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Bible Commentaries

Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians
1 Corinthians 5

 

 

Verse 1

The case of the incestuous member of the church, 1 Corinthians 5:1-5. Exhortation to purity, and to fidelity in discipline, 1 Corinthians 5:6-13.

The second evil in the church of Corinth, to which Paul directs his attention, is allowing a man guilty of incest to remain in its communion. He says it was generally reported that fornication was tolerated among them, and even such fornication as was not heard of among the heathen, 1 Corinthians 5:1. He reproves them for being inflated, instead of being humbled and penitent, and excommunicating the offender, 1 Corinthians 5:2. As they had neglected their duty, he determined, in the name of Christ, and as spiritually present in their assembly, to deliver the man guilty of incest to Satan, 1 Corinthians 5:3-5. He exhorts to purity, in language borrowed from the Mosaic law respecting the Passover. As during the feast of the Passover all leaven was to be removed from the habitations of the Hebrews, so the Christian's life should be a perpetual paschal feast, all malice and hypocrisy being banished from the hearts and from the assemblies of believers, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8. He corrects or guards against a misapprehension of his command not to associate with the immoral. He shows that the command had reference to church communion, and not to social intercourse, and therefore was limited in its application to members of the church. Those out of the church, it was neither his nor their prerogative to judge. They must be left to the judgment of God, 1 Corinthians 5:9-13.

It is reported commonly (that there is) fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife.

Having dismissed the subject of the divisions in the church of Corinth, he takes up the case of the incestuous member of that church. It is reported commonly ( ן ̔́ כשע ב ̓ ךןץ ́ ופבי). This may mean what our translation expresses, viz., it was a matter of notoriety that fornication existed among them. ֿ ̔́ כשע may have the force of omnino, ‘nothing is heard of among you except, etc.' Or it may mean, ‘In general, fornication is heard of among you.' That is, it was a common thing that fornication was heard of; implying that the offense, in different forms, more or less prevailed. This is the less surprising, considering how little sins of that class were condemned among the heathen and how notorious Corinth was for its licentiousness. To change the moral sentiments of a community is a difficult and gradual work. The New Testament furnishes sad evidence, that Jewish and Gentile converts brought into the church many of the errors of their former belief and practice. The word fornication ( נןסםוי ́ ב) is used in a comprehensive sense, including all violations of the seventh commandment. Here a particular case is distinguished as peculiarly atrocious. The offense was that a man had married his step-mother. His father's wife is a Scriptural periphrase for step-mother, Leviticus 18:8. That it was a case of marriage is to be inferred from the uniform use of the phrase to have a woman in the New Testament, which always means to marry. Matthew 14:4; Matthew 22:28; 1 Corinthians 7:2, 1 Corinthians 7:29. Besides, although the connection continued, the offense is spoken of as past, 1 Corinthians 7:2, 1 Corinthians 7:3. Such a marriage Paul says was unheard of among the Gentiles, that is, it was regarded by them with abhorrence. Cicero, pro Cluent. 5, 6, speaks of such a connection as an incredible crime, and as, with one exception, unheard of. It is probable from 2 Corinthians 7:12 that the father of the offender was still alive. The crime, however, was not adultery, but incest; for otherwise the apostle would not have spoken of it as an unheard of offense, and made the atrocity of it to arise out of the relation of the woman to the offender's father. We have here therefore a clear recognition of the perpetual obligation of the Levitical law concerning marriage. The Scriptures are a perfect rule of duty; and therefore, if they do not prohibit marriage between near relatives, such marriages are not sins in the sight of God. To deny, therefore, the permanency of the law recorded in Leviticus 18, is not only to go contrary to the authority of the apostle, but also to teach that there is for Christians no such crime as incest.


