1 Corinthians 5
1It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife.
2You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.
The Corinthian church was a very tolerant church, failing to discipline those in flagrant, unrepentant sin, even sin worse than would be reported among the Gentiles. It was said that some were sleeping with their own mothers, a heinous immorality. If the Corinthian church allowed this kind of behavior to continue knowingly, what wouldn’t they tolerate? This was a very worldly church which had grown soft to sin and open to compromise and immorality. Rather than mourn, they became arrogant and failed to remove the guilty one from the fellowship. When church discipline was needed, the church failed its calling.
3For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present.
4In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus,
5I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Paul, even though not actually present in Corinth, had decided what to do when he got there. He would assemble the people, and in the name of Jesus and with His power, deliver the unfaithful immoral believer over to Satan. The purpose of this was to communicate to the church that sin could not be tolerated in its midst because of the corrupting influence it has (v. 6). Secondly, it was for the potential restoration of the sinning believer. The hardened sinner needed to suffer the shame of being put out of the church and to lose out on the benefits of fellowship. If he loved Satan more than God, he would have to see what Satan would do to him when the church wasn’t there to buffer, or in this case, aid and abet his sin. The sinner needed to be forced to let sin work its full destructive force so that he might yet call out to God in this lifetime.
6Your boasting is not good Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?
7Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.
8Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Paul uses leaven (yeast) to describe the effects sin has on the body of Christ. A little bit that goes on tolerated and unconfronted in the body of Christ can pollute and contaminate the entire church. It creates an attitude of arrogance and compromise that God hates. The corrupting influence must be removed from the fellowship so that the lump of dough, the church, can be made new and clean once again. Christ died for sins once for all that we might not continue in sin but be set free from its power. Thus, to continue in sin is to spurn our Lord and His work on the cross. Sin must be confronted, and church discipline must be carried out for the sake of our Lord and for our own purity and preservation. The church was to come together to remember the sacrifice of Christ, not in wickedness and malice but in purity and truth. This is the only way that God could be honored.
9I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people;
10I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.
11But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one.
Paul had written to the Corinthians some time earlier to exhort them not to fellowship and keep association with those who claimed to be Christians who lived in immorality of any kind. Rebellious, hardened believers have an extremely defiling and corrupting influence on the body as a whole. Paul is not saying not to associate with unbelievers, for unbelievers are expected to live in evil ways. They need to be loved and given the gospel of Christ. It is not right to hide out from them, ignore them, spurn them for their evil, or hate them. They must be loved, prayed for, and witnessed to. Christ Himself was the friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19), and it is not for us to ignore the world. We are in it, but not of it. So it makes no sense to try to go out of the world and not let salt be salt and light be light (Matthew 5:13-16). The message Paul is trying to communicate is that Christians must stop associating with a professing brother or sister who refuses to repent. How drastic must the refusal to associate be? Paul says that Christians shouldn’t even share a meal with such a one. Those who are put out of the church need to know that they are still loved and are welcome back when they repent, but they cannot enjoy the benefits of fellowship. To fail to separate from a believer who is hardened in sin is to encourage him to continue in sin and to risk being compromised also. There is a time for reasoning, confrontation, and loving care and counsel, and then there comes a time for one to be cut off from fellowship. If the church actually practiced this for all sins as Paul suggests it should do, then it would be a much purer place with a much stronger testimony.
12For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?
13But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.
It is not the place of the Christian to judge and condemn outsiders, for those who are headed to hell will live for self. We already know this. They don’t need judgment, and Christ didn’t come to condemn them (John 3:17). He came to seek and save them (Luke 19:10), and so must we. However, we should discipline those who profess to be part of the church but who live consistently in sin. These need to be confronted as per the steps in Matthew 18:15-18, and if they still do not repent, they need to be put out of the fellowship. The goal is always restoration, and letting sin go unchecked and unchallenged with no consequences, is not going to bring restoration. If a church family loves one of its own who has fallen into rebellion, it must be willing to confront. If confrontation fails, then it is time for being removed from fellowship and choosing not to associate with them on Sunday or anytime.