Paul started addressing specific incidents that deeply troubled him because of how sexual immorality was running rampant in the church of Corinth. He cites one particular incident of a congregation member who was having sexual relations with his father’s wife, perhaps a callback for us of how Reuben slept with his father’s wife.
Corrupting our Bodies
In Jewish culture, such an act was seen as the son claiming his stake on his father’s property. Adonijah (Solomon’s half-brother) also tried to marry his father David’s concubine in the hopes of ruling the land one day. But what was happening in Corinth was grotesque, as it was happening inside the church and the people were seemingly even proud of their ways.
Even if they were not proud of such acts, they were happy to carry on with their lives. A church ignoring such indiscretions sets the wrong example for its members as people get desensitised when they see people living in sin all around them to the extent that they start desiring it for themselves.
According to historians, such acts of infidelity were unheard of in the early first-century Roman culture. In fact, there were Roman laws that strictly prohibited such incestuous relations. So, the church by festering such sins was not only in violation of God’s plans but also provided cover to the offenders from their local government bodies. Rather than being partakers with Christ, the Corinthians thought of themselves as impermeable to the temptations of this world. The shield that is provided to the believers by the Grace of God was being misused by the congregation to continue with the evil desires of their hearts. Such can be our fate too if we don’t turn from our evil ways but allow them to become the norm in our lives.
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.1 Corinthians 5:5
Seemingly harsh instructions from Paul, which are not only in the interest of the church but also of the offender. Protecting and defending an alcoholic will be of no benefit to him or his family in the long run. He needs to go through the withdrawal on his own to actually overcome his addiction. Similarly sheltering the offenders under the ruse of fellowship will only enable them to continue in their ways. We need to purge the evil from among us before it purges us.
God is for everyone, for those within a church and those who have been purged out. Let God worry about such people, as with our human efforts, we will never be able to turn anyone from their evil ways. When they experience the withdrawal of God’s protection around them, in other words when they are handed over to the prince of this world, only then will they realise the need for God in their lives. By continuing to keep such people in the church even after there are no signs of improvement, we are responsible for keeping them from entering God’s kingdom.
The Corinthians were boasting about their deeds, not realising that when unchecked, sin will penetrate within our fellowships like yeast working its way through the entire dough (fellowship). The Jews followed a Passover custom of sweeping their houses to clean any leavened breadcrumbs before they started preparing the new batch of unleavened Passover bread. With such diligence, people followed their customs but in their hearts, they practice none of that and lose their sanctity. Sin will corrupt anyone it touches as there is no middle ground when it comes to purging it from our lives. Therefore, we should not boast of our abilities to deflect from sin but depend on Christ, our Passover Lamb to save us from our sinful desires.
The Evil Within
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?1 Corinthians 5:12
Paul specifically calls out the evil within the church and does not bother himself with the people outside his jurisdiction. He acknowledges that the people of the world are sexually immoral, filled with greed, consumed by their idolatry practices and are drenched in sin. In his letter, he asks the church to only keep their distance from the members who are corrupt rather than the ones who are not part of the church.
These instructions may seem strange to us as we usually do the exact opposite when it comes to judging people. We judge and hate the people who are outside the church while we tolerate the people within the church. The brother or sister in Christ has been backstabbing our spiritual growth for decades on, but we continue to be in fellowship with them and even treat them as our own flesh and blood. If in our office someone did something to hinder the growth of our careers we would ghost them and cut them from our lives immediately. Our attitude towards the people outside the church has always been of less tolerance than what we show to our supposed ‘believers’ in Christ. As people saved by Christ, we have a greater responsibility to not only walk in the Way but also not let our actions falter someone else’s walk with Christ. Simon the Magician, fooled even the disciples but when Peter realised what was in his heart, he rebuked him immediately and did not let him spread his cancerous yeast among the believers in Samaria. It is not our business to judge anyone outside the Church, as all are God’s people but the one who pretends to know God and is like the yeast corrupting our fellowships, we must distance ourselves from such people.
- V2: How can a church be proud of sexual immorality?
- V5: Why does Paul want to hand someone to satan?
- V10: Why is Paul allowing associations with immoral people outside the church but not inside?
- V13: Should we expel wicked people from our congregations today? If so how and when?