Recent Posts
Lowell Brueckner

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

1 Corinthians 5


Chapter 5

1.      It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.
2.      And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
3.      For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.
4.      When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus,
5.      you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

We have come to a portion in this book, where Paul passes judgment against sexual immorality. I don’t think that I am telling you anything new, when I say that immorality is a huge problem in the church today and it has been the downfall of many pastors and other leaders. The fact is, it was also a problem in biblical times, beginning in the book of Genesis.

Sexual misconduct is different from unnatural addictions, which come from nicotine, alcohol, and numerous kinds of drugs and barbiturates, in that it is a natural appetite innate to the human body, as is hunger and thirst. One cannot expect deliverance from it, but must learn to control it, just as he must control his appetite for food. Sexuality is very basically a part of human nature, in order to insure the procreation of the race: therefore it is a good thing.

However, all sexual activity, biblically speaking, is limited strictly and exclusively to a man and his wife, after they have committed themselves publically to each other for life. Solomon shares his wisdom on the matter in Proverbs 5:18-20, if you would like to look it up, and the writer of Hebrews gives us a solid New Testament position: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (He.13:4).

In Genesis 35, verse 22, Reuben committed an act that cost him his birthright (See Dt.21:17 and 1 Chron.5:1 to get the facts concerning the passing of his birthright to Joseph): “Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine. And Israel heard of it.” He brought the matter up, when he was prophesying over his children in chapter 49. There is no record that he ever mentioned it before. However, in that chapter, he begins with his oldest son in verse 3: “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it – he went up to my couch!”  

The sin mentioned in the beginning of chapter 5 is similar. Of course, the woman involved is not the perpetrator’s mother, but another wife of his father, probably due to his mother’s death. In any case, she is his father´s wife, just as in the case of Bilhah. Paul shows the particularly perverse nature of the sin, which would even stand out as intolerable among the unbelievers (1). The Law of Moses cursed the practice (Dt.27:20).

Paul not only condemns the sin, but also the general arrogance in the church concerning the matter. A form of pride is at the head of so many problems within and without Christian circles. It is a sin, particular disdained by God and at the head of a list in Proverbs 6:16 and 17: “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes (or a proud look, in other versions), a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood…” In dispensing salvation, the Lord requires that it be received with humility: “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing: it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph.2:8-9). Grace humbles the sinner. 

A pastor of a large church in a city near our home committed immoral acts. When they were discovered, he stood before the church to “confess” his sins, and was rewarded with applause from the congregation. Other local pastors called in the president of a mission, particularly known for his skill in confronting such matters. He told the church in question that to deal with that sin only within the congregation, was inadequate, due obviously to multiple conflicts of interest. He said, “You applauded when the pastor told you of his sins. That was totally improper. In fear and shame, you should have been crawling under the benches!”

Paul has to take godly authority over the Corinthian situation. He states that the proper response to sin among the believers should be mourning.  There should be remorse, accompanying repentance, manifesting an understanding of the gravity of sin. He then calls for the removal of the guilty one from among the members (2). The world around them must see that true Christianity shows no tolerance for sin.

Discipline must be applied for the good of the offender and it must be severe, in order to do any real good. Spiritual matters do not necessarily require the presence of the judge and Paul claims that he is present in spirit and has already decided the sentence to be applied (3). The presence of Christ is there also in mighty power to lend heavenly authority to the assembled church, as they pronounce punishment (4). 

The church is spiritual and therefore all its actions must be done in the spiritual realm. Here is the penalty: The man is to be given over to Satan. Some have questions, concerning verse 5, so I will try to clarify its meaning. The guilty one is not profiting from his place in the church and he is giving a bad testimony to society. For his own good, the church literally casts him out; he is forbidden to enter its activities, and he is given over to Satan.

Hopefully, this is not permanent, but that by being separated from the spiritual protection of the church, he will experience the awful rule of the devil over his life. When he realizes the pain and peril of this situation, his remorse will be severe and his repentance will be deep. He will humble himself and turn back to Christ. In this way, “his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” It is not an unconditional and direct result of his punishment, but is, just the opposite, conditional and indirect. The condition is repentance; the result is that his heart will turn to the Lord. It must be a timely decision, before it is too late.  (See the end result of this case in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11)

Disassociation with spiritual leaven

6.      Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
7.      Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
8.      Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9.      I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-
10.  not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.
11.  But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one.
12.  For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?
13.  God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

The Corinthians are boasting, because of their ignorance of a spiritual principle. It is seen in this proverb: “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” He uses the same symbolic term another time in Galatians 5:9. It simply means that a little sin effects the entire church (6). Solomon declares it in Ecclesiastes 9:18 and 10:1: “One sinner destroys much good. Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.”

