Dealing with the Sexually Immoral
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 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.
The Purpose of Discipline
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 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 disfellowshipping a member should be a reason of deep alarm to the body of Christ, 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).
In His service,