Lange Commentary - 1 Corinthians 5:1 - 5:5

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Lange Commentary - 1 Corinthians 5:1 - 5:5

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:


[A case of incest stated.—Call for Excommunication.—Its form and intent]


1It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named [is not even] among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. 2And ye are puffed up, [?] and have not [did not] rather mourned, [mourn], that he that hath done this deed might he taken away [om. away] from among you [?]. 3For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning [om. concerning] him that hath so done3 this deed, 4In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ [om. Christ], when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, [om. Christ5]. 5To deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.


Paul here turns to a second topic for animadversion, and what follows might well serve to take down still further the self-conceit of the Corinthians. [“This, practically speaking, forms the crisis of the whole Epistle. It is, as it were, the burst of the storm, the mutterings of which, as Chrysostom observes, had already been heard in the earlier chapters, and of which the echoes are still discernible, not only in this Epistle, but also in the second Epistle, the first half of which is nothing less than an endeavor to allay the excitement and confusion created by this severe remonstrance.” Stanley]. The passage is introduced abruptly without any conjunctive particle.

1Co_5:1. States the specific ground of complaint.—Commonly ὅëùò : not indeed, nor, at all, as it can mean only in negative clauses; [nor “absolutely, as simply adding force to the assertion.” Stanley; nor, in short (Clericus), which Ols. says is the only second meaning that can be justified]; but, as in 1Co_6:7; 1Co_15:29 : Mat_5:34, in general. It belongs not to ðïñíå ßá , fornication, but as an adverb to áêïýåáé , is heard, and so to the whole clause. [“It implies, however, the general prevalence of the practice spoken of.” Olshausen. So Meyer, de Wette; and Hodge allows it. “The signification, certainly, implying that the matter was no doubtful rumor, but an evident fact (as Calvin, Beza and others), is contrary to the meaning of the word.” Meyer]—there is heard among you, áêïýåôáé ἐíὑìῖí .—By this it is not simply meant, that there was some talk of the subject mentioned in their circles generally, but that the thing, of which the talk was, prevailed there; although this is only to be inferred from the context, and is not directly expressed. (It would then mean: ἐí ὑìῖí ïὖóá åἶíáé ; the former, in case it was a correct report; the latter, if it were only a vague rumor). [The names of the informants are not specified, as in the former instance. It was a case of public rumor, and the sin so notorious as to need no vouchers. See Words.].—fornication, ðïñíåßá .—[“The word is used in a comprehensive sense, including all violations of the seventh commandment.” Hodge]. Of these one in particular was singled out, of the grossest and most astounding sort, viz., of incest. This is introduced by êáß , which points to something special under a general head, and brings it in as a climax,—and indeed, or yea even,—with the repetition of the general term for the sake of emphasis,—such fornification, as not even among the Gentiles.—The ellipsis might be filled up most readily by: ‘is heard,’ or simply by: ‘is.’ [The Rec. text has ‘is named,’ which Alf. calls “a clumsy gloss taken from Eph_5:3.”] Paul here sets forth the unparalleled nature of the crime he was about to speak of, and the greatness of the disgrace which thereby fell upon the Christian Church—‘a holy people.’—That one has his father’s wife, i.e., his step-mother ( ìçôñõéÜ )—comp. Lev_18:7-8—and this either as wife, or concubine. The word ἔ÷åéí , to have, is used of both relations, as is seen by such passages as 1Co_7:2; 1Co_7:29; Mat_14:4; Mat_22:28; Joh_4:18. In this case it most probably stands for an illegitimate concubinal relation (comp. Osiander), which was also a ‘having,’ inasmuch as it was a habitual thing, as well as an act consummated ( ðñÜîáò : having done, 1Co_5:2; and êáôåñãáóÜìåíïò : having perpetrated, 1Co_5:3). By the expression—‘his father’s wife,’ the wicked violation of the relation sustained to the father, is brought out more conspiculously than if he said simply ‘step-mother.’ The father, moreover, is to be considered as still living, (against Besser), and as a Christian. See 2Co_7:12, where the father is spoken of as one ‘that had suffered wrong’ ( ἀäéêçèåßò ), and where Paul says ‘he did not write on his account.’ The son, at all events, must have been a member of the church; the woman, however, not, since he, and not she, is made the subject of censure. Further questions, e. g., as to whether the man was a proselyte, and had proceeded on the Jewish maxim, that a person who had become “a new creature,” had severed himself from all former connections, and was at liberty to enter into new relations otherwise forbidden? may be suffered to rest. In speaking of the crime here mentioned as something not existing among the Gentiles, Paul does not mean to say that it never occurred in their history. Cases of this sort are indeed recorded, and tragedies have been founded upon them; but they are always spoken of as rare exceptions, that excited the utmost public horror. Cicero pro Cluentio: “Scelus incredibile, et præter hanc unam in omni vita inauditum.” (comp. Wetstein and others on this passage).

