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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

1 Corinthians 5

 

 

Verse 1

TURNING OVER TO SATAN FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF CARNALITY THAT THE SPIRIT MAY BE SAVED

1. You must remember that while the Corinthian church consisted of both Jews and Gentiles, the latter element decidedly predominated numerically. At Corinth there were several great and terrible sources of temptation to the infant church:

(a) The Greek philosophy, literature culture and refinement was full of idolatry and infidelity, and especially conducive to spiritual pride and contempt of the unassuming simplicity and humility peculiar to the Christian religion.

(b) The awful and predominant trend, especially of the lower classes, to gross debauchery and brutal sensuality; all this being augmented and encouraged by their Paganistic religion, in which they had been born and reared; e. g., Venus, the goddess of love, i. e., lust, was worshipped there more extravagantly than anywhere else in all the world, more than a thousand priestesses (i. e., lewd women) serving at her altars, proclaiming her divinity and vindicating her majesty, thus presenting the greatest possible encouragement to licentiousness.

(c) Corinth was the scene of the Isthmian games, celebrated there every quadrennium, commanding notoriety and patronage throughout the known world, and concentrating countless multitudes of people from all nationalities, which proved a great source of vicious influx. For the above reasons, you find much more warning and denunciation against sensuality and debauchery in the Corinthian epistles than elsewhere throughout the New Testament. It is pertinent to observe that this great multitude, having been recently converted largely out of the slums of the city, were exceedingly crude and rough material out of which to constitute a Christian church.

“Where sin did abound, there did grace much more abound” (Romans 5:20).

This Scripture was signally verified in the Corinthian church, where we find the most appalling profligacy on the one side and the brightest and even hyperbolical spiritual gifts on the other. “Truly fornication is heard of among you, and such fornication which is not among the heathens, that one should have his father’s wife.


Verse 2

2. And you have been puffed up, and did not rather mourn, in order that the one having done this deed may be taken from your midst.


Verse 3

3. For indeed I, being absent in body but present in spirit, have already as being present judged the one having thus done this.


Verse 4

4. In the name of the Lord Jesus your and my spirit being assembled with the power of the Lord Jesus.


Verse 5

5. To deliver such an one to Satan unto the destruction of carnality, in order that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” This was really an awful case of incestuous fornication, as the father was still living (2 Corinthians 7:12), the woman, of course, a second wife of the old man, and perhaps younger than the son. You see he terribly castigates and anathematizes the whole church for tolerating this irregularity, who instead of putting on mourning over it, were even inflated with spiritual pride. What is meant by delivering this man, or any other person, “unto Satan for the destruction of carnality”? God recognizes the devil as the god of this age

(2 Corinthians 4:4), having captured the world in the Fall, and ruling it during this age of darkness and sin. The word translated church, ecclesia, means the called out, i. e., not including any person in the world during the gospel ages while Satan has them, but only those who, responsive to the call of the Holy Ghost, have come out of the world and identified themselves with the Word of God. Since the Church of God contains all the human race who have come out of the world, and hence are no longer in it, you see very clearly the import of the proposition to turn one over to Satan; it is simply to turn him out of the church, back into the world, over which Satan is not only king, but god. How would this excommunication from the gospel church be conducive to the destruction of carnality and the salvation of the human spirit (which is none other than the man himself)? Do you not know that excommunication is one of the greatest means of grace this side of Heaven? I have witnessed many a glorious conversion at the altar, and heard the convert testify to the fact that for years he had been a wicked church member, but eventually fortunate to suffer a disgraceful excommunication, which, at first making him awfully mad, ultimated in a Sinai conviction rendering life intolerably miserable, evoking an importunate cry to God for mercy, all sinful practices abandoned in disgust, in agony of soul having sought the Lord day and night, victory had come at last. All such cases are parallel to the one under consideration. The names of persons in this way gloriously saved are now rife in my memory, some of whom are now in bright glory, who rejoiced to the day of their triumphant death that they were expelled from the church in disgrace, as they ever afterward believed that terrible discipline was God’s means of grace alone competent to awaken them from their carnal slumber in the cradle of dead church membership, and bring them to repentance, that they might get saved. “The day of the Lord Jesus” of course means the day of His coming for His saints, which shines out a beacon light throughout the New Testament. The saddest phenomena of the present age, and fearfully ominous of the awful tribulation coming on a wicked world and fallen church at race-horse speed, is the everywhere ostensible and indisputable fact that the general apostasy of the churches has already passed the excommunication station. Suppose a popular church in this city (Keene, N. H.) proceeded to expel her wicked members, a dozen others would be looking on with delight, hoping to take them in; hence you see the impracticability of disciplinary enforcement. When I was presiding elder in the Kentucky Conference, twenty-five years ago, a democratic church undertook to turn the drunkards out. Upon counting noses, behold, the drunkards had the majority, and of course a right to rule the church. While preaching in a Western city, a pastor gave us a cordial invitation to come and hold a revival in his church, at the same time notifying us to be sure that we say not a word against whisky, as the big end of his money came that way. If all the wicked members in the churches of this city, or any other, were excommunicated, it would actually bring a Judgment Day conviction on the people. A hush and a trepidation, a tremor and a solemn awe, as if the archangel of doom had come down and the mountains were crumbling beneath his mighty tread, and valleys leaping to his stentorian voice, would actually bring a nightmare and a paralysis on the wicked, and superinduce cries of mercy which would move Heaven, earth and Hell, and bring on the world such a revival of religion as has not been seen since the apostolic age.


