The Problem With Immoral Church Members; Page 8 of 11 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)
by John Lowe
not to company with fornicators:
It is further proof that Paul does not refer to the present letter when he says, “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators,” since "not to company with fornicators" does not occur in the previous part of this epistle; also the words, "in an epistle," could not have been added if he meant, "I have just written." “For his letters, say they…” (2 Cor 10:10; KJV): "His letters" (plural; not applying to merely one) confirm this. 2 Corinthians 7:8 also refers to a first Epistle—“For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season” (2 Cor 7:8; KJV)—just as here a former letter is referred to by the same phrase. Paul probably wrote an earlier brief reply to inquiries made by the Corinthians: our first Epistle has superseded the former, which the Holy Spirit did not intend for the guidance of the Church in general, and which therefore has not been preserved.
The apostle, to this point, had NOT specifically identified the fornicator in their midst, or what he meant by keeping company with them; therefore he identifies the guilty party and expands upon how they are to deal with him. He declares that they were not to eat with such persons; which shows, that this prohibition is not restricted to unclean copulation, or to joining with them in the sin of fornication. They had taken part in such activities while in an unregenerate state, and some sort of companying with fornicators is allowed in the next verse; whereas no degree of a sinful mixing with them would ever be tolerated: the reason being that although a civil society might permit it; it might bring criticism to bear upon religion, be a stumblingblock to weak Christians, and have dangerous consequence to themselves and others; who might be drawn by their example to commit the same sinful practices. The apostle seems to allude to the custom of the Jews, who abstained from becoming acquaintances with unbelievers. They say, “that everyone that does not study in the law, it is forbidden to come near him, and to exercise merchandise with him, and much less to walk with him in the way, because there is no faith in him.''
Note, Christians are to avoid a familiar association with fellow-Christians that are notoriously wicked, and under just censure for their scandalous practices. Such involvements disgrace the Christian name. They may call themselves brethren in Christ, but they are not Christian brethren. They are only fit companions for the brethren in sin; and Christians should avoid such company until they mend their ways. “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed” (2 Thess 3:14; KJV).
10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world,
Verse 10 sets some limits on the prohibition given in verse 9; but he does not forbid the Christians from doing business with scandalously wicked heathens. He does not forbid their eating with or conversing with the fornicators of this world, because they already know this is to be avoided, if possible. However, the heathen do not know better. The gods they serve and worship promote such wickedness. When considering depraved Corinth, “to company with NO fornicators," would be almost the same as to company with none in the (unbelieving) world.
• “If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake” (1 Cor 10:27; KJV).
• “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:15; KJV).
• “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:18-19; KJV).
By "the fornicators of this world" the apostle indicates those who are guilty of the sin of fornication; worldly, carnal men who never professed to follow Jesus Christ. These men are distinct from those that were members of the church at Corinth that had committed this sin. The apostle's former instruction was a prohibition not to keep company with fornicators ("The impure"); but
it is not to be applied to those who were outside of the church, as if no sort of civil conversation and business were to be carried out with men of this sort, and likewise with characters he labels as the covetous, extortioners, and idolaters; according to the next clause.
“Of this world” refers to those who are outside of the church; or who are not professed Christians. “In my instruction NOT "to company" with them, I did not mean that you should refuse all kinds of interaction with them; that you should not treat them with civility, or be engaged with them in any of the transactions of life, or in the ordinary associations of society between man and man, because this would be impossible. On the other hand, you should not associate with them to the extent that you appear to be their buddy, or so that you become corrupted by their example. You are NOT to make them companions and friends.” The prohibition, such as it was, was not limited to any one sort of immoral people; it included all sorts, as the rest of the verse proves. There is a well-known saying that fits this prohibition, “You are known by the company you keep.”
The fornicator in the church must be shunned as an outcast, for the sake of discipline. This was what he meant. He did not give directions concerning their conduct towards the heathen; although most heathen were fornicators, and particularly those at Corinth. Note: Fornicators sin against themselves.
or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters;
Or with the covetous. “The greedy.” By the “covetous” are meant, either those who are devoted to excessive lusts, who practice uncleanness along with greediness, and yet, they can never be satisfied with their filthy pleasure; or those who are greedy and devoted to having riches and wealth, and of increasing their worldly worth by any and all methods, right or wrong; and who withhold that which is meant for others.
Or extortioners. The “oppressors.” Also the greedy; those who want more, and especially those who commit fraud for the sake of gaining more. In the Scriptures the controlling love of gain is spoken of as an especially dreadful sin in God's sight. It is called idolatry in Ephesians 5:5—“For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph 5:5; KJV)—because wealth becomes the object supremely loved and sought after. Therefore someone who sacrifices duty to the acquisition of wealth, who makes gain the great object of his life, is a greedy person. He cannot be a Christian, and should not, according to the apostle, be recognized as such. Predatory persons are greedy for obtaining more, but they do it by oppressing the poor, the needy, and the fatherless, to obtain money. They are also called "ravishers": such men use force to violate the chastity of others, youths or virgins; or “robbers,” who, by violence and rape, take away that which is the right and property of others; and there are those who oppress the poor, keep their wages by fraud, or reduce them, and extort what they can unlawfully gain.
Or with idolaters. All the Corinthians worshiped idols, before the gospel was preached there. Idolaters are those who worship the false deities of the Heathens, or any idol, graven image, or picture of God, or men, or any creature whatsoever, or anything but the one Lord God.
Under these characteristics or labels, the apostle could put all manner of sin against a man's self, against his neighbor, and against God; against himself, fornication; against his neighbour, covetousness and extortion; and against God, idolatry: and since the world abounded with guilty men who held these vices, all kinds of civil correspondence with them could not be avoided.
for then must you needs go out of the world.
This does not mean that men should leave Greece, or move to other parts of that country, but that they should go out of the world itself; to do so, they must either destroy themselves, or seek out a new world: it is a pretentious way of speaking, showing that the thing is impracticable and impossible, since men of this sort are everywhere; and if all trade and conversation with them is forbidden, the families of God's people could never be supported, and the significance of religion could not be maintained; all worldly business would soon grind to a halt, and the saints would have little or nothing to do in the world; therefore, as the Arabic version reads it, "business would compel you to go out of the world".