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The Sunday Sermon – 1st Corinthians 5


We move to a new section of 1st Corinthians, and we are approaching a very serious subject. Paul now confronts another problem in the local church at Corinth. Remember that Corinth was a city of sin. The temple of the pagan goddess Aphrodite was situated there, and there were 1000 pagan priestesses plying their trade. These women were no more than prostitutes. Sexual sin was the main feature of Corinthian life. The Corinthian church had also been affected by this awful, sinful slack attitude. It is to this problem that Paul now turns.

Dealing with Lewdness!
These people in Corinth were drawn from heathen society. (The situation is not much different today! We can no longer even pretend to be a Christian society!) The heathen world of Paul’s day knew absolutely nothing about sexual chastity, taking their pleasure whenever and wherever they wanted it. The church must be different. But what should happen when a church member gets involved in such things. What should the church do? Should we ignore such matters? Paul certainly does not! Paul does not even introduce this matter, or slowly introduce it after his discussion on division. He simply begins, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you!”

The Case Described! V1. This was a particularly nasty case. A male member of the church had developed a relationship with his stepmother. There is no record that this woman was a church member, for Paul does not take her to task. Neither is there any reference to the man’s father, so we may assume that he was either dead or divorced. But this man was living in an incestuous relationship with his father’s wife. This situation would have been abhorrent even to the most filthy pagan, but as far as a Christian is concerned, it is utterly forbidden. Leviticus 18:8 The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness. Sexual sin is particularly condemned in the Bible, and the Bible makes it absolutely clear that there are certain people who, while their sin is still being practised, is not repented of, and thus unforgiven, cannot be members of the church, or of Christ’s body, or of His kingdom. They may claim to be Christians, but such a thing cannot be! 1 Cor. 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Ephesians. 5:3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 1 Thes. 4:3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: Jude 1:4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Jude 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

The Complacency Deplored! V2. What was making the situation at Corinth even worse was that the local church was tolerating the matter! This matter should never have been tolerated! Instead the church should have mourned about it! The Greek word that is translated ‘mourned’ specifically refers to mourning for the dead. The reaction of the church should have been like having a death in the home! Instead, believing that they were, as we have seen, the church with everything, a ‘super-church’ they were so puffed up with their own pride that they did nothing about the matter. They were so busy congratulating themselves over their great church, that they ignored a major problems in their midst! They had no right to be proud of their church; indeed, they should be mourning and praying that the Lord would deal with the matter. SIN ALWAYS OUGHT TO SHOCK THE CHISTIAN – AND NEVER MORE THAN WHEN IT OCCURS IN THE CHURCH!

The Culpable Disciplined! V3-5. Paul lays out the method of discipline to be employed in this case:
It is to be done in Christ’s name! In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ Note that it is OUR Lord Jesus Christ! This man was after all a professing Christian. We share a common bond, we are all His, therefore we desire that His name is glorified, so we must always live for Him!
It is to be done at the church meeting! when ye are gathered together Paul would be unable to be present at such a meeting, but he would be with them in spirit!
It is to involve excommunication! To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh This is an interesting phrase. It can mean nothing other than excommunication, for the guilty party is to be delivered unto Satan, to be left out in the world, the sphere of the Devil, and to be cut off from the worship and fellowship of the church. In fact there are terrible consequences involved. We know that sin is one of the factors in many of the diseases and sicknesses of this world. The unrepentant sinner is to be left in the world for the destruction of his flesh! God can actually discipline a person by physical infliction! Sometimes God has to bring a person very low, before that one will repent of their sin and return to Him. Do you not believe this? Look at some of these verses, 1 Cor. 11:30-32 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. John 15:2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Rev. 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Proverbs 3:11-12 My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.
It is to have a restorative intention! that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Paul’s hope is that this wayward one would so suffer from his discipline that he will repent of his sins, and return to his first love.