1Co_5:2. Expressions of astonishment at their conduct in view of the above fact.—And ye are puffed up?—[This and the following clause should be read as questions. So Calvin, Meyer, Alf., Words., et al.]. The ὑìåῖò , ye is emphatic, and points back to ἐí ὑìῖí , among you, q. d. ‘such a thing has occurred among you, and you are, etc. Questions of this sort are often introduced by êáß , and, which here does not take the emphasis as though equivalent to: ‘and yet,’ but throws it forward on the word following. The assertion that they were puffed up, refers, not to 1Co_4:18, where this is affirmed only of some, but to 1Co_4:8, where he describes the whole Church as filled with the conceit of their spiritual perfection. A great mistake it would be to suppose (with Chrys., Theod., Grot.) that the incestuous person himself was the subject of their pride, on the ground that he was some distinguished teacher among them; or that Paul here alludes to the boasting of other parties over that to which the incestuous belonged.—The proper state of feeling which they ought to have manifested, is expressed in the negative question.—And did not—when ye first knew of the crime—rather mourni.e. mourn, that a member of theirbody had sunk so low, and the Church of the Lord, which ought to have been kept holy, had been thus defiled and dishonored. (The Aorist ἐðåíèÞóáôå indicates the act, expressed by the present, as past and finished, as in ἐðéóôåýóáôå 1Co_3:5). This mourning, which has its source in a lively sense of the common interest which all have in what affects all, implied also a combined and energetic movement for the removal of the evil deplored,—in order that he who had done this deed might be removed from among you? ἵíáἀñèῇ .—The ἵíá here is not ecbatic, but retains its proper telic force, “unto the end that he,” etc. The removal pointed to, must not be regarded as implying any Divine visitation, a cutting off by death for example, or the like; since it is clear from 1Co_5:13, that he only contemplated the excommunication of the guilty party by an act of the Church itself—an act to which their sorrow should have prompted them. Bengel says: “Ye had no sorrow to stir you up for the removal,” etc. The manner in which the party under censure is designated, carries force: “he that hath done this deed” Ý ̔ ñãïí , facinus, this wicked deed.

1Co_5:3-5. That such sorrow, leading to such results, should have prevailed in the Church, he confirms by stating the decision, which he, on his part, had reached in the case. [“There is something in the involved structure of this sentence, which gives a strong impression of the emotion, anguish, and indignation with which it was written, and which vented itself in broken and disturbed periods, as it were per singultus.”—Words].—For I, for my part, ἐãὼì ἒí .—The ìὲí puts Paul in strong contrast with the Corinthians, who were so indifferent and remiss in the case. If we are to retain ὡò of, as, it must be regarded as embracing in its force the two following participles, and belonging especially to the latter, ‘though absent in body, yet as present in spirit.’ This then reappears in the next clause without any qualifying term, and as carrying the emphasis: êÝêñéêá ὡò ðáñþí . The same contrast occurs in Col_2:5 : “For though I am absent from you in the flesh, yet in spirit I am present with you.” [Meyer, Words., Alf. omit the ὡò , as unauthorized. The sense is clearer without it—‘for I being absent in body, yet present in spirit.’ The participles state the facts in the case, and require no as implying similitude. This appears only in the next clause, where it properly belongs].—Absent in body, yet present in the spirit.—By ‘in the spirit’ we are not to understand the Holy Ghost (as Chrys. and others), but his own spirit, as contrasted with his body. Yet the spirit of the Apostle must not be thought of apart from the Divine illumination and energy which he enjoyed, and by means of which, even in his absence, he looked into and influenced the state of the Corinthian Church; although the ôὸ ðíåῦìá , the spirit designates even his spiritual nature in contrast with his physical. A similar case occurs in 2Ki_5:26, where Elisha says to Gehazi: “Went not my spirit with thee ?”—have already judged, Þ ̓ äçêÝêñéêá .—(comp. on 1Co_2:2). “Already,”—this energetic and prompt conduct on the part of an absent person forms a contrast all the more striking with the slackness of those among whom the shameful scandal had occurred,—as present,—[Not, in spirit, for he was there already in spirit, but in body; ‘as though he were visibly among them to control and direct in the matter.’ So Meyer, Alf., Hodge].

