1 Corinthians 5:9
I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
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(9) I wrote unto you in an epistle.—These words have given rise to some controversy as to whether the Apostle here refers to some former Epistle addressed to the Corinthian Church, and which has not been preserved, or whether the reference is not to this Epistle itself. It has been suggested by some who adopt the latter view that these words may have been added as an interpolation after the completion of the Epistle, and be intended to intensify the remarks made by the Apostle on this subject in 1Corinthians 5:6-8; 1Corinthians 6:9-20. Such an interpretation, however, seems rather strained. It is more natural to suppose that the reference is to an Epistle written to the Corinthians, probably from Ephesus, after a visit paid to Corinth of which we have no record, for in 2Corinthians 12:14; 2Corinthians 13:1, we read of a third visit being contemplated, whereas only one previous one is recorded. (See also Introduction.) The condition of the Church which caused the Apostle that “heaviness,” which he connects with this visit in 2Corinthians 2:1, would naturally have given rise to an Epistle containing the kind of direction here referred to.

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.

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!I wrote unto you - I have written ἔγραψα egrapsa. This word may either refer to this Epistle, or to some former epistle. It simply denotes that he had written to them, but whether in the former part of this, or in some former epistle which is now lost, cannot be determined by the use of this word.

In an epistle - ἐν τῇ ἐπιστολῇ en tē epistolē. There has been considerable diversity of opinion in regard to this expression. A large number of commentators as Chrysostom, Theodoret, Oecumenius, most of the Latin commentators, and nearly all the Dutch commentators suppose that this refers to the same Epistle (our 1 Corinthians), and that the apostle means to say that in the former part of this Epistle 1 Corinthians 5:2 he had given them this direction. And in support of this interpretation they say that τῇ tē here is used for ταυτῇ tautē, and appeal to the kindred passages in Romans 16:2; Colossians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; 2 Thessalonians 3:3-4. Many others - as Grotius, Doddridge, Rosenmuller, etc. - suppose it to refer to some other epistle which is now lost, and which had been sent to them before their messengers had reached him. This Epistle might have been very brief, and might have contained little more than this direction. That this is the correct opinion, may appear from the following considerations, namely:

(1) It is the natural and obvious interpretation - one that would strike the great mass of people. It is just such an expression as Paul would have used on the supposition that he had written a previous epistle.

(2) it is the very expression which he uses in 2 Corinthians 7:8, where he is referring to this Epistle as one which he had sent to them.

(3) it is not true that Paul had in any former part of this Epistle given this direction. He had commanded them to remove an incestuous person, and such a command might seem to imply that they ought not to keep company with such a person; but it was not a general command not to have contact with them.

(4) it is altogether probable that Paul would write more letters than we have preserved. We have but fourteen of his remaining. Yet he labored many years; founded many churches; and had frequent occasion to write to them.

(5) we know that a number of books have been lost which were either inspired or which were regarded as of authority by inspired men. Thus, the books of Jasher, of Iddo the seer, etc., are referred to in the Old Testament, and there is no improbability that similar instances may have occurred in regard to the writers of the New Testament.

(6) in 1 Corinthians 5:11, he expressly makes a distinction between the Epistle which he was then writing and the former one. "But now," that is, in this Epistle, "I have written (ἔγραψα egrapsa) to you," etc. an expression which he would not use if 1 Corinthians 5:9, referred to the same epistle. These considerations seem to me to be unanswerable, and to prove that Paul had sent another epistle to them in which he had given this direction.

(7) this opinion accords with that of a very large number of commentators. As an instance, Calvin says, "The Epistle of which he here speaks, is not now extant. Nor is it to be doubted that many others have perished; but it is sufficient that these survive to us which the Lord saw to be needful." If it be objected that this may affect the doctrine of the inspiration of the New Testament, since it is not to be supposed that God would suffer the writings of inspired men to be lost, we may reply:

(a) That there is no evidence that these were inspired. Paul often makes a distinction in regard to his own words and doctrines, as inspired or uninspired (see 1 Corinthians 7); and the same thing may have occurred in his writings.

(b) This does not affect the inspiration of the books which remain, even on the supposition that those which were lost were inspired. It does not prove that these are not from God. If a man loses a guinea it does not prove that those which he has not lost are counterfeit or worthless.

