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Excommunication in the Local Church

by Don Costello  
6/01/2008 / Bible Studies

1 Corinthians 5:1
It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife.
1. "It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you"
a. fornication [4202 * porneia] [Zodhiates: Fornication, lewdness, sexual sin of any kind.
b. Amplified Bible: "It is actually reported that there
is sexual immorality among you"

c. commonly [3654 * holos] [Zodhiates: Wholly,

d. This was common knowledge all over the area.

2. "and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife."

a. Under the Old Covenant this sin would have
demanded the death penalty for both the man and the woman.

1). Leviticus 20:11"And the man that lieth with
his father's wife hath uncovered his father's
nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to
death; their blood shall be upon them."

b. Here we will see some of the stark differences between the Old Covenant and the New.

1 Corinthians 5:2

And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

a. Amplified Bible: "And you are proud and arrogant!
And you ought rather to mourn, bow in sorrow and in shame until the person who has done this shameful thing is removed from your fellowship and your midst!

b. NIV: "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?"

c. There is no mention of putting to death, the only things Paul mentions that should be present in these circumstances is that of grief on the part of the congregation and for them to put this person out of their fellowship.

1 Corinthians 5:3

For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed.

1. "For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit,.."

a. I have always heard this phrase used in a very
common usage in the sense of, I won't be there
physically but my heart and feelings are with you. I am with you in spirit. I don't think that is what is meant here. There are scriptural instances of saints being translated over large distances in their physical bodies by the Spirit of God.

1). Elijah: 2 Kings 2:1, 3, 5, 7, 16.

2). Phillip: Acts 8:39, 40.

b. When the Apostle Paul was caught up to heaven he did not know if he was in his physical body or out of it.

1). 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 "I knew a man in Christ Above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which is not lawful for a man to utter."

c. John was physically in the Isle of Patmos, but in
his spirit he was given a vision that is the book of

1). "I John, who also am your brother, and
companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard Behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet"

d. Ezekiel had an out of body experience while he
was in exile in Babylon [Chaldea]. Ezekiel 11:1- 25.

e. What is meant by "absent in body, present in
spirit is he was having an out of body experience by the Spirit of God. His spirit left his body and went in the Spirit to Corinth, while his body physically stayed where it was.

2. "have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed."

a. judged [2919 * krino] [Zodhiates: To separate,
distinguish, discriminate between good and evil,
select, choose out the good. In the NT, it means
to judge, to from or give an opinion after
separating and considering the particulars of a

b. After considering the particulars of this case the Apostle Paul discriminated between the good and evil and came to a judgment. But some may say, "Didn't Jesus say in Matthew 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.? Yes he did, and it is the same Greek word, but what Jesus was referring to and what Paul was dealing with are two different things. Jesus was referring to judging a brother or sister who has a spec in their eye. He is talking about knit picking, and he condemned it. There is a big difference between a spec in my brother's eye and my brother sleeping with his father's wife. Later in this study we will show how Jesus spoke on church discipline that deals with more serious matters than a spec in my brother's eye.

1 Corinthians 5:4

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,

a. Paul begins his authorative direction by saying basically, "You need to gather together in the name and in power and authority of Jesus Christ." Paul says he will be there in spirit.

b. I am fully persuaded that the woman who was this man's stepmother was not a member of this church, and is the reason she is not mentioned in the punishment.

1 Corinthians 5:5

To deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

1."To deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh"
a. deliver [3860 * paradidomi; para-to the side of; didomi-to give]. [Zodhiates: To deliver over or up to the power of someonefor trial or condemnation, Mark 15:1; to soldiers, Matthew 18:34; of persons, Delivered over to suffer something, Romans 1:24, 26, 28;] [Thayer: The phrase seems to have originated from the Jewish formulas of excommunication because a person banished from the theocratic assembly was regarded as deprived of the protection of God and
delivered up to the power of the devil.]

c. destruction [3639 * olethros] [Zodhiates: Ruin,

d. This phrase is used only one other time by Paul, 1 Timothy 1:20.

1). 1 Timothy 1:20 "Of whom is Hymenaeus
and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto
Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme."