[As the words which follow are brought under discussion as to their grammatical construction, it seems best, for the sake of perspicuity, to give them in full and translate them as they stand:— ôὸí ὅõôù ôïῦôï êáôåñãáóÜìåíïí ἐí ôῷ ὀíüìáôé ôïῦ êíñßïõ ἡìῶí Éçóïῦ óõíá÷èÝíôùí ὑìῶí êáὶ ôïῦ ἐìïῦ ðíåýìáôïò óὺí ôῆ äõíÜìåé ôïῦ êõñßïõ ἡìῶí Éçóïῦ ðáñáäïῦíáé ôὸí ôïéïῦôïí ôῷ óáôáíᾷ . lit,—him so having perpetrated this thing, in the name of our Lord Jesus being gathered together, you and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, to give such a one to Satan.—The first question is as to the proper connection of the first clause here: “him having perpetrated this thing.” In the E. V. this is taken as governed by some preposition understood, e. g., êáôá , concerning—so Words. Others (Stanley) construe it as the direct object of the verb êÝêñéêá , judge]. In this case the sentence would read: ‘I have judged or passed sentence on him who has,’ etc. The best way, however, would be to regard it as the object of ðáñáäïῦíáé in 1Co_5:5, so that the ôὸí ôïéïῦôïí , such a one, would then be merely the resumption of the same object under another form. [We should then translate, putting a colon after êÝêñéêá , ‘I have judged, that the person who has perpetrated this thing, ye in the name of the Lord Jesus, etc., do deliver such a one,’ etc.]. The reason for putting this objective clause first is to give it the emphasis, as bringing the guilty party more prominently in front. And the word ‘so’ is inserted for the sake of intensifying the enormity of the guilt incurred; and it points to certain aggravating circumstances well known to his readers,—“So shamefully, while called a brother.”—Bengel. We might also (with Osiander) here take in view both, the man’s shamlessness in perpetrating his crime and his utter disregard of his Christian obligations. The next question is about the proper connection of the subordinate clauses. These may be combined in four different ways. Either they may all be united with the principal verb ðáñáäïῦíáé , to deliver [Mosheim, Schrader and others], to which Bengel and others also join ὡò ðáñþí , as present; or with the participial clause óõíá÷èÝíôùí , being assembled [Chrys., Theoph, Calvin]; or they may be connected partly with this and partly with the other, so that either ἐí ôῷ ὀíüì , in the name, etc., shall be joined to óõíá÷èÝíôùí , being assembled, and óὺí ôῇ äõíÜìåé , with the power, to ðáñáäïῦíáé , to deliver [so Beza, Calov., Billr., Olsh.]; or precisely the reverse [Luther, Bengel, de Wette, Meyer, Alf., Hodge]. The last method seems the most suitable, viz: to unite the clause, “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (which stands first by way of emphasis, and which otherwise the analogy of Mat_18:20 would lead us to join with the participle, ‘being assembled’) with the main verb, as expressing the ground of the chief transaction, so that the act spoken of shall appear to rest on Jesus, the acknowledged Head of the Church, and upon His authority, and so pass for His act. (Com. 2Th_3:6; Act_3:6-16; and respecting the word ‘name,’ 1Co_1:2). As for the clause, “with the power of the Lord Jesus,” the very position of it makes it probable that this is to be connected with the participle, ‘being assembled’ and its adjuncts, since otherwise this participle would, in a most remarkable manner, be made to separate the more strictly qualifying terms of the main sentence. Besides it must be said that the phrase, “in the name of our Lord Jesus,” better serves to qualify the act of ‘delivering over to Satan,’ and includes also the force of the other phrase, “with the power of our Lord,” letting alone the fact, that in this way we avoid the accumulation of qualifying terms for the main verb (as well as for the participial clause, if both should be joined to this). Nevertheless, it is not to be overlooked that the phrase, “with the power of our Lord,” also serves to qualify the act of “delivering over;” yet not directly, but only as a component part of the clause where it occurs. The entire parenthesis will then mean, that the whole case should be decided in an assembly of the Church, where he would also be present in spirit; and that in this gathering they would, moreover, be accompanied by the power of the Lord Jesus for their assistance, ( Óýí , with, designates association, where, however, the co-worker is not a simple instrumentality in the hand of the other; and äýíáìéò , power, denotes not merely: ‘disposing influence,’ as Meyer supposes, but: force, might, capability).

