The Incestuous Person at Corinth: The Corinthians Reproved for Connivance, and Warned
to Purge Out the Bad Leaven. Qualification of His Former Command as to Association with
Sinners of the World.
1. commonly—rather, "actually" [Alford]. Absolutely [Bengel]. "It is reported," implies, that the
Corinthians, though they "wrote" (1Co 7:1) to Paul on other points, gave him no
information on those things which bore against themselves. These latter
matters reached the apostle indirectly (1Co 1:11).
so much as named—The oldest
manuscripts and authorities omit "named": "Fornication of such a gross
kind as (exists) not even among the heathen, so that one (of you) hath
(in concubinage) his father's wife," that is, his stepmother, while his
father is still alive (2Co 7:12;
18:8). She was perhaps a
heathen, for which reason he does not direct his rebuke against her
(compare 1Co 5:12, 13). Alford
thinks "have" means have in marriage: but the connection is
called "fornication," and neither Christian nor Gentile law
would have sanctioned such a marriage, however Corinth's
notorious profligacy might wink at the concubinage.
2. puffed up—with your own wisdom and
knowledge, and the eloquence of your favorite teachers: at a time when
ye ought to be "mourning" at the scandal caused to religion by the
incest. Paul mourned because they did not mourn (2Co 2:4). We ought to mourn over the
transgressions of others, and repent of our own (2Co 12:21) [Bengel].
that—ye have not felt such mourning as
would lead to the result that, &c.
taken away from among you—by
excommunication. The incestuous person was hereby brought to bitter
repentance, in the interval between the sending of the first and second
Epistles (2Co 2:5-10). Excommunication in the Christian
Church corresponded to that in the Jewish synagogue, in there being a
lighter and heavier form: the latter an utter separation from church
fellowship and the Lord's house, the former exclusion from the Lord's
Supper only but not from the Church.
3. as absent—The best manuscripts read,
present in spirit—(2Ki 5:26; Col
so done—rather, "perpetrated," as the
Greek word here is stronger than that for "done" in 1Co 5:2. "So," that is, so scandalously while
called a brother.
4. In the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ—By His authority and as representing His person
and will (2Co 2:10).
Join this with "to deliver such a one unto Satan" (1Co 5:5). The clause, "When ye have been
gathered together and my spirit (wherein I am 'present,' though 'absent
in body,' 1Co 5:3), with
the power of our Lord Jesus," stands in a parenthesis between. Paul
speaking of himself uses the word "spirit"; of Christ, "power."
Christ's power was promised to be present with His Church "gathered together in His name" (Mt
18:18-20): and here Paul by
inspiration gives a special promise of his apostolic spirit, which in
such cases was guided by the Holy Spirit, ratifying their decree passed
according to his judgment ("I have judged," 1Co 5:3), as though he were present in person
(Joh 20:21-23; 2Co 13:3-10). This power of infallible judgment was
limited to the apostles; for they alone had the power of working
miracles as their credentials to attest their infallibility. Their
successors, to establish their claim to the latter, must produce the
12:2). Even the apostles in
ordinary cases, and where not specially and consciously inspired, were
fallible (Ac 8:13, 23; Ga 2:11-14).
5. Besides excommunication (of which the
Corinthians themselves had the power), Paul delegates here to the
Corinthian Church his own special power as an apostle, of
inflicting corporeal disease or death in punishment for sin ("to
deliver to Satan such an one," that is, so heinous a sinner). For
instances of this power, see Ac 5:1-11; 13:11; 1Ti 1:20. As Satan receives power at times to try
the godly, as Job (Job 2:4-7)
and Paul (2Co 12:7;
compare also as to Peter, Lu 22:31),
much more the ungodly. Satan, the "accuser of the brethren" (Re 12:10) and the "adversary" (1Pe 5:8), demands the sinner for punishment on
account of sin (Zec 3:1). When
God lets Satan have his way, He is said to "deliver the sinner unto
Satan" (compare Ps 109:6).
Here it is not finally; but for the affliction of the body with
disease, and even death (1Co 11:30, 32), so as to destroy fleshly lust.
He does not say, "for the destruction of the body," for
it shall share in redemption (Ro 8:23); but of the corrupt "flesh" which
"cannot inherit the kingdom of God," and the lusts of which had
prompted this offender to incest (Ro 7:5; 8:9, 10). The "destruction of the flesh" answers
to "mortify the deeds of the body" (Ro 8:13), only that the latter is done by one's
self, the former is effected by chastisement from God (compare 1Pe 4:6):
the spirit … saved—the spiritual
part of man, in the believer the organ of the Holy Spirit. Temporary
affliction often leads to permanent salvation (Ps 83:16).
6. Your glorying in your own attainments and
those of your favorite teachers (1Co 3:21; 4:19; 5:2), while all the while ye connive at such
a scandal, is quite unseemly.
a little leaven leaveth … whole
namely, with present complicity in the guilt, and the danger of
future contagion (1Co 15:33; 2Ti 2:17).
7. old leaven—The remnant of the "old"
4:22-24) heathenish and
natural corruption. The image is taken from the extreme care of the
Jews in searching every corner of their houses, and "purging out" every
particle of leaven from the time of killing the lamb before the
Passover (De 16:3, 4). So Christians are continually to
search and purify their hearts (Ps 139:23, 24).
as ye are unleavened—normally, and as
far as your Christian calling is concerned: free from the leaven of sin
and death (1Co 6:11).
