It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!... Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” (
Corinthians 5:1, 13b)
We have an immune system that fights against disease. Thank God, because there are germs everywhere! They are continually probing for a weakness in our body’s defenses, and when they enter we become sick, and may even die. This sinful world is a disease-plagued environment. Sadly, in most churches, the immune system is scarcely functioning. Sin-sickness has invaded the sanctuary. This is nothing new, of course, and Scripture prescribes the antidote of church discipline. The Corinthians were infested with all kinds of spiritual maladies. Rather than influence the culture, their culture was influencing them. Paul confronts this with a call to urgent measures.
He doesn’t beat around the bush. The Apostle hits it head on. When someone is rolled into the ER, and in danger of dying, action is called for—perhaps even drastic intervention. This scandal was public knowledge, so he felt no need for private confrontation. He drags the dirt right out into the open, rather than try to sweep it under the carpet. It was the talk of the town anyway—and in a place notorious for immorality, this was sexual sin of a sort not even condoned by the heathen. Yet, in the name of grace and love, it was tolerated in the church—even celebrated—as a sign of their inclusiveness. That is like saying about a cancerous tumor: “You know I really like it. It has become so much a part of me. It would be horrible to have to go through an operation.”
Well, operations are not fun. I have had them, and they hurt. The removal of certain diseased organs is painful, yet, sometimes unavoidable. That isn’t the first option, but may become the final one, if other treatments fail. Scandalous sin must be lovingly and faithfully confronted or the church will be sin-sick—the infection will spread.
Unlike a physical limb that has become so diseased that it must be surgically severed, a member of the church body that is removed by church discipline may be restored to the body, once the disease clears. The purpose of church discipline is redemptive, not punitive! A good doctor sometimes must hurt to heal. Paul, the spiritual physician, tells the Corinthians to deliver the unrepentant member over to Satan—that is, to remove him from the church, and out of the protection of the body—so that in the world he may be broken and then driven back to the church in contrition and confession. People can be like the Prodigal and come to their senses in that state, returning to the Father’s House as changed people!
This is not a matter to be taken lightly. It is not a procedure to be entered hastily. There is a time, however, that if a scandalous sin among the members is not faced, the church will be drained of its spiritual power, defiled in its testimony, and in danger of death.