(c) If inspired, they may have answered the purpose which was designed by their inspiration - and then have been suffered to be lost - as all inspired books will be destroyed at the end of the world.

(d) It is to be remembered that a large part of the discourses of the inspired apostles, and even the Saviour himself John 21:25, have been lost. And why should it be deemed any more wonderful that inspired books should be lost than inspired oral teaching? Why more wonderful that a brief letter of Paul should be destroyed than that numerous discourses of him "who spake as never man spake," should be lost to the world?

(e) We should be thankful for the books that remain, and we may be assured that all the truth that is needful for our salvation has been preserved and is in our bands. That any inspired hooks have been preserved amidst the efforts which have been made to destroy them all, is more a matter of wonder than that a few have been lost, and should rather lead us to gratitude that we have them than to grief that a few, probably relating to local and comparatively unimportant matters, have been destroyed.


9. I wrote … in an epistle—rather, "in the Epistle": a former one not now extant. That Paul does not refer to the present letter is proved by the fact that no direction "not to company with fornicators" occurs in the previous part of it; also the words, "in an (or, the) epistle," could not have been added if he meant, "I have just written" (2Co 10:10). "His letters" (plural; not applying to merely one) confirm this. 2Co 7:8 also refers to our first Epistle, just as here a former letter is referred to by the same phrase. Paul probably wrote a former brief reply to inquiries of the Corinthians: our first Epistle, as it enters more fully into the same subject, has superseded the former, which the Holy Spirit did not design for the guidance of the Church in general, and which therefore has not been preserved. See my [2285]Introduction. It should seem that Paul had wrote so in some former epistle which he had directed to this church, which is lost; for we must think that Paul wrote more epistles to the several churches than those left us upon record in holy writ (yet so as not to undermine the perfection of the Holy Scriptures). By

fornicators are meant any sorts of unclean persons known to them; and the keeping company with them, which the apostle had prohibited to the Corinthians, was not a mere fellowship with them in their works of darkness, but any intimacy of communion with any such persons.

I wrote unto you in an epistle,..... Not in this same epistle, and in 1 Corinthians 5:2 as some think; for what is here observed is not written in either of those verses, but in some other epistle he had sent them before, as is clear from 1 Corinthians 5:11 which either came not to hand, or else was neglected by them; and so what he here says may be considered as a reproof to them, for taking no notice of his advice; but continuing to show respect to the incestuous person, though he in a former epistle had advised them to the contrary: no doubt the apostle wrote other epistles to the Corinthians, besides those that are in being; see 2 Corinthians 10:10 nor does such a supposition at all detract from the perfection of Scripture; for not all that were written by him were by divine inspiration; and as many as were so, and were necessary for the perfection of the canon of Scripture, and to instruct us in the whole counsel of God, have been preserved; nor is this any contradiction to this epistle's being his first to this church; for though it might not be his first to them, yet it is the first to them extant with us, and therefore so called: what he had written to them in another epistle was not

to company with fornicators; which he had not so fully explained, neither what fornicators he meant, nor what by keeping company with them; he therefore in this distinguishes upon the former, and enlarges his sense of the latter; declaring that they were not so much as to eat with such persons; which shows, that this prohibition does not regard unclean copulation, or a joining with them in the sin of fornication, they had been used to in a state of unregeneracy, for some sort of companying with fornicators is allowed of in the next verse; whereas no degree of a sinful mixture with them would ever be tolerated: but that it is to be understood of a civil society and familiar conversation with them; which might bring a reproach upon religion, be a stumbling to weak Christians, and be of dangerous consequence to themselves and others; who hereby might be allured and drawn by their example into the commission of the same sinful practices. The apostle seems to allude to the customs and usages of the Jews, who abstained from all civil commerce and familiar acquaintance with unbelievers. They say,

"that everyone that does not study in the law, , "it is forbidden to come near him, and to exercise merchandise with him, and much less to walk with him in the way", because there is no faith in him (m).''

(m) Zohar in Lev. fol. 33. 2.

{9} I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

(9) Now he speaks more generally: and that which he spoke before of the incestuous person he shows that it pertains to others, who are known to be wicked and those who through their wicked life are a slander to the Church, who ought also by lawful order be cast out of the community of the Church. And making mention of eating meals, either he means that feast of love at which the supper of the Lord was received, or else their common usage and manner of life. And this is to be properly understood, lest any man should think that either matrimony was broken by excommunication, or such duties hindered and cut off by it, as we owe one to another: children to their parents, subjects to their rulers, servants to their masters, and neighbour to neighbour, to win one another to God.

