Lesson 23: "I Wrote to You. . .Not to Keep Company With Fornicators." (I Corinthians 5:9)
I Corinthians 5:1-13
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson # 23. Welcome again! Let's start this lesson by reading ch.5. We'll read all 13 verses. Please get your eyes on ch.5! Let's read. "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. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that be that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. 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, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such a one unto Satan far the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 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: 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. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 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. 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 a one, no, not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person."
Before we begin to rehash ch. 5; take just a minute to reflect on the church at Corinth and what little we know about that body. It has already been pointed out that Corinth was undoubtedly one of the best taught churches that Paul established, judging from the time Paul spent there, eighteen months. We have already discussed the city of Corinth, the coming and going, the cesspool of immorality that existed there and that even the word Corinthian carried with it the implication of one who could not be trusted. Most of the Christians at Corinth undoubtedly had rough and immoral worldly backgrounds we said in our introduction (citing 6:11 in this book). Yet, it seems the church at Corinth undoubtedly grew rather rapidly in numbers. We are introduced to more names of Christians at Corinth than perhaps in any other church mentioned in the New Testament. No doubt some were wealthy. I suppose that brings to your mind Justus who owned the church building they used, next door to the synagogue. Some were probably educated men; and that brings to your mind Crispus, the synagogue leader that was converted. In Acts 19:22, Paul mentioned a man named Erastus that was traveling with Timothy. In II Tim. 4:20, Paul referred to a brother Erastus and mentioned him in connection with Corinth. I am assuming this is the same Erastus. Paul wrote the Roman letter from Corinth at a later time and in that letter he mentioned Erastus as the chamberlain of the city, i.e. the city treasurer or in other words a politician (Rom. 16:23); I would infer the Corinthian church was about as cosmopolitan as the city itself. Certainly, from the chapters we have just covered, there was a strong Greek cultural influence (that human wisdom bit Paul kept referring to) that pervaded that congregation. I would assume the elders at Corinth had their hands full and some of them may have even been part of the problem, we don't know. Others had questioned Paul's apostleship. Preacheritis was a problem. Paul said some were puffed up, what ever that means. In v.2 that we just read, Paul used that term for the fourth time in this book. Overinch.8:l, Paul said, "Knowledge puffeth up." I think you get the idea. In the chapter we just read (ch. 5); you can add to your mental image of the Corinthian church another character, not mentioned by name, but his case of immorality is reviewed in a rather personal way. Back in the last chapter of II Thessalonians, you will remember; Paul gave advice on how to deal with those that would not work, the bums and the loafers that were exploiting the church at Thessalonica. The disorderly, was Paul's word for it. If they will not work, they shall not eat. Don't feed the bums and teach them to extort their way; just that simple. Pretty straight talk and talk that would be considered inconsiderate by many welfare minded citizens of our day, I think you would agree. Here in ch. 5, Paul gives advice in dealing with a case of immorality. One thing you must say is that Paul's advice and commandments are not hard to understand. In this case, it boils down to excommunicate the rascal and do it yesterday if not sooner, i.e. disfellowship the man, we would say. To the Thessalonians, concerning the disorderly; Paul said, "note that man, and have no company with him, that he might be ashamed." In all of this; please note that Paul is very compassionate and although the attitude and obedience of the congregation is up front; Paul constantly emphasizes the worth of the individual and the need to save every soul, even the disorderly and the immoral. Any discipline must be done in love, considering the individual.
Alright, chapter 5, let's take it from the beginning. In v. 1, the fact that Paul said, "it is reported commonly that there is fornication among you," implies to me that more than one individual was involved in sexual improprieties. The main point, Paul is rebuking them for in this sentence is that the church at Corinth in general had laxed off and ignored such immoral conduct in their midst to the extent the rumor mills of the Romans and the Greeks, i.e. the Gentiles were grinding this one to their shame; and brethren, it's very important that outsiders respect the moral purity within the church. Have you talked to someone who says, I don't want to be a Christian because there are hypocrites in the church. That is sometimes just an excuse to get you off their case. Some have learned that will upset you. They use it to turn you off in an effort to manipulate you. They want to stay outside of the church in that pure world out there where immorality runs rampant. They have even changed the name today from sin and fornication to pre-marital sex and extramarital sex or something more decent sounding; but it's still sin. A rose by a different name still smells the same; so does a skunk. But, it really hurts when they can point to a scandal like the one Paul referred to here. We don't know whether this man(mentioned in verse 1 ) came from a rich family or a poor family and that doesn't make any difference with reference to the action that needed to be taken. Paul did not mention the woman. As they say, it takes two to tango. Thus, I would assume the man that had sex with his stepmother was a member of the Corinthian church; but, the woman was evidently not. We have only this reference to the father; so we don't know about the father's Christian status. The man that did the act was held responsible. Evidently, from v.2, some of those broad minded puffed up Christians at Corinth with all that cultural wisdom didn't consider it all that bad. Old Joe's a good old boy, you know. They probably laid it on to some childhood experience or explained it by some similar factor like they do it today. It's a disease, it's not sin. Anyway, if you read v.2,3,4,5; I get the impression that Paul didn't buy any stock in such explanations. The apostle didn't waste any time saying, take him away from among you! (end of v.2). Paul showed disgust that the Corinthian brethren had not made the decision quickly and acted on it immediately. Paul said he wasn't even there and he had no trouble making up his mind; and, as we have said, he didn't flinch from spelling out the action needed. That gathered together bit (in v.4) doesn't have anything to do with the congregation voting on it as some have assumed. The destruction of the flesh in v.5, does not mean corporal punishment as some have assumed. The whole point in Paul's message simply means to disfellowship the man as a message to others and to encourage the man to repent and correct his life. It's the same thought as II Thess. 3:14, where Paul said, "have no company with him, that he may be ashamed." However, notice that even though the man is to be disciplined; it was for the ultimate purpose of saving his soul. Thus, I would assume Paul's statement to the Thessalonians would apply here also, when Paul said, "Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." Thus, the man was to be considered and thus treated as a non-Christian and as a pagan. The same was to be publicized; hoping the man would correct his life. We have evidence the man DID repent in II Cor. 2:5-11. At least, it is usually assumed that reference pertains to this same case.
