Category Archives: 1 CORINTHIANS 5

1 CORINTHIANS 5

SURVEY OF THE EPISTLE SO FAR

In the first four chapters of the epistle the way the believers were thinking is addressed by the apostle. They were allowing the mind-set of the world to influence them, so he shows in chapter 1 that the cross of Christ has cancelled this world’s way of thinking. In chapter 2 he shows that the Spirit has inspired the apostles and prophets as they spoke and wrote, so that those who believe may have their thinking adjusted and regulated by the wisdom of God, and not the wisdom of men. Chapter 3 indicates that the Corinthians, because of their carnality, were unable to take full advantage of the ministry of the apostle. He warns them in the second half of the chapter that they should beware of incorporating this world’s ideas into the local assembly. In chapter four he uses four illustrations to correct the wrong attitudes of the Corinthians believers, which stemmed directly from their wrong thinking.

SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 5

In chapters 5 to 7 of the epistle the apostle gives instruction regarding morality, and rebuke for immorality. No doubt influenced by their unsavoury background, (see 6:9-11), the believers in the assembly at Corinth were being very lax in their attitude to immoral behaviour. It is this laxity that the apostle condemns, and explains how they should deal with it.

The word Corinthian has come down to us in two ways. A corinthian is an immoral person, but a Corinthian column is an elegant architectural feature. So vice and culture go hand in hand, as we know only too well in our own day.

STRUCTURE OF CHAPTER 5

(a) Verse 1 The sin defined by the apostle.
(b) Verse 2 The sin defended by the Corinthians.
(c) Verses 3-5 The sin dealt with.
(d) Verses 6-8 The sin depicted.
(e) Verses 9-13 The detailing of further sins.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 5

5:1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.

5:2 And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

5:3 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,

5:4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,

5:5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

5:6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?

5:7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

5:8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

5:9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

5:10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.

5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

5:12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?

5:13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

(a) Verse 1 The sin defined by the apostle.

5:1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you-the party-spirit of the assembly at Corinth had been reported to the apostle by the household of Chloe, as those who were concerned for the sake of the testimony. What is dealt with in this chapter is, sadly, common knowledge. The Corinthians had made no attempt to deal with the matter, and the unsaved knew about their liberal attitude to immorality. Upsetting as it is, an assembly must deal firmly with immorality on the part of one of their number, and deal with it speedily, so that the reputation of the assembly is not tarnished, and the unsaved realise that they are not prepared to compromise with evil.

There are two main words for immorality in the New Testament. One is porneia, fornication, to do with unlawful sexual relationships, whether between married persons or not, and including such sins as homosexuality, lesbianism, incest, and bestiality. The other is moichao, adultery, (a more limited term), to do with unlawful sexual relations with another’s wife or husband. The general term is used here because the apostle is not simply referring to the particular case of the man in question, but the attitude of the believers to any sexual sin. Adultery is fornication, but not all fornication is adultery. The Jews classed marriage within forbidden degrees, as detailed in Leviticus 18, (and including relations with one’s father’s wife), as fornication.

And such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife- it is a very sad thing when those who name the name of Christ commit sins that even the unregenerate find offensive. Sometimes we allow the richness of the grace of God to degenerate into indifference to sin. Jude calls this “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness”, Jude 4, and with some people this is a mark of apostasy. The nation of Israel was warned against committing the sexual sins the Egyptians and the Canaanites were guilty of, yet here the Gentiles are condemning the believers for their immorality.

We could envisage the way the current situation had developed. A husband and wife have a family, including sons. The wife dies, and after a while the man marries again, and chooses a woman much younger than himself. Meanwhile a son of the first wife grows up in the household, and remains unmarried. Then the husband himself dies, leaving a young wife, perhaps no older than his son, in the house. The liberal thinkers in Corinth might argue that the man is not related to the woman, and therefore they are free to marry. To have someone’s wife is to marry her, see Matthew 14:3,4; Mark 6:17.

