1 Corinthians 5


The error of contentions and jealousy plagued the Corinthian Christians, 1 Corinthians 1:11 / 1 Corinthians 3:3. The brethren had considered the man who had taught them and baptized them as somewhat of a status symbol that elevated some over others, 1 Corinthians 1:12 / 1 Corinthians 3:4.

Paul refers to this line of thinking as the ‘wisdom of the world’, 1 Corinthians 2:6) and being ‘carnal’, 1 Corinthians 3:3. Rather than growing in spiritual wisdom the Corinthians had permitted the carnal thinking of their surroundings to dictate their approach to serving God, 1 Corinthians 3:1ff / Acts 17:16ff.

Paul explains that the ministers and stewards of God’s word are simple planters or labourers but it is God that created man and gives man hope through the gospel message, 1 Corinthians 3:8ff.

The Corinthians needed to remember their intimate relationship with God through their obedience to the gospel; i.e., they represented a temple which houses God, 1 Corinthians 3:16.

Paul appears to bring into the discussion of the Corinthian’s error of contention and jealousy the idea self-promotion through the various gifts they received through the apostles, see 1 Corinthians 4:7.

Some of the Corinthians actually thought of themselves as greater than others due to who baptized them and what spiritual gift they possessed. Paul, through sarcasm, deflates the egos of these brethren.

Again, the apostle reminds the Corinthians that they have the responsibility to follow the example and teachings that Paul set forth and taught while among them, 1 Corinthians 4:16+17.

The next problem in line to deal with is the sin of tolerating brethren who refuse to repent of sinfulness, 1 Corinthians 5.

Instructions regarding the un-repenting sinner of the church. 1 Corinthians 5:1-5

“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this.” 1 Corinthians 5:1-3

The household of Chloe had ‘reported’ (declared or disclosed) to Paul that the church in Corinth was having problems with contentions and jealousy, 1 Corinthians 1:11 / 1 Corinthians 3:3. Now Paul discusses a matter that others are talking about.

The word ‘actually’ ‘olos’ is ‘wholly, altogether, on the whole, speaking generally, in short, in a word’. The Greek word ‘olos’ is found only three other times in the Scriptures Matthew 5:34 / 1 Corinthians 6:7 / 1 Corinthians 15:29 and in all four uses the word appears to indicate

‘on the whole or altogether.’

It is probable that Chloe’s household was not the only one reporting the sin of this chapter and therefore Paul’s point is that many are saying this thing about the tolerance of sin in Corinth.

The Corinthians’ reputation was that of being contentious, jealous, and now tolerant of sin among its members. The sin they were tolerating was ‘fornication’ ‘porneia’ ‘prostitution, unchastely, fornication, of every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse’.

The ‘porneia’ under consideration is identified as a form of incest in the last clause of vs. 1

“A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.”

Paul’s language in verse one indicates the utter heinousness of the sin,

‘even pagans do not tolerate’.

Even Roman law forbade unions of this kind; they are naturally abhorrent. One does not need Christianity to repudiate them.

Man by his very nature understood that such sexual unions were wrong, see Romans 1:26-28. Recall that at the end of chapter 4 we had noted the seriousness of the sin the Corinthians were in. Paul is chastising the brethren as any good minister or steward of the word of God would, see 2 Timothy 4:1-5.

Rather than ‘mourning’ in horror that one among them was in sin the Corinthians were “proud” ‘pephusiomenoi’ ‘to bear one’s self loftily, be proud’. The reaction to the sin is not surprising. Paul has admonished the Corinthians up to this point to rid themselves of human reasoning.

A second case in point of their rejecting divine revelation and using human reasoning is found in their attitude toward the sinner of this chapter.

Human reasoning may say, ‘let us not be controversial,’ ‘let us not judge another,’ ‘let us be loving toward all and all will give account for their own evil deeds,’ ‘let that congregation make their own judgment in the matter,’ and a multitude of other human reasoning may come into play.

The Lord said, however, of tolerating sinners in the church,

“Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols”.

The attitude of pride may be identified as a misunderstanding of Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians in a previous lost epistle.

Rather than being inflated in their fleshly minds over the matter they should have “taken away (the fornicator) from among you.” To ‘take away’ ‘exairo’ is to ‘to lift up, lift off the earth’ or ‘To lift up or take away out of a place; to remove one from a company’.

