Question on 1 Cor 5:9-12


I’ve been making my way though 1st Corinthians, and I’m confused about 5:9-12. I think it’s probably due to some sort of backstory I must be missing. Paul urges the Corinthians “not even to eat” with sinners outside the Christian community. That seems unChristian. What did he mean by this? Were there special circumstances?


Ver. 9. &c. I wrote to you in an epistle. If he does not mean what he has said already in this epistle, it must have been in some other, which he had written to them before, (as some conjecture) and which is not now extant. — Now to keep company with fornicators, nor with such like public scandalous sinners, not so much as to eat with them. But you must take notice, that I mean, when they are brethren, or Christians, not when they are infidels, for this cannot be avoided, especially by those who are to labour to convert them. This admonition of the apostle, shews us how much such persons are to blame, who by their carriage encourage, applaud, and are delighted with wicked company. Them who are without the pale and fold of the Church, the apostle leaves to the great judge of the living and the dead. (Witham)


In verse 10 he is saying that those who are not Christians are not having Christian fellowship with you at all. To eat with them you would have to go into their sin yourself, leave the fellowship of the church, sin with them and fellowship with them. And you already know you want to be in the Church, so I don’t have to warn you about them because I know you are not even thinking of doing that. When you “go outside the Church” to evangelize them, of course you will perhaps eat with them but not join them in their behaviors, but you will win them to come with you back into the fellowship, leaving their sins behind fo follow you in.

In verse 11, however, he is saying that there are those who have come into the Church bringing their vices along, even openly, yet claiming the name of “brother”. They want to be included in the Church AND want sexual immorality, covetousness, idolatry, etc., to be welcomed in the Church - so, when a “fellow Catholic” you know boasts about the sexual encounters he has, or about his great possessions that he got by shrewdness at the loss of someone else, - he is betraying the name of “brother”. Show him the door back into the world because that is where he is living. He should not be deluded into thinking he has an inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ by your eating with him. They are deceiving you if they call themselves “brother”, and if you “overlook” it, you are being deceived and perhaps setting yourself up to live that way also.

Look at the next chapter “9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived…”
We know those on the outside (non-brothers) are not heirs of Christ (not yet, at least), but we cannot fool ourselves that those inside will attain heaven while practicing mortal sin as if it were acceptable. Look at what we do when we commit a mortal sin, we come to confession to reject our sin and turn back to amendment of life with all our effort because we know that “the fires of Hell” are the inheritance of those who do such things.


Not “outside the Christian community” but “inside the Christian community” !

Jesus was in constant contact with sinners outside the Christian community.


Thanks everyone! That clears things up! I was working with a translation that made things kind of unclear, I think.


It can be summed up as what grampy use toy say:

When YOU look for trouble your much more likely to find it.

It’s the condition of avoiding the NEAR occasion of sin.:thumbsup:

closed #7

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit