List of Sins | Word Studies in Corinthians
Last night Rev. Roger Scantlin taught at Chrispoint in Galena, Kansas. It was his 2nd Wednesday night in his series on the power of the tongue. He used quite a few statistics and Scripture, really had an excellent presentation.
I’m honing in on a couple of Scripture Passages from the Corinthians because I’m personally reading these Epistles devotionally right now. I like to focus on nuances of translation with lists like this. I also appeal to the Early Church as a first line of commentators.
1 Corinthians 5.11
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. 1 Corinthians 5.11, NRSV
In the New Living Translation, the wording of the list is a little stronger: “in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people.”
The word in question is “reviler” or “abusive.” A quick peek at the Greek reveals this word can indeed be translated abusive, along with reviler and railer. It’s from the root word mischief. Whatever the case, no matter the translation, intentionality is implied.
“Obviously if we are not to eat ordinary food with such people, we are not to admit them to the Lord’s table either.” This is a strict judgment, like excommunication.
2 Corinthians 12.20
For I fear that when I come, I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish; I fear that there may perhaps be quarrelling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 2 Corinthians 12.20, NRSV
For, “conceit, and disorder,” the New Living Translation uses the terms, “arrogance, and disorderly behavior.” The terms “conceit” and “arrogance” are true to the Greek term, which can be transliterated inflation, haughtiness, or swelling. The terms “disorder” and “disorderly behavior” have different connotations in today’s English. However, in the Greek the term is closer to “disorderly behavior,” causing confusion, starting a commotion or a tumult, etc.
What is striking about this Passage is Paul does not pronounce judgment like excommunication. Certainly the list is comparable and deserves punishment. Perhaps a more mature Paul is writing 2 Corinthians. Perhaps there are other reasons for the change in tone based on the context of the letter and congregation. Paul basically says, “When I come, you may find me to be as you are.”
“Paul did not say that he was afraid of finding them in sin but rather that they might not be all he would wish. Furthermore, he balances this by saying that their expectations of him might be disappointed as well.”
Obviously, I’m a little off to focus on Paul’s lists of bad people.
Both Theodoret and Chrysostom focus on the outcome. What are we to do with such people?
Theodoret refers to nothing less than excommunication. This may seem a little harsh, but if people have hardened their hearts, perhaps there is a time to cut the ties that bind. Excommunication, disfellowshipping, shunning, etc. are severe forms of church punishment. Very seldom is anything like this called for in my church circles. Handle with care.
Nonetheless, I am intrigued by what Chrysostom says about the list in 2 Corinthians 12.20. If I can borrow from basketball rules, this is a list of “intentional fouls” as well. Yet Paul plays the penitent. He is not excusing any sin by any means. However, he is admitting his own vulnerabilities.
“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.” Gandalf, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Perhaps the lesson is we have all sinned.
In extreme circumstances, the church renders a difficult decision. However, excommunication comes from the collective church leadership, not from individuals or families. On the other hand, Paul is calling on individuals to carry out the punishment as well. Perhaps excommunication is merely one form of this type of punishment.
At the church level, decisions sometimes have to be made, as we see in 1 Corinthians 5.11.
On an individual level, Paul is transparent, as we see in 2 Corinthians 12.20.
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- Theodoret of Cyr, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians CXCIV
- John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians XXVIII.2