Study Sheet for I Corinthians 5:1-5 (click here for Study Notes)
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. (NIV)
1. Paul confronts the Corinthians with an unheard-of offense: one of their brothers "has his father's wife." The Old Testament prohibited such a relationship, and (according to the footnote in the Zondervan NIV Study Bible) Cicero wrote that incest was almost unknown in Roman society. (see Lev. 18:8, Deut. 22:30, Deut. 27:20) "And you are proud," Paul confronts them. Of what, specifically, do you think they were proud?
2. Paul tells them that instead of being proud they should have "been filled with grief." How could grief have been a positive experience for the Corinthians under the circumstances? (see II Cor. 7:7-11) Why would Paul admonish the entire church to be "filled with grief" when one man was misbehaving?
3. Even beyond being grief-filled, the Corinthians should have "put out of [their] fellowship the man who did this," Paul chastises them. Being put out of fellowship was not new. The Jews had put people out of the synagogue for varying offenses (including confessing the Lord Jesus Christ) for years. Since the time of Moses Israel had strict laws for killing moral offenders in order to "purge the evil from among you." (Deut. 13:5; 17:7; 19:19; 22:21, 24; 24:7; Jdg. 20:13) Did being "put out offellowship" from Christ-followers differ from being put out of the Jewish fellowship? What would constitute a sin big enough to warrant being put out of the church? Did being put out mean that a person was no longer a Christ-follower? Was the "putting out" for the purpose of benefiting/protecting the church or of disciplining the offender?
4. Paul tells the Corinthians that although he's not physically present with them, he's "with [them] in spirit." Further, he says that he has "already passed judgment on the one who did this." What does Paul mean when he says he's with them "in spirit?" (see Col. 2:5; I Th 2:17) Why is it significant to the Corinthians that Paul has "already passed judgment" on this man? What kind of judgment has Paul made?
5. The Corinthians are not left to their own judgment as to how they are to deal with moral offenders. They are to "hand this man over to Satan" only when they "are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus," when Paul is with them "in spirit," and when "the power of our Lord Jesus is present." Why should they be assembled in "the name of our Lord Jesus"? (see II Th 3:6) How would they know whether or not the "power of our Lord Jesus" was with them? What difference would it make to them whether or not Paul was with them "in spirit?"
6. What does Paul mean when he says they should "hand this man over to Satan?" (see II Th 3:6) What is Satan's territory? How will handing him over to Satan destroy his sinful nature? How will such disfellowshipping save this man's spirit? What are the implications of handing someone "over to Satan" while "assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus" and with "the power of our Lord Jesus" being present?
7. Do Paul's instructions for church discipline differ from your understanding of what it is and when/how it should be done? If so, how?
8. How do Christ-followers know when the church should exercise putting someone out of fellowship? What kinds of offenses should be treated this way? Is the offense the problem, or is the individual? What is our obligation if we know someone in our fellowship harbors sin?
9. What sin do you have in your life that you can't control? What do you need to offer to God in humility, knowing it stands between you and God and your fellow believers? Praise God that he saves us in our sins and that he loves us so much he doesn't let us rest until we offer him our weakest flaw!
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Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised April 23, 2000.