Verse 6

6. Your boasting is not beautiful.” Oh! What a rebuke is this on the proud boasting of the popular churches over their numbers! Could they only see the eliminations of the Judgment Day, when their mighty host will be cut down to a corporal’s guard, their feathers would fall. “Do you not know that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” Leaven in the Bible always means corruption, i. e., sin; the woman and the meal in the parable of the kingdom is no exception, as the woman there is Mother Eve after the Fall, and the meal humanity in its three divisions, Ethiopian, Mongolian and Caucasian, including the whole human race, and all becoming so interpenetrated with the leaven of sin as in the awful finale to expedite destruction and doom in the great tribulation; the kingdom of God simultaneously existing in the world in mystery.


Verse 7

7. Purify out the old leaven in order that you may be a new lump, as you are free from leaven: for Christ indeed was made our Passover.” The summary of this verse is a most explicit commandment to get sanctified wholly, since in this way alone can we be thoroughly expurgated and made free from the old leaven of sin; Christ Himself, who is and always was perfectly free from sin, being our paragon. You know how explicit the law of Moses was in reference to the bread used in the Passover festival? It had to be perfectly free from leaven in order to represent Christ, who is perfectly free from sin. Hence you see we are to have the very purity of Christ Himself, which is original in Him, but exotic in us, having been relegated to us and conferred on us by the Holy Ghost.


Verse 8

8. Therefore let us not feast on the old leaven, nor the leaven of sin and iniquity, but on the unleavened bread of purity and truth.” The word here which I translate “purity” — the E.V. having “sincerity,” which is from the Latin sine, “without,” and cera, “wax,” meaning strained honey, which is a current Old Testament definition of sanctification, as you find a bee-hive in conversion, but in sanctification get all the wax, comb, trash and dead bees strained out, so that you feast on the pure, strained honey in the sanctified experience — is eilikrinia, from eile, “a sunbeam,” and krino, “to judge.” Hence it derived its signification from the custom of the ancients to expose a thing to the bright sunbeams shining through it, and see whether there was any impurity in it; e. g., when a little boy I have often been interested in looking at the bright beams of the morning sun shining in through the chinks of our log cottage, and revealing vast clouds of dust in the room, which were only visible where the solar rays interpenetrated. The application in the gracious economy of the symbol is transcendently forcible; i. e., that God proposes to make my heart so clean that when illuminated by the great Sun of Righteousness, the Omniscient Eye will see no impurity in it. You can spread yourself preaching Christian purity, and have no fear of putting it too strong, since Paul, inspired by the Holy Ghost, has already gone ahead of anything you can think or say.


Verse 9

9. We see from this verse that this is not the first epistle to the Corinthians, but the second, the first doubtless, with many others, having been lost.


Verse 10

10. Not” (to associate) “with fornicators of this world, for the covetous are extortioners or idolaters.” Since, moreover, you ought to come out from the world; as the very word “church” (ecclesia) means the called out, of course, responsive to the call, we all come out from the world.


Verses 11-13

11-13. But now I have written unto you not to associate with him; any one denominated a brother may be a covetous person, or a fornicator, or an idolater, or a scold, or a drunkard or an extortioner; with such an one not to eat — Take away the wicked person from you yourselves.” Here is a positive commandment for them not to associate or to eat with their old companions who are still living in sin in the dark vices here specified; at the same time commanding them to excommunicate the above mentioned incestuous man, and of course all others indulging in known sins. Suffice it to say neither that man nor any others were expelled on this occasion. Why, such was the effect of this letter, and Timothy’s preaching, and the ministry of Titus who followed, that, as we see in the second epistle, they all repented in sackcloth and ashes, good and bad down on their faces, for days and weeks mourning and crying to God for His mercy, turning the church into a Bochim of weeping; the incestuous man himself not only radically reforming and making things right as far as possible, but about to kill himself grieving, until Paul actually writes to them to stir up their Divine love in his behalf, and comfort him, “lest he may be swallowed up by excessive sorrow” (2 Corinthians 2:7).

Observe that Paul here tells them they are not to adjudicate the world, but to turn them all over to God and the Judgment Day; meanwhile they are to adjudge the church, expurgating everything which is out of harmony with the Word of God.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 5:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/1-corinthians-5.html.

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