Symbols are quite consistent in their meaning throughout Scripture and leaven always has a negative connotation, it seems to me. In the Old Testament, unleavened bread was always necessary in sacrifices burnt with fire, which sacrifices symbolized an offering to the Lord. Leaven was only used in two unburnt, grain offerings: 1) As the grain offering in conjunction with the peace sacrifice (Lv.7:13), and 2) as the wave-loaf offering at the feast of Pentecost (Lv.23:17). In those two cases, leavened bread revealed the presence of sin, as John in his first epistle declares, “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us… If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 Jn.1:7,8,10). The blood of Christ, the Passover Lamb, is shed for us, by whome we have free grace to enter into the presence of God, but that fact does not give license to sin.

Scofield comments, “Any thanksgiving for peace must, first of all, present Him (Christ).  In Leviticus 7:12, we have this, in type, and so leaven is excluded. In verse 13, it is the offerer who gives thanks for his participation in the peace, and so leaven fitly signifies, that though having peace with God… there is still evil in him. In Leviticus 23:17: The wave-loaves were offered fifty days (Feast of Pentecost) after the wave-sheaf (Feast of Firstfruits)…With the wave-sheaf no leaven was offered, for there was no evil in Christ; but the wave-loaves, typifying the church, are ‘baken with leaven’, for in the church there is still evil.”

Paul proclaims that the Corinthian church should purge out the leaven, so that their practical situation will match fheir perfectly unleavened position in Christ (7). Jesus warned of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees, signifying false doctrine and hypocrisy (Mt.16:6, 11, 12; Mk.8:15 and Lk.12:1). It seems to me unlikely that in the Parable of the Leaven that Jesus is giving a positive meaning to leaven, differing from all other Scripture (Mt.13:33). I believe that He is showing an unwelcome appearance of growth, beyond the real substance of the loaf.

In verse 8, John Wesley comments, “Sincerity and truth seem to be put here for the whole of true, inward religion.” That follows the idea of inward substance, rather than a puffed-up appearance. Paul is speaking of a true spiritual celebration, symbolized by the Feast of Unleavened Bread, beginning with the Passover. Hypocrisy is the epitome of hidden malice and evil, discovered in the religion of the Pharisees.

In view of the recent developments in the church in Corinth, Paul clarifies a statement in an earlier letter about associating with the immoral (9). He meant the immoral people in the church, who called themselves brothers. He made that stipulation to avoid a practice, which is not uncommon throughout history up to our day: It is the practice of moving out of society into unpopulated areas and living in communalism. This was never the Lord’s idea; He prayed to the Father: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (Jn.17:15). The church is to live in society, rub shoulders with the world and be seen as a light, as an example, to ungodly people (10). We live among sinners, without partaking of their sins, as Jesus gave example throughout the Gospels.

When it comes to false brothers, who shame the name of Christ before the world, for that reason, we cannot associate with them. They claim Christianity, but do not live a lifestyle, which is apart from the world’s lifestyle; these are to be avoided (11). Again, I refer to Jesus’ prayer, which expresses His desire: “Keep them from the evil one.” Paul also warned the Thessalonians, “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed” (2 Th.3:14).  

Sinners practice sin. The evangelistic mission is not to moralize them. We preach repentance and faith in Christ, not moral virtue. Trying to keep God’s law without the new nature is taught in the New Testament as spiritual slavery, because the sinner is battling against his sinful nature. The born-again Christian lives according to the new nature and does the will of God freely from the heart. Let God keep score, as far as outsiders are concerned. He measures the sin in the world and pours out judgment accordingly. It is seen throughout the Scripture.

It is another issue altogether, as far as Christians are concerned. Popular teaching today practically eliminates judging. In the context of this chapter, judging is necessary and healthy among Christians. I mentioned in an earlier chapter that Jesus taught, “Judge righteous judgment” (Jn.7:24), so we had better be sure that our counsel lines up with the doctrines of Christ and the New Testament. Paul absolutely states in verse 12 that members are to judge those within the church. To the many who demand, “Don’t judge me!” I would ask, “Do you not want to be recognized as a Christian, then?”  The one who claims Christianity, but doesn’t live up to the demands of Christ and Apostle Paul, receives the same sentence against him today, as in the First Century (13): “Purge the evil person from among you.”


Post a Comment