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Sexual Immorality Defiles the Church


It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. 2And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you?

3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present I have already pronounced judgment 4in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

6 Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. 8Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Sexual Immorality Must Be Judged

9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons— 10not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. 11But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. 12For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? 13God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”


8. Now, in the solemnity of this sacred feast we must abstain from leaven, as God commanded the fathers to abstain. But from what leaven? As the outward passover was to them a figure of the true passover, so its appendages were figures of the reality which we at this day possess. If, therefore, we would wish to feed on Christ’s flesh and blood, let us bring to this feast sincerity and truth Let these be our loaves of unleavened bread Away with all malice and wickedness, for it is unlawful to mix up leaven with the passover In fine, he declares that we shall be members of Christ only when we shall have renounced malice and deceit. In the meantime we must carefully observe this passage, as showing that the ancient passover was not merely μνημοσυνον, 293293     Our author most probably alludes to Exodus 12:14, “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial,” etc. The term used in the Septuagint is μνημοσυνον, answering to the Hebrew term זכרון. — Ed a memorial of a past benefit, but also a sacrament, representing Christ who was to come, from whom we have this privilege, that we pass from death to life. Otherwise, it would not hold good, that in Christ is the body of the legal shadows. (Colossians 2:17.) This passage will also be of service for setting aside the sacrilege of the Papal mass. For Paul does not teach that Christ is offered daily, but that the sacrifice having been offered up once for all, it remains that the spiritual feast be celebrated during our whole life.

9. I wrote to you in an epistle. The epistle of which he speaks is not at this day extant. Nor is there any doubt that many others are lost. It is enough, however, that those have been preserved to us which the Lord foresaw would suffice. But this passage, in consequence of its obscurity, has been twisted to a variety of interpretations, which I do not think it necessary for me to take up time in setting aside, but will simply bring forward what appears to me to be its true meaning. He reminds the Corinthians of what he had already enjoined upon them — that they should refrain from intercourse with the wicked. For the word rendered to keep company with, means to be on terms of familiarity with any one, and to be in habits of close intimacy with him. 294294     The original word, συναναμίγνυσθαι, literally means to be mixed up together with It is the rendering of the Septuagint for the Hebrew word יתבולל, in Hosea 7:8 Ephraim hath mixed himself among the people. — Ed Now, his reminding them of this tends to expose their remissness, inasmuch as they had been admonished, and yet had remained inactive.

He adds an exception, that they may the better understand that this refers particularly to those that belong to the Church, as they did not require to be admonished 295295     “Ce seroit vne chose superflue de les admonester,” etc.; — “It were a superfluous thing to admonish them,” etc. to avoid the society of the world. In short, then, he prohibits the Corinthians from holding intercourse with those who, while professing to be believers, do, nevertheless, live wickedly and to the dishonor of God. “Let all that wish to be reckoned brethren, either live holily and becomingly, or be excommunicated from the society of the pious, and let all the good refrain from intercourse and familiarity with them. It were superfluous to speak as to the openly wicked, for you ought of your own accord to shun them, without any admonition from me.” This exception, however, increases the criminality of remissness, inasmuch as they cherished in the bosom of the Church an openly wicked person; for it is more disgraceful to neglect those of your own household than to neglect strangers.

10. Since you would have required. It is as to this clause especially that interpreters are not agreed. For some say, “You must sooner quit Greece.” Ambrose, on the other hand, says, “You must rather die.” Erasmus turns it into the optative, as if Paul said, “Would that it were allowable for you to leave the world altogether; 296296     “The rendering of Erasmus is as follows: “Alioqui utinam videlicet e mundo exissetis;” — “Otherwise I would, truly, that you had departed out of the world.” but as you cannot do this, you must at least quit the society of those who falsely assume the name of Christians, and in the meantime exhibit in their lives the worst example.” Chrysostom’s exposition has more appearance of truth. According to him, the meaning is this: “When I command you to shun fornicators, I do not mean all such; otherwise you would require to go in quest of another world; for we must live among thorns so long as we sojourn on earth. This only do I require, that you do not keep company with fornicators, who wish to be regarded as brethren, lest you should seem by your sufferance to approve of their wickedness.” Thus the term world here, must be taken to mean the present life, as in John 17:15

I pray not, Father, that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest deliver them from the evil.

Against this exposition a question might be proposed by way of objection: “As Paul said this at a time when Christians were as yet mingled with heathens, and dispersed among them, what ought to be done now, when all have given themselves to Christ in name? For even in the present day we must go out of the world, if we would avoid the society of the wicked; and there are none that are strangers, when all take upon themselves Christ’s name, and are consecrated to him by baptism.” Should any one feel inclined to follow Chrysostom, he will find no difficulty in replying, to this effect: that Paul here took for granted what was true — that, where there is the power of excommunication, there is an easy remedy for effecting a separation between the good and the bad, if Churches do their duty. As to strangers, the Christians at Corinth had no jurisdiction, and they could not restrain their dissolute manner of life. Hence they must of necessity have quitted the world, if they wished to avoid the society of the wicked, whose vices they could not cure.

