The Pulpit Commentary

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)

Correction of a mistaken inference which they had deduced from a former letter of St. Paul's.

- The Pulpit Commentary

1 Corinthians 5:9 (1 Corinthians 5:9)

In an Epistle; rather, in the Epistle; in some former letter to the Church, which is no longer extant. 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 . The spirit of the injunction is repeated in Ephesians 5:11 , "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them."

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1 Corinthians 5:6-13 (1 Corinthians 5:6-13)

The true Church a feast.

"Your glorying is not good," etc. There are numerous Churches, but only one true Church, viz. that community of men who possess the Spirit and exemplify the character of Jesus Christ. These verses lead us to look upon the true Church—

I. In its INTERNAL ENJOYMENTS . It is called here a "feast." Truly the association of such Christly spirited men is a "feast" of the sublimest kind, a feast to each and all. A "feast:"

1. Because it contains the choicest elements for spiritual nourishment. The quickening, elevating, and suggestive ideas current in such fellowship, current, not only in language, but in looks, and bearing, and acts, and spirit, constitute the soul banquet, a "feast of fat things," etc.

2. Because it contains the choicest elements for spiritual gratification. A feast implies not merely nourishment, but pleasure and delight. What is a higher delight than the loving intercourse of kindred souls, free interchange of the most lofty thoughts and purest sympathies, loving souls flowing and reflowing into each other? The true Church is not a moody, melancholy assemblage, speaking in sepulchral tones, and singing doleful dirges; it is the brightest and most jubilant fellowship on earth. "These words have I spoken unto you, that your joy may be full; Rejoice,... and again I say, rejoice."


1. There is a connection with ungodly men that it must avoid. They must not be admitted to its "feasts." "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." As the Jews put away leaven at the celebration of the Passover, so all corrupt men must be excluded from the Church feasts. Christ is its Passover, its Feast. It is suggested that the presence of corrupt men at the feast would be contagious. It would be likely to act as "leaven" through the community. As leaven kneaded into a lump of dough spreads from particle to particle, ferments in its process, spreads through the whole, and assimilates all to its own character, so a bad man's spirit may work through the community of the good. Therefore, because it is so contagious and pernicious, exclude it. "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." No Church that has such leaven in it, whatever its intellectual, social, or spiritual advantages, has any reason for exultation. "Your glorying is not good," says Paul: "know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?' Be grave, be serious, look well to the moral character of your members.

2. There is a connection with ungodly men that it cannot avoid. "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." You cannot avoid contact and some kind of intercourse with the ungodly men outside. You cannot attend to the temporal affairs of your life without them. Nor can you discharge your spiritual obligations without going amongst them. As a Christian you are bound to go amongst them, to correct their mistakes, to enlighten their darkness, to reprove their wrongs, and to endeavour to "turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." Over such you have no legal control, you can exercise no jurisdiction; they are without. You have no power to exclude them from your neighbourhood or your country; they are to be left alone in that respect. "Them that are without God judgeth." But if you find such characters inside the Church, you are to deal with them. "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 a one no not to eat." Observe here:

- The Pulpit Commentary

1 Corinthians 5:6-13 (1 Corinthians 5:6-13)

Supplementary views and explanations.