Verse 2

And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

They were puffed up, i.e. elated with the conceit of their good estate, notwithstanding they were tolerating in their communion a crime which even the heathen abhorred. Some have endeavored to account for the occurrence of such an offense, and for the remissness of the church in relation to it, by supposing that both the offender and the church acted on the principle taught by many of the Jews, that all bonds of relationship were dissolved by conversion. The proselyte to Judaism became a new creature. He received a new name. His father was no longer his father, or his mother his mother. The Rabbins therefore taught that a proselyte might lawfully marry any of his nearest kindred. It is possible that such a notion may have partially prevailed among the Jewish portion of the church; but not very probable,

1. Because of its absurdity;

2. Because its prevalence among the Jews was only after their reprobation as a people;

3. Because the wiser class of the Jews themselves condemned it.

It is more probable, if the crime was defended at all, it was on the principle that the Scriptures and nature condemn intermarriages on the ground only of consanguinity and not also of affinity. A principle opposed to Leviticus 18, and to what the apostle here teaches.

And have not rather mourned ( ו ̓ נוםטח ́ ףבפו), i.e. grieved for yourselves. Your condition, instead of filling you with pride, should humble you and make you sad. That ( י ̔́ םב), not so that, but in order that, as expressing the design which the apostle contemplated in their humiliation and sorrow. Comp. John 11:15. ‘I would that ye were grieved and sorry for yourselves, in order that he who had done this deed might be taken away.' The י ̔́ םב may depend on a word implied. ‘Ye have not mourned, desiring that, etc.' Chrysostom says the idea is, that they should have acted as they would have done had a pestilence appeared among them which called for mourning and supplication in order that it might be removed. It is a right inherent in every society, and necessary for its existence, to judge of the qualification of its own members; to receive those whom it judges worthy, and to exclude the unworthy. This right is here clearly recognized as belonging to the church. It is also clear from this passage that this right belongs to each particular church or congregation. The power was vested in the church of Corinth, and not in some officer presiding over that church. The bishop or pastor was not reproved for neglect of discipline; but the church itself, in its organized capacity.


Verse 3

For I verily, as absent in body, but present in Spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, (concerning) him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; when ye are gathered together, and my Spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the Spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

These verses constitute one sentence, and must be taken together in order to be understood. The construction of the principal clauses is plain. Paul says, ‘I have determined to deliver this man unto Satan.' All the rest is subordinate and circumstantial. The connection of the subordinate clauses is doubtful. Perhaps the best interpretation of the whole passage is the following: ‘I, though absent as to the body, yet present as to the Spirit, have determined as though present, in the name of the Lord Jesus, ye being gathered together, and my Spirit being with you, with the power (i.e. clothed or armed with the power) of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver this man to Satan.' There was to be a meeting of the church, where Paul, spiritually present, would, in the name of Christ, and in the exercise of the miraculous power with which he was invested, deliver the offender to the power of Satan. The connection with what precedes is indicated by the particle for. ‘I would ye were in a state of mind to remove this offender for I have determined to cut him off.' I verily ( לו ́ ם), or I at least. ‘Whatever you do or leave undone, I at least will do my duty.' Absent in body, but present in Spirit. Neither Paul's capacity nor his authority to judge, nor his power to execute his judgment, depended on his bodily presence. He was present in Spirit. This does not mean simply that he was present in mind, as thinking of them and interested in their welfare; but it was a presence of knowledge, authority, and power. Have judged already. That is, without waiting either for your decision in the matter, or until I can be personally present with you.

Him that hath so done this deed. This is one of the clauses, the construction of which is doubtful. Our translators insert the word concerning, which has nothing to answer to it in the text, unless it be considered a part of the translation of the preceding verb, ( ךו ́ ךסיךב) I have judged concerning, i.e. ‘I have judged or passed sentence upon him.' This, however, creates embarrassment in the explanation of the fifth verse. The best explanation is to make this clause the object of the verb to deliver, in 1 Corinthians 5:5. ‘I have already determined to deliver him who did this deed.' As, however, so much intervenes between the object and the verb, the object (such an one) is repeated in 1 Corinthians 5:5.

In the name of Christ, means by the authority of Christ, acting as his representative. The phrase includes, on the one hand, the denial that the thing done was done in virtue of his own authority; and on the other, the claim of the right to act as the organ and agent of Christ. This clause may be connected with what follows. ‘Ye being gathered in the name of Christ.' Against this construction, however, it may be urged,

1. That the words would in that case most naturally have been differently placed. That is, it would be more natural to say ‘Assembled in the name of Christ,' than ‘In the name of Christ assembled.'