In v.6-7-8, Paul came back to the Corinthian's attitude. This is a little hard to imagine; but, it would appear some had protected the man in this and as Paul says at the beginning of v.6, were glorying in their actions; so, Paul put it very straight forward: "Your glorying is not good." Then, as Paul usually did, he illustrated his point. His illustration probably doesn't come through to us with as much force as it did to the Corinthians; especially the Jewish element in that congregation. You have to know a good bit of Old Testament history here to make the connection and keep it meaningful. Leaven, that stuff used to make bread rise (some form of yeast, undoubtedly) was used at the beginning of the Mosaic period to symbolize the evil and corruption of the Egyptians. I'm not clear as to why God chose that symbol; but, God commanded the Israelites to eat unleavened bread as they prepared to leave Egypt (back in Exodus ch. 12:15). The night before the Israelites left Egypt they were instructed to eat a special meal and to put blood from the animals they ate on the door posts and lentils of their houses as a message to the death angel that passed over Egypt that night. At a later time, they were instructed, as an annual item of worship, to eat a similar meal annually during the Mosaic period to memorialize that last meal they ate in Egypt. The annual memorialized form of that meal was called the Passover; which the Jews claim to keep even until this very day.
Of course the last official Passover was that Thursday night when Jesus ate the Passover with the twelve, John chapter 13-14-15-16. It was part of the old law and that law has now been replaced with Christ's law; so the Passover, is thus, not a requirement in our dispensation of time; as part of the Passover observance preparation as the Jews did it; they were to rid their houses completely of leaven and eat unleavened bread during the Passover. Paul picked-up on that leaven symbol of evil connected with the Egyptians and the Passover of the Jews to illustrate his point here with the Corinthians. Now, THE POINT IS Paul depicted their glorying (v.6) as a form of evil which he symbolizes as leaven. The point in v.6 is that it doesn't take much leaven to bake a lot of bread and thus it didn't take much of that puffing-up quality of the Corinthians to have a lot of evil influence in the brotherhood. Thus, their evil leaven (lack of sincerity and false pride) they possessed need to be purged out, i.e. they needed to rid themselves of that evil. Maybe I have over done this; but, I trust you can now read v.7-8 and make sense out of it. In the last of v.8, Paul identified the UN-leavened quality as sincerity and truth. Thus, leaven in his illustration would be just the opposite, i.e. insincerity and falsehood.
In v.9, as we noted in our introduction; Paul made reference to another letter that he had written to the Corinthians earlier. A letter that we do not have. However, in v.9 we learn that in the earlier letter Paul had commanded them "not to company with fornicators." V. 10 seems to indicate there had been some confusion as to whether Paul meant fornicators in the church or out of the church. Thus, Paul clarifies in v.10 that it definitely applied to Christians. He admits that to get away from all the fornicators in the world; one would have to go out of the world, i.e. go to another planet I suppose; which Paul is not recommending. However, such should definitely not be in the church. Outside the church; of course, they could not control such things beyond the fact that they were not to participate AND THEY WERE to discourage all such evils. In v. 11, Paul repeated the point he had made in his former letter and makes that point part of this letter by that means: "Now I have written unto you not to keep company—with such a one, no, not to eat." Notice also that his point is expanded in v. 11 to include more than disfellowshipping fornicators. The same principle applies to the covetous, or to an idolater, or to a railer, or to a drunkard, or an extortioner. If they will not correct their evils and repent of such evils; disfellowship all of them, i.e. don't keep company with such a one, no, not to eat. I trust these words are self explanatory. A fornicator, of course, is one who has sexual sins; disregarding God's marriage laws and engaging in promiscuous sexual behavior. A covetous person is a greedy person or a person who has excessive and improper desires to have or take that which belongs to another. An idolater is one who worships false gods. A railer is one who says terrible things about another person; especially things that are not true. A drunkard would include alcoholics and drug addicts; those who distort and bend their natural senses by some chemical indulgence. An extortioner is one who beats his way, i.e. obtains money or other goods by threats, force, fraud or other illegal use of authority. This word, extortioner" also includes the bummy sort of thing that was happening at Thessalonica; thus, the action here commanded accords with the action Paul commanded and recommended at Thessalonica as well. In other words, personal association, with those professing to be Christians but are guilty of such sins as mentioned here, is prohibited. They must be excluded from the Christian social circle and treated as one who is not a Christian.
In v. 12-13, Paul goes back to the non-Christians again, i.e. them that are without. It is not a Christian's place to judge outsiders, God will take care of such matters. It is definitely the responsibility of Christians to correct such conduct within the church. "Therefore" (middle of v.13), i.e. here is the conclusion; on the basis of Paul's commands on this subject, "put away from among yourselves that wicked person." (i.e. mentioned in v. 1). Which they did according to the II Cor. ch. 2. (v.5—11), that we'll eventually get to. Until lesson # 24, this is saying: have a good day!