1 Corinthians 5:9. Sequence of thought: What I have written to you thus far concerning the exclusion of the incestuous person, and concerning the purging out of the leaven, leads me now to speak of the passage in my former letter which has been misunderstood among you, etc.

ἐν τῇ ἐπιστολῇ] i.e. in the letter which I wrote to you, and so: in my letter, by which Paul means the letter to the Corinthians, composed before the present one and in the possession of his readers, but not in ours. So rightly Ambrosiaster, and after him Calvin, Beza, Estius, Clarius, Zeger, Grotius, Calovius, Bengel, Wetstein, Mosheim, Semler, and many others, including most modern interpreters. Chrysostom, again, Theodoret, Theophylact, Erasmus, Cornelius a Lapide, Fabricius, Wolf, Glass, Baumgarten, Bolten, Stosch (de epp. ap. non deperd. 1753, p. 75 ff.), and Müller (de trib. Pauli itinerib. Corinth. suscept. de epistolisque ad eosd. non deperdit., Basil. 1831), understand it of the present Epistle, either supposing that a reference is intended to 1 Corinthians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 5:6, or even making ἔγρ. apply to 1 Corinthians 5:11. This method of interpretation arises for the most part from dogmatic prejudices,[824] and has against it the following considerations: first, the parallel passage in 2 Corinthians 7:8; secondly, that ἐν τῇ ἐπ. would in that case be singularly superfluous; thirdly, the fact that μὴ συναναμ. πόρν. occurs neither in 1 Corinthians 5:2 nor 1 Corinthians 5:6; and finally, that no occasion at all had been given in the preceding statements for any such misapprehension as is here corrected. Lange, in his Apostol. Zeitalter, I. p. 205, pronounces in a peculiarly positive way that the hypothesis of a lost Epistle is a “fiction;” Paul means the present letter, but distinguishes it as a letter from the ecstatic act which he had just performed through the medium of this letter, namely, the transference of himself in spirit into the midst of the church; what he wishes to declare is the permanent epistolary significance of that act. But this itself is quite an empty “fiction,” since there is not a trace of an ecstasy here, since Paul would, on this theory, have taken the very vaguest way possible of expressing his supposed meaning, and since the parallel statement in 2 Corinthians 7:8 is decisively against any such arbitrary fancies. It may be added that, when Rückert holds that the article here, and the absence of any defining adjective, prove the lost Epistle to have been the only one which Paul had then already sent to Corinth, this, on a comparison with 2 Corinthians 7:8, appears to be an over-hasty conclusion, although, so far as the fact itself is concerned, it may be regarded as correct, seeing that we have no hint of any other lost letter having also preceded our first Epistle.

συναναμιγν.] to mix oneself up with, have intercourse with, 2 Thessalonians 3:14; Athen. vi. p. 256 A; Lucian. Cont. xv. Comp the affirmative ΣΤΈΛΛΕΣΘΑΙ ἈΠΌ, 2 Thessalonians 3:6.

ΠΌΡΝΟς, in the N. T. and in Sir 23:16, signifies fornicator.[826] See also Lennep. Phalar. ep. xi. p. 60. 2.

[824] Grotius aptly remarks: “Satis Deo debemus, quod tot (epistolae) servatae sunt, ad quas si et singulorum vita et regimen ecclesiae dirigatur, bene erit.” Comp. Calvin. Calovius, in order to defend the integrity of the canon against the Roman Catholics, insists upon the distinction—which itself owes its origin to a dogmatic retrospective inference—between canon particularis and universalis, temporalis and perpetuus. Divine Providence, he holds, did not design the lost Epistle ad usum canonicum perpetuum of the whole church, and therefore allowed it to perish.

