In chapter four Paul defines his role as an apostle and his relationship to the Corinthian church. He is their “father” and he asks them to listen to him and Timothy whom he is sending to remind them of Paul’s “way of life in Christ Jesus” (4:17). At the end of the chapter he gives them two options, dependent on their obedience: “Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?” In the next chapter, he gives a concrete example of this obedience. They must stop welcoming unrepentant sinners into the church and boasting about their acceptance of them (Sounds like a few churches I read about in the news quite regularly). In this specific case a man has his father’s wife and Paul commands that he be thrown out so that he might find salvation. 1 Cor 5:9-13 gives a good example of what it means to be in the world, but not of the world. Christians can still associate with sinners in the world but they cannot accept them into the Church through a grace-abounding program.
Paul then speaks to the issue of lawsuits among believers. Whenever I read this passage I am reminded of a CCLI brochure that was given out in Worship and Music class at Bible College. The front page warned churches that they would be sued for illegally using worship songs. It had a picture of the money they would pay and an example of a church that had to pay more than $100,000 for copyright violations. I have nothing against the concept of paying song writers but if CCLI has to rely on our secular court system to demand these kinds of damages it is clearly not of the Spirit of God. Paul then provides a list of sins that the Corinthians had clearly engaged in before becoming Christians. If they continue in these sins they reap the condemnation mentioned above. Note that Paul does not mean that the Corinthians should consider some of these sins as worse than others.