1 Corinthians 5:1
You sort of hear the tone of Paul's voice come through. It's kind of like saying, "You have got to be kidding me. It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you." Paul is trying to get them to see the seriousness of all that is going on in their church. Many of the things were difficult to for them to see. Pride is hard see in yourself; worldly wisdom was hard to see; but this…..there really was no excuse. It seems like Paul is not convinced he should offer them anything but the rod of discipline.
The business of this church in Corinth was a mess. These believers in Corinth didn't seem to be concerned about the essentials and they weren't debating nonessential doctrines either. You wonder if there was any evangelism, any testimony or discipleship going on at all. They were all segregated into little groups or cliques. We don't really know how many divisions there were among this church but we can look at all the things Paul addressed in this book and see what they were doing wrong.
I think there were the super spiritual, the religious Pharisees, the philosophical and I think that left some people with no one to follow or at best they had a very weak leader. With no real leadership many people were allowed to stay in their sin and they held on to the world because they lacked discipleship.
We learned last week that many of the leaders of the church looked down on Paul because of his life circumstances; because he was poor, homeless, barely clothed, hungry and so on. These men weren't in agreement and that kept the people confused. I think these men all looked down their religious noses at those below them; those with the lesser gifts; those who worked with their hands; those who didn't possess their worldly wisdom; or even those who had less money. The church of Corinth was clearly suffering from a leadership problem. Last chapter Paul told them where the apostles ranked. They were dead last. They were the filth and off scouring and Paul told these leaders of Corinth to imitate him. But instead they had placed themselves first above others instead of placing themselves last as servant of all.
I still believe Paul must have been stunned and amazed at the problems that he was having with these people. They were Christians for crying out loud. Why weren't they acting like it? Now, Paul said, with everything else going on there it is actually reported there is sexual immorality among them. Paul was already astonished. This had to add to his astonishment.
The word used for sexual immorality here is porneia. In the KJV the word porneia is translated as fornication. This term includes all kinds of extramarital sex, including adultery, fornication, homosexuality and many other deviations. Our English word pornography comes from this word.
This is another example of how the world had polluted their church. With no Godly leadership and no standards of holiness among them, the world was free to come in. In the Greek culture pretty much anything was acceptable. There were no real ethics and marriage was an open arrangement. So sexual immorality was an accepted fact among the Greeks and no one really gave it much thought but it wasn't to be that way among believers.
However, this porneia was in such a manner as to not even named among the Gentiles. Now this is serious and profound. Because pretty much anything was acceptable in Corinth, yet this thing that was going on in the Church of Jesus Christ even appalled the pagan in the street!! The Corinthian Christians were trying to win the pagans to Christ and yet they were living more loosely than the Corinthians were. Their was no sense of being holy and set apart as a Christian. They had joined the heathen among them who had had given the word "Corinthian" new meaning. To be a Corinthian meant to live in sexual wantonness and license. To be a Corinthian saint apparently meant pretty much the same thing. That was a huge problem.
The specific incident reported to Paul was a man who had taken his father's wife. It's implied or understood in the language that it's not his mother but a step mother of sorts. It was a long term or ongoing arrangement, not a one night stand. This kind of thing wasn't even done by the pagans. Even in the most fallen and wicked culture, they knew it was wrong to do such a thing and this church in Corinth was allowing it to go on right under their nose.
And among the Jews, they understood the penalty for this kind of activity. Paul would have known all to well, while these folks didn't even recognize the problem. The Old Testament law called for this man to be taken outside the camp and stoned to death. That comes from Leviticus 18 and Deuteronomy 22. That was God's standard of holiness. But these people weren't living under the law, they were saved by Grace. And while this immoral man didn't need to be stoned to death, he needed to repent or be put outside the camp.
1 Corinthians 5:2
This should probably be understood as questions. Were they proud of the fact they had this man among them? Were they not at least mourned by this activity? The word for 'mourned' is a deep sadness that comes from the death of a loved one. Had it not even occurred to this church that this man and his deed might need to be removed from among them? There was an expectation from Paul that they recognize this problem and that it would cause deep sadness and mourning. And then, that sadness should drive them to act appropriately.
It seems they had found reason to justify doing nothing. Maybe the answer was, "Hey, we all have our sins." Or maybe they were trying to not be so judgmental. It could be they allowed the world and its ways inside their church because they wanted to be tolerant. They didn't want to judge anyone.
It's worth mentioning here that we are talking about dealing with the sin of this man. There is no mention of the woman. That is probably because she was not a believer and not among the church.
1 Corinthians 5:3-5
In their failure to recognize and deal with this problem, Paul feels compelled to do so. Even though he is not in their presence, he exercises his apostolic authority as if he were. Not being present had no affect on this authority as an apostle and he is present in spirit by the letter he is writing them.
