Online Bible Commentary
Pursuit of Truth
1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles--that a man has his father's wife! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. 3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 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. 6 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 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. 8 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. (NKJV)
The writer of 1 Corinthians is the apostle Paul. He wrote this letter to the church at Corinth, Greece during his third missionary journey during his two year and three-month ministry in Ephesus, Asia in A. D. 54-56. The church in Corinth was established by Paul during his second missionary journey when he ministered there for a year and a half during A. D. 51-52.
In this passage, Paul addresses a report from the Corinth church that has come to his attention. The report is that one of the Corinth believers has had sexual relations with his “father’s wife” (v. 1b). This was not the man’s mother, but his step mother. The sin was one that “even pagans do not tolerate”, meaning that the act was one that would be illegal in Roman society (v. 1a).
Paul was appalled at the reaction of the church to this sexual sin. Some in the church were “puffed up” of the man’s sin (v. 2a). This term “puffed up” has been used by Paul previously in this letter and it refers to the arrogance of many in the Corinth church. There was a certain casualness in the church in tolerating sin, and, again, Paul is having to address this issue of arrogance.
The appropriate response for the church to this public sin is not to tolerate it but to mourn it and to discipline the one who has committed it (v. 2b). Tolerating the sin would destroy the testimony of the church in the community.
The discipline for this sin, according to Paul, is “that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you” (v. 2c). So Paul is calling for the wrongdoer to be excommunicated from the church, not tolerated.
Paul is judging this deed from afar, being “absent in body but present in spirit” (v. 3). He is judging the deed in the “name” and “power” of Jesus Christ (v. 4). Paul is saying that his judgement should be accepted as if coming from the Lord Himself.
Excommunication from the church, from the fellowship of believers, is the same as delivering the believer to “Satan” (v. 5a). In other words, the believer would then belong to the fellowship of unbelievers, having joined their ranks by his public identification with sin.
The “destruction of the flesh” is a reference to the earthly consequence of his sin (v. 5b). His sin, like all sin, has been forgiven by the work of Christ on the cross, so that the repentant sinner’s salvation is assured (v. 5c).
Paul continues by stating that the church’s act of tolerating the man’s sin is “not good” (v. 6a). He uses the example of leavened bread. In the Old Testament leavened bread was a reference to sin. Just as “a little leaven leavens the whole lump”, even one sin that is tolerated by the church would destroy the whole testimony of the church (v. 6b).
Paul concludes this passage by calling for the church to “purge out the old leaven”, to excommunicate the man from the church (v. 7a). The toleration by the church of the public sin has tainted the church and, consequently, Christ’s sacrifice, as the “Passover” lamb, on the cross which was the beginning of the corporate church (v. 7b).
The church should “keep the feast”, the purity of the church, not by embracing the “leaven (sin) of malice and wickedness” (v. 8a). The word “malice” refers to the purposeful commitment and toleration of something. The “something” in this case is “wickedness”, sin.
On the other hand, we keep the purity of the church by embracing “the unleavened (purity) bread of sincerity and truth” (v. 8b). The word “sincerity” refers to a sincere pursuit of something. The “something” in this case is the “truth”, the Gospel.
When a church, or a believer, sincerely pursues the truth of the Gospel they feast in the purity of the Lord. They are blessed by the Lord and they are a blessing to their community.