Big Idea: Sin is contagious.
1 Corinthians 5:1-2
1. What is the big issue Paul is concerned about?
The big issue is the immoral environment that surrounds the Corinthians. This is the environment that they have just come out of. Following Jesus should lead the church to a new lifestyle, but there will always be a pull back to the old lifestyle they are familiar with.
2. What is the issue for the man Paul describes?
The man has chosen to have an intimate physical relationship with a woman who has been his father’s wife. This woman was probably not the man’s biological mother. What Paul regards as immoral, based on Old Testament law, was that the man was sleeping with a woman who had previously been sleeping with his father. This man was pursuing pleasure without any regard for his relationship with his father, the community at large, his Christian brothers and sisters, or Jesus.
When Paul writes this, he is not reinstituting the law. He is affirming that the sexual ethic that God established in the Old Testament has not changed.
3. What is the issue for the church as a whole?
The issue for the church is their response to this situation. It might be understandable for new Christians to be concerned about this and unsure of what to do, but that is not the situation that Paul describes. It seems that the church has misunderstood the concept of grace and that they are proud that they can remain in relationship with someone who is living a very sinful lifestyle. They are not concerned and discipline that would redirect the man toward God is the last thing on their mind. If this remains their attitude, then the church will be lost back into the culture and lifestyle that surrounds it.
1 Corinthians 5:3-5
1. What does Paul mean when he says, “I am with you in spirit?”
Paul is not physically present in Corinth. However, he still feels that he is very strongly connected to this group of believers. He cares deeply about them and is thinking and acting as if he were physically present.
2. What gives Paul the authority to pass judgment?
Paul was an apostle, commissioned by God to take the good news to the gentiles. As an apostle he was filled with and guided by the Holy Spirit. Paul was also the spiritual father of this congregation. He was an elder to them. As their spiritual father he had the authority to discipline his children.
3. What does Paul hope will happen to the man who is boasting of his sin?
Paul is hoping that the same thing will happen to this man that he hopes happens to all believers. He hopes that the flesh or sinful nature will die, and that the presence of the Holy Spirit will take over. He is counting on the loss of relationship with God’s family to cause the man to desire that fellowship more than the immoral relationship he is in.
Paul is hoping for this man’s ultimate reconciliation to the church and to God.
1 Corinthians 5:6-8
1. What is Paul’s concern?
Paul is concerned that if this situation is not dealt with others will start believing that their behavior does not matter. He knows that if this happens Satan’s influence will grow, and the influence of the Holy Spirit will diminish. If this continues, then eventually the church will die.
2. Who will best understand Paul’s illustration of what is happening?
The Jews in the congregation will immediately know what Paul is referring to. Every year at Passover the Jews would go through their houses and remove all the yeast. This turned into an annual deep cleaning process that might be the root of our spring cleaning. The reason was that yeast was a symbol of evil. The bread used at the Passover meal is made without yeast. When yeast is placed in dough it quickly multiplies and over time all the dough is affected. When making bread this is a good thing. This is a bad thing when we are talking about the impact of evil on the church.
3. Why is church discipline so important?
What we accept quickly becomes the new standard. For example, there was a time when every man came to church wearing a suit and tie. Then one day a man came to church without the tie. He was accepted and soon very few were wearing ties. This process continued until now it is normal for men to wear jeans and a t-shirt to church. This is not wrong but does illustrate how standards change over time.
Unfortunately, the same thing can happen with things that are far more significant. The pull of the surrounding culture is very strong. It is all to common now for young couples who have been a part of the church all their lives to live together before getting married. Divorce has become common. Church discipline says that we take God’s Word seriously.
Church discipline should be an expression of our desire to see growth in the relationship between our brother and sisters and God. We also want to see growth in the relationship between brothers and sisters. Growth requires discipline. (see Hebrews 12:3-11 for more on the benefits of discipline)
1 Corinthians 5:9-13
1. What is Paul’s expectation for the people who call themselves Christian?
Paul’s expectation is that they will be living a lifestyle that is consistent with the presence of the Holy Spirit within them. Paul describes the contrast between a lifestyle filled with the Spirit and a lifestyle controlled by the desires of the flesh in Galatians 5:16-26. Paul is not unrealistic. He expects that these new Christians will sin. However, a lifestyle that pursues the desires of the flesh calls into question the presence of the Holy Spirit in that person.
2. Why is the distinction between those inside and those outside the church so important?
Gathering around the table and sharing a meal together was an essential part of what it meant to be a part of the church in Paul’s time. When Paul instructs the Corinthians to not even eat with the evil people, he is talking about those who claim to be Christians but are not acting like Christians. He is not saying that we should not eat with non-Christians who are acting like non-Christians. If we don’t make this distinction, we isolate ourselves from the world around us and have no opportunity to share the gospel with unbelievers.
3. Why is this so important to Paul?
Paul wants to see everyone hear and accept the gospel. If the church looks just like the world in its pursuit of the desires of the flesh, then there is no good news because there is no power in the gospel. Whether the believers are gathered together or living their lives out in their community they must look and be different. They must demonstrate in their lives that they are filled with the Holy Spirit and looking toward heaven.