I mentioned yesterday that I needed to make some clarifications in the things that I said. Basically, there are two things I want to note.
First, I don’t believe Paul is saying that we need to disassociate ourselves with brothers and sisters who are struggling with sin. The key word here is “struggle.”
All of us struggle with sin. All of us have sins that we have to deal with day in and day out. And some of those sins can be persistent. But struggling with sin is completely different from blatantly sinning.
When you are struggling with sin, you are doing just that: struggling. You know what you’re doing is wrong and you are grieved by it. Deep in your heart, you desire to get rid of those sins in your life. And day by day, you’re coming before God in prayer and asking for his help. In that kind of situation, it’s probably best to also ask your brothers and sisters for their support in both prayer and accountability. But if you fall, you should also be quick to grieve and repent of your sin.
“Blatant sin” is where you openly flaunt it with no remorse over it whatsoever. You say, “This is the way I am, and I am not going to change. You are just going to have to accept me as I am.” And if people try to confront you with scripture, you find ways to explain it away or justify yourself.
That’s what this brother in Corinth was doing. He wasn’t struggling with sin. He was openly flaunting it. And Paul says here there is no way you should be associating yourself with such a person. If you do, that kind of attitude of open defiance will spread throughout the church like yeast in bread.
The second thing I want to clarify is the spirit with which we discipline the person. Note that Paul says here, “Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief [by this man’s sin]?”
Our attitude toward that person should not be of arrogance, but of grief. And it should be our greatest desire that they come to repentance. That’s the second purpose of putting a person out of fellowship (the first being again that his attitude doesn’t spread throughout the church).
Hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. (5)
“Hand this man over to Satan.” That sounds pretty harsh. But what Paul is saying is, “Since this man is flaunting his sin, let him go out into the world without the protection of the church and let Satan have at him.”
Why? Because we want Satan to destroy him?
No, because our hope is that like the prodigal son, he will come to realize the absolute misery of sin and come to repentance. The result? His sinful nature is put to death and he himself is saved when Jesus comes back.
In short, our whole attitude toward this person should be one of love. But love does not mean just accepting him when he is blatantly sinning. It means grieving, and letting him go until such a time as he comes to repentance.
Let us never forget the seriousness of sin. It was so serious, Jesus had to die for it. And to flaunt our sin in the face of Jesus’ death is to “trample the Son of God underfoot,” and to “insult the Spirit of grace.” (Hebrews 10:29)