[826] In the classics, mostly of unnatural vice (with males). Becker, Charides, I. p. 346 ff.; Hermann, Privatalterth. § xxix. 22.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13. Citation and fuller explanation of a passage of the former letter which had been misinterpreted in Corinth by his malevolent adversaries. The new section begins without a connective particle, like 1 Corinthians 6:1, 1 Corinthians 5:1.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13. § 16. A PREVIOUS LETTER MISREAD. The Cor[850] Church were taking no action against the offender of § 15; in this neglect they disregarded the Apostle’s instructions conveyed by some recent letter. These instructions they appear to have misunderstood, reading them as though Paul forbade Christians to have any dealings with immoral persons, and asking for further explanation. Not improbably, they were making their uncertainty on the general question an excuse for hesitation in this urgent and flagrant case. Accordingly the Ap., after giving sentence upon the πόρνος of 1 Corinthians 5:1 f., repeats with all possible distinctness his direction to excommunicate persons of openly immoral life from the Church. Profligates of the world must be left to God’s sole judgment. P. felt that there was an evasion, prompted by the disposition to palter with sin, in the misunderstanding reported to him; hence the closing words of the last Section, condemning the “leaven of badness and wickedness” and commending the “unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”. On the nature and occasion of the lost letter, see Introd., chap. 2.

[850] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

9–13. Application of the same principle to offenders generally

9. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators] From the particular case, and the reflections it suggested, we now come to general rules of conduct on this subject. The Apostle would not have his converts flee from the world, as so many did in later ages, but remain in it and leaven it. This course must bring them into contact with many ungodly men, whose evil example they must not follow, but whom they cannot altogether avoid, unless they would retire altogether from the active business of life. But if any member of the Church bring dishonour on the Christian name by such sins as those which are named, the Christian is bound to shew his sense of such flagrant inconsistency and hypocrisy, by refusing even to sit down to a meal with him. It is not difficult to follow the spirit of such an exhortation now, though it may be impossible to observe its letter. We cannot help meeting men of depraved morals and irreligious lives in business or in general society; we can, nay we must, refrain from making such persons our associates and intimates.

in an epistle] The Greek has the Epistle, and as in 2 Corinthians 7:8 the same words are used in reference to this Epistle, it has been concluded that mention is here made of a former Epistle which is now lost. Estius calls attention to the fact that in 2 Corinthians 10:10 St Paul speaks of his ‘letters’ as though he had written more than one to the Corinthian Church. It is not probable that all St Paul’s letters have come down to us, and therefore we may conclude, with the majority of commentators, that the reference is to an Epistle no longer extant.

1 Corinthians 5:9. Ἔγαρψα, I wrote) A new part of the wepistle, corresponding to the former part; comp. 1 Corinthians 5:1.—ἐν τῇ ἐπιστολῇ, in the epistle) written before this one. The Corinthians had not sufficiently understood it; he now therefore explains it. There is no doubt, that Paul and Peter and the rest of the apostles wrote many things, which are not now extant; comp. 1 Corinthians 16:3; 2 Corinthians 10:10.—μὴ συναναμίγνυσθαι, not to be mixed together) in the way of association; 1 Corinthians 5:11 at the end.—πόρνοις, with fornicators) πόρνος, on other occasions signifies a male prostitute, but here it applies to every one, who commits fornication. Supply here also from 1 Corinthians 5:11, or covetous, etc.

Verses 9-13. - Correction of a mistaken inference which they had deduced from a former letter of St. Paul's. Verse 9. - In an Epistle; rather, in the Epistle; in some former letter to the Church, which is no longer extant (comp. 2 Corinthians 10:10). The attempt to get rid of so plain a statement, in the supposed interests of some superstitious notion that every line which an apostle wrote to a Church must necessarily have been inspired and infallible, is at once unscriptural and grossly superstitious. The notion that "the Epistle" intended is this Epistle is an absurdity invented in the interests of the same fiction. The only hypothesis which could give the least plausibility to such a view is that which makes this paragraph a postscript or marginal addition after the letter was finished; but there is little or nothing in favour of such a view. Not to company with. The Greek word is rather stronger: not to be mingled up among (comp. 2 Thessalonians 3:14). The spirit of the injunction is repeated in Ephesians 5:11, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." 1 Corinthians 5:9I write - in my epistle

American Rev., as it is I wrote. The reference is probably to a former letter now lost. Some explain ἔγραψα I wrote as the epistolary aorist (see on 1 John 2:13); but the words in my epistle seem to favor the other view.

To company (συναναμίγνυσθαι)

Only here and 2 Thessalonians 3:14. The translation company is inadequate, but cannot perhaps be bettered. The word is compounded of σύν together, ἀνά up and down among, and, μίγνυμι to mingle. It denotes, therefore, not only close, but habitual, intercourse.

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