1 Corinthians 5 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

1 Corinthians 5
Pulpit Commentary
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.
Verses 1-8. - Excommunication of an incestuous offender. Verse 1. - It is reported. The abruptness with which the subject is introduced shows the intensity of St. Paul's feelings, and his indignation that he should have been left to hear of this crime by common report. The news had come to him "from those of Chloe's household." But St. Paul was not acting on mere "report." The Greek phrase implies, "It is notorious that there is uncleanness among you." St. Paul must have felt it to be a bad feature in the character of the Corinthian Church that they had not mentioned this gross scandal in their letter. Commonly; rather, actually or absolutely; Elsewhere in the New Testament the worn only occurs in Matthew 5:24; 1 Corinthians 6:7; 1 Corinthians 15:29. Tertullian renders it "in totum." St. Paul has no need in this instance to name his informants. Every one knew of this scandal. Fornication; a general word for all kinds of impurity. And. The word involves an indignant climax, "Yes, and uncleanness of such a kind that," etc. Is not so much as named. The true reading is, does not even exist. This form of incest was, indeed, "named" among the Gentiles, for it forms the basis of the story of Hippolytus, the scene of which was in the neighbourhood of Corinth; but the feelings even of pagans were so shocked by it that Cicero alludes to such a crime in the words, "Oh, incredible wickedness, and except in this woman's case - unheard of in all experience!" ('Pro Cluent.,' 5). At this very epoch Nero deepened the general execration against himself by the generally accepted suspicion that he had been guilty of a yet more flagrant crime. Should have; rather, that a certain person has his father's wife. Apparently this was some nominal Christian, who was living in open sin with his stepmother, and thereby braving the curse of Leviticus 18:17; Deuteronomy 27:20. We gather from 2 Corinthians 7:12 that the father was living, and had also joined the Christian community. From the complete silence as to the crime of the woman, it must be inferred that she was a heathen. Whether she had been divorced or not does not appear, nor whether the offender was nominally married to her or not. His father's wife. He might have used the one Greek word for stepmother (μητρυιά), but the periphrasis might remind some of the heinousness of the sin, and of Leviticus 18:8.
And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.
Verse 2. - And ye are puffed up; perhaps rather, And have ye been puffed up? The "ye," being expressed m the Greek, is emphatic - "ye, the very persons whose horror ought to have been most intense." It might seem inconceivable that any community calling itself Christian would fall so low as to be puffed up at the existence of such an offence among them. There is, indeed, a subtle and close connection between arrogance and sensuality, and beth are sometimes fatally linked to the conceit of religious knowledge without the reality. But not even a heathen community could have been "puffed up" on such grounds. Yet the Corinthians may have been "puffed up" with the conceited reasons which induced them to leave the offence unrebuked, because they boasted the possession of some spurious "knowledge." Perhaps they bad seized some deadly notion of antinomian liberty, such as has existed at times among Gnostic sects, like the Ophites in ancient and the Anabaptists in modern days. Perhaps they sheltered themselves under the arrogant Jewish rule that all a man's conditions of life were altered by becoming a proselyte - that old relationships were for him entirely abolished; for the Jews held that a prosolyte was like "a newborn child," and had begun life a second time (Bechoroth, f. 47, 1), and might marry any of his relatives. Such miserable sophisms would acquire fresh force from the universal impurity with which Corinthian society was stained, and which rendered it necessary for St. Paul in these Epistles to utter his most solemn warnings against every kind of sensuality (1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:15-18; 1 Corinthians 10:8; 1 Corinthians 15:83, 34; 2 Corinthians 5:11, etc.). But besides all this, St. Paul's remark does not necessarily mean that their "inflation" was exclusively connected with Gnostic excesses, which bore on the case of this offender. It may mean, "Here is a gross fault in the midst of you, and yet - not propter hoc, but cum hoc - the characteristic of your religious factions is pride and conceit." This was indeed Κορινθιάζεσθαι, "to play the Corinthian," in the worst sense, of that proverbial taunt. Possibly the prominence or wealth of the offender may have led to a more easy condonation of his crime. Exculpatory sophism may have been suggested by self interest. That; i.e. in order that, as a result of your godly sorrow, the offender might be removed from your midst. He that hath done this deed. The language of St. Paul, as always, is as delicate as clearness would allow. The fact that the verb is in the past aorist may perhaps allow us to hope that the offence, at any rate in its most aggravated forms, had ceased to be committed. The manner of the crime ("in such a way") seems to have been an aggravation of the crime itself. In this indignant verse we have, as Stanley says, "the burst of the storm, the mutterings of which had been heard in the earlier chapters." So intense was the effect produced by St. Paul's stern severity, that a great part of the Second Epistle had to be devoted to allaying the agitation which these words had excited (see especially 2 Corinthians 7:8-12).
