6. 1 Corinthians 5:1-13
The Corinthians had misunderstood how they were supposed to behave and they were actually proud that one of their members was practising forbidden sexual sin. Paul deals with it, telling them to deliver the sinner to Satan for the destruction of his flesh! He goes on to explain how sin will affect the assembly and how it works in the saints. On the way we also discover the meaning and power of the Passover for us today.
1 Corinthians 5
1 It is actually reported that among you there is forbidden sexual behaviour, and such immorality that the Gentiles don’t even have a word for it—that someone has his father’s wife—
Reuben was the first to commit this wickedness, and later, Absalom did the same to his father David. In Leviticus and Deuteronomy this specific relationship is forbidden, but it was among the sins of Jerusalem listed by Ezekiel. I suspect it was one of the practices specifically demanded of those Jews engaged in idolatry, in order to offend God.
2 and you are proud! Should you not rather have grieved? The one doing this could have been taken from you,
Their totally misplaced pride was from a serious misunderstanding of the freedom we share—it’s a freedom from sin, not a freedom to sin. Paul is pointing out that flagrant sin at this level could easily have been judged by God and the guilty parties taken, like Ananias and Sapphira were. The whole assembly should have corporately mourned and repented on their behalf, and laboured to bring them back to faith.
3 for truly, though absent in body, I am with you in spirit, and I have already judged the one who has done this as though I were present.
Paul’s view of his spirit is interesting—he is somehow part of their meeting by his spirit, even though he is many miles away in his body. He also has confirmation in his spirit (by a word of knowledge?) that the man concerned is truly guilty, not simply misreported or misunderstood.
4 When you are gathered together in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
And in this state he is sufficiently involved that he can direct their actions—but only once his spirit is present, not simply through their obedience to this letter.
5 deliver him to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit might be saved on the day of the Lord Jesus.
Woh! They were to officially hand him over to Satan! Satan might take great delight in destroying a man, but why would he comply with Paul’s instructions and merely destroy the part of him which endangered his ultimate salvation? Was it just about providing some serious suffering? And what about his father’s wife—was this relationship not consensual?
6 Your boasting is not good. Haven’t you noticed it takes very little yeast to leaven all the dough?
Because yeast is living, it grows and spreads far further than it might be expected to, and in this metaphor, where yeast is an image of sin, we can see that very little sin in an assembly or in a believer’s heart, will corrupt far more than we expect.
7 So, thoroughly cleanse out the old leaven that you may be new dough, since you are unleavened for the Passover—it was for our sake Christ was sacrificed.
We must maintain a zero tolerance position on sin, both in our own lives and in our assemblies. Any trace must be eradicated without compromise.
All the other translations sneak in the word “lamb,” either literally, or by implication, so that they can state that Christ is our Passover. This is because the Greek mentions Passover and Christ in the same line and they know that Jesus was our Passover lamb. Forcing the meaning that far, however, is unsupported.
The point Paul is making here is that while we are initially cleansed (unleavened) by the new birth, we must maintain that position of holy sinlessness at all times by our free will, so that our hearts will always be able to benefit from Christ’s Passover sacrifice, and we will be able to live to God. We choose to live a life of sinlessness, with the help of the indwelling Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit; resorting to repentance only when we fall into sin contrary to our intention.
Otherwise, if we allow even a tiny sin into our lives, Christ’s Passover sacrifice will not benefit us any more and we will die to Him. This is what the Passover feast is all about: in those households which weren’t covered by the blood of the Lamb, the eldest son—the heir to the estate—simply died when the angel passed over.
Though the passing of the angel happened just once for the ancient Hebrews, it is a permanent state for disciples of Christ, which means that the moment we duck out from the covering of the blood by sinning, we die that moment to God and have to restore our relationship by repentance. If we choose not to, we are walking away from Jesus, rejecting His work on the cross for us and throwing away our salvation.
8 Consequently, we keep the feast not with the old leaven—the yeast of wickedness and depravity, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Again, we are not literally speaking of bread here nor of feasts, but of keeping our hearts holy, sincere and sin-free at all times, because otherwise, living for God becomes impossible.
9 I have written in a letter to you, not to consort with the promiscuous.
Promiscuity refers to any illicit sexual behaviour. This is Paul’s priority here as he is tackling that particular problem at Corinth.
10 I didn’t mean the promiscuous of the world, or the greedy, the extortionists or idolaters—or you would have to leave the world.
Now he clarifies that sinners in the world are not to be avoided, else we would have to die, and then how could we witness to anyone? This is the core of the error of monasticism—the attempt to leave the world in order to avoid its sin and its sinners. Because they relied on the isolation of the flesh rather than the grace of the Holy Spirit by faith, the monks always discovered that they had taken the sinner into the cloister with all his faults.
11 So now I’m writing to you not to mix with any so-called brother who is promiscuous or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunk or extortionist: don’t even eat with such a man.
Anyone who confesses the name of Jesus absolutely must be done with sin in all its forms. Otherwise they will bring corruption into the assembly, which will spread and others will die to God, losing their salvation. This does not mean utterly perfect lives as we can all slip occasionally, it means we choose to live sin-free, holy lives, and are quick to repent the moment we realise we have sinned. So Paul tells us to have nothing to do with a man who continues to choose sin in any part of his life. We cannot keep him as a friend because his choice of sin is liable to corrupt us too.
12 My concern is not to judge those outside, but you are to judge those within;
Those outside are the lost, so they will still be in sin. They have to be God’s responsibility to judge as we have no jurisdiction. We may still point out their sin to them as we share the gospel, but only by quoting the word of God, not in personal judgmentalism. Within the assembly however, God has given us, as a corporate body, the responsibility and the authority to maintain a holy fellowship.
13 God will judge those outside, so remove the wicked from your assembly.
When we remove the wicked from our fellowship they become ‘those outside’ where, ultimately, God will judge them. This is also where Satan can get at them and destroy their carnal self-life.
Bless you folks, Geoff >ᴥ<