Online Bible Commentary
1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 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. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner--not even to eat with such a person. 12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore "put away from yourselves the evil person." (NKJV)
In the previous passage Paul has called for a sexual immoral person to be excommunicated from the church. He called for the Corinthian Christians not to have anything to do with this person.
In this passage, he clarifies a previous letter that warned believers “not to keep company with sexually immoral people” (v. 9). It is thought that there was a previous letter written to the Corinthian church that had been lost. The fact that the previous letter was lost is of little consequence, for even if there was a previous letter God has chosen that its contents would not be part of His written word.
Paul’s clarification is to treat believers differently from unbelievers. Christians are to live by the commands of the Bible. If they do not, their sinful actions reflect poorly upon the church as a whole. The testimony of the church is compromised in the eyes of unbelievers.
So Paul clarifies that believers should, in fact must, have relations with unbelievers in the world (v. 10a). He refers to unbelievers according to some of the sins they practice, such as the “sexually immoral….the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters” (v. 10b). Believers are not to be of the world but they are in the world and so they must interact with unbelievers in order to save some.
Paul confirms in this passage again that Christians should not interact with other Christians who practice sinful lifestyles (v. 11a). He includes in this interaction that Christians should not even “eat with such a person” (v. 11b). This would rule out even meeting for lunch to discuss the wayward Christian’s lifestyle.
Next, Paul commands that we should not judge unbelievers, those “outside” the church (v. 12a). But we should judge Christians, those “inside” the church (v. 12b).
Christians should not judge non-Christians because “God judges” them when they pass from this earth (v. 13a). Since they have decided not to have a relationship with God while on earth they will be permanently separated from God for eternity. God resides in Heaven, so the non-Christian will spend eternity in Hell.
However, Christians should judge their own, their fellow Christians (v. 13b). This is necessary in order to preserve the integrity of the church in the eyes of the world. The church must be different from the world. If not, what does the church have to offer the unbeliever?
It is also necessary to judge our fellow Christians in order to bring them back into fellowship with the Lord. They are to be called out by the church to allow the church to pray for them with the goal of spiritual restoration.
Here it is important that we look at the recorded words of Jesus: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Mt. 7:1). The proper interpretation of this verse is to apply it not to actions of men but to motives of men. None of us are to judge the motives of men, because we are incapable of knowing their motives. Only God knows the heart.
So when judging fellow Christians we must also listen to their motive. If their motive indicates that they do not know they are committing a sin a rebuke is first in order. This will give them a chance to repent and ask for forgiveness. Spiritual restoration should always be our goal.