Summary: First Corinthians chapters 5-7 speak about purity, especially sexual purity in the Church, the world, and in the home.
Purity in the Church, the World, and the Home
Today we’ll spend some time looking at chapters 5 – 7 of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. On first read, these chapters may seem unrelated. Chapters 5 & 6 deal with guidelines for church discipline. Chapter 7 talks about Marriage. But Paul was not just jumping, willy-nilly, from one topic to another. There is a logical connection within this portion of his letter.
All three chapters deal with a topic that is as essential to us in 21st century America as it was to the early Christians in the first century. The topic is sexual purity. Paul talks about how to maintain purity in the church, in the world, and in the home. Corinth was a city filled with sexual sin. They didn’t have the technology we have … no pornography on the internet or on TV …, but they had the first century equivalent in their pagan temples and amphitheaters. Corinth was a city where almost anything goes. ALMOST anything … even in Corinth, what was going on the church was taboo.
1. Purity in the Church (Chapter 5)
Here’s how Paul started Chapter 5 - It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. (vs.1)
Paul goes on in chapter 5 to lay out instructions for how the church must deal with this kind of sin within the congregation. But we need to understand that Paul is not singling out this immoral situation because of the specific sin. Every congregation is filled with nothing BUT sinners. The church welcomes sinners, just as Christ welcomes sinners. Verse 2 explains why this sin could not be tolerated. Paul exclaims, And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? (vs. 2)
This man was not repentant. In fact, he was proud of his incestuous relationship. And evidently the congregation was proud right along with him. We don’t know why they accepted this. Maybe it was a misunderstanding of “freedom in Christ” that they were boasting about. “Look at us, we accept everyone here – Christ has set us free!” Maybe it was just that this man was well liked or maybe he was wealthy and powerful in the community.
Whatever the reason, Paul knew that the church had to deal with anyone who is sinning openly and declaring that sin is NOT sin. Congregations today face this same situation … and we can receive guidance from the solution Paul outlined in this letter. He advised them to put the man out of their fellowship.
This was not the same as what we know of as excommunication. It was meant to be temporary. Hopefully the man’s eyes would be opened to the truth and he would be able to repent of his sin and be reunited with the congregation. (In fact, we find out in 2 Corinthians chapter 2: this is exactly what happened in this case!)