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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 Corinthians 5

 

 

Verse 1

1 Corinthians 5:1. It is reported commonly Whoever reads attentively 2 Corinthians 1:20.—ii. 11 will easily perceive that the last verse of the preceding chapter is an introduction to the just act of discipline which St. Paul was going to exercise among them, though absent, as if he had been present; and therefore that verse ought properly to begin the present chapter. The writers of the New Testament seem to use the Greek word πορνεια, which we translate fornication, in the same sense that the Hebrews do צבות, zebut, which we also translate by the same word; though it is certain both these words in Sacred Scripture have a larger sense; for zebut among the Hebrews, signified uncleanness, or any flagitious scandalous crime. That the intermarrying of a son-in-law and a mother-in-law was not prohibited by the laws of the Roman empire, may be seen in Tully; but yet it was looked on as so scandalous and infamous, that it had never any countenance from practice. Tully's words in his oration, Pro Clutentio, arestrikingly agreeable to the present case, "Nubit genero focrus nullis hospitiis, nullis auctoribus, O scelus incredibile, et praeter hanc unam, in omni vita inauditum!" Dr. Whitby thinks that the scandalous stories which were generally told among the heathensoftheincestuouspracticesoftheprimitiveChristians, had their original from the misrepresentation of the fact mentioned in this verse. So fatal is the allowance of open sin in any church which pleads for experimental religion. See Acts 15:19 ; Acts 15:41. Locke, Hammond, Whitby, and Grotius de Jure B. et P. lib. 2 : 100: 5.


Verse 2

1 Corinthians 5:2. And ye are puffed up, &c.— And yet ye are elated, instead of mourning, as ye ought to do, in order to the expulsion of him who hath committed this. At that timethechurchusedpublichumiliations, with fasting and tears, when they passed a sentence of excommunication. Heylin.


Verse 3

1 Corinthians 5:3. But present in spirit Some think this refers to an extraordinary gift which St. Paul had of discerning clearly and circumstantially what was done at a distance. Comp. Colossians 2:5. 2 Kings 5:26 and Dr. Benson's Hist. vol. 2: p. 16.


Verse 4-5

1 Corinthians 5:4-5. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ That ye, being gathered together in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 5:5 do deliver such a one to Satan, &c. Some think, that as Satan is considered as the head of all who are not under Christ, as their head, (that is, in the church of Christ) every one who was cut off from the church must of course be delivered over to Satan; but it seems much more reasonable to believe, that this refers to the infliction of some bodily pains or diseases, in which Satan might act as the instrument of divine justice. Comp. 1 Timothy 1:20. And this was for the destruction of the flesh; probably for the emaciating and enfeebling of the powers of animal nature;—"That his body may be afflicted and brought down, and thus through divine grace the man led to true repentance and humiliation, that so his soul may be saved in the last day." See Doddridge, Locke, and Erasmus.


Verse 6

1 Corinthians 5:6. Your glorying is not good Some would read this interrogatively,—Have you not a fine subject for boasting?—Glorying or boasting is throughout the beginning of this Epistle spoken, of the preference they gave to their new leader, in opposition to St. Paul. See Locke, and 2 Corinthians 12.


Verse 7

1 Corinthians 5:7. Purge out therefore the old leaven The Apostle continues the figure from unleaved bread, 1 Corinthians 5:6 with a particular view to the Jewish passover, in which it was forbidden. "As therefore it was the manner of the Jews at their passover, especially on the day of preparation, to search diligently if the least morsel of leavened bread were left in their houses, and carefully to remove it all,—in like manner do you also put away this incestuous person, and every other contagious evil; commencing a people pure and incorrupt, in order to your due celebration of the Christian passover;—for even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us. We have a festival to keep, as well as the Jews; a paschal Lamb was slain and sacrificed for our redemption, of which the lamb offered under the law for the deliverance from Egypt was but a type; and their flight out of that house of bondage was but a typical representation of our hastening out of the more cruel bondage of sin." It is probable that this Epistle was written near the festival of Easter: see ch. 1 Corinthians 16:8 where the Apostle says he shall stay at Ephesus, where he then was, till Pentecost. See Bp. Lavington's Sermon, "On the nature and use of a type," Ridley's Sermons on the Christian Passover, and Heylin.