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,
Verse 3. - For I verily. The broken structure of the verse shows the deep emotion with which it was penned - as it were with sobs. St. Paul contrasts the line which he means to take with the lax condonation granted by the Corinthian Church. As absent; rather, being absent or though absent. The as is omitted in the best manuscripts. But present in spirit; literally, in the spirit;' but he is referring to his own spirit: "Bodily I am absent; but speaking as though my spirit were present in your assembly [comp. 2 Kings 5:26], I have already judged," etc. Have judged already. My decision was instantaneous and is final. As though I were present. My sentence is as clear as though I were at this moment standing in the midst of you. That hath so done. The verb is not as before, poiesas, but katergasamenon, which is stronger, "the perpetrator of this deed." The "so" means "with all these circumstances of aggravation." The same verb is used in Romans 1:27. The broken periods of the Greek reflect the emotion of the writer. The passage is as it were written with sobs (Wordsworth).
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Verse 4. - In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. The word "Christ" is probably an addition. The clause may either be taken with "when ye are gathered together," or with "to deliver" (comp. 1 Timothy 5:21). With the power of our Lord Jesus. Each clause adds solemnity to the scene in which St. Paul imagines himself as standing with them in the spirit, and joining with the assembly of the Church, and armed with the authority of Christ, while he pronounces on the offender the sentence on which he had already determined. That he could claim "the power of the Lord" resulted from his possession of the Holy Spirit. and the special commission to bind and to loose, to remit and to retain, on earth, which Christ had entrusted to the apostles (Matthew 18:18, 20; John 20:23).
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.
Verse 5. - To deliver such a one unto Satan. Scripture nowhere defines the character and limits of such a sentence as this. By cutting off an offender from Church communion (2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15), that is, from all the visible means of grace, he was for the time separated from spiritual influences, and was, therefore, so far handed over to Satan. The phrase is also applied to Hymenaeus and Alexander, in 1 Timothy 1:20. It is very doubtful whether it was necessarily meant to involve such physical inflictions as fell on Ananias, Sapphira, or Elymas. It is, however, important to observe that the intention of the sentence, like the true intention of excommunication, when exercised in a right spirit (see Hooker, 'Eccl. Pol.,' 3:1, § 13), was not wrathful, but merciful. It was, as Calvin says, "medicinale remedium" - "not for destruction, but for edification" (2 Corinthians 10:8). Hymenaeus and Alexander were handed to Satan, not for their final ruin and damnation, but with a kind and remedial purpose, "that they may learn not to blaspheme" (1 Timothy 1:20), and this offender with the express object ', that his spirit may be saved." Had these facts been more deeply studied, there would have been a very different tone and spirit in many of the mediaeval anathemas. Such a one (setup. 2 Corinthians 2:7). He seems to hold aloof from the man's very name. So "such as she" (τὰς τοιαύτας) is used of the adulteress in John 8:7. For the destruction of the flesh; i.e. that all carnal influences in him might be destroyed. It is not his "body" which is to be destroyed, but the , "flesh," the jetzer hara, or "evil impulse," as the Jews called it. When this was destroyed, the body might once more become a temple of the Holy Ghost. That the spirit may be saved. The destruction of the lowest element of our human nature is the salvation of the highest; it is the cutting away of the dead corpse from the living soul. In the day of the Lord; when the Lord should judge the quick and the dead. The merciful intention of St. Paul is clearly developed in 2 Corinthians 2:6-11. He looked on God's judgments as remedial, not as solely retributive (1 Corinthians 11:29-32). Here, as Chrysostom finely says, the apostle lays down, as it were, his laws to the devil, telling him how far, and how far only, he can proceed. The object of excommunication is to save the offender, and not to do the devil's work by ensuring his eternal ruin. We can imagine how awful would be the solemnity of these words when they were first read aloud to the little Christian communities of Corinth. It was natural that they should produce an overwhelming excitement.
Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
Verse 6. - Your glorying; rather, the subject of your boasting, the point on which you glorify yourselves. The Greek word does not mean the act of boasting, but the thing of which we boast. Not good. The Greek word is not agathon, but kalon, an almost untranslatable word, which implies all moral beauty, and resembles the English word "fair" or "noble." When he says that it is "not good," he uses the figure called litotes; i.e. he employs an expression intentionally too weak, that it may be corrected into a stronger one by the involuntary indignation of the reader; as when Virgil calls the cannibal tyrant Busiris "unpraised." Hence the clause is equivalent to "the thing of which you are boasting is detestable." Know ye not. This clause is used by St. Paul in specially solemn appeals, and almost exclusively in these Epistles (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:16, 19; 1 Corinthians 9:13, 24). A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump (Galatians 5:9). The taint alluded to is not only the presence of the unpunished offender, but the general laxity and impurity displayed by their whole bearing in the matter (comp. the line of Menander quoted in ch. 15:33, and the "root of bitterness" in Hebrews 12:15). (For the word "lump," see Romans 11:16.)
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:
Verse 7. - Purge out therefore. The word "therefore" is absent from the best manuscripts, and the abruptness is more emphatic without it. No doubt the metaphor was suggested by the fact that St. Paul was writing about the time of the Passover (Acts 16:8). The most essential requisite of the Jewish regulations, with which his whole training had made him so familiar, was the absolute putting away, and even destruction, of every trace of leaven, which was diligently sought for the day before the Passover began. The putting away of leaven was a type of sanctification. The old leaven. "Old" as belonging to their unregenerate and unconverted condition; a remnant of the day when they had been Gentiles and Jews who had not known Christ. The least willing tolerance of the taint would cause it to work throughout the whole society. As ye are unleavened. Leaven is the type of evil in its secret and corrupting workings. Ideally, Christians can only be addressed as "unleavened," i.e. as "purged from their own old sins" (2 Peter 1:9); and it is the method of Scripture (indeed, it is the only possible method) to address Christians as being Christians indeed, and therefore in their ideal rather than their actual character. Some have taken these words to mean, "You are actually keeping the Passover, and therefore have no leaven among you;" but

(1) the words cannot bear this meaning; nor

(2) was St. Paul likely to appeal so prominently to a Jewish ordinance; and

(3) he is thinking of the Christian Easter, and only borrowing a casual illustration from the Jewish Passover. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; rather, in the true reading, for our passover also was sacrificed - even Christ. As Christians, the Gentile Corinthians certainly did not keep the Jewish Passover; but St. Paul reminds them that they too had a Passover - that for them, too a Paschal Victim had been offered, whose sacrificial blood had been shed for their redemption (John 1:29; John 19:36; 1 Peter 1:19). (Comp. Hebrews 13:10, "We have an altar.")
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.
Verse 8. - Therefore let us keep the feast. Let us keep the Christian feast of Christ's resurrection in that spirit of holiness - of purging away sin from the midst of us - which was symbolized by the Jewish removal of leaven. Not with old leaven. For now ye are "in Christ," and, therefore, are a "new creation." Leaven is the type of hypocrisy (Luke 12:1) in its secret workings, but more generally it is a type of every corrupting influence. Of sincerity and truth. "All that corresponds to an unsullied, uncontaminated, and genuine Christian character." The beautiful Greek word for "sincerity" means freedom from all admixture. It is, perhaps, derived from "testing in the sunshine," and is used by St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 2:17. "Truth" means "reality."
I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
Verses 9-13. - Correction of a mistaken inference which they had deduced from a former letter of St. Paul's. Verse 9. - In an Epistle; rather, in the Epistle; in some former letter to the Church, which is no longer extant (comp. 2 Corinthians 10:10). The attempt to get rid of so plain a statement, in the supposed interests of some superstitious notion that every line which an apostle wrote to a Church must necessarily have been inspired and infallible, is at once unscriptural and grossly superstitious. The notion that "the Epistle" intended is this Epistle is an absurdity invented in the interests of the same fiction. The only hypothesis which could give the least plausibility to such a view is that which makes this paragraph a postscript or marginal addition after the letter was finished; but there is little or nothing in favour of such a view. Not to company with. The Greek word is rather stronger: not to be mingled up among (comp. 2 Thessalonians 3:14). The spirit of the injunction is repeated in Ephesians 5:11, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them."
