1CORINTHIANS 5:1-13 (NIV – UK)
Dealing with a case of incest
1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: a man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 3 For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.
6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch – as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – 10 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. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked person from among you.’ [Deut. 13:5; 17:7; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21,24; 24:7]
THE NEED FOR REPENTANCE
What should it look like to be a church in a world full of alternative ideas about purity, lifestyle and holy living? This is what Paul starts to address here as he moves away from issues of wisdom and church unity. So there is a case of incest in the church in Corinth. It seems a man has been sleeping with his father’s wife – so it’s adulterous as well. But the real problem here is that they are proud of it (v. 2)! And it seems that the man in question is also unrepentant, as Paul’s instruction to the church is to ‘hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.’ By this, Paul means that the man should be thrown out of the church community and out in to the world in order that he then might recognise his sin and repent of it – for his own sake!
Paul then turns his attention to the importance of holiness and purity within the church. He says: ‘Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?’ Even the smallest amount of impurity taints the whole – and Paul is very concerned that impurity doesn’t spread throughout the Corinthian church. Paul sees the biggest threat to the purity of the church as coming from inside – it is the one who confesses Jesus as Lord but then lives an unrepentant life of sin and impurity that Paul is concerned about – and for that reason, Paul instructs the church to not even eat with such people (v. 11). We needn’t be concerned with the purity of the world around us – Paul says: ‘What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside’ (v. 12-13). We can’t expect those who don’t follow Jesus to live by the same standards of purity as those inside the church. But we should care about the purity of our church.
In all this, Paul is not suggesting that a church should be full of perfect people without sin – in fact, he knows perhaps even more than most that churches are full of fallen and broken people. The issue here is the role of repentance. We can be sure that, had the man who slept with his father’s wife been instantly repentant, Paul would not have included this in his letter. Paul knows that we are messy people with messy lives, but he is also insistent that we need to help one another as a church in our quest for purity and holy living through accountability and repentance.
Question: How often do you repent of things you’ve said or done? Do you have anyone you are accountable with?