1 Corinthians 5
Impurity in the Church.
SUMMARY.--The Incestuous Person.
The Discipline Commanded.
The Old Leaven to be Purged Out.
Heinous Offenders Not to be Recognized Socially in the Church.
1-5. There is fornication among you. Licentiousness was one of
the besetting sins of the Gentiles at this time. Purity of life was
almost unknown. So far was unchastity from being held in disrepute that
temples were everywhere dedicated to Aphrodite (Venus), and in Corinth
at the time when Paul wrote there stood one with a thousand
priestesses, harlots, a gigantic brothel in the name of religion. It is
not wonderful that time was required to cleanse the church, formed of
converts from these heathen, from impurity.
As is not named among the Gentiles. There was in the church a
still worse case than the Gentiles would condone; a man had taken,
probably after the death of his father, his father's wife, his own
step-mother. This sort of incest was condemned by Greeks and Romans
(Cicero, Oratio pro Cluentio).
2. And ye are puffed up. In the face of such a scandal, such a
disgrace upon the church of which he is a member, ye are still puffed
up, instead of being humiliated and covered with a sense of shame. To
manifest sorrow was your duty, and to take such steps that the evil
might be taken away from among you by means of church discipline.
The early church mourned those who fell into licentious or other
grievous sins as dead (Origen), and if they repented, received then as
risen from the dead.
3. For I verily, etc. Though absent, yet with them in spirit,
Paul judged the case as present, and commanded the church as a body to
take action by withdrawal at
once from the evil doer.
4. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. The solemn act of
excommunication must be in the name, that is, by the authority, of the
When ye are gathered together. The act is to be administered in
full assembly. It must be the act of the whole church. Compare
2 Cor. 2:6.
And my spirit. He will be present in spirit, since the act will
be carrying out his command.
With the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. The act of
excommunication for misdeeds, when administered according to the will
of the Lord, is not merely man's decision, but will be executed by the
power of the Lord.
5. To deliver such a one unto Satan. Not only this one, but all
such persons. To deliver unto Satan is to excommunicate; to extradite
from the kingdom of God to the prince of this world. The expression is
1 Tim. 1:20.
For the destruction of the flesh. Fleshly desires had caused the
sin. These must be destroyed. The humiliation of excommunication, the
sense of one's lost condition, was well adapted to bring a repentance.
Some have held that this meant to send some painful disease
miraculously. I believe that the Latin fathers and Beza are right in
understanding that it refers to the mortification of the offender, cast
out, shunned by the church as a dead body. In
2 Cor. 2:7,
this person is ordered to be restored, having repented, and no mention
is made of disease.
That the spirit may be saved. This is the object of all true
discipline. If carried out, as in the early church, it was well
calculated to bring to repentance. It was effective in this instance,
as we learn from
2 Cor. 2:6.
6-8. Your glorying is not good. Boasting, in such a state of
affairs, was unseemly.
A little leaven, etc. As a little leaven leavens the whole mass
of dough, so one sinner suffered to go on in impurity sends a
corrupting influence through the whole church.
7. Purge out therefore the old leaven. Let the leaven of
impurity be removed, by putting out the fornicator, that the church may
be pure from the impure leaven, or influence. So, too, each one must
cleanse his own heart.
For even Christ our passover, etc. At the passover, Jews were
required to put all leaven from their houses
As we have a Paschal Lamb, slain for us, the church should cleanse out
the leaven of sin.
8. Let us keep the feast. Let us keep feast, or festival.
There is no article in the Greek. The reference is not to the Lord's
Supper, or to Easter, as some have supposed, so much as to a constant
duty. We always have a Paschal Lamb; hence it is always our duty to
keep festival by casting out all leaven; either the
old leaven of heathen vice, or of
malice and wickedness, or any sin.
9-13. I wrote unto you in an epistle. He had written an earlier
letter which has not been preserved, probably a short one, to which
reference is made. So most commentators understand.
10. Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world. His
direction had been misunderstood. The fornicator in the church must be
shunned as an outcast, for the sake of the discipline. This was what he
meant. He did not give directions concerning their conduct towards the
Then must ye needs, etc. As the whole heathen world were
addicted to the vices named, to apply
the rule to it would require that the church have nought whatever to do
with the unconverted.
11. Now I have written unto you, etc. He now writes and explains
his meaning. Church members must not have social intercourse with one
who has been a member who is guilty of the grievous sins named.
Covetous. A greedy person, under the influence of passions, not
only greedy for gain, but for self-indulgence. The Greek word
With such a one, no, not to eat. Either at the Lord's table, or
in friendly meals, which would imply a brotherly recognition.
12. For what have I to do, etc. It was not Paul's business, nor
ours, to judge those without; hence the rule just given is not one to
regulate our intercourse with them.
Do not ye judge them that are within? The authority of the
church is over those who have been united with it. It can judge
13. Them that are without God judgeth. The unconverted are left
in the hands of God. He will judge them according to their deeds. We
are not to seek to inflict punishment on them by shunning them, but
rather to go to them in the love of Christ to try to lead them to
Therefore put away, etc. A summary order to execute discipline
upon the incestuous offender, an order that we know from the second
letter was obeyed.