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"Do not ye judge them that are within? i. e., members of the church. "But them that are without God judgeth," xgivɛ, or rather givet, will judge, which is the approved reading. "Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person,” vs. 12, 13.
The severe censure with which the apostle reflects upon the Corinthians for tolerating the offender so long, shows that the responsibility rested with them. They should have put away this offence from among them. But if it was wholly the act of the apostle, why censure them for neglecting to do what they had no right or authority to do? Are the members of the Episcopal church to be blamed for the total neglect of discipline in their communion, while the clergy have the sole power of administering discipline? Neither could the Corinthians deserve censure, except they had authority to exercise the discipline which they neglected. Both here, and in 2 Cor. 2: 3-11, the apostle refers distinctly to their neglect in this matter.
Again, in 2 Cor. 2: 6, he speaks of the excommunication as the act of the church. The punishment was inflicted, vnd tŵv nhɛιóvшv, “ of many," i. e., by the many, the majority. Bilroth paraphrases this in connection with the preceding verse, as follows: "Whether he, or the offender, have caused grief to me, comes not into consideration. It is not that I must suffer for him, but you; at least, a part of you; for I will not be unjust, and charge you all with having been indifferent concerning his transgressions. Paul proceeds still further, v. 6; he calls those who had reprehended the transgressor the majority, who had condemned his vice and been grieved by it."
Once more, the apostle does not himself restore the transgressor, now penitent for his sin; but exhorts the Corinthians to do it. But if the church have themselves the
4 Mosheim, Institutiones Majores, P. II, c. 3, § 14.
authority to receive him again to their communion, had they not also this right of censure ? "The punishment which they had extended over him, by excluding him from their communion, is declared to be sufficient, since he had reformed himself, (on izavór, see Winer, p. 297.) The apostle himself, therefore, proposes, v. 7, that they should again treat him in a friendly manner, and comfort him, in order that he might not be worn away by over-much grief.” 5 In v. 10, again, he signifies his readiness to assent to their decisions; whom they forgive, he forgives also; and that, because they had forgiven him.
2. This sentence was an actual excommunication; not a judicial visitation analogous to that upon Simon Magus, Acts 13: 11. By this sentence he was removed from the church of Christ, and reduced to his former condition as a heathen man. This, according to the most approved commentators, is the full meaning of the phrase, agadidoõvai 10 Zaravu. The world, in the angelology of the Jews, and agreeably to the Scriptures, comprises two great divisions; the kingdom of Christ, and the kingdom of Satan. By this sentence of excommunication, the incestuous person is transferred from the visible kingdom of our Lord, to the dominion of Satan, and in this sense delivered unto him.
3. The ultimate object of this discipline was the reformation of the offender; the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. It was not a penance, an arbitrary, prelatical infliction of pains and penalties, but a disciplinary process for the spiritual good of the individual.
4. It is questionable, perhaps, whether the sentence was accompanied with the judicial infliction of any disease whatever. Many of the most respectable commentators
5 Bilroth, Comment. ad locum.
understand, by the delivering "to Satan, for the destruction of the flesh," the visitation of some wasting malady. The phraseology doubtless admits of such a construction, and the language of the apostle on other occasions seems to favor it. Com. 1 Cor. 11: 30. 1 Tim. 1: 20. But the consequences of this excommunication were of themselves sufficient, it may be, to justify this strong expression, the destruction of the flesh. To the Jews, under the old dispensation, and to primitive Christians under the new, it was no light matter. It was a withering curse. It was a civil death; a total exclusion from kindred, from society, from all the charities of life, which Christians were wont to reciprocate even with the heathen. This construction, again, is given to the passage by commentators of high authority.
But is any bodily disease intended? Flesh, oάgs, often denotes the carnal propensities, the sinful appetites and passions. Gal. 5: 17, 19. 6: 8. Eph. 2: 3. Col. 2: 11. The subjugation, the putting away of these, is distinctly implied in the ultimate design of this discipline,-the salvation of the spirit, and is not this all that is intended in the blogov ts oagxós, the destruction of the flesh? However that may be, it is not essential to our present purpose. Whatever may have been, to the guilty person, the consequences of the sentence of excommunication, it proceeded from the church at the instigation of the apostle.
