faith is possible where sincere repentance, and (as opportunity serves) “works meet for repentance,” are not found. Many a seeker looks for peace in vain. He has not put away sin. He may not share in the Passover deliverance. The true preparation for approaching the Lord’s Table is a careful examination of heart and life, carrying with us the “candle of the Lord,” searching into every suspected, dark place. To turn away from what might possibly lead to an unwelcome discovery, lest, seeing something too clearly, conscience should constrain us to yield it up, whereas we do not wish to see that obligation, is moral dishonesty; there is something of the “leaven” in it; everything should be “faced out,” swept out, renounced, before we sit down at Table with our Lord in His Supper [e.g. any unforgiving temper towards some fellow-communicant]. We have here a rule of our habitual Christian life. Our Exodus is always in progress. We live in a continuous Passover-tide and a continuous Pentecost, as hereafter we shall celebrate a continuous Feast of Tabernacles. [See the symbolism of Tabernacles in Revelation 7:9.] We belong to a people of whose whole life this is one “note,” “Ye are unleavened.” Our whole life is a perpetual “keeping of the feast.” To retain the initial deliverance of our life, to enjoy a perpetual communion with our Lord, to have His Supper continually celebrated with our heart (Revelation 3:20), there must be a perpetual self-cleansing from the leaven, a self-examination for it, an unsparing outsweeping of all. Holiness, perfected holiness (2 Corinthians 7:1), is the norm of the life of deliverance by, and of communion with, the dying, living, atoning, life-sustaining, Passover Lamb of our age, “even Christ.” We have here a rule of the habitual Church life. “No leaven tolerated.” Seek it out; watch for it; cast it, cast persons, out with unsparing strictness of discipline. If the Church is to be an Israel at all, a covenant people of God to-day; if it is not to return in fact to the world, out of whose Egypt God “has called” both “His Son” and His Church (Matthew 2:15); if there is to be a Table in the midst of its gatherings at which the Head will join His members at the Supper; if they are to have Him present in their assemblies for discipline or worship,—let them purge away Sin, personal or corporate. (Heart-sin above all, 1 Corinthians 5:8.)

3. Happy consequences of such purification.—

(1) “We keep the Feast,—the Feast! A festival life ours, if we will. Our slain Lamb is, between us and God, a perpetually renewed pledge of a life of liberty, larger and larger, from all bondage, and fear, and guilt, and danger, and sin.

(2) “We are a new lump.” [Figure changes as between this and 1 Corinthians 5:7. Rather here, as in Matthew 13:33, the pervasive, assimilating effect of leaven, without the evil connotation.] The Church can then leaven the world. Modern science has shown this side of the fermentative process; not only a token or accompaniment of “corruption,” the break-up of old combinations of matter when “death” has taken place, but also such a break-up by means of a host of minute organisms working towards new combinations, suitable for the sustenance, or to be the vehicle, of new life. For this, in part, does the Lord of the Church put It into the midst of the World. The world is to be saved mediately, through the Church [which actually fastened upon the corrupting, dissolving elements of society in the Roman Empire, and rearranged and reorganised them, to be the abode of the new Christianised life]. Every sinful member, every sinful practice, tolerated, robs the “new lump” of its efficiency for the Lord’s purpose. To purge out the old leaven [e.g. by excommunication] is Duty towards the Church’s Lord, who is the slain Passover Lamb always in its midst.

IV. The duty of the Church towards the outside world.—

1. Observe the sharp distinction, “within,” “without,” and this not as a mere accident of attachment to a society or community or non-attachment; goes deeper—“brethren,” “the world.” It lies in the very word ἐκκλησία, they who are of the Church are not only “called,” but “called out.” [Admirably analogous to the classical, political use of the word: “The lawful assembly in a free Greek city of all … possessed of the rights of citizenship, for the transaction of public affairs, … summoned out of the whole population; a large, but at the same time a select, portion of it, including neither the populace, nor strangers, nor yet those who had forfeited their civic rights” (Trench, Syn., § 1).] In a world where all nations are God’s, one nation was called to His side to be His “peculiar people” (Titus 2:14; from Deuteronomy 7:6, etc.; cf. 1 Peter 2:9; Isaiah 41:9). “His very own” where all are “His own.” Children, where the rest are at best only servants, though all are of His household, and all regarded with real interest and care. An inner circle of love and favour and blessing.

