Adultery in Corinth church

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Reference: 1 Corinthians 5.1

Heart of the Story: A man in the Corinthian church is having sex with his father’s wife, which was adultery.

Back Story: Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church (in Greece) from Ephesus (in Asia Minor) where Paul spent three years. The Corinthian church was divided because its more powerful members were arrogant. Paul implored the Corinthian church to drop their one-upmanship and work together for the advancement of the gospel of Jesus.

Story Line: Paul identifies that a man sleeping with his father’s wife is sexual immorality. The man committed adultery as the Old Testament defined adultery. Let’s look at what was happening:

  • Both the man and his father’s wife were equally involved in the sexual immorality. There was no mention that the man raped or coerced his father’s wife.
  • The woman was the wife of the man’s father. The woman was not the widow of the man’s father. The man’s father was still alive.
  • In all probability, the man who was having sex was not the son of his father’s wife. Perhaps the woman/wife was in a polygamous marriage, or the man’s mother died; his father married this woman.
  • The man had no shame – he was blatant in his sexual relationships with his father’s wife. Paul referred to the man as arrogant.

Pondering Relationships: When you read this brief anecdote, did you ask yourself, “What was the father doing when his son was having sex with his wife?”  The adultery was common knowledge in the church – Paul knew about it and he was hundreds of miles away. Why didn’t the father take some action to stop this sexually immoral behavior from his son and wife.

Perhaps, the father was old and senile; perhaps he had a stroke or was otherwise in ill health and no longer knew what was occurring in his home. Did the son have his own home and came to visit his father’s home to have sex with his father’s wife; or did he still live in his father’s home? How did the son and his father’s wife get away with having sex?

Does it seem to you that the man disrespected his father? The man’s mind, his moral sense, must have been dulled. Equally true, the father’s wife must have cared little for her husband that she would have sex with his son. I imagine that the woman in this story could have been appreciably younger than her husband; however, age difference does not excuse her willingly committing adultery with the man’s son.

Although this entire situation is sad, the saddest part is that the man and apparently the woman did not mourn their behavior. The man must have been a professing Christian. Further, Corinth church leadership did not remove the man from the church. Does your church remove blatant sinners from the church? Mine doesn’t. My church seems to believe that it is good that sinners come to church. Perhaps, by coming to church these sinners will repent of their sins.

Reflection: Trying to make decisions or take stands consistent with the New Testament is difficult at times.

Copyright June 22, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth

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