2. It is a common formula for expressing apostolical authority, to say, ‘In the name of Christ.'

3. The sense and parallelism of the clauses are better if these words are connected with the main verb, ‘I have determined in the name of Christ to deliver,' etc. Paul was acting in the consciousness of the authority received from Christ. Compare 2 Thessalonians 3:6; Acts 16:18.

When ye are gathered together, and my Spirit. The church was to be convened, and Paul spiritually present. The sentence was not to be passed or executed in secret, but openly. It was to have the solemnity of a judicial proceeding, and, therefore, the people were convened, though they were merely spectators. With the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. This may be connected with the immediately preceding words, ‘My Spirit invested with the power of Christ being present.' Or with what follows, ‘I have determined to deliver such an one with the power of Christ to Satan.' The sense is substantially the same. The sentence was to be passed and carried into effect in the name of Christ and by his power.

To deliver such an one unto Satan. There have from the earliest times been two prevalent interpretations of this expression. According to one view, it means simply excommunication; according to the other, it includes a miraculous subjection of the person to the power of Satan. Those who regard it as merely excommunication, say that "to deliver to Satan" answers to "might be taken away from you," in 1 Corinthians 5:2, and therefore means the same thing. The Corinthians had neglected to excommunicate this offender, and Paul says he had determined to do it. Besides, it is argued that excommunication is properly expressed by the phrase "to deliver to Satan," because, as the world is the kingdom of Satan, to cast a man out of the church, was to cast him from the kingdom of Christ into the kingdom of Satan. Comp. Colossians 1:13. In favor of the idea of something more than excommunication, it may be argued,

1. That it is clearly revealed in scripture, that bodily evils are often inflicted on men by the agency of Satan.

2. That 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;

3. That in 1 Timothy 1:20 the same formula occurs probably in the same sense. Paul there says, he had delivered Hymeneus and Alexander unto Satan, that they might learn not to blaspheme.

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 Paul's 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.

Most commentators, therefore, agree in understanding the apostle to threaten the infliction of some bodily evil, when he speaks of delivering this offender to Satan. For the destruction of the flesh. This is by many understood to mean, for the destruction of his corrupt nature, so that the end contemplated is merely a moral one. But as flesh here stands opposed to spirit, it most naturally means the body. ‘The man was delivered to Satan that his body might be afflicted, in order that his soul might be saved.' In the day of the Lord Jesus. That is, the day when the Lord Jesus shall come the second time without sin unto salvation. It appears from 2 Corinthians 7:9-12 that this solemn exercise of the judicial power of the apostle, had its appropriate effect. It led the offender himself, and the whole church, to sincere and deep repentance.


Verse 4

For I verily, as absent in body, but present in Spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, (concerning) him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; when ye are gathered together, and my Spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the Spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

These verses constitute one sentence, and must be taken together in order to be understood. The construction of the principal clauses is plain. Paul says, ‘I have determined to deliver this man unto Satan.' All the rest is subordinate and circumstantial. The connection of the subordinate clauses is doubtful. Perhaps the best interpretation of the whole passage is the following: ‘I, though absent as to the body, yet present as to the Spirit, have determined as though present, in the name of the Lord Jesus, ye being gathered together, and my Spirit being with you, with the power (i.e. clothed or armed with the power) of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver this man to Satan.' There was to be a meeting of the church, where Paul, spiritually present, would, in the name of Christ, and in the exercise of the miraculous power with which he was invested, deliver the offender to the power of Satan. The connection with what precedes is indicated by the particle for. ‘I would ye were in a state of mind to remove this offender for I have determined to cut him off.' I verily ( לו ́ ם), or I at least. ‘Whatever you do or leave undone, I at least will do my duty.' Absent in body, but present in Spirit. Neither Paul's capacity nor his authority to judge, nor his power to execute his judgment, depended on his bodily presence. He was present in Spirit. This does not mean simply that he was present in mind, as thinking of them and interested in their welfare; but it was a presence of knowledge, authority, and power. Have judged already. That is, without waiting either for your decision in the matter, or until I can be personally present with you.