But what are we to understand by ‘the delivering of such a one to Satan?’ That by this phrase excommunication is intended, is evident from 1Co_5:2 (“that he might be taken away from among you.”) and from 1Co_5:13 (“Wherefore put away, etc.). But that this is all the expression involves, is improbable from the fact that it is not elsewhere used in this sense. We meet it again only in 1Ti_1:20, where it appears, as here, to imply something more. Rather it would seem to convey the additional thought that those, who were ejected from the Church of God—a realm which, as such, is exempt from the dominion of Satan,—were given over again into Satan’s power, and unto his destructive influences; and that hence a certain control over these persons is granted him, viz., in so far as it may please the Lord, who ordains this lot for them through His Church and through the Apostolic office (Meyer). [But the question is, whether this was a miraculous subjection to the power of Satan, such as involved special evils and could be effected only by Apostolic authority, and so was peculiar to that age alone; or, whether it had regard to Satan only as the common source of the manifold miseries by Which men are scourged, and as the unwilling instrument of a Divine discipline over God’s children universally, and hence was something possible for all time, and takes place whenever a man is given over to suffer the bitter consequences of his vices, uncheered by the grace of God’s kingdom? The former is the view which has prevailed in the Romish Church from the earliest times, and it was much used to enhance the terrors of priestly excommunication and justify the deliverance of ecclesiastical offenders into the hands of secular authorities for punishment. It is still advocated by many Protestant commentators, among whom are Meyer, Alford, Barnes, Hodge. The latter thus sums up the reasons in its support: 1. “It is clearly revealed in Scripture that bodily evils are often inflicted by the agency of Satan. 2. The Apostles were invested with the power of miraculously inflicting such evils, Act_5:1-11; Act_13:9-11; 2Co_10:8; 2Co_13:10. 3. In 1Ti_1:20 the same formula occurs probably in the same sense. 4. There is no evidence that the Jews of that age ever expressed excommunication by this phrase, and therefore it would not, in all probability, be understood by Pauls readers in that sense. 5. Excommunication would not have the effect of destroying the flesh, in the sense in which that expression is used in the following clause. ”The consequence of this view is to exhibit the act under consideration as one done solely by Apostolic authority and power, and therefore as an exceptional case of discipline, which can afford no precedent for after times. The opposite view is the one maintained by Calvin, Beza, Turretin, Owen, Poole, and many others. They regard the formula, ‘to deliver a person to Satan,’ only as a more solemn mode of stating the fact of excommunication as expressed by our Lord in Mat_18:17,—one designed to exhibit more vividly the sad condition of him who has been cast out from the kingdom of God and so consigned into the hands of his great enemy, uncheered by the light and comforts of the Saviour. This seems the more rational interpretation, only that it does not take sufficient account of the malign agency ascribed to Satan in the Scriptures. For, 1, it accords precisely with the view of the Apostle, that outside the kingdom of God, Satan reigned as “the prince of the power of the air”—as the one that “had the power of death”—as the one who was the source of bodily inflictions, and had sent ‘a messenger to buffet him,’—even as he had “bound the woman who had the spirit of infirmity,” whom our Lord cured—and so was ever working in various ways to afflict mankind. And surely there is nothing in Scripture to warrant our believing that his agency in this respect has been restrained as yet. His power to tempt to sin implies a power also to inflict the evils which sin engenders. 2. The power of Satan, we are also taught, is subordinate to the power of God. He may be suffered to work an utter destruction, or be used as the unwilling instrument of a Divine discipline. Job and Paul are illustrations of the latter case. And we have every reason to believe, that Satan is still employed in God’s hands for this very work of discipline or destruction. Now if this be true, there is nothing miraculous or extraordinary in the case under review, even though we may suppose that physical evils are understood. The instances of Annanias and Sapphira, and of Elymas the sorcerer are not parallel with it. It is no objection that this formula of excommunication has never been found to have been used by the Jews, for it is in keeping with the whole tenor of Paul’s doctrine. Moreover, the results anticipated would be directly conducive to the end proposed, if, as was hoped for, the culprit was no reprobate, but one who promised recovery under this most humbling and chastening discipline].—The end to be subserved by this ‘deliverance unto Satan’ was,—for the destruction of the flesh åἰòὅëåèñïíôῆòóáñêüò .—That by this no mere moral effect is indicated, such as the mortification of the selfish and sensuous propensities of our nature, is evident both from the connection with what precedes, which points to an operation of Satan, and from the use of the word ὅëåèñïò , which nowhere occurs in the above sense (for which rather the terms èáíáôïῦí ., íåêñïῦí , óôáõñïῦí , and the like, are used), and from the antithesis made here between “flesh” and “spirit.” ÓÜñî here denotes the physical life in its depraved state, as an organism where sin is seated, and which serves sin. Now this, which had been used in so shameless a manner by the incestuous person as the instrument of sin, Paul wishes to have given over as a prey to Satan, that he might execute upon it a corresponding disorder, and so fulfil the Divine judgment. [And it must be added that there is no vice so fearfully avenged in that which is its seat and source, as this very one under consideration. Its legitimate consequences, so terrible as to carry in them the aspect of Satanic malignity, are, in fact, a ‘destruction of the flesh’].—But the ruin, thus to be wrought in the outer man, was not to be an utter and final one. There was in it a merciful design,—that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.—The idea is, that through the penalties inflicted upon his body the offender might be brought to repentance, so that although the former might perish, yet his spirit—the centre of his personality—being still receptive of Divine impressions, might be snatched from destruction, and be found at last within the circle of the ransomed at the day of final separation and decision. That the Apostle here contemplated something more than a bare possibility, is apparent from the whole tenor of this passage; and he might express such hope without presupposing any irresistible operation of Divine grace. [On the general subject of Satan—the nature and extent of his agency, and his relation to the kingdom of God, see the able articles in Kitto’s Enc. 2d ed.; Smith’s Bib. Diet., under the word “Satan,” and the one in Hertzog’s Re. Ency. Teufel; also an article by Moses Stuart in the Bib. Sac. for 1843, p. 117].