Paul often grounds exhortations on the assumption of Christian
professors' normal state as realized (Ro 6:3, 4) [Alford]. Regarding the Corinthian Church as the
Passover "unleavened lump" or mass, he entreats them to correspond in
fact with this their normal state. "For Christ our Passover (Ex 12:5-11, 21-23; Joh 1:29) has been (English
Version, "is") sacrificed for us"; that is, as the Jews
began the days of unleavened bread with the slaying of the
Passover lamb, so, Christ our Passover having been already
slain, let there be no leaven of evil in you who are the
"unleavened lump." Doubtless he alludes to the Passover which had been
two or three weeks before kept by the Jewish Christians (1Co 16:8): the Gentile Christians probably also
refraining from leavened bread at the love-feasts. Thus the Jewish
Passover naturally gave place to our Christian Easter. The time
however, of keeping feast (metaphorical; that is, leading the
Christian life of joy in Christ's finished work, compare Pr 15:15) among us Christians,
corresponding to the Jewish Passover, is not limited, as the latter, to
one season, but is ALL our time; for the transcendent benefits of the
once-for-all completed sacrifice of our Passover Lamb extends to
all the time of our lives and of this Christian dispensation; in no
part of our time is the leaven of evil to be admitted.
For even—an additional reason, besides
that in 1Co
5:6, and a more cogent one
for purging out every leaven of evil; namely, that Christ has been
already sacrificed, whereas the old leaven is yet unremoved, which
ought to have been long ago purged out.
8. not … old leaven—of our
unconverted state as Jews or heathen.
malice—the opposite of "sincerity,"
which allows no leaven of evil to be mixed up with good (Mt 16:6).
wickedness—the opposite of "truth,"
which allows not evil to be mistaken for good. The Greek for
"malice" means the evil habit of mind; "wickedness," the
outcoming of the same in word and deed. The Greek for
"sincerity" expresses literally, a thing which, when examined by the
sun's light, is found pure and unadulterated.
9. I wrote … in an epistle—rather,
"in the Epistle": a former one not now extant. That Paul does not refer
to the present letter is proved by the fact that no direction
"not to company with fornicators" occurs in the previous part of it;
also the words, "in an (or, the) epistle," could not have been
added if he meant, "I have just written" (2Co 10:10). "His letters" (plural;
not applying to merely one) confirm this. 2Co 7:8 also refers to our first Epistle,
just as here a former letter is referred to by the same phrase.
Paul probably wrote a former brief reply to inquiries of the
Corinthians: our first Epistle, as it enters more fully into the
same subject, has superseded the former, which the Holy Spirit did not
design for the guidance of the Church in general, and which therefore
has not been preserved. See my Introduction.
10. Limitation of the prohibition alluded to
5:9. As in dissolute Corinth
to "company with no fornicators," &c., would be almost to company
with none in the (unbelieving) world; ye need not utterly
("altogether") forego intercourse with fornicators, &c., of the
unbelieving world (compare 1Co 10:27; Joh 17:15; 1Jo 5:18,
19). As "fornicators" sin
against themselves, so "extortioners" against their neighbors, and
"idolaters" against God. The attempt to get "out of the world," in
violation of God's will that believers should remain in it but keep
themselves from its evil, led to monasticism and its consequent
11. But now—"Now" does not express
time, but "the case being so," namely, that to avoid
fornicators, &c., of the world, you would have to leave the
world altogether, which would be absurd. So "now" is used in Heb 11:16. Thus we avoid making the apostle
now retract a command which he had before given.
I have written—that is, my meaning in
the letter I wrote was "not to keep company," &c.
a brother—contrasted with a
"fornicator … of the world" (1Co 5:10). There is less danger in associating
with open worldlings than with carnal professors. Here, as in Eph 5:3, 5, "covetousness" is joined with
"fornication": the common fount of both being "the fierce and ever
fiercer longing of the creature, which has turned from God, to fill
itself with the inferior objects of sense" [Trench, Greek Synonyms of the New Testament].
Hence "idolatry" is associated with them: and the covetous man is
termed an "idolater" (Nu 25:1, 2). The Corinthians did not fall into open
idolatry, but ate things offered to idols, so making a compromise with
the heathen; just as they connived at fornication. Thus this verse
prepares for the precepts in 1Co 8:4, &c. Compare the similar case of
fornication, combined with a similar idolatrous compromise, after the
pattern of Israel with the Midianites (Re 2:14).
no not to eat—not to sit at the same
table with such; whether at the love-feasts (agapæ) or in
private intercourse, much more at the Lord's table: at the last, too
often now the guests "are not as children in one family, but like a
heterogeneous crowd of strangers in an inn" [Bengel] (compare Ga 2:12; 2Jo 10, 11).
12. what have I to do—You might have
easily understood that my concern is not with unbelievers
outside the Church, but that I referred to those within it.
also—Implying, Those within
give me enough to do without those outside.
do not ye, &c.—Ye judge your
fellow citizens, not strangers: much more should I [Bengel]. Rather, Is it not your duty to judge
them that are within? God shall judge them that are without: do
you look at home [Grotius]. God is the
Judge of the salvation of the heathen, not we (Ro 2:12-16). Paul here gives an anticipatory
censure of their going to law with saints before heathen tribunals,
instead of judging such causes among themselves within.
13. put away from among yourselves that
wicked—Sentence of excommunication in language taken from