The command of God in this matter is very clear, however, “A man shall not take his father’s wife”, Deuteronomy 22:30. The penalty for this under the law was death for both the man and the woman, Leviticus 20:11. This was because of the great need to preserve the line of the Messiah, and any situation that caused confusion in this area was very serious. The genealogy of the Seed must be chronicled and safeguarded. Any child born must be of known lineage, hence those who endangered this must pay the supreme penalty, so that they do not produce a child of unknown pedigree. Now that Christ has come the death penalty for adultery has lapsed, although it is still just as serious a sin as it ever was. This is why the Lord refused to condemn the woman supposedly taken in adultery in John 8, for He, the Seed, had come, and grace could be shown because of that.

Perhaps this truth had been corrupted by the Corinthians into a doctrine which said that sexual sins no longer mattered. There were even those in the apostle’s time who said, “Let us do evil that good may come”, Romans 3:8. The apostle asked the question, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound”, Romans 6:1, and answered it with a resounding “God forbid”.

(b) Verse 2 The sin defended by the Corinthians.

5:2 And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

And ye are puffed up- in verses 7 and 8 the illustration of the Passover is used. Now at that season every speck of leaven was to be excluded from the houses of the Israelites. It is one of the features of leaven that it inflates the dough, puffing it up to make it more palatable to the natural taste. Instead of diligently purging the leaven of moral evil from their midst, the Corinthians were allowing it to stay. It was in their hearts, and as a result they were inflated with pride, as they considered how liberal they were.

And have not rather mourned- the proper attitude would have been to mourn for their lack of diligence, and mourn over the presence of sin in their company. Not only did the Israelites purge the leaven from their houses on Passover night, but they also ate bitter herbs, no doubt to remind them of the bitterness of the bondage they had gone through in Egypt. The Corinthians should have been in bitterness of spirit as they realised that they had allowed their old life of bondage to sin to be carried over into the present.

That he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you- due to the seriousness of the sin committed, no half measures could be allowed. The person himself is leaven, or evil, and must be purged from among them. For not only does leaven puff up, it spreads, and this must not be allowed to happen in the assembly, which is exceedingly precious to God.

(c) Verses 3-5 The sin dealt with.

5:3 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,

For I verily, as absent in body- even though he was not at Corinth at the time, the apostle was convinced that the matter should be dealt with immediately. It was not a matter that could wait for a further visit from him.

But present in spirit- as the spiritual father of many of the Corinthian believers, he had a deep interest in their welfare, and he was writing as if present with them.

Have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed- whereas the Corinthians were complacent, the apostle was the reverse. The Feast of Passover was followed immediately by the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Israelites were to purge out the leaven in their houses “the first day”, Exodus 12:15. There was to be no day when the leaven was allowed in. So should it be in the assembly, as far as is possible.

5:4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ- all that believers do should be in the name of the Lord Jesus, Colossians 4:17; this is to be the case especially in situations as here. It needs the authority of the Name of Christ to be operative when matters of discipline occur in the assembly. When He met with His own the day of His resurrection, the Lord Jesus said to them, (and it is disciples that are addressed, not just apostles), “Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you”. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said unto them, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained”, John 20:21-23. The “I” of the expression “Even so send I you”, is emphatic, the point being that He, and none else, by His authority, had endowed the disciples with power to remit and retain sins. To remit means to declare that sins have been sent away; to retain means to declare sins to be still on the person in question. Thus there is given to believers the authority of Christ to deal with the situations they face when sin comes into the assembly. The Corinthians are to retain the sins of the fornicator, declaring that they believe the sin is still upon him, since he has not repented, and when and if he does repent, then those sins can be declared to be sent away, as far as the assembly is concerned.

This is to be distinguished from the power bestowed on Peter, and in a lesser sense, on the other apostles. In Matthew 16:19 it is a matter of incorporation into the kingdom of heaven, the sphere of profession. So when Peter preached and men repented, their sins were declared by the gospel to be loosed; when men did not repent, their sins were not loosed, but retained.

When ye are gathered together- it was when the disciples were assembled that Jesus came and spoke to them in the way we have just noted. This gives character to the meeting; it was not a haphazard coming together, but an assembling together in an organised way. So when the Corinthians deal with the matter in hand, they are to do it as an assembly. The assembly has been defiled, so the whole assembly must clear itself of complicity in the sin, and purge it out. It is not just a matter for elders to deal with privately. The sin has been public, the remedy must be public too. This is not to say that sordid details are to be aired, but still the discipline should be the united act of the whole assembly.

