WHAT ARE “EVIL COMMUNICATIONS” IN 1 CORINTHIANS 15:33? DOES IT REALLY MATTER WITH WHOM WE ASSOCIATE?
by Shawn Brasseaux
“ Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.  Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame” (1 Corinthians 15:33-34). What are “evil communications?” Does it really matter if we associate with questionable characters? Yes! Are we immune to their effects? No!
Once, this author counseled a dear Christian who was having some major and continuous difficulties. We were able to identify the source and we studied verses that were useful in correcting his thinking and behavior. Moreover, this author encouraged him to limit his contact with certain “friends.” Perhaps they meant well—hopefully so (!)—but they were negative spiritual influences. They were offering their denominational doctrine to help him cope with his problems, but such false teaching had only made matters worse for him.
First Corinthians 15:33 begins, “Be not deceived; evil communications corrupt good manners.” It is easy to assume that, since we who have trusted Christ are eternally secure in Him, we are immune from Satan’s lie program. Yea, we can be quick to suppose that no one can trick us because we have the Holy Bible in our possession. First Corinthians 15:33 says that, if we think others cannot deceive or corrupt us, we are in fact deceived. For example, we can hear sound Bible doctrine but fail to keep it in memory and/or fail to use it by faith. People can come along with incorrect information and confuse and/or distract us. This happened to the Corinthians.
The Apostle Paul spent 18 months in Corinth, winning various individuals to Christ and educating them in the Bible rightly divided (Acts 18:1-11). The church at Corinth was established and growing, but Satan would not be outdone. Once Paul left to preach the Gospel of Grace in other regions, false teachers visited and corrupted the Corinthian saints with a mixture of Greek philosophy and Judaistic legalism.
Consequently, some Corinthians recanted faith in the doctrine of literal, bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12). Therefore, they were under the impression that they could live however they wanted. The latter part of verse 32 says, “…let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.” If there were no resurrection, there would be no accountability. First Corinthians 15:33 thus immediately follows with a warning: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners….”
Ordinarily, we use the term “communications” in the sense of telephone and internet connections or television and radio broadcasts. In this context though, it has a slightly different meaning. The most basic definition of “communications” is “the impartations or exchanges of information.” Concerning 1 Corinthians 15:33, it means “company, social contacts, intercourses, companionships, associates.” Moreover, we can restrict its definition even more: “to succeed in conveying one’s ideas or in evoking understanding in others.” (“Communication” is derived from a Latin word that meant “to share.”) As for “manners” in 1 Corinthians 15:33, it means “moral habits, social behavior, conduct amongst others.”
Rereading the first part of 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” In other words, do not be misled to believe that Satan’s evil world system cannot contaminate you by word or deed. Christian friend, always be on guard concerning those with whom you associate yourself. Those not led by the Spirit of God can and will corrupt you. Proverbs chapter 22 provides us with a very simple example of and cross-reference to “evil communications corrupt[s] good morals:” “ Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:  Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.”
While we are always responsible for making our own choices, others can influence us to participate in their sins. They can persuade us to adopt their beliefs, and/or entice us to repeat their actions. This was the Corinthians’ problem in 1 Corinthians 15:33. They had been fooled into thinking their companionships, the company they kept, made no difference. Many Christians believe this even today. It is said so casually, “I can hang around with anyone, no matter how they talk or act. They will not adversely affect me. I can frequent a denominational church. No one will mislead me because I know the truth.” First Corinthians 15:33 says they are deceived just by assuming they will not be deceived! Beware!
First Corinthians 15:33 resumes, “Awake to righteousness, and sin not.” Here, “awake” means (figuratively) “to rouse out of a stupor.” Imagine a drunkard becoming sober, restored to clear thinking. In other words, false teaching had lulled the Corinthians to sleep. They were slumbering—inactive—as pertaining to Christian living. Rather than walking according to the Holy Spirit’s current operations, they thought and behaved as the Adversary (Satan) desired. Some years later, a similar satanic assault was launched on the Christians at Ephesus.
Chapter 5 of Ephesians: “ Be not ye therefore partakers with them [the “children of disobedience,” unbelievers, of verse 6].  For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:  (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth; )  Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.  And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.  For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.”
“ But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.  Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.  See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,  Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.  And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;….”
Notice the advice in verse 18—“Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” The “wine” here is not simply literal alcohol. It is, more specifically, the intoxicating doctrines of devils that distort and dull one’s spiritual senses to the point of spiritual drunkenness and fainting. This loops back to the “awakening” in 1 Corinthians 15:33.