Verse 9

1 Corinthians 5:9. I wrote, &c.— I have written unto you in an [this] Epistle. Instead of fornicators, in this and the following verses, some very properly render the original word πορνοι, by lewd persons, as it is plain the Apostle intended the word should be taken in that extent; his argumentconcluding yet more strongly against some other species of lewdness, than against what is called simple fornication, detestable as that is. See on 1 Corinthians 5:1.


Verse 12

1 Corinthians 5:12. For what have I to do, &c.— Have I any thing to do to judge those which are without? No, judge ye them that are within; 1 Corinthians 5:13. (But those that are without God judgeth) and ye shall take away THE EVIL from among you. See Deuteronomy 13:5; Deuteronomy 17:7. In the words those that are without, Dr. Whitby thinks there is an oblique reference to the mother-in-law of the incestuous person, who was a heathen; which, from the Apostle's giving no direction concerning her, is not improbable. However, the views of the Apostle in this clause, if they took in this particular, seem to have been still more extensive. "Those who are without the pale of the Christian church, God judgeth; and, he will find a way sooner or later, to testify his aweful displeasure against them, for crimes which they have committed against the law of nature, (or rather the law of grace) and that acquaintance with it, which he knows they actually had or might have attained through the secret influences of the Spirit of God."

Inferences.—This chapter contains a very important doctrine,—the necessity of discipline in the church, and especially that part of discipline which consists of excommunication. St. Paul reproves the Corinthians for not removing the incestuous person from among them; which teaches us, that when persons who call themselves Christians, fall into sins which dishonour the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole church ought to mourn for it, and should not suffer those persons to remain in her communion, but chase from it such as are its reproach and scandal.

St. Paul most expressly declares, that we ought not to acknowledge for brethren, for Christians, the unclean, unjust, slanderous, drunkards, or other scandalous or avowed sinners; nor to have any familiar dealings with them. This is the law of Christ; this is what the Apostles have commanded in his name; this is the rule appointed by them in all churches, for the honour of the Christian religion, and the saving of the sinners themselves, as well as to prevent their evil examples from corrupting other members of the church; and this is what the first Christians religiously practised: on which account, we are forced to own that the church is not now governed as it ought to be, since this kind of excommunication is exercised hardly any where, except in some peculiar societies. Nevertheless, the duty of all true Christians is, to avoid as far as possible all correspondence with wicked men, and to distinguish themselves from them by a holy and exemplary life; nor should we ever vainly imagine, that being joined in communion with a Christian church, can excuse the guilt of immoral and scandalous practices, for which the wrath of God comes even upon the children of disobedience among the heathen.

God will have his time to judge them that are without; and not only "Christians at large," as some may fondly, and perhaps profanely, be ready to call themselves, but Mahometans and Pagans too will find articles like these sitting upon their souls with a dreadful weight; and, if sincere repentance do not make way for pardon, plunging them into the lowest abyss of misery;—into a state of everlasting separation from the blessed God, and all his holy and acceptable servants.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The Apostle, after reproving their party disputes, passes on to other gross offences which subsisted among them.

1. A most gross and scandalous crime had been committed by one of the members of the church; that he should have his father's wife, (see the Annotations;) a species of fornication abominable even in the eyes of civilized heathens, and bringing the greater reproach on their profession as Christians.

2. What had been one man's sin in the commission, had become the sin of the whole by their connivance. Ye are puffed up. Perhaps, their outward prosperity made them negligent of inward purity among the members of the church; and therefore, without mourning over such a scandalous offender, and casting him out of the church, as they ought to have done, he still continued to assemble with them, and they countenanced him in his wickedness. Note; (1.) In the most flourishing churches corruptions have crept in. (2.) A Christian's heart mourns over the offences of his brethren, and cannot but sensibly feel the wounds given thereby to the Redeemer's cause.