The new-born Christian must learn quickly to eschew the practices of the world! This case of Paul’s at Corinth was an awful, filthy matter. But we may apply it to the situation today. The loose and abominable practices of this world must never be the practice of the Christian believer. We would not, I am sure, engage in this kind of filthiness. Adultery, fornication, sexual impurity before marriage, co-habitation. And what about what you see? What about your daily paper? What about some of these ‘red-top’ tabloids, with their demeaning and provocative pictures of young girls on page three? Remember what Jesus said to His disciples, Matthew 5:27-28 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Is that not what we do when we buy these papers, or when we leave the TV switched on during some old filthy programme?

Danger with Leaven!
1 Cor. 5:6. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
Now there was a more general lesson to be learned from this incident. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump! In the Bible leaven is a fermenting agent, and it usually stands for sin or some sinful influence. It was dough kept over from the previous batch, and which in the keeping had fermented and so would corrupt the whole lump. It had to be removed, completely eradicated! A little bit of tolerated sin ruins the whole church! Paul specifically mentions their glorying! There is that little bit of leaven. They gloried in this man (not in his sin, of course, but in this man). He was perhaps the top man in the local church! What a great catch he was! How they had rejoiced when such a man had come into the assembly. Perhaps he had been one of the deepest dyed sinners in Corinth, one of the wickedest men in the town, and now he was joining the church! And now, what great offerings he gave! What great gifts he possessed! What would the church do without this man! Yet his influence on the church was anything but Godly, helpful of blessed! So Paul says, 1 Cor. 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. There is an OT reference here. The Passover bread was always unleavened. According to Jewish law, in every house which would keep Passover, the Jew must take a candle, and he must search the house, so that all the leaven is cleansed from the house before Passover can be kept. So Paul adopts this as an illustration of the Christian and the church. We are to search for the leaven! We are to purge our selves and the Lord’s house of sin, and malice and wickedness! Otherwise our lives and our fellowship will be ruined by the corrosive and corrupting influence of sin!

Difference in Lifestyles!
Finally Paul draws up a contrast between the way the world thinks of sin and the way that the church thinks of sin, and how we are to react to that sin. His argument, which is a classic treatment of the relationship between church and world, may be summed up in a few simple statements:-

In the World – but not of it! Paul seems to have written a previous letter to this church, asking them to refrain from the company of evil men. They had misunderstood, thinking that Paul meant that they were not to go anywhere near the people who were their neighbours, who just happened not to be Christians. Paul corrects this misunderstanding. Of course we are to associate with the sinners of this world! We are to live in this world, even though we do not belong to it! We are to be an influence for good in this world! Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. And we are to win other souls for Jesus! How can we do this if we cannot approach them or speak to them or try to reach them where they are?

In the World – but not like it! And this is the key! Some Christians feel that in order to win people from the world they have to take on board this world’s culture or its appearance. In this world we are to be different! We are to have different values, different speech, different motives, different ways. We must stick out like a sore thumb in this world! We are to be in the world, but the world must recognise that we are out of place, uncomfortable with its ways and its ethics. Loom different, act differently, be different.

The church must be in the WORLD, but THE WORLD MUST NEVER BE IN THE CHURCH! And Paul finishes this chapter by insisting that when a person declares that they are a believer, we have the right to sit in judgment on their behaviour. As far as the unbeliever is concerned, only God can pass judgement on them. That is not the Christian’s responsibility. As far as the church is concerned, let no man say, “Who am I to judge!” Paul says, 1 Cor. 5:11 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. Most commentators think that this refers to their place at the Lord’s table.

So we have a great responsibility in the Lord’s Church. We must look for leaven, for sin, before it becomes such a problem that it ruins the fellowship of saints, and destroys the work of the Lord. We must do so without the respect of persons. It is our responsibility! We must be sure to make contact with this world, and we must be sure that we avoid any possibility that we appear like it!

From → Sermon Notes

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