Returning to Ephesians chapter 5: “ Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.  See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,  Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.  And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;….”
The issue of “wine” is explained in Revelation 14:8: “And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” Also, Revelation 17:2: “With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” The Antichrist’s political-religious system, while future from our day, nevertheless has elements that have been around since just after the Fall of man. Satan’s evil world system promotes mind-altering doctrines that corrupt believers. There is spiritual fornication, dabbling with devils, here. It enticed the Corinthians, lured the Ephesians, and even ensnared ancient Israel.
Ephesians 5:14, which we just read, loosely quoted Isaiah 60:1: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.” This is Israel, gripped by spiritual ignorance and slumber, and God’s conversion and restoration of her at Christ’s Second Coming. Notice God’s warning to His people who will live during the Antichrist’s reign, and the final phases of religious Babylon: “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4). Yes, “evil communications corrupt good manners.” God’s people are not to be associated with Satan’s evil world system… past, present, or future!
If it happened to Israel, to the Corinthians, and to the Ephesians, we indeed are not immune. Romans chapter 13 reminds us: “ And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.  Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness [sexual sins], not in strife and envying.  But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”
Since the Lord Jesus Christ could come at any time for us at the Rapture, we should be walking as the people we are instead of who we are not. It is absurd for us Christians to behave like we were still under “the power of darkness” (Colossians 1:13): we have been “translated… into the kingdom of [God’s] dear Son.” We should conduct ourselves in that light.
Hence, in 1 Corinthians 15:34, Paul wrote to Corinth: “Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.” They were to sober up, spiritually speaking, and start thinking according to Romans chapter 13 (quoted earlier). Jesus Christ was their “righteousness” (1 Corinthians 1:30). They were to think about their justified and sanctified identity in Him, and walk by faith in that. This is how they would “sin not.” The Word of God’s Grace to them through Paul’s ministry—not Greek philosophers and Judaistic legalists—was the key to successful Christian living.
First Corinthians 15:34 concludes, “…for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.” The Corinthians should be ashamed to the point of correcting their error. They should separate from “evil communications” (bad influences). Paul had preached to them, but they ignored the doctrine. They wasted the opportunity to know God’s grace, but they have another chance.
For almost 2,000 years now, the Church the Body of Christ has had a completed Bible. Howbeit, instead of letting it transform them, and then allowing it to enlighten others through them, the church permitted the world to alter the Bible and them! Whether 20 centuries ago, or today, “evil communications corrupt good manners.” This is true of both wicked behavior and false teaching.
Sinful conduct, except it is addressed according to God’s grace, will certainly pollute the local church. First Corinthians chapter 5 says of humanism (worldliness—namely, philosophy): “ Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?  Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” As a small amount of yeast taints the whole lump of dough, so a little misbehavior corrupts many! If you read the chapter, you see it is about a fornicating Christian man whom the Corinthians overlooked. God commanded they excommunicate him until he reformed…lest he contaminate them all!
Evil doctrine, unless corrected using rightly divided Scripture, is sure to corrupt the local church. Galatians chapter 5 speaks of legalism (works-religion—namely, Law-keeping): “ Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?  This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.  A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” As a small amount of yeast taints the whole lump of dough, so a little false teaching corrupts many! If you read the chapter, you learn that false teachers (denominationalists) had tricked the Galatians to abandon grace and return to works-religion (specifically, the Mosaic Law). God commanded they separate from those false teachers…lest they continue deceiving them all!
First Corinthians chapter 5 was written to warn those Christians who say they can associate with sinful individuals and not be corrupted. Galatians chapter 5 was written to admonish those Christians who say they can keep attending denominational churches and not be deceived. They are just as human—prone to failure—as the Corinthians and Galatians. If the Corinthians and Ephesians were prone to spiritual slumber as the Adversary worked, we should not be surprised that believers in Christ today exhibit poor to dead Christian living!
Verse 34 of 1 Corinthians chapter 15 thunders, “Awake to righteousness, and sin not!” Dear brethren, if we are those with functionally-dead Christian lives, it is not too late for us to reform. We may have reverted to the lifestyle we had before we trusted Christ, but the Holy Scriptures rightly divided can lead us to repentance. That change in mind will then transform our behavior.
Second Timothy chapter 2: “ And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,  In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;  And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” Let us not fall into Satan’s trap!
Whether the Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, or reverted Christians today, they should be walking in light of Titus chapter 2: “ For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,  Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;  Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20).