1Cor 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.
1Cor 5:2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
1Cor 5:3 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.
1Cor 5:4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus,
1Cor 5:5 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.
1Cor 5:6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
1Cor 5:7 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.
1Cor 5:8 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.
1Cor 5:9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people–
1Cor 5:10 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.
1Cor 5:11 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.
1Cor 5:12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?
1Cor 5:13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (ESV)
Let’s take a survey here. Think for a minute about this question, then I’d like you to raise your hand and answer the question. What bible verse do you think is misquoted or misinterpreted far too often? Just think for a few seconds, then I’d like you to raise your hand and just give me the Scripture reference only – don’t tell me why you think so – not yet – but just give me the chapter and verse to begin with…..(input)
Now, those you who gave me answers, I’d like you to tell everybody why you gave your particular verse…(discussion)
The one I would like to discuss for a few minutes is Matthew 7:1. “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” First of all, that’s a misquotation. The King James doesn’t read like that, whether you use the 1611 or the 1769 that most people read. The New American Standard, the original American Standard, the NIV, the ESV and so on – none of them read like that. The statement, “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” also overlooks an important point of all the translations – each phrase of the sentence should contain a negative. Look at your bible – the first phrase contains a negative, in some form, about “not judging.” The last phrase of the verse also contains a negative about “not being judged.” This isn’t a double negative as our English knows it, which we know is actually a positive, right, Mr. Griffin?
To get back on point, Matthew 7:1 is part of a larger passage, isn’t it? But how do many people interpret Matthew 7:1? Their interpretation is that a Christian is never permitted to pass judgement on anyone for any action they may commit, because Jesus says to not judge in the verse. Now, does Jesus say to “not judge?” Yes, He does. Does He say – or mean – that a Christian is to NEVER judge anyone’s actions? No, He doesn’t. What He is saying is that we are to have been examining ourselves prior to making a judgment, right – and that we are to apply the same standards to ourselves that we apply to others? If we actually do what most people don’t – which is read the entire passage – we find something interesting. In verse 1, Jesus says, Judge not, that you be not judged. What does He tell His listeners to in verse 6? To make a judgment. As to what? The actions – the character – of other people. Jesus says to not give dogs what is holy and to not throw pearls before swine – and He isn’t talking about literal dogs and pigs here – He is talking about people whom He describes as dogs and pigs. How is the person supposed to know whether or not someone is a dog or a pig? You have to judge their behavior and their character. Mere seconds after Jesus says to “judge not,” He says to judge? Is this a contradiction? No, it isn’t. If we look at the passage in context there is no contradiction. In John 7, as Jesus is teaching, He comments concerning those who were mad that He had healed a man on the Sabbath back in chapter 5 and He says in John 7:24, “John 7:24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
Why have I spent all this time on Matthew 7? Because it relates to 1 Corinthians 5. It addresses the same issue – the issue of judging people’s behavior. A couple years ago at one of the prison studies we addressed a similar issue. Back then we had two studies going on – one of about 25-30 prisoners at one prison, and another next door that usually had 3-5 prisoners attending. This one night I went with my friend to the smaller study and this one guy raises his hand. We did this study in their cafeteria, which was right inside the housing unit where the prisoner cells were. My friend and I and 2 or three prisoners are sitting at this one table and the guy who raises his hand is sitting by himself at another table. What’s his question?
His question concerns a friend of his – a Christian friend. This Christian friend is a loyal churchgoer, reads his bible all the time, is very involved in the church and its activities and leads a holy life. Except. Except for one thing. he is involved in a homosexual relationship. And it’s not a secret. Everybody knows it. This prisoner knows it and everyone in his friend’s church knows it and the person in question knows that everybody knows. The prisoner poses a question: “Is there anything the church is supposed to do here?”
My friend, who was leading the study, says, “Well, what do you think?” (asking the prisoner who asked the question) The prisoner says, “No, I’m asking you guys.” It’s clear my friend really doesn’t want to answer the question, so I piped up and said something like, “I think 1 Corinthians 5 is clear on this…” and gave an answer that involved 1 Corinthians 5 and also Matthew 18 and the need to treat this as a matter of church discipline but to do it in love and not merely for the purpose of kicking the guy out of the church, but to bring him to repentance. Another prisoner chimed in and affirmed the same thing.
The guy who asked the question got mad. You know what he said? “The Bible says, ‘Judge not…’ What a surprise, eh? He then launched into a discourse about how his friend wouldn’t hear the Gospel if he were removed from fellowship and that everyone else in the church has issues as well since none of us are perfect. I said a couple things. First I agreed that none of are perfect but that does not negate the responsibility of the church to do its best to abide by what Scripture says and in this case, do what 1 Corinthians 5 says. Second, I said there may be a very real possibility this friend of his isn’t hearing the Gospel preached in the first place if the church has known about this openly sinful behavior and no one is willing or able to address the issue.
With that, the prisoner who asked the question closed his bible, said, “I’m not felling very good. See ya.” He got up and walked out and went back to his cell. My friend said it was about a month before he came back to the study.
