1 Corinthians 5

CHAPTER V.

Account of the incestuous person, or of him who had married his

father's wife, 1.

The apostle reproves the Corinthians for their carelessness in

this matter, and orders them to excommunicate the transgressor,

2-5.

They are reprehended for their glorying, while such scandals

were among them, 6.

They must purge out the old leaven, that they may properly

celebrate the Christian passover, 7-9.

They must not associate with any who, professing the Christian

religion, were guilty of any scandalous vice, and must put away

from them every evil person, 10-13.

NOTES ON CHAP. V.

Verse 1. There is fornication among you] The word πορνεια,

which we translate fornication in this place, must be understood

in its utmost latitude of meaning, as implying all kinds of

impurity; for, that the Corinthians were notoriously guilty of

every species of irregularity and debauch, we have already seen;

and it is not likely that in speaking on this subject, in

reference to a people so very notorious, he would refer to only

one species of impurity, and that not the most flagitious.

That one should have his father's wife.] Commentators and

critics have found great difficulties in this statement. One part

of the case is sufficiently clear, that a man who professed

Christianity had illegal connections with his father's wife; but

the principal question is, was his father alive or dead? Most

think that the father was alive, and imagine that to this the

apostle refers, 2Co 7:12, where, speaking of the person who

did the wrong, he introduces also him who had suffered the wrong;

which must mean the father and the father then alive. After all

that has been said on this subject, I think it most natural to

conclude that the person in question had married the wife of his

deceased father, not his own mother, but stepmother, then a

widow.

This was a crime which the text says was not so much as named

among the Gentiles; the apostle must only mean that it was not

accredited by them, for it certainly did often occur: but by their

best writers who notice it, it was branded as superlatively

infamous. Cicero styles it, scelus incredibile et inauditum, an

incredible and unheard of wickedness; but it was heard of and

practised; and there are several stories of this kind in heathen

authors, but they reprobate not commend it. The word ονομαζεται,

named, is wanting in almost every MS. and version of importance,

and certainly makes no part of the text. The words should be

read, and such fornication as is not amongst the Gentiles, i.e.,

not allowed. Some think that this woman might have been a

proselyte to the Jewish religion from heathenism; and the rabbins

taught that proselytism annulled all former relationship, and that

a woman was at liberty in such a case to depart from an

unbelieving husband, and to marry even with a believing son,

i.e., of her husband by some former wife.

Verse 2. Ye are puffed up] Ye are full of strife and

contention relative to your parties and favourite teachers, and

neglect the discipline of the Church. Had you considered the

greatness of this crime, ye would have rather mourned, and have

put away this flagrant transgressor from among you.

Taken away from among you.] ιναεξαρθηεκμεσουυμων. This

is supposed by some to refer to the punishment of death, by others

to excommunication. The Christian Church was at this time too

young to have those forms of excommunication which were practised

in succeeding centuries. Probably no more is meant than a simple

disowning of the person, accompanied with the refusal to admit him

to the sacred ordinances, or to have any intercourse or connection

with him.

Verse 3. Absent in body, but present in spirit] Perhaps St.

Paul refers to the gift of the discernment of spirits, which it is

very likely the apostles in general possessed on extraordinary

occasions. He had already seen this matter so clearly, that he

had determined on that sort of punishment which should be

inflicted for this crime.

Verse 4. In the name of our Lord Jesus] Who is the head of

the Church; and under whose authority every act is to be

performed.

And my spirit] My apostolical authority derived from him; with

the power, συνδυναμει, with the miraculous energy of the Lord

Jesus, which is to inflict the punishment that you pronounce:-

Verse 5. To deliver such a one unto Satan] There is no

evidence that delivering to Satan was any form of excommunication

known either among the Jews or the Christians. Lightfoot, Selden,

and Schoettgen, who have searched all the Jewish records, have

found nothing that answers to this: it was a species of punishment

administered in extraordinary cases, in which the body and the

mind of an incorrigible transgressor were delivered by the

authority of God into the power of Satan, to be tortured with

diseases and terrors as a warning to all; but while the body and

mind were thus tormented, the immortal spirit was under the

influence of the Divine mercy; and the affliction, in all

probability, was in general only for a season; though sometimes it

was evidently unto death, as the destruction of the flesh seems to

imply. But the soul found mercy at the hand of God; for such a

most extraordinary interference of God's power and justice, and of

Satan's influence, could not fail to bring the person to a state

of the deepest humiliation and contrition; and thus, while the

flesh was destroyed, the spirit was saved in the day of the Lord

Jesus. No such power as this remains in the Church of God; none

such should be assumed; the pretensions to it are as wicked as

they are vain. It was the same power by which Ananias and

Sapphira were struck dead, and Elymas the sorcerer struck blind.

