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In 1 Corinthians, Paul is writing to the church at Corinth after hearing reports over various matters. One of them is sexual immorality within the church at Corinth. Of this matter he says in 1 Corinthians 5: 11

But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

Does this not contradict the gospels which document Jesus sitting with sinners?

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them”. Luke 15:1-2

Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Luke:5:29-30

After this Jesus says:

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance Luke 5:31-32

So Jesus on two separate occasions eats with sinners. Jesus then gives his reasoning, that he does so to save them. Paul on the other hand says not to associate with them, not even to eat with them, seemingly contradicting Jesus as far as I see it.

So does Paul contradict Jesus?

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6 Answers 6

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In 1 Corinthians 5:11, Paul addresses the command to people who claim to be Christians.

But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

Jesus ate with sinners who had not believed in the Messiah.

So does Paul contradict Jesus?

No, they are two different audiences.

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    But would not Jesus eat with sinners even though they belong to the church? Would Jesus support Paul's statement not to eat with sinners within the church?
    – RandomUser
    Nov 14, 2020 at 16:54
  • @RandomUser - Would you punish a toddler or a teenager more for playing with matches? There is a difference in accountability between the two groups, one knows better. Withdrawing fellowship from a person who refuses to change is a method of protecting the other members of the congregation.
    – IronEagle
    Nov 15, 2020 at 2:22
  • @IronEagle There are a lot of things I would or wouldn't do, but the question was regarding Jesus, not me. Is Paul's statement consistent with Jesus' practices and teachings?
    – RandomUser
    Jan 4 at 13:17
  • @RandomUser - Since you seem to have forgotten some things over the past year or so, I'll quote one of your comments below: "But you are correct that there is no contradiction if we are to say that Paul said not to eat with sinning self-professing believers". Paul says not to eat with sinning self-professing believers. Paul is saying to beware of "false believers", in the same vein as Jesus did in Matthew 7:15-23: "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves..." (character limit)
    – IronEagle
    Jan 4 at 23:59
  • @IronEagle I recant that, because Jesus ate with Judas.
    – RandomUser
    Jan 5 at 13:12
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The tax gatherers eating together with Jesus were not (yet) brethren in a Christian sense.

And one assumes that, like Matthew, they were intent on not stealing in the future.

Separating from a professed Christian who deliberately continues in immoral behaviour is (clearly) quite a different matter.

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  • It is technically a different matter, but is Paul's statement in the spirit of Jesus? Would Jesus eat with sinners even though they are within the church?
    – RandomUser
    Nov 14, 2020 at 17:49
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    @RandomUser To attend church services whilst flagrantly (or secretly) committing immorality is unarguably hypocrisy. Jesus told his disciples 'Be ye not as the hypocrites' Matthew 6:5. You have offered no evidence that Paul's words contradict Jesus' words. You have quoted from completely different contexts.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 14, 2020 at 17:54
  • I would beg to differ that they are "comepletely different". But you are correct that there is no contradiction if we are to say that Paul said not to eat with sinning self-professing believers. Hypocrisy is bad, but so is all sin, yet Jesus ate with sinners. So does this not contradict the spirit of Jesus' teachings? Would Jesus approve of Paul's message?
    – RandomUser
    Nov 14, 2020 at 17:59
  • I didn't say anything regarding the divine inspiration of Paul's writings. I am a thinking man, and so are you, that is why we are both on this site. I see Jesus eating with sinners. I see Paul say not to eat with sinning Christians, and then I ask myself, is this in-line with the ethics of Jesus? Would Jesus refuse to sit with sinners even though they are Christians? Did Paul have a slip-up? Is Paul so perfect as to never say anything wrong?
    – RandomUser
    Nov 14, 2020 at 18:27
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    @RandomUser Sinners gathering to hear Jesus that they might be saved is totally different to persons received into the church then behaving in total contradiction to the society of the church. Therefore they must, for the benefit of all, be excluded until their attitude and behaviour changes. This is quite clear.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 14, 2020 at 18:30
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Does Paul contradict Jesus by saying not to eat with sinners?

Paul did not say not to eat with sinners, the Greek word sy.na.na.migny.sthai (συναναμίγνυσθαι) rendered to "keep company" or "associate with "any so-called brother implies having a close fellowship or companionship and sharing with them the same views and Christian beliefs.

Christians in Corinth had to "stop keeping company with," that is, refuse to mingle with, any unrepentant sinner. They were to “remove the wicked person from among them . 1Cor. 5:13.