[Excommunication: its right, occasions, grounds, form, intent and results. 1. The right to excommunicate is both a natural and a delegated right. The right of any community to exist, involves also the right to eject from itself all elements that are inconsistent with its character and integrity and well being. This belongs, therefore, to the Church. But above and beyond this, the injunction of Christ (Mat_18:17), and the example of the Apostles make it an imperative duty, for the preservation of the Church as a holy body, bearing witness for God and truth and righteousness. 2. The occasion which calls for the act must be some flagrant and habitual offence. Spiritual perfection is not to be looked for in the Church. The tares, which in outward appearance resemble the wheat, must be allowed to remain to the end. Hence many faults in doctrine and practice in the Church at Corinth, Paul was content with rebuking. But the incestuous person was to be cast out. In this forbearance of his towards the one, and severity towards the other, an example is set for all time. To distinguish when the one should end and the other should begin, belongs to the gift of wise government. 3. Its grounds]. The soul of a true evangelical discipline is Christ, His name and power—Christ dwelling in the hearts of believers by faith, and especially present with those whom he has made shepherds in it, with His living, powerful, all-enlightening, penetrating, sifting and dividing word, and hence with the energy of His Spirit operating therein. It is in the light of this word, that sin must be recognized as a reproach and a desecration of His name, and therefore as something which evokes a reaction against it from this Name—a reaction which is nothing else than a manifestation of the might of a holy, divine love.—[4. Its form]. The constraining power of this reaction must be felt and exhibited in the Church, which is Christ’s body, and especially in those who are the stewards of the Divine mysteries, and ambassadors speaking in His name, urging them as by an irresistible impulse, and arousing them to a strong determination to make it effective upon the offender. And the Church in assembling for this purpose when occasion calls, should come together solemnly, attended by the presence and power of the Lord. Thus and thus only, in a manner truly valid, and with unfailing results, can he, who has desecrated the name of Christ, and has proved unworthy of fellowship in His body, be cast out from the sphere of life in Christ, and from a participation in His protecting grace, and given over into the power of Satan to suffer the merited penalties of his sins. [5. The intent of this act is not punitive, but remedial, in consistency with the design of the whole Gospel dispensation, which was “to save and not to destroy;” and with the object of the power intrusted to the Apostle, and so to their successors, “which was for edification and not for destruction.” And this intent must be displayed in the manner in which the act is performed, and in the hopes and prayers with which it is accompanied. For though the act of excommunication is in one sense a cutting off from the means of grace, in another it may itself be made a means of grace through the blessing of God which may follow the offender in his exclusion and turn the very severity of his sufferings into a glorious benefit. And where this result is not hindered by the obduracy of the guilty party, and he has not sinned past forbearance, we may expect 6. as the result, repentance and restoration. Nor is this surprising]. In bringing about such issues Satan, the arch enemy of Christ, is employed as his servant, even while he, on his part, seeks only to gratify his own love of corrupting, plaguing and destroying men. Our sinful nature, the organ of sin and the seat of its impure impulses, is given over into his power to be wasted and destroyed. And while in doing, this, his intention is utterly to ruin, Christ aims at the ultimate deliverance of the spirit, which, having been enthralled by the flesh, is to be liberated through its weakening and destruction. He who inflicts the judgment, prescribes the limits beyond which the Evil One may not pass; yea, compels him to subserve the purposes of his holy love. This is one truth taught us in the Book of Job, although the author there is speaking not of punishment but of proof and trial. The results of such discipline will be brought to light on that day when all things shall be revealed. And they will be brought to light in such a way that Satan will be put to shame, while God will be glorified in the midst of His own, even among those who have deeply fallen, as One who is wonderful in counsel and glorious in execution.

[On this subject it will be profitable to consult Owen. Works, 16 p. 151–183. Edwards Serm. on Excom. Hooker Ec. Pol. Book vi].


[As before we had the picture of a Church imperfectly united—still divided by the prevalence of ambition and conflicting opinions, so here we have a picture of one imperfectly purified, still carrying in itself the corruptions and spots of an earlier depravity. And here we see: 1. How sin may convert the very grace of God into a warrant for a lasciviousness even grosser than any which may be practised without, 1Co_5:1.—How it shows more flagrant and abominable when seen in a body professing holiness, than elsewhere, 1Co_5:1-3. The melancholy aspect of a Church unconscious of its defilements, and flaunting in the conceit of its own perfection and beauty; and 4. in contrast with this, the proper attitude of humiliation and sorrow that it ought to assume, 1Co_5:2-5. The duty of observant and faithful ministers in the premises—to reprove remissness, and exhort the Church to self purgation, 1Co_5:3-6. The duty of the Church made alive to its disgrace—to cast out the evil it cannot cure, and consign the obdurate offender to the master he serves, a. with united action; b. in the name of the Lord; c. evincing a holy abhorence of sin; d. yet a love for the offender that shows itself in the desires and prayers for his recovery, 1Co_5:5].

Starke:—Since the scandal of crimes committed in the Church is greater than that of those committed in the world, we should avoid them the more carefully, lament over them the more deeply, and punish them the more scrupulously. The Church must tolerate the public rebuke of open offences, 1Co_5:1.—Christians should mourn over the sins of their brethren as if these were personal afflictions (Psa_119:136; Eze_9:4) 1Co_5:2.—It is possible for us to promote the welfare of a Church even when absent, by prayer and by power [?] by writing and giving counsel, 1Co_5:3.—Hed.: ‘How glorious the uses of excommunication!’ By it many an offender, who would otherwise continue in sin, and have part with the devil, is saved; by it the Church evinces its abhorence of evil, and shuns disgrace; by it she keeps from participating in others’ sins, which, through connivance, would involve a whole people in guilt and punishment; and finally, by it she prevents the spread of iniquity, 1Co_5:5.

Berlen. Bib.:—Merely formal assemblies profit nothing; the spirits must be present, and they must first be united by the power of Christ, 1Co_5:4.—A true church-censure flows from love. Its aim is the preservation of the spirit. It has ever been God’s method to destroy a part, and that the least part, rather than to lose the whole. So the Gospel still keeps the preponderance. And though the act wears a legal aspect, it is evangelical in intent, aiming to save what belongs to Christ.—We shall obtain salvation at the appearing of our Lord, provided we first awake from sleep, arise from the dead, and let Christ give us light, 1Co_5:5. The toleration of even small things, which originate from impure sources, endangers the whole obedience of faith, 1Co_5:6.

