This is a short chapter only 13 verses but they challenge the church today just as strongly as they did the Corinthian Church of Paul’s day. We have as a community of faith become more and more complacent accepting among us those things that weaken the faith and over time we have allowed ourselves to view them as the acceptable in today’s society. We accepted the premise that to judge others is wrong, in this chapter Paul adds some much needed clarity to this idea. In the NRSV version the word unchastity is used to describe a series of bad behaviors. First Paul speaks to a specific problem that has occurred there in the church at Corinth. In todays world we have gone to great length to tone down and in some instances accept that which society deems appropriate or the new norm. We have allowed the perversion of God’s word and law to mirror the demand of social and cultural change.
First we must acknowledge that the Gentile world did not know the meaning of the word chastity. To make this plain they took pleasure where they found it with whom and whenever it pleased them. A Christian mind could not grasp this and certainly found it difficult to escape this sea of idolatry that surrounded them and was overwhelmed by such behavior. There were those who had come into the church from this very environment and they would have to unlearn these practices of such loose living. If the church was to grow and be kept pure they would have to say goodby to the old ways. As we join Paul at this point we find him dealing with what is a constantly recurring problem. The sin he confronts is to found in Leviticus 18:8. A couple of things here…Paul does not attempt to deal with her at all which indicates that she must have been outside the jurisdiction of the church…it being possible she was a divorcee…perhaps a Gentile. Now the other point to be made…The indication is that as shocked as he was of the nature of the sin he was even more shocked by the attitude of the Corinthian church to both the sinner and the sin itself. They had retained a complacent attitude toward both sin and sinner. They had accepted the situation, because they were surrounded by such behavior, they let this become the new norm. It was Paul’s opinion that they should have been deeply upset about this happening among the body of the believers within the church itself. Such an easy-going attitude toward sin is always dangerous, their silence and lack of response was in a way condoning such. There are scholars that have said sin puts believers in a perilous position. This is not about condemnation of another person it is about the fact that sin, when it comes among us is something that no Christian man or women should ever take an easy-going attitude toward. Sin…crucified Jesus Christ. Christ died that we might be free of sin.
It is at this point in the chapter that Paul introduces a new thought. We have always been taught to love the sinner, hate the sin. Paul puts a twist on that… 1 Corinthians 5: 5-7
5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. 6 You, 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.
Paul leaves no doubt to his intentions in this matter. The man must be dealt with. In Paul’s day the world was looked upon as the domain of Satan, the church was the domain of God. They were to put this man out of the church. Send him back to Satan’s world, that’s where he belongs. It was not the wish of the church to break this man…it was meant to get his attention and was done with a great deal of sadness. It was always the intention that in getting his attention they might have the time to change his sinful nature, restore him to the fellowship and save his soul. The example given here has at its core a practical truth. Discipline is sometimes needed in the church. To keep ignoring situations, and there are many others, we weaken the strength and ground of the faith our Lord has called us too. We , Christians, people of the faith cannot allow the weeds of sin to grow on our ground. The weeds of sin must be removed before it renders the ground unfit for planting and growing the seeds of faith. Discipline must always be used to prevent and to cure…Remember we are not in the practice of condemnation but one of restoration.
Paul has already written a letter to the Corinthians. In this letter he had urged them to avoid the evils of society and the men and women involved in such behavior. Now here is the catch…some I am sure misunderstood what Paul was saying. Paul had meant that to apply only to the members of the church. Some of the members of the church had taken this to be an absolute, which would mean withdrawal from the world entirely. In Corinth it would be impossible to function in such a way in every day life. The society Paul is speaking of would be those within the church itself. Paul’s thought was that wicked people would have to be put out of the church, until they mended their ways. Paul believed that discipline was a necessary thing to maintain the faith and message of the church. In reality Paul would never have advocated withdrawal from the world. I do not wish to put words in Paul’s mouth but I am sure he believed that our Christianity and faith must be lived out in the world…this he believed would make it a better place. There is no such thing as a solitary religion and I believe there is no group salvation. We find our strength in the community of faith but our salvation is something that we alone will stand before God to be judged on that day.
Paul has a specific list, three sins to be exact that have or are occurring in the world and he places them in three classes of people. They are fornicators, the greedy, and idolaters.
–It is reasonable to believe that fornication is a sin against ourselves, self inflicted.
-Greediness is a sin against others, our neighbors and of course the men and women we encounter every day.
-Idolatry is a sin against God. Worshiping things that takes our time from God. Not keeping God first in our lives.
I do not believe that scripture contradicts itself, it does at times clarify itself as to meaning. There was a Jewish phrase those outside which was applied to those who were not the chosen people. Paul believed that we must leave the judgement of those outside the faith to God, because He alone knows what is in their hearts. There is no doubt in Paul’s reasoning about this. Those within the church had special privileges, so it was only right that they should have special responsibilities. We of the faith have taken an oath to Christ and will and should be called to answer for our fidelity to it.
Chapter 5 has a rather harsh ending…I will let you be the judge as to its place in the church today.
1 Corinthians 5:13
13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”
Life is Good