Him that hath so done this deed. This is one of the clauses, the construction of which is doubtful. Our translators insert the word concerning, which has nothing to answer to it in the text, unless it be considered a part of the translation of the preceding verb, ( ךו ́ ךסיךב) I have judged concerning, i.e. ‘I have judged or passed sentence upon him.' This, however, creates embarrassment in the explanation of the fifth verse. The best explanation is to make this clause the object of the verb to deliver, in 1 Corinthians 5:5. ‘I have already determined to deliver him who did this deed.' As, however, so much intervenes between the object and the verb, the object (such an one) is repeated in 1 Corinthians 5:5.

In the name of Christ, means by the authority of Christ, acting as his representative. The phrase includes, on the one hand, the denial that the thing done was done in virtue of his own authority; and on the other, the claim of the right to act as the organ and agent of Christ. This clause may be connected with what follows. ‘Ye being gathered in the name of Christ.' Against this construction, however, it may be urged,

1. That the words would in that case most naturally have been differently placed. That is, it would be more natural to say ‘Assembled in the name of Christ,' than ‘In the name of Christ assembled.'

2. It is a common formula for expressing apostolical authority, to say, ‘In the name of Christ.'

3. The sense and parallelism of the clauses are better if these words are connected with the main verb, ‘I have determined in the name of Christ to deliver,' etc. Paul was acting in the consciousness of the authority received from Christ. Compare 2 Thessalonians 3:6; Acts 16:18.

When ye are gathered together, and my Spirit. The church was to be convened, and Paul spiritually present. The sentence was not to be passed or executed in secret, but openly. It was to have the solemnity of a judicial proceeding, and, therefore, the people were convened, though they were merely spectators. With the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. This may be connected with the immediately preceding words, ‘My Spirit invested with the power of Christ being present.' Or with what follows, ‘I have determined to deliver such an one with the power of Christ to Satan.' The sense is substantially the same. The sentence was to be passed and carried into effect in the name of Christ and by his power.

To deliver such an one unto Satan. There have from the earliest times been two prevalent interpretations of this expression. According to one view, it means simply excommunication; according to the other, it includes a miraculous subjection of the person to the power of Satan. Those who regard it as merely excommunication, say that "to deliver to Satan" answers to "might be taken away from you," in 1 Corinthians 5:2, and therefore means the same thing. The Corinthians had neglected to excommunicate this offender, and Paul says he had determined to do it. Besides, it is argued that excommunication is properly expressed by the phrase "to deliver to Satan," because, as the world is the kingdom of Satan, to cast a man out of the church, was to cast him from the kingdom of Christ into the kingdom of Satan. Comp. Colossians 1:13. In favor of the idea of something more than excommunication, it may be argued,

1. That it is clearly revealed in scripture, that bodily evils are often inflicted on men by the agency of Satan.

2. That 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;

3. That in 1 Timothy 1:20 the same formula occurs probably in the same sense. Paul there says, he had delivered Hymeneus and Alexander unto Satan, that they might learn not to blaspheme.

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 Paul's 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.

Most commentators, therefore, agree in understanding the apostle to threaten the infliction of some bodily evil, when he speaks of delivering this offender to Satan. For the destruction of the flesh. This is by many understood to mean, for the destruction of his corrupt nature, so that the end contemplated is merely a moral one. But as flesh here stands opposed to spirit, it most naturally means the body. ‘The man was delivered to Satan that his body might be afflicted, in order that his soul might be saved.' In the day of the Lord Jesus. That is, the day when the Lord Jesus shall come the second time without sin unto salvation. It appears from 2 Corinthians 7:9-12 that this solemn exercise of the judicial power of the apostle, had its appropriate effect. It led the offender himself, and the whole church, to sincere and deep repentance.


