By Hoyt Houchen
Question: We have a problem understanding the word “eat” in 1 Corinthians 5:11. Is Paul saying that if a Christian’s son or daughters (after leaving home) becomes unfaithful, we father and mother) that are faithful cannot eat a common meal with them? How far do we carry the “have company with” them?
Reply: Let us first notice the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11. “I wrote unto you in my epistle to have no company with fornicators; not at all meaning with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous and extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world: but as it is, I wrote unto you not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no, not to eat.”
One of the sins which existed in the church at Corinth was the sin of incest. Paul dealt with this problem in 1 Corinthians 5. He wrote in verse 1: “It is actually reported that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not even among the Gentiles, that one of you hath his father’s wife.” The attitude of the brethren at Corinth toward this shameful condition was not only one of indifference but one of arrogance and defiance. “Ye are puffed up, and did not mourn, that he that had done this deed might be taken from you” (v. 2). The church was not only instructed to deal with this sin but also how to handle it. The brethren were commanded, “Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, even as ye are unleavened” (v. 7). As the Israelites were to remove all leaven from their houses before the Passover (Ex. 12:15,20; 13:7), so these Corinthians were to remove the old leaven of sin that they might become pure. Action was to be taken by these brethren toward the guilty party. He was to be excluded from the fellowship of the church. Immorality must not be tolerated among Christians. We are commanded to withdraw ourselves from the disorderly (2 Thess. 3:6). Personal association that will endorse or encourage those claiming to be Christians, but who -are guilty of sin, is prohibited. “With such a one, no not to eat” (vs. 11). It is obvious that the eating here does not refer to the Lord’s Supper. The phrases “have no company” and “with such a one, no, not to eat,” do not apply to the world but to members of the church. Paul says, “if any man that is named a brother . . . ” (v. 11). So, the eating referred to in the passage is a common meal.
The question asked involves whether or not we may eat a common meal with a member of the family who is unfaithful. The passage cannot be made to apply to members of a family. There is a relationship which we sustain to our physical families which is distinct from our spiritual relationship in the church. We are in no way to act toward the disciplined or unfaithful member of the church that would lend any endorsement or encouragement of his misconduct. In the case of a family member, it should be made clear that any social activity engaged in with him is strictly in the realm of a family relationship and that it by no means sanctions his sin. It would then necessarily follow that husband-wife relations (1 Cor. 7:3-5) and social obligations with relatives do not of themselves condone the guilty.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 8, pp. 228-229
April 19, 1984