Rieger:—Conceit and self satisfaction, whether in individuals or communities, open the way for carnal license.—A person must have dug deep in poverty of spirit, if he takes not occasion from others’ trespasses to enhance his own reputation.—He who spares the rod hates his child. The omission of a lesser discipline only exposes the guilty one to greater judgments.

Heubner:—The abominableness of incest, from which even the heathen shrank with horror, must have a deep foundation in the nature of things, even in God, and not be sought for in the consequences alone, 1Co_5:1. Public offences, when tolerated, involve the whole Church in guilt, even the better portion, partly because all are members of one body; and partly, because their toleration is a token of a want in the Church of zeal and watchfulness and care, for its order and welfare, 1Co_5:2.—This power of censure i.e. of delivering over to Satan, which is now conceded to no one [?], is still invisibly exercised by Christ and His Apostles, over every Church, so that in their sight all unworthy persons are already excommunicated. Oh that we could ever bear in mind this scrutiny and judgment that is exercised over us from above!—The Christian Church is holy. It is a city set upon a hill, whose light shines far. Through offences and crimes its crown is trampled under foot. They are violations of the majesty of Christ.—The stringency of primitive Church discipline is no longer maintained. In congregations so mixed as ours, the consciousness of Christian communion has vanished, and public censure would be deemed a libel, and would fail of its end. Hence it only remains for the better members to withdraw their fellowship from every person who dishonors the Church, and refuses to reform, and so make manifest their displeasure at his conduct (Mat_18:17). This would be a voluntary discipline wholly within the power of Christians, of which even the guilty party cannot complain, 1Co_5:5.

Neander:—It is well for the soul if it can be saved, even at the cost of bodily sufferings, 1Co_5:5.

[W. F. Besser:—It is not indeed granted the Church to know, or to determine what sort of evil Satan will inflict on one given over into His power. That he will not, however, slip the man on from one sin to another (Psa_69:28; Rom_1:24), but will, on the contrary, sensibly touch him with this or that external evil or misfortune, this the Church knows, because it recognizes Satan as the personal power of evil, and it purposes in Christ that the strokes of the destroyer shall smite the flesh of the condemned party, whether it be to the destruction of his bodily life, or to the loss of his earthly prosperity, in order that the spirit of the returning penitent (and so his body too at last) shall be saved in the day of the Lord].

[F. W. Robertson:—The Church excommunicates in a representative capacity. Man is the image of God, and man is the medium through which God’s absolution and God’s punishment are given and inflicted. Man is the mediator, because he represents God. His acts in this sense are, however, necessarily imperfect. There is but One in whom humanity was completely restored to the Divine Image, whose forgiveness and condemnation are exactly commensurate with God’s. Nevertheless, the Church here is the representation of that ideal man which Christ realized, and hence in a representative capacity condemns and forgives.—The indignation of society is properly representative of the indignation of God. God is angry at sin, and when our hearts are sound and healthy, and our view of moral evil not morbid and sentimental, we feel it too. And in expressing this we represent and make credible God’s wrath. When the offender hears the voice of condemnation and feels himself every where shunned, then conscience, which before had slumbered, begins to do its dreadful work, and the anger incurred becomes a type of coming doom. Thus is there lodged in Humanity a power to bind; and only so far as man is Christ-like can he exercise this power in an entirely true and perfect manner. (Abbreviated)].


1Co_5:1.—The addition of ὀíïìÜæåôáé in the Rec. has the best authorities [A. B. C. D. F. Cod. Sin.] against it, and is perhaps a supplement according to Eph_5:3.

1Co_5:2.—It is doubtful whether we ought to read ðïÞóáò with Griesbach, Meyer [Alford, Words.], or ðñÜîáò with Bückert, Tischendorf. Both are equally suited to the sense, and are about equally supported.

1Co_5:2.—The Rec. åîáñèῇ is still less authorized than ὀíïìÜæåôáé 1Co_5:1, and no doubt originated out of 1Co_5:13.

1Co_5:3.—The Rec. ὡò as, before ἀðþí , absent, has indeed the oldest MSS. [A. B. C. D.1 Cod. Sin.] against it, and hence is rejected by Lachmann, Meyer [Alf. Words.]. But there are also many and good authorities in its favor. (D.2 F. L. Syr. and many of the Greek Fathers]. And it might as easily have been omitted for the sake of avoiding the repetition ( ðáñþí ), or, as not suited to ἀðþí , as admarginated, and then afterwards inserted according to the analogy of ὡò ðáñþí . We retain it with Tischendorf. [We, on the contrary, omit it as badly supported and wholly needless, and wait for Tischendorf's last Ed. See comments below.]

