“But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?”
Paul is speaking a Remez in this passage. In other words Paul is referring to Deuteronomy 13 as part of God’s command to Moses and the Jewish people. There are three issues that must be considered in understanding Paul’s words to the Corinthian Church.
The first is context. The city of Corinth was the epic center for prostitution and pagan worship. The word Paul uses that has been translated in English as sexual immoral means “one who prostitutes himself”. One of the pagan worship customs in the city of Corinth was for prostitutes (male and female) to march through the streets heading to the public baths where the citizens would follow them and engage in public nudity and drunken orgies. Paul opens chapter five of Corinthians addressing a son who has had sexual relations with his father’s wife. This no doubt happened as part of those public orgies in pagan worship. It is also important for modern readers to understand the Romans and the Greeks were polytheistic and embraced the worship of many gods, and would not have difficulty of adding to their list of religious expressions this new religion called Christianity. The issue Paul continues to address in his writing to the Corinthians are the Roman and Greek believers bringing their pagan worship practices into their Christian worship. How much of our worship/faith/beliefs comes out of our culture and not necessarily from the Spirit?
The second is definitions:
“Greedy” - one who tramples on the rights of another
“Idolater” - pagan worshipper, one who participates in pagan festivals
“Slander” - injuries another’s reputation
“Drunkard” - one who is intoxicated
“Swindler” - one who robs
The third consideration is Deuteronomy 13:1-5 - “If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death (it can also mean expelled) for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.”
When you put Paul’s words into context he is addressing persons who claim to follow Christ, but who also encourage others to follow the pagan gods. He is addressing the evil of religion that misleads people, hurts people, uses people, takes advantage of people, misguides people, and/or leads people to participate in sexual orgies, slandering another’s reputation, trampling on the rights of others, robbing others. When he says “expel the wicked person from among you” he is making the distinction that Christ followers should live up to a higher standard than the world’s standards. When the Gospel of Christ promotes a destructive way of living toward oneself or another it not longer is the Gospel taught by Christ.
It is always necessary for the people who follow Christ to hold the standard of Christianity up for all to see without judgement or bias. We don’t compromise the gospel in hopes of reaching more people, we reach more people by highlighting the hopes of the Gospel.