The objective of this chapter will be to illustrate the space that must exist between the erring Christian who will not repent and the faithful of God.

Paul was in Ephesus as he writes, 1 Corinthians 16:8 and therefore

“absent in body.”

Paul’s being “present in spirit” indicates the universality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If Paul was “present in spirit” with the Corinthians would not the Corinthians be “present in spirit” with Paul in Ephesus?

Truth unites all Christians in all places

Church autonomy has no government over truth. Truth is not bound to only one church, 2 Timothy 2:9. Truth is what unites all brethren for all time, John 17:20+21.

Paul has called upon the Corinthians to emulate “my ways which are in Christ,” 1 Corinthians 4:17 / Philippians 4:9, so that the Corinthian brethren could certainly return the “judgment” of a sinner in another congregation without violating that church’s autonomy.

This is not to say that we would force another church to pull the trigger of discipline because only they know their efforts in the area of longsuffering and teaching, 1 Thessalonians 5:14. The point is that a judgment is made regarding the sin! The judgment of when to discipline is up to that local church and its elders.

“In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you have come together with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, That this man is to be handed over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may have forgiveness in the day of the Lord Jesus”. 1 Corinthians 5:4-5

The context

The first verse of 1 Corinthians 5, deals with the case of the man in the Church in Corinth, who was involved immorally with

‘his father’s wife’.

It seems clear that the father had married a second time and the son was having an affair with the woman who was now, legally, his step-mother. This is why Paul expressly and carefully describes her as ‘his father’s wife’, rather than ‘his mother’.

The seriousness of this situation is revealed and stressed when the apostle points out that, as immoral as Greek society was in those days, conduct of this kind was despised even by the pagan Corinthians.

He does not go into great detail to explain why the congregation had neglected to take action to deal with the situation, apart from to rebuke them for their indifference, but he does say is that their failure to act constituted a danger to the entire body, 1 Corinthians 5:6.

In verse 2 he lays down the course of action which they must adopt. Asserting his apostolic authority, he commands that the guilty man must be ‘removed’ from among them which means excluded from their fellowship.

Since nothing is said about the woman involved in the offence, we must assume that she was not a member of the Church, and the congregation therefore did not have the authority to deal with her.

What Paul orders is, effectively, the excommunication of the guilty man, and he describes this course of action as,

‘delivering the man to Satan.’

Outside of the Church, which is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus, Colossians 1:13, this man, cut off from the people of God, will again be in the domain of Satan, and, consequently, in grave spiritual danger.

Here is a direct command from an apostle, 1 Corinthians 14:37. The phrase, “in the name ‘en to onomati’ of our Lord Jesus” is an indication of or by the authority of Jesus. ‘Onomati’ is ‘by name’, ‘the name of the author of a commission, delegated authority, or religious profession’.

By the authority of Jesus Christ the Corinthians were to “gather together” ‘sunago’, ‘to bring together, gather together, collect, convene” with Paul’s “spirit”, according to truth that Paul has delivered regarding the matter, “with the power of our Lord Jesus.” ‘Authority’.

Let us first consider the gathering. It is an authorized assembly for the purpose of discipline against the un-repenting sinner. When all see the proceeding all shall fear, 1 Timothy 5:19, the error is exposed, Ephesians 5:11 and all now know who the sinner is, 2 Thessalonians 3:14.

In such an assembly the sinner is

“delivered unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”

To “deliver” ‘paradidomi’ ‘to give or hand over to another give up to justice”.

The sinner is handed over to Satan for the

“destruction of the flesh.”

The word “destruction” ‘olethros’ is ‘ruin, destruction, death’. The current state of the flesh is ruin; however, the future state of the spirit remains hopeful through repentance.

Sin separates man from God, Isaiah 59:1-2. One so separated is “ruined” in the eyes of God in that he or she has no fellowship with God, 1 John 1:5-7. Satan’s rule is over darkness and is alienated from Jehovah God so that one who chooses ruin is made to know that he lives in the flesh as one of Satan’s.

Such horrid reality must drive one to repent that he or she may be reconciled to God through the blood of Jesus Christ. Peter’s admonition to Simon in Acts 8.

Apparently this event is an official act or ‘work’ of the assembled congregation so that the sinner may be saved

“in the day of the Lord Jesus,”

that is when the Lord comes to judge men for their deeds done in the flesh, Revelation 20:10-15.