1Co_5:4.—The ÷ñéóôïῦ of the Rec. was probably added later, because of the solemnity of the title. [it is found in D3. F. L. Cod. Sin. omitted in A. B. D1.]

1Co_5:5.—This reading (Rec). is the most probable. Both the omission of ̓ Éçóïí ͂ (Tisch.) as well as the addition ἡìῶí after êíñßïí and of ÷ñéóôïῦ after ̓ Éçóïῦ are not sufficiently accredited.

[It is not credible that the Corinthian congregation, would have endured that one of their body should live with a harlot, especially his mother-in-law. But because this illicit connection had been palliated by the name of matrimony, therefore they might connive at it, especially if there were any who were the man’s zealous friends, and endeavored to soften the baseness of the thing.” Crellius. And this is the view of Meyer, whose arguments Kling does not seem to have thought it worth while to refute, and which undoubtedly ought to be admitted].

The feeling of absolute control in the matter, which finds expression in 1Co_5:3, the Apostle softens first by the use of ‘in the name of our Lord Jesus,’ and then by associating with himself, in the republican spirit of primitive Christianity, the whole Church, where he presides in spirit.”—de Wette.]

The Apostle translates himself in spirit to the Church in Corinth, and expresses his decision as if in midst of them.”—Berger.]

Meyer, do Wette and Alford agree in taking the words, “with the power of our Lord Jesus,” not as a third element in the proposed assembly, nor yet as something resident in the whole Church, but as belonging exclusively to Paul, and so connect it directly to “my spirit.” But this seems arbitrary. If the act of ‘delivering over’ was to be the act of the whole Church and not one of independent apostolic authority, we must suppose that it, too, was fully empowered for the purpose by the Lord who had promised to be in it, when assembled in His name, to the end of time, giving force to its decisions. The grammatical question here will be apt to be determined very much in accordance with the preconceived theories of church government entertained by the interpreter. Hodge (e.g.) regards the Church as convened not for the purpose of voting and acting in the premises, but “as mere spectators,” to impart “solemnity to the judicial proceeding.” So he takes the words in question as connected directly either with “my spirit,” or with ‘to deliver’—the sense in either case being substantially the same. Wordsworth goes still farther, and regards the excommunication as not only “promulgated in the presence of the Church,” but also as having “been done without taking council with them,” and “probably against their inclination.” And so the Rheims version:—“Though the act was done in the face of the Church, yet the judgment and authority of giving sentence was in himself and not in the whole multitude, as the Protestant and popular sectaries affirm.” Owen, on the other hand, analyses the matter thus:—1. The supreme efficient cause of the excision is the power and authority of Jesus Christ. 2. The declarative cause of the equity of this sentence, the spirit of tho Apostle. 3. The instrumental, ministerial cause, the Church. They were to “do it in the name of the Lord,” and thereby “purge out the old leaven;” whence the punishment is said in 2Co_2:6 to be “inflicted by many.” (See a full discussion of this in Owen’s Works, vol. 16 p. 160). And Neander forcibly observes: “The Epistles of Paul, which treat of various controverted ecclesiastical matters, are addressed to whole churches, and he assumes that the decision belonged to the whole body. Had it been otherwise he would have addressed his instructions principally at least to the overseers. When a licentious member of the Church at Corinth was to be excommunicated the Apostlo considered it a measure that ought to proceed from the whole society, and placed himself therefore in spirit among them, to unite with tham in passing judgment.” Furthermore it might be asked, if the Church had no power to act in the premises, where was the ground for Paul to complain of their conduct, in not securing the expulsion of the guilty parties? Plainly his purpose here, in decreeing as he did, was to supplement their lack of duty; and we are not to construe his procedure as pro formâ, but as extraordinary, and based upon that plenitude of power which he had as an Apostle.]

Kling’s refutation of Rückert’s charge of “hasty and indiscreet zeal” on the part of Paul, we venture to omit as unnecessary. No one in this country would think of entertaining it for a moment].

These remarks apply only to churches united with the state; and they bring to view one great evil of the state-church system, and afford evidence of its utter inconsistency with the whole idea of Christianity, and of its incompatibility with the Gospel requirements].

See his striking views on this subject more fully exhibited in his serm, on Absolution in the 3d Vol. of his series.]