Verse 5

For I verily, as absent in body, but present in Spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, (concerning) him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; when ye are gathered together, and my Spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the Spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

These verses constitute one sentence, and must be taken together in order to be understood. The construction of the principal clauses is plain. Paul says, ‘I have determined to deliver this man unto Satan.' All the rest is subordinate and circumstantial. The connection of the subordinate clauses is doubtful. Perhaps the best interpretation of the whole passage is the following: ‘I, though absent as to the body, yet present as to the Spirit, have determined as though present, in the name of the Lord Jesus, ye being gathered together, and my Spirit being with you, with the power (i.e. clothed or armed with the power) of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver this man to Satan.' There was to be a meeting of the church, where Paul, spiritually present, would, in the name of Christ, and in the exercise of the miraculous power with which he was invested, deliver the offender to the power of Satan. The connection with what precedes is indicated by the particle for. ‘I would ye were in a state of mind to remove this offender for I have determined to cut him off.' I verily ( לו ́ ם), or I at least. ‘Whatever you do or leave undone, I at least will do my duty.' Absent in body, but present in Spirit. Neither Paul's capacity nor his authority to judge, nor his power to execute his judgment, depended on his bodily presence. He was present in Spirit. This does not mean simply that he was present in mind, as thinking of them and interested in their welfare; but it was a presence of knowledge, authority, and power. Have judged already. That is, without waiting either for your decision in the matter, or until I


Verse 6

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

Your boasting, ( ךבץ ́ מחלב) ground of boasting. You have no good reason to boast of your religious state; on the contrary, you have abundant reason to be alarmed. Know ye not; do ye not consider the obvious and certain danger of this evil spreading? A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. This proverbial expression is not here intended to express the idea that one corrupt member of the church depraves the whole, because, in the following verses, in which the figure is carried out, the leaven is not a person, but sin. The idea, therefore, is, that it is the nature of evil to diffuse itself. This is true with regard to individuals and communities. A single sin, however secret, when indulged, diffuses its corrupting influence over the whole soul; it depraves the conscience; it alienates from God; it strengthens all other principles of evil, while it destroys the efficacy of the means of grace and the disposition to use them. It is no less true of any community, that any one tolerated evil deteriorates its whole moral sense.


Verse 7

Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

Purge out the old leaven is an exhortation to purity, as the old leaven is afterwards said to be malice and wickedness. This leaven is said to be old, because in the present apostate state of our nature, what is old is evil. Hence, the old man is a scriptural designation of our corrupt nature. That ye may be a new lump. New, i.e. pure — as the new man is the renewed nature. As ye are unleavened. Leaven in this connection is a figurative expression for sin. To say, therefore, that they were unleavened, is to say that they were holy. This was their normal state — as Christians. A Christian is a new or holy man. The argument, therefore, is drawn from the acknowledged fact that Christians, as such, are holy. ‘Purge out the leaven of wickedness, that ye may be pure, for believers are holy.' For even, ( ךבי ̀ דב ̀ ס) or, for also. This is a second reason why they should be pure; for Christ our passover is slain for us. Is slain; rather, is sacrificed, as טץ ́ ש means to kill and offer in sacrifice, or, to slay as a victim. When the paschal lamb was slain, the Hebrews were required to purge out all leaven from their houses, Exodus 12:15. The death of Christ imposes a similar obligation on us to purge out the leaven of sin. Christ is our passover, not because he was slain on the day on which the paschal lamb was offered, but because he does for us what the paschal lamb did for the Hebrews. As the blood of that lamb sprinkled on the door-posts secured exemption from the stroke of the destroying angel, so the blood of Christ secures exemption from the stroke of divine justice. Christ was slain for us, in the same sense that the passover was slain for the Hebrews. It was a vicarious death. As Christ died to redeem us from all iniquity, it is not only contrary to the design of his death, but a proof that we are not interested in its benefits, if we live in sin. Our passover viz., Christ. The words ץ ̔ נו ̀ ס ח ̔ לש ͂ ם, (for us), are omitted in all the older manuscripts, and are not necessary to the sense.


Verse 8

Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened (bread) of sincerity and truth.

