It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife.1 Corinthians 5:1-2. It is, &c. — As if he had said, I have spoken of coming to you with a rod of correction, and it is too probable I maybe laid under a necessity of using it, though it be an unwilling necessity: for it is commonly reported that there is fornication practised among you — The original word, πορνεια, implies criminal conversation of any kind whatever; and is used by the LXX., and by the writers of the New Testament, in the latitude which its correspondent word hath in the Hebrew language, namely, to denote all the different kinds of uncleanness committed, whether between men and women, or between men, or with beasts. Accordingly it is used in the plural number, chap. 1 Corinthians 7:2. Here the word signifies incest joined with adultery, the woman’s husband being still living, as appears from 2 Corinthians 7:12. In the Old Testament whoredom sometimes signifies idolatry, because the union of the Israelites with God as their king being represented by God himself as a marriage, their giving themselves up to idolatry was considered as adultery. Such fornication as is not named among the Gentiles — Degenerate as they are, and abandoned to very vile practices; but is generally much condemned and detested. Accordingly many quotations brought by Whitby and others on this text, show that incest was held in high abomination among the heathen. And an enormity of this kind, as is well known, is called by Cicero, scelus incredibile et inauditum, an incredible and unheard-of wickedness. That one should have — Should cohabit with, or should marry, his father’s wife — His step-mother, and that during his father’s life. And ye, notwithstanding, are puffed up — Glory in your present condition, (1 Corinthians 4:8; 1 Corinthians 4:10,) and make an ostentation of your spiritual gifts to the neglect of your duty. And have not rather mourned — Given evident proofs of sorrow, such as one would have supposed a crime like this should have occasioned to the whole society, throwing every member of it into a state of humiliation and self-abasement; that he who hath done this deed might be taken from among you — Might, at that time of solemn mourning, have been expelled from your communion. From the Corinthians tolerating this crime, Macknight infers “that the guilty person was of some note among them; perhaps one of the teachers of the faction, who, being greatly admired for his personal qualifications, had escaped censure by arguing that such marriages were not forbidden by the gospel.” “It is remarkable, that neither here, nor in any of the passages where this affair is spoken of, is the woman mentioned, who was the other party in the crime. Probably she was a heathen, consequently not subject to the discipline of the church.”
And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.
For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,1 Corinthians 5:3-5. I verily, as absent — Or though absent; in body, but present in spirit — Having a full (it seems a miraculous) view of the whole fact; have judged already — Passed sentence upon him by my apostolical authority, since you have neglected doing it; as though I were present — As deliberately, justly, and authoritatively; that hath so done — Hath acted in such a scandalous manner. In the name of our Lord Jesus — By his authority and command; when ye are gathered together — In an assembly for judgment, and calling upon his name, Matthew 18:20; and my spirit — Being present with you; with the power of our Lord Jesus — To confirm what you do; to deliver such a one to Satan — To expel him from your communion. This was the highest degree of punishment in the Christian Church; and we may observe, the passing this sentence was the act of the apostle, not of the Corinthians: whereupon usually followed terrors of conscience, and bodily pains or diseases inflicted by Satan, the terrible executioner of the divine justice and displeasure. For the destruction — Though slowly and gradually; of the flesh — Unless prevented by speedy repentance; that the spirit — Being brought to true contrition and humiliation; may be saved — From those infinitely more insupportable and everlasting agonies to which it might otherwise be doomed. It was observed, in the note on 1 Corinthians 4:21, that the apostles were empowered to punish notorious offenders miraculously with diseases and death. And doubtless the command here given by the apostle to deliver the incestuous person to Satan, was an exertion of that power, especially as it was to be done at the command of the inspired apostle, and by the power of the Lord Jesus. “Accordingly Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Œcumenius conjectured, that in consequence of his being delivered to Satan, the offender’s body was weakened and wasted by some painful disease. The Latin fathers and Beza, however, thought no such effect followed that sentence; because when the Corinthians were ordered (2 Corinthians 2:7) to forgive him, no mention is made of any bodily disease that was to be removed from him. Wherefore, by the destruction of the flesh, they understood the destruction of the offender’s pride, lust, and other fleshly passions; which they thought would be mortified, when he found himself despised and shunned by all. This interpretation, however, does not, in my opinion,” says Macknight, “agree with the threatenings written 1 Corinthians 4:21; 2 Corinthians 13:1-2; 2 Corinthians 13:10; nor with the apostle’s design in inflicting that punishment. For when the faction found the offender’s flesh wasted by some grievous disease, in consequence of the apostle’s sentence, it could not fail to terrify such of them as were capable of serious thought.”
