Paul has gotten in the Corinthians' face over their immature divisions, following after this teacher or that minister. Now he's addressing an even more blatant sin in the church.
Apparently, there was a guy in the church who had coupled up with his step-mother. This isn't even something that happens among the heathen. Basic common morals tell you this is wrong. It was also written in the Mosaic Law, as a crime punishable by death:
Lev. 20:11 If there is a man who lies with his father's wife... both of them shall surely be put to death, their bloodguiltiness is upon them.
Not only were they not appalled at the sin, they had actually become arrogant. They prided themselves on how understanding and tolerant they were. But although tolerance might be the standard in today's politically correct climate, to tolerate blatant sin in our midst is to be in sin ourselves. Jesus, in writing to the church at Thyatira, said,
Rev. 2:20 ."..I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols."
Jesus rebuked them for tolerating sin in their midst.
The Corinthians had become arrogant "We have such a handle on the grace of God that we don't even judge this man in our fellowship." But using grace as an excuse to allow and even encourage sin shows that they didn't understand grace. They twisted it to be the opposite of what it was. Peter wrote that,
2Pet. 3:16 ...the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Grace from Christ gives us freedom from sin, not freedom to sin. Paul wrote to the Romans:
Rom. 6:1-2 ...Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be!
They had pridefully and boastfully tolerated a gross sin in their midst, and Paul said, "It's time to do something about it."
He tells them to remove this man from their midst. Kick him out of the church deliver him to satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved. This was an accepted practice in the church when dealing with blatant, unrepentant sin. Paul told Timothy,
1Tim. 1:19-20 ...Some have rejected (faith and a good conscience) and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered over to satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme.
They were excommunicated, kicked out of the church so that they would come to an end of themselves. You see, the idea is to let them loose to go stuff themselves with sin, knowing that they'll finally hit rock bottom. They'll finally realize that this didn't fulfill them, but actually and eventually made them feel worse. Turn them over to satan for the destruction of their flesh.
But this seems so harsh is this really what Jesus would do? Oftentimes, our idea of Jesus is not exactly what the Scripture shows Him to be. Isn't He more graceful, loving, and forgiving than this? Would He really have us kick someone out of the church for their blatant, unrepentant sin? Actually, it's exactly what He prescribed in the case of a Christian who is continuing in sin, when it is ongoing and unrepentant. In Matthew 18 He tells us,
Matt. 18:15-17 "And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer."
This is the method that Jesus dictated, and what the early church practiced. Unfortunately nowadays, this isn't done, or it's done incorrectly. It's not done because the rationale is, "Well, we can't just kick them out... they're tithing regularly! What'll other people say? Isn't that just a little too extreme?" Not when you look at the fact that the end result is restoration and salvation. That is the reason for the disfellowshipping. The whole reason is restoration. So that they'll come to the knowledge of their sin, repent, and be restored.
This is unfortunately often forgotten, even when it is practiced. Too many people fall into sin, and are disfellowshipped for life the people in the church have no eye for restoration and forgiveness.
Either way, people get hurt. If we don't remove them, their sin infects the whole church, and people are hurt. If we remove them without an eye towards restoration and forgiveness, then we also hurt people. Jesus gave the church standards for a reason. How glorious it would be if we actually followed them!
What does Paul mean when he says, "Christ our Passover?"
You know the story the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. God was using Moses to tell the Pharaoh, "Let My people go." But Pharaoh wouldn't hear it. So God told Moses to tell the Israelites, "Take an unblemished male lamb, one for each family. Keep it with you for a few days, and then kill it. Pour the blood into the basin built into the threshold of your doors, then take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the upper doorpost, the lintel, of your house. Then I want you to roast the lamb's flesh in fire and eat the flesh of that lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs."
"And when you eat it, I want you to be ready to move with your loins girded, your sandals on, and your staff in hand. Eat it in haste. Because that night, I'm going to go through Egypt and kill the first-born of every man and beast in every house. But when I see the blood on your house, I will pass over it, and this judgment will not destroy you."
"This is also going to become a holiday to your people, in remembrance of how the judgment passed over you, and how I delivered you out of the land of Egypt. Every year, get the lamb on the 10th day of the first month, Nisan, and kill it on the 14th day of the month. Then from the 14th day until the 21st day, you shall eat unleavened bread. There shall not be any leaven found in your houses at all."
The Passover looked back to the time that God's judgment passed over the houses with the lamb's blood on them, and looked forward to the the ultimate sacrifice of the Lamb of God Jesus Christ.
And to this day, Jewish families celebrate the Passover, which is the first day of the time of Unleavened Bread, by purging their houses of leaven. They even have a game, where a small amount of leaven is hidden, and the children search the house for it. The one who finds it gets a prize (kind of like a Jewish easter egg hunt).
So Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, has been sacrificed, just like the Lamb was at Passover. What season did that begin? The time when the leaven would be removed from the house. Because Christ our Passover has been sacrificed, we are to clean out the old leaven.
What does that mean? In Scripture, leaven is always a symbol of sin, because it corrupts by puffing up. Like when Jesus said,
Luke 12:1 ..."Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy."
And Paul here says,
1Cor. 5:8 Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
So when we are told to clean out the old leaven, it's that we are to clean out the old sin from our lives. We have celebrated Passover, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ paying for our sins judgment has passed over us. Now is the time to have no leaven in the house no old sin in our lives. When we find leaven, we're to throw it out there shouldn't be any leaven found in our houses, no old sin found in our lives.
Now Paul had written to the Corinthians at least once before. He had said, "Don't associate with immoral people." But they were confused about his instruction were they to hide themselves from the world? Only to do business with Christian businesses? Only to have Christian friendships? Although that's what many in the church are doing today, that is exactly opposite of what the Bible tells us to do. Paul says, "I didn't mean the immoral, unsaved people then you'd have to exit the planet! No, I meant that you shouldn't associate with any so-called brother that is immoral. You guys completely misunderstood me I was talking about someone who claimed to be a Christian, but lived in immorality.
He wasn't talking about the immorality of unbelievers. Of course they're immoral and you're called to be salt and light to them. You have a visibility, an accountability. You're representing Christ. Your chances of being dragged down by them into sin is so much less.
I know from experience in the workplace. I've worked at Christian companies, and I've worked for secular companies. When you're surrounded by the unsaved, they know it, and you know they know it. There's a standard you live up to, because you're representing Christ to these people.
But when you're working around Christians, it's a whole different ball game. When everyone around is supposed to be a light, then it seems like there's no reason to be shining very brightly. And often, the carnality and immorality surfaces in people, and starts to drag you down. Those are the people you're not to associate with. They bring you down, their sin infects you, and you begin to compromise. You get dragged down to where they are.
1Cor. 15:33 Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals."