Immorality in the Church
1-2It’s been widely reported that there is gross sexual immorality among you—the kind of immorality that’s so revolting it’s not even tolerated by the social norms of unbelievers. # 5:1–2 Or “pagans” (gentiles). Are you proud of the fact that one of your men is having sex with his stepmother? # 5:1–2 Or “his father’s wife.” This incestuous relationship was forbidden by the law. See Lev. 18:8. The sin is more than the illicit acts of this unnamed man, but the tolerance of a church that refused to correct and deal with the sin in their midst. Indeed, this chapter implies that the church was somewhat smug and arrogant (“puffed up”) over conduct that violated sensibility. Shouldn’t this heartbreaking scandal bring you to your knees in tears? You must remove the offender from among you!
3Even though I am physically far away from you, my spirit is present with you. And as one who is present with you, I have already evaluated and judged the perpetrator. 4So call a meeting, and when you gather together in the name of our Lord Jesus, and you know my spirit is present with you in the infinite power of our Lord Jesus, # 5:4 God had given Paul exceptional ability to have his spirit present, along with the power of God, in their meetings together. 5release this man over to Satan # 5:5 Satan means “accusing adversary.” When one is put out of the fellowship of the church family, the accuser has access to harass and oppress. There is a blessed protection in the fellowship of God’s people, for the Lord is present with us when we gather in his name. for the destruction of his rebellious flesh, in hope that his spirit may be rescued and restored in the day of the Lord. # 5:5 Or “Turn this man over to Satan for the destruction of your fleshly works so that your spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” Verses 3–5 comprise one long, complicated Greek sentence. Many see this difficult passage as a prescription for ex-communication from the church. Aramaic speakers see in this passage the words “Turn him over to the accuser,” as a figure of speech meaning “Let him suffer the consequences of his actions.” We have similar sayings in English. “Let him stew in his own juices.” Or “Give him enough rope to hang himself.” Or “Let him learn his lesson the hard way.” Regardless, it is not a light thing to be handed over to Satan. Apparently this man learned his lesson and repented, for Paul instructs the Corinthians in his second letter to forgive and comfort him. See 2 Cor. 2:6–11.
6Boasting over your tolerance of sin is inappropriate. Don’t you understand that even a small compromise with sin permeates the entire fellowship, just as a little leaven permeates a batch of dough? 7So remove every trace of your “leaven” of compromise with sin so that you might become new and pure again. For indeed, you are clean # 5:7 Or “unleavened.” Paul uses encouragement here to stir them to embrace a lifestyle that is already theirs. We are all made “clean” by the blood of the Lamb. because Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. # 5:7 Verses 6 and 7 contain the interesting metaphor of yeast and its effect on a batch of dough. It is literally “Don’t you know that a little yeast affects the whole batch of dough? You must clean out the old yeast so that you can become a new batch of dough. For you are without yeast, because Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” Leaven is most often used as a metaphor for corrupting influence, especially false teaching. 8So now we can celebrate our continual feast, not with the old “leaven,” the yeast of wickedness or bitterness, but we will feast on the freshly baked bread of innocence and holiness. # 5:8 As translated from the Aramaic. The Greek is “the unleavened bread of sincerity and unhidden reality.”
Correcting a Misunderstanding
9I wrote you in my previous letter # 5:9 Paul is referring to a previous letter to the Corinthians, known as the lost letter, because a manuscript has never been found. asking you not to associate with those who practice sexual immorality. # 5:9 In the Greek culture of that day, the word pornos referred to male prostitution or paramour, although in this context it is not limited to one form of sexual immorality but includes all sexual acts forbidden by Scripture. 10Yet in no way was I referring to avoiding contact with unbelievers who are immoral, or greedy, or swindlers, or those who worship other gods—for that would mean you’d have to isolate yourself from the world entirely! # 5:10 Or “leave the world.” Our Lord Jesus has commanded his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel. We do not isolate ourselves from unbelievers but seek opportunities to share the gospel with them. 11But now I’m writing to you so that you would exclude from your fellowship anyone who calls himself a fellow believer and practices sexual immorality, or is consumed with greed, or is an idolater, or is verbally abusive or a drunkard or a swindler. Don’t mingle with them or even have a meal with someone like that. 12-13What right do I have to pronounce judgment on unbelievers? That’s God’s responsibility. But those who are inside the church family are our responsibility to discern and judge. So it’s your duty to remove that wicked one from among you. # 5:12–13 The Aramaic can be translated “Remove wickedness from among you.” See Deut. 17:7. The local church has the authority to discipline erring believers who persist in sin. Under the old covenant, that discipline was physical (execution by stoning), but under the new covenant, church discipline is spiritual. See Matt. 18:15–17.