1 Corinthians Chapter 5: The Disciplining of Persistent Immorality in the Church
Key Verses: (1 Corinthians 5:1–13)
1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?…4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh…
6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch — as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed.
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”
Paul is addressing in chapter 5 the specific sinful practice of a man within the church community of sexual immorality by having sexual relations with his stepmother. Although Paul is outraged by this behavior, his message is more about the church community’s acceptance and even boasting of the behavior and how, in so doing, the sinner and his or her behaviors can leaven (or influence) others in the new Christian community. This was of timely concern because Paul feared that the Corinthians might have been misinterpreting his message about freedom under the new covenant to mean that the old rules of behavior under Mosaic Law no longer applied.
The expression “handing the man over to Satan” meant expelling him from the community of believers and forcing him out into the world of non-believers. Allowing him to remain within the community of Christ’s followers intensified the likelihood of infecting others.
Paul clarifies his message in verses 9 through 11 by indicating that the disassociation he is referring to is not simply those outside of the community, but more importantly, he is referring to those “brothers and sisters” within the community of believers. The church needs to expel them (v. 13).
A Moment to Reflect
We can understand how in the early formation of the church, almost 20 centuries ago, travel was slow, there was no rapid means of communicating and it was extremely important to excise bad influences from the community of believers to avoid infection and preserve the strength of those bonding within the body of Christ. Paul needed to insist on expulsion of those demonstrating persistent immorality.
How do you think such behavior should be handled in today’s environment? Should we express our displeasure but then work with and pray for those who appear to have gone astray, or shall we look to expel them from the community?