Now Paul must deal with a natural result of the gospel of prosperity which was being taught here by these false teachers. This evil within the church is unavoidable when the emphases is placed on gain and acceptance by the world.
"After all, we are gaining, therefore we are godly. So what if we are involved in and/or are permitting this evil? We are gaining aren't we?" This is where this heresy leads, evidenced all around us.
Paul has reminded this church of his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ and as their spiritual father. Now he is going to use this authority in the way it was meant to be used, to form Christ in and through these people. And he is neither ashamed nor fearful of using this authority.
As we saw in the last chapter, the temptation of the pastor/teacher is to conform the people into what he feels they should be, instead of teaching the whole counsel of God and letting God make them into what He wants them to be.
Paul had just previously warned them of how he would come if they continued on in their evil ways, 4:21. Remember the context of this chapter is the false teachers and their gospel of prosperity and acceptance by the world. These men were effective and had persuaded this church to follow their teaching. (Someone told me the other day, about a retaliative that still sends money to Jim Bakker, even though Bakker is in prison for fraud. It is evident that this person was well indoctrinated by the false teachers.)
I would think that if the false teachers had been as effective as they seem to have been, the thought that would have run through the mind of the people that Paul is writing to would have been something like this: "What does he mean? I don't see anything wrong with their teaching. It sounds OK to me, and besides, look how our church is prospering." I remember sitting in Pastor's School in Hammond, and Hyles was asked a question. I don't remember the question, but I sure remember the answer. Hyles said, "How many are you running in Sunday School?" Then he railed on the person, pointing out that they had there at Hammond more lost in their restrooms on a Sunday morning than others have in total attendance. He made it clear that this proved that they were godly and right in their doctrine. (This thinking would make the Mormons godly.)
Now, Paul is going to have to overcome this kind of influence in this church, so what does he do?
He uses his authority to point out sin. Not just any sin, but a sin: 1. that is commonly reported. It is well known to all, inside and outside of the church. 2. that even the pagan dogs (Gentiles) would not openly indulge in.
This makes it obvious that the doctrine which is being taught, accepted and is swaying the people, is not of God. Godly doctrine would not permit this evil. Godly doctrine would keep the church pure, therefore, it was apparent that the doctrine which was being presented was not godly.
I think we have an firm indication here that one of the false doctrines being presented to this church was that Christ freed the believer from having to obey the law as given by God to Moses. The reason we say this is that this sin could not be more obviously a violation of Lev. 18:8; Deut. 27:20. Deut 22:20-25, required the death penality against any incesteous relationship, as well as adultry. The purpose of this harsh penalty is found in v. 22, so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.
Undoubtedly this was basicly a Jewish church, because all these first churches were primarily Jewish. Therefore, these Jews would have well-known the law in this case. So whether this man was a Jew or not is imaterial. The people of the church would have known the law for this case, yet they readilly accepted the sinner with love and kindness.
We can assume that this woman was not a christian because v. 5 only talks about one person. We can also assume that her former husband and this man's father was a Christian, 2 Cor. 7:12. There we are given the motive for Paul's rebuke here in ch. 5. Paul's instruction in ch. 5 was not for the benefit of the one doing the wrong, nor for the one wronged, but he did it out of love for the church, before God, and that his love might be evident to them.
In other words, he was not taking sides in this, although the son was clearly in sin. He did this because, before the Lord, he loved the church. All he was doing is pointing out sin according to the law of Moses, and how that sin was to be dealt with for the benifit of the church.
I think there are several assumptions we can make from this situation which will not read to much into the text.
1. First and formost, Paul holds this church to the OT standard of purity, then adds to this standard, vs. 11. Actually, what Paul is doing is taking the OT law concerning incest and immorality, and applying it to the new church. The OT punnishment was death for such a wicked activity. But, the civil government is the only one permited to take a life. In the OT the civil government is centered in the temple and was a religious function. The priest could pronounce a person guilty or not guilty and insist upon their death. This is what happened to Christ. The high priest found Him guilty and insisted upon His death. Rome permitted this.
But, under the NT, civil authority is seperate from the church. So now what is to be done to the ones who's sin under the OT law requires death, but the civil authority makes no such provision? The answer is the principle, so shalt thou put away evil from Israel. This is done by Church Discipline, removing them from the church.
This would be a wide departure from the false gospel of prosperity and self-esteme which this church was being taught. Christ came calling the nation Israel back to the proper understanding of the law. They put Him to death for this. Now, Paul comes with the same thing for the Church, calling them to a proper understanding and application of the law. He consistantly stands hard and firm against the false teaching which appealed so much to the falen nature.
2. As we mentioned above, it is evident that they were being taught that Christ frees the believer from having to obey the law of God as given to Moses. This would be the first instance of ANTINOMIANISM.
3. It is also evident that divorce or separation was now condoned by the church, based on sexual attraction. If not condoned, then accepted. It appears from 2 Cor. 7:12, that the son's dad overlooked this wickedness. He seems to have accepted the situation as not a violation of the law, even though he was hurt by it. He may have said something like this: "She fell out of love with me, therefore, I must not stand in her way."
4. The people of the church were also in sin because they were not holding this man and woman accountable to the law of God. They were also entertaining these false, antinomian teachers.
5. There was no teaching against the saved uniting together with the unsaved. Paul covers this in the next letter, 6:14. I could only speculate why he did not cover this here.
6. We might be able to safely assume that the sinner could have been a man of means, therefore, they were fearful to deal with this. James 2 deals with this.
We can also assume that these teachers were exceptionally good with persuasive words in order to be able to separate this church, which was started by Paul and taught the basic principles of Christianity by Paul, from the OT Scriptures. With all of this effort on Paul's part, these new Christians were easily swayed from their training from their youth up, in the law.
It comes back to the old adage, "People will believe what they want to believe." Or, "A man's morality will dictate his theology."
For us: May God see fit in His mercy, to supply the grace to not overlook sin and evil, but to deal with it properly.
(Church discipline. My daughter made an exceptionally good point about some one who was speaking very strongly against us. She said that they needed to be publically removed from the church, because this would show everyone who is in the wrong. If they leave and we do nothing, it appears we are wrong. If they leave under church discipline, then this says they are wrong.)
Exposer of sin must have with it a Biblical answer. He now reminds them of how it is to be dealt with.