Church Discipline, 1-13

5:1 It is actually reported that sexual immorality exists among you, the kind of immorality that is not permitted even among the Gentiles, so that someone is cohabiting with his father’s wife. 5:2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you have been deeply sorrowful instead and removed the one who did this from among you? 5:3 For even though I am absent physically, I am present in spirit. And I have already judged the one who did this, just as though I were present. 5:4 When you gather together in the name of our Lord Jesus, and I am with you in spirit, along with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5:5 turn this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

Sexual immorality – the word porneia covers most forms of sexual activity outside marriage.

A kind that does not occur even among pagans – ‘Under Roman law this person was liable to banishment from this prestigious Roman colony for such conduct if he were brought to court.’ (NBC)

Someone is cohabiting with his father’s wife – NIV: ‘a man has his father’s wife’ – ‘has’ being a euphemism for sexual intercourse, but also suggesting a settled and continuing relationship.

The text does not say that he was having sex with his mother, and so the relationship was probably with his step-mother.  The father might have been dead, or divorced from this woman.

And you are proud! – It does not say that they were proud of (i.e. endorsed) this particular behaviour.  Maybe they were proud of this man because of his high social status.

v4f This passage recalls the judgement scene of Deut 19:16-20.  It may also be influenced by the teaching of our Lord in Mt 18:15-20.

When you are assembled – Ciampa and Rosna remark on how focused Paul’s teaching throughout this passage is on the gathered church (not individual believers).  The emphasis is not on the punishment of the offender (although that is clear enough), but on the purity of God’s people.  ‘Paul’s instructions are far from any brand of Christian individualism. The church, it seems, stands or falls together.’

Assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present

Soards identifies the difficulty that modern readers have regarding Paul’s words here:

‘The difficulty for late twentieth-century readers comes in part because we do not appreciate Paul’s vivid sense of the reality of the Holy Spirit as God’s universal power and presence and his conviction of the real presence of the Lord Jesus. Paul assumes that the Spirit is real, that the Lord Jesus is present and powerful, and that since as a Christian he is in the Spirit, then he is truly spiritually present among the Corinthian assembly in the power of the presence of the Holy Spirit.’

Hand this man over to Satan

Schreiner comments that ‘the purpose is remedial and salvific, not punitive, for the hope is that the offender will be saved on the final day.’ This is also the case with the similar expression in 1 Tim 1:20, where the purpose of handing over Hymanaeus and Alexander to Satan is that ‘they might be taught not to blaspheme.’

Fee thinks that this is not so much a handing over to Satan as such, but rather a handing over to Satan’s sphere:-

‘In contrast to the gathered community of believers who experience the Spirit and power of the Lord Jesus in edifying gifts and loving concern for one another, this man is to be put back out into the world, where Satan and his “principalities and powers” still hold sway over people’s lives to destroy them.’

Schreiner, similarly:

‘Delivering a person over to Satan is another way of saying that he or she is expelled from the church; all unbelievers are in Satan’s sphere since he works in all who are disobedient (Eph. 2:2) and is ‘the god of this age’ (2 Cor. 4:4).’

Morris thinks that at least excommunication is meant.

‘It is clear that the early church understood the realm of Satan to be everywhere outside the fellowship of believers (2 Cor 4:4; Gal 1:4; Eph 2:2) and that Paul’s expression here denotes expulsion from the community. That the sentence is reformatory is confirmed by the fact that Paul ends the pronouncement in 1 Cor 5:5 with the express intent that the offender’s spirit may be “saved in the day of the Lord”.’ (EDBT)

So that the sinful nature may be destroyed – Lit. ‘for the destruction of the flesh’.  The meaning is uncertain.

Some, finding a parallel with 1 Corinthians 11:29–32, think that death is implied.  ‘It almost certainly denotes physical suffering, but it is unclear whether the sufferer’s life will be spared by repentance’ (EDBT).

But the implication is that the destruction of ‘the sinful nature’ is preparatory to the spirit being ‘saved on the day of the Lord’; it is part of the remedial process (Fee): this makes it unlikely that the former refers to physical death.

