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"Keeping Careful Company"
1 Corinthians 5:9-13

Wednesday AM Bible Study
June 6, 2007

Theme: The follower is not to keep company with a professing believer whose life is characterized by persistent, unrepentant sin.

In Chapter 5, Paul began to deal the problem of the Corinthian church tolerating—and even "glorying" in—a man in their midst who was living in open sexual immorality. He now deals with the question of how believers are to differentiate between the sinful people of this world, and sinners who profess to be members of the body of Christ.


A. Apparently, Paul had written to the Corinthians before. In that first letter (which we do not have), he wrote to them not to "keep company" (sunanamignumi; to mix together with, to have social interaction with) sexually immoral people. The Corinthians had taken this to mean that Paul was calling them to a kind of 'separatism' with respect to this world. It may be that they were rebelling against what they (incorrectly) understood Paul to be saying; which was why they were boasting in having an incestuous man in their midst (vv. 1-8).

B. Paul corrected this misunderstanding. He explained that he did not mean that the believers where to be completely separated from sinful people. (In the original language, he says that they are not to refrain from intermingling "altogether" (panton); since, as he says, that would require that believers go out of the world completely.

C. Clearly, it is in God's plan that the saints have some qualified interaction with the sinful people of this world—people whom Paul specifies as "sexually immoral", "the covetous, or extortioners" (both joined together in the original language as a pair—one being the attitude, and the other being the action), "or idolaters". Later in this letter, Paul even recognizes that believers may eat at the home of a non-believer (10:27). Jesus Himself did so (Matthew 9:10). How else would unbelievers hear about Jesus and see Him in our lives? (See Romans 10:14-15).


A. But Paul corrects the misunderstanding further by what he now writes. He explains that a believer is not to "keep company" with a professing believer—that is, anyone named a brother"—who lives in a persistent state of sinful behavior. The sins that he describes ("sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner") are introduced by a verb in the present tense; suggesting an ongoing practice. This would refer to someone who was making a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, but was living in open denial of Christ by clinging to the very sins that Jesus died to save them from (1 John 4-10).

B. The believer is, in such a case, to make the strongest distinction possible. They are to separate themselves from that person so long as he or she lives in open, unrepentant sin. The believer is not to even "eat" with such a person, since to eat with someone is a strong expression of fellowship (Luke 15:2; Galatians 2:12). They are thus to keep themselves separate from them until such a time as they repent and walk in accordance with the profession of faith in Christ that they make. Note here that God's word calls His people to be more earnest in separating from a professing believer who sins than they would from a non-believer who commits the same sins.


A. The principle that stands behind this is one of purity for those who profess to be "in Christ". Paul asks (rhetorically) what business it is of his (and by implication, of any believer) to judge those who are "outside" (that is, outside of a faith in Christ). He asks, "Do you not judge those who are inside?" Once someone makes a profession of faith, they make their behavior to be a "family matter"; and it becomes appropriate for their profession to be judged against the backdrop of their behavior. But it isn't our business to apply spiritual discipline those who are outside the faith. "But those who are outside God judges.

B. Paul supports this principle by citing Deuteronomy 17:7. On this principle, the sinning person is to be put outside the church. This is what Paul is calling the Corinthians to do in verses 1-8. He is here echoing his injunction in verses 6-8.

* * * * * * * * * *

The removal of a sinning person from the community of faith is a difficult thing; and will always seem harsh to the people of this world. It should always be done with the utmost humility and reverence of spirit. But it must be done. Two great motives should guide the effort: (1) that Jesus' church be kept holy, and (2) that the sinning person may come to a place of repentance, and be restoration into the church. We should remember how God expressed His own heart on the matter, when He said in Ezekiel 33:11; "‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?'"


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