The clear division of man is seen here in that he is flesh and spirit. While in the flesh the sinner belongs to Satan; yet, the spirit is intended to be saved only through contrite humility, Isaiah 57:15. At this point the instructions are to take away the sinner from among you and deliver his soul to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.

The church’s responsibility

This action by the Church has a purpose. It is designed to bring the guilty man to his senses, so that he opens his eyes and recognises the seriousness of his position and comes to repentance. This is what is meant by

‘the destruction of the flesh’.

It means that the man must recognize and acknowledge the sinfulness of his conduct, and, with the help of God, ‘put to death’, Colossians 3:5, his sinful physical desires. He may then ask to be restored to fellowship. Failing to do this he stands in danger of losing his soul.

Excommunication not necessarily final

It is important to recognize that this act of ‘excommunication’ is not meant to be ‘amputation’. Serious and painful as it undoubtedly is, it is a course of action intended only for the good of the offender. In other words, it is not meant to be ‘terminal’, but to be remedial.

When a congregation excommunicates an offending person, it is taking the final step in its endeavour to bring him to recognize his sin and to change his life. The door must always be kept open for the offender to repent and desire to return.

The Outcome in this Case

In 2 Corinthians 2:5-11, Paul reveals that Corinthian Christians acted on his advice, took action and banished the man from the fellowship. And the action was effective.

The guilty man repented, and in his second letter the apostle tells the Corinthian church that they should restore him to fellowship, and, since he was evidently heartbroken and sorrowful because of his sin, they must comfort him and be gracious to him. ‘Reaffirm your love for him’, they are told.

If the congregation neglected to respond to his obvious repentance in a positive manner, and did not take the man back, Satan would make the most of what would undoubtedly be looked upon by enemies of the Faith as lovelessness and self-righteousness in the Christians, and the man himself might be ‘overwhelmed with excessive sorrow’.

This teaching continues to be relevant. An interesting fact is revealed in 2 Corinthians 2:6. Apparently, there were some in the Corinthian church, who, influenced perhaps a misguided sense of charity, or by the desire to show tolerance, who did not agree with the excommunication of this immoral man, and the decision to disfellowship him is described by Paul as ‘punishment by the majority’, with which, we should note, he was in full agreement.

Very little has changed!

Congregations still find that they have among them, members who shy away from the exercise of scriptural discipline.

Nevertheless, if we consistently followed the teaching of the Word in the matter of Church-discipline, not only would our assemblies be stronger both spiritually and numerically, they would also be happier and more loving.

Instructions regarding the rest of the congregation who are tolerating the sin rather than exposing and disciplining the sinner. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

“This pride of yours is not good. Do you not see that a little leaven makes a change in all the mass? Take away, then, the old leaven, so that you may be a new mass, even as you are without leaven. For Christ has been put to death as our Passover. Let us then keep the feast, not with old leaven, and not with the leaven of evil thoughts and acts, but with the unleavened bread of true thoughts and right feelings.” 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

The Corinthians had ‘gloried’ over the circumstances of fornication rather than putting the sinner away. Such action was a worldly, fleshly, or carnal way of reasoning, 1 Corinthians 2:6 / 1 Corinthians 3:3. Your human reasoning that says tolerate and leave alone is contrary to divine revelation. Divine reasoning reveals that

“a little leaven leavens the whole lump.”

“Leaven” ‘zume’ is yeast, leaven, a little yeast ferments the whole lump of dough, 1 Corinthians 5:6 / Galatians 5:9, the influence of apparently insignificant factors in the moral and religious sphere.

That which seemed by human reasoning to be insignificant was a big deal with God. The word “leaven” is often used to describe sinful doctrines contrary to the teachings of Jesus, Matthew 16:6-12.

The Pharisees were known to teach as their doctrines the precepts of men, Matthew 15:9. The whole lump apparently represented the church as a whole. Their tolerating the sins of the fornicator was an indication of an attitude foreign to divine revelation.

“Purge out” ‘ekkathairo’ ‘to cleanse out’. Paul is saying cleanse your mind of human reasoning and doctrines, Matthew 16:6-12. The “new lump” would be free from the contaminates of leaven or sinful men. It would also include being free of the doctrines and reasoning of men.

