Arrogance in thinking Paul wasn’t coming (I Corinthians 4:18-21)
After proving that the opinions of some of the Corinthians about himself or the other apostles did not matter, Paul turns around and comes to some conclusions of his own.
Some in Corinth were becoming prideful, not considering that Paul would be coming to Corinth again. Perhaps they thought that Paul didn’t dare return or was afraid that if he did return that he would be taken to task by these people. They thought so highly of themselves that they believed their reputation was sufficient to keep an apostle at bay.
But Paul warns that he would be coming soon if the Lord permitted it and would put these people to the test. It would be a test of their empty words (Ephesians 5:6; I Timothy 6:20-21; II Timothy 2:16), but a test of their actual power, of which in truth they had none. The church is not about empty talk, but power. It was their choice for how Paul came. He could come with a rod to discipline them or he could come in love and meekness.
- How is the word “power” used in I Corinthians? What kinds of power are there?
- What or who has power?
- Where does the power come from?
Arrogance with sin in their midst (I Corinthians 5:1-8)
One of Paul’s concerns is that he has received a report that there was a member at Corinth who was having sex with his father’s wife. It wasn’t just a rumor, it was something so commonly known that its truth could not be denied. The wording of the charge is that the man was involved with his step-mother. Considering the statement in II Corinthians 7:12, it appears that man’s father was alive, so this isn’t a case of a man marrying his step-mother after his father’s death. Marriage isn’t even mentioned in this passage. That such sin was being committed by one of the members at Corinth outraged Paul. Even Gentiles, who did not have God’s law, would be embarrassed to make mention of such a crime. It would be a scandal in any community (Deuteronomy 27:20). Yet it appeared that the Corinthians were proud to have this man in their membership. They should have been saddened by the situation and done something to remove the problem (II Corinthians 12:21).
- How could members of a congregation be arrogant with an active sinner in their midst?
- Could this be a case of thinking, “Well, at least he is going to church, so perhaps he’ll leave his sin”?
- Could they, in their personal pride about the congregation, have been ignoring the problem?
- Why is this directed at the man and not the woman?
Though Paul was not physically there, he was there in spirit; that is, his heart and mind were focused on what was happening in Corinth (Colossians 2:5). Based on the evidence he has received, he is able to pronounce an accurate judgment concerning this sin. He did not need to physically come there to determine the cause or give the solution. The guilt of the man was without question. Paul commands the church to do what should have been done earlier. At their next gathering, they are to withdraw from this wayward brother with the authority given by the head of the church – Jesus Christ.
The word “deliver” translates the Greek word, paradidomi, which literally means a betrayal or a surrender. It is the same word used in I Timothy 1:18-20. It means that the church is acknowledging its failure to keep this brother out of sin. It is a public statement that they lost a brother to Satan, so they are letting him go in hopes that the misery, which will result, will teach the person not to willfully disobey God (Matthew 18:17; II Thessalonians 3:14).
What is interesting is that this same word is used when a person is cast into prison (Matthew 4:12). That is how Christians view it. They are free from sin (Romans 6:7), but when a Christian returns to sin he is also returning to bondage or imprisonment. "Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?" (Romans 6:16). Thus Satan is looked upon as a jailer and the person who refuses to stay out of Satan's realm is released to fall back under Satan's control. But it is done in hope that the person will realize what they lost and return; that he will destroy his fleshly desires so he might be saved (Psalm 83:16; 109:6; Romans 8:13).
Their arrogance was preventing them from realizing that sin doesn’t go away on its own. It spreads secretly and rapidly, like yeast in a lump of dough (Galatians 5:9; I Corinthians 15:33; II Timothy 2:17). The only solution is to remove the cause of leavening – the one who is sinning, along with the sins they were committing – so that what remains will remain without sin. Christians are to stay away from sin (Romans 6:1-2) as followers of Jesus. Jesus sacrificed himself to save lives (John 1:29), just as the Passover lamb was killed to save the firstborn from God’s wrath.
It is because of this symbolism that the bread in the Lord’s Supper is made without leavening. It represents the body of Christ who was without sin. The Passover celebration took place during a week-long feast when no food was cooked with leavening (Exodus 12:15; Deuteronomy 16:3-4). By keeping ourselves pure from sin we are able to keep the Lord’s Supper with an attitude of sincerity and truth. This is in contrast to when false teachers are in a congregation’s midst and stated in II Peter 2:13 and Jude 12.