An excommunication somewhat similar is described briefly in 1 Cor. 16: 22,—“If any man love not the Lord
6 Josephus relates, that those who were excommunicated from the Essenes often died after a miserable manner, and therefore were, from motives of compassion, received again when at the point of death. In this instance, their oath obliged them to refuse such food as he might find; but was not the case equally as bad, when all were bound, not only to refuse him subsistence, but all expressions of kindness and charity? Comp. Jahn's Archäology, § 528. Horne's Introduction, B. II, c. 3, § 4. Neander's Allgem. Gesch., I, 373, 2d edit.
Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maran-atha." word anathema corresponds to the Hebrew on, which denotes either any thing given up to God, or devoted to destruction. It was a form of excommunication familiar to the Jews, which was pronounced publicly upon the offender, and excluded him from all communion whatever with his countrymen!7 Such was the anathema, a solemn sentence of excommunication, publicly pronounced upon the transgressor. The phrase, Maran-atha, is the SyroChaldaic N, The Lord cometh, i. e., to judgment. The whole, taken together, implies that the transgressor is separated from the communion of the church, and abandoned to the just judgment of God. All that the apostle seems to demand of the Corinthians respecting the offender is, that they should exclude him from their society, so that he might cease to be a member of the church, verses 12, 13. He pronounces no further judgment upon him, but expressly refers to the future judgment of God.
In review, therefore, of these important passages, several things are worthy of particular remark.
1. The sentence of exclusion proceeded not from the pastor of the church, but from the church collectively.
2. The excommunication is styled a punishment, nitiula. But the apostle distinguishes it both from the civil penalties which attended the bans of excommunication among the Jews, and from the judicial sentence of God, regarding the whole transaction as an ecclesiastical act, intended to express a just abhorrence of the crime, a merited censure of it.
3. The reason assigned for the restoration of the offender was repentance,—húлŋ,—sorrow for his sin, to which the apostle probably refers in a subsequent passage, 7: 10, when he says, "Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of."
7 Jahn's Archäology, § 258. Du Pin, De Antiqua Disciplina, Diss. 3, c. 2, p. 272.
4. He was restored to the communion and fellowship of the church, as he had been excluded, by the public consent, the vote of that body. In accordance with these views, the apostle exhorts the Corinthians to separate from them any other immoral whether he be a fornicator, or person, covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner. 1 Cor. 5: 11. And the Galatians he exhorts to restore, in the spirit of meekness, one who may have been overtaken in fault. Now this right of judging and acting, both in the expulsion of the immoral and the restoration of the penitent, vests the power of ecclesiastical censure in them. Comp. 2 Thess. 3: 14, and Rom. 16: 17. It was, therefore, the privilege of the apostolic church to administer its own discipline by a free and public decision in their own body, a right which accords with every just principle of religious liberty, while it clearly illustrates the popular character of the primitive constitution of the church. For, as in their elections, so in their discipline, the apostolical churches were doubtless in harmony one with another, and may justly be presumed to have observed the same rules of fellowship. Based on the same principles, and governed by similar laws, one example may suffice to illustrate the policy of all.9
2. Argument from the early fathers.
Few passages, comparatively, occur in their writings relating immediately to the point under consideration. But enough can be derived from them to show that the church continued, for two or three centuries, to regulate her own discipline by the will of the majority, expressed either by a popular vote, or by a representative delegation chosen by them.
8 Rights of the Church, by Tindal, p. 39.
9 On this whole subject, comp. Vitringa, De Synagoga, Lib. 3, p. 1, c. 10. Pertsch, Kirch. Hist., I, 4to, p. 469, seq. Recht. Eccles. Kirchenbanns, Vorrede, Ausgab, 1738, 4. C. M. Pfaff, De Originibus Juris Eccl., pp.10-13. Neander's Allgem. Gesch., p. 349, seq., 71, 98, &c.