READING: Psalms 110-112, 1 Corinthians 5
“Turn that one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.”
1 Corinthians 5:5
It’s one of those tough texts in the Bible. Someone in the church in Corinth was having sexual relations with a family member (likely his stepmother), and the church was doing nothing about the sin. The church should have been “filled with grief” over the wrong (1 Cor. 5:2), but they weren’t there. In fact, they were almost bragging about the sin – they were “inflated with pride” (1 Cor. 5:2) about themselves and their apparent choices to establish their own standards. When they should have disciplined the member by removing him from the congregation, they did not do so.
Removing a member is, of course, a hard step to take. So serious was Paul, though, that he used the terminology, “turn that one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (1 Cor. 5:5) to describe the process. This phrase surely meant excommunicating from the church, and it may have even meant to allow the sinful member to suffer the physical consequences of his sin – including the possibility of death. The ultimate goal, however, was that “his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord” (1 Cor. 5:5). Perhaps removing him from membership and choosing not to have fellowship with him (1 Cor. 5:9-13) would convince the man of his wrong and bring him to repentance and restoration. And, if the story recorded in 2 Corinthians 2:6-7 reflects this man’s repentance, that is indeed what happened.
Frankly, I knew little about church discipline in my early years of ministry. Few churches I knew were talking about discipline, and even fewer were actually doing it. I fear that we tolerated far too much sin within the church. On the other hand, I wonder if churches today – especially younger ones – who are practicing discipline approach it as redemptively as possible. I’m concerned that in our proper zeal for righteousness, we will handle discipline more punitively than redemptively. This balance is indeed a delicate one that demands the leadership and wisdom of the Spirit.
- Live in such a way today that your church would never need to consider discipline.
- Pray that your church’s leaders operate with wisdom and discernment in matters of discipline.
PRAYER: “God, grant us wisdom in these difficult matters. Help us never to compromise Your standards while also preaching Your gospel of grace.”
TOMORROW’S READING: Psalms 113-115, 1 Corinthians 6