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1 Corinthians 5:1-13

You can read the text here.

Paul now moves on to other issues that he has to address, starting with the shock and outrage he has over the situation where a man in the congregation was having a sexual relationship with his step-mother.[1] This was just not permissible, not in secular society and certainly not in the church. The only appropriate response by the Corinthians would have been public mourning either to shame the man into leaving voluntarily (if he was not willing to repent) or as a precursor to his removal.[2] In spite of all of this the Corinthians were still proud.

Not willing to waste any more time, empowered and present by the shared Spirit, Paul issues the verdict in the name of the Lord Jesus - guilty! The Corinthians just need to ratify his decision and turn the man over to Satan by excluding him from the church so that he might learn from his mistakes and change his life resulting in his salvation.

It is not just for the man's sake that this must happen. His sinful presence is infecting the rest of the church and making it, as a whole, unfit. The whole church could perish if it does not cast him out.[3]  Purity of the whole body is required. Jesus died as the Passover lamb to free them from the bondage of sin and purify the community. They need to remain pure as the festival of the Lamb is still ongoing.

Paul now needs to clarify something. Apparently he had addressed this issue with them in an earlier letter.[4] It seems likely that the Corinthians had misunderstood a comment he made about not consorting with immoral people to include non-Christians. It seems they may have disagreed and disregarded his opinion. Paul clarifies that that was not his intention. This standard only applies to those who claim to follow Jesus. God is the judge of those outside the church, while Paul (and the Corinthians) can judge those inside. If they insist on living a sinful pattern of life then they are to be excluded from corporate fellowship and worship, regardless of their standing in the community.[5]

[1] Several comments are in order here. First, there may not have been a huge age gap or any age gap at all given how young women married. Second, it is hard to determine if marriage is in view here or some sort of extra-marital intercourse. The man's father is almost certainly dead and it is likely that the man is of high status and is doing this for financial reasons (keeping inheritance in the family). See both Thiselton and Ciampa and Rosner on these points. On the last point, as well as the marriage question, Ciampa and Rosner are a bit cautious, though they are open to it.

[2] If he was of high means the Corinthians may have resisted throwing him out of the church as he may have been patronizing other members of the congregation. Thiselton helpfully draws out the public nature of mourning in the ancient world.

[3] This is really quite radical to modern sensibilities.

[4] This helps explain his consternation.

[5] Exclusion from corporate fellowship was a big deal in the ancient world, especially if this was a man of higher status than most others in the church. Lessers did not generally shame their superiors. Whether or not this command also applies to private fellowship is unclear - see Ciampa and Rosner.


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