How should the church deal with the sexually immoral (incestuous) person?    

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The sexually immoral person

The apostle Paul in his first epistle to the church at Corinth addressed the case of the sexually immoral (incestuous) person. And he gave an authoritative instruction regarding treating this person. He wrote It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you…In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…  deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump…” (1 Corinthians 5:1-7).

The church’s sentence

The sentence against the sexually immoral person was to be made by the authority of Jesus Christ, the head of the church (Ephesians 5:24) which is handed to the church spiritual leaders.  These leaders and the congregation are given the right to take disciplinary action when it becomes necessary. And such action, when done in the proper measures, is approved by God (Matthew 16:19; 18:15–20; John 20:23). God Himself works through His own appointed ministers on earth (Acts 9:10–18).

Paul submitted his carefully thought judgement concerning the sentence that the church must take regarding the offender. This is generally understood to be a sentence disfellowshipping the member from the church so that others may not be infected by the disease of sin. For there are only two spiritual kingdoms in this world, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the devil. If a person leaves the kingdom of God, he automatically enters the kingdom of the devil (John 12:31; 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4). This defiant and rebellious member had, by his own evil choice and behavior, pulled himself away from the love of God, and this was to be recognized by his public dismissal from the community of believers in God’s church.

Immortality – works of the flesh

The Bible terms the immoral practices as “works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19; Colossians 3:5). Christians are urged not to follow “after the flesh” (Romans 8:13). The “destruction of the flesh” may therefore mean the full control of the carnal desires. Satan is the author of disease and suffering (John 9:2). Therefore, the immoral member would be left by the church to bear the penalties of his wicked sins and thus see the destructive consequences of wickedness.

The purpose of the discipline

The purpose of the correction of the sexually immoral is remedial in nature. Church discipline is intended to stir in the offender an understanding of his grave condition and to reveal to him his need of repentance and forsaking the old ways. Having been disciplined by his punishment, the sinner may be invited to live a life of holiness and faith. The aim of church punishment should not be retribution, but restoration from sin.

The disfellowshipped member should be a reason of deep alarm to the church, and energetic efforts should be made for his spiritual restoration by the leaders (Matthew 18:17; Romans 15:1; Galatians 6:1, 2; Heb. 12:13). Paul took the same measures against Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom he “delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:20).

Humility vs. boasting

The Corinthian Christians had no reason for their confident boasting in their spiritual weak state. They tried to give the idea that all was well in the church. But this was proof of their spiritual blindness. They had become so accustomed to sin  that they did not sense its horrible nature. It is an evil pride that tolerates immoral behavior. If a vision of Christ on the Cross is kept in the mind, all human pride will disappear (Jeremiah 9:23, 24; 1 Corinthians 1:29–31; Galatians 6:14). And the sinner will hate the sin the crucified the Son of God.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

This page is also available in: हिन्दी (Hindi)

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