Apostles alone were intrusted with it.

Verse 6. Your glorying is not good.] You are triumphing in

your superior knowledge, and busily employed in setting up and

supporting your respective teachers, while the Church is left

under the most scandalous corruptions-corruptions which threaten

its very existence if not purged away.

Know ye not] With all your boasted wisdom, do you not know and

acknowledge the truth of a common maxim, a little leaven leaveneth

the whole lump? If this leaven-the incestuous person, be

permitted to remain among you; if his conduct be not exposed by

the most formidable censure; the flood-gates of impurity will be

opened on the Church, and the whole state of Christianity ruined

in Corinth.

Verse 7. Purge out therefore the old leaven] As it is the

custom of the Jews previously to the passover to search their

houses in the most diligent manner for the old leaven, and throw

it out, sweeping every part clean; so act with this incestuous

person. I have already shown with what care the Jews purged their

houses from all leaven previously to the passover;

see the note on Ex 12:8-19,

and on the term passover, and Christ as represented by

this ancient Jewish sacrifice; See Clarke on Ex 12:27, and my

Discourse on the Nature and Design of the Eucharist.

Verse 8. Therefore let us keep the feast] It is very likely

that the time of the passover was now approaching, when the Church

of Christ would be called to extraordinary acts of devotion, in

commemorating the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ; and

of this circumstance the apostle takes advantage in his

exhortation to the Corinthians. See the Introduction, sect. xii.

Not with old leaven] Under the Christian dispensation we must

be saved equally from Judaism, heathenism, and from sin of every

kind; malice and wickedness must be destroyed; and sincerity and

truth, inward purity and outward holiness, take their place.

The apostle refers here not more to wicked principles than to

wicked men; let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven-the

impure principles which actuated you while in your heathen state;

neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, κακιαςκαι

πονηριας, wickedness, radical depravity, producing unrighteousness

in the life; nor with the persons who are thus influenced, and

thus act; but with the unleavened bread, αλλεναζυμοις, but with

upright and godly men, who have sincerity, ειλικρινεια, such

purity of affections and conduct, that even the light of God

shining upon them discovers no flaw, and truth-who have received

the testimony of God, and who are inwardly as well as outwardly

what they profess to be.

The word πονηριας, which we translate wickedness, is so very

like to πορνειας, fornication, that some very ancient MSS. have

the latter reading instead of the former; which, indeed, seems

most natural in this place; as κακιας, which we translate malice,

includes every thing that is implied in πονηριας, wickedness

whereas πορνειας, as being the subject in question, see 1Co 5:1,

would come more pointedly in here: Not with wickedness and

fornication, or rather, not with wicked men and fornicators: but I

do not contend for this reading.

Verse 9. I wrote unto you in an epistle] The wisest and best

skilled in Biblical criticism agree that the apostle does not

refer to any other epistle than this; and that he speaks here of

some general directions which he had given in the foregoing part

of it; but which he had now in some measure changed and greatly

strengthened, as we see from 1Co 5:11. The words εγραψαεντη

επιστολη may be translated, I HAD written to you in THIS EPISTLE;

for there are many instances in the New Testament where the

aorist, which is here used, and which is a sort of indefinite

tense, is used for the perfect and the plusquam-perfect. Dr.

Whitby produces several proofs of this, and contends that the

conclusion drawn by some, viz. that it refers to some epistle that

is lost, is not legitimately drawn from any premises which either

this text or antiquity affords. The principal evidence against

this is 2Co 7:8, where εντηεπιστολη, the same words as above,

appear to refer to this first epistle. Possibly the apostle may

refer to an epistle which he had written though not sent; for, on

receiving farther information from Stephanas, Fortunatus, and

Achaicus, relative to the state of the Corinthian Church, he

suppressed that, and wrote this, in which he considers the subject

much more at large. See Dr. Lightfoot.

Not to company with fornicators] With which, as we have

already seen, Corinth abounded. It was not only the grand sin,

but staple, of the place.

Verse 10. For then must ye needs go out of the world.] What

an awful picture of the general corruption of manners does this

exhibit! The Christians at Corinth could not transact the

ordinary affairs of life with any others than with fornicators,

covetous persons, extortioners, railers, drunkards, and idolaters,

because there were none others in the place! How necessary was

Christianity in that city!

