Series on I Corinthians, II Moral laxity, A Purify the Fellowship, Text; 5:1-13, Title: Expelled


This passage of Scripture is difficult, not only to hear, but to obey. Although it is needed more than ever, in our litigious society the lawsuits and publicity surrounding cases of church discipline complicate the situation. When I was a boy  expulsion from school was a threat spoken in whispered tones. Today it is commonplace. Living in a community equally divided between Jews, Protestants and Roman Catholics, I was often reminded by the Protestants of the terrors of Catholicism with the hushed statement, “they excommunicate you know,” as if there could be nothing more reprehensible than that. How sad the state of the Church, even then. And yet here in the infallible Word of God is a passage that clearly commands excommunication, that is: removal from the fellowship of the visible church, expulsion from the fellowship of believers, and enforced separation from the table of the Lord. Sometimes the truth is hard and lies are easy. The Apostle speaks clearly, and with authority with regard to the shameful sin in the Corinthian church. Let us look at the report, the removal, the righteousness, and the rule.

I The Report

it is actually reported begins the Apostle in verses 1 and 2, It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife.  And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? The Greek indicates a general knowledge. In other words, it was public. Rebecca Hagelin, a caring mother and Heritage Foundation author and speaker recently told about a trip she took to Disney world with three of her own children and three other teens. On I-95 from Virginia they were first assaulted by tacky billboards saying, “Topless, we bare, we  dare.” They next pulled into a gas station selling ice cream. When she came out of the restroom, the girls were standing by a counter with boxes of the “Horniest Goatweed sex stimulating pills for men and women.” After she waved the girls away to pay the bill she then turned around to find them at a rack with pornographic magazines. Next they decided to stop for a hamburger and she was thinking they would escape, but there in the corner was a TV with a made for TV movie in which there was nudity and sexual situations, as they are euphemistically called. So a family can’t drive down the road, get a scoop of ice cream or even eat hamburgers without being assaulted, and we wonder why we have problems. And it comes into the safety of our homes via the internet. But with all of that the incident in Corinth was worse. One of the members of the Corinthian church was guilty of a sexual sin. He was living with his step-mother. in the Old Testament Absalom, the wicked son of David sinned with his father's harem and was called a stench in his father's nostrils, and David upon his return put those women away. Reuben the son of Jacob committed a similar sin and lost his rights as the firstborn because of it. But as Paul says even the pagans who were known for their filthy behavior looked down upon this sin. Yet the Corinthian Christians were proud in spite of it. They thought they were so spiritual. This is the heart of the problem. they really thought they were so strong they could tolerate this. They remind me of the man who was aboard a merchant steamer and he cut a whole in the side of the ship. The crew was alarmed and confronted him, and he said, “What difference does it make to you? The hole's under my own bunk!” That's like a church member today saying my sin is a private matter. In joining the local church we become part of a family. We become obligated to one another. We accept the good of the church as taking priority over our own lives. Of course they were all sinners, including Paul and he doesn't deal with all the sins this way, but this was a public reproach.

II The Removal

Now no individual today could do what Paul did in verses 3-5, Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. Today a court of elders must pass judgment, but Paul was an Apostle and he had the authority to act unilaterally. So since the Corinthian church had not passed judgement, Paul did. He tells them what to do. With the judgment already made, they are to meet together as if Paul was present, which he is in spirit, recognizing also that they meet in the presence of Jesus, and with the power and authority of Jesus they are to deliver this man over to satan. This is a pronouncement that he no longer belongs to the family of God. He is returned to the world which he left when he professed Christ. He is no longer recognized as a child of God, but as a child of the devil, the god of this present evil age. Notice the pronouncement is final only if he does not repent. Paul sees it as remedial. The purpose is to destroy the sinful nature that the spirit might be saved. It happens! Robert Robinson a baptist preacher who influenced Spurgeon wrote the beautiful hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Tune My Heart to Sing Thy Grace,” at age 23. Later in life he fell under bad influences in doctrine and life, but as he was riding in a stage coach one day a young woman engaged him in conversation and reading from a book before her she quoted verses from that hymn, “Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love,” and he was overcome with remorse. He was buried at Cambridge, England with Christian honor. True children of God, says the Westminster Confession of Faith, “May fall into grievous sins and for a time continue therein, but they are never utterly destitute of that seed of God out of which by the operation of the Spirit they may in due time be revived.” The excommunication is intended to promote repentance.

III The Righteousness

The  apostle now turns to the righteousness and purity which should be the goal of the Church in verses 6-8, Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?  Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast-as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. He does this by contrasting their experience with the Israelites in Egypt at the Passover. The Lord preserved the firstborn of all Israel when they put the blood of a lamb upon the doorpost of their homes. In the ensuing years they commemorated this event as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and they prepared for it by a diligent and exhaustive search through the house to remove every trace of leaven. In fact in Exodus 12 Moses says anyone caught eating leaven would be cut off from his people. Now, says Paul, Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Jesus died as the lamb of God who takes away our sin. Therefore how much more should we be diligent to pursue purity. We are in a continual feast and, not one week but every week, we should be cleaning out the yeast, that is the evil, with the same diligence that the Israelites searched for leaven in their homes. Sometimes we are like the man who had a little white dog. He kept him very well groomed and spotlessly clean. Then one day it snowed and looking out the window he saw a drab looking dog and wondered where it came from. It turned out to be his own. Isaiah 1:18 says, "Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. The Church often misses God's standard. Jesus died not just that we might be forgiven, but that we might be holy. I Peter 2:24 says,  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. We need to remember that our concern for purity must be based on the extravagant grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

IV The Rule

From all of this Paul comes to a conclusion in verses 9-13, I have written 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 you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. 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 man from among you.” This conclusion we must share. We are to keep the church pure and not tolerate open, public, flagrant sin . Paul makes abundantly clear that the separation he advocates is not separation from sinners. Jesus ate and drank with sinners. If someone is an unbeliever we should associate with them for the sake of the gospel. We should not separate from the world in that sense, but we must be willing to deal with unbelief and impenitence in the church as Paul says in verses 12 and 13. In a recent issue of the AARP magazine, not noted for its sterling journalism, they had a section entitled “God and me.” They interviewed a spiritualist, a Muslim, an agnostic, a Jewish comedienne who follows the Kabala, a form of mysticism and a U.S. senator from Illinois, Barak Obama,  who is supposed to be a member of the United Church of Christ. He doesn’t believe anyone will go to hell. He is not sure anyone will go to heaven either, and he said, quote, “i don’t presume to have knowledge of what will happen after i die.” I ask, what is the Bible all about? Ultimately we keep our churches pure because the grace of the Lord Jesus demands it. We read in I Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.