And my spirit- the apostle had spent a lot of time at Corinth, as Acts 18:11 indicates. They would know, therefore, what his attitude to things would be if he were present. As they deal with this matter, they are to bear that in mind, and only act as they believe the apostle would have acted.

With the power of our Lord Jesus Christ- the word for power here is dunamis. This is the ability to act, not so much the authority to act, for that comes from the Name of the Lord Jesus. When He breathed upon His disciples and said “Receive ye the Holy Spirit”, the Lord Jesus anticipated the Day of Pentecost, so that when that day arrived, they would make a direct connection between the giving of the Spirit and what Christ had said about loosing and retaining sins. They would neither be in doubt as to where the power came from, nor what it was to be used for. The local assembly is the temple of the Holy Spirit, 3:16, and He has a deep interest in its purity. So it is that He is the power which the Lord Jesus Christ gives by which the defilement is to be purged out; the flesh will not deal with it.

5:5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh- this is not the handing over of the man’s soul to Satan so as to consign to everlasting destruction. Satan is the Adversary of Christ and the truth. The man has sided (temporarily, for he repented, 2 Corinthians 2:5-8), with him. He must learn what it is to be found in a world that sides with the Devil wholeheartedly, and worships him as its god. Perchance it will dawn upon this man what the grace of God has rescued him from, and he will realise the error of his ways, and return to the Lord. The flesh is not simply a man’s body, but his whole being. The life of this man is to be totally disrupted by being expelled from the company of his fellow-believers, and the ministry of the Spirit in the assembly. He will thus learn the hard way what he should have known all along, that the ways of the world and the ways of God are totally at variance.

That the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus- if he responds to this extreme discipline, then it will be seen in the day of the judgement seat of Christ that his spirit, the inner person, was in fact saved. He will also be saved from further sin if he repents after this discipline has been imposed, and thus will be saved further embarrassment at the judgement seat of Christ.

(d) Verses 6-8 The sin depicted.

5:6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?

Your glorying is not good- the apostle now deals with the attitude that led to the sad state of affairs at Corinth. They need to remember certain things so that it does not occur again. They also need to change their outlook on things, so that instead of priding themselves on being a liberal assembly, they begin to glory in the Lord and not themselves, as the apostle has already exhorted them to do in 1:31.

Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? It is one of the leading features of leaven that it spreads throughout the whole of the lump of dough. So would immorality spread if left unchecked. There is one thing that halts the spread of leaven in dough, and that is salt. So the application of the word of God to the situation will result in the situation being remedied. This is always the answer to problems in an assembly; there is no situation that may arise that cannot be solved by the application of the principles of the Scriptures. There is one thing that hastens the spread of leaven in dough, and that is sugar. Mere sentimentality will not have the resolve to deal decisively with the serious matter in view here. Only the purpose of heart that has God’s glory in view will do that.

5:7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

Purge out therefore the old leaven- the Israelitish housewife would keep back a small lump of dough when she was making the day’s bread for her household. The next day, she would incorporate it into the new batch of dough she was preparing. In this way the dough would be leavened more quickly. This may be suitable in a literal sense, but it is certainly not in the spiritual. The Corinthians were carrying over from their unsaved days the evils that had been characteristic of them then. They had forgotten that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”, 2 Corinthians 5:17. Even though that verse had not yet been written, nevertheless the apostle would have instructed them in the truth of it, for it is part of the gospel. We are specifically told that when the Israelites came out of Egypt “the people took the dough before it was leavened, their kneading troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders”, Exodus 12:34. Then we are told, “And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual”, verse 39. So the Israelites were totally free of leaven as they came forth from their bondage. Unhappily, however, they hankered after the things of Egypt afterwards. So the principle of separation from evil was in force, in that they brought no leaven with them. But in practice it was not so. It was like this with the Corinthians, for they had been delivered by God from the evils of the world in principle, but in practice it was far different. They needed to apply the teaching of Romans 6:11, and reckon themselves dead unto sin and alive unto God.

That ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened- a new lump is dough that has no leaven from the previous day incorporated into it. This is how the Corinthians should be. In fact, it is how God looked at them ideally, but the actual state of the assembly was far different to God’s ideal. When Balaam looked down of the tents of Israel, he said of God, “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, nor perverseness in Israel”, Numbers 23:21. But if he had gone into some of those tents that day, he would certainly have seen iniquity. But Balaam was giving God’s sovereign view of His people, and not describing how they were in practice.

For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us- this should have been the supreme incentive to the Corinthians to put right what was wrong. In response to the great price that Christ paid for their redemption from sin and the world, they should have purged the evil out that cast a shadow on Christ’s honour. The passover lamb was a sacrifice, indicating at the very least that it had the character of a peace offering, the offering that emphasised fellowship and harmony. But the presence of sin in the assembly meant that fellowship was disrupted and harmony was disturbed. The passover lamb was to be roast with fire, not eaten raw, Exodus 12:9. The Corinthians needed to remember the cost to Christ that they might be His, for He endured the fire of Divine wrath- are they so insensitive as to ignore His great suffering? The lamb was not to be sodden in water, with the result that the fire and the flesh are in contact, with nothing in between to lessen the heat. So with Christ at Calvary, for He endured without mitigation the fire of God’s wrath against the sin that kept us in bondage. It is the height of ingratitude not to respond to such love and devotion on His part. He has been sacrificed- what shall we do in return?

5:8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven- the Feast of Passover, a one-day festival, was followed immediately by the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a seven-day festival. In fact, so closely are they linked that we read, “Now the Feast of Unleavend Bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover”, Luke 22:1. We are not here exhorted to keep Jewish festivals; the apostle is saying “Let us keep festival”; in other words, fulfil the spiritual meaning of the Old Testament feasts. Just as Christ is our Passover in a spiritual sense, so we are to keep the Feast of Unleavend Bread in a spiritual sense. We are to live out assembly life in pure conditions. How we are to do it is next told us, in both a negative way and a positive. The Passover separated Israel from the Egyptians in a remarkable and unmistakable way, and Christ has separated His people from the world in like manner.

Not with old leaven- the piece of leavened dough from yesterday is not to be put in the unleavened dough of today. The evil that marked our unconverted days is not to be carried over into our present Christian experience, and so contaminate the assembly. We are to have done with the old ways of the old man.

Neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness- when the Corinthians deal with the offending man, they are not to do so with malice or vindictiveness. They should have a single eye for the glory of Christ, the integrity of the assembly, and the best interests of the person concerned. The ideal result of the excommunication of a believer is his restoration, after repentance has become evident.

Nor should those who, perhaps, side with the man in his sin, act in malice towards those who are seeking to deal with the matter in a spiritual way. The assembly should be united in its response to the sin, and not allow Satan to use the situation to cause division.

The apostle seems to distinguish between the old leaven, and the leaven of wickedness. The old leaven is the sum total of the badness that characterises the sin principle within. Wickedness is one element of that badness, being evil that causes others to sorrow. It is in that sense linked to malice, but the latter tells of the attitude, whereas wickedness tells of the painful effect. Dealing with the sin can leave an assembly scarred, unless a determined effort is made by all involved to deal with the matter righteously, unitedly, and without rancour.

But with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth having spoken of the negative attitudes and actions that can made themselves felt in the situation envisaged here, the apostle now deals with the positive attitudes and actions. All should be done with sincerity, which is freedom from any mixture. Our thoughts and actions must not be mixed with wrong motives or faulty actions. We shall avoid this if those thoughts and actions are governed by the truth of God, and by a desire to uphold truth in its principle. Any one-sidedness or prejudice will prevent this.

(e) Verses 9-13 The detailing of further sins.

5:9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators the apostle must have communicated with the assembly before, but the Holy Spirit has not seen fit to preserve to us that letter. It must have contained teaching that we, with the benefit of the whole canon of the New Testament available to us, can learn from those Scriptures which are preserved. There were even matters that were needful for the Corinthians to have guidance about, which are not contained in this epistle, as we see from 11:34, “the rest will I set in order when I come”. These were matters peculiar to Corinth, which we do not need to know about. We may rest assured that we have all we need to know within the covers of our Bible. The Lord Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide into all truth, John 16:13, and this He has done. The apostle told the Colossians that he was commissioned to “fulfil the word of God”, so with the writings of Paul the sum total of Christian doctrine is filled up. Writings by other inspired men after the apostle had finished his course contained no further revelation, but served to reinforce what had already been made known. The Corinthians, then, had been warned about association with fornicators. The idea behind “keep company with” is to mix with. But this warning was not limited to the fornicators amongst the unsaved in the world, as we next learn.

