Exposition of 1 Corinthians 5:1-3 Blatant sin and spiritual pride

1 Corinthians 5:1-3

1 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. 2 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? 3 For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this.

It is no accident that the allegation of incest by a church member (1 Cor. 5:1) comes right on the heels of a suggestion that Paul may come to them with a rod of punishment (1 Cor. 4:21). Before dealing with the specifics, it would help further study to consider the wider organization of 1 Corinthians 5-6.

The relationship of this section to the material that follows in chapters 5-6 is disputed. Some commentators assert that Paul is simply moving through a list of issues that demonstrate Corinthian arrogance and lack of spiritual maturity. Others consider chapters 5-6 to have an A-B-A structure, where the A sections (1 Cor. 5:1-11 and 1 Cor. 6:12-20) deal forcefully with various forms of sexual immorality and the B section (1 Cor. 5:12-6:11) speaks of the churchs responsibility to judge this, or any other matter, internally. We prefer the latter view because it provides a comprehensible literary structure rather than a jumbled “grocery list” of topics.

Under either view, it appears likely that 1 Cor. 6:12a (I have the right to do anything NIV) looms large over the sordid story of 1 Cor. 5:1-3. This was apparently a widely used slogan in the Corinthian church to express the idea that Christian believers have been granted liberty from the law.[1] We will cover this topic in detail later, but it is easy to see how such a belief — if not grounded firmly in our union with Christ — could lead to the incest that Paul attacks as well as to many other sins.

The facts related by 1 Cor. 5:1 are few but appalling: A Christian man in Corinth is having an ongoing sexual relationship with his fathers wife (not his own mother). It is probable that the man and his step-mother are married, possibly following the death of his father, and almost certain that she is not a Christian.

In reply, Paul addresses himself to the church as a whole rather than to the man committing the sin. Fee says, If for us the problem is how the man could have done such a thing, for Paul it is the fact that with this sin in their midst they are proud [verse 2] and boasting (v. 6).[2] In a sentence that resonates in todays cultural climate, Craig Blomberg says, They were actually smug over their newfound enlightened tolerance as Christians.[3] It must be said that it is also possible that the mans sin was ignored because of his higher social status and wealth, but we do not know whether this theory is true.

Paul uses a rhetorical question (Shouldnt you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 1 Cor. 5:2) to say what should have been done by the church. The force of this rhetorical question is to shame them.

It is difficult to translate 1 Cor. 5:3. The Greek text strongly stresses Pauls presence, making it likely that Thiselton is right in translating As for my part, as physically absent, but nevertheless present in the Spirit . . . .[4] It is through the Holy Spirit that Paul has an actual, spiritual presence with the Corinthian church in passing formal judgment on the man in the name of the Lord Jesus. Thiselton rightly adds, It is a mistake to regard the realm of . . . the Spirit and divine verdict as the realm of as if, and the historical, empirical realm as reality.

Paul has previously said that the man should have already been put out of your fellowship (1 Cor. 5:2), and he will have more to add to this dire judgment before long.

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 461.

[2] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) 201.

[3] Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, 104-5.

[4] Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 384.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, Unity under the cross of Christ

1 Corinthians 1:10-17

10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Verse 10 marks the sharp transition from prior thanksgiving into issues within the Corinthian church. Paul states from the outset that a problem within the church demands resolution in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:10). Hidden within the English translations is a threefold repetition of the Greek word for “same”: “all say the same thing” (1 Cor. 1:10, NET Bible margin) . . . “be restored with the same mind and the same purpose” (1 Cor. 1:10b, Common English Bible).

The Greek verb Paul employs for “agree” (1 Cor. 1:10) is colorful. It is used in Mark 1:19 for mending a torn fishing net; it also was used to describe setting a broken bone.[1] The restoration of unity in relation to witness, mind and purpose would satisfy the appeal that there be no divisions among you (1 Cor. 1:10). We do best in applying these ideas when we stress Paul’s solution — a thorough pursuit of unity — rather than entering into speculation about the exact nature of the disagreements in the Corinthian church.

In calling the Corinthians “brothers and sisters” (1 Cor. 1:11), Paul speaks as no Roman would speak except to a blood relative. He is emphasizing their unity in Christ. Paul has had word of actual quarrels in the church that involve people taking different sides. Paul identifies these groups by using the names Paul, Apollos, Cephas (Peter), and Christ (1 Cor. 1:12). The best explanation appears to be that Paul made up the slogans (e.g. “I am of Apollos”) to be put-downs of such petty bickering rather than actual self-designations by the groups involved. He presents a childish caricature to illustrate the presence of radical individuality in the church.[2]

It is likely that the final clause “I follow Christ” is a sample of Paul’s sarcasm,[3] yet it has a literary purpose in that it allows Paul to simultaneously lampoon the divisions while gathering all of the Corinthian Christians under the banner of Christ as he develops his argument.

