The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the CORINTHIANS – 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. – 1 Corinthians 5:1-3
When you read a passage like this, that has a direct application to the Church Paul is writing to, the temptation is to skip over it, as it applys to that time. It wouldn’t happen here, we think. But within it we see again the arrogant, proud heart of man. Jesus said:
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. – Matthew 5:4
9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. – James 4:9-10
We can feel the heart of Jesus towards His people who rejected Him as He wept over Jerusalem. We mourn over loss and should mourn over the loss of a brother or sister who falls into sin. Sin needs to be removed from among us, just as our bodies rejects infection. Paul was firm. He knew the potential danger of allowing yeast into the batch of dough; the whole batch will be affected. Give no place to the devil, sin not, keep yourselves from idols. All simple clear imperatives. Did Paul have the right to pronounce judgment? Well his apostolic calling and his relationship to the Church as one who planted it means yes. Thank God for Spirit led people who speak into our lives. And may our response be one of humility.
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. – 1 Corinthians 5:4-5
There are a couple of strange concepts in these two verses. Firstly, Paul says “my spirit is present”. My first though is that he is calling the Holy Spirit his but the word spirit is not capitalised and that does not quite ring true. Or is he saying that he is present with them in the sense that he identifies with and understands what is going on? However I looked up David Guzik’s opinion (a) and the NKJV says it very differently:
4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,1 Corinthians 5:4 (NKJV)
Guzik suggests Paul means he is present through his letter, a valid spiritual extension of his apostolic ministry. The power of the Lord Jesus Christ enables the action required in the next verse.
Secondly the phrase “to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” . Here Guzik suggests that by putting a person outside of the church they are exposed to the world which is Satans domain. What needed to be destroyed was the rebellious flesh not the person. By exposing a person to a period of no protection and fellowship the hope is they will come to the end of themselves and eventually repent. We find out in the second letter that he did repent.
We all need our flesh to be dealt with, crucified with Christ:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20
May that be a reality in our lives today.
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. – 1 Corinthians 5:6-8
We have heard that leaven represents sin, as it is a corrupting, fermenting influence that “puffs up” and will effect the whole batch of dough it gets into. Yeast is a fungi that digests sugar and produces carbon dioxide gas (which also comes from decaying matter). Some yeasts cause illness in our bodies. Here Paul likens it to malice and evil. Following the Passover celebration the Children of Israel had to clean out all traces of leaven from their houses, then eat unleavened bread for a week during the feast of unleavened bread. As they left Egypt the were called to a life of morality and purity. They were to walk humbly before their God, their Deliverer. We are to live in sincerity and truth. Bitterness, malice, envy and all manner of evil spoil us completely. Thank God that Jesus, our Passover lamb, sacrificed His life so that we could be made clean. He roots out all the sinful “fungus” from our lives and makes us pure and separated to serve Him.
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. – Hebrews 7:26
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. – Romans 6:4
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.” – 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
Paul concludes this section by stating that members is Christ should not associate with those who are living in overt sin, not even eat with them. He is not talking about the unsaved, as God will judge them, but Christians who are living in sin. There is a place for discernment, as we read in chapter two:
The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. – 1 Corinthians 2:15
Our call to sanctification is an ongoing process and will continue until we leave this earth.
15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,
16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:15-16
Take action! Purge unholiness!
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.