Lesson 17

Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles, that one has his father's wife. 5:2 You are puffed up, and didn't rather mourn, that he who had done this deed might be removed from among you. 5:3 For I most assuredly, as being absent in body but present in spirit, have already, as though I were present, judged him who has done this thing. 5:4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, you being gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5:5 are to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Today's Lesson 

Paul had dealt with the first major problem that existed among the Corinthians, the problem of divisions that had been formed by jealousies and strife. Paul's answer to this dilemma was that the Corinthians should rely on the Spirit of God and that they should follow the examples of the apostles. The apostles were like workmen that plow and plant the fields of the Lord. They do not own the fields themselves, God does. But, they are accountable to God for the authority and the power that God has given them to work.


However, this was not the only problem that existed in Corinth. The next issue that Paul raises is the issue of sexual immorality that has arisen in the assembly. Paul writes that this is even a form of sexual immorality that is not common among the Gentiles. A man of the assembly has taken his father's wife.


In the way that this accusation is framed, several things can be deduced. First, the woman taken by the man in most likely his step-mother. Paul does not say that she is his mother, only that she is his father's wife. It is unclear whether their relationship was formalized in marriage or if the woman was living with him as a concubine. But, the other thing that can most likely be deduced is that the woman is not a Christian. Paul's instructions are for how the church was to deal with the man. He does not authorize or include any action against the woman, hence it is likely that he considers her outside of his authority.


Paul's criticism is not just that this situation has occurred. He also has a complaint in how the Corinthians have responded to this situation. He tells them that they should have mourned. They should have removed the offending brother from their midst and mourned him as though he had died. Such ostracism is a common way of disciplining members of a group. They should have banished him from their assemblies. They should have excommunicated him.


Instead, the Corinthians became "puffed up." This means they were proud of the fact that such a thing could be tolerated. Apparently they believed that because of the forgiveness that is ours in Christ, that such worldly considerations were unimportant. Indeed, we see other instances of this attitude latter in this epistle in regards to sexual immorality of many types.


Paul solution for this problem is direct and emphatic. He tells them to immediately come together in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and to judge whether what is reported is true. If the man really has taken his father's wife and is guilty of sexual immorality with her, with the power of the Lord they are to withdraw themselves from fellowship with him.


Paul declares the severity of the punishment by saying they would be, in effect, delivering the man over to Satan "for the destruction of the flesh." Paul's implication is that by putting him out of the church, Satan will immediately pounce on him and devour him. Paul does not give up hope. In fact, he declares that this punishment should be done so that, "the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."


Sin cannot be tolerated or condoned. We cannot be led by the Spirit of God and be complacent about sin. God living in us is outraged at the presence of sin in our lives and in our society. Sin should cause us to mourn, to grieve, as though we are witnessing immediate death.


Why should this man be put out of the church and not others? What happened to, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone?" The problem that Paul is trying to deal with is that of a sinner who does not think that they are continuing to sin. If we acknowledge our sin and repent, God forgives and gives us the power to overcome. But if we refuse to acknowledge sin in our lives, it means that the Spirit of God is not working inside us to convict us of sin. The reason that this particular sinner should be put out of the church is because he did not think that what he was doing was sinful and believed that he had the right to continue to live with his father's wife.


Are there parts of your life in which you have grown complacent about your own sin or the sin of others? Are you still offended by the sin in your life as you were when you first came to Christ? 

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