Verse 11. But now I have written] I not only write this, but

I add more: if any one who is called a brother, i.e. professes

the Christian religion, be a fornicator, covetous, idolater,

railer, drunkard, or extortioner, not even to eat with such-have

no communion with such a one, in things either sacred or civil.

You may transact your worldly concerns with a person that knows

not God, and makes no profession of Christianity, whatever his

moral character may be; but ye must not even thus far acknowledge

a man professing Christianity, who is scandalous in his conduct.

Let him have this extra mark of your abhorrence of all sin; and

let the world see that the Church of God does not tolerate

iniquity.

Verse 12. For what have I to do to judge them also that are

without?] The term without, τουςεξω, signifies those who were

not members of the Church, and in this sense its correspondent

term: hachitsonim, those that are without, is generally

understood in the Jewish writers, where it frequently occurs. The

word και also, which greatly disturbs the sense here, is wanting

in ABCFG, and several others, with the Syriac, Coptic, Slavonic,

Vulgate, and the Itala; together with several of the fathers.

The sentence, I think, with the omission of και also, should stand

thus: Does it belong to me to pass sentence on those which are

without-which are not members of the Church? By no means

(ουχι.) Pass ye sentence on them which are within-which are

members of the Church: those which are without-which are not

members of the Church, God will pass sentence on, in that way in

which he generally deals with the heathen world. But put ye away

the evil from among yourselves. This is most evidently the

apostle's meaning, and renders all comments unnecessary. In the

last clause there appears to be an allusion to De 17:7, where the

like directions are given to the congregation of Israel, relative

to a person found guilty of idolatry: Thou shalt put away the evil

from among you-where the version of the Septuagint is almost the

same as that of the apostle: καιεξαρειςτονπονηρονεξυμωναυτων.

THERE are several important subjects in this chapter which

intimately concern the Christian Church in general.

1. If evil be tolerated in religious societies, the work of God

cannot prosper there. If one scandal appear, it should be the

cause of general humiliation and mourning to the followers of God

where it occurs; because the soul of a brother is on the road to

perdition, the cause of God so far betrayed and injured, and

Christ recrucified in the house of his friends. Pity should fill

every heart towards the transgressor, and prayer for the

backslider occupy all the members of the Church.

2. Discipline must be exercised in the Christian Church;

without this it will soon differ but little from the wilderness of

this world. But what judgment, prudence, piety, and caution, are

requisite in the execution of this most important branch of a

minister's duty! He may be too easy and tender, and permit the

gangrene to remain till the flock be infected with it. Or he may

be rigid and severe, and destroy parts that are vital while only

professing to take away what is vitiated. A backslider is one who

once knew less or more of the salvation of God. Hear what God

says concerning such: Turn, ye backsliders, for I am married unto

you. See how unwilling He is to give them up! He suffers long,

and is kind: do thou likewise; and when thou art obliged to cut

off the offender from the Church of Christ, follow him still with

thy best advice and heartiest prayers.

3. A soul cut off from the flock of God is in an awful state!

his outward defence is departed from him; and being no longer

accountable to any for his conduct, he generally plunges into

unprecedented depths of iniquity; and the last state of that man

becomes worse than the first. Reader, art thou without the pale

of God's Church? remember it is here written, them that are

WITHOUT God judgeth, 1Co 5:13.

4. Christians who wish to retain the spirituality of their

religion should be very careful how they mingle with the world.

He who is pleased with the company of ungodly men, no matter

howsoever witty or learned, is either himself one with them, or is

drinking into their spirit. It is impossible to associate with

such by choice without receiving a portion of their contagion.

A man may be amused or delighted with such people, but he will

return even from the festival of wit with a lean soul. Howsoever

contiguous they may be, yet the Church and the world are separated

by an impassable gulf.

5. If all the fornicators, adulterers, drunkards, extortioners,

and covetous persons which bear the Christian name, were to be

publicly excommunicated from the Christian Church, how many, and

how awful would the examples be! If however the discipline of the

visible Church be so lax that such characters are tolerated in it,

they should consider that this is no passport to heaven. In the

sight of God they are not members of his Church; their citizenship

is not in heaven, and therefore they have no right to expect the

heavenly inheritance. It is not under names, creeds, or

professions, that men shall be saved at the last day; those alone

who were holy, who were here conformed to the image of Christ,

shall inherit the kingdom of God. Those who expect it in any

other way, or on any other account, will be sadly deceived.

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