Paul writing to the church in Corinth is responding to news of unashamed sexual deviancy in the church. There is a person living with his “father’s wife” and the church at this location has accepted his life and his choice. The mantra of this moment and of today “who are we to judge”? But Paul does not respond this way. Paul has harsh words for the church and Paul tells the church that they should remove this person from the fellowship by turning him over to Satan. Paul can make this judgement and this command because we know what is right and what is wrong as God has given us his moral laws.
5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 5:5 ESV
Paul wants to make it clear to the rest of the church and to this individual that is flaunting a sinful life that unashamed sin and the church cannot coexist. Paul’s plan to “deliver this man to Satan” is to send him out of the church and into the world where he can practice his sin as he sees fit. Notice also that Paul states this is an opportunity, maybe the only opportunity, that this man may have to recognize his need for God and to therefore save his soul. This man may go out and destroy his life in lust but hopefully he will learn how temporary and unfulfilling this lust filled life will be. How many a man has seen their life destroyed by lusts and passions?
The flip side of this problem is what would happen if the church allowed this man remain living in unashamed sin within their fellowship. What if the church did not judge and accepted his choice? There are two impacts of making that choice. First is the impact to this man. He would remain confused and unrepentant mistaking the Church’s approval for God’s approval. Regardless of what we claim to be true or claim to be false God defines truth. “Let God be true, and every human being a liar” (Romans 3:4 ESV). What kind of shock might it be when this man meets Christ and then says to Jesus I served in your church. To those words Jesus responds “I never knew you. Away from me” (Matthew 7:23 ESV). Second the impact of accepting this lifestyle in the church is that is would spread to others. Paul makes this point clear to the church by reminding them of the Passover instructions.
6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 ESV
I stated earlier that this man should be sent away so that he can live his life as he sees fit. Paul is not telling him to leave the relationship with his step mother. Leaving or staying with her is his choice. Paul is saying that he can’t choose that relationship and the church. And it is here that Paul concludes his instruction to the church.
12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 ESV
In practical terms very few churches will “kick” people out of the church. I have heard of such things but in modern America someone may leave one church and find open arms with one down the road. Many people never build roots in church they only jump from place to place until they are offended or are not shown the love they expect. In current culture this process is much more self-selected as the vision and message of the individual church conflicts with lifestyles of that type of member. But this is the purpose of the church to challenge us with God’s perfect standard so that repentance has a chance to bring new life. By not expecting change we remain dead and broken.
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39 ESV