You all know the story. This ‘wonderful’ brother in the church of Corinth was having an affair with his father’s wife… I’m thinking a much younger wife but his step-mum nonetheless. Meanwhile, the sexcapade wasn’t a product of error – a one-time affair; he made a habit of it.
I’ve heard some say the fellow couldn’t have been a Christian. He must have probably been a mere churchgoer. No ‘real Christian’ can stoop so low into such a despicable. Well, I’m afraid he was indeed a Christian.
Just in the first chapter of the book, 1:2, Paul address his audience (the Corinthian Christians) as saints, i.e. holy. In fact, he praises their spiritual fervency in verses 5 to 7. However, just two chapters away (3:1-4), he refers to the same men he praised earlier as folks who behaved as carnal (mere) men. Although they were spirit-filled believers, traits as envying, jealousy and strife manifested in their conducts.
A believer can fall into sin when he fails to allow God’s Word influence his mind and consequently conduct.
Back to our dear brother – I’ll call him Brother Thomas. So Bro. Thomas -a man we were supposed to look up to in the church – was getting his step-mum laid. As if that wasn’t enough, the (Corinthian) church, where he worshipped, was nonchalant about it. In fact, they got arrogant over the matter: After all, unto the pure all things are pure.
You could imagine Paul’s indignation when he heard both of Bro Thomas’ lewd action and the I-don’t-care attitude of the church towards it. So you have such a ‘terrible Christian’ making a habit of fornication among you and turned a blind eye on it? How dare you allow him fellowship with you as if nothing happened and thereby make him feel comfortable with his actions? I’m ashamed of you all!
So Paul passes judgment over unrepentant Bro Thomas…
…to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus
Now, this is where our wild imagination kicks in. Deliver him to Satan? Apostle Paul, sir, do you mean we should seize Bro Thomas, take him to the Temple of Satan downtown and hand him over to Lucifer’s representative there so he can inflict bodily/physical on his body?
Paul would have been baffled by such reasoning. He couldn’t in any way have thought of bringing Satan into the picture. Think about it: A believer sins and we invoke the devil on him. How does that add up? What has Satan got to do with saints, even when it comes to correcting an erring believer?
To deliver such an one unto Satan is a manner of speaking!
To start with, the word Satan in the Greek is the word that means ‘accuser’. A reference to the name connotes accusation hence to deliver a fellow unto Satan will imply delivering (subjecting) him to accusation. That accusation will happen via excommunication!
Notice Paul’s major concern was the fact that they didn’t isolate the brother so he can be ashamed of his act:
…in place of feeling sorrow, you are pleased with yourselves, so that he who has done this thing has not been sent away from among you.
…purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump.
…I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators
…Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person…
He kept harping on the need for them to dissociate themselves from the brother so he won’t be a bad influence on the other believers.
Bro Thomas is being unremorseful/unrepentant. To deliver him to Satan will therefore mean to subject him to accusation by not keeping company (identifying) with him so that he burns with shame to the end that the lustful appetite in him can be destroyed. Hence Paul’s judgement was to serve as a corrective measure.
A believer has no business with Satan. When he sins wilfully, he is to be judged and corrected by the church and not the devil. It’s not unheard of for a believer to fall into an error. However, it’s uncharacteristic of a believer to make a habit of it. When that’s the case, the church will walk in love (correct) towards such via stern reprimanding.
Remember, bro Thomas’ ‘harsh judgment’ of excommunication is not forever. Just because he sinned does not make him rejected by God. God still cares about him and wants him straightened up, hence the correction.
Delivering him to Satan (excommunication) is to make him ashamed and correct him. When the correction is achieved, he is to be restored to the gathering and accepted back with love.
Hear what Paul had to say about Bro Thomas much later:
2Co 2:6 The majority of you have imposed a severe enough punishment on that person.
2Co 2:7 So now forgive and comfort him. Such distress could overwhelm someone like that if he’s not forgiven and comforted.
Forgive him, comfort him and absolve him back into the fold! He is not a meat for the devil. He is a believer regardless.
Image Credits: Psychology Today, Fatherly,