2. The boundary, dividing, inclusive, exclusive, line is not always easy to locate. The general direction of it, the principles upon which it is laid down, are obvious and clear, but it is difficult to allot individuals as “without” or “within.” The line is by no means coincident with that traced by Church enrolment and discipline. All methods of Church membership, actual or proposed, are obnoxious to the criticism that they exclude some who are really “within,” and, far more frequently, include, admit, retain, many of those “without.” To eye of Son of Man “sheep” and “goats” are definitely distinguishable. None belongs to neither. [“Yes; I know about the ‘sheep’ and the ‘goats.’ But what about the ‘alpacas’? These are my difficulty,” said half-jestingly, half-seriously, a man of the world.] As a rule, the true line lies within the mapped line of the ecclesiastical geography, sometimes far within. [As the map-makers say, there is an “Ecclesia Proper” and an “Ecclesian World”; cf. “China Proper” and “Chinese Empire,” half attached, loosely held, slightly ruled; “Russia Proper” and the vague “Russia in Asia” or “Russian Empire.”]

3. Tests nevertheless are very definite, many-sided. (a) E.g. put experimentally; take two men, closely parallel in life; difficult to lay finger on anything “wrong” in the man “of the world”; admirable, amiable, excellent in many ways; “comparing (so it is said) favourably with some of the Church,” “better man than your ‘converted’ man.” Unhappily true sometimes; yet go back, dig down to the foundation of both lives. The less admirable (pity!) has behind him a time when he first felt “conviction of sin” [the introduction to a new world, of “things spiritual,” to which the (best type of) “natural” man is a stranger]; knows himself “a sinner”; did then, and still does, make Christ and His work the basis of all life and hope before God. The more admirable, building a far better superstructure, has no such event, no such moral crisis, no such beginning of new, Spirit-taught knowledge; does not understand “sin,” nor himself “a sinner”; underneath the life-building there is no Christ for a sole reliance, (b) Illustrate by this: Before the knowledge of the mechanism of (the newly invented) clocks had travelled from Germany into Italy, the advantages of a public, far-visible dial with hands was so obvious, that many Italian cities set these up; the hands were kept right, by constant adjustment, by an attendant provided with a water-clock or sand-glass. Such “correct time” is the ideal and method of the righteousness of those “without.” [Was very much the righteousness of an Israelite. Was exactly the “righteousness of scribes and Pharisees.”] [It is possible to secure any number of right acts by right regulation from without, according to an external code, which must be very detailed, a code of “cases of conscience,” with new rules for every case that arises.] Italy very soon learned to keep the hands right by mechanism within, in much more exact and perfect fashion, as right at the seconds as at the hours. God secures from within “correct time,” righteousness of life, in those “within”; a new law and a new force are put into the heart. Sometimes a less perfect “time” is kept (pity!), but at least the true method is being made the basis of life. [Or, changing figure a little, in a man “within” the hands go, not too regularly, but at least in right direction now, and in obedience to a new law and power within.] (c) Most absolutely: What is the end of life? What is its relation to Christ? To the man “within,” “To live is (more or less definitely and faithfully) Christ.” The real, deep, fundamental test is there: what is the relation of the heart and the activities to Christ? Even when both men do what appears identically same thing, a “great gulf fixed” of distinction opens up underneath, in reply to that question.

2. Intercourse between “within” and “without,” how regulated.—

(1) Sad that it should need “regulation.” A sad tone rings through the Scripture use of “world.” A sadness as of a father who must forbid intercourse between some of his children and the rest; the tone in which, if mentioned at all, one is spoken of whose picture hangs with its face to the wall, in the home. Why cannot “church” and “world,” “within,” “without,” mingle freely, fraternise without “regulation” and “restriction”? “What is wrong with the world? Is it not God’s world? Surely it is not the devil’s?” True; and all the beauty, etc., is for the children of God: “all yours” (see 1 Corinthians 3:22). The history of the world [both as κόσμος and αἰών] is flowing in a channel of God’s digging, and towards God’s destination for it. Yet the word is ethical; the “world” is not friendly, or neutral, but alienated, inimical, dangerous. The “world” is the worldly world, in the New Testament, and in fact. (See Appended Note from Trench.)

