Read verses 1-5
Q: Is this describing someone who is temporarily backslidden or merely making a mistake?
A: No, this is an unrepentant lifestyle, sin which goes unchallenged and unaddressed.
Q: How does this go beyond just merely reflecting badly on the individuals involved?
A: It has become a stain on the church’s public testimony and Christianity in general. Even by worldly standards such behavior is understood as immoral. How can the Gospel be preached to repent of sin when it becomes normative?
Q: Why does Paul only single out the man? Why is he not recommending punishment for the woman involved as well?
A: In all likelihood this indicates that while the man was a Believer, his step-mother was not; she was apparently not part of the church family. This makes the situation even more egregious as it involves a Believer’s relationship with a non-believer.
Q: Why might it be significant that Paul describes the church as “arrogant”?
A: It indicates that there is something wrong spiritually not just with the man in question but with the church as a whole. It suggests that they have taken a very public stand tolerating and perhaps even supporting this man. It is really the opposite action of repentance depicting an attitude rooted in self-interest and pride.
Q: What might the church have done to be labeled “arrogant”?
A: There could actually be a number of scenarios:
- They may have prized lenience and forbearance to such a degree that they were boasting of their tolerance as an act of humanity, an act of charity to show how they were not severe on each other. In others words, a misapplication of love.
- They may have actually put the issue on a pedestal to showcase it as freedom from the Law or as an example of Christian liberty. In other words, a misapplication of the Law.
Q: What is telling about the fact that Paul admonished the church for not mourning the sin? Isn’t that something he should require only of the man?
A: Throughout Scripture we are provided the repeated example where the righteous, once made aware of sin among God’s people, intercede with God in repentance even though they may not have personally participated in the sin. (Moses, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, etc.) Awareness of sin is always a corporate issue.
Application: If we don’t take sin within the Church personally and see it as someone else’s problem, the consequences are not confined to that person but eventually affect us all. In fact, to willfully ignore unaddressed sin in fellow believers creates an issue of sin for the body at large. When one part of the body suffers, the whole suffers. Likewise the whole must respond to sin even if just confined to a single part or segment. Would you refuse treatment for cancer if it was limited to only your hand?
Q: What does Paul suggest was the right response which they should have instinctively known to do from the outset?
A: The Greek word here translated as “mourn” more specifically means to “mourn over the dead”. They should have seen this unaddressed sin as leading to death in both the literal sense of the working of sin, and in the need “to be removed from your midst” (v.2) – severing their relationship with the man.
Q: Paul states he has “already judged him who has so committed this”. Doesn’t Jesus tell us NOT to judge?
A: This is one of the most common misinterpretations of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus plainly teaches that it is not appropriate to judge without first addressing your own personal sin; He never says others cannot be judged.
“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
— Matthew 7:5
Q: So on whom does the responsibility of carrying out this judgment take place?
A: It is to be handled by the church collectively and not by leadership alone – “When you are assembled”. (v.4) The matter became known publicly and therefore must be dealt with publicly.
Q: What does it mean, “…to deliver such a one to Satan”? Is he being directed to hell?
A: The meaning here is to cut him off from church fellowship so that he must live in the world which is controlled by Satan. The purpose of such discipline is to bring the sinner to a place of repentance that he might ultimately be saved. This becomes especially clear when in a subsequent letter to the Corinthians Paul declares that the time of separation and punishment of this man has been enough and they should restore him to fellowship.
Q: So what is the initial purpose of this discipline?
A: For the good of the offender, “so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus”. (v.5)
Application: At present some might call this “tough love”, where in the character of a parent-child relationship strict discipline must be invoked and adhered to for the sake of the child learning to live and behave the right way permanently going forward throughout their whole life. This is not about correcting a single mistake but changing a lifestyle, a pattern of behavior which rules the entire soul.