In 1 Cor. 1:13, Paul resorts to shocking language to make his point. The question “Is Christ divided?” expects the answer yes! By their disunity, it is as if Christ has been torn into parts! Greek grammar next signals that the following two questions (“Was Paul crucified for you?” “Were you baptized in the name of Paul?”) expect the answer no. It is absurd to put Paul on the level of Christ, who alone went to the cross for our sins. Equally foolish is the idea that anyone would have been baptized into union with Paul — no!

Almost as an aside, Paul mentions baptizing Crispus and Gaius (1 Cor. 1:14). We learn in Acts 18:8 that Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord. They were among the first to believe Paul’s preaching in Corinth. Another who trusted in Christ was Titius Justus, a Gentile whose large house stood next to the synagogue (Acts 18:7). When Paul mentions in Rom. 16:23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, many believe his full name is Gaius Titius Justus.[4]

Paul returns to the subject of 1 Cor. 1:1, his sending by Christ. He was sent to preach the good news with plain speech about the cross of Christ (1 Cor. 1:17) because those persuaded by clever rhetoric would not experience the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. No one, then or now, is won by clever speech; we gain salvation only by trusting in Jesus, who died for us on the cross and rose again to a new life for God.

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 43.

[2] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 48.

[3] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 49.

[4] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) 62, footnote 71.

Exposition of Romans 5:11, Every Christian has reason to boast!

The Bible makes it plain that all humanity is created in the image of God. That fact explains a lot about humanity at its best and at its worst. By creation we can be both noble and tragic.

Is there more to the significance of being a Christian than that value which we have simply by being made in God’s image? Do we have a basis for becoming more in Christ than those who do not know Christ?

(ESV) Romans 5:11

More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

In Romans 5:11 we encounter the very same verb (Greek kauchaomai) we found in 5:2-3, and once again ESV renders it with “rejoice” rather than the preferable meaning “boast.” The standard lexicon says that kauchaomai means “to take pride in something, boast, glory, pride oneself, brag.”[1] Unlike ESV, NIV, NET, NLT and HCSB — all of which say “rejoice” –Moo uses “boast” in his translation of kauchaomai in Rom. 5:2-3, and his translation of 5:11 is: “And not only this, but we also boast in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have received this reconciliation.”[2]

Translators are probably influenced by Paul’s negative comments in Rom. 2:17-24 about the Jews boasting — wrongly — about their relationship to God on the sole basis that they possess the law. Curiously, all of the above-listed translations inconsistently render kauchaomai with “boast” in 2:17 when talking about the Jews; the only exception is NIV, which says “brag” (2:17). So, how does this verb become “rejoice” when speaking about Christians in Romans 5? Words do not always mean one thing because of context, but the justification for such changes must be considered.

Why am I beating this somewhat technical horse? Christian translators, commentators and theologians appear to be uncomfortable with pride because of the obvious dangers it presents (1 Cor. 4:6, 4:18, 5:2, 13:4; Col. 2:18; Rom. 4:2). Yet the New Testament contains a number of godly reasons for boasting or taking pride: works done for Christ (Gal. 6:4); the hope that we have because of Christ (Heb. 3:6); the faithfulness of other Christians (Phil. 2:16); Christ’s accomplishments through Paul (Phil. 1:26); and sacrifice in preaching the gospel (1 Cor. 9:15).

The point is that Romans 5:11 says we may boast in God because of the reconciliation he has accomplished for us through Jesus Christ. Yes, of course, rejoicing is also appropriate for the same reason; but boasting and rejoicing are not the same thing.

Time to do a little bragging!

We need to take a moment to reflect candidly on the contemporary scene. How is it that Iranian protestors can ascend in the night to the roofs of Tehran to shout god is great yet American Christians would be mortified to do such a thing? Clearly, the context in Iran is not the same as here in America, and that seems to include their attitude toward the one they worship.

We have every reason as Christians to hold up our heads in pride for the incomparable God that we worship! If you understood me to say that we are nothing and he is everything, then I have failed to make myself clear. Instead, “Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:11b), so we may hold up our heads because he lives within us and has made us part of God’s own family. Jesus Christ is the basis for all godly pride in the life of a Christian; we are significant because he has made us significant.

So, in short, we should be proud of God and proud of what he has done in our lives!

1. What leads some Christians to be silent -- or sometimes almost apologetic -- about their faith in Jesus Christ and their pride in God? Do they realize it?

2. What do you think about the idea that Jesus Christ is the basis for godly pride as well as our personal significance?

Jesus said, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14b). To be proud of God and to boast about what God has done within those who have trusted in Christ magnifies God and so humbles us in the proper way.

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] BDAG-3, kauchaomai, boast, q.v.

[2] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 297.