1 Corinthians 5:11
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.
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(11) But now I have written unto you . . .—i.e., “But what I meant was” that you were not to associate with a Christian guilty of these things. It may seem strange that the word “idolater” should be included in this category; for in what sense could a “brother” be a worshipper of idols? It is probable that the word “idolater” has involved in it the idea, not merely of worshipping an image, but of the sensuality which accompanied various forms of heathen worship, and of which evidently some of the Corinthian brethren were partakers. (See Ephesians 5:5, and Colossians 3:5, where “idolatry” is identified with a vice kindred to lasciviousness.)

5:9-13 Christians are to avoid familiar converse with all who disgrace the Christian name. Such are only fit companions for their brethren in sin, and to such company they should be left, whenever it is possible to do so. Alas, that there are many called Christians, whose conversation is more dangerous than that of heathens!"But now." In this Epistle. This shows that he had written a former letter.

I have written to you. - Above. I have designed to give this injunction that you are to be entirely separated from one who is a professor of religion and who is guilty of these things.

Not to keep company - To be wholly separated and withdrawn from such a person. Not to associate with him in any manner.

If any man that is called a brother - Any professing Christian; any member of the church.

Be a fornicator ... - Like him who is mentioned, 1 Corinthians 5:1.

Or an idolater - This must mean those persons who, while they professed Christianity, still attended the idol feasts, and worshipped there. Perhaps a few such may have been found who had adopted the Christian profession hypocritically.

Or a railer - A reproachful man; a man of coarse, harsh, and bitter words; a man whose characteristic it was to abuse others; to vilify their character, and wound their feelings. It is needless to say how much this is contrary to the spirit of Christianity, and to the example of the Master, "who when he was reviled, reviled not again."

Or a drunkard - Perhaps there might have been some then in the church, as there are now, who were addicted to this vice. It has been the source of incalculable evils to the church; and the apostle, therefore, solemnly enjoins on Christians to have no fellowship with a man who is intemperate.

With such an one no not to eat - To have no contact or fellowship with him of any kind; not to do anything that would seem to acknowledge him as a brother; with such an one not even to eat at the same table. A similar course is enjoined by John; 2 John 1:10-11. This refers to the contact of common life, and not particularly to the communion. The true Christian was wholly to disown such a person, and not to do anything that would seem to imply that he regarded him as a Christian brother. It will be seen here that the rule was much more strict in regard to one who professed to be a Christian than to those who were known and acknowledged pagans. The reasons may have been:

(1) The necessity of keeping the church pure, and of not doing anything that would seem to imply that Christians were the patrons and friends of the intemperate and the wicked.

(2) in respect to the pagan, there could be no danger of its being supposed that Christians regarded them as brethren, or showed to them any more than the ordinary civilities of life; but in regard to those who professed to be Christians, but who were drunkards, or licentious, if a man was on terms of intimacy with them, it would seem as if he acknowledged them as brethren and recognized them as Christians.

(3) this entire separation and withdrawing from all communion was necessary in these times to save the church from scandal, and from the injurious reports which were circulated. The pagan accused Christians of all manner of crime and abominations. These reports were greatly injurious to the church. But it was evident that currency and plausibility would be given to them if it was known that Christians were on terms of intimacy and good fellowship with pagans and intemperate persons. Hence, it became necessary to withdraw wholly from them to withhold even the ordinary courtesies of life; and to draw a line of total and entire separation. Whether this rule in its utmost strictness is demanded now, since the nature of Christianity is known, and since religion cannot be in "so much" danger from such reports, may be made a question. I am inclined to the opinion that the ordinary civilities of life may be shown to such persons; though certainly nothing that would seem to recognize them as Christians. But as neighbors and relatives; as those who may be in distress and want, we are assuredly not forbidden to show toward them the offices of kindness and compassion. Whitby and some others, however, understand this of the communion of the Lord's Supper and of that only.

11. But now—"Now" does not express time, but "the case being so," namely, that to avoid fornicators, &c., of the world, you would have to leave the world altogether, which would be absurd. So "now" is used in Heb 11:16. Thus we avoid making the apostle now retract a command which he had before given.

