1 Corinthians 5:1–13 (NKJV)
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.1 Corinthians 5:1-8
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.
Paul moves on from his fairly lengthy discussion of sectarianism to a denunciation of adultery (sexual immorality). The issue appears to be the church’s willingness to allow this type of sin to carry on with a member of the church. Paul scolds the church for tolerating this type of activity or lifestyle. He has heard the facts and determined that this is an intolerable sin. He instructs them to turn this individual over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. The meaning of this passage is unclear. Is this simply excommunicating the member from the membership of the church? Is this offering him up in death to somehow save his eternally secure spirit? Neither of these seem especially complete. Instead, this seems to be a rather aggressive combination of disfellowshipping the member and declaring him out of fellowship with God as well. This deep disconnect would then show the member the stark and frightening state of his soul without the fellowship of the people and without the fellowship of God. The hope and goal of this would be to help him see the error of his ways and repent. The additional benefit of this extreme measure would be to set a standard of behavior and lifestyle that would be a strong deterrent for anyone considering an adulterous relationship (porneia). The church must hold a line on sin that makes others aware of the standard of holiness, according to this passage. The image of the lump of bread having this leaven removed is a strong picture. We are to be unleavened, or pure, as opposed to leavened, or infected with sin. Pluck out the leaven, and the portion of the bread that contains it, and be unleavened, pure and useful to God.
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.1 Corinthians 5:9-13
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.”
Paul then continues by alluding to a previous letter (not recorded in the canon of Scriptures) that instructed the church and its members not to keep company with people who are sexually immoral. He here clarifies that this does not mean that Christians should never have any contact with unbelievers who engage in these lifestyles. Instead, the church is to be a witness to, a light in darkness to, the unsaved and unholy. Paul’s clarification here points to the need not to keep fellowship on an ecclesiastical level with those who live in sexual sin, but claim to be Christians. This type of hypocrisy cannot be tolerated, because it erodes holiness and the righteous standard within the church. Paul goes on to remind them of other lifestyles that should not be tolerated, such as covetousness, idolatry, drunkenness, extortion, or arguments including derogatory speech (slander). God will judge those outside the church, but the church should clean up its own house with God’s guidance. Therefore, we should know our people, help our people see the error of their ways with the hope that they will repent and sin no more. However, if a member will not repent, then they must be removed for their own good, and the good of the church. This seems harsh, and sounds rigid, which does not sit well in the world today. However, the principles are still valid. If we do not exhibit a life that is redeemed and changed, then what is this conversion we speak of? Be holy, confess your trespasses, and repent of them so that you may shine a bright light on the darkness of this world. This is our call and standard. Let’s get serious about being the people of God, and live it out every day.