1 Corinthians 5
In this chapter the apostle,
I. Blames them for their indulgence in the case of the incestuous
person, and orders him to be excommunicated, and delivered to Satan,
1 Corinthians 5:1-6.
II. He exhorts them to Christian purity, by purging out the old leaven,
1 Corinthians 5:7,8.
III. Directs them to shun even the common conversation of Christians
who were guilty of any notorious and flagitious wickedness,
1 Corinthians 5:9-13.
|A Case of Gross Criminality; Christian Purity.
||A. D. 57.|
1 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.
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.
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,
4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered
together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
5 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.
6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven
leaveneth the whole lump?
Here the apostle states the case; and,
I. Lets them know what was the common or general report concerning
them, that one of their community was guilty of fornication,
1 Corinthians 5:1.
It was told in all places, to their dishonour, and the reproach of
Christians. And it was the more reproachful because it could not be
denied. Note, The heinous sins of professed Christians are quickly
noted and noised abroad. We should walk circumspectly, for many eyes
are upon us, and many mouths will be opened against us if we fall into
any scandalous practice. This was not a common instance of fornication,
but such as was not so much as named among the Gentiles, that a man
should have his father's wife--either marry her while his father
was alive, or keep her as his concubine, either when he was dead or
while he was alive. In either of these cases, his criminal conversation
with her might be called fornication; but had his father been
dead, and he, after his decease, married to her, it had been incest
still, but neither fornication nor adultery in the strictest sense. But
to marry her, or keep her as a concubine, while his father was alive,
though he had repudiated her, or she had deserted him, whether she were
his own mother or not, was incestuous fornication: Scelus
incredibile (as Cicero calls it), et prater unum in omni
vitâ inauditum (Orat. pro Cluent.), when a woman had caused
her daughter to be put away, and was married to her husband.
Incredible wickedness! says the orator; such I never heard of
in all my life besides. Not that there were no such instances of
incestuous marriages among the heathens; but, whenever they happened,
they gave a shock to every man of virtue and probity among them. They
could not think of them without horror, nor mention them without
dislike and detestation. Yet such a horrible wickedness was committed
by one in the church of Corinth, and, as is probable, a leader of one
of the factions among them, a principal man. Note, The best churches
are, in this state of imperfection, liable to very great corruptions.
Is it any wonder when so horrible a practice was tolerated in an
apostolical church, a church planted by the great apostle of the
II. He greatly blames them for their own conduct hereupon: They were
(1 Corinthians 5:2),
1. Perhaps on account of this very scandalous person. He might be a man
of great eloquence, of deep science, and for this reason very greatly
esteemed, and followed, and cried up, by many among them. They were
proud that they had such a leader. Instead of mourning for his fall,
and their own reproach upon his account, and renouncing him and
removing him from the society, they continued to applaud him and pride
themselves in him. Note, Pride or self-esteem often lies at the bottom
of our immoderate esteem of others, and this makes us as blind to their
faults as to our own. It is true humility that will bring a man to a
sight and acknowledgement of his errors. The proud man either wholly
overlooks or artfully disguises his faults, or endeavours to transform
his blemishes into beauties. Those of the Corinthians that were
admirers of the incestuous person's gifts could overlook or extenuate
his horrid practices. Or else,
2. It may intimate to us that some of the opposite party were puffed
up. They were proud of their own standing, and trampled upon him that
fell. Note, It is a very wicked thing to glory over the miscarriages
and sins of others. We should lay them to heart, and mourn for them,
not be puffed up with them. Probably this was one effect of the
divisions among them. The opposite party made their advantage of this
scandalous lapse, and were glad of the opportunity. Note, It is a sad
consequence of divisions among Christians that it makes them apt to
rejoice in iniquity. The sins of others should be our sorrow. Nay,
churches should mourn for the scandalous behaviour of particular
members, and, if they be incorrigible, should remove them. He that had
done this wicked deed should have been taken away from among them.
III. We have the apostle's direction to them how they should now
proceed with this scandalous sinner. He would have him excommunicated
and delivered to Satan
(1 Corinthians 5:3-5);
as absent in body, yet present in spirit, he had judged already as
if he had been present; that is, he had, by revelation and the
miraculous gift of discerning vouchsafed him by the Spirit, as perfect
a knowledge of the case, and had hereupon come to the following
determination, not without special authority from the Holy Spirit. He
says this to let them know that, though he was at a distance, he did
not pass an unrighteous sentence, nor judge without having as full
cognizance of the case as if he had been on the spot. Note, Those who
would appear righteous judges to the world will take care to inform
them that they do not pass sentence without full proof and evidence.
