A Case of Incest.* 1It is widely reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of a kind not found even among pagans—a man living with his father’s wife.a 2And you are inflated with pride.* Should you not rather have been sorrowful? The one who did this deed should be expelled from your midst. 3I, for my part, although absent in body but present in spirit, have already, as if present, pronounced judgment on the one who has committed this deed,b 4in the name of [our] Lord Jesus: when you have gathered together and I am with you in spirit with the power of the Lord Jesus, 5you are to deliver this man to Satan* for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.c
6d Your boasting is not appropriate. Do you not know that a little yeast* leavens all the dough? 7* Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.e 8Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.f
9* I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people, 10not at all referring to the immoral of this world or the greedy and robbers or idolaters; for you would then have to leave the world.g 11But I now write to you not to associate with anyone named a brother, if he is immoral, greedy, an idolater, a slanderer, a drunkard, or a robber, not even to eat with such a person.h 12For why should I be judging outsiders? Is it not your business to judge those within? 13God will judge those outside. “Purge the evil person from your midst.”i
* [5:1–6:20] Paul now takes up a number of other matters that require regulation. These have come to his attention by hearsay (1 Cor 5:1), probably in reports brought by “Chloe’s people” (1 Cor 1:11).
* [5:1–13] Paul first deals with the incestuous union of a man with his stepmother (1 Cor 5:1–8) and then attempts to clarify general admonitions he has given about associating with fellow Christians guilty of immorality (1 Cor 5:9–13). Each of these three brief paragraphs expresses the same idea: the need of separation between the holy and the unholy.
* [5:2] Inflated with pride: this remark and the reference to boasting in 1 Cor 5:6 suggest that they are proud of themselves despite the infection in their midst, tolerating and possibly even approving the situation. The attitude expressed in 1 Cor 6:2, 13 may be influencing their thinking in this case.
* [5:5] Deliver this man to Satan: once the sinner is expelled from the church, the sphere of Jesus’ lordship and victory over sin, he will be in the region outside over which Satan is still master. For the destruction of his flesh: the purpose of the penalty is medicinal: through affliction, sin’s grip over him may be destroyed and the path to repentance and reunion laid open. With Paul’s instructions for an excommunication ceremony here, contrast his recommendations for the reconciliation of a sinner in 2 Cor 2:5–11.
* [5:6] A little yeast: yeast, which induces fermentation, is a natural symbol for a source of corruption that becomes all-pervasive. The expression is proverbial.
* [5:7–8] In the Jewish calendar, Passover was followed immediately by the festival of Unleavened Bread. In preparation for this feast all traces of old bread were removed from the house, and during the festival only unleavened bread was eaten. The sequence of these two feasts provides Paul with an image of Christian existence: Christ’s death (the true Passover celebration) is followed by the life of the Christian community, marked by newness, purity, and integrity (a perpetual feast of unleavened bread). Paul may have been writing around Passover time (cf. 1 Cor 16:5); this is a little Easter homily, the earliest in Christian literature.
* [5:9–13] Paul here corrects a misunderstanding of his earlier directives against associating with immoral fellow Christians. He concedes the impossibility of avoiding contact with sinners in society at large but urges the Corinthians to maintain the inner purity of their own community.