5:10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.

Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world it is not practically possible to totally avoid contact with men and women who are fornicators, so the apostle says “not altogether”, meaning not totally separate. They have to mix with men in everyday life, but they do not have to do it in the assembly, for there is a remedy for that.

Or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world- Separation is not to be confused with isolation. Just because a person is physically removed from sinners does not mean he is separate in heart. The Lord Jesus mingled with men in the days of His flesh, yet it could be said of Him that He was “separate from sinners”, Hebrews 7:26. As He Himself said to His Father, “I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil”, John 17:15.

5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

But now I have written unto you not to keep company- to the Western mind the apostle is still referring to a past letter to the Corinthians, or why would he say he has written in the past? But this was the accepted practice in the days of the apostle, for as thoughts were put down upon papyrus they became past thoughts, and the writing, when finished, became past writing. So it is that a verse that is in the process of being written can be referred to in the past; so it is here. In any case, we are alerted to a distinction between the unknown letter and this one by the words “but now”, so we do not have to know about first century writing practice necessarily.

It is neither practical nor scriptural to totally separate from the fornicators of this world, for how else can we communicate the gospel to them on an individual basis? The Lord Jesus was prepared to have dealings with “sinners”, meaning harlots, in the sense that He spoke with them, for He had not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

If any man that is called a brother- whilst it is not possible to separate totally from unsaved fornicators, it is possible, and essential, that we separate from those who claim to be believers in Christ, yet who we know are fornicators. To be called a brother means “to be designated a brother”, or, in other words, to be generally accepted and addressed as a brother. Notice that the teaching is not that we simply distance ourselves from these people in heart, yet continue to have fellowship with them in the assembly gatherings and elsewhere. There is to be no keeping company at all, in any way which condones their behaviour. So absolute separation is not necessarily in view, but we should certainly make it clear than any small contact we may have with them is only with a view to their spiritual restoration, if genuine believers. We should not be so na├»ve as to think that profession is the same as possession; there may be many reasons why an unsaved person could find it convenient to pass himself off as a believer.

Or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner- the apostle now lists other sinners of the same class as fornicators, so it not simply immorality that he is dealing with here. If fornication is sin of the body, covetousness is sin of the soul, with the feelings drawn passionately to anything the soul finds desirable. An idolater commits sin of the spirit, ascribing to a demon the worship that should be directed to God alone. It is difficult to envisage how anyone could behave like this and yet claim to be a believer, yet such seems to have been the case at Corinth. Idolatry has a very strong hold on the minds of men, for it is contact with demonic power, and the Devil does not give his captives up readily.

Before we relegate covetousness to a lesser position in the scale of sinfulness, we should remember that the apostle tells the Colossians that covetous is idolatry, Colossians 3:5. Anything that takes our eye off God and His interests is the same as an idol taking our eye off God. And to reinforce the lesson, the apostle John says in the closing statement of his first epistle, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols”, 1 John 5:21, so the danger is a very real one.

A railer is a person who hurls abuse at another, reviling them with contempt and venom. Such behaviour was not learnt from Him who was meek and lowly in heart. The Lord warned His disciples that to speak evil of one’s brother is to be in danger of hell fire, Matthew 5:21,22, so serious a matter is it.

A drunkard is one who gives himself over to strong drink, losing control of himself in the process, and dragging himself, and possibly others, down to the gutter. It is in the best interests of such a person to be disciplined, so that he may be brought to his senses and turn to the Lord for forgiveness. Ephesians 5:18 gives very clear instruction, “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit”. It is a question of what influence is in control, wine, or the Spirit of God. Every believer has the Spirit of God in His fulness. We cannot be half-filled with the Spirit, for He is a Divine Person, and therefore not divisible. When we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit we are not to understand that we have in some way become unfilled, whether partially or wholly, and now need a “fresh filling”, as some speak. The apostle commands that we be what we are, practically expressing what is actually true. When we do not do that, it is not that we have less of the Spirit, but that we are not acting as if we are full of Him, but relying on self in some measure.