Was nothing necessary except to get rid of the offender? That was to be done, but something else was quite as much of an exigency. Here, then, we see the extent to which the enormous evil had spread, for the whole Church had been infected. If the vice had assumed in one man the completest form of social iniquity, what was the state of the atmosphere in which this was possible? Such corruption was not sporadic: the whole air was poisoned; and in this state of things nothing short of a general purification would suffice. For, in the midst of this widespread taint, you are breathing out your complacent self conceits Glorying (boasting) is not good. To glory in a time like this of your privileges, gifts, eloquence, devotion to leaders, is a wretched delusion, bad enough under any circumstances, incomparably worse now, because of the immense contrast between your state of mind and your actual condition. This is St. Paul's argument. But his logic is not content to be logic only. Buoyant and flexible as are his reasonings, be must have the help of metaphors, since all our greatest thoughts tend to perfect themselves by means of the imagination. Beyond the illustrative imagination (for he is very utilitarian in the use of images) he seldom goes, and he is especially given to the habit of using the interrogatory imagination. "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?" Purge it out—an earnest word; cleanse and purify by ridding the Church of its moral defilement, and so complete the work begun in the excommunication of the incestuous man. It is "old leaven," the relic of the natural man, and it threatens to destroy the new man of Christ's kingdom. For what now is the Divine ideal of a Christian? A new creature in Christ. And what the ideal of the Church? A new brotherhood of humanity in Christ. Therefore, purge out the old leaven, and be a new lump, remembering that even discipline executed in Christ's name has its dangers, and may divert us from attention to our own spiritual condition. Inasmuch, then, as St. Paul looked on the excision of the ungodly member of the Church, and the internal purification of the Church in all its members, as branches of one and the same duty, he presses his argument under the idea of a new lump not a mere outer reform, but a thoroughgoing inward renewal by the grace of the Spirit. Such language could have emanated from no man who had not been a religious Jew. Nor could it have proceeded from one who was simply a spiritual Jew. It was a Christian thinker, a thinker of catholic insight, who saw into Judaism from the cross of Calvary, when that cross and its Divine Sacrifice had the great darkness under which they stood cleared away by Pentecost. Once St. Paul had understood the scrupulous removing of the leaven by the Jews from their homes in a very different way. Once he had seen in the Pass over and kindred institutions a life giving and perpetual force. Now, however, the images lingered in his thoughts, only to remind him that Christians were "unleavened," and that all the leaven of impurity must be put away from them. For them the Paschal Lamb had been slain, and in the Victim's death they had redemption. "Let us keep the feast;" our consecrated life a festival of gladness, and our thanksgiving continually ascending to God. And how shall this long and sacred festivity be observed? No external demonstrations are mentioned. Could the Jew conceive of a festival like this? Would not the pomp and show of national reunions, the booths and palm boughs, the cheer of open air life, and the music and domestic joy of the congregated caravans, rush upon him with their thrilling recollections? And would not the Greek, whose senses were so finely attuned to whatever was beautiful in material nature, and whose very birthright was the luxury of existence beneath skies and amid landscapes that seemed to pour their sympathies into his bosom,—would not he recall the theatre and the games? And yet St. Paul tells them of a festival which the renewed soul may keep without any of these things, and be supremely happy. "The old leaven," especially "the leaven of malice and wickedness," must be excluded, and the feast must be kept "with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." The evil in our nature must be destroyed, and, in its place, must be had the genuine excellence which has been tried and proved, and the harmony that comes from self control because the human will is controlled by the indwelling Spirit of God. Virtues such as sincerity and truth need society, and, assuredly, society needs them. Eager to communicate and in turn to receive, what shall be the law of their intercourse with mankind? Fellowship is a Christian designation that cannot have its meaning in the world. But Christians are in the world, and a very important element in its life. To deny its associations and segregate themselves from others is to commit a species of suicide. On a former occasion St. Paul had written an Epistle touching this subject. But he had been misunderstood, and now he would rectify their error. They had blundered, not he. And now he sets the matter clearly before them by impressing on these Corinthians that there was not only a distinction between the Church and the world, but likewise between the good and the evil in the Church itself. Tares must grow with the wheat, but that was no reason why they should treat the tares as wheat. Fornicators in the Church or out of it were fornicators, and the brethren were not to keep company with them. And hence his explicitness, "not to company" with any man who was a fornicator, though he might be "called a brother." Nor does he stop here. Covetous men, idolaters, railers, drunkards, extortioners, they were not to associate with on such terms of social companionship as would be symbolized by eating with them. How could he as an apostle judge those who were without? If he did not do this, could they suppose that he meant to require it of them? The outer world must be left with God. And now St. Paul returns to the matter engrossing his solicitude: "Put away from among yourselves that wicked person." If, indeed, Christ is our Paschal Lamb; if through that offering of expiation and reconciliation in itself forever perfect and by us realized in pardon and renewal and sanctification, life becomes an Easter of glad thanksgiving; we must make this sincerity (purity) and this truth (harmony) visible to the world in our social sympathies. Bodily sins are easily condoned among men: beware of that evil. Extortion and covetousness grow out of the idolatry of the senses, and they must not be countenanced by familiar association. How modern is this Epistle! No thought had St. Paul of us and our century, but these words of his rise from their local connections and assume universality of application. Corinth is at our doors, because its spirit is in all unsanctified hearts. And yet—thanks to the grace of the Spirit—in all the foremost civilizations of this age and over a wider space than ever before, the Paschal Lamb is precious to thousands. Since the days of the apostle, human life has expanded its outward area. Myriads of things, unknown to it then, are its possession and strength and glory now. Two wonderful enlargements have gone on—that of the universe to our comprehension, and this of the globe and the world to which we belong. And, in the midst of all the widening, specially in the fuller opening of human sympathies and the growth of human intercourse, the blessed festival of Christian life repeats its ancient joy and multiplies the participants of its Divine gladness.—L.

