It is very difficult for a local church to perform excommunication on one of it’s members. If I was one of the elders of my church I probably would not have the courage to do it as often as it needs to be done. But the Bible tells us that the local church needs to authoritatively put certain people out of the congregation, and insist that none of the church members even eat with that person until they repent (I Corinthians 5:11). Paul describes such a scene in our text for today:
So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord (I Corinthians 5:4-5).
In this passage, Paul is telling the church to take action in the case of a member who is sleeping with his father’s wife (verse 1). What this man has done is so obviously wicked that Paul says that he has already passed judgment on the man even though I am not physically present (verse 3). Paul assures them that he is very concerned that this man’s sin will contaminate the entire church, and he himself is present in spirit. He tells them to deal with this man when the entire church is assembled together. At such a time the power of our Lord Jesus will be present. At this time they will need to publicly hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. I am not completely sure what this phrase all entails, but part of handing him over to Satan probably includes excommunicating him out of the church (verse 9) so as to remove him from the protective fellowship of the church. This action will result in much suffering by him, but it is better for him to be kicked out of the church than for the whole church to become hypocrites by associating with such a so-called Christian. Actually, this disciplinary action is for the man’s own benefit. Hopefully it will result in his repentance and restoration. If this action is not carried out he will probably never repent and his spirit will not be saved on the day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord is the great time of judgment coming when God will judge the world for its sins. This “Day” probably includes both the tribulation period that will happen on Earth, and the eternal torment that awaits unbelievers in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14, 21:8). When we fail to discipline church members for committing gross immorality, we are giving tacit approval to their actions, and we make it more likely that they will end up in the lake of fire some day. If we truly love them we will show them how serious their sins are by expelling them from our congregation until they repent.