Do Not Eat With Such a One?-I Corinthians 5:11

There is a tendency amongst humans to find loopholes to difficult challenges.  We want an easier way and we attempt to create that easier way by making exceptions that benefit us.  One such exception that I’m seeing happen more often is in the case of 1 Corinthians 5:11. Let’s look at the verse.

Contextually, Paul is instructing, in a rather pointed way, the Corinthians to stop ignoring sin in the congregation.  Specifically, the sin of one who is having a sexual relationship with his father’s wife.  The congregation not 0nly tolerated the sin, but seemed to be proud of themselves for doing so.  Paul makes it clear that their boasting is not good, and tells them to remove the man.

Continuing Paul lays out other examples of individuals from whom the church needs to disassociate.  The word for disassociate means “to not keep close company with.”  He gives a list that includes the sexually immoral, greedy, idolater, slanderer, drunk, and cheat.   Individuals who have no desire to change their behavior, but still want to be seen as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Paul’s command is that they disassociate from and not even eat with such a one.

So the application for us today is that if someone within the church is habitual practicing sin, without earnestly trying to stop, but yet still wants to be seen as an a faithful brother or sister in Christ, then the church is to follow the command of Paul here.  The church is to not associate themselves with the person, even to the point of individuals not sharing a meal with him/her.  It is a hard teaching, but our goal is the person will repent and other Christians within the church will not follow after that person in pursuing sin.

To be honest a lot of churches do not practice this at all.  Whether it is fear of lawsuits or upsetting members or other reasons, individuals, who would clearly fall into the 1 Corinthians 5 category, are treated as if nothing is wrong.  Once again this is a way to make God’s command easier on us.  We rationalize that God would not want us to have a lawsuit, or that it would upset people and we do not want disharmony, or find some other exceptions.  If you read 1 Corinthians 5 you quickly realize Paul was not concerned with any of those things and neither should we be.

However, even amongst those who do practice this, I am finding another exception being added.  The exception is that this does not apply to family members.  It is argued that it is okay to maintain close relationships with family members, even if the teaching of 1 Corinthians 5 applies to them.  I understand the sentiment behind it, but I think it is another example of softening what is being said. To me it is a reminder of Jesus statement that sometimes a relationship with Him will cause division amongst families.  Jesus wasn’t concerned with keeping harmony in families, He was concerned with making disciples.

1 Corinthians 5 is addressing people who practice sin habitual, but still want to be seen as faithful brothers and sisters.  Paul makes it clear that the church cannot oblige them.  Although we wish there were exceptions, in God’s wisdom there are not.  And if I have to choose between my wisdom or God’s wisdom, then I will go with God’s.

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13 Comments

  1. Sounds correct, although heart wrenching at times when put in practice

  2. Well put. This is a difficult topic, not because the text is challenging, but because it touches on some very tender spots emotionally. Also, figuring out the logistics of applying this in all the various family interactions (sharing a house, family get-together’s, weddings, etc.) is tough in my opinion. But I agree that many, myself included, have let ourselves off the hook on this instruction by making excuses and exceptions that are clearly not in the passage.

    A lot of this would take care of itself if we were truly as concerned about each other’s souls as we should be.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly. I think the key here is that this person wants to still be considered a Christian brother. The situation should be handled very carefully, gently and lovingly so as not to completely turn the person who is living in sin away forever. We should always keep in mind that the purpose is to bring the person back into a right relationship with God. Too many times “fellowship” is justified because they’ve asked forgiveness and none of us are without sin. Asking forgiveness is only one step. Repenting and getting out of the situation is also necessary. However, you have to take a look at what true repentance is, which is a complete change of mind and actions. You cannot continue to live in a sinful relationship or unscriptural marriage and be a true child of God. Now the question begs to be asked about one who no longer seems to care about being considered a faithful brother in Christ.

  4. Wesley

    January 19, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    That is a good question MBS. 1 Corinthians 5 is dealing with someone who still wants to be recognized as a brother. Not sure if it sheds much light into other situations.

  5. I am so grateful for this post. My husband of 8 years (second marriage for both of us) has a friend of 30 years who says he is a Christian and goes to church. The specific problem: His friend has had numerous adulterous affairs and liasons throughout those years and has told my husband after he stopped particular ones, always promising never to do it again – he’s in deep inner turmoil – he doesn’t want to be that kind of man — but he “got caught” by his wife this time. She wants to go on in their marriage. My husband just got very upset with me because I didn’t want him to meet this friend today for happy hour (they go about once a month when he comes to our town). He said how dare I judge his friend – we are all sinners – and you don’t cast aside a long time friend because he is struggling with sin – you stay friends to help guide him along the path to healing.
    I’m so confused — to me, his friend says he wants to get better but has continued with this same sin for 30 years. It has become a sticking point for us as my husband says I’m so judgmental. I want to follow God’s way.
    Any insights would be appreciated.

  6. Wesley

    January 20, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    BBH,

    This is a very difficult situation indeed. Your husband needs to be careful not to fall into temptation and make sure that he is helping the friend stay faithful, not be lead away.

