Verse 12. "For what have I to do to judge them also that are without?" - The term without, touv exw, signifies those who were not members of the Church, and in this sense its correspondent term: µynwxyjh hachitsonim, those that are without, is generally understood in the Jewish writers, where it frequently occurs. The word kai also, which greatly disturbs the sense here, is wanting in ABCFG, and several others, with the Syriac, Coptic, Slavonic, Vulgate, and the Itala; together with several of the fathers. The sentence, I think, with the omission of kai also, should stand thus: Does it belong to me to pass sentence on those which are without- which are not members of the Church? By no means (ouci.) Pass ye sentence on them which are within-which are members of the Church: those which are without-which are not members of the Church, God will pass sentence on, in that way in which he generally deals with the heathen world. But put ye away the evil from among yourselves. This is most evidently the apostle's meaning, and renders all comments unnecessary. In the last clause there appears to be an allusion to Deut. xvii. 7, where the like directions are given to the congregation of Israel, relative to a person found guilty of idolatry: Thou shalt put away the evil from among you-where the version of the Septuagint is almost the same as that of the apostle: kai exareiv ton ponhron ex umwn autwn.
THERE are several important subjects in this chapter which intimately concern the Christian Church in general.
1. If evil be tolerated in religious societies, the work of God cannot prosper there. If one scandal appear, it should be the cause of general humiliation and mourning to the followers of God where it occurs; because the soul of a brother is on the road to perdition, the cause of God so far betrayed and injured, and Christ recrucified in the house of his friends.
Pity should fill every heart towards the transgressor, and prayer for the backslider occupy all the members of the Church.
2. Discipline must be exercised in the Christian Church; without this it will soon differ but little from the wilderness of this world. But what judgment, prudence, piety, and caution, are requisite in the execution of this most important branch of a minister's duty! He may be too easy and tender, and permit the gangrene to remain till the flock be infected with it.
Or he may be rigid and severe, and destroy parts that are vital while only professing to take away what is vitiated. A backslider is one who once knew less or more of the salvation of God. Hear what God says concerning such: Turn, ye backsliders, for I am married unto you. See how unwilling He is to give them up! He suffers long, and is kind: do thou likewise; and when thou art obliged to cut off the offender from the Church of Christ, follow him still with thy best advice and heartiest prayers.
3. A soul cut off from the flock of God is in an awful state! his outward defense is departed from him; and being no longer accountable to any for his conduct, he generally plunges into unprecedented depths of iniquity; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. Reader, art thou without the pale of God's Church? remember it is here written, them that are WITHOUT God judgeth, ver. 13.
4. Christians who wish to retain the spirituality of their religion should be very careful how they mingle with the world. He who is pleased with the company of ungodly men, no matter howsoever witty or learned, is either himself one with them, or is drinking into their spirit. It is impossible to associate with such by choice without receiving a portion of their contagion. A man may be amused or delighted with such people, but he will return even from the festival of wit with a lean soul. Howsoever contiguous they may be, yet the Church and the world are separated by an impassable gulf.
5. If all the fornicators, adulterers, drunkards, extortioners, and covetous persons which bear the Christian name, were to be publicly excommunicated from the Christian Church, how many, and how awful would the examples be! If however the discipline of the visible Church be so lax that such characters are tolerated in it, they should consider that this is no passport to heaven. In the sight of God they are not members of his Church; their citizenship is not in heaven, and therefore they have no right to expect the heavenly inheritance. It is not under names, creeds, or professions, that men shall be saved at the last day; those alone who were holy, who were here conformed to the image of Christ, shall inherit the kingdom of God. Those who expect it in any other way, or on any other account, will be sadly deceived.