Let us therefore keep the feast. That is, since our passover Christ is slain, let us keep the feast. This is not an exhortation to keep the Jewish passover — because the whole context is figurative, and because the death of Christ is no reason why the Corinthians should keep the Jewish passover. Christians are nowhere exhorted to observe the festivals of the old dispensation. Neither is the feast referred to the Lord's Supper. There is nothing in the connection to suggest a reference to that ordinance. A feast was a portion of time consecrated to God. To keep the feast means, ‘Let your whole lives be as a sacred festival, i.e. consecrated to God.' As a feast lasting seven days was connected with the slaying of the paschal lamb; so a life of consecration to God should be connected with the death of our passover — Christ. This feast is not to be celebrated with the old or corrupt leaven, which is explained to mean the leaven of malice and wickedness. ׀ןםחסי ́ ב, wickedness, is a stronger word than ךבךי ́ ב, badness. Any one who does wrong is ךבךן ́ ע, bad; but he who does evil with delight and with persistency, is נןםחסן ́ ע. Hence Satan is called ן ̔ נןםחסן ́ ע, "The evil one." But with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Sincerity and truth are the unleavened bread with which the Christian's life-long feast should be celebrated. Sincerity, ( וי ̓ כיךסי ́ םויב) is purity, transparent clearness; something through which the sun may shine without revealing any flaw. Truth is in scripture far more than veracity. In its subjective sense, it means that inward state which answers to the truth; that moral condition which is conformed to the law and character of God.


Verse 9

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

This may be understood to refer to what he had written above in this epistle. Comp. Romans 16:22; 1 Thessalonians 5:27. Colossians 4:16, where the epistle, ח ̔ ו ̓ ניףפןכח ́, means the epistle he was then writing. Calvin, Beza, and almost all the modern commentators, understand it to refer to an epistle no longer extant. This is obviously the more natural interpretation, first, because the words ( ו ̓ ם פח ͂ͅ ו ̓ ניףפןכח ͂ͅ), in the epistle, would otherwise be altogether unnecessary. And, secondly, because this epistle does not contain the general direction not to company with fornicators; which, it would seem from what follows, the Corinthians had misunderstood. There is, indeed, a natural indisposition in Christians to admit that any of the inspired writings are lost. But nothing is more natural than the assumption that the apostles wrote many short letters, not intended as pastoral epistles designed for the church in all ages, but simply to answer some question, or to give some direction relative to the peculiar circumstances of some individual or congregation. ‘I wrote to you in the epistle,' naturally means here as in 2 Corinthians 7:8 the epistle which you have already received, and not the one which he was then writing; and it is not wise to depart from the natural meaning of the words simply to avoid a conclusion we are unwilling to admit. The church has all the inspired writings which God designed for her edification; and we should be therewith content. Not to company with, ( לח ̀ ףץםבםבלי ́ דםץףטבי), not to be mixed up together with. That is, not to associate with. See 2 Thessalonians 3:14. This may have reference either to social intercourse or to church communion. This indefinite command Paul explains, first, by stating that he did not mean to forbid social intercourse and then saying he did intend to prohibit Christian fellowship with the wicked.


Verse 10

Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.

Not altogether. This limits the prohibition. The apostle did not intend to prohibit all intercourse with the fornicators of this world. This would be an impossibility; while in the world we must have more or less intercourse with the men of the world. Or, the words ( ןץ ̓ נב ́ םפשע), not altogether, may be connected with the words I wrote, in the sense of by no means. Comp. Romans 3:9. ‘I by no means wrote to you not to associate with the wicked.' This, although perhaps the more common explanation, does not give so good a sense. It is not so much a positive denial of having so written, as a limitation of the application of his command, that the apostle designs to give. The world means mankind as distinguished from the church, Galatians 4:3; Ephesians 2:2; Colossians 2:8. The prohibition, such as it was, was not limited to any one class of the immoral; it included all classes. The covetous; those who will have more ( נכוןםו ́ ךפחע); and especially those who defraud for the sake of gain. In the Scriptures the controlling love of gain is spoken of as a sin specially heinous in the sight of God. It is called idolatry, Ephesians 5:5 because wealth becomes the object supremely loved and sought. The man, therefore, who sacrifices duty to the acquisition of wealth; who makes gain the great object of his pursuit, is a covetous man. He cannot be a Christian, and should not, according to the apostle, be recognized as such.