Rosner and Ciampa comment:

‘To hand the man over to Satan is to turn him back out into Satan’s sphere, outside the edifying and caring environment of the church where God is at work. In other words, v. 5 states metaphorically what Paul says literally in vv. 2 and 13: the man is to be excluded from the community of faith…the incestuous man was handed over to Satan to be taught not to commit sexual immorality.’

The destruction, then, would not be of the body, but of the sinful nature (TNIV).

The following passages deal with church discipline: Mt 18:15-18; 1 Cor 5; 2 Cor 2:5-11; Gal 6:1; 2 Thess 3:6-15; 1 Tim 5:19-20; Tit 3:9-11.

5:6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast affects the whole batch of dough? 5:7 Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch of dough—you are, in fact, without yeast. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 5:8 So then, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of vice and evil, but with the bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.

Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed – ‘The Jews made sure that all leaven had been removed before they celebrated their Passover, but Christ our Passover has already been sacrificed, and yet the old leaven still remains uncleansed from your house!’ (Wilson)

The remarkable thing about this statement is the ‘casual way’ (Jeremias) in which Paul says it. Quite probably the connection was already familiar to the Corinthian Christians. Jeremias suggests that the analogy may go back to the teaching of Jesus himself.

‘The crucifixion of Jesus coincides with the celebration of Passover. The NT writers saw this as deeply significant. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) present the Last Supper as a Passover meal, (Mt 26:17; Mk 14:12; Lk 22:7-8) emphasizing the importance of Jesus’ words and actions. This meal is subsequently commemorated in the Lord’s Supper. (1 Cor 11:23-33) Elsewhere the death of Jesus is linked to the offering of the Passover sacrifice. John’s Gospel alludes to this by observing that Jesus’ death resembles that of the Passover sacrifice because his bones were not broken (Jn 19:36; cf. Ex 12:46). This connection is made even more explicit by Paul: “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Cor 5:7 NIV) By linking the crucifixion of Jesus to the Passover, the NT writers highlight the redemptive nature of his death. Like the original Passover sacrifice, his death atones for the sin of the people, his blood purifies and cleanses, and his body sanctifies those who eat it at the Lord’s Supper.’ (DBI)

What is claimed here ‘is astonishing. It is saying that all that happened through the Passover lamb in Israel’s experience happens now through Jesus in our experience. His sacrifice on the cross brings sinners to judgement, principalities and powers to destruction, those under sentence of death to redemption, the oppressed into freedom and its participants into membership of a consecrated people.’ It is the last of these that is particularly in view here. ‘How can the people of God go on living in a sinful state, with the old yeast of pride and immorality evident among then, if the Passover lamb had been killed? If the lamb is already sacrificed, it means that the old yeast should already have been removed in accordance with God’s instructions. So those who trust in the sacrifice of Christ for salvation must join to their trust the removal of all sinful behaviour from within their ranks. Only then can the Passover festival be celebrated with genuine joy and sincere hearts.’ (Tidball) See Ex 12:51n.

‘When the Jewish Passover meal today reaches the point at which the great acts of God have been recited, the leader urges the people on with these words: “The how much more, doubled and redoubled, is the claim the Omnipresent has upon our thankfulness.” In view of the great accomplishments of the cross, how much more, doubled, trebled and quadrupled, is the claim that Christ, the Lord’s Passover, has on our thankfulness!’ (Tidball)

5:9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. 5:10 In no way did I mean the immoral people of this world, or the greedy and swindlers and idolaters, since you would then have to go out of the world. 5:11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a Christian who is sexually immoral, or greedy, or an idolater, or verbally abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. 5:12 For what do I have to do with judging those outside? Are you not to judge those inside? 5:13 But God will judge those outside. Remove the evil person from among you.

My letter – Clear evidence of at least one letter from Paul to the Corinthians prior to 1 Cor.

Slanderer – ‘The slanderer harms three persons at once: him of whom he says the ill, him to whom he says it, and specially himself in saying it.’ (Basil)

What do I have to do with judging those outside? Are you not to judge those inside? – ‘The ease with which the present day church often passes judgment on the ethical or structural misconduct of the outside community is at times matched only by its reluctance to take action to remedy the ethical conduct of its own members. We have reversed Paul’s order of things.’ (NBC)