Why did Paul say not to eat with sinners?

          I believe strongly that Paul’s rant in 1 Corinthians 5  has been taken out of context and thrown around freely. This is partly because it is difficult for us to understand the antiquated writing style of some of the socalledbetter translations of the Bible. When I read it in the ASV, I took the same message from this passage as I did when I read it in the Message translation, particularly verses 9-13.

          “Do not eat with sinners” has somehow been derived from a verse directed specifically to a church dealing with sexual immorality from one of its members. This particular member sees nothing wrong with his actions and even boasts about them. Paul has already written in a previous letter about how this behavior is unacceptable. Now he is furious that the behavior has continued and is still overlooked. 

Paul is saying — 

          “Clearly this person sees nothing wrong with his actions and also sees nothing wrong with boasting about such actions. This is not healthy behavior for the body of the church. If he does not change his ways, you do not need to be associated with such behavior, for then what will everyone else think of you as well? Everyone else will think you agree and tolerate such behavior. This also applies to anyone in your church who is acting similarly, purposefully sinning, bragging about it and not seeing that they are wrong in doing so.” 

— That’s just my take on it. In my head, I feel like that was Paul’s point. 1 Corinthians 5 is speaking about how to handle a situation in the church when a person clearly, blatantly commits a sin (that in this case is even detestable by worldly standards) and then throw on top of that said person still thinks they are AOK and that their actions are NBD (nobigdeal), so they brag all about it.

          Paul himself in 1 Corinthians 5 mentions his words do not apply to those outside of the church, for if we did not associate with them, we would have to leave the planet in search of people to associate with.

So, after the many acts we see of:
  • Jesus eating with sinners,
  • and of people calling Him out about it (Luke 15, Mark 2:15-17),
  • and then of Him defending his actions “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Mark 2:17), 
  • partnered with Paul in 1 Corinthians 5 saying his words do not apply to people outside the church,
  • we should feel confident that we are AOK if we follow Jesus’ lead and eat with sinners and prostitutes in the literal form or in the metaphorical form of simply associating with them, paying attention to them, and showing them they are loved. 
          If 1 Corinthians 5 was speaking of not eating with sinners in general (which Paul clearly states is not the issue), why would this scripture directly contradict something that came straight from BOTH Jesus’ preaching and actions?

I think we all know eating with sinners is AOK. I mean, if I didn’t eat with sinners, I would starve to death. I’m a sinner, so I couldn’t eat with myself present. 
  • Loved your insight on this. I came across your blog because I googled “Jesus ate with sinners but Paul tells us not to?”

    I’ve been reading 1 Corinthians 5 and just couldn’t get a grasp on why Paul would contradict Jesus.

    This was exactly what I needed =)

    • hayfarris

      Thanks, Vanessa! Glad it helped you. I was struggling with the over-simplification of that passage and knew the common generalization had to be all kinds of wrong. Once I figured out my own thoughts (and the Holy Spirit got involved…haha), I was convicted to post them. Thank you for your encouraging words!