Paul has no need to wait until he arrives there. He has already judged this man who did this deed. There seems to be no dispute over whether he did it or not. Apparently the man openly held a relationship with his step mom and everyone knew it to be true.
When this church gathered together in the name of the Lord and Paul's spirit and authority were present in the letter, they were to put this man out of the church. This is the exercise of church discipline. They were to 'deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.' Putting this man out in a public gathering of the church should only happen after the other efforts have been made. He should have been confronted by those closest to him in the church. This is 2 or 3 friends coming and saying, with all the love and grace they can muster, friend we are worried about you. Your life doesn't reflect Jesus Christ and holiness and righteousness. If that doesn't work then these friends should bring that to the attention of the elder or pastor. Then the man would be approached again and a little firmer tone might be appropriate the second time. If the person continues in this blatant sin, the final step was that he be put out of the church. That's the way it should work. It should never linger long enough for an apostle several hundred miles away to have to deal with it.
By putting this man out of the church, he no longer had spiritual protection and the blessing and protection of the church and fellowship. He was to be turned over to Satan. The world was Satan's domain and he was to be put out into it. This man was a saint who was living in the flesh. We know that we all battle with the flesh. We all make mistakes. The flesh leads us to sin at times. When it s brought to our attention, we repent and receive forgiveness. But this man wasn't repentant in any way. He was openly living in this sin and exposing the fellowship to his sin.
The church was to be the temple. To bring this sin in was to defile the temple. To associate our sinful actions to Jesus Christ is the worst of all ways to take the name of the Lord in vain. To say we are a fellowship of Christians, yet act like a pagans.
When this man was put in the world he would feel the consequences of his sin. He would lose fellowship with his church family. Was it worth it? Would he choose to go on sinning? Or would he put to death the deeds of the flesh, repent and be returned to the church. The reason for going to such great lengths and inflicting this pain was for one reason only, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. The ultimate reason for disciplining anyone is to bring them back to right standing. In the 'Day of the Lord Jesus,' it would be better for this man to have been put out, realized his error and repented, than for his Christian brothers and sisters to have looked the other way.
There was an apparent 'glorying' of the church of Corinth about this situation of sexual immorality. They must have thought they were being very loving by ignoring this sin, when in fact they were sacrificing the whole church by doing so. Paul said their glorying is not good. This means it was ugly, unseemly. It was a cancer in the church. They were being nice to the cancer because they didn't want to offend it. In doing so they put the whole body at risk.
Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? The leaven mentioned isn't really yeast as much as fermented dough. It's really a pinch of dough left over from the previous batch when they made bread. This was how bread was commonly leavened in the ancient world. A little pinch of dough from the old lump could make a whole new lump of dough rise and "puff up." The work of leaven was an illustration of corruption. The presence of a little can corrupt a large amount.
Paul told them to purge out the old leaven. This is a reference to the Passover and probably an indication that they were keeping the Passover feast, even in this gentile church. Part of the observance of Passover every year was to get rid of all the leaven from your home. The Passover feast was eaten with unleavened bread and then no leaven was allowed in the home for seven days after.
Paul said purge out the leaven. Purge this corruption from your midst. They were to be a new lump since they truly were unleavened. They were a new lump because they were in Christ. Jesus is our Passover. In Jesus Christ we are saved from the penalty of our sin.
The death angel passed over the Israelites when they were marked by the blood of their Passover lamb. With Christ as our Passover, we are saved from death by the blood of our Passover lamb.
So to celebrate Passover was to be reminded of the Lamb of God sacrificed for our sins. The removal of leaven at Passover was symbolic. Sin was removed but not just for that day. It was ongoing for 7 days. It was a time to reflect and examine yourself and your life.
These men of Corinth may well have been celebrating Passover and purging their homes from the leaven, yet not purging the sin that was so evident in their midst. "Get rid of the leaven because you are truly unleavened." Paul said. You have freedom from sin, now it's time to start acting like it.
1 Corinthians 5:8
Paul suggested they keep the Passover feast or the feast of unleavened bread but he wanted them to do it a little different this time. Not with this old corruption still lingering in their midst, Paul expected it to be dealt with. They could no longer look the other way at this sexual sin and act like it was okay. This would pollute and poison the entire fellowship. They needed to deal with the corruption of this sexual sin but also the corruption coming from the malice and wickedness. This was their vicious disposition and their evil deeds. It was time to put those things out of the house and take the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. There is no leaven in purity and truth. Purity and truth were on the path to holiness and righteousness, no sin or corruption was found there.
Those in Corinth needed to remember what this Passover feast was about and take it seriously. They needed to remember their Passover and purge the malice and wickedness from among them and embrace the purity and truth of Jesus Christ.