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?1 Corinthians 5:6-8. Your glorying — Of the flourishing state of your church, or of your gifts, at such a time as this; is not good — Is very unseasonable, your church being defiled by tolerating such vices, and thereby exposed to God’s judgments, and also in danger of infection from such an example. Know ye not — Who boast so much of your knowledge; that a little leaven — One sin or one sinner; leaveneth the whole lump — Diffuses guilt and infection perhaps through a whole religious society or congregation; that is, this single example, if tolerated, will infect others, and draw them to the like evil practices. Purge out, therefore, the old leaven — Both of sinners and of sin; that ye may be a new lump — That your whole church may be a holy society; as ye are unleavened — As, by profession, you are obliged to be saints, and separated from sin, or that, being unleavened, ye may be a new lump, holy unto the Lord. For even Christ our passover — Who was represented by the paschal lamb, John 1:29; is sacrificed for us — Has been slain to make satisfaction for our sins, 1 Corinthians 15:3. As if he had said, It concerns you to let nothing of leaven, nothing of sin, be found about you, because as Christians we are now keeping a perpetual passover, of which the Jewish passover (about the time of which this epistle was written) was only a type. What exquisite skill, both here and everywhere, conducts the zeal of the inspired writer! How surprising a transition is here! And yet how perfectly natural! The apostle, speaking of the incestuous criminal, slides into his darling topic, a crucified Saviour! Who would have expected it on such an occasion? Yet when it is thus brought in, who does not see and admire both the propriety of the subject, and the delicacy of its introduction? Therefore let us keep the feast — Let us feed on him by faith; or let the whole of our lives be like the Jewish feast of passover and unleavened bread. Here is a plain allusion to the Lord’s supper, which was instituted in the room of the passover; not with the old leaven — Of heathenism or Judaism; or with such errors and vices as we were formerly addicted to, and influenced by: neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness — Nor allowing ourselves in any unkind and corrupt affections, or sinful practices, or tolerating among us any scandalous conduct. Malice is ill-will in the mind; but wickedness is ill-will expressed by actions, especially such as are accompanied with treachery. Hence the devil is styled ο πονηρος, the wicked one. But with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth — With the most simple and sincere desire of knowing and practising every branch of our duty; which if we really have, it will keep us from all these evils, and will ensure such a uniformity of behaviour, as will be honourable to our profession, and agreeable to the design of its glorious author. The apostle gives the epithet of unleavened to the graces of sincerity and truth, in allusion to the emblematical meaning of the unleavened bread, which the Israelites were to eat during the feast of the passover; for thereby they were taught to celebrate that feast with pious and holy dispositions.
Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:1 Corinthians 5:9-11. I wrote to you in a former epistle — Doubtless both Paul and the other apostles wrote many things which are not extant now; not to company — Μη συναναμιγνυσθαι, not to be intermixed, not to associate with fornicators, and such scandalous sinners; not to contract any intimacy or acquaintance with them, more than is absolutely necessary. Yet not altogether — I did not mean thereby that ye should altogether refrain from conversing with heathen, who are guilty of that sin, or others equally heinous; or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters — Sinners against themselves, their neighbour, and God. For then must ye needs go out of the world — Then all civil commerce must cease, the citizens of Corinth being generally such. So that going out of the world, which some account a perfection, Paul accounts an utter absurdity. But now I have written unto you — Now I explain my mind more fully, that I meant it of persons professing Christianity: not to keep company — To abstain from ordinary, familiar, unnecessary converse with them. If any man that is called a brother — A Christian, and a member of your church; be a fornicator, &c., with such a one, no not to eat — Which is the lowest degree of familiarity. The sense of this is, that a conscientious Christian should choose, as far as he can, the company, intercourse, and familiarity of good men, and such as fear God; and avoid, as far as his necessary affairs will permit, the conversation and fellowship of such as Paul here describes. This is a thing (what decay soever of public discipline there may be) in each particular Christian’s power.
Yet not altogether 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.
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.
For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?1 Corinthians 5:12-13. For, &c. — I speak of Christians only: for what have I to do to judge them that are without — Namely, heathen: do not ye judge them that are within? — Ye, as well as I, judge those of your own community: them that are without, God judgeth — The passing sentence on these God hath reserved to himself, and they shall not go unpunished, though they fall not under your censure. Therefore — In consideration of this, both in one view and the other, let it be your immediate care, as you regard the peace of the church, and the safety of your own souls; to put away from among yourselves — Speedily, and with all due solemnity; that wicked person — Whom I have mentioned, and any others, whose characters may, like his, be scandalous and infections. The apostle is thought, by some, to have written this, and the preceding verse, to show the Corinthians the reason why, after commanding them to pass so severe a sentence on the man, he said nothing to them concerning the woman, who was guilty with him. The discipline of the church was not to be exercised on persons out of it. Hence it appears that this woman was a heathen.
But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.