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.
Verse 10. - Yet not altogether. The words correct a false inference, and mean, "I did not intend absolutely to prohibit all communication with Gentiles guilty of this sin under all circumstances." Of this world. Those outside the pale of the Christian Church (comp. 1 Corinthians 3:19; 2 Corinthians 4:4). Or with the covetous. St. Paul often uses the Greek word in immediate connection with sins of impurity (1 Corinthians 6:10; 2 Corinthians 9:5; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:3), and, though it does not exclude the connotation of greed and avarice (2 Corinthians 9:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:5), it seems to have been used euphemistically of the deadliest form of heathen sensuality. The principle of selfishness may work equally in greed and in lust. Extortioners. The word may also mean "ravishers," but there is no reason to abandon the sense of "rapacious." Idolaters. This is the earliest instance of the use of this word, which does not occur in the LXX. No Christian could still be an open "idolater." So, unless we suppose that the expression has slipped in involuntarily, we must here give the word a metaphorical sense, as in Colossians 3:5. We must else be driven to suppose that there were some half and half Christians, like Constantine, who "feared the Lord, and served their own gods" (comp. 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 8:10; 1 Corinthians 10:7, 14; Ephesians 5:5). For then must ye needs go out of the world; for in that case (as they had perhaps implied in their letter of questions to St. Paul) ye would have been morally bound to leave the world altogether and seek a new one. The Greek particle ara perhaps refers to the astonishment caused by their misapprehension of St. Paul's rule. The clause throws painful light on the condition of the heathen world. If all communication with "fornicators" was to be forbidden, the sin was so universal, especially at Corinth, that all intercourse with Gentiles would have be. come impossible. Even some who professed to be stern moralists among the heathen, like Cato and Cicero, looked on the sin as being, at the worst, quite venial, and even, under certain circumstances, commendable.
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.
Verse 11. - But now I have written unto you. The tense used is, perhaps, the epistolary aorist, and is therefore equivalent to "but now I write to you;" otherwise the sense is, "but what I meant in my letter was," etc. The position of the words rather favours this view. St. Paul expressly tells them in 1 Corinthians 10:27 that he never intended to forbid all intercourse with heathens. They were not to be "taken out of the world," but to be free from evil (John 17:15). If any man that is called a brother. The word "brother" was used before the name "Christian" was accepted by the members of the Church. Or an idolater (see 1 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 10:7, 14). He might call himself a Christian, and yet be in reality an idolater (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5; Galatians 5:20; 1 John 5:21). With such a one no not to eat. If the phrase be pressed, it would involve exclusion from all privileges of the body, for the Holy Communion was celebrated in connection with the agapae. But the general meaning is that of 2 Thessalonians 3:6, "We command you... that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly."
For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
Verse 12. - For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? To pass sentence on heathens is no concern of mine; it is no part of my office. The phrase "them that are without" was originally a Jewish phrase. To the Jews all men were outsiders (chitsonin) except themselves. The phrase was adopted by Christians, but in a less contemptuous sense (1 Thessalonians 4:12; Colossians 4:5). We find a description of "those that were without" - "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenant of promise" - in Ephesians 2:12. Do not ye judge them that are within! An appeal to their own practice and to common sense. Christian rules can, of course, only apply to Christian communities.
But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
Verse 13. - God judgeth. To that "judgment of God" (Romans 1:29) Christians must leave them. They have no jurisdiction over them. The mention of "judging" forms a natural transition to the next chapter. Therefore. The word is omitted in the best manuscripts. The command is more abruptly forcible without it. Put away from among yourselves that wicked person. The command would come the more powerfully because it is a direct reference to the language of Deuteronomy 17:7; Deuteronomy 24:7. The explanation, "Put away the evil one [i.e. the devil] from among you!" is adopted by Calvin, but is too general.

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