2). Part of my theory on this verse is that both
of these men, because they are mentioned in other places in Scripture in very bad light were the leaders in their particular heresy, and they are mentioned together here to convey that they both were "delivered over to Satan", however for different reasons.

endThis destruction did not kill the man. 3). Dake: "The purpose of delivering him to Satan was to destroy the flesh. This required members to withdraw all fellowship and spiritual influence from him, and to quit praying for him, so as to permit Satan to afflict his body thus perhaps bringing him to repentance, that his spirit might be saved in the What ever it was, it was capable of bringing him to repentance."

4). Unger's Bible Dictionary: "The formula of delivering or handing over to Satan, admits of difference of interpretation. Some interpret it as being merely a symbol of excommunication, which involves "exclusion from all Christian fellowship and consequently banishment to the society from which the offender had publicly severed himself" (Dr. David Brown). This "handing over to Satan was an apostolic act, a supernatural infliction of bodily infirmity, or disease, or death, as a penalty for grievious sin. It is scarcely doubtful that St. Paul delivered Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan, in order that Satan might have power to afflict their bodies, with a view to their spiritual amelioration" (Dr. Alfred Plummer).

5). There is no doubt in my mind that this was an apostolic act, but I believe it can be a local congregational act as well, and even an act between two or three believers. What must be in mind is that this action was taken with repentance as the goal.

e. Steps of Excommunication from Jesus.

1). Matthew 18:15-17 "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a plubican.

f. Jesus said that whatever decision is come to in a righteous manner will be backed up by God.
1). Matthew 18:18-20 "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them."

g. The added revelation of the handing over
to Satan was given to Paul by God.

1). The end result was to be repentance, which
was accomplished as related in 2 Corinthians 2:4- 8 and 2 Corinthians 7:8-11.

1 Corinthians 5:6

Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?

1."Your glorying is not good"

a. glorying [2745 * kauchema] [Zodhaites: A boast.]

b. I don't think they were boasting about the sin in their congregation, they were just boasting about their congregation.

2. "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?"
a. Matthew 13:33 "Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened."
b. Leaven used as a symbol was never good, especially in the context of Passover, as is used here in 1 Corinthians 5. Here Paul is using it as symbolic of sin in the congregation. During Passover, Israel was not to eat any leavened bread.
1). Exodus 12:15 "Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.
2). Exodus 12:18-20 "In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.
Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.
Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread.

1 Corinthians 5:7

Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us:

1."Purge out therefore the old leaven"

a. purge [1571 * ekkathairo; ek-out; kathairo-to
purge.] [Zodhiates: To purge out thoroughly, meaning to cleanse thoroughly.]

b. Leaven in Biblical typology is sin and so also
is defined that way in verse 8. It is our responsibility to get sin out of our lives by the power of God. He will not do it for us, but we can't do it on our own. We can only do it by his strength and grace.

1). 2 Corinthians 7:1 "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filtiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

2). Hebrews 10:22 "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water."

3). Psalm 119:9 "Wherewithall shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word."

2. "that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us:"

a. NIV: "Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast as you really are. For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed."

b. Amplified Bible: "Purge (clean out) the old leaven that you may be fresh (new) dough, still uncontaminated (as ye are), for Christ, our Passover [Lamb], has been sacrificed."

c. Paul was differing between the individual who had sinned with his father's wife and the rest of the congregation who had not. Yet he was warning them that if they failed to get the leaven out of the congregation, the whole congregation would be defiled.

3. "For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us."

a. Hebrew 10:1 "For the law having a shadow of
Good things to come"

b. Colossians 2:16, 17 "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days:
Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ."

c. The feasts of the LORD are all types and foreshadows of Christ and the New Covenant.
Jesus was crucified on Passover. The outpouring of the Holy Ghost occurred on the day of Pentecost, or the Feast of First Fruits.

1 Corinthians 5:8

Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

1. "Therefore let us keep the feast"
a. keep the feast[1858 * heortazo] [Zodhiates: To
keep a festival, celebrate a holiday.]

c. I do not believe Paul is telling the Corinthians to literally keep the Feast of Passover, but to celebrate our Passover in Christ by living unleavened lives. The rest of the verse I believe confirms that.

d. I do believe though, that in the Millennial reign of Christ, many of the Feasts will be reinstituted, but for now in the New Covenant they are done away. Can a Messianic Christian or any Christian celebrate them now, during this dispensation? of course, but only on a volunteer basis.