For my own part, as I do not willingly adopt interpretations which cannot be made to suit the words, otherwise than by twisting the words so as to suit them, I prefer one that is different from all these, taking the word rendered to go out as meaning to be separated, and the term world as meaning the pollutions of the world “What need have you of an injunction as to the children of this world, (Luke 16:8,) for having once for all renounced the world, it becomes you to stand aloof from their society; for the whole world lieth in the wicked one.” 297297     “Car tout le monde est mis a mal;” — “For the whole world is addicted to evil.” (1 John 5:19.) If any one is not satisfied with this interpretation, here is still another that is probable: “I do not write to you in general terms, that you should shun the society of the fornicators of this world, though that you ought to do, without any admonition from me.” I prefer, however, the former; and I am not the first contriver of it, but, while it has been brought forward previously by others, I have adapted it more fully, if I mistake not, to Paul’s thread of discourse. There is, then, 298298     “En ceste sentence;” — “In this sentence.” a sort of intentional omission, when he says that he makes no mention of those that are without, inasmuch as the Corinthians ought to be already separated from them, that they may know that even at home 299299     “C’est a dire, entr’eux;” — “That is to say, among themselves.” they required to maintain this discipline of avoiding the wicked.

11. If he who is called a brother In the Greek there is a participle 300300     “Au texte Grec il y a de mot a mot, Si aucun frere nomme,” etc.; — “In the Greek text it literally, If any one, called a brother,” etc. without a verb. 301301     It is so according to the common reading, which is as follows: — ἐάν τις, ἀδελφὸς ὀνομαζόμενος, ἣ πόρνος, ἣ πλεονέκτης, κ. τ. λ..” If any one, called a brother — either a fornicator, or covetous,” etc.; but, as stated by Bloomfield, “seven MSS., and many versions, and Fathers, the Ed. Princ., and those of Beza, Schmid., and Beng., have , (before πόρνος,) which is approved by Wets., and Matth., and edited by Griesb., Knapp., Vat., and Tittm.;” and, in Bloomfield’s opinion, “rightly.” — Ed Those that view this as referring to what follows, bring out here a forced meaning, and at variance with Paul’s intention. I confess, indeed, that that is a just sentiment, 302302     “Qu’ils en tirent;” — “Which they draw from it.” and worthy of being particularly noticed — that no one can be punished by the decision of the Church, but one whose sin has become matter of notoriety; but these words of Paul cannot be made to bear that meaning. What he means, then, is this: “If any one is reckoned a brother among you, and at the same time leads a wicked life, and such as is unbecoming a Christian, keep aloof from his society.” In short, being called a brother, means here a false profession, which has no corresponding reality. Farther, he does not make a complete enumeration of crimes, but merely mentions five or six by way of example, and then afterwards, under the expression such an one, he sums up the whole; and he does not mention any but what fall under the knowledge of men. For inward impiety, and anything that is secret, does not fall within the judgment of the Church.

It is uncertain, however, what he means by an idolater For how can he be devoted to idolatry who has made a profession of Christ? Some are of opinion that there were among the Corinthians at that time some who received Christ but in half, and in the mean time were involved, nevertheless, in corrupt superstition, as the Israelites of old, and afterwards the Samaritans maintained a kind of worship of God, but at the same time polluted it with wicked superstitions. For my part, I rather understand it of those who, while they held idols in contempt, gave, nevertheless, a pretended homage to the idols, with the view of gratifying the wicked. Paul declares that such persons ought not to be tolerated in the society of Christians; and not without good reason, inasmuch as they made so little account of trampling God’s glory under foot. We must, however, observe the circumstances of the case — that, while they had a Church there, in which they might worship God in purity, and have the lawful use of the sacraments, they came into the Church in such a way as not to renounce the profane fellowship of the wicked. I make this observation, in order that no one may think that we ought to employ equally severe measures against those who, while at this day dispersed under the tyranny of the Pope, pollute themselves with many corrupt rites. These indeed, I maintain, sin generally in this respect, and they ought, I acknowledge, to be sharply dealt with, and diligently urged, 303303     “Il les faut redarguer auec seuerite, et les soliciter continuellement par admonitions;” — “They ought to be reproved with severity, and plied perseveringly with admonitions.” that they may learn at length to consecrate themselves wholly to Christ; but I dare not go so far as to reckon them worthy of excommunication, for their case is different. 304304     “Car leur condition n’est pas telle comme estoit celle des Corinthiens;” — “For their condition is not like that of the Corinthians.”

