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Wednesday, May 29th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 5

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

1Co 5:1. Commonly is from HOLOS, and Robinson defines it in this passage, "everywhere, commonly," and Thayer's definition is virtually the same. The meaning is that the condition was so well known that the fact was not questioned by anyone. Fornication is from PORNEIA, and Thayer gives the one word in our verse as his definition. But he adds the following information historically: "Properly of unlawful intimacy in general. That this meaning must be adopted will surprise no one who has learned from 1 Corinthians 6 how leniently converts from among the heathen regarded this vice and how lightly they indulged in it; accordingly, all other interpretations of the term, such as of marriages within the prohibited degrees and the like, are to be rejected." While on this phase of the subject, it will be well to read the "general remarks" at the beginning of chapter one. Since the ordinary evil of fornication was so prevalent and tolerated so liberally, it makes the attitude which Paul describes all the more significant. A popular phrase, "living in adultery," is of human coinage, and has no scripture foundation; therefore, we shall examine the word have in this verse. It is from the Greek word ECHO, and two full pages are used in the lexicon of Thayer in his definitions and explanations. The definitions (the parts in italics) include, "to have; to hold in the hand; to have possession of; to hold fast, keep; to regard, consider, hold as; to own, possess." Thus the word can be seen to refer to the attitude of a man toward something, without necessarily considering what legal or moral principles are involved. In the present passage, Thayer explains the word to mean, "to have (use) a woman (unlawfully) as a wife." The Lord requires his people to recognize the laws of the land, and they do not regard the fleshly union as constituting the marriage relation as does God (Gen 2:24; Mat 19:5-6; 1Co 6:16), and that is why Thayer inserts the word "unlawfully" into his explanation. The Gentiles (or heathen), with all their leniency toward immoral conduct, did not endorse such a practice as was being done by this man, and that is the sense in which they would not so much as name it among themselves. Father's wife means the man's stepmother. The necessary inference is that his father had remarried, to a younger woman than his son's mother. and the difference in age had induced this woman to become intimate with her husband's son.

Verse 2

1Co 5:2. Puffed up means their pride over• the superiority they imagined they had as we saw in the preceding chapter. Even this shameful case of fornication had not moderated their self-esteem. They should have mourned or lamented over the wicked character, and resolved that he would be put from among them.

Verse 3

1Co 5:3. Paul was an inspired man and could speak with authority. This enabled him to form the correct judgment on the present case even though absent 'and before any hearing had been conducted.

Verse 4

1Co 5:4. The sentence which Paul is going to pronounce will be in the name of Christ, which means by his authority. The first specification is that the action is to be done when ye are gathered together. This teaches that no final act of discipline can be scripturally done except at a meeting of the church. It does not even authorize that a "special meeting" be called for the purpose. The rulers of a congregation may designate the particular meeting at which it will be done, according to their judgment in the case. But when the appointment is made, it must be set at one of the times "when ye are gathered together." Paul informs them that his spirit will be with them in this great and solemn action, which will be true of all congregational actions that are according to apostolic teaching. Moreover, this action would be backed up by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that it cannot be considered as an act of personal revenge on the part of the brethren.

Verse 5

1Co 5:5. Now comes the verdict of the apostle which must be made that of the congregation also, in order that it may be the action of "the many" (2Co 2:6). To deliver is defined by Thayer, "to give over into one's power or use." He explains it at this place as follows: "The phrase seems to have originated from the Jewish formulas of excommunication, because a person banished from the theocratic [church and state] assembly was regarded as deprived of the protection of God and delivered up to the power of the devil." Destruction of the flesh is explained by Thayer as follows: "Said of the external ills and troubles by which the lusts of the flesh are subdued and destroyed." The idea is that by expelling him from the congregation, it may cause him to realize the terrible condition he is in on account of having lived for the gratification of his fleshly desires, and the result will be his "crucifying the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Gal 5:24). That will put him in condition to be restored to the fellowship of the saints, where he can so live that his spirit (his immortal being) may be saved when the Lord comes again. Another serious truth taught in this passage, is that when a person is excluded from the fellowship of the church, he is then in Satan's territory whose inhabitants have no promise of salvation in the world to come.

Verse 6

1Co 5:6. The Corinthians were so full of pride over their supposed strength, that they seemed to think a single case of wickedness would not hurt them. The illustration of leaven is according to what everyone knows about that product. A woman would not use as much leaven by bulk as the amount of bread she wished to produce, for the small lump deposited in the mass would work until "the whole was leavened" (Mat 13:33). Likewise, one bad character who is permitted to remain in a congregation will finally defile the whole body. (See 1Co 15:33.)