I have written—that is, my meaning in the letter I wrote was "not to keep company," &c.

a brother—contrasted with a "fornicator … of the world" (1Co 5:10). There is less danger in associating with open worldlings than with carnal professors. Here, as in Eph 5:3, 5, "covetousness" is joined with "fornication": the common fount of both being "the fierce and ever fiercer longing of the creature, which has turned from God, to fill itself with the inferior objects of sense" [Trench, Greek Synonyms of the New Testament]. Hence "idolatry" is associated with them: and the covetous man is termed an "idolater" (Nu 25:1, 2). The Corinthians did not fall into open idolatry, but ate things offered to idols, so making a compromise with the heathen; just as they connived at fornication. Thus this verse prepares for the precepts in 1Co 8:4, &c. Compare the similar case of fornication, combined with a similar idolatrous compromise, after the pattern of Israel with the Midianites (Re 2:14).

no not to eat—not to sit at the same table with such; whether at the love-feasts (agapæ) or in private intercourse, much more at the Lord's table: at the last, too often now the guests "are not as children in one family, but like a heterogeneous crowd of strangers in an inn" [Bengel] (compare Ga 2:12; 2Jo 10, 11).

Of late there have been some disputes what eating is here intended, whether at the Lord’s table, or at our common tables. Intimacy of communion is that which undoubtedly is here signified by eating; and the apostle’s meaning is, that the members of this church should forbear any unnecessary fellowship and communion with any persons that went under the name of Christians, and yet indulged themselves in any notorious and scandalous courses of life; of which he reckoneth up several sorts.

1. Unclean persons, noted for any kind of uncleanness.

2. Covetous persons; by which he understands all such as, out of their too great love of money, either scandalously sought to add to their heap, or to detain what was others’ just due.

3. Idolaters; by which he understands such as out of fear, or to gain favour with the heathen amongst whom they lived, would frequent and perform Divine worship in the idol’s temple.

4. Railers, such as used their tongues intemperately and scandalously, to the prejudice of others’ reputation.

5. Drunkards; under which notion he comprehends all such as drank hot liquors intemperately, whether they had such an effect upon them as to deprive them of the use of their reason or not.

6. Extortioners, viz. such as, being in any place, exacted more than was their due of those that were under their power.

But yet by this interpretation the argument is not lost against eating with such at the table of the Lord, which is no more necessary communion with them, than civil eating is; for neither hath God spread that table for any such, neither ought any church to endure any such persons in its communion: nor are any Christians bound for ever to abide in the communion of that church, which shall wilfully neglect the purging out of such old leaven. Admitting this precept prohibitive of a civil intimacy with scandalous persons, though they be called brethren, it holds a fortiori, as a stronger argument against religious communion with such, in ordinances to which, apparently, they have no proximate right.

But now have I written unto you,.... Which shows, that what he had written before was at another time, and in another epistle; but not that what he was now writing was different from the former, only he explains the persons of whom, and the thing about which he has before written:

not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother, be a fornicator; or if any man that is a brother is called, or named a fornicator; or covetous, or an idolater; or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, with such an one, no, not to eat. The apostle's meaning is, that in his prohibition of keeping company with men of the above character, he would be understood of such persons as were called brethren; who had been received into the church, and had been looked upon, and had professed themselves to be such; and who might be mentioned by name, as notoriously guilty of fornication, covetousness, idolatry, and extortion, mentioned in the former verse; to which are added two other sins any of them might be addicted to, as "railing" either at their fellow brethren and Christians, or others giving reproachful language to them, and fixing invidious characters on them: and "drunkenness"; living in the frequent commission of that sin, and others before spoken of; and that such persons remaining impenitent and incorrigible, still persisting, in such a vicious course of life, after due admonition given them, were not only to be removed from their religious society, from the communion of the church, and be debarred sitting down, and eating with them at the Lord's table, or at their love feasts, but also were to be denied civil conversation and familiarity with them, and even not suffered to eat common food at the same table with them: which though lawful to be used with the men of the world, yet for some reasons were not advisable to be used with such; partly for vindicating the honour of religion, and preventing the stumbling of the weak; and partly to make such offenders ashamed, and bring them to repentance. The apostle alludes to the behaviour of the Jews, either to persons that were under any pollution, as a woman in the days of her separation, when her husband , "might not eat with her" off of the same plate, nor at the same table, nor on the same cloth; nor might she drink with him, nor mix his cup for him; and the same was observed to persons that had issues on them (o): or rather to such as were under "the sentence of excommunication", and such an one was obliged to sit the distance of four cubits from others, and who might not eat nor drink with him; nor was he allowed to wash and shave himself, nor a sufficiency of food, nor any to sit with him within the space of four cubits, except those of his house (p).

(o) Maimon. Hilch. Issure Bia, c. 11. sect. 17, 18, 19. & Tumaot Okelim, c. 16. sect. 11. & R. Abraham in ib. (p) T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 16. 1. & Piske Tosaph. in ib. art. 67, 68.

