1 Cor 5 Purging the sinner in your midst


My question has to do with interpreting 1Corinthians 5. Particularly verses 9 thru 13 although my niece, a fundamentalist of the most literal sort (except the literal verses they don’t like of course) only posted and said she was having trouble with verse 11 on facebook. I called my priest to try and get clarity and he said that St. Paul had a habit of separating the body from the spirit and was referencing one’s own sin at this point. My priest said (vs 10) “you would have to leave this world” means that you would have to be in heaven, that the word “brother” in vs 11 is not referring to other Christians that it is referring to calling yourself a Christian and that starting with vs 12 he’s talking about those outside your own body, outside yourself, not necessarily outside the church. Finally, because of verse 13, the priest said, we no that we we are not to judge each other because God will do that and that “Purge the evil person from your midst.” is telling us to purge evil from ourselves. Has anyone ever heard this explained this way? The way the whole chapter reads, it looks like Paul is telling us to get evil doers, especially those we know to be in sexual sin, out of the church altogether. What do you think? I can’t wait to get some feedback on this, thank you in advance for taking the time.


I wouldn’t go quite as far as your priest. While looking to our own sinfulness is important (and St. Paul certainly talks about that many times elsewhere in his letters), the Church does have procedures (excommunication) for temporarily placing an individual outside the fold. Such procedures, in a far more severe form, are referred to in the canons of the Council of Nicaea, so I have no trouble believing that they go even further back, and even that the apostles may have employed them or recommended their employment.

Of course, the important thing to remember is that excommunication is not meant to be a punishment, exactly. You’re not giving up on the person or declaring him damned. The idea is to provide more of a “kick in the pants” to get the person to realize the severity of their straying and return. Even the material I mentioned from the canons of Nicaea is about how a lapsed person can come back to the Church, though at that time it was a lengthy procedure.



Thanks Usagi. What would you say to someone (non-Catholic) who is struggling with this, thinking it means that you can’t even associate or eat with that sinner? What might you say to a daughter, attempting to hold her own mother’s feet to the fire regarding her mother’s sinful lifestyle? Is it her place or only the place of someone (like St. Paul) in a leadership position in the Church. This gets even more dicey inasmuch as the daughter is no longer Catholic and the NT Bible is essentially written by and for Catholics. So for a Catholic to receive communion in a fundamentalist celebration, would that be a sin on the same level as that sinful Catholic receiving the Eucharist at Mass? Where does the formation of conscience come into play? So many questions I know. :smiley:


Hmm, I can’t agree with your priest’s interpretation, either. It seems reasonably clear from the context that Paul is talking about a church body putting someone unrepentant outside the fold, with, as Usagi mentioned, the hope that the person will repent and be restored. In such a case, a family member ought not to interpret it as being commanded to cut off relations with sinning relatives; otherwise, how would believers ever hope to win over unbelieving loved ones?

I would emphasize other scriptures with your niece. She is called to honor her father and her mother in the Ten Commandments and, among other places, Col. 3:20. She is not the pastor of her church seeking to keep the congregation free from such open scandal as could tear it apart, or lead it into moral licentiousness. Obviously, I don’t know what the situation is exactly, but if she were seeking advice I would advise her to pray for her mother and show her mother Christ’s love.


Thank you, heidi. that is pretty much what I did. :thumbsup:


Don’t forget that in II Co St Paul says “enough” and let the guy who was committing incest back into the church.

Yes, we are supposed to point out when others are committing wrongdoing – evil. Let me be the first to say that this isn’t always easy to apply in your life. You have to use a lot of tact, etc. to perhaps bring the person around.

My sister has the belief that it is impossible to commit a mortal sin. Yes, she says, the sister in fourth grade (around 1957) told her that you cannot commit a mortal sin unless you intend to hurt God and SHE doesn’t.

She doesn’t take into account that perhaps she misunderstood what the sister was saying or that her own memory is faulty, or perhaps she might be twisting the story a little bit.

So, my sister was in a technically evil adulterous relationship, fornication at the very least, for more than 30 years. She had this Biblical saying framed in her kitchen, “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” But, apparently she did not understand the implications of this.

She later told me to get out of her life and never talk to her again. After seven years of trying, I gave up.

One of my work associates distanced himself from me when I suggested he start going to church again, after his divorce. He soon remarried (in Las Vegas) in a garish wedding chapel.

Other people know what I stand for and they just take that as a fault of mine.


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