With such an one not even to take food. In the first place, we must ascertain whether he addresses here the whole Church, or merely individuals. I answer, that this is said, indeed, to individuals, but, at the same time, it is connected with their discipline in common; for the power of excommunicating is not allowed to any individual member, but to the entire body. When, therefore, the Church has excommunicated any one, no believer ought to receive him into terms of intimacy with him; otherwise the authority of the Church would be brought into contempt, if each individual were at liberty to admit to his table those who have been excluded from the table of the Lord. By partaking of food here, is meant either living together, or familiar association in meals. For if, on going into an inn, I see one who has been excommunicated sitting at table, there is nothing to hinder me from dining with him; for I have not authority to exclude him. What Paul means is, that, in so far as it is in our power, we are to shun the society of those whom the Church has cut off from her communion.

The Roman antichrist, not content with this severity, has burst forth into interdicts, prohibiting any one from helping one that has been excommunicated to food, or fuel, or drink, or any other of the supports of life. 305305     “Est venu furieusement jusques aux defenses et menaces, Que nul ne fust si hardi de donner a boire ou a manger, ou de feu a celuy qui seroit excommunier, ou de luy aider aucunement des choses necessaires a la vie presente;” — “Has in his fury gone so far as to issue forth prohibitions and threatenings — ‘Let no one be so daring as to give meat, or drink, or fuel, to the man who has been excommunicated, or to help him in any way with the things necessary for the present life.’” Now, that is not strictness of discipline, but tyrannical and barbarous cruelty, that is altogether at variance with Paul’s intention. For he means not that he should be counted as an enemy, but as a brother, (2 Thessalonians 3:15;) for in putting this public mark of disgrace upon him, the intention is, that he may be filled with shame, and brought to repentance. And with this dreadful cruelty, if God is pleased to permit, do they rage even against the innocent. 306306     “Et ces bourreaux encore exercent ceste cruaute extreme, mesme contre les innocens;” — “And these hangmen do, besides, exercise this extreme cruelty even against the innocent.” Now, granting that there are sometimes those who are not undeserving of this punishment, I affirm, on the other hand, that this kind of interdict 307307     “Telle facon d’excommunier;” — “Such a method of excommunication.” is altogether unsuitable to an ecclesiastical court.

12. For what have I to do to judge them that are without? There is nothing to hinder us from judging these also — nay more, even devils themselves are not exempt from the judgment of the word which is committed to us. But Paul is speaking here of the jurisdiction that belongs peculiarly to the Church. “The Lord has furnished us with this power, that we may exercise it upon those who belong to his household. For this chastisement is a part of discipline which is confined to the Church, and does not extend to strangers. We do not therefore pronounce upon them their condemnation, because the Lord has not subjected them to our cognizance and jurisdiction, in so far as that chastisement and censure are concerned. We are, therefore, constrained to leave them to the judgment of God.” It is in this sense that Paul says, that God will judge them, because he allows them to wander about 308308     Et courir a trauers champs;” — “And run across the fields.” unbridled like wild beasts, because there is no one that can restrain their wantonness.

13. Put away that wicked person. This is commonly explained as referring to the person who was guilty of an illicit connection with his mother-in-law. For as to those who understand the expression to mean — “Put away evil or wickedness,” they are refuted by the Greek words made use of by Paul, the article (τὸν) being in the masculine gender, But what if you should view it as referring to the devil, who, undoubtedly in the person of a wicked and unprincipled man, 309309     “Quand on supporte un homme meschant et mal-vivant;” — “When a wicked and unprincipled man is allowed to continue.” — Ed. is encouraged to establish his throne among us? For ὁ πονηρος (the wicked one) taken simply and without any addition, denotes the prince of all crimes, 310310     It is well observed by Witsius in his Dissertations on the Lord’s Prayer, (Biblical Cabinet, No. 24,) that the appellation of the evil One is properly applied to Satan, “because he does nothing but what is evil — because all the evil that exists in the universe originated with him — because in doing evil, and in persuading others to do evil, he finds his only delight, the wicked and malignant solace of his desperate misery.” — Ed. rather than some wicked man. If this meaning is approved of, Paul shows how important it is 311311     “Combien il est utile et necessaire;” — “How useful it is and necessary.” not to tolerate wicked persons, as by this means Satan is expelled from his kingdom which he keeps up among us, when indulgence is given to the wicked. 312312     “Quand il y a vne license de malfaire, et les meschans sont soufferts;” — “When there is a license to do evil, and the wicked are tolerated.” If any one, however, prefers to understand it as referring to a man, I do not oppose it. Chrysostom compares the rigor of the law with the mildness of the gospel, inasmuch as Paul was satisfied with excommunication in case of an offense for which the law required the punishment of death, but for this there is no just ground. For Paul is not here addressing judges that are armed with the sword, but an unarmed multitude 313313     “Desnuee de puissance externe;” — “Destitute of external power.” that was allowed merely to make use of brotherly correction.

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