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.
1 Corinthians 5:11. Νυνὶ δέ] But thus (see on Romans 3:21), in reality as contrasted with the aforesaid misconstruction, I did write to you. Herewith Paul now introduces the true meaning of the passage from his letter quoted above, 1 Corinthians 5:9. Other expositors make νυνὶ δέ refer to time: but at present (Cajetanus, Morus, Pott, Heydenreich). But the whole context is against this; according to it, Paul’s design is simply to define more precisely the purport of that phrase in his former letters: “μὴ συναναμίγνυσθαι πόρνοις.” He has done this only negatively in 1 Corinthians 5:10, but goes on now to do it positively in 1 Corinthians 5:11. Further, were a contrast drawn between the present and the former letter, the present γράφω would have been more natural and more distinct than the epistolary aorist (see on Galatians 6:11); nay, to obviate the misunderstanding, it would have been a thing of necessity, 1 Corinthians 4:14.

ἀδελφὸς ὀνομαζόμ.] the most important element in the more definite explanation[838] which Paul is giving of his misunderstood prohibition: being called a brother, i.e. bearing the name of Christian. Comp ὄνομα ἔχειν, Revelation 3:1. Estius, following Ambrosiaster, Augustine, and Oecumenius, joins ὀνομαζ. with what comes after, in the sense of: if a brother is a notorious fornicator, having the name of being such. But ὀνομάζεσθαι means always simply to be called, without any such pregnancy of significance either in a good or bad sense (even in Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 5:3; Romans 15:20). Had Paul wished to express the meaning of: bearing the character and repute of a fornicator, he must have used the phrase ὀνομάζεσθαι εἶναι πόρνος (Plato, Pol. iv. p. 428 E; Prot. p. 311 E). Besides, it is unlikely that he should have expressly limited the prohibition to notorious fornicators alone, and thereby weakened its moral force.

λοίδορος] as in 1 Corinthians 6:10; comp on 1 Corinthians 4:12.

εἰδωλολάτρης] Estius observes well that this applies to the Christian, who “sive ex animo, seu metu, seu placendi voluntate, seu quavis alia ratione inductus, infidelium sacris se admiscet, ut vel idolum colat, opere saltem externo, vel de idolothytis edat.” Comp 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Corinthians 8:10, 1 Corinthians 10:7, 1 Corinthians 14:1; John 5:21; and Düsterdieck in loc[842] Among the frivolous Corinthians, such reversions to the old habits and fellowship might not be uncommon.

μέθυσος] used by old writers only of the female sex; but of the male also in later Greek, after Menander. See Wetstein; Lobeck, a[843] Phryn. p. 151 f.; Meineke, Menander, p. 27.

There are no traces discernible of a logical order in the series of vices here enumerated beyond this, that the three which are of specifically heathen character are put first, and then three others follow, which destroy the peace of the church-life.

τῷ τ. μηδὲ συνεσθ.] parallel, though by way of climax, to the μὴ συναναμ.; hence not anacoluthic in point of construction. As regards the meaning, again, we must not limit it to the Agapae (Vorstius, Mosheim, Stolz, Heydenreich), which would suit neither the quite general phrase συνεσθ. (comp 1 Corinthians 11:20) nor the intensifying μηδέ. It means: with one so constituted (comp 1 Corinthians 5:5) not even to have fellowship at table (neither to ask him to your table, nor sit with him at his). Comp Luke 15:2; Galatians 2:12. This implies of course of itself, that they ought also to have no fellowship at the Agapae with such persons. Εἰ δὲ κοινῆς τροφῆς τοῖς τοιούτοις οὐ δεῖ κοινωνεῖν, ἤπου γε μυστικῆς τε καὶ θείας, Theodoret. Respecting the distinction between the μὴ συναναμίγν. and excommunication, see 2 Thessalonians 3:15.

[838] This more detailed definition, therefore, cannot have been given expressly in the lost Epistle, but must have been taken for granted as self-evident. Otherwise they could not have so misinterpreted the συναναμίγ. πόρνοις as they had actually done. For there is no indication in the text that the misinterpretation was a wilful and malicious one, arising out of κακία κ. πονηρία, ver. 8 (Hofmann).

