5:1 “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!”
Chapters 1-4 dealt with the subject of divisions in the church. Chapter 5 introduces a new subject – uncorrected sexual immorality in the church. This was a mighty ugly scene.
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you,
Paul charges the Corinthian church with allowing immorality in the church to go undisciplined. This was no rumor or gossip, because it was “reported” from authentic witnesses. Paul relied on reliable sources. Corinth was a city of iniquity, the Paris of antiquity, and they brought that iniquity into the church.
and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!
The Corinthian church allowed a particular man to live sexually with his own step-mother. This man, his father, and the father’s wife all came to church and the church did nothing about it. The father may have been widowed and married a younger woman.
The word “Gentiles” carries the idea of heathen, those without Christ. Even Gentiles or lost people of Corinth did not live in flagrant incest, so Paul excoriates their permissiveness. Even Corinth, the Paris of Antiquity, would not tolerate this sin. Corinth was the world’s playground of the first century. Fornication and adultery were commonly practiced but not incest. Cicero asserted that incest was illegal under Roman law.
There was a term in the first century labeled “Corinthianize.” If someone was Corinthianized, it meant that he was debauched. The Temple of Aphrodite close to Corinth had 1,000 temple prostitutes for temple worship. The popular phallic cult fornicated as easily as they ate or drank water. Incest was a shock to ancient Greek culture. The word “such” is a qualitative pronoun. “Such” type of fornication was a stopper even for the heathen in Corinth.
The father of the incestuous person was still alive. The sinning man repented by the time 2 Corinthians was written:
2 Co 7: 12Therefore, although I wrote to you, I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong [that is, the incestuous man], nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong [that is, the father], but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you.
The book of Leviticus speaks of incest.
Leviticus 20: 11The man who lies with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.
True love deals with sin.
The natural conscience of those without Christ can at times live on a higher plane than those with Christ, especially a hardened carnal believer. A renegade Christian can live worse than an unbeliever. Carnal Christians can do things the lost would never do. No one is as miserable as a Christian out of fellowship.
Gross irregularities and glaring incongruities can creep into the local church – downright scandal. However, there are two extreme reactions to gross sin in the church: (1) liberal tolerant acceptance without discipline and (2) legalistic rigidity, self-righteous condemnation. Both are wrong but Paul will deal with the correct approach to disciple later in this chapter.
True love deals with sin.
Ga 6: 1Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.