In the previous section the apostle had condemned factions within the church at Corinth and closed with a long admonition to follow his example in avoiding such things. He had stated, “Let no one glory in men,” ( 3: 21 ) “And you are Christs and Christ is Gods” ( 3: 23 ), and also, “For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me ( 4:15 -16).”
Continuing with the examination of the things instructed to Corinth, we next come to where the apostle exposes the acceptance of those in illicit sexual relations openly known before the assembly in behaviors that were continuing without the members censure.
In chapter five the apostle discusses what had been brought to his attention. His broaching of this is found in the first five verses of the chapter, and begins with the discussion concerning the treatment of this member of the assembly who was living in an openly adulterous relationship with his step mother. The admonition for the suggested action by the assembly begins with verse five:
“[To] deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover was sacrificed for us.
Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore put away from yourselves that wicked person.”
The expressed notion is that this individual was not to be fellowshipped, not to be treated as one in good standing or favor, unless the sinful relationship and the sinful acts were terminated and his repentance was made known before the assembly. That the members were not to fellowship the man (apparently the woman was not a member) was to be accomplished to promote his repentance (which is stated in verse 5 with the action specifically noted in Pauls second letter to the church) all to thereby avoid that the church might not be further corrupted through its allowance of such things. You might wish to read 2 Corinthians 2: 1 through 9, to further aid in understanding what is taught here.
This issue is followed with similar discussions upon how other things might affect the church. He discusses Christians taking one another to court, and issues then a general warning against participating in sexually immoral behaviors in chapter 6 verses 9 through 11 (and which was all too common in Corinth ). Following this is a recommendation to not allow peculiar situations that had arisen or common problems and behaviors to disintegrate marriages – noting that marriage is sacrosanct and should be held in highest esteem by all. And this whether or not the marriage was between two believers or otherwise.
Sexually improper behavior was then a destroyer of lives, homes, and relationships, so it is now. Discipline in relationships is demanded by God throughout his word, and any person or any society that ignores the reasoning and the exhortation is condemned to continue to pay the consequences. As the Corinthians, many think lightly of such things, finding them only a hindrance on the road to satisfying for a moment their own desires or fulfilling a momentary personal pleasure. The road that snakes out behind such activities is strewn with the cast away thoughts and discarded persons from what amount to pure selfish endeavors. The apostle said that in fornication we sin not only against God, in violation to his word, but also against our own bodies. Such behaviors are always directed inward with never a thought given for consequences or any effect upon others. In Corinth the fornications were part or whole of the false system of worship – worshipping the created before the creator, and worshipping base activities feeding only the flesh in religions that were clear fabrications based upon empty promises and futures. Sad to say but not much has changed and we have the relentless pursuit of sexual gratification today and in that too we have religions that uphold the same sort of impious and self-centered behaviors.
As was noted in the previous to the last essay, the understanding of the letter is summed up in chapter 14 where the apostle states to “let all things be done decently and in order” and that is the implication in this as with the last, and this thought and recommendation continues throughout.
In the next installment well deal with the influences that were polluting and corrupting the assembly of purpose – when the church “comes together” in worship on the Lords Day.