“Even as ye are”, Christians cleansed by the blood of Jesus and sanctified. Paul says, get busy and be what you are supposed to be! They are “unleavened”.

Apparently the adjective “unleavened,” clean and separate from sinners and human reasoning, represents what they are in relation to being a new lump in the future. So that at present they “may be a new lump” if they purge out the old leaven. The Corinthians cannot be leavened and unleavened at the same time!

To understand the allegory used in this verse we must take our minds back to Exodus 12 and the last plague God sent to Egypt. That last plague was the death of the first born of all Egypt. Death was to come not only to the firstborn among men but among their flocks as well.

The Hebrews were not to be affected by this last plague if they would follow God’s instructions. They were to take an unblemished lamb, male, one year old on the 10th day of the first month.

Four days later, the 14th, they were to kill the lamb and spread its blood over the door post of their house. When God came to kill the firstborn in Egypt, He would see the blood and pass over that house, Exodus 12.

The Israelites were to celebrate this event in subsequent years and it was called the “Passover” and subsequent “Feast of Unleavened Bread.” On the 14th day of the first month of the year, the people of God were to rid their house of leaven (day 10-14) and eat un-leaven bread for the next seven days, Exodus 12:18ff.

The un-leavened bread represented their being free or separated from sin. The allegory now makes since. If Christ (the sacrificial Lamb) has already been killed, how is it that there is leaven among you? This is a call to put sin and sinners away, i.e., space that they may be clean and the sinner shamed.

The allegory of the Feast of Passover continues

To keep the feast was to purge out all leaven, sin. Paul names “malice and wickedness” and contrast it to the un-leaven bread of “sincerity and truth.” “Malice” ‘kakia’ “moral badness; defect” and “wickedness” ‘poneria’.

The call is to put away sinfulness and no longer tolerate it among the brethren. Put away human reason and be sincerely, purely dependent upon the truth.

A previous epistle written to the Corinthians admonishing them regarding their relationship to fornicating brethren. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

“In my letter I said to you that you were not to keep company with those who go after the desires of the flesh; But I had not in mind the sinners who are outside the church, or those who have a desire for and take the property of others, or those who give worship to images; for it is not possible to keep away from such people without going out of the world completely: But the sense of my letter was that if a brother had the name of being one who went after the desires of the flesh, or had the desire for other people’s property, or was in the way of using violent language, or being the worse for drink, or took by force what was not his, you might not keep company with such a one, or take food with him. For it is no business of mine to be judging those who are outside; but it is yours to be judging those who are among you; as for those who are outside, God is their judge. So put away the evil man from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

2 Corinthians 7:8 states,

“For though I made you sorry with my epistle, I do not regret it.”

This is a reference to the 1 Corinthian epistle. The epistle alluded to in 1 Corinthians 5:9 is a lost epistle that we have no record of. Herein we find and pinpoint the problem of the Corinthians.

Paul had said in this lost epistle,

“Have no company with fornicators.”

The phrase, “have no company with” is one word in Greek ‘sunanamignumi’ meaning

“to mix up together, to keep company with, be intimate with”.

The Corinthians had been commanded to not mix and mingle with fornicators as though there were no wrong in their lives.

The inference is that the Corinthians were not mixing and mingling with sinful people of the world yet treating brethren who were fornicators as thought all were ok. They had the issue mixed up. If we are not to mix, keep company or associate with any and all who are un-repenting sinners Paul says,

“It is not possible to keep away from such people without going out of the world completely.”

The world is filled with these types and therefore it is impossible to avoid them. Quite to the contrary, we would not want to avoid them anyway, but rather teach them, Matthew 28:19.

Twice now Paul said,

“I wrote unto you,” 1 Corinthians 5:9+11

and both verses are alluding to that previous epistle. With the admonition at hand the apostle has now warned these brethren twice.

As we study this verse, 1 Corinthians 5:5

“that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus”

must be kept within our minds. The object of all disciplinary action is correction, Proverbs 13:24.

There is an apparent distinction made between the erring Christian and the erring of the world, (non-Christian). Consider 2 Peter 2:20-22. The heart of the erring child of God is hardened further against the gospel in this second state than it was before the first obeyed the gospel. It will be more difficult to bring them to truth now, then when in their first lost state.

