When writing to the church in Corinth, the apostle Paul dealt with many problems and errors that existed in that congregation. One specific issue involved a son and his father’s wife. The record of this teaching is found in First Corinthians chapter five. Paul did not “beat around the bush” with this issue. He got right to the point when he wrote, “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 Cor. 5:1).
Many believe that the woman in question was not the mother of the son, but rather this would have been another woman that married the son’s father. Either way, the sin of fornication had been committed. This type of fornication was not even something that you would find among the Gentiles. Just imagine being a member of a congregation where this was occurring. Would it not grieve us that a brother would do such a thing? Then imagine the scandal that would exist. After all, Paul acknowledged that the sin was being “reported commonly”. In other words, it was no secret what was taking place.
What would we do in such a case? To make matters even worse, Paul indicated, “And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you” (1 Cor. 5:2). The brethren in Corinth were not even mildly upset about what had transpired. They were going about their daily lives as if things were normal and alright. Sadly, many congregations today might follow what the church at Corinth had been doing to that point, which was absolutely nothing! Do not believe me? Can you think of any congregation today that has a member or members who are guilty of fornication, or any unrepented sin, yet nothing has been done about the situation? I have a feeling that many Christians can.
Even though Paul was not in the city of Corinth, he still knew what should have been done. “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, 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” (1 Cor. 5:3-5). By the authority of Jesus Christ, the congregation should have already disciplined their erring brother by withdrawing fellowship from him. That is what Paul meant when he described delivering the brother to Satan. The goal was that the erring brother might come to sorrow after a godly sort, and thus repent. Therefore, the spirit could still obtain salvation on Judgment Day. Without disciplining the erring brother, the congregation was putting itself in a terrible condition.
Paul continued by writing, “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6)? By allowing the sin to remain undisciplined, the church at Corinth were allowing themselves to be corrupted as a whole. Therefore Paul strongly commanded, “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” (1 Cor. 5:7-8). This was not a mere suggestion, but a command that was to be obeyed. Paul had already taught the church in Corinth what they should have been doing. “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 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” (1 Cor. 5:9-11). The church was plainly taught that fellowship should be removed from an erring brother. Unfortunately, the church at Corinth had not done so.
Even today, there are many congregations that, likewise, refuse to do so. Paul finished his discourse on the matter by writing “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1 Cor. 5:12-13). Those outside of the church of Christ, God will handle. The erring brethren in the church of Christ should be dealt with now. Thankfully, when one reads Second Corinthians chapter two, he will find that the church at Corinth finally did what they should have already done prior. Also, the discipline worked, and the brother repented.
Sometimes it is good to remind brethren that First Corinthians chapter five is still in the Bible. It is not there to be ignored and forgotten. That chapter, along with others such as Second Thessalonians chapter three verse six and verses fourteen through fifteen, explicitly state that withdrawing of fellowship is commanded when necessary. Let us be brave enough, and faithful enough, to obey God’s commands.
~ Corey Barnette