1 Corinthians 5:1–13: Cleansing the Church
As Paul hinted at the end of 1 Corinthians 4, there is a specific issue that is forcing Paul to come “with a rod” for discipline (1 Cor. 4:21). A man in the Corinthian church is reportedly sinning incestuously with his father’s wife, a kind of sexual immorality that the pagan Gentiles themselves would not even tolerate (1 Cor. 5:1). While the Corinthians go on boasting about their spiritual wisdom and power, Paul finds this festering, putrid issue in their midst. Rather than turning a blind eye to the situation, Paul addresses it immediately.
What, though, is the big deal? Why not focus on other issues that he could tackle within the Corinthian church? What drives Paul to deal with this concern when the Corinthians themselves clearly do not care to do anything about it? In this chapter, Paul lays out the imperative for cleansing the church of the immorality in its midst. Even a small amount of old, sinful leaven can contaminate the whole church, so Paul insists that the church must take the radical step immediately of excommunicating this man from their midst. In this chapter, we see that the Lord Jesus commands excommunication to sanctify his church and to save unrepentant sinners.
1) Why is the purity and sanctity of the church so important? Why should unrepentant sins lead the church to mourn (1 Cor. 5:2)? Why must the church take the drastic step of excommunication rather than simply shepherding the sinner toward repentance? What does the church lose without church discipline? What does the sinner lose without it?
2) What is the difference between leaven and yeast? How does leaven permeate and contaminate an entire lump of dough? How does old patterns corrupting sin work its way, deeper and deeper, into a person’s heart? How does the corruption of sin affect a church? What corrupting sins are lingering and contaminating your life right now?
3) How does the Passover sacrifice foreshadow Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross? What did God symbolize by requiring his old covenant people to get rid of all the leaven in their homes during the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread? How do those old covenant shadows point to the holiness required of God’s new covenant people?
4) What role does the church have today in judging those in the world? What role does the church have today in judging those within the church? Why does God instruct us to purge out corruption from the church rather than passing judgment on the world? What corruption do you need to purge out of your own life?