(2) Some intercourse is necessary. The division-line parts “chief friends,” husband and wife; runs through the midst of homes, friendly circles, groups of relatives; through offices, schools, workshops, markets; parting, sorting out, individuals “right” and “left.” Christianity does not command any forced or unnatural breaking of these bonds; “then must ye needs go out of the world.” [N.B. this said as though monastic, eremitic, celibate segregation were not at all a thing to be contemplated for Christians. To argue this from his words were a reductio ad absurdum; so Paul feels.] The world wants, God wants, the Church in the world, the Christian in the home, in the market, on the bench, on the board, in the seat in Parliament. Is there not a danger to the man “within”? Yet it may be a training and a blessing; is meant to be a blessing to those “without.” Even Christian benevolence will mean much intercourse.

(3) Much more is voluntary, and should be modelled after the pattern of Christ’s own. [“Ye are not of the world, even as (i.e. in the same way as, and with the same absoluteness of negation) I am not” (John 17:19). Examine His “unworldliness.”] (a) John Baptist was Elijah in his ascetic aloofness from men; Christ was Elisha in His free intercourse with men. Christ accepted invitations from, ate at table of, Pharisee, publican, sinner (though He was most “at home” at Bethany). But always went in and bore Himself there as the Physician. When the Christian man finds he can do no good, and may himself suffer harm (Christ could not suffer any), he must abstain altogether or withdraw. (b) Deep separateness of origin (“of the world,” “not of”) is the true safeguard for the Christian, the true source of any power for good, in any voluntary intercourse. There should be no sympathy of aim, or community of judgment; no participation, in business or pleasure, which indicates, or ministers to, worldliness of temper, spirit, heart. [Romans 12:1-3, “conformity” may indicate, or assist, an evil metamorphosis. A holy metamorphosis within will save from any wrong “conformity” without.] (c) This affects intimacies, friendships, amusements, marriage.

3. Duty of Church towards world.—

(1) To endeavour to fulfil all the purposes for which God calls out a Church, and yet leaves it in the world. The very separateness is a witness for God; instrumentally it may “convict the world of sin.” [As a straight-edge convicts a hand-drawn line, when laid down beside it.] Hence

(2) Should “judge” those “within” with unsparing faithfulness. Sin in the world must often be left alone, though condemned by testimony and practice. Sin in the Church must be vigorously, promptly, dealt with.

(3) Should not attempt to judge those without. [No question of passing mental or conscientious “judgment.” Cannot help having an opinion, passing a judgment, upon the right or wrong of the life or character of those without. Folly to say, “You should not judge so strictly, should not judge at all.” The awakened sense of “righteousness” and of “sin” makes a mental, moral verdict a necessity. Bad sign of the Church’s own life if it did not “judge” and “condemn” the world’s life and principles. All such “judgments” are of course fallible, on (necessarily) imperfect data; a Christian man will be modest, self-diffident, only condemning severely under the strongest compulsion of evident fact. Not this, but] the Church should not attempt any sort of punitive discipline upon the outside community. [As the “world” should have no disciplinary power within the Church.] The sphere of “the State” is crime in the citizen—Christian or non-Christian; the sphere of the Church is sin in the member. The attempt in Puritan England and Puritan New England to use Church machinery, or Church methods and code, to enforce a Church discipline upon the morals and liberties of even those “without,” broke down. As things are we must leave sin in those “without” to the “judgment” and chastisement of God. The world cannot yet be made a theocracy. It is a difficult, delicate question, needing all the sense and grace a Christian father and mother possess and can obtain, how far the home may be made a little theocracy, how far the Christian should enforce upon non-Christian children or servants, the Christian rule of life and its sanctions, so “judging those without.”


1 Corinthians 5:7. “Christ our Passover,” etc. I. The Victim. II. The Sacrifice. III. Its efficacy. IV. Its appropriation.—[J. L.]

1 Corinthians 5:7-9. Observe the necessity of: I. Repentance. II. Faith in Christ. III. A holy life.—[J. L.]

1 Corinthians 5:7-9. Our Christian Life a Perpetual Passover-keeping.—A continuous entering into liberty from Egyptian bondage, into a journey homewards with God for our Guide. Three features always stamped upon it:—

I. The cleansing of the heart.—Must “make ready the upper room,” if Christ is to enter and sup with us, as the perpetual benediction of our life. Not done once for all in the repentance which inaugurated our new life. New discoveries as we carry the candle into the darker corners. We get a keener eye to see “leaven,” as years go on.

II. Slaying the lamb.—This done once for all, but not then done with. The Atonement a perpetually new basis of each new day’s life of grace. However high we raise the superstructure, yet this the foundation always. Even in heaven we shall be only sinners whose ground of acceptance is the merit of the slain Lamb. [Too often there is a long parenthesis in the midst of life’s journey—as in the wilderness sojourn of Israel—during which no Passover is celebrated. All the sense of believing rest in the work of the Lamb of God, all the practical efficacy of it in our life, is gathered up around the start on the journey and the eve of entering Canaan; a long, barren, unbelieving, unfaithful tract stretches between.]