Or with extortioners, i.e. the ravenous; those who exact what is not justly due to them, or more than is justly due. The sin is not confined to exactions by force or open robbery, but to all undue exactions. The man who takes advantage of another's poverty, or of his necessities, to secure exorbitant gain, is an extortioner. Or with idolaters, those who either professedly worship false gods, or who do what, in its own nature, and in the common judgment of men, amounts to such worship. This is said to be the earliest known instance of the use of the word וי ̓ השכןכב ́ פסחע; it is never used in the lxx, although וי ̓́ השכןם is constantly employed in that version in the sense of false gods. For then ye must needs go out of the world. This is the reason why the apostle did not prohibit all intercourse with wicked men. We should have to seek another world to live in.


Verse 11

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

But now ( םץםי ̀ הו ́). If taken in the ordinary sense, these particles refer to time. ‘In the former epistle I wrote to you so and so, but now I write to you, etc.' They may have an inferential sense — therefore. ‘Since ye cannot go out of the world, therefore I wrote unto you.' The apostle is explaining the meaning of what he had written. ‘I did not write this, but I wrote, i.e. I meant, this.' This explanation best suits the context, and agrees better with the force of the tense ( ו ̓́ דסברב), here used; for although the aorist of this verb is used in the epistolary style in reference to the letter in the process of writing, it is not used to express what is about to be written. The command is not to associate with any one who is called a brother, and yet is a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer (slanderer), or a drunkard, or an extortioner. A man in professing to be a Christian professes to renounce all these sins; if he does not act consistently with his profession, he is not to be recognized as a Christian. We are not to do any thing which would sanction the assumption that the offenses here referred to are tolerated by the gospel. It may appear strange that Paul should assume that any one calling himself a Christian could be an idolater. By idolatry, however, he understands not merely the intentional and conscious worship of false gods, but doing any thing which, according to the common judgment of men, expresses such worship. Thus eating sacrifices within the precincts of a temple was an act of heathen worship, as much as partaking of the Lord's supper is an act of Christian worship. And yet some of the Corinthians did not hesitate to eat of heathen sacrifices under those circumstances, 1 Corinthians 10:14-22. The principle laid down by the apostle is, that to join in the religious rites of any people is to join in their worship, whether we so intend it or not.

With such an one no not to eat. This does not refer to the Lord's supper, which is never designated as a meal. The meaning is, that we are not to recognize such a man in any way as a Christian, even by eating with him. It is not the act of eating with such persons that is forbidden. Our Lord ate with publicans and sinners, but he did not thereby recognize them as his followers. So we may eat with such persons as are here described, provided we do not thereby recognize their Christian character. This is not a command to enforce the sentence of excommunication pronounced by the church, by a denial of all social intercourse with the excommunicated. The command is simply that we are not, in any way, to recognize openly wicked men as Christians. This passage, therefore, affords no plea for the tyranny of Romanists in refusing all the necessaries of life to those whom they cast out of the church.


Verse 12

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

Those without; those out of the church. Mark 4:11; Colossians 4:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:12. The command of the apostle had reference only to those within the church, for it was not his prerogative to judge those that are without. The Corinthians acted on the same principle. They confined church discipline to church members, and therefore should not have understood his injunction not to company with the wicked to apply to others than to those within the church.


Verse 13

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

God, and not the church, is the judge of those who are without. The verb may be accented so as to express either the present or the future. God judges ( ךסי ́ םוי); or, God will judge ( ךסיםוי ͂). The present gives the better sense, as expressing the divine prerogative, and not merely the assurance of a future judgment. Therefore put away, literally, according to the common text ( ךבי ̀ ומבסוי ͂ פו), and ye shall put away; which seems to have been borrowed from Deuteronomy 24:7. The better reading is ( ו ̓ מב ́ סבפו) put away. It is a simple imperative injunction, or necessary application of the principle of Christian communion just laid down. This passage is not inconsistent with the interpretation given to 1 Corinthians 5:3-5. In consequence of their neglect of duty, Paul determined to deliver the incestuous member of the Corinthian church to Satan. He calls upon them to recognize the validity of that sentence, and to carry it into effect. The sentence was pronounced they, so far as it involved their communion, were to execute it.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hodge, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 5:4". Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hdg/1-corinthians-5.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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