God instructed Moses about how to celebrate the feast of unleavened bread. This commemorates the Israelites coming out of Egypt. When they came out there was no time to let their bread rise. But their coming out of Egypt was also a picture of them coming out of the world. And when you come out you need to leave the corruption behind. The leaven of the world shouldn't be brought along on the way to the Promised Land.
Moses passed along what God instructed about this feast of unleavened bread in Exodus 12 and if anyone took any leaven during that time, they were to be cut off from the Israelites. They were to be banished. That is to be set outside the camp. We should have the same attitude toward corruption in our assembly.
1 Corinthians 5:9
Paul had written a previous letter to the church at Corinth. The letter known as First Corinthians is actually the second letter to them. In that first letter Paul apparently dealt with some of these sexual sins in their congregation. And he specifically warned them about keeping company, or mixing with sexually immoral people. The King James translates the 'sexually immoral' to fornicator. The Greek word is 'pornos.' It's a little different than the word porneia we saw before. Pornos seems specific to males prostituting themselves or indulging in illicit sex.
It's a good time to be reminded, these aren't just people who happen to go to this church. These are men that Paul calls saints; men that have received Jesus Christ and will be going to heaven. He has to tell them this kind of behavior is bad and God doesn't approve of it. Either this is an indication of how perverse this society was or these guys were playing dumb.
1 Corinthians 5:10-11
It was Paul's intention to warn them about mixing with the sexually immoral person. He didn't mean for this church to separate them selves from the sexually immoral out in the world. The people out in the world are still in their sin, we should expect to find the sexually immoral among them. We should expect to find the covetous, extortioners and idolaters among the sinners that are out in the world. Unless we just completely separate our self from the world then we will be among those people. They are the ones that need to hear the message we have. They are what we used to be.
The problem with the church of Corinth as Paul sees it is that they were keeping company with the brother in Christ who was sexually immoral, covetous, an idolater, reviler, a drunkard or an extortioner. Wow, what a church. Can you believe it? Paul had to write them and tell them it wasn't okay that these folks were in their church. These guys were notorious sinners among their fellowship. It was not okay and, in fact, they were not even to sit down at a meal with them.
They weren't supposed to eat with that person. This may mean eating within the fellowship but it may be more specific to mean taking the Lord's Supper. Or it could be both. On the surface it seems like a strange detail for Paul to bring up. Yet, there is something about eating together. It's where relationships are formed or friendships are cultivated.
In the Jewish laws the feasts are laid out for all the Jews. These were to commemorate and remember their history. The feasts brought them together and gave them a sense of a common heritage.
Bonds are formed when eating together; people talk that wouldn't normally get that opportunity. A stranger can walk through the door and that uncomfortable feeling of having a stranger among us is gone when we gather around the food and ask God to bless it. When we sit down together, the stranger is no longer a stranger.
So Paul warns these folks of Corinth not to sit down to a meal with these brothers who are notorious in their sin. It was important enough to be recorded in God's word. God doesn't want us forming relationships, forming bonds or just sharing and visiting within the church with people who were infecting the church with their open displays of corruption.
1 Corinthians 5:12-13
Paul finishes his thought here about the sinners inside the church and those outside the church. He couldn't judge those who were outside in the world. That was God's job to judge the unsaved. Our job is to offer them the good news.
We are to judge those who are inside. This doesn't mean everyone in the fellowship is looking for something wrong in the guy or gal sitting next to them. If there is a glaring or blatant sin that is leaven in their midst then they need to deal with it. Paul said, therefore, "put away from yourselves the evil person."
The church of Corinth had all kinds of reasons and excuses for what was going on and what wasn't happening that should have been. Excuses are easy. Being a responsible Saint of Jesus Christ isn't. We are saved by grace but we are accountable and responsible to preserve the integrity of our church. And if we aren't willing, I believe God will deal with us also.
Paul gave us instructions and there is no reason to believe that these instructions don't apply to the Church of Jesus Christ today. We shouldn't sit idly by and allow open and blatant corruption in the midst of our fellowship. We have no choice when we go out into the world. We will be among the sinners, the sexually immoral, and covetousness, the drunkards, the blasphemers, and on and on. But when we are here that shouldn't be the case. And there is a responsibility to maintain and preserve that. We have a responsibility to carve out the cancer before it harms the body.
When you start talking about judging, all kinds of things race through your mind. Paul isn't saying we should sit around and judge each other. However, we should be smart about what we allow to go on in our fellowship. What this should do is cause each one of us to judge ourselves first. We should check our actions and motives first. So when we come together we are the body of Jesus Christ. We are his church and we should represent Him well. When we are in worship, we want it solely directed to the Lord. When we teach and learn from the bible, we want the Holy Spirit to plant the word deep in our heart to His glory. When we gather to eat, we want it to form lasting bonds among the people of God who share bread on a common path through this life in route to eternity. We want to wear the righteousness of Christ as a testimony for the world to see.
©2016 Doug Ford