Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians;
A Bible Study Based upon the Homilies of St John Chrysostom (SJC)
Study Guide – August 16, 2022 – 1st Corinthians 5.1-8 Session 16 – Homily 15
Prayer before reading of the Holy Scriptures: Shine within our hearts, loving Master, the pure light of Your divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds that we may comprehend the message of Your Gospel. Instill in us also reverence for Your blessed commandments so that, having conquered sinful desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, thinking and doing all those things which are pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give glory, together with Your Father who is without beginning and Your all holy, good and life giving Spirit, always now and forever and to the ages of ages.
- St Paul holds nothing back when sin is so serious – SJC that they might as persons altogether aloof from his charge take it easily; but might be filled with such anxiety as was natural when the whole body was wounded, and the Church had incurred reproach.
- Incest is beyond even non-believers (not anymore unfortunately) – SJC Now if their committing the same sins was unpardonable, when they even outdid the Gentiles, what place can we find for them? Tell me: inasmuch as among the Gentiles, so he speaks, not only they dare no such thing, but they do not even give it a name. Do you see to what point he aggravated his charge? For when they are convicted of inventing such modes of uncleanness as the unbelievers, so far from venturing on them, do not even know of, the sin must be exceeding great, beyond all words.
- How dare the Church tolerate such behavior? – SJC And with him indeed he condescends not to debate, and thereby signifies the exceeding greatness of his dishonor. But to the others he says, You ought to weep and wail, and cover your faces, but now you do the contrary. And this is the force of the next clause, And you are puffed up, and did not rather mourn. And why are we to weep? some might say. Because the reproach has made its way even unto the whole body of your Church.
- We sin when we do not mourn sin – SJC Nor yet does he accuse them for not having given him information, but for not having mourned so that the man should be taken away; implying that even without their Teacher this ought to have been done, because of the notoriety of the offens3]
- Some sin deserves immediate action to stop the spread! – SJC Mark his energy. He suffers them not even to wait for his presence, nor to receive him first and then pass the sentence of binding: but as if on the point of expelling some contagion before that it have spread itself into the rest of the body, he hastens to restrain it.
- When the Church corrects us, it is from God for our salvation – SJC Then lest he should be thought too authoritative and his speech sound rather self-willed, mark how he makes them also partners in the sentence. For having said, I have judged, he adds, concerning him that has so wrought this thing, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, you being gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan.
- All punishment is for repentance – SJC And he said not, Give up such an one to Satan, but deliver; opening unto him the doors of repentance, and delivering up such an one as it were to a schoolmaster. And again it is, such an one: he no where can endure to make mention of his name.
- The Body & Soul are saved or condemned together – SJC That the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus; that is the soul. Not as though this were saved alone, but because it was a settled point that if that were saved, without all controversy the body too would partake in its salvation.
- All punishment should be done with a mind toward the cure – SJC And he said not simply, That the spirit may be saved, but in that day. Well and seasonably does he remind them of that day in order that both they might more readily apply themselves to the cure, and that the person censured might the rather receive his words, not as it were of anger, but as the forethought of an anxious father.
- We hinder repentance when we ignore sin – SJC Your glorying is not good: signifying that it was they up to the present time who had hindered him from repenting, by taking pride in him. Next he shows that he is taking this step in order to spare not that person only, but also those to whom he writes.
- We work to save the entire Church when we eliminate sin – SJC In these words he indicates moreover that their struggle and their danger is for the whole Church, not for any one person. For which purpose he needs also the similitude of the leaven. For as that, says he, though it be but little, transforms unto its own nature the whole lump; so also this man, if he be let go unpunished and this sin turn out unavenged, will corrupt likewise all the rest.
- The blessings we have received are worthy of feasting – SJC It is festival, therefore, the whole time in which we live. For though he said, Let us keep the feast, not with a view to the presence of the Passover or of Pentecost did he say it; but as pointing out that the whole of time is a festival unto Christians, because of the excellency of the good things which have been given.
- Even when we struggle we should not be downcast – SJC Let no one then be downcast about poverty, and disease, and craft of enemies. For it is a festival, even the whole of our time.
- The ‘Old Leaven’ is our former sinful life – SJC to point out also that it was impossible, after the unleavened bread, again to enter into Egypt; but if any one chose to return, he would suffer the same things as did they.
- To be found with sin is the cause of death – SJC The believer must be freed from all iniquity. For as among them he perishes with whomsoever is found old leaven, so also with us wheresoever is found iniquity: since of course the punishment being so great in that which is a shadow, in our case it cannot choose but be much greater. For if they so carefully clear their houses of leaven , and pry into mouse-holes; much more ought we to search through the soul so as to cast out every unclean thought.
- We are restored after repentance – SJC For if he had said this at the beginning he might have set him free from the fear. Wherefore he not only does not so, but by the instance of leaven allows him not even a hope of return, but reserves him unto that day: Purge out (so he says) the old leaven; and, let us not keep the feast with old leaven. But as soon as he had repented, he brought him in again with all earnestness.
LIFE APPLICATION: Heaven or Hell is a matter of choice
- Clergy are not immune from sin – SJC But I have a strong conviction that the saying about the leaven refers also to the priests who suffer a vast deal of the old leaven to be within, not purging out from their borders, that is, out of the Church, the covetous, the extortioners, and whatsoever would exclude from the kingdom of Heaven.
- We will not be able to claim ignorance when we are judged – SJC What then shall we do on that day, when before the dread tribunal he that has been evil entreated and lost his all is brought forward into the midst, and you have no one to speak a word for you? What will you say to the Judge? Now indeed you may be able even to corrupt the judgment, being but of men; but in that court and at that time, it will be no longer so: no, nor yet now will you be able. For even at this moment that tribunal is present: since God both sees our doings and is near unto the injured, though not invoked: it being certain that whoever suffers wrong, however in himself unworthy to obtain any redress, yet nevertheless seeing that what is done pleases not God.
- Learn from the past – learn from the SAINTS! – SJC You will say, How is it possible to become such as he was? Do you then thoroughly desire it? Are you thoroughly anxious to become such? Yes, you will say. Well then, go the same way as he went and they that were with him. Now what way went he? One says, 2 Corinthians 11:27 In hunger, and thirst, and nakedness. Another, Acts 3:6 Silver and gold I have none. Thus they had nothing and yet possessed all things. 2 Corinthians 6:10 What can be nobler than this saying? What more blessed or more abundant in riches? Others indeed pride themselves on the contrary things, saying, I have this or that number of talents of gold, and acres of land without end, and houses, and slaves; but this man on his being naked of all things; and he shrinks not from poverty.
- Freedom from possessions is true freedom – SJC Thus it is possible that he who has nothing may possess all men’s goods. Thus may he who possesses nothing acquire the goods of all: whereas, were we to get all men’s goods, we are bereft of all.
- Greed leads to death – SJC But Ananias and Sapphira, hastening to gain a little more than their own, lost all together with life itself. Withdraw then from your own, that you may use others’ goods as your own.
SEND OFF! Do What You Can!
Wherefore let these my words have been spoken to the perfect. But to the more imperfect, this is what we may say, Give of what you have unto the needy.