Total and entire social associations are to cease with such a one

“no company” and “with such a one, not to eat”.

The apparent reason for the separate treatment is. First and foremost the sinning brother is to feel the shame of this social separation from other brethren, 2 Thessalonians 3:14.

Under such pain of shame, it may be that he is driven to repent, 1 Corinthians 5:5. That the church remain pure and clean, undefiled, through associations between some brethren who would be tempted to mix and mingle with the un-repenting man’s sins, 2 Corinthians 7:1 / Ephesians 5:26+27.

That no place is given to the unregenerate of the world to blaspheme the name of God. A church comprised of unrepenting sinners is a church that the world sees no difference between their lives and the members of the church’s lives.

‘Why then should they change;’ one may say, or ‘they are all hypocrites there.’

It seems apparent that the phrase “any man” would include any Christian anywhere who would persist in such sinful living, 1 Timothy 1:20. Paul wrote in the previous lost epistle that very thing. One must concede; however, that the context of the previous epistle is not revealed.

Paul is dealing with a local church’s problem in 1 Corinthians 5. It seems doubtful that discipline was at the heart of the matter in his previous epistle. 2 Thessalonians 3:14 / 1 Thessalonians 5:27.

All brethren of all times are to read and adhere to the principles of God’s divine revelation and those who do not (who are Christians) are to be totally avoided for the three causes stated above.

The fact, however, that in 1 Corinthians 5 we have an assemblage of people in a congregation for the purpose of administering the said discipline helps us understand that 1 Corinthians 5 is speaking of church work and not an individual’s work in the universal church.

The apparent context demands that the judging under consideration is disciplinary judging, putting away the unrepenting one. If this were not true than Paul contradicts himself in 1 Corinthians 6:2. Those who are members of the body of Christ are the ones under consideration.

How can I “put away” or “withdraw” from one of the world who is not even in the church? Paul’s point is that God will discipline these individuals; our concern, in the area of discipline, is with erring brethren.

Finally, Paul returns to the original admonition regarding the un-repenting fornicator in the church,

“put away the wicked man from among yourselves.”

The space must be there for his soul to be saved. Deuteronomy 13:5.

Summary of 1 Corinthians 5

Paul could have very well been discouraged after reading a letter from Chloe’s house along with hearing various reports from others regarding the multiplicity of the Corinthians error.

One today may feel that it would be impossible to untangle the erroneous mess that churches get themselves in. Paul; however, with a spirit of love sets out to systematically deal with each of the Corinthian problems.

The brethren of the church in Corinth had not only come to be ‘puffed up’ in relationship to who baptized them and their spiritual gifts, 1 Corinthians 4:6+18+19 but also in their tolerance of a brother living in fornication, 1 Corinthians 5:2.

They actually ‘gloried’ in the fact that they had done nothing with the fornicating brother. The apostle speaks frankly and to the point instructing them how to remedy the situation and maintain their state of being ‘unreprovable’ before the Lord.

They were to put the fornicator, and all other persistent sinners, away from them and not have company with him until he repented of his wickedness. Paul has effectively laid the ground work for further accusations against the Corinthian brethren.

Not only are they guilty of elevating one preacher above another and have developed a since of self-sufficiency and arrogance through spiritual gifts, but they are tolerating sin in the church.

The cause is clear; a lack of spiritual understanding and carnal approach to serving God, 1 Corinthians 3:1+2. 1 Corinthians 5 helps us understand the process by which we must “put away” the wicked members from us.

1 Corinthians 5 sets forth instructions for official church discipline in the since that the work is done by the authority of Jesus Christ as all the brethren are “gathered together” for the act, 1 Corinthians 5:4.

Further instructions regarding discipline in the local church is given in 1 and 2 Thessalonians. The apostle Paul instructs the Thessalonians in the area of erring brethren, 1 Thessalonians 5:14. Six months to one year latter Paul again writes, in 2 Thessalonians 3:6. Once more Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 3:14.

From these passages, it is clear that the faithful have a responsibility to try to teach the erring out of their sin. The period of teaching out of sin is called “longsuffering.” Longsuffering has its limits.

The Lord never intended the church to be “ever-suffering” as is indicated in the admonition to the church in Thyatira, Revelation 2:20ff. That church “suffered” the woman Jezebel to the point that she carried away other disciples with her false teaching.

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Genesis 1:1