Chapter 5. The first five verses are somewhat surprising if not unbelievable. The contents are not only surprising but very difficult to understand. Delivering someone over to Satan that their flesh might be destroyed and their spirit saved would perplex even the most ardent of scholars of “Body Soul & Spirit”. But one has to wonder as to how the Corinthian church tolerated such behaviour. Paul seems to suggest that they took pride in their acceptance of this incestuous relationship. Two theories come to mind here. The first is very ironic. It is questionable as to whether these Greeks would have known the Law of Moses. Their spiritual guide would have been their conscience according to Romans ch 2. But there is a possibility that the gospel of liberty from the law of conscience was being celebrated, and they believed that such freedom extended to such behaviour. Paul himself clearly set down in Romans such freedom and the definite state of no condemnation. If there is no law there can be no transgression. If we sin then there is grace abounding to cover it. Paul himself makes reference to the defenders of the law who argued that he was preaching a license to sin. Gal 2 “Is Christ the minister of Sin” in offering so much grace. Also in Rom 3:7 we read; Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?”(NIV) This brings us to theory number two, which is that God’s love and forgiveness is glorified in tolerating the sins which had for centuries been condemned. Now that He had been paid for the sins of mankind, He could never be offended. Furthermore, how could the other Corinthian church members be condemning of this apparent natural love, when they themselves were sinners in need of forgiveness and grace every day. These are the arguments which have brought practicing homosexuals into the church ministry today, and made the word “judgmental” definitely not “politically correct”. The immorality referred to shows us the general level of morality in Corinthian society, merely by conscience. Paul says that such practice would be frowned upon by the heathen, and it is equally true today that many people who do not profess any religious beliefs would consider such incestuous and homosexual practices as obnoxious and best avoided. Though the fact is denied by the homosexual or immoral community, and the medical profession don’t wish to join in any political or moral campaign, there is ample evidence that sexual diseases such as V.D. and aids, come originally from practices condemned by the word of God. Millions have died as a consequence. Love is only true love if accompanied by wisdom and power.
Turning over to Satan. This may not seem like a very loving thing to do. Paul seems to indicate that if he was there in the flesh he would throw the guilty party out of the church. For he affirms that he is with them in spirit and if they do the excommunication, he would certainly be with them in spirit. Paul was not damning the man concerned but rather hoping that such discipline might cause him to see the error of his ways and set a standard for other members. In his following letter to the Corinthians. Paul seems to have had a change of heart for we read; 2 Cor 2:4-11: For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you. If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent— not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven— if there was anything to forgive— I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. (NIV) One other issue worth a comment in this chapter is Paul’s reference to leaven. This is what we call yeast today. Throughout scripture leaven seems to get a bad press. Jesus told a parable about it. Matt 13:33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. There is often the mistaken idea that the story reflects the growth of the church, infiltrating the whole of society. That is not true. Leaven in scripture is always an insidious thing. It is a symbol of pride and boastfulness. The little bit of leaven that existed in Corinth and in Galatia (Galatians ch. 5.) has unfortunately “leavened” the whole church. The untruths which were being set in the early church were “pride, factions, etc”. in Corinth and “salvation by works”, in Galatia. Such falsehoods are rife today. Significantly Jesus often used the phrase “he that has ears to hear, let him hear”. Thus endorsing the fact that not everyone who hears will understand. Only the spiritual man, with spiritual ears, understands spiritual parables.
This chapter deals with two more problems in the Corinthian church. The first was the dissention between certain members which apparently had culminated in one taking the other to court to be judged by unbelievers. The second was immorality in the church. So we have an attempt by Paul to rid the church of immorality. Obviously before they were converted the church members were just like the rest of Corinthian society. A whole list of the sins of the flesh and with an emphasis upon sexual immorality is found in this chapter. Paul seeks to show them that such behaviour is that of the ungodly, those outside of Christ. But now as they were in Christ they had been washed from all previous filth and made Holy, justified and Sanctified by the Holy Spirit. This inner work has been done, so that it can be worked out through the same body that once worked out the sinful nature within. After the "cross" experience and death by baptism to that old life, such behaviour should never be seen in those who have entered into the Kingdom of God. Here we see the importance and sanctity of the body. Man was created as an expression of God himself. Man is a trinity of Spirit Soul and Body as surely as the Godhead is a trinity of Father, Holy Spirit and Son: The father is Spirit, the Holy spirit is the personality or "Soul" of the Godhead and Jesus the Son, is the express bodily image of God. It was not difficult nor incongruous that God should become human as the human body fitted God like a glove. But after being created as a temple for God to dwell in, sin entered, and sin took control and lived out the nature of man's natural, earthly father the Devil, through the members of his or her bodies. But since the New Creation, when Christ was born in us then the Holy Spirit seeks to live out through our members, the very nature of our heavenly Father. The Corinthian church needed to be told these things. The closing verses in this chapter remind the believer that they were once sold under sin. But Jesus had paid to redeem such sinners by his precious blood. This was the "price" of our redemption and having been bought, we no longer belong to the Devil for Him to control, but we belong now to God, for Him to control. Either way, man is not his own. But when God owns us he does not force us to do his will other than by the power of His love working and reflecting in us. If we love Him we will keep his commandments. This was the Key to Jesus, when as God's son he lived in a human body. He loved his father. He kept in touch and in step with his father's will Chs 1-2: Top of page: Chs 3-4: Chs 7-8: Chs 9-11: Chs 12 and 14 Ch 13: Chs 15-16