- The Pulpit Commentary

1 Corinthians 5:9-11 (1 Corinthians 5:9-11)

The limits of fellowship.

"No man liveth unto himself." Attempts have been made to build a science of human nature and a scheme of human life upon the foundation of the individual existence, but such attempts have failed. Man is born into society and lives in society, and is inexplicable apart from society. For good or for evil we are with one another. "As iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend;" "Evil communications corrupt good manners; He that walketh with wise men shall be wise."

I. CHRISTIANS ARE NOT LIMITED TO THE SOCIETY OF THEIR FELLOW CHRISTIANS . St. Paul possessed no small measure of what has been humorously called "sanctified common sense." He saw clearly and at once that if a man set out with the determination to have no intercourse with those of different principles and sentiments from himself, he would be driven in consistency to "go out of the world." So far from forbidding such intercourse, he permitted it, and even in some instances encouraged it.

1. The example of the Lord Jesus and of his apostles sanctions intercourse with general society. Jesus talked with persons of all sorts and conditions, accepted invitations to the houses of strangers, and even of enemies. And we find the apostles seeking introduction to Jews and Gentiles, to the virtuous and the vicious.

2. Such conduct exercises a power of attraction over all who are affected by it. The assumption of superior sanctity repels, whilst the kindly sympathy of neighbourhood, the good offices of social life, may lead to a desire to know and enjoy the blessings of the gospel.

3. Opportunities occur in social intercourse for introducing, either directly or indirectly, the truths of religion. It is not always the public proclamation of the truth which reaches the heart of the careless and ungodly. "A word spoken in season, how good it is!" Many have had reason for lifelong gratitude towards such as have in a casual way taken advantage of the opportunity to commend the gospel to their souls.


1. It must not be supposed that we are confined to the fellowship of those whose character is mature and blameless. This would be to set up in the Church an aristocracy of the worst kind.

2. Those whose company is forbidden are such as, by manifest and flagrant violation of the moral law, prove the utter insincerity of their profession to be followers of Christ.

3. The reasons for this prohibition are obvious.

- The Pulpit Commentary

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)

Converse with the ungodly.

I. IN OUR ORDINARY LIFE WE MUST ASSOCIATE MORE OR LESS WITH THE IMPURE AND GODLESS . Our legitimate business leads us among such, our duties as citizens and subjects as well. If we kept ourselves entirely apart, we should have "to go out of the world."

1. Christianity is not designed to drive us "out of the world." We are to live among men righteously. Here we have an argument against monasticism, which is "going out of the world" to escape from its evils.

2. Our Lord and Master mixed freely amongst men.

3. We have many opportunities of witnessing for Christ when we come in contact with men of the world. This should never be lost sight of; private Christians thus may become ministers and missionaries. And they may thus reach classes beyond the ordinary aggressive means. Christians should live the gospel amidst a crooked and perverse generation.