The apostle adds, him who hath so done this deed. The fact was
not only heinously evil in itself, and horrible to the heathens, but
there were some particular circumstances that greatly aggravated the
offence. He had so committed the evil as to heighten the guilt by the
manner of doing it. Perhaps he was a minister, a teacher, or a
principal man among them. By this means the church and their profession
were more reproached. Note, In dealing with scandalous sinners, not
only are they to be charged with the fact, but the aggravating
circumstances of it. Paul had judged that he should be delivered to
(1 Corinthians 5:5),
and this was to be done in the name of Christ, with the power of
Christ, and in a full assembly, where the apostle would be also present
in spirit, or by his spiritual gift of discerning at a distance. Some
think that this is to be understood of a mere ordinary excommunication,
and that delivering him to Satan for the destruction of the flesh is
only meant of disowning him, and casting him out of the church, that by
this means he might be brought to repentance, and his flesh might be
mortified. Christ and Satan divide the world: and those that live in
sin, when they profess relation to Christ, belong to another master,
and by excommunication should be delivered up to him; and this in the
name of Christ. Note, Church-censures are Christ's ordinances, and
should be dispensed in his name. It was to be done also when they
were gathered together, in full assembly. The more public the more
solemn, and the more solemn the more likely to have a good effect on
the offender. Note, Church-censures on notorious and incorrigible
sinners should be passed with great solemnity. Those who sin in this
manner are to be rebuked before all, that all may fear,
1 Timothy 5:20.
Others think the apostle is not to be understood of mere
excommunication, but of a miraculous power or authority they had of
delivering a scandalous sinner into the power of Satan, to have bodily
diseases inflicted, and to be tormented by him with bodily pains, which
is the meaning of the destruction of the flesh. In this sense
the destruction of the flesh has been a happy occasion of the salvation
of the spirit. It is probable that this was a mixed case. It was an
extraordinary instance: and the church was to proceed against him by
just censure; the apostle, when they did so, put forth an act of
extraordinary power, and gave him up to Satan, nor for his destruction,
but for his deliverance, at least for the destruction of the flesh,
that the soul might be saved. Note, The great end of church-censures is
the good of those who fall under them, their spiritual and eternal
good. It is that their spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord
1 Corinthians 5:5.
Yet it is not merely a regard to their benefit that is to be had in
proceeding against them. For,
IV. He hints the danger of contagion from this example: Your
glorying is not good. Know you not that a little leaven leaveneth the
whole lump? The bad example of a man in rank and reputation is very
mischievous, spreads the contagion far and wide. It did so, probably,
in this very church and case: see
2 Corinthians 12:21.
They could not be ignorant of this. The experience of the whole world
was for it; one scabbed sheep infects a whole flock. A little
heaven will quickly spread the ferment through a great lump. Note,
Concern for their purity and preservation should engage Christian
churches to remove gross and scandalous sinners.
|Exhortation to Christian Purity.
||A. D. 57.|
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:
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.
Here the apostle exhorts them to purity, by purging out the old leaven.
In this observe,
I. The advice itself, addressed either,
1. To the church in general; and so purging out the old leaven, that
they might be a new lump, refers to the putting away from themselves
that wicked person,
1 Corinthians 5:13.
Note, Christian churches should be pure and holy, and not bear such
corrupt and scandalous members. They are to be unleavened, and should
endure no such heterogeneous mixture to sour and corrupt them. Or,
2. To each particular member of the church. And so it implies that
they should purge themselves from all impurity of heart and life,
especially from this kind of wickedness, to which the Corinthians were
addicted to a proverb. See the argument at the beginning. This
old leaven was in a particular manner to be purged out, that they might
become a new lump. Note, Christians should be careful to keep
themselves clean, as well as purge polluted members out of their
society. And they should especially avoid the sins to which they
themselves were once most addicted, and the reigning vices of the
places and the people where they live. They were also to purge
themselves from malice and wickedness--all ill-will and mischievous
subtlety. This is leaven that sours the mind to a great degree. It is
not improbable that this was intended as a check to some who gloried in
the scandalous behaviour of the offender, both out of pride and pique.
Note, Christians should be careful to keep free from malice and
mischief. Love is the very essence and life of the Christian religion.
