1 Corinthians 5:1
(1) “IT IS REPORTED COMMONLY THAT THERE IS FORNICATION AMONG YOU, AND SUCH FORNICATION AS IS NOT SO MUCH AS NAMED AMONG THE GENTILES, THAT ONE SHOULD HAVE HIS FATHER’S WIFE.”
The phrase, “It is reported commonly,” tells us three things:
1. In all the questions which the Believers at Corinth had for Paul to address, they had not mentioned, at least in their Letter, the problem of the party spirit or this problem of immorality. These two things were related to Paul by those “of the house of Chloe,” quite possibly those who had brought the Letter to Paul from Corinth (I Cor. 1:11).
2. The word “commonly” insinuates that the immorality was more widespread than just the problem addressed.
3. Paul selects the worst case of the lot, that being a situation involving incest.
The phrase, “That there is fornication among you,” speaks of all kinds of impurity, perversion, and immorality. As stated, immorality, and of all types, seemingly was widespread in the Church at this time.
WHAT IS FORNICATION?
The Greek word is “porneia,” and as stated, means all kinds of impurity, perversion, and immorality. However, it is somewhat different than adultery.
For instance, it is commonly thought that adultery refers to those who are married, with fornication referring to those who are single. That is incorrect. Fornication or adultery has nothing to do with one’s marital or single status. The meaning of fornication is as follows:
All fornicators are adulterers, but all adulterers are not fornicators.
As bad as either sin is, an individual who has an affair with someone other than his or her wife or husband, is not a fornicator, but is definitely an adulterer.
For instance, David was an adulterer, but he was not a fornicator. By contrast, Esau was a fornicator (Heb. 12:16).
2. Incest is fornication (I Cor. 5:1; 10:8). Incest is sexual intercourse between persons so closely related that they are forbidden by law to marry. So, this man living with his Stepmother even while his Father was alive (II Cor. 7:12) constituted incest.
Temple prostitution in honor of idol gods was a common thing in Paul’s day and before. In fact, Corinth was filled with this vice, which in fact, made it one of the most debauched places in the world of that time.
This speaks of Believers, or those who are supposed to be Believers, forsaking the Lord and going after idols or false Doctrine. The Holy Spirit likens these to spiritual fornicators.
Adultery does not merely pertain to those who are married, but rather to any type of unlawful relationship between men and women, whether single or married. However, the term does not cover the wide scope as does fornication.
The phrase, “And such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles,” simply means that it was not common among the Gentiles, even though it definitely was at times committed. The idea is, that even the Gentiles who looked at most immorality with indifference, in fact, frowned severely on this particular sin.
The phrase, “That one should have his Father’s wife,” refers to his Stepmother. As stated, it seems from II Corinthians 7:12 that the Father was alive for it refers there to the one “that suffered wrong” as well as the one who had “done the wrong.”
Evidently, this man was ignoring what had been said regarding this sin in Leviticus 18:17 and Deuteronomy 27:20. As well, from the complete silence regarding the woman, it may be inferred that she was not a Believer.
In fact, Mosaic Law demanded death for such an act, and even Roman Law prohibited it.
(2) “AND YE ARE PUFFED UP, AND HAVE NOT RATHER MOURNED, THAT HE THAT HATH DONE THIS DEED MIGHT BE TAKEN AWAY FROM AMONG YOU.”
The phrase, “And ye are puffed up,” tells us that this action was not, on the surface, motivated by animal passion but by false religious philosophy; but this only made this conduct, example, and teaching the more deadly to the spiritual life and the more destructive to the Gospel.
This Chapter, therefore, uncovers something of the evil and folly of the natural heart even in a Christian; and also illustrates the depths of Satan in cunningly persuading Believers that grossly immoral conduct can be misconstrued as exalted Christian liberty (Williams).
A LEADER IN THE CHURCH?
There is some evidence in Paul’s statement, that this man was not merely a member of the Corinthian Church, but was rather one of its Leaders. The idea seems to be that the people in the Church seemed to think little about this situation, and if we are to interpret Verse 6 literally, were actually glorying in what was being done. In fact, and as stated, it seems that other types of immorality were taking place as well.
Unless they met in a cave or some such like place, the Churches in Paul’s day were normally made up of several groups, each group meeting in a house with its particular Leader. As stated, this man could have been one of those Leaders.
HOW COULD THE CHURCH COME TO THIS ERRONEOUS CONCLUSION?
Whatever the thinking in their minds, the real reason was that they had left the Word of God as is blatantly obvious, had become puffed up in their spiritual pride thinking they were spiritual giants, so much so they were denigrating Paul, all which made them easy targets for Satan.
A broken and contrite spirit, which speaks of humility, and which is actually a Christlike spirit, closes the door to Satan and keeps it open to the Holy Spirit. This is the reason that over and over again in the Bible, we are warned that brokenness and contrition are the spiritual qualities looked for by the Spirit of God, and in fact, the only qualities which God can bless (Ps. 51:17; Isa. 66:2; Mat. 5:3–5; Lk. 18:14).
Some Expositors claim that Paul using the words “puffed up” only pertains to the Church not taking action concerning this matter. While it is certainly true, that they did not take action, the entirety of the situation was of far greater magnitude than that.
As we have previously stated, this matter was not merely a sin of animal passion, as bad as that would have been, but was rather far deeper and of far greater consequence, in that it was motivated by false religious philosophy. In fact, this is why the Holy Spirit took up so much space respecting the first Four Chapters of this Epistle, in dealing with this problem. It was not a matter of merely preferring one Preacher over the other, or even exalting one out of proportion to reality. Again, it was deeper and of greater magnitude than that.
Once again, it was the sin of spiritual elitism, which makes one unteachable except by some designated individual. Consequently, they make up their own rules as they go along.
Through the years, I have seen people in my Church do the same thing, as I suppose has every other Pastor, etc. Exactly as they did Paul, they would begin to insinuate that I was not deep enough for their spiritual intelligence. Oftentimes, I would watch them attach themselves to a Preacher who I knew was not living right, or else was conducting himself improperly in other ways.
The Truth is, that these people whomever they may have been, even as those at Corinth, were spiritual babies regarding the Word and its understanding, even though they considered themselves to be spiritual giants.
This type of people become very big in their own eyes, spiritually speaking, and then begin to cast about for clever things which they are deluded into believing are the “deep things of God.” When they come to this stage, even as at Corinth, and sadly there are many in modern Churches, the Salvation of lost souls is now of little significance. Believers being Baptized with the Holy Spirit is not worth their attention. People being delivered from the powers of darkness do not raise an eyebrow in their thinking. They are looking for something “deep,” and these things mentioned, which is what Calvary is all about, are simply not deep enough in their thinking.