Clearly, Paul wrote a previous letter to the church at Corinth. That letter does not still exist. It contained an instruction that the Christians in Corinth did not understand properly. So here, Paul explains further what he meant by that instruction.
In his previous letter, Paul had warned the Christians about wrong sex acts. However, he did not just say that Christians must avoid those wrong acts. He also told them to avoid people who carry out those acts. That was the instruction that they could not understand.
They thought that Paul was telling them to keep away from evil people. So, they tried to avoid friendship with anyone who was not a Christian. But they realised that it was impossible to avoid evil people completely. Every Christian must sometimes deal with people who disagree with his beliefs.
Actually, Christians ought to speak to people who are not Christians. Jesus told Christians that they should declare his good news to everyone (Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8). Their work, friendships and other relationships often provide opportunities to do that. Paul did that, and he wanted other Christians to do it too.
In 1 Corinthians 5:11, Paul explains the correct meaning of his original instruction. He was warning about Christians who decide, on purpose, to live in an evil manner. Other Christians should not allow those Christians to behave like that, as if they are doing nothing wrong. Instead, loyal Christians should separate themselves from such people. By that means, they show that God does not approve of those evil acts.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.