4. Still, we must recognize the peril of such association with ungodly men. Duty may call us to mix with worldlings, but duty will never call us to shut our eyes to the danger of doing this. The hunter may be right in running into peril, but he can't be right in refusing to recognize the peril, and in making no provision for it. When we go into the world we should go armed. "The whole armour of God" should be our panoply. We should not go alone; we may go with Christ if the path be the path of duty. Prayer, watchfulness, God reliance, not self reliance, should be remembered. We are then not only in an enemy's country, but the enemy is around us and will soon attack. "Be ye also ready:" many have been unready, and have been sorely wounded of the archers. Go not further into the world than duty bids you.

II. BUT WE ARE NOT TO ASSOCIATE WITH A PROFESSED CHRISTIAN WHO WALKS DISORDERLY . The case is here altered. Those outside are as strangers to us, though we mix among them; this one we know and have been identified with. Those outside are left to the judgment of God; we have no part in judging them. But we have in the case of an offending brother. As members of the Church, it is our duty to sit in judgment upon him ( 1 Corinthians 5:4 , 1 Corinthians 5:5 ), and, if the offence be sufficiently serious, to expel him. Hence, forth, until he repents we are not to have fellowship with him, not even to eat with him, but to show him by our conduct what has been expressed in the Church's decree, viz. that he is separated until repentance and amendment. If this were not so:

1. The force of Church discipline would be seriously weakened. It would become largely unmeaning. It would be very idle, as well as scandalously contradictory, to cut off from fellowship and to admit to it at the same time.

2. The effect upon the offender would be lessened. Church discipline does not lose sight of his welfare; it is directed towards his recovery and restoration. But if it is to produce this effect it must be felt. It cannot be felt if practically it is destroyed.

3. It would seem as though the evil were lightly esteemed. This would bring a great scandal upon Christianly. It would not only expose it to contempt, but justify contempt.

4. There would be much peril to the other members of the Church:

We may ask—What kinds of sin involve such separation? The apostle gives a list of transgressors.

- The Pulpit Commentary

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)

The intercourse of Christians with the world.

In a former letter, now lost, Paul had given the Corinthians instructions not to mix themselves up with persons of evil character. These instructions had been misunderstood, and the apostle now explains what his meaning was.

I. CHRISTIANS ARE NOT TO AVOID NECESSARY INTERCOURSE WITH THE WORLD , Society at Corinth was corrupt. Every law in both tables was habitually transgressed, and to avoid meeting such transgressors was impossible. And this is true of the world as it now is outside the Church. You have to do business in it. and to deal often with men whose character is immoral. You cannot help forming relationships with them, and being associated with them in many ways. But while this is a necessity of our situation in a wicked world, true Christians will not make companions of such sinners. Duty may take you into unpleasant and dangerous localities, but you do not remain there of choice. Whilst you are in the world, as the followers of Christ you are not of it.

II. PROFESSING CHRISTIANS OF EVIL CHARACTER ARE TO BE SHUNNED . Remembering the condition of Corinthian society, we are not astonished to find such sins as Paul here mentions appearing in the Church. A so called Christian living in the practice of these or similar iniquities, thereby proves himself to be no Christian at all. There must be no fellowship with such persons, no eating and drinking with them as if they belonged to the Church. They are to be put out of the Christian society. This applies, not only to the judicial act of the Church, but also to the conduct of individual members towards offenders. There must be a holy abhorrence of the sin as defiling the body of Christ, and a careful keeping of our garments clean. Not, however, with the mistaken aim of having a perfectly pure Church; for discipline can take cognizance only of open and scandalous sins. Nor are we to act in a censorious or Pharisaic spirit. Along with hatred of the sin let there be a Christ like compassion for the sinner.—B.

- The Pulpit Commentary

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)

The Christian law of association with evil.

Two points require to be illustrated and enforced.


Yet in all these the earnest Christian need never find it difficult to make a firm witness for truth, righteousness, and charity.


- The Pulpit Commentary