We are nowhere in the New Testament commanded not to drink wine. In fact, such was the condition of the water in many places that to be forbidden to drink wine would virtually be a death sentence. This is why Paul exhorted Timothy to “Use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake, and for thine oft infirmity”, 1 Timothy 5:23. Notice it is use, or take, not drink. The word “use” comes from the verb “to be necessary”. Timothy is not being exhorted to drink wine, but to use it for medicinal purposes. The water supply is pure in many countries now, so it is not necessary to use wine as a substitute for water. Wine-drinking has unholy associations in the modern world, so to drink wine is not advisable for the sake of the Christian testimony, and the danger of being carried off into drunkenness. The apostle will say in the next chapter that “all things are lawful unto me, but I will not be brought under the power of any”. He will warn in 8:12 that to sin against the brethren is to sin against Christ, and it is possible to sin by setting an example of wine-drinking that leads others astray. What is called “social drinking” is becoming increasingly acceptable today, but we should be very determined not to give in to the fashions of the world, less our testimony be spoiled. There is a vast array of perfectly healthy fruit-based drinks available in the Western World today, so we have no excuse for saying we need to have wine.

With such an one no not to eat- certainly this means “not eat the Lord’s Supper together”, but it goes much further, and withholds from this person the blessing of Christian company. It is important than after the due process of excommunication has been carried out, every believer in the assembly should abide by the decision taken, and cut the person off from fellowship. In this way the seriousness of the sin committed by this man is impressed upon all, including the man himself. It is the Lord’s will that serious sin should be met by serious consequences, and unless this happens there is very little hope of the man repenting. Those who continue to company with him actually prevent his restoration, as well as disobey Scripture.

5:12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?

For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? By using the word “also” the apostle is saying that he had the right to judge those who were within the assembly, (for he says this in verse 3, “have judged already”), but he had no mandate to “also” judge those without, or outside of the assembly. He gives the reason for that in the next verse.

Notice that there is a “within” and a “without” in connection with a local assembly. In the days of the apostles, a believer was either in a local assembly, or he was outside because he had been put away. The situation today is that there is a multitude of options for a believer. He has the choice of hundreds of denominational companies. It is clear, however, from what the apostle says here, that such a situation is not the mind of God. It should not be possible for a person to be put away from an assembly, only to join a denominational company. Those in the company he joins are now in fellowship with someone who has been put out of fellowship, therefore they are not in line with the will of God. The checks and safeguards that exist in a local assembly can prevent such a situation prevailing amongst them, but a denomination has no such safeguards, being constituted according to the ideas of men.

Notice also that a local assembly is a definite company, from which a person may be put away, and which has an inside and an outside. It is not some vague entity consisting of all in a locality who profess the name of Christ. This chapter envisages that the assembly gathers together, (verse 4), and has the ability and authority to act in the name of Christ, by the power He gives.

Do not ye judge them that are within? By putting this as a question, the apostle is forcing the Corinthians to consider whether or not they had risen to their responsibilities in this matter. The apostle did not have responsibility to judge the outside world, but they had a responsibility to come to decisions within the local assembly. This they were failing to do, with the consequence the evil was liable to spread.

There are some who will quote the Lord’s words when He said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged”, Matthew 7:1, forgetting that He also said, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgement”, John 7:24. The former statement forbids a censorious and harsh attitude to others; the latter statement places the duty on the believer to assess things in a righteous way, and not merely according to the way they appear.

5:13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

But them that are without God judgeth- the world of unsaved men is destined for the judgement of God. When a person gets saved they are separated from the world, and are no longer of it, although left in it, and sent into it, John 17:11,16. The believer has no mandate to judge the world, for all judgement has been assigned to the Son of God, John 5:22. All the believer has to do is live like Christ in the world, meet with fellow-believers in the assembly, and make the gospel available.

Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person- the final sentence of the chapter reiterates what the apostle has been saying throughout. They are to put out the person “therefore”; in other words, do it in line with the principles set out in the chapter, and not according to regulations devised by themselves. They are to do it also for the reasons set out in the chapter. If they considered carefully those reasons, they would surely be moved to act swiftly in the matter, and not avoid the issue as they had been doing.