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Introduction to 1st Corinthians Chapter 5



This chapter is entirely occupied with a notice of an offence which existed in the church at Corinth, and with a statement of the measures which the apostle expected them to pursue in regard to it. Of the existence of this offence he had been informed, probably by "those of the house of Chloe," 1 Co 1:11, and there is reason to suppose that they had not even alluded to it in the letter which they had sent to him asking advice. See 1 Co 7:1. Comp. the Introduction. The apostle 1 Co 5:1 reproves them for tolerating a species of licentiousness which was not tolerated even by the heathens; he reproves them 1 Co 5:2 for being puffed up with pride even while this scandal existed in their church; he ordered them forthwith to purify the church by removing the incestuous person, 1 Co 5:4,5 and exhorted them to preserve themselves from the influence which a single corrupt person might have, operating like leaven in a mass 1 Co 5:6,7. Then, lest they should mistake his meaning, and suppose that by commanding them not to keep company with licentious persons, 1 Co 5:9, he meant to say, that they should withdraw from all intercourse with the heathen, who were known to be idolaters and corrupt, he says that that former command was not designed to forbid all intercourse with them, 1 Co 5:9-12); but that he meant his injunction now to extend particularly to such as as were professed members of the church; that they were not to cut off all intercourse with society at large because it was corrupt; that if any man professed to be a Christian and yet was guilty of such practices, they were to disown him, 1 Co 5:11; that it was not his province, nor did he assume it, to judge the heathen world which was without the church, 1 Co 5:12; but that this was entirely consistent with the view that eh had a right to exercise discipline within the church, on such as professed to be Christians; and that therefore they were bound to put away that wicked person.

Verse 1. It is reported. Greek, It is heard. There is a rumour. That rumour had been brought to Paul, probably by the members of the family of Chloe, 1 Co 1:11.

Commonly. olwv. Everywhere. It is a matter of common fame. It is so public that it cannot be concealed; and so certain that it cannot be denied. This was an offence, he informs us, which even the heathen would not justify or tolerate; and, therefore, the report had spread not only in the churches, but even among the heathen, to the great scandal of religion. When a report obtains such a circulation, it is certainly time to investigate it, and to correct the evil.

That there is fornication. See Barnes "Ac 15:20".

The word is here used to denote incest; for the apostle immediately explains the nature of the offence.

And such fornication, etc. An offence that is not tolerated or known among the heathen. This greatly aggravated the offence, that in a Christian church a crime should be tolerated among its members which even gross heathens would regard with abhorrence. That this offence was regarded with abhorrence by even the heathens has been abundantly proved by quotations from classic writers. See Weststein, Bloomfield, and Whitby. Cicero says of the offence, expressly, that "it was an incredible and unheard-of crime." Pro Cluen. 6, 6. When Paul says that it was not "so much as named among the Gentiles," he doubtless uses the word onomazetai in the sense of named with approbation, tolerated, or allowed. The crime was known in a few instances, but chiefly of those who were princes and rulers; but it was nowhere regarded with approbation, but was always treated as abominable wickedness. All that the connexion requires us to understand by the word "named" here is, that it was not tolerated or allowed; it was treated with abhorrence, and it was therefore more scandalous that it was allowed in a Christian church. Whitby supposes that this offence that was tolerated in the church at Corinth gave rise to the scandals that were circulated among the heathen respecting the early Christians, that they allowed of licentious intercourse among the members of their churches. This reproach was circulated extensively among the heathen, and the primitive Christians were at much pains to refute it.

That one should have. Probably as his wife; or it may mean simply that he had criminal intercourse with her. Perhaps some man had parted with his wife, on some account, and his Son had married her, or maintained her for criminal intercourse. It is evident from 2 Co 7:12, that the person who had suffered the wrong, as well as he who had done it, was still alive. Whether this was marriage or concubinage has been disputed by commentators, and it is not possible, perhaps, to determine. See the subject discussed in Bloomfield.

{*} "fornication" "impurity" {a} "one should" De 27:20

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