III. Eating the supper.—This characteristic also to be stamped upon the whole Christian course. Not only a continuous resting upon an atonement which brings deliverance from bondage, but a continuous “peace-offering” feast, a continuous communion with Him who is the Victim, the Supper, the Host at the table—all in one.

1 Corinthians 5:13. The judgment of the Church and the judgment of God. I. One limited; other universal. II. Partial; absolute. III. Disciplinary; judicial. IV. May err; infallible. V. Provisional; final. VI. Temporary in effects; eternal.—[J. L.]

1 Corinthians 5:9-13. (a) I. In the Church; not of the Church. II. In the world; not of the world.

Or (b) I. Separation from the Church. II. Separateness from the world.


1 Corinthians 5:2.—Farrar thinks that they were “puffed up” and “boasted” about this very matter. “Though the very Pagans execrated this atrocity, yet he had not been expelled from the Christian communion, nor even made to do penance in it, but had found brethren ready, not merely to palliate his offence, but actually to plume themselves upon leaving it unpunished. This man seems to have been a person of distinction and influence, whom it was advantageous to a Church, largely composed of slaves and women, to count among them.” (Query, all this?) “Doubtless (?) this had facilitated his condonation, which may have been founded on some Antinomian plea of Christian liberty; or on some Rabbinic notion that old ties were rendered non-existent by the new conditions of a proselyte” (something in this); “or by peculiarities of circumstance unknown to us. But though this person was the most notorious, he was by no means the only offender, and there were Corinthian Christians—even many of them—who were impenitently guilty of un-cleanness, fornication, and lasciviousness” (1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:15-18; 1 Corinthians 10:8; 1 Corinthians 15:33-34). (Farrar, St. Paul, in loc.)

1 Corinthians 5:7.—“Another and still higher element of prophetical import mixed with that singular work of God, which gave rise to the institution of the Passover. For the earthly relations then existing, and the operations of God in connection with them, were framed on purpose to represent and foreshadow corresponding but increasingly superior ones connected with the work and kingdom of Christ. And as all adverse power, though rising here to its most desperate and malignant working, was destined to be put down by Christ, that the salvation of His Church might be finally and for ever accomplished, so the redemption from the land of Egypt, with its ever-recurring memorial, necessarily contained the germ and promise of what was to come; the lamb perpetually offered to commemorate the past pointed the expecting eye of faith to the Lamb of God, one day to be slain for the yet unatoned sins of the world; and only when it could be said, ‘Christ, our passover has been sacrificed,’ did the purpose of God, which lay enclosed as an embryo in the Paschal institution, reach its proper culmination.”—Fairbairn, “Typology,” ii. 445.

1 Corinthians 5:10. The World.—“(There are no [passages] which speak of the end of the κόσμος).… From the signification of κόσμος as the material world, which is not uncommon in Scripture (Matthew 13:35; John 21:25; Romans 1:20), follow that of κόσμος as the sum total of the men living in the world (John 1:29; John 4:42; 2 Corinthians 5:19); and then upon this, and ethically, those out of the ἐκκλησία, the alienated from the life of God (John 1:10; 1 Corinthians 1:20-21; James 4:4; 1 John 3:13).… Αἰών, … signifying time, comes presently to signify all which exists in the world under conditions of time; and then, more ethically, the course and current of this world’s affairs. But this course and current being full of sin, it is nothing wonderful that ‘this world’ (αἰών) like κόσμος, acquires presently in Scripture an evil significance.… All that floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims, at any time current in the world, which it is impossible to seize and accurately define, but which constitute a most real and effective power, being the moral, or immoral, atmosphere which at every moment of our lives we inhale, again inevitably to exhale,—all this is included in the αἰών, which is, as Bengel has expressed it, the subtle informing spirit of the κόσμος, or world of men who are living alienated and apart from God.” Both words united in Ephesians 2:2 : “the age of this world.” “The God of this world,” 2 Corinthians 4:4; its anti-God. The “age” is the rule of the life of the men of the “world” (Ephesians 2:2, κατά). They are “men of the time,” that and nothing more.—Trench, “Syn.,” §lix.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 5". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/1-corinthians-5.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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