Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Expel the Immoral Brother (1 Corinthians 5:1-5)

"… hand this man over to Satan …" (1 Cor. 5:5).

The Corinthian Church had grown so prideful in its own importance that it failed to deal with the sins that marred its reputation and threatened to infest the whole body. Their pride was either in themselves, that they were so great they refused to face up to the realities of immorality in their midst, or their pride was in the man himself. He might have been one of the gifted leaders in the church, and the Corinthians had chosen to overlook his sin because they took such great pride in his abilities. Whatever the object of pride, it was their lack of humility and willingness to confess their sinfulness that kept the Corinthians from carrying out God’s ordained discipline against the sexually immoral brother.

Paul does not apologize for his judgments on the matter. He tells them with forthrightness that he had already judged the matter and, even though he might not be present at the public assembly, he was there in spirit, ready to cast the man out to Satan. This passage of Paul’s judgment shows that the church must take responsibility to make moral judgments and to discipline errant brethren with the purpose of bringing them to repentance. Church discipline is an ordinance of Christ and should be carried out in His name and by His authority.

When Paul says that he will “hand this man over to Satan,” he probably meant one of two things, or even both. First, the general directives of the passage imply excommunication, when you cast a sinful brother or sister from the church. While this might seem like a harsh action to some, the Scripture commands it and it is the responsibility of the church as a whole. Second, it could have meant the miraculous activity exercised by the apostles to cast a sinner into the hands of Satan for the purpose of inflicting him with bodily diseases. Paul says that the man’s flesh is to be destroyed so that his spirit would be saved. Some read this as the sinful nature, but others maintain that it also means his physical body. By causing him to be cast out of the church and inflicted with physical ailments, the apostle hoped the man would repent of his sin and eventually be restored to the church. All church discipline is designed for the eternal benefit of the individual and the church.

What has your attitude been toward church discipline? Do you believe it is the church’s role to make moral judgments about its members and to exercise discipline when necessary? Compare your opinions to Paul’s teaching in this passage. Review the For further study passages from yesterday as well as those below.