1 Corinthians 5

The Word Made Fresh

1People have been telling me that some of you are engaged in sexual immorality. A man is shacking up with his father’s wife? Not even among the Gentiles have I heard of such a thing! 2And some of you are so arrogant – shouldn’t you be in mourning, and shouldn’t you have removed the one guilty of these things from among you?

2I’m absent in body, but present in spirit, 3and that is how I have already judged the one guilty of these things. 4When you gather, know that my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus. 5Give this man over to Satan, so that even when his body is destroyed, his soul may be spared in the day of the Lord Jesus.

6Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the entire lump of dough? 7Throw out the old yeast and become yourselves a new batch, for you are unleavened. But our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. 8So let’s celebrate the festival with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, not with the old yeast of hateful behavior.

9In my previous letter I told you not to gather with sexually immoral people. 10I wasn’t referring to those out in the world, or the greedy, or thieves, or idolaters, because then you would have to leave the world. 11But now I’m writing to tell you to stop associating with anyone who claims to be one of us, but is sexually immoral, or worships idols, or uses abusive language, or is a drunkard or a thief. Don’t even sit at the table with such people. 12After all, why should I take part in judging those outside? Judge those who are inside. 13God will judge those outside. “Put outside the wicked ones in your midst.”


1-2: Paul is alarmed that the congregation in Corinth seems to look away from a situation that will bring dishonor to the church; that of a man going to bed with his stepmother. While obedience to the law (in this case Leviticus 18:8) does not lead to salvation, the law does convict wrongdoing and its value is that it points us in the right direction. More than the sin that is being committed, though, Paul is upset that the church is complacent about it.

3-5: Paul claims spiritual authority even though he is physically absent. He insists that the man be excommunicated (“hand this man over to Satan”). The purpose of doing so is not to punish him, though, but rather in hopes that he will thereby be convicted of his error so that he might repent and yet be saved. Paul’s concern is also that the whole congregation is not influenced by the man’s lifestyle.

6-8: Apparently the congregation has been boasting about being open-minded toward such behavior, and Paul warns them that “a little yeast leavens the entire lump of dough,” or as we might say, “one rotten apple spoils the barrel.”

9-13: Paul’s primary concern is not with sin in general, but more specifically with sin in the church. If one commits to follow Jesus Christ, that one should live according to the will of God as revealed in the law. The church should not be concerned with judging those outside the body, but must insist on morality within the body. Part of the problem with the church today is that it is perceived as being overly judgmental, and part of that judgment has to do with the fact that the church, once but no longer representing a majority of the population, is guilty of expecting those outside the covenant to behave as though they were inside it.


The church is not to police the community, but to expect its membership to live in accordance with scripture. The old Ten Commandments is a good place to start.