Bible Question:

What is the meaning of 1 Corinthians 5:1-2?

Bible Answer:

The purpose of this article is to explain the meaning of 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 which reads as follows,

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 (NASB)

Two sins are described in this passage. Therefore our explanation is given in two sections: “The Sin of The Man” and “The Sin Of The Church.”

The Sin Of The Man

In verse 1 we are told there was a serious problem that had been existing in the church in Corinth for some period of time. When Paul says, “It is actually reported,” he uses the Greek word akouo. It is the normal Greek word for “to hear.” This verb is in the present tense which implies that he had been hearing about the sin of immorality. We do not know for how long he had been hearing this. But he had been hearing from someone in the church that a man was committing immorality with a woman.

The Greek word that is translated as “immorality” is porneia. This word refers to illicit sexual activity. What is unusual about this sin is that not even Gentiles were guilty of it. But what is the sin? We are told that some man in the church was having “his father’s wife.” He was committing incest. This reveals that the use of porneia here refers to sins of incest. The woman was not his mother or the Holy Spirit would have referred to the women as his mother, meter. Instead Paul used the word gyne which means “woman.” This helps us understand that the woman is the man’s step-mother.

Either the man’s father had divorced his mother or the man’s mother is dead since his father had married the woman. Also, since the Holy Spirit does not tell us the man committed adultery by his acts of incest, this suggests his father was dead. Some believe the man had married the woman, gyne, but there is no information to make that conclusion. It appears he was engaging in sexual activity with the woman without being married to her.

This means that he was committing incest. We are also told that this type of sin was not even committed by the Gentiles or non-Jews. Cicero states that this type of incest was an incredible crime and rarely occurred.[1] Additionally, incest was prohibited in Leviticus 18:7-8, 29 and Deuteronomy 22:30. This helps us understand that the sin is especially serious.

The Sin of The Church

When Paul says, “You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.” In verse 2, he reveals that the church had been ignoring the man’s sin. He says instead they should have removed him from the church. That is, they should have exercised “church discipline” and not allowed him to attend the church. Since Paul does not state that the church should have removed the woman, it is clear that the woman did not attend the church. This suggests that she was an unbeliever since Corinth at that time probably had only one church, unlike today.

The apostle Paul’s rebuke of the church reveals that they had sinned by not mourning the man’s ongoing sin. Obviously, the man was unrepentant and probably enjoyed his sin. It should be noted that the verb “become arrogant” is a perfect participle which means that the situation had been continuing for a long time. This church had been tolerating or ignoring the sin. The church responded to this sin just as many churches do today. The believers in this church probably thought it was none of their business, they did not want to get involved, or maybe they thought it would be unloving to confront the man about his sin.

But God has a different opinion. A careful reading of Matthew 18:15-18 reveals that God wants the church to deal with known sin in the congregation. This is called church discipline. For more information you can visit, “Church Discipline and Sinning Christians.” Today, too few churches obey Christ’s command or God’s will and practice church discipline.

Now notice what Paul told the church to do. They were to remove the man from their midst. That is the last step in church discipline. The church does not allow a fellow believer to continue attending the church if they will not repent of their sin and stop committing the sin. The purity of the church is a priority that has been lost in too many churches today. We have a low view of the seriousness of sin in God’s eyes leading many churches to quietly tolerate sin.


Many churches will not even mention the concept of sin since it offends people. Instead, sin is referred to as “a mistake” or “an error.” Sin is minimized in order to help people not feel so badly. Forgiveness and love are the words people want to hear – not sin and hell. But notice that Paul clearly states some sins are more serious than others, even though all sin is still sin. We need to be careful that we do not minimize the seriousness of some sins. Clearly, the sin of rejecting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is the most serious since it sends a person to hell. This passage reveals the seriousness of all sin, not just sexual sin. The church should be concerned about every type of sin.



1. Cicero. Pro Cluentio 5,6.

Suggested Links:

Porneia Definition — What is the meaning of the Greek word porneia in the Bible?
Church Discipline and Sinning Christians
Sinning Pastors/Leaders: What to Do?
Our pastor has sinned. The elders will not take action. What should we do?