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1 corinthians 5 nrsv
1 Corinthians 5 NRSV

(1) It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father's wife. (2) And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you? (3) For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present I have already pronounced judgment (4) in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, (5) you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. (6) Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? (7) Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. (8) Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (9) I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons-- (10) not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. (11) But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. (12) For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? (13) God will judge those outside. "Drive out the wicked person from among you."

T ricky situations in community

Tricky Situations in Community

1 Corinthians 5

T he s ketchy details
the sketchy details

  • It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality [pornea] among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father's wife. (1Cor 5:1)

  • pornea= all extra-marital sex

  • “to have” = sexual relations

The possibilities
the possibilities

  • The son’s mother, alive or dead?

  • The father’s wife, slave or free? young or old?

  • The father and wife divorced?

  • The father Christian?

  • The son Christian?

  • The woman Christian?

    … we just don’t know, but Paul and the church in Corinth did.

T he parties
the parties

  • (2Co 7:12) “…it was not on account of the one who did the wrong, nor on account of the one who was wronged…”

  • the son did wrong

  • the father was wronged

  • silence about the woman’s conduct or any consequences indicates she was not Christian

  • Paul is much more concerned about the attitude of the church

The obvious question
the ‘obvious’ question

  • Would ordinary society in Corinth have been shocked and outraged at a marriage between a man and the second wife of his father?

  • “No one who has studied the state of Greek society will answer that question in the affirmative.

  • Everyone knows that there was not in those cities such strictness of moral judgement.”

    • Ramsay, Historical Commentary on First Corinthians, 37

Corinthian im morality
Corinthian (im)‘morality’

  • Large port city, two harbours

  • Hosted the Isthmian Games

  • Temple to Aphrodite, goddess of ‘love’

  • Openly sanctioned brothels

  • Intellectually astute, financially wealthy, morally corrupt

Big slack greek wedding
big slack Greek wedding

  • “Greek custom and law has always been very lax as to restrictions on marriage. Marriage of uncle and niece, or aunt and nephew, had always been freely permitted in Athens. Stepbrother and stepsister might contract marriage with one another, if their relationship were through their father (though not if it were through the mother)....It would be hard to find proof of any Greek objection to this Corinthian marriage even in the strictest period of Greek morality, if there ever was any strict period.”

  • “In short, the Corinthian church, when it condoned this crime, was simply judging as the Corinthians had always judged. It was not sinking below its pagan level. It was standing contentedly on that level.” Ramsay, 38

Not named among the pagans
“not named among the pagans”

“not” οὐδέ - oude , oo-deh'

  • From G3756 and G1161; nothowever, that is, neither, nor, noteven: - neither (indeed), never, no (more, nor, not), nor (yet), (also, even, then) not (even, so much as), + nothing, so much as.

    “named” ὀνομάζω - onomazō, on-om-ad'-zo

  • From G3686; to name, that is, assignanappellation; by extension to utter, mention, profess: - call, name.

Not named as a crime
“not named” [as a crime]

  • What the Corinthian church would have to deal with therefore was anindistinct borderline moral issue which would not be considered a judicial matter in Corinth.

  • And yet, it was very offensive to the Christian father whose Christian son had taken up with his (probably non-Christian) wife.

Social norms
social norms

  • There were all sorts of moral conundrums for the early Christians within Greco-Roman society

    • slave marriages (not legally recognised, dissoluble by the master)

    • infant exposure

    • sexual abuse of slaves

    • polygamy, adultery, incest

    • etc…

    • In many instances a moral judgement or rescue of a Christian was out of reach for the church.

H is options for justice
his options for justice

  • Sue at law?

    • “Not named” as a crime!

  • Murder/Retribution?

    • It’s his son!

  • Disinherit?

    • “avenge not yourselves”

For the powerless in pagan society there was one last recourse…

  • to invoke the judgment of the gods upon the offender.

  • Physical affliction was expected(fever)

  • Imprecation was feared and respected


  • “These forms played a great part in ancient life, and many examples of them have been preserved to our time. We find divine wrath and punishment thus invoked against thieves, slanderers, poisoners, assassins, an adopted child who had raised his hand against his foster mother, users of false weights, persons who refused to restore money deposited in their case, and so on. Even a mere advertisement of lost property was accompanied by a curse consigning to divine punishment anyone that found and did not restore the lost article.” Ramsay, 46

Deliver to satan
“deliver to Satan”

  • Christianised version of invoking the gods

  • Paul mentions this also in 1 Tim 1:20

    • “among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have turned over to Satan, so that they may learn not to blaspheme.”

    • Satan here is seen as God’s agent, not God’s enemy

    • The church surrenders an offender to God for rebuke, affliction and instruction

    • Imprecatory prayer brings relief, catharsis, reassurance and release to the victim

Avenge not yourselves
“avenge not yourselves”

  • Deut 32:35Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; because the day of their calamity is at hand, their doom comes swiftly. (36) Indeed the LORD will vindicate his people, have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone, neither bond nor free remaining.

  • Rom 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."

C omplacent church
complacent church

  • And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned…? (v.2)

  • Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? (v.6)

  • The church members:

    • indulged Christian freedom from ‘law’

    • dismissed the father’s need for justice and support

    • were unconcerned about church reputation

    • were insensitive to a member’s possible alienation

Paul contends
Paul contends…

that Christians are not free from

  • moral law

  • the body

  • communal concern for one another

  • responsibility to the reputation of the gospel

C hurch response to offence
church response to offence

  • it is not the business of just one or two

  • some problems affect the whole community

  • the ultimate aim is restoration, not judgement

  • the problem is not so much in the facts of the case, but the emotional state of the parties, what they can or can’t deal with

  • sometimes people just need space and time apart

Y east again
yeast… again!

the yeast of malice and evil vsthe unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (v.8)

  • Boasting “puffs up”

  • It is their complacency that Paul condemns

    Drive out the evil from among you. (v.13)

  • does not say evil person or wicked one

  • Paul says nothing about reversing the sexual alliances

  • Possibly it is the arrogance and boasting, and not the offending man, which Paul calls on them to purge

S hunning don t get mixed up with
shunning?! “don’t get mixed up with”

  • Jesus: ate with any and all who invited him

  • Paul: requires commitment/accountability

  • He adds ‘slanderer’ and ‘drunkard’ to the vice lists

  • In 1st century cultures, eating with someone was a form of social approval


  • In church scandals there is no such thing as a consensus. Everyone has their supporters

  • A censured offender can simply go to another church

  • Avoiding specific people can only be a personal decision; we cannot command it for others

  • Does it work?

  • Does it make us feel better?

  • What have we learned about ‘delivering to Satan’