"Bad Company Corrupts Good Morals." There were false prophets in the Corinthian church who were teaching that there would be no resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:12). Paul quotes a proverb from a poet named Menander to warn the Corinthians about the consequences of tolerating such false teaching and associating with those who taught it. Paul tells them not to be deceived. What were they being deceived about? First, there was the primary deception that there would be no resurrection of the dead. Secondly, there was the deception that such teaching would not have any negative effect on the Christians.
In this verse, we are taught a sobering truth: Bad company corrupts good morals. Bad people corrupt good people. Bad apples spread rottenness to good apples. Good apples do not spread goodness to bad apples. Paul warned the Corinthians not to be deceived about the truth that bad company corrupts good morals. Apparently, Satan had already suggested the lie that bad company couldn’t hurt good people. The Corinthians had swallowed it hook, line and sinker. Do not be deceived, Paul warned. You will not influence the bad company. They will influence you. You will not successfully evangelize them. They will successfully “evangelize” you. You will not elevate them. They will drag you down. They will not compromise. You will. They will not learn godliness from you. You will learn ungodliness from them. Do not think more highly of yourselves than you ought to think. You are not as strong as you think. You are not as impervious and resistant to corruption as you think you are. You are not as influential as you think. Do not be deceived!
Lot chose to live in the wicked city of Sodom and no matter how bad the conduct of the city became, Lot wouldn’t leave. In 2 Peter 2:7-8, it is written that Lot was “oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds).”Even though Lot’s soul was tormented, he still wouldn’t leave.In the end, the angels had to drag him out of the city. As the fire began to come down, Lot’s wife looked back, presumably with longing, and was turned into a pillar of salt. Lot and his wife did not improve the morals of Sodom. Rather, they were corrupted by the citizens of Sodom.
In Deuteronomy 7:1-6, we read the following words: "When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you. But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire. For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”
The Israelites were commanded to destroy all the nations living in the land. The inhabitants had become detestable to God, and God was resolved to show them no mercy. Israel was not supposed to try to be more compassionate than God. They were not to intermarry with them for one main reason -- the Canaanite spouses would influence the Israelites to idolatry. The Israelites would not influence the Canaanites to worship the one true God. It would be the other way around. (See also Judges 2:10-12)
King Solomon is often remembered as a king who did not heed God’s warning about marrying foreign wives. In 1 Kings 11:1ff, it is written, “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the sons of Israel, ‘You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.’ Solomon held fast to these in love. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been."
Solomon did not influence his wives to worship the Lord. His wives influenced him to worship their false gods. (See also Neh. 13:23-27, Ezra 9-10)
In Proverbs 26:20-22, it is written, “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down. Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body.” (Pro 26:20-22)
Those with good principles will not reform a gossip. A gossip will infect others with his or her poisonous words. Many may object that the examples given so far are from the old covenant, and that Christians in the new covenant cannot be so easily corrupted. But this objection will not stand up under the weight of New Testament revelation.
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul confronted the Corinthians for their tolerance of a man who was sexually involved with his father’s wife (i.e. his step mother). The Corinthians had become proud, presumably because of their tolerance and their permissive “grace.” In any case, Paul sternly rebuked them for this and told them they ought to have put the man out of the church. Paul gave two primary reasons for expelling the immoral brother: 1) For the destruction of the man’s flesh (sinful nature), that his spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord. 2) That the church would be protected from the leavening influence of the man’s sin.
In verse six, Paul said, “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?” There we have the same principle again. The bad corrupts the good. One bad apple spoils all the good ones. And notice, it is only ONE bad apple. We might be tempted to think that if enough good people surrounded one bad one, the ratio would be right and the odds would be good. Surely a whole crowd of good people with good morals could influence one bad character. No. He will influence all of them. A little leaven -- just a little -- leavens the whole lump. The leaven had already begun to spread. The Corinthians should have expelled the man, but they had done nothing. They should have been mourning, but instead they were arrogant and boastful. They had to quickly remove the man or else they would be fully leavened.
In 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Paul tells the church: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ Therefore, ‘Come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor. 6:14-18)
In this passage, Paul says that believers and unbelievers have nothing in common and that they should not be bound together with one another or unequally yoked. He quotes Isaiah and applies it to the church: “Come out from their midst and be separate.” So, even though it is not realistic for believers to disassociate from all unbelievers, they must nevertheless have limited associations with unbelievers.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:5-8, where Paul says, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you.”
Here he commands the believers in Thessalonica to keep away even from a brother (a true Christian) who leads an unruly life. Why? The subsequent verses seem to indicate that it is because they would learn the bad example of laziness and mooching off others, instead of following the good example that Paul set for them by working hard and paying for his own food.
In 2 Timothy 2:16-18, Paul says, “But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.”
Paul warns Timothy to avoid those who engage in worldly and empty chatter, for their talk will spread like gangrene. Gangrene does not stay in one place. The bad flesh spreads, contaminating the good flesh as it goes along. The good flesh does not heal the bad flesh.
In a final example, in Hebrews 12:15, we read, “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.” A bitter person will defile many. Do not be deceived! Bad company corrupts good morals.
Scripture is sufficient to prove any point, but we are not without witness to this truth in our daily experience. Ask yourself the following questions: When you are around a hot-tempered man, does it have a good effect on you or a bad one? When you are with a gossip, are you at times led into gossip yourself? When you are with a person who is always complaining, do you often join in the complaining? When you are around people who use profanity and tell dirty jokes, does it help your mind to dwell on what is lovely and honorable? Are you as offended by their foul speech the 20th time you hear it as you were the first time, or do you find yourself desensitized? If you are married to an unbeliever, has your marriage assisted you in your service to God or has it hindered you? Has it stimulated your spiritual growth or has it stunted it? Does your child elevate the morals of those at school or do the low morals of the children at school seem to have a negative influence on your child and the things you have tried to teach him or her? If you have passed through experiences like these without corruption, then praise be to God. However, it is possible that you are simply not aware of the regression.
For more thoughts on this subject, see the booklet "Bad Company Corrupts Good Morals," available from the sermon audio web store.