1 Corinthians 5:11 (NASB)

11 But [a]actually, I [b]wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is a sexually immoral person, or a greedy person, or an idolater, or is verbally abusive, or habitually drunk, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a person.

1 Corinthians 5:11 (ASV)

11 but [a]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.

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    I don't believe this indicates there is no contradiction. Your answer in fact supports a contradiction. Keeping company is the very thing Jesus did with sinners when he ate with them. You also did not address the last part of the verse where Paul says "Do not even eat with such people".
    – RandomUser
    Nov 14, 2020 at 16:53
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The rules by which Jesus and Paul lived were different in many respects because Jesus was "born under the law" ("beholden to the Torah"):

[Gal 4:4 NASB] (4) But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,

But Paul, because of the new covenant ratified upon Jesus' death, was not:

[Gal 3:24-25 KJV] (24) Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (25) But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

Paul, however, lived in a Roman world, where the only legal religion besides the Roman gods was Judaism, so he was required to maintain his Jewish identity to some degree. To cast off Judaism was to fall afoul of the State. This was at the heart of his controversy with Peter:

https://www.quora.com/Does-the-Bible-say-no-blood-transfusions/answer/Bill-Ross-22

Paul did have scruples about with whom a holy person should eat. He apparently had written to the Corinthians about it. However, they misconstrued his instruction as did the messengers from James that influenced Peter. They thought he was saying not to eat with sinners at all. But what Paul was really saying was to not fellowship with anyone who claimed to be a Christian but was not living the life:

[1Co 5:9-13 NLT] (9) When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. (10) But I wasn't talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. (11) I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don't even eat with such people. (12) It isn't my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. (13) God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, "You must remove the evil person from among you."

Jesus, though mixing freely with ungodly Jews also insisted on discipline for one who claimed to be a disciple but was behaving irresponsibly:

[Mat 18:15-20 NASB] (15) "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. (16) "But if he does not listen [to you,] take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. (17) "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (18) "Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. (19) "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. (20) "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."

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Christ may indeed have eaten with (unrepentant) sinners at their table (in the hopes of convincing them to repent, as He Himself explains), but I don't recall Him inviting any of them to His, when He partook of the Last Supper, to which only His close circle of disciples were present, all of which have put their sinful lives behind them by that point.

Similarly, in the fifth chapter of Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, which, within context, seems to discuss excommunication, the (communal) meal mentioned therein being, most likely, the Lord's supper, in which those that have not yet repented cannot participate, since one cannot indulge both in the table of the Lord, and in that of demons (10:20-21), for the same reason one cannot (ultimately) serve two masters, both God and Mammon (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13).

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  • Paul does clearly contradict Jesus, no evidence to show any different. Jesus even loved his enemy: Matthew 5:43-48 - 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? cont.... Nov 17, 2020 at 12:02
  • 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Nov 17, 2020 at 12:02
  • @anothertheory: If you want to post an answer arguing for the contrary, I am not stopping you.
    – Lucian
    Nov 17, 2020 at 18:49
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I have also had this thinking today so I made a post on FB regarding it.

Contradictions in the bible but is it really?

Disclaimer: I believe that women are not pastors and God designed that role for men but I also believe women are also given the Holy Spirit and their ability to share God's word, not at the pulpit, but to their friends is just part of the Great Commission.

Luke 5:29‭-‬32 ESV

And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

1 Corinthians 5:11

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

You can see above 2 different verses from 2 books from the New Testament.

Luke was written by a Christian doctor named Luke, a close associate of Paul, and the narrative shows how Jesus Christ wasn't afraid to eat with sinners to call them to repentance while 1Corinthians is a letter written by the Apostle Paul, an apostle of the gentiles, to the church of Corinth. Church meaning they profess to believe in Christ as their Lord and Saviour yet they commit sins that blatantly show they don't truly love Christ. Apostle Paul is rebuking them publicly now, and for sure they were already rebuked in private by their other brothers in Christ but they continue doing so deeds that will never represent Christ.

Hence these are two different settings for two different groups of people. The former is to Jews who know they are sinners and admit to being one while the latter are gentile converts to Christianity who need to remember their first love - Jesus Christ. The church of Corinth is known for its immorality.

The conundrum is, will you use the latter verses to judge a believer eating and dining with sinners who don't profess they love Christ or see that as a salt and light opportunity for them in doing so?

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