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The failure of the Christian church to enforce church discipline against sexual immorality in its midst has severely compromised its inner health and outward testimony. Tolerance has become the modern virtue; but apparently tolerance was very much in vogue back in the Corinthian church as well. The Apostle Paul calls God’s people to take sin seriously and to understand the devastating impact of allowing sexual immorality to go unjudged. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” The urgency of the situation calls for immediate intervention on the part of the Apostle Paul and clear direction to the Corinthian church.


A. (:1) Shocking Report of Sexual Immorality Tolerated in the Church

“It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife.”

1. Sin was Publicly Known – reported to the Apostle Paul

2. Nature of “Immorality” – porneia – general word for any type of sexual immorality: fornication / adultery / homosexuality / etc.

(cf. English word “pornography”)

3. Shocking Nature of This Deviant Behavior = Incest

– condemned by even the unbelieving Gentiles

– sex with the man’s stepmother

– Present tense for a continuing relationship

MacArthur: This sin was so vile that even the church’s pagan neighbors were doubtless scandalized by it. The Corinthians had rationalized or minimized this sin which was common knowledge, even though Paul had written them before about it (v. 9).

Zeisler: Notice, finally, that the woman involved in this relationship is never mentioned. The reason is that she probably was not a believer. Paul is very clear in saying (vs.12,13) that a non-believer will be judged by his or her specific refusal to know God. It is not the business of the church to judge non-believers.

Boyer: The least that can be said is that they were living together as man and wife.

B. (:2-5) Contrasting Responses of the Corinthian Church vs the Apostle Paul

1. (:2) Arrogant Tolerance on the Part of the Corinthian Church

“You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.”

a. Wrong Attitude – Arrogance vs Mourning

connection to previous context of spiritual pride in chap. 4

b. Simple Solution – Remove the transgressor

2. (:3-5) Decisive Judgment on the Part of the Apostle Paul –

Six Lessons from this Enforcement of Church Discipline by Paul:

(these verses are one long sentence in the Greek)

a. Emphatic Intervention – pronoun emphasized by word order in Greek

“For I, on my part”

b. Connectivity of the Universal Church by the Spirit of God

“though absent in body but present in spirit”

c. Urgency of Rendering Judgment

“have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present”

contrast when it is appropriate and necessary to render judgment vs when we are warned against judging others

d. (:4) Power of Authority Delegated from the Head of the Church

“In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus”

e. (:5) Severity of the Judgment – this is serious business —

“I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh”

MacArthur: “Deliver” is a strong term, used of judicial sentencing. This is equal to excommunicating the professed believer. It amounts to putting that person out of the blessing of Christian worship and fellowship by thrusting him into Satan’s realm, the world system. . . The unrepentant person may suffer greatly under God’s judgment, but will not be an evil influence in the church; and he will more likely be saved under that judgment than if tolerated and accepted in the church.

f. (:5b) Goal of the Judgment – tough love

“so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”


A. (:6) Need for Corrective Instruction

1. Attitude of Sinful Pride

“Your boasting is not good”

2. Neglect of Obvious Principles – Sin Spreads Quickly

“Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?”

Remember the sad example of Achan – Joshua 7-8

B. (:7) Separation From Sin Should Characterize the Church

“Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.”

C. (:8) Sincerity and Truth Should Characterize our Life and Worship

“Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

Stedman: Judgment permits the celebration of Christian deliverance and liberty.

Boyer: Here Paul draws a lesson from the Feast of Unleavened Bread which followed the observance of Passover. For seven days after Passover the Jews ate no leavened bread. Their law required that they remove all leaven from the household. . . As it was unthinkable for a Jew to keep Passover without observing the Feast of Unleavened Bread, so it is unthinkable for a Christian to claim Christ as his Saviour from sin and to go on living in sin.


“Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”

A. (:9) Earlier Reminder of Clear Injunction

“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people”

B. Simple Clarification

1. (:10) What Paul did not mean = not talking about unbelievers


“I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.”

2. (:11) What Paul actually did mean = Talking about professed believers


“But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler – not even to eat with such a one.”

Stedman: There you have the world characterized for you:

– The sins of the body (immorality),

– The sins of the mind or heart (the attitudes, greedy and grasping), and

– The sins of the spirit (idolatry, another god.)

– The offense against yourself, the offense against your neighbor, and the offense against God himself — those are the characteristics of the world.

3. (:12-13a) Different Judges for Different Folks

“For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges.”

C. (:13b) Reiteration of Clear Injunction = Enforce Church Discipline

“Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”