Some of the things that Paul mentions in his two letters to the Corinthians seem to point to the incident of incest mentioned in the first letter which somehow had caused a lot of consternation

1 Corinthians 5:1 NIV

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.

It would seem most of his rebukes did revolve around this incident which had caused so much distress not to the apostle only but also to the church

2 Corinthians 1:23 NIV

23 I call God as my witness—and I stake my life on it—that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth.

2 Corinthians 1:1 NIV

1 So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? 3 I wrote as I did, so that when I came I would not be distressed by those who should have made me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy.

2 Corinthians 2:5 NIV

5 If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.

2 Corinthians 7:8 NIV

8 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—

2 Corinthians 7:12 NIV

12 So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are.

It seems somehow this could have contributed to Paul changing his plans about visiting the church of Corinth

Was it because of the incident of incest that Paul changed his plans?


2 Answers 2


Note that in Paul's first letter to the Corinthian believers, he is compelled to deal with numerous problems such as:

  • 1 Cor 1:10-17 - divisions caused by following human leaders instead of Christ
  • 1 Cor 1:18-2:16 - placing earthly wisdom over divine knowledge
  • 1 Cor 3 - leadership problems
  • 1 Cor 4 - true apostles vs false apostles
  • 1 Cor 5 - incest and sexual immorality
  • 1 Cor 6:1-11 - lawsuits among believers
  • 1 Cor 6:12-20 - sexual immorality
  • 1 Cor 7 - marriage problems
  • 1 Cor 8 - idolatry and gluttony
  • 1 Cor 9 - rights of the apostle, generosity and self discipline
  • 1 Cor 10 - problems at the communion table
  • 1 Cor 11 - problems with chaotic worship and worship practice
  • 1 Cor 12 - problems with spiritual gifts
  • 1 Cor 14 - problems with worship and speaking in tongues

Therefore, I think that the general immorality and dysfunction in Corinth was the problem - the incest incident was almost certainly not an isolated case of moral failing as the rest of the letter makes clear.


No, it was not only the case of incest which prevented Paul from visiting Corinth at that time.

Paul was in Ephesus when news reached him, and he learned of the events in Corinth via a visit by members of the household of Chloe, a prominent family in Corinth.

For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. (1 Corinthians 1:11)

The report brought to Paul detailed current divisions within the church there at Corinth, and included more issues than merely that of the case of incest. The church was split over issues of idolatry, pride, and a perversion of its doctrines and ordinances.


Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. (1 Corinthians 8:7)

Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. (1 Corinthians 10:7)

Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:14)

Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. (1 Corinthians 12:2)

And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (2 Corinthians 6:16)


If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 14:37)


And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)

Paul was grieved to the heart over the matter, and would very much like to have gone to Corinth at once, but he knew that in its present state, his personal labors for them would be in vain. They were not in a condition to receive his help. So he wrote two of his best epistles to them, and sent Titus to help pave the way for his own coming later.

For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. (2 Corinthians 2:4)

But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. (2 Corinthians 8:16)

I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps? (2 Corinthians 12:18)

Had Paul himself gone to Corinth, the "contentions" among the members there may have only increased, some accepting his teachings, and others aligning themselves against them on account of their present feuds. Certainly, the case of incest was a grievous one, but the problems in Corinth were hardly limited to that.

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