[842] n loc. refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[843] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

1 Corinthians 5:11. νῦν δὲ ἔγραψα, “But now I have written”—in contrast to the Εγραψαἐν τῇ ἐπιστ. of 1 Corinthians 5:9 : “If any one doubted the purport of the former letter, it shall be impossible to mistake my meaning now”. The logical (not temporal) sense of νῦν (or νυνί) is preferred by some interpreters: “But now—after this, as things now appear—(you must understand that) I wrote,” etc., this ἔγραψα thus repeating the former. Νυνὶ δὲ bears the like emphatic temporal sense in 2 Corinthians 8:11, Ephesians 2:13.—ἐάν τις ἀδελφὸς ὀνομαζόμενος, “if any one bearing the name of brother”—the point of the amended rule, which P. in writing before had apparently left to the common-sense of his readers, but is compelled to make explicit. So the μὴ συναναμίγνυσθαι clearly signifies not to hold fraternal, friendly commerce with vicious men: cf. 1 Corinthians 15:33. Such a one may be “named,” but is not, “a brother”; cf. Revelation 3:1.—Among the kinds of sinners proscribed P. now inserts the λοίδορος (see note on 1 Corinthians 4:12), the “railer,” “reviler”—the foul-mouthed abuser of others; and the μέθυσος, “drunkard”—a word bearing in earlier Gr[871] a comic sense, tipsy, afterwards seriously used (Lt[872]): these sins are companions; cf. 1 Corinthians 6:10.—τῷ τοιούτῳ μηδὲ συνεσθίειν: “with him that is such (I bid you) not even to eat”. The inf[873] is pr[874]—of usage, practice; cf. Galatians 2:12. “Eating together is a sign of friendliness; business transactions are not. If the ref[875] be restricted to Christian fellowship (sc. the Agapé), the emphatic not even is out of place” (Ed[876]). To forbid intercourse to this extent implies expulsion from the Church, and more; cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:14 f. (milder treatment), Matthew 18:17. That it should be possible for an actual “idolater”—not merely one who “sits in an idol’s house” (1 Corinthians 8:10) as a place indifferent, or who still in some sort believes in its power (1 Corinthians 8:7)—to be in the Church is evidence of the laxity of Cor[877] Christianity. That this was really the case, and that some Cor[878], perhaps of philosophical, semi-pantheistic tendencies, wished to combine the worship of the heathen temple with that of the Christian Church, appears likely from 1 Corinthians 10:14-22; the same syncretism is found in India now; cf. the case of Naaman, 2 Kings 5:17 f.

[871] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

J. B. Lightfoot’s (posthumous) Notes on Epp. of St. Paul (1895).

[873] infinitive mood.

[874] present tense.

[875] reference.

[876] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.2

[877] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[878] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

11. I have written] Literally, I wrote, i.e. in the former Epistle.

called a brother] i.e. as being so in name only.

an extortioner] Latin rapax, a kindred word to that used in the original. Distinct from the covetous man in that he uses force rather than fraud to deprive men of their property.

1 Corinthians 5:11. Ἀδελφὸς, a brother) an ordinary appellation.—ὀνομαζόμενος, who is called) A word in the middle voice [or rather, used in a middle sense, neither a favourable nor unfavourable sense].—πόρνος, a fornicator) the crimes are here enumerated, on account of which others are to be avoided; then in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, more are added, on account of which every man should fear for himself.[43]—μηδὲ συνεσθίειν, not so much as to eat) not only not with such a man as a host, but not even with him at the house of a third person. The lowest degree of intercourse, which men have, when mixed up in company with one another, is to eat together. Even among the Jews, חרם, excommunication took away all intercourse in regard to eating together. We must not eat with the man, who shall be unfit to eat along with the saints in the kingdom of God, 1 Corinthians 6:10. Let the Church of the present day take heed, in which the guests at the Lord’s table are not like children in one family, but like a number of strangers of various kinds in a large inn.

[43] Μέθυσος, a drunkard) It indicates the man who drinks large quantities of wine, although he does not break out into unbridled revellings.—V. g.

Verse 11. - But now I have written unto you. The tense used is, perhaps, the epistolary aorist, and is therefore equivalent to "but now I write to you;" otherwise the sense is, "but what I meant in my letter was," etc. The position of the words rather favours this view. St. Paul expressly tells them in 1 Corinthians 10:27 that he never intended to forbid all intercourse with heathens. They were not to be "taken out of the world," but to be free from evil (John 17:15). If any man that is called a brother. The word "brother" was used before the name "Christian" was accepted by the members of the Church. Or an idolater (see 1 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 10:7, 14). He might call himself a Christian, and yet be in reality an idolater (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5; Galatians 5:20; 1 John 5:21). With such a one no not to eat. If the phrase be pressed, it would involve exclusion from all privileges of the body, for the Holy Communion was celebrated in connection with the agapae. But the general meaning is that of 2 Thessalonians 3:6, "We command you... that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly." 1 Corinthians 5:11
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