1). Romans 14:1-6 "Him that is weak in the
faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another who is weak, eateth herbs.
Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth
not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
One man esteemeth one day above another:
another esteemeth every day alike.
Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
he that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks."

2). Colossians 2:16 "Let no man therefore judge
you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days:"

2. "not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."

a. The leaven is clearly metaphorical therefore the
keeping of the feast is also.

1 Corinthians 5:9

I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

1."I wrote unto you in an epistle"

a. Amplified Bible: "I wrote you in my [previous] letter not to associate (closely and habitually) with unchaste (impure people);

b. Note from the NIV: "Paul here clarifies a previous letter (not one preserved)."

2. "not to company with fornicators:"

a. company [4874 * sunanamignumi; sun-together or with; ana-on, upon; mignumi-to mix;] [Zodhiates: To mix together, mingle together, have fellowship or keep company.]

b. 1 Corinthians 15:33 [NIV] "Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character."

1 Corinthians 5:10

Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the earth.

a. Amplified Bible: "Not [meaning of course that you must altogether shun] the immoral people of this world or the greedy graspers and cheats and thieves or idolaters, since otherwise you would need to get out of the world and human society altogether!"

b. We can't shut ourselves away completely from the world because we would not be effective for Christ. We are just to separate ourselves from unholy situations with unholy people.

1 Corinthians 5:11

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one, no, not to eat."

1."But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother"
a. keep company [4874 * sunanamignumi] [Zodhiates: See above in verse 9.]

b. He then gives a list of six offences that would
Require us to separate ourselves from a brother ore sister in the Lord.

2. "be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one, no not to eat."

a. fornicator [4205 * pornos] [Zodhiates: A
Whoremonger or male prostitute. In the NT a fornicator. The word also has the meaning of an impure or unclean person of whatever kind.]

b. covetous [4123 * pleonektes] [Zodhiates: One
who wants more, a person covetous of something that others have, a defrauder for gain.

c. idolater [1496 * eidolotres; eideolon-idol; latris-a servant, worshipper.] [Zodhiates: Idolater, a servant or worshipper of idols.]

d. railer [3060 * loidoros] [Zodhiates: A railer,
a reviler.]

e. drunkard [3183 * methusos] [Zodhiates:

f. extortioner [727 * harpax] [Zodhiates: Rapacious person or animal, as wolves.]

g. In the very next chapter, actually eleven verses a head, Paul gives another list of offences and again says the individuals guilty of these will not inherit the Kingdom of God. The good news is he goes on to say that some of the Corinthians in their church used to be these people but they have been saved and delivered from those behaviors.

1). 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God/ Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."

h. An interesting element in all of this is the
fornicator (1 Corinthians 10:8; Numbers 25:1, 9), and the idolater were punishable by death under the old covenant (Deuteronomy 17:2-5), as was the individual who was sleeping with his step mother (Leviticus 20:11). Yet under the New Covenant there is no death penalty issued. Granted, when all the ingredients of excommunication are added up, the sum is quite terrifying, but the individual is spared immediate death. He is to be removed by a formal spiritual exercise of the local body.

1 Corinthians 5:12

For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within?

1."For what have I to do to judge them also that are without"

a. This was a formal authoritive spiritual exercise
that was given to the Church by Christ for the health and purity of the church. It was not to be carried out on those outside the church. Just those in the church.

2. "Do not ye judge them that are within?"

a. It is within the church's sphere of authority to
judge them that are within the local body. 1 Corinthians 6 lays that out very plainly. It is as if the Apostle Paul is saying this is a no brainer!

1). 1 Corinthians 6:2-5 "Do ye not know that the Saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how
much more things that pertain to this life?
If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.
I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?"

1 Corinthians 5:13

But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

a. While it is within the church's sphere of authority to judge them that are in that local body, those who are outside are judged by God. It is vital that the church exercise it's authority and remove the leaven in order that God may judge them outside the Body.

My name is Don Costello. Ever since I received Christ in November of 1976 I have had a passion to study and know God's word.My wife Melissa and I have 5 children.

My e-mail address is

I have a blog located at:

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