Paul writes chapter 5 to address one particular issue within the Corinthian church the sexual sin – the open, public sexual sin – of one of its members. Chapter 5 is not only applicable to this particular sin – or to sexual sin only – but to any sin that is ongoing, public and the person involved is not interested in addressing through confession and repentance.
Paul starts the first by saying that everyone knows about this sin – even people outside the church – know what is going on. This verse really means that the knowledge is common and widespread – and that the sin being committed is so bad even the pagans would condemn it. Even the Roman Empire condemned this behavior. What behavior? This man was having sexual relations with his stepmother. This was compounded by the fact that evidently it didn’t bother the Corinthian church.
Leviticus 18 and Deuteronomy 22 had already addressed this very issue and had explicitly prohibited this kind of conduct – somebody should have been able to say, biblically that this was wrong. It appeared, though, that the church as a whole didn’t see any reason to deal with this sin. Why? One reason may have been the culture and the church’s failture to separate itself from the culture from which it came. The word “Corinthianize” throughout the Roman Empire meant to engage in lewd and vulgar sexual behavior – keeping in mind the Roman Empire was no paragon of virtue itself. Perhaps the people felt that because of grace, there was no need to keep a standard of behavior for people in the church. Paul writes quiet differently.
Paul rebukes them for not mourning – why? What these people didn’t understand – as Paul makes clear in chapter 12 – is that the church is one body with Christ as the head. The sin of one is really the sin of the body and we can look at the Old Testament for background on this – there is a corporate responsibility for the sin of the members of the people of God is evident in such passages as Joshua 7, where Achan took some of the devoted things in Jericho which were off-limits and what does the Lord say about that? In Joshua 7:11, we read, “Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings.” The Lord said the nation had sinned in taking the devoted things – had every single person done so? No – but the Lord held the nation accountable for the theft.
We also have Old Testament precedence for confessing the sin of others as if it were one’s own – in Ezra 10, we see Ezra doing this in verse 6, mourning over the faithlessness of the exiles for their having married foreign women and the Greek Old Testament – the Septuagint – uses the same Greek word in Ezra as it does in 1 Corinthians 5 when it describes mourning over the sin of another. Ezra dealt with the sin of the people by demanding that they separate from their foreign partners or being expelled from the community – Paul is doing the same thing here as we go through chapter 5 – he is going to demand a cleansing in the same way Ezra did.
In verse 4, Paul says that the entire congregation is to be involved in this – not just the leaders. Remember one of the definitions of the word from which we get our word “church” – the original is the “ekklesia” – this means the “assembly.” Keep in mind the imagery of the body of Christ which Paul is going to bring into explicit mention in chapter 12. This is a corporate issue – not an individual one. Remember Cain’s question? “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain’s unspoken answer was, “No.” The biblical response, is “Yes.”
Old Testament precedence again sheds some light on this – in Leviticus 24 discipline occurs at the hands of the entire congregation, who are to stone the blasphemer. In Numbers 15 the entire congregation was to stone the Sabbath-breaker. In Number 35 the congregation was to be the judge in a case of murder.
There weren’t to be any back-row Christians, so to speak, in the matter of the church dealing with unrepentant sin – Paul says that everybody has to get involved because it affects everybody and everybody ought to mourn sin – Psalm 97:10 tells those who love the Lord to hate evil. Paul told the Romans in 8:13 to mortify the deeds of the body through the Spirit – kill the sin within us – how strong an admonition is that?
Then what does Paul tell the congregation to do – after Paul says he has already judged the man – perhaps Paul didn’t read Matthew 7:1 where he is told not to judge, eh? Paul says the Corinthians are to do something very, very severe – they are to turn this man over to Satan. But it’s important to read the entirety of Paul’s thought here – why do this? So that in the end, this man will be saved. The casting out by the congregation is not merely a shunning as an end to itself, it is a means designed to bring this man to repentance. What does ‘delivering this man to Satan” mean?
First, it means the man is cast back into the realm of the devil where he has authority – remember that Satan does not have absolute authority, but only the degree of authority given to him by God, but the man is going to lose the protection of the family of faith. He’s on his own. Remember what Jesus said to Peter? “Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat…” – now, of course, Jesus also said that He prayed for Peter so that his faith might not fail and that Peter would indeed return to his brothers. Job is essence was turned over to Satan in Job 1 and 2. Job’s example though, wasn’t because of his lack of faith – it was because of the greatness of his faith. In all three of these cases, being turned over to Satan was not to be a pleasant thing.
In verses 6 and 7 Paul uses the common biblical imagery of leaven to represent impurity – in this case impurity within the lump he says represents the people of God and he uses cleansing imagery that we can relate back to chapter 3. In chapter 3, verses 16 and 17, he had written, “1Cor 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 1Cor 3:17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” In those two verses, the word “you” is plural – it is referring the entirety of the body – that body he will be getting to in chapter 12. He’s referring to the people of God in chapter three – not just individuals, but all the individuals who make up the temple of God. This man is bringing destruction upon the temple of God – the church by introducing the leaven of sin.