It is the fairest image of God, for God is love
(1 John 4:16),
and therefore it is no wonder if it be the greatest beauty and ornament
of a Christian. But malice is murder in its principles: He that hates
his brother is a murderer
(1 John 3:15),
he bears the image and proclaims him the offspring of him who was a
murderer from the beginning,
How hateful should every thing be to a Christian that looks like malice
II. The reason with which this advice is enforced: For Christ our
passover is sacrificed for us,
1 Corinthians 5:7.
This is the great doctrine of the gospel. The Jews, after they had
killed the passover, kept the feast of unleavened bread. So must we;
not for seven days only, but all our days. We should die with our
Saviour to sin, be planted into the likeness of his death by mortifying
sin, and into the likeness of his resurrection by rising again to
newness of life, and that internal and external. We must have new
hearts and new lives. Note, The whole life of a Christian must be a
feast of unleavened bread. His common conversation and his religious
performances must be holy. He must purge out the old leaven, and
keep the feast of unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. He must
be without guilt in his conduct towards God and man. And the more there
is of sincerity in our own profession, the less shall we censure that
of others. Note, On the whole, The sacrifice of our Redeemer is the
strongest argument with a gracious heart for purity and sincerity. How
sincere a regard did he show to our welfare, in dying for us! and how
terrible a proof was his death of the detestable nature of sin, and
God's displeasure against it! Heinous evil, that could not be expiated
but with the blood of the Son of God! And shall a Christian love the
murderer of his Lord? God forbid.
|Advice to Shun Scandalous Professors.
||A. D. 57.|
9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with
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.
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.
12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without?
do not ye judge them that are within?
13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away
from among yourselves that wicked person.
Here the apostle advises them to shun the company and converse of
scandalous professors. Consider,
I. The advice itself: I wrote to you in a letter not to company with
1 Corinthians 5:9.
Some think this was an epistle written to them before, which is lost.
Yet we have lost nothing by it, the Christian revelation being entire
in those books of scripture which have come down to us, which are all
that were intended by God for the general use of Christians, or he
could and would in his providence have preserved more of the writings
of inspired men. Some think it is to be understood of this very
epistle, that he had written this advice before he had full information
of their whole case, but thought it needful now to be more particular.
And therefore on this occasion he tells them that if any man called a
brother, any one professing Christianity, and being a member of a
Christian church, were a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or
a railer, that they should not keep company with him, nor so
much as eat with such a one. They were to avoid all familiarity
with him; they were to have no commerce with him; they were to have no
commerce with him: but, that they might shame him, and bring him to
repentance, must disclaim and shun him. Note, Christians are to avoid
the familiar conversation of fellow-christians that are notoriously
wicked, and under just censure for their flagitious practices. Such
disgrace the Christian name. They may call themselves brethren in
Christ, but they are not Christian brethren. They are only fit
companions for the brethren in iniquity; and to such company they
should be left, till they mend their ways and doings.
II. How he limits this advice. He does not forbid the Christians the
like commerce with scandalously wicked heathens. He does not forbid
their eating nor conversing with the fornicators of this world,
&c. They know no better. They profess no better. The gods they serve,
and the worship they render to many of them, countenance such
wickedness. "You must needs go out of the world if you will have
no conversation with such men. Your Gentile neighbours are generally
vicious and profane; and it is impossible, as long as you are in the
world, and have any worldly business to do, but you must fall into
their company. This cannot be wholly avoided." Note, Christians may and
ought to testify more respect to loose worldlings than to loose
Christians. This seems a paradox. Why should we shun the company of a
profane or loose Christian, rather than that of a profane or loose
III. The reason of this limitation is here assigned. It is impossible
the one should be avoided. Christians must have gone out of the world
to avoid the company of loose heathens. But this was impossible, as
long as they had business in the world. While they are minding their
duty, and doing their proper business, God can and will preserve them
from contagion. Besides, they carry an antidote against the infection
of their bad example, and are naturally upon their guard. They are apt
to have a horror at their wicked practices. But the dread of sin wears
off by familiar converse with wicked Christians. Our own safety and
preservation are a reason of this difference. But, besides, heathens
were such as Christians had nothing to do to judge and censure, and
avoid upon a censure passed; for they are without
(1 Corinthians 5:12),
and must be left to God's judgment,
1 Corinthians 5:13.
But, as to members of the church, they are within, are professedly
bound by the laws and rules of Christianity, and not only liable to the
judgment of God, but to the censures of those who are set over them,
and the fellow-members of the same body, when they transgress those
rules. Every Christian is bound to judge them unfit for communion and
familiar converse. They are to be punished, by having this mark of
disgrace put upon them, that they may be shamed, and, if possible,
reclaimed thereby: and the more because the sins of such much more
dishonour God than the sins of the openly wicked and profane can do.
The church therefore is obliged to clear herself from all confederacy
with them, or connivance at them, and to bear testimony against their
wicked practices. Note, Though the church has nothing to do with those
without, it must endeavour to keep clear of the guilt and reproach of
IV. How he applies the argument to the case before him: "Therefore
put away from among yourselves that wicked person,
1 Corinthians 5:13.
Cast him out of your fellowship, and avoid his conversation."