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1 Corinthians; The saints and the sinner

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posted on Oct, 21 2013 @ 05:29 PM
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Among the writings of Paul, 1 Corinthians is the letter which teaches the church what it means to be a Christian community.
The opening verses (ch1 vv1-9) have the effect of defining where the church comes from and what it’s based on, and I will want to show how the rest of the teaching follows on from that.
I was drawing out a definition of the church in the attached thread;
Defining the church
Part of the definition was that the church is a “gathered assembly”, an EKKLESIA, which has been “sanctified”, set apart for God.
So the next concern is the relation between the assembly and those members who fall away from holiness (ch5)

vv9-11 It seems that in one of his earlier letters Paul had been urging the Corinthians to separate themselves from “immoral men”.
They must have objected that the advice was not practical.
So now he’s obliged to explain what he meant.
It wasn’t his intention to tell them to avoid such people altogether.
As he admits, this could only be achieved by “going out of the world”.
“Which would be absurd” must be understood. Even if it were feasible, leaving the social world outright would not have been Paul’s idea of the best answer to the problem.

What he meant, instead, was that they should cease to treat immoral people, such as robbers, idolaters, and drunkards, as fellow-members of the community.
Not to stop any kind of contact with such people, but to stop associating with them as brothers.

vv1-2 He had already criticised them about a particular case which illustrates what he meant
One of their number had “taken”, as wife or mistress, his father’s widow or divorced wife.
This was behaviour which was unknown “even among the Gentiles”, since the relationship was forbidden in Roman law as well as in Leviticus.
The patriarch Reuben had been degraded from first place for a similar offence (Genesis ch49 v4).
They were boastfully self-confident of their own spiritual advancement, and yet they were ignoring a major blot on the community.
“Let the man who has done this be removed from among you”.

vv3-5 Paul instructs them to expel the man from the community, something they should have done already,
Even though Paul cannot be present “in body”, they are to understand him as being present “in spirit” to preside over the proceedings.
Meeting in the power of the Lord Jesus and acting in the name of the Lord Jesus (or possibly the other way round), they are to “hand this man over to Satan”.
This is another way of saying “let him be removed from among you”.
For if Paul understands the world as divided into two camps, the camp of God and the camp of Satan, then a man who leaves the first camp is automatically returning to the second.

Commentators disagree on what is meant by “destruction of the flesh”.
Does Paul believe that a man deprived of the spiritual protection of God’s camp will be at least more vulnerable to sickness?
Is he expecting to bring about the man’s physical death?
But then there is the problem of explaining what that would do towards “saving his spirit” in the day of our Lord Jesus.
A less dramatic, but possibly more straightforward, interpretation is that “the flesh” refers to “the fleshly appetites”, and “ the destruction of the flesh” means the curbing of the man’s immoral desires.
If the shock of expulsion moves him to begin changing his life, and if he repents to the point that he can be received back into the community, then THAT will have the effect of “saving his spirit” in the day of the Lord.

vv6-8 They need to understand how dangerous their indulgence has been.
For the influence of such a man’s example could spread through the church in the same way that a small piece of leaven can work through a lump of dough.
(We would say, like a rotten apple spoiling the whole barrel)

He reminds them of the Jewish custom of tracking down and removing every particle of leaven that can be found in a household, as part of the preparation for Passover.
Of course Christ is the Christian equivalent of the paschal lamb.
In which case, the paschal lamb has already been sacrificed (at the death of Christ)- which brings home the need for urgency, since there would be little time left between the sacrifice of the lamb and the beginning of the Passover proper.

The moral of the Jewish Passover ritual is the need for the people to be spiritually clean before presenting themselves before God at the Passover.
Paul is urging the Corinthians to apply that moral to themselves.
In the not-too distant future, they will be presenting themselves before God.
They are already “unleavened” (AZUMOI), in Christ.
Therefore they should live up to that status, and keep the whole community free from the “leaven of wickedness”.

In other words, they need to “drive out the wicked person from among you” (v13).

Since their calling has called them away from the world, as a body, the separation needs to be maintained.



posted on Oct, 22 2013 @ 05:21 PM
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If Paul’s injunctions were being followed, the church would be excluding any members who were falling back into “fleshly” ways, to prevent them from “infecting” the rest of the church, and in the hope of prompting them to reconsider their ways.
Over most of the modern church, this is probably not working as Paul would have liked.

On the one hand, exclusions are not happening on occasions when Paul would have seen a necessity, and there are a number of reasons for this neglect.
In the case of the Church of England, it is partly one of the side-effects of being an “established” church.
There remains provision in the liturgy for excluding someone from communion in the case of “grave and open sin without repentance”, but any systematic exercise of this discipline has been politically impossible since at least 1714 (the death of Queen Anne).
Other communities may be restrained by an unconscious sense that they are “in competition”, with other Christian communities and with the non-Christian world, and cannot therefore afford to send people away.
Perhaps also there is a diminishing sense that sin matters (especially if the leaders themselves have been compromised in that respect).

At the same time, on the other hand, history has seen much abuse of the practice of exclusion, with exclusions happening for the wrong reason.
There were frequent examples in the Middle Ages of excommunication for political reasons.
Leaders with a sense of their own authority are temperamentally prone to regarding defiance of their authority as a serious offence for which exclusion is a reasonable punishment.
This has been the real reason for many exclusions in church history, including, I believe, the landmark event which took place in 1521 (a classic case of punishing the whistleblower instead of the abuse he was addressing).

The church at large is currently a long way away from steering the right course between disuse and misuse and getting the procedure intended by Paul back on track.



posted on Oct, 23 2013 @ 05:04 PM
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This thread is the sequel to;

The saint and his holiness



posted on Oct, 24 2013 @ 05:32 PM
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I do not intend to go through the whole of 1 Corinthians systematically.
It will only be a selection of passages.
This series has been inspired, indirectly, by the commentary written by Hans Conzellman.
In his comments on the first verse in ch6 (a passage which I do not intend to cover) he remarks that “The criterion of conduct is accordingly found in the nature of the community”.
In effect, I have taken this dictum and made it a guideline for a major part of the epistle.
The premise is that Paul’s teaching here is largely about getting the church to live up to the description of itself which he supplies in the opening verses.
The way this works will become evident in the different stages.

(It has to be said, though, that I increasingly find Robertson and Plummer more reliable on points of detail).



posted on Oct, 26 2013 @ 04:22 AM
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The sequence of threads in this series is expected to be as follows;

Defining the church
The calling and the cross
The calling and the Spirit
The calling and the teachers
The saint and his holiness
The saints and the sinner (current thread)
The saints and the idols
The fellowship and the common Spirit
The fellowship and the gifts
The fellowship and the Supper
The fellowship and its love
The waiting and the resurrection



posted on Nov, 1 2013 @ 05:24 PM
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The most recent thread in this series is;

The saints and the idols
edit on 1-11-2013 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 2 2013 @ 05:11 PM
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edit on 2-11-2013 by DISRAELI because: wrong thread




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