Letters to the Corinthians: Expel the Wicked

1 Corinthians 5 will be today’s subject. If you can, look up the word ‘corinthianize’ in the dictionary – you might find these definitions: To live like the Corinthians; hence, to lead a life of licentiousness and debauchery. or to live a promiscuous life. or to live in drunken immoral debauchery. You would think that after a year and half stay in the city, Paul wouldn’t be surprised by the attitude of the Corinthians that even the rest of the Greeks found scandalous. Maybe they’re a lot like us – if there’s no specific rule against it, then it must not be against the rules.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

So far I’ve kept the chapter and verse divisions, which by the way, were a later addition to the Bible. We can thank Stephen Langton for that back in the early 1200s. Before that, this whole book would be one really, really long letter. The only thing separating it from the next book would be a double space. Which is why I’ve opted not to post the verse numbers in with the divisions, they would not have originally been in there. It has provided reasonable gaps in which to take a break, but unfortunately here I can’t think of much to say that hasn’t been said, so lets read on …

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I still can’t think of much to say, so let’s read on some more …

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

This is the reference to the first letter that Paul wrote to the Corinthians – the previous letter or the warning letter, whatever you want to call it. I just find it refreshing that Paul thinks he’s communicating his ideas quite clearly, but the Corinthians misunderstand him. Why do we think we’re immune from making the same mistakes? I was just reading an account where a teacher tended to give the impression that certain believers weren’t real, true Christians. He eventually said that he didn’t mean to imply that was the case, but with dozens and possibly hundreds of people all having the same misunderstanding odds are the fault lies in the teaching or the teacher. Paul has to clarify himself because it seems that the Corinthians just didn’t get the message the first time around. Sadly, we have no idea what the original letter said.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

“Expel the wicked person from among you” is the recurring quote from Deuteronomy. Thanks to our concept of discipline, Christians have formalized the process of expelling believers and turned into an efficient process called disfellowshipping or excommunicating or shunning – but the result is the same. For most of us, this is the justification that gives us permission to decide who is holy and righteous enough to be one of us and who is wicked and sinful enough to be cast out, voted off of the island, or fired from the faith. But this isn’t the end of the story. Sadly we won’t get around to part 2 for quite some time. Spoiler Alert:

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely.  The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient.  Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.  I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.  Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything.  Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” (2 Cor. 5:7-11)

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