Verse 7

1Co 5:7. Paul has introduced the subject of leaven for the purpose of illustration. There were enough Jews in the congregation to know about the regulations under the law of Moses regarding leaven, and even the Gentiles had seen enough of the Jewish practices to understand something on the subject. At the time of the feast of the Passover and the seven days following, the Jews were required to "put away leaven out of your houses" (Exo 12:15), in order that they might keep their feast acceptably. Paul uses the language of that occasion for his instructions to the Corinthians. Purge out therefore the old leaven corresponds to "put away leaven out of your houses" with the Jews. The leaven to be purged out of the Corinthian church was the wicked fornicator. That ye may be a new lump means the church will be free from the leaven of this wicked man, and in so doing they would become a body fit for the service of Christ, having become unleavened. The Jews were to bring about this condition that was free from leaven, because a creature had been slain and prepared to be used in the Passover feast, and it could be eaten only "with unleavened bread" (Exo 12:8). Likewise, Christ has been slain and made a passover for us, and we should be prepared to partake thereof with a condition that has been purged from the leaven of sin.

Verse 8

1Co 5:8. The old leaven refers to the case of fornication that had been working in the lump or congregation. All other leaven likewise was to be kept out of the body. In naming the various kinds of leaven, Paul includes malice which was not present in the case of the fornicator as far as there is any indication. This denotes that the apostle is extending the illustration so as to apply to the entire service of Christ. The feast may be said to include all of the activities of the life that Christians are to live under Christ; it is all a rich feast. The passover of Christ's body and blood was consummated but once, it is true, as far as the physical ceremony was concerned, but the spiritual partaking thereof is to be continuous. It will be well at this place to corroborate the idea just set forth by quoting from 1Jn 1:7 : "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." This walking in the light is equivalent to maintaining a condition described in our present verse as unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Verse 9

1Co 5:9. I wrote refers to an epistle Paul wrote previously, for up to this verse there has been nothing said on the subject at hand. Col 4:16 speaks of an epistle sent to the Laodiceans, so we know that he wrote some letters that were not intended to become a part of the New Testament compilation. In the epistle referred to here, Paul gave instructions not to company with fornicators. We do not know what occasioned that letter nor why that particular instruction was given. The three words come from the Greek word SUNANAMIGNUMI, and Thayer defines it, "to mix up together; to keep company with, be intimate with, one." Further comments will be made when we come to verse 11.

Verse 10

1Co 5:10. This verse is given to clarify a statement in the former epistle as to whom they were to avoid in their associations. The world is so full of such characters as are named, that if Christians were required to avoid all of them, they would have to go out of the world; that is, cease to live in any populated country.

Verse 11

1Co 5:11. The preceding verse designated who were not meant by the restrictions, this one will specify who is to be so treated. Now I have written denotes that the apostle is giving his latest instruction on the subject. Man that is called a brother means one who had been a member of the congregation, but on account of the evils named had become unworthy of the term "brother," and hence one with whom they should not keep company. (See the notes on this phrase at verse 9.) The refusal to associate with this man is to be carried to the extent that they were not even to eat with him. Some teach this means eating the Lord's Supper, but the apostle has just explained that his instructions do not apply to men of the world; they apply only to those who had been members of the church. This theory mentioned would mean that people of the world were permitted to partake of the Lord's Supper, but the apostle has just explained that his instructions do not apply to men of the world; they apply only to those who had been members of the church. This theory mentioned would mean that people of the world were permitted to partake of the Lord's Supper, which we know is not true. To eat is from SUNESTHIO which Thayer defines, "to eat with, take food together with," so the word refers to the physical act of partaking of material food. But such an act itself meant more in old times than it does today; read the following passages. Gen 26:30 Gen 31:46; 1Ki 13:15; Pro 23:6; Mat 24:49; Mar 2:16; Act 11:3; Gal 2:12' From these we may see that the act of eating with others had a social significance formerly that it does not have today. However, the same principle holds good now, and the restriction not to company with means any act or association that would indicate a social recognition. If a man has been excluded on such charges as are named in the present passage, others are forbidden to be intimate with him, for such an association would encourage him to continue in his sinful life, thinking himself to be as good as those who associate with him.

Verse 12

1Co 5:12-13. What have I to do means "l have nothing to do with, judging them outside the church." Hence the church was not expected to be further responsible officially for those who were already of the world, or who would become inhabitants of it by being excluded from the church. The Lord would then be the sole judge of them. But those in the fellowship of the church are subject to the discipline of the congregation. The whole discussion of the case is closed with the direct command to put the wicked person from among them. Nothing is said about the woman, hence we must infer she was not a member of the church and so it would not be responsible.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 5". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/1-corinthians-5.html. 1952.
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