  7. I see that it has been quite a while since anyone responded to this forum. I’ve been searchin the web for opinions on this and I was refreshed to read this blog here. We have a family member who is currently involved in a deliberate and habitual extramarital affair. He has been separated from his wife for almost a year, but not divorced. He has even admitted that he knows what he is doing is wrong, and yet he claims to be a Christian, goes to church, etc. I have taken a stand and I am enforcing I Corinthians 5:11 in this situation. It is painful, but I see no other alternative, even if he is a close family relative. Unfortunately, he has had other relatives who still have regular contact with him which I believe is only enabling him and also tolerating his sinful lifestyle. I refuse to accept this, and I believe that we must enforce what the word of God clearly teaches. I have said many times that this “turning away” will help to magnify the seriousness of habitual immoral sin. I am grateful for this article because it reinforces what I have been convicted of in my own heart. Family is included in the context of this verse. Jesus did say that families would be divided over Him.

  8. I caution Christians when they study the Bible, to not read into a scripture, something, they feel or think that it says. God warns us not to add to or take away, one dot or tidal. That is because the scripture’s are written to mean just what they say !!! God’s word is true and steadfast, God says heaven and earth may pass away, but my WORD will remain always. I encourage everyone to read and to go by “2nd Timothy chapter 2 and verse 15 !!!

  9. Hey Wesley, I praise the Lorf for you. Your insight concerning the application of this verse to family is a real blessing. God’s will is not always comfortable but the results are always a blessing. If it were so, Jesus would have never wept in the garden before facing the cross. It is to teach us that it is not easy but worth it. Please pray for me for the grace to do this and not be a coward about it.

  10. Sirulric Burgon

    April 1, 2013 at 5:30 am

    To BBH from 1/19/2012
    I know this is from long ago and may not reach the original poster but here is some food for all thought.

    She wrote-
    —-
    I am so grateful for this post. My husband of 8 years (second marriage for both of us) has a friend of 30 years who says he is a Christian and goes to church. The specific problem: His friend has had numerous adulterous affairs and liasons throughout those years and has told my husband after he stopped particular ones, always promising never to do it again – he’s in deep inner turmoil – he doesn’t want to be that kind of man — but he “got caught” by his wife this time. She wants to go on in their marriage. My husband just got very upset with me because I didn’t want him to meet this friend today for happy hour (they go about once a month when he comes to our town). He said how dare I judge his friend – we are all sinners – and you don’t cast aside a long time friend because he is struggling with sin – you stay friends to help guide him along the path to healing.
    I’m so confused — to me, his friend says he wants to get better but has continued with this same sin for 30 years. It has become a sticking point for us as my husband says I’m so judgmental. I want to follow God’s way.
    Any insights would be appreciated.
    —-

    An insight that may not be found very helpful or desirous, but has great spiritual ramifications.

    In light of Romans 7:1-3, Luke 16:18, and 1 Corinthians 7:11. I would look into your own relations. Adultery is fornication. Is you and your 2nd husbands marriage considered non-fornication or non-adulterous? My issue is not to stand here with both guns smoking but rather wonder….

    Why not counsel this man to divorce his current wife and marry his current affair and then do it again every time his affection and fancy changes like the wind. Is he really much worse than those who divorce and marry once, twice, three times. This is an extremely difficult place to stand but the question should be at least pondered. Marriage is tell “death do us part” (Romans 7:1-3).

    What makes a marriage?
    What breaks a marriage?

    In relation to homosexuality and gay marriages we have a tough time standing when we are constantly getting divorces and new marriages ourselves.

    So, how can we not eat with the gays but do eat with 2nd, 3rd, 4th and etc remarriages.

  11. HORATIO THOMAS

    July 22, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Just a thought: Jesus was accused of eating with publicans and sinners and He remains our example. 1 Corinthians 5: speaks of a fornicator in the christian assembly who needed to be thrown out of fellowship. The Corinthians had fellowship meals which included “breaking of bread” and had become disorderly and unloving: “when you come to eat…one remains hungry, another gets drunk. See 1 cor 11:20-21. When the church meets to eat/breaking of bread, the focus is on the Provider of Bread who also has become bread for us to feed on spiritually. The situation of 1 Cor 5:11 speaks of a professing christian who is LIVING in known sin. Your child who is not a christian as yet must eat with you, be taught christian values and led to christ. The relative who is NOT a christian is free to eat in our houses where we demonstrate by our lives and even tv programs watched, what we stand for. We must be evangelical in outreach to “publicans and sinners” and show “openly practicing sinning christians that we disapprove of their sins by refusing to eat with them. I think we cannot afford to confuse witness in one and reproof in the other. In our minds we must be clear. Satan wants us to be confused and lose out on witness and weaken reproof.

  12. This is how I believe this scripture also. I was pleasantly surprised to find this view, since most people seem to ignore this scripture.

  13. This is perhaps one of the most difficult scriptures to obey because I guess we don’t trust the finished product. Somehow we think that if we are nice enough, loving enough, patient enough that people will come out of their sin — but why would I if I can just keep on my merry way. I remember as a young Christian being trapped in the living together sin — my heart ached every day and one day I realized how much God loved me and I walked away. However, when I looked back I could not identify anyone who loved me enough to share with me the damage this sin would cause in my life, how it would hurt others…not one person in my life told me “No”. When you truly love, you will take the time to give discipline. God disciplines those whom he loves….so instead of being a hate or judgemental passage (which the Bible never is) it is a love action with the hopes that you have given the person enough of you where your “No” matters.

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