I’m struck by 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, a passage titled “Expel the Immoral Brother!” in my Bible. It speaks of how, if a brother (or sister) in Christ is found in persistent sin, we are to “hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved…” My study Bible notes, “Abandon this sinful man to the devil that he may afflict the man as he pleases… by expelling this man from the church… severed from any connection with God’s people, [which] will cause the man such anguish that he will repent and forsake his wicked way.” I’m not sure whether or not this is the way we should still do things. Does this work? In the Middle Ages (for example), excommunication was a terrifying sentence that cut off a believer from his friends, his moral support, many of his business contacts, and (they believed) his salvation. But today, being expelled from the church means very little. Even if your church friends abandon you (which is unlikely), you likely have (or will make) friends who will encourage the sin that got you expelled. None of your business will be affected. And the “heaven for free, no matter what, so long as you believe” perspective so common today means you will still be saved if you continue in sin (or so you may think). So, handing a sinful person over to Satan, expelling him from the church, is unlikely to so devestate someone that they reverse course. Indeed, it may be more likely inspire further contempt for the people of God. I have no numbers as evidence for this suspicion, only limited personal experience and logical guesses. God give us wisdom; I’m not sure if this is the best way to do things today.

Advertisements