3. The Apostle pronounces sentence upon this incestuous Corinthian, and enjoins them to put it in force against him by an immediate excommunication. I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, having my heart ever solicitous for your welfare, and knowing by revelation the true state of this case, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, that he be without delay cast out from among you. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together to consult on this affair; and my Spirit is among you with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has left this authority to his church for the maintenance of holy discipline among the professing members of it; I have determined that you are in duty bound to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, expelling him from the society of the faithful, and delivering him back into the world that lieth under the dominion of the wicked one. And perhaps some signal mark of wrath was suffered to be inflicted upon his body, that, thus exposed to shame and suffering, he might yet perhaps be brought to repentance, and that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Note; It is as necessary for the backslider as it is for the glory of God, that he should smart for his unfaithfulness: such chastisement is for his salvation, not destruction.

4. He exhorts them to purge out the leaven of wickedness from among them. Your glorying is not good, it is peculiarly unseasonable and strange, when such offences are committed among you with impunity: know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? And that in like manner corrupt principles and practices, connived at in the least measure, may soon spread, and communicate universal infection to the church. Purge out therefore the old leaven, search out and remove all scandalous persons from among you, as carefully as the Jews examine their houses before the passover, that ye may be in reality a new lump as ye are in profession unleavened, in simplicity and truth devoted to the Lord Jesus as his peculiar people, and departing from all iniquity as the evidence that you belong to him. Note; (1.) The beginnings of evil are to be watched against and checked, lest, like the spreading mortification, the whole body become infected. (2.) They who are Christ's are new creatures. If we say we abide in him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.

5. He urges his exhortation by the strongest argument. For even Christ our passover, who was signified by the paschal Lamb, is sacrificed for us, that he might cleanse us from all iniquity, this being one great end of his death. Therefore let us keep the feast which he hath instituted instead of the paschal supper, not with old leaven, admitting profane and scandalous offenders to the table of the Lord; neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, not harbouring allowed sin, or living under the power of corruption, defiled in body, or soured with pride and party disputes; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, with real attachment of heart to the Saviour, and unfeigned love to the brethren. Note; (1.) The sacrifice of Christ, which we commemorate, should be a rich feast to our souls; since thereby every blessing in time and eternity is prepared for the faithful. (2.) They who approach the Lord's table, should examine themselves, whether their old leaven be purged out, and their hearts in simplicity brought to the spirit and temper of the Gospel.

2nd, Some conceive that the Apostle refers in 1 Corinthians 5:9 to a former Epistle which he had written to the Corinthians; others, to one he was writing when he heard from them, and began a new letter in answer to them; though perhaps what he speaks, may have only respect to what he had said before in this same Epistle. I wrote unto you in an Epistle, not to company with fornicators; to be separate from all familiar intercourse with those who bring such reproach on the Christian name. Yet my intention is not that you should be altogether secluded from the world, and refuse all civil intercourse with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world, so few would be left with whom to have any commerce in such an evil world as this is. But now 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; not only he should be excluded from eating bread with you at the Lord's table, but even all intercourse and connection with him should be cut off, and he should be shunned and avoided by you more than even the heathen themselves; that, being put to shame, he may yet be brought to repentance, and restored to the bosom of the church. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? As they make no profession of Christianity, they lie under none of our censures; and in civil affairs, as duty calls, may lawfully be conversed with: but do not ye judge them that are within? The professing members of the church come under your jurisdiction, and are, when they answer any of the before-mentioned characters, to be treated with this peculiar distance. But them that are without, who are open offenders, and live carelessly after the fashion of the world, God judgeth; to whose judgment they must be left. Therefore, since your power extends over your own community, put away from yourselves that wicked person.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 5:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/1-corinthians-5.html. 1801-1803.

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