1 Corinthians 5–6: Immorality & Greed

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 11: Sunday

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler— not even to eat with such a one.
1 Corinthians 5:9–11

In Sunday’s Bible reading of 1 Corinthians 5–6, Paul turns from dealing with jealousy and strife amongst the Corinthian Christians, to rebuking the immorality and tolerance of blatant, open sin in the church. As with their prideful behavior, in their sexuality and greed the Corinthians were living their lives according to the culture that surrounded them. Anthony Thiselton describes the cults and temples of Corinth:

“Archaeological evidence not only estab-
lishes, but brings to life, the reality and
impact of these cults [Aphrodite, Dionysus/
Bacchus, Apollo, Isis and Serapis, Poseidon],
many with implications for sexual license for
Corinth in its civic, cultural, and everyday
life….the hilltop of Acrocorinth, e.g., long
associated with Aphrodite as the protector of
the city…

“Six pagan temples dating from around the first century BC line the west side of the Agora, not far from the series for worship on the northern side, where Paul may have plied his trade as a leather worker during his eighteen months in the city….Yeo (following Williams and Engels) observes that “In Corinth [Aphrodite] was a god of sailors and sacred prostitution and the protectress of the city.” Hence business interests and trade were bound up in the welfare of the cult….

“As we have noted, the competitiveness and status-seeking at Corinth suggest parallels with early twentieth-first-century modern/post-modern cultures. Similarly, the cults of Aphrodite, Apollo, and Dionysus invited a “freedom” to dispense with moral restraint and to tolerate everything except any transcontextual truth claim which might interfere with an individual’s “rights” to instant self-gratification. All of this resonates with a postmodern ethic which is founded only on where society is at the beginning of the twenty-first century.”1

Norman Hillyer writes that Corinth had a:

“…notorious reputation for sexual license, which had spawned a new word, to ‘Corinthianize’.”2

The church at Corinth not only tolerated immorality, but they had wronged and defrauded their fellow believers. Paul warns them:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Thistelton labels this list as “sexual” sins and “greed, grasping” sins.3 Paul then reminds the Corinthians of who they are now because of their belief in the Lord Jesus:

“Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
1 Corinthians 6:9–11

but you…but you…but you…That’s who you once were, but that’s not who you are now. We as Christians need to remember this and live accordingly. Paul closes chapter six with this warning:

“Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”
1 Corinthians 6:18–20

Remember those words: You are not your own; you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Temple of Apollo, Ancient Corinth, Greece; Acrocorinth in background: Public Domain.
1, 3Anthony C. Thistelton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, pp. 738–739, 451.
2Norman Hillyer, “1 Corinthians,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie,
J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., p. 1049.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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