The Benefits From Breaking Off Fellowship I Cor. 5:1-13 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
Fornication is a bad sin. It is forbidden in Lev 18:8 and Lev 20:11. It’s punishment was death. Reuben committed this sin and lost his birthright [1 Chr 5:1-2]. Gentiles don’t even talk about it. And the Corinthians had done nothing about it. As a matter of fact, they were glorying in their liberty [1 Cor 5:6] like the ultra grace churches today. They wouldn’t deal with the sinner. In this chapter, Paul explains the necessity for and the benefits of breaking off fellowship with a Christian who commits fornication or some similar sin.
Breaking off fellowship:
Humbles the church – 1 Cor 5:2 – they were puffed up. They were glorying [1 Cor 5:6] instead of mourning. Mourning and breaking off fellowship is tough to do because we are all sinners. Yet, we must obey God. There is a fear of God in exercising this [similar to Acts 5:11].
Gets the devil involved – 1 Cor 5:3-5 – Paul knew about the workings of the devil in his own life [2 Cor 12:7-10]. Job had personal experience with the devil. In both cases, something good came of the experience. Paul’s desire with Hymenaeus and Alexander in 1 Tim 1:20, was “that they might learn not to blashpeme.” When we are spiritual and not carnal, we “through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body,” [Rom 8:13]. This young man didn’t do that. So, Satan was the means by which he could get over this sin. See how suffering in the flesh can put an end to sin in 1 Pet 4:1-2. The danger with Satan, though, is that, Lord willing, the man could die [Acts 5:1-11; 1 Pet 5:8].
Can result in mercy – 1 Cor 5:5 – “that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Paul wasn’t talking about this man getting saved after being delivered to Satan. This young man was already saved. He was a “brother,” [1 Cor 5:11]. His desire was that this young man would get straightened out spiritually so he wouldn’t suffer loss at the judgment seat of Christ. Paul always had an eye toward the coming of the Lord [Titus 2:13]. So, he often referred to the day of the Lord Jesus [2 Tim 1:17-18; Phil 1:6]. For instance, he wanted the Corinthians to “be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ,” [1 Cor 1:8].
Protects the church – 1 Cor 5:6-8 – a sin like fornication is like leaven to dough. Once a sin like this is allowed to continue in the church without being checked, it’s effects will permeate through the whole congregation. The only way to deal with it is to purge it out. When the church breaks off fellowship with someone committing fornication, the church becomes like a new unleavened lump of dough.
We know from many cross references that Christ is “our passover.” In Jn 1:29, Jesus is the Lamb of God. In Jn 19:36, “a bone of him shall not be broken” is a reference to Ex 12:46. Christ died at precisely the time on Passover that the lamb was killed by the high priest. We are saved by his blood in the same way that the blood spared the firstborn of Israel [Ex 12:13]. And so forth.
Passover and the feast of unleavened bread, the feast immediately following Passover, were both kept without leaven. Therefore, Paul used leaven as a metaphor to show the Corinthians the need to keep malice [intent to commit an unlawful act or cause harm without excuse] and wickedness out of the congregation. They were to keep sincerity [pure doctrine, Matt 16:12] and truth [the word of God, Jn 17:17], instead.
Shames the sinner – 1 Cor 5:9-11 – Paul had already written the Corinthians about not keeping company with fornicators. Yet, in this letter he clarified that he didn’t mean all fornicators, covetous, extortioners or idolaters. If that were the case, we would have to leave this world. And Jesus prayed in Jn 17:15 that his Father wouldn’t take us out of the world but that he would keep us from the evil. Paul meant that we are not to keep company with a brother who is a fornicator, covetous, an idolater, a railer, a drunkard or an extortioner. We’re not to even eat with him.
Paul explained to the Thessalonians the purpose of excluding him in 2 Thes 3:14-15. It is “that he may be ashamed.” Breaking off fellowship with him is to help him bear the responsibility for his sin. He is more likely to get right with God if he is excluded rather than pampered. Yet, we are not to count him as an enemy, because he is a brother.
Subjects the sinner to judgment – 1 Cor 5:12-13 – Paul mentions two kinds of sinners in this passage: “them… that are without” and “them that are within.” Them that are without are unsaved; those who are not in the kingdom of God [Mk 4:11]. Them that are within are those who are saved; those who are in the church. Paul said that he didn’t judge the unsaved; God judges them. He said, though, that it was the responsibility of the church to judge them that are within. He deals with this in further detail in the next chapter. Therefore, they had the duty to “put away… that wicked person.” That was his “punishment,” [2 Cor 2:6].
Conclusion: Breaking off fellowship with this sinner had the effect that Paul desired. It cleared the church of any wrongdoing [2 Cor 7:10-12] and this sinner got right with God. Thus, Paul encouraged the church to forgive him and restore fellowship with him [2 Cor 2:6-11].