The Problem With Immoral Church Members; Page 7 of 11 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)
by John Lowe
“Malace” means badness, or anything that is viscious and injurious; unkindness and evil—which would diffuse itself, and invade the mass of Christians. The word malice also denotes evil in general; unkindness and evil which would diffuse itself, and invade the mass of Christians.
“Wickedness” is sin; evil. There is a particular reference here to the case of the incestuous person. Paul means that all wickedness should be put away from those who had been saved by the sacrifice of their Passover, Christ; and, therefore, this sin of fornication must be dealt with by the Corinthians.
Malice and wickedness together embrace anything that is displeasing to God, anything that pollutes the spirit and the soul, or blinds the spiritual mind and intelligence and proves to be detrimental to our stewardship and service to the Lord. The remedy for malice and wickedness says, He must purge out (It is a continuous act; therefore we must “go on” purging out.) the old leaven, and keep the feast of unleavened bread of “sincerity and truth.” He must be without guilt in his conduct towards God and man. And the more sincerity we have in our own profession, the less we are to criticize the profession of others. Every Christian carries a Passover Lamb in his heart; therefore it is always our duty to keep the festival by casting out all leaven; either the old leaven of heathen vice, or of malice and wickedness, or any sin.
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
The Greek word used here for “sincerity” means “unalloyed, pure.” It is used to describe an unmixed, singular substance without a trace of anything added. The Greek word used here for “truth” means “that which is consistent with reality.” Therefore the exhortation here having to do with our manner of life is based on two facts:
1. That sin, like leaven, will impart its nature to all with which it comes in contact. Therefore we must not allow it to come into contact with our lives. We must totally abstain from leaven in the spiritual sense.
2. That the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, without spot or blemish, demands and commands the believer to put away evil out of his life and have no part of anything that is evil.
The clear teaching of the apostle is this: regardless of how little or insignificant sin may seem, if it is allowed to come into our lives it will grow and continue to grow until it “leavens the whole lump.” If we are born again and Jesus Christ is our Lord, the very fact that He has saved us and has become Lord of our lives demands that we put away all evil. We are commanded to abstain from the very appearance of evil, and to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather rebuke them. We are commanded to not love the world, or the things that are IN the world. We are admonished to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, to present our bodies a living sacrifice, and whatsoever we do, we are to do it ALL to the glory of God! Since Jesus purchased us at the tremendous price of His own blood, and since He is Lord of our lives, He has a right to command us. It is ours to obey—and if we refuse, we will suffer loss.
Paul is not talking about how a person is saved. He is talking about the walk of the believer after he has been saved. Sincerity never saved anyone. But if you are a child of God, you will be sincere. The world today needs to see sincerity among believers and needs truth among believers. Paul says, “Let’s have sincerity and truth in the church there in Corinth.” You see, the church there was really insincere. They had gross immorality in their midst. They thought they could get by with this, and they pretended that everything was all right. They were pretending that they were telling the truth and living the truth when actually they were not.
The sacrifice of our Redeemer is the strongest argument for purity, sincerity, and a gracious heart. How sincere a regard did Jesus show for our welfare, by dying for us! And how terrible a proof was his death, of
the detestable nature of sin, and God’s displeasure against it! It is a detestable evil that could not be compensated for, except with the blood of the Son of God! And shall a Christian love the murderer of his Lord? God forbid.
Sincerity and truth are those qualities on which the believer is to feed. It is not surprising that the apostle uses the Passover as an illustration here. I Corinthians was written just before the Passover and the celebration of the feast is on Paul’s mind. This is a good example of how God used the experiences of the biblical authors in the writing of Scripture.
But with the unleavened bread…” That is, with sincerity and truth. Let us be sincere, and true, and faithful; like the Jews who ate the bread that was unleavened, which was emblematic of purity, so let us be sincere and true. It is implied here that this could not be done unless they would put away the incestuous person. No Christians can have or give evidence of sincerity, unless they are willing to put away all sin.
Part 2: Isolation
9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
I wrote unto you in an epistle
Paul is not referring to this epistle, as some think; that he is alluding to 1 Corinthians 5.2—“And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you,” and to 1 Corinthians 5.7—“Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” It is clear that what is contained in this verse is not present in either of these verses, but in some other epistle he had sent them previously, which is apparent from 1 Corinthians 5:11—“But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” The correspondence he is referring to here was either never delivered, or else was ignored by them; and so what he says here may be considered as a reprimand to them, for ignoring his advice, while continuing to fellowship with this incestuous person, though he in a former epistle had advised them to the contrary. No doubt the apostle wrote other epistles to the Corinthians, besides those that we are aware of—“For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible. Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present” (2 Cor 10:10-11; KJV). The supposition that the apostle wrote some letters that have NOT been included in the canon of scripture does not detract from the perfection of scripture; because not everything written by him was given to him by divine inspiration. The Holy Spirit has seen to it that every epistle necessary for the perfection of the canon of scripture, and to instruct us in the whole counsel of God, has been preserved. This is not a contradiction of the suggestion that this epistle was the first written to this church; because though it might not be the first letter he wrote to them, yet it is the earliest existing epistle in our possession, and therefore it is called “The First Epistle To The Corinthians”: and what he wrote to them in another epistle was not included.
Paul had previously written to them and had condemned sexual sins. Corinth was a city given over to immorality. There were a thousand priestesses at the temple of Venus or Aphrodite who were nothing in the world but harlots. They were prostitutes, and the whole city was given over to this immorality in the name of religion. Now here they are permitting this immoral man to come into their fellowship and to eat with them. They patted him on the back and accepted him as one of their own when they knew he was living in sin. The church in Corinth thought they could drop down to the level of the world.