1 CORINTHIANS: DIVISION III
THE MORAL LAXITY IN THE CHURCH, 5:1-6:20
Front Matter Book Intro
Detailed Outline Index
A. The Case of Shameful Sin in the Church (Part I): How to Handle a Sinful Brother in the Church, 5:1-5
(5:1-6:20) DIVISION OVERVIEW: Church Problems: 1 Cor. 5 and 1 Cor. 6 deal with four moral problems in the Corinthian church. There was serious complacency and laxity in the church toward morality.
1. The Case of Shameful Sin in the Church (Part I): How to Handle a Sinful Brother in the Church, 1 Cor. 5:1-5.
2. The Case of Shameful Sin in the Church (Part II): What the Church Must Do to Handle Shameful Sin in Its Midst, 1 Cor. 5:6-13.
3. The Case of Legal Dispute, 1 Cor. 6:1-8.
4. The Case Against Unrighteous Character, 1 Cor. 6:9-11.
5. The Case Against the Indulgence of the Human Body, 1 Cor. 6:12-20.
(5:1-5) Introduction: many churches have members who become involved in shameful sin. When this happens, what should the church do? Ignore it? Pray about it and hope that God will take care of the matter? Or, take action and do everything possible to restore the brother to Christ?
This passage (5:1-5) and the next (5:6-13) handle the ever sensitive subject of church discipline, a subject that is critically needed if the church is to keep a strong witness for the Lord.
1. There was the shameful sin: a case of fornication, of public incest (v.1).
2. There was the church's attitude: inflated self-complacency (v.2).
3. There was the discipline of the offending brother (v.3-5).
1. (5:1) Sin Fornication: there was the shameful sin a case of fornication, of public incest in the church. Note that there is no word or conjunction connecting this passage with 1 Cor. 4. Paul jumps right in and abruptly begins to handle this shameful problem: "It is actually reported that there is fornication among you." Shocking, shameful, despicable, and disgusting is the idea. Imagine! A son is living with his step-mother, his father's wife, and it is public knowledge. Everyone, both in the church and in the community, knows all about it.
1. The word "have" indicates some form of permanent relationship. The son had either married her or was living with her.
2. The son was a member of the church. Note that he was a prominent member who was known by everyone; a member who was faithful enough to be known as a member of the church. There is even some indication that he was a leader in the church (1 Cor. 5:2, 6).
3. The unbelievers of the world (Gentiles) do not approve of nor accept incest. They might not live pure and clean lives, but they utterly reject incest as being anywhere close to acceptable behavior. Therefore, the testimony of the church was being tragically ruined.
Thought 1. Think of the incest and the child abuse within families: parent sinning with child and child with child. How many belong to the church? This message is for how many sitting before us week after week?
"And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet" (Romans 1:27).
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [homosexuals], nor abusers of themselves with mankind" (1 Cor. 6:9).
"Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body" (1 Cor. 6:18).
"And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed" (2 Cor. 12:21).
"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness....[but] they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19, 21).
"Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness" (Ephes. 4:19).
"But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints" (Ephes. 5:3).
"Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry" (Col. 3:5).
"For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication" (1 Thes. 4:3).
"For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ....Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 4, 7).
2. (5:2) Church, Problems Church Discipline: there was the church's attitude a shameful self-complacency. Note the phrase "puffed up." The Corinthian church was apparently "puffed up" for two reasons.
1. The church thought of itself as a strong and spiritual church, a church greatly blessed by God. This had been the very sin Paul was attacking in the first four chapters. The believers of the church thought they were spiritual; they revelled in their conceit and pride as a so-called strong church, but they were not. They were allowing a shameful sin to exist in their midst. Instead of being puffed up, they should have been mourning. The word "mourned" (epenthēsate PWS: 2628) is the word used for grieving and mourning over the dead. They should have been so grieved that they would be driven to prayer. Their need was not to be glorying in their so-called spirituality and strength as a church; their need was to mourn over the sin in their midst, begging God to help them restore the fallen brother or to remove him and the sin from their fellowship through love and correction.
2. The church was "puffed up" because of the man who was guilty of the shameful sin (see note 1 Cor. 5:6 for discussion).
Thought 1. The church is not to be complacent in dealing with sin and evil. This is the whole thrust of this passage and of all Scripture. No church can erase sin completely from its midst, for there are no perfect people. But clear and unquestionable sin and evil must be dealt with and corrected. A complacent, easygoing attitude toward sin will destroy both lives and churches. Practically every society has rules that govern its members, and the most respected and honored societies deal with the members when its membership rules are continually broken. The church, above all societies, must not be complacent and easygoing in dealing with sin that damages the church and lives and is clearly visible to all. (See outline Matthew 18:15-20 and notes Matthew 18:15-20 for the steps to correcting offending brothers. Jesus spelled out exactly what is to be done, and the wisdom of what He taught is clearly seen.)
"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican" (Matthew 18:15-17).
"Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him" (Luke 17:1-3).
"Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear" (1 Tim. 5:20).
"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:2).
"This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith" (Titus 1:13).
"These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee" (Titus 2:15).
"A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject" (Titus 3:10).
3. (5:3-5) Church Discipline: the discipline of the offending brother. Paul was away on a mission tour; therefore, he was not able to personally deal with the offending brother nor the church. However, his spirit overflowed with love for the church; it was as though he was with them "in spirit." Therefore, he had already judged the matter. He had made a decision about what needed to be done, and it was too important a matter to leave hanging until he returned. Three things were to be done.
1. The offending brother was to be disciplined "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Note the word "our." Jesus Christ is our Lord, my Lord, the church's Lord, and the Lord of the offending brother. Paul says...
it is your Lord who is being hurt and cut; His name which you are damaging.
it is for your Lord that this discipline must be carried out.
it is our Lord who alone can use the discipline to awaken the sinful brother's conscience to repent and to seek reconciliation with God.
2. The offending brother was to be disciplined by the church in a special called gathering. This seems to be what is meant by the words "when ye are gathered together."
Note: Paul says that he would be meeting with them "in spirit." His heart and prayers would be with them as they handled this most difficult matter.
Note a crucial fact. The church was instructed to clean itself up before it disciplines the sinning brother. (See outline 1 Cor. 5:6-13 and notes 1 Cor. 5:6-13. As stated, this is a critical point and must be heeded before discipline is ever carried out.)
3. The offending brother was to be disciplined through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was to be delivered to Satan...
for the destruction of the flesh.
that his spirit might be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, what does this mean? There are two major interpretations of the discipline.
1. The discipline means that the man must be excommunicated from the church (1 Cor. 5:2, 7, 13). The idea is that outside the church, that is, outside in the world, is the domain of Satan; whereas in the church is the domain of God (John 12:31; John 16:11; Acts 26:18; Ephes. 2:12; Col. 1:13; 1 John 5:19). The man is to be sent back to Satan's world to which he belongs. Perhaps such discipline would humiliate him and bring him to his senses. It was a discipline not only to punish him, but to awaken him to righteousness. It is a judgment that takes away a person's Christian privileges with the hope that the discipline will stir him to repent.
2. The discipline means something more than excommunication. It is the miraculous subjection of the person to the power of Satan. The flesh is to be delivered over to sickness and, if repentance does not follow, then death. Physical consequences are seen to be the result of spiritual failings (see outline 1 Cor. 11:27-30 and note 1 Cor. 11:27-30). In Acts 5:1-11, Ananias and Sapphira are extreme examples. It is further argued that mere excommunication would not have the effect of destroying the flesh.
It should be noted that this punishment is seen as remedial. The flesh is destroyed so that the spirit may be saved. There is no question that Paul means "saved" in the fullest sense, for he adds "in the day of the Lord." Paul expects to see the offender in the final day of judgment. The same words are also used of Hymeneus and Alexander whom Paul delivered unto Satan so that they might learn not to blaspheme (1 Tim. 1:20).
This passage needs to be studied carefully, for the church desperately needs to exercise discipline more than it has in the past in order to strengthen its witness for the Lord. Note three more facts.
1. The actual discipline of the offending brother is carried out in "the power of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is the power of Christ that executes judgment upon the flesh and upon the spirit. Note this, for it is extremely important. All the church does is what it can do: make the decision that the brother's sin must be dealt with and then, in a heart broken and full of love, pronounce that he has to leave the church. Any physical or spiritual punishment is in the hands of the Lord, not in the hands of the church.
2. The actual steps to be used in dealing with an offending brother were spelled out in great detail by our Lord Himself, and the wisdom of His love is clearly seen in His instructions. Every church should do exactly what He said, and if the offending brother still refuses to repent, then the church should act. (See outline Matthew 18:15-20 and notes Matthew 18:15-20. The Lord's instructions should definitely be closely studied with this passage.)
3. In comparing Scripture with Scripture, it seems that Paul meant something more than excommunication. Scripture definitely teaches that there is a spiritual power that inflicts punishment upon sin. However, this should not be surprising in our day and time, for modern medicine and psychology tell us that misbehavior even causes physical, emotional, and mental punishment. (See Deeper Study #1 1 John 5:16 for more discussion.)
"For this cause [continuing in sin] many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (1 Cor. 11:30-32).
"Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit" (John 15:2).
"Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, and said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?" (Acts 13:9-11; cp. Acts 5:1-11).
"Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delievered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme" (1 Tim. 1:20).
"And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him" (Hebrews 12:5; cp. 1 Cor. 5:6-11 for a complete picture).
"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent" (Rev. 3:19).
"Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law" (Psalm 94:12).
"My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: for whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth" (Proverbs 3:11-12).
"O LORD, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing" (Jeremiah 10:24).