What more proof do we need as to the danger of this than what we see in the church today in many places. How often have well-meaning people – not even necessarily those who are described by Paul as “arrogant” here, but people who are truly concerned about the well-being of church members overlook a sin? How often do people try and find a reason to not hold someone accountable because the bible is out of date or it is bound by the culture of its day and not applicable to modern sensibilities and, after all, Jesus said, “Judge not?”
How did homosexuality make inroads into the church? It didn’t barge in. It came in quietly, it came in under the oversight of people who at some point, denied the sufficiency of Scripture. They denied Sola Scriptura – the bible being the sole infallible authority for matters of faith of practice within the church – and the eternal sufficiency and truth of the word of God.
Paul uses “temple cleansing” imagery or the imagery of restoring the temple – here – Hezekiah cleansed the temple in 2 Chronicles 29. Josiah cleansed the temple in 2 Kings 23. Ezra restored the temple in Ezra 6. These people were to be examining themselves individually – and corporately – as the Israelites were commanded to do in the Old Testament – to cleanse their homes and the temple of all leaven. To cleanse themselves and the temple of God – the individual members and the body as a whole.
Then what – after they cleanse the leaven? They were to do as the people did when Hezekiah, Josiah and Ezra cleansed or restored the temple – they were to celebrate the Passover and Paul says Jesus is our Passover lamb – the people were to remember what the ultimate Passover Lamb had accomplished on their behalf and to celebrate the newness of life they have in being cleansed from the curse and the power of sin.
When we get to verse 9, we need to take care that we make sure we read verse 10 as well to complete the thought. Paul says he had written to them before – what we know as 1 Corinthians was not Paul’s first actual letter to the Corinthians but this is the first letter that had decreed be kept throughout time as Scripture – Paul had written them before to not associate with sexually immoral people – but what sexually immoral people? Paul doesn’t say to avoid pagans who are sexually immoral. He does not tell the Corinthians to engage in sexually immoral behavior, but he does not tell them either to shun the pagans who are immoral. He does tell them to avoid one who calls himself a “brother” who not only engages in sexually immoral behavior, but also a list of several other sins and the list really doesn’t stop there. The issue is twofold: 1) Paul knows that the only way to evangelize the pagans is to encounter them, which means you will be making friends with adulterers, fornicators, thieves, homosexuals, criminals and so on. Later on Paul will give further guidelines on how we are to engage these people given certain situations. 2) Paul says something that would be very unpopular today – don’t even EAT with someone who claims to be a Christian if they are engaging in certain behaviors.
How is your pagan neighbor or pagan brother or pagan co-worker or pagan parent or pagan child going to hear the Gospel if we don’t eat with them? If we don’t make friends with them? If we don’t enter into discussions with them? That’s Jesus did, wasn’t it? The religious types of His day didn’t like that, either. Paul, however, tells us we would have to go “out of the world” if we were to avoid these pagans – but are we not to be salt and light? We don’t keep salt in the cabinet, do we? We have to season with salt. We don’t keep lights off, do we? We are to be the light that penetrates the darkness – how else will darkness see the light?
Paul closes in verses 12 and 13 with what are some very hard teachings – for some. Why are they hard? Because people don’t read their bibles in their entirety. They cherry pick verses. They have shepherds who don’t teach them the full counsel of God and they’re too lazy to study themselves.
Paul says he’s not in the business of judging the pagans – God will judge them because their sin has already subjected them to judgment and as long as they remain in their sin, they are under the holy, righteous, perfect wrath of God as John 3:36 says. But what about those who claim to be believers? Paul can’t be any more explicit here and there is no passage in the New Testament that refutes what he says here or renders it obsolete.
Look at the symmetry of verses 12 and 13. The question that Paul poses in the first phrase of verse 12, he answers in the first phrase of verse 13. “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? God judges those outside.” He does the same thing with the second phrase in each verse. “Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? Purge the evil person from among you.”
Paul quotes from Deuteronomy, where in multiple passages the people of God are instructed to “purge the evil person from among you,” or to “purge the evil from among you.” The Scripture really makes no distinction between the evil person and evil – it holds that the evil person IS evil and thus be put “outside the camp.”
What’s the accusation that would be made today against Paul? He’s a legalist. He’s judgmental. He’s unloving. He thinks he’s better than everyone else. That’s what happens to anyone who tries, in love and in tears, usually, to exercise 1 Corinthians 5 today. People upon whom church discipline has been exercised such as shown in 1 Corinthians 5 have even gone so far as to sue the churches involved. Why? Because they don’t submit to the Scripture. They make up their own minds as to what is and isn’t relevant for the church and for themselves.
Paul was no legalist. He was not unloving. He did think himself superior to anyone. he did, however, understand the purity of the bride of Christ – the body of Christ as he will describe it in chapter 12. He did understand sin. He did understand the consequences of letting sin go unchecked. He didn’t write this as a power trip – he wrote this to benefit the temple of God, which is the people of God.
Putting 1 Corinthians 5 into action in real-life situations is a delicate matter but we are commanded to do so and as we saw early in the chapter this is a matter for entire congregations to deal with – not just the leadership. So we should all be praying about these things and keeping our spiritual eyes and ears open to try and do the right thing, which we all know is sometimes very hard.