1 Cor 5:5 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.
I’ve had this verse used against me quite a bit now. No, I haven’t fornicated or committed any other sin that shocked even people who are not in the church, like this passage discusses. I am not one, as verses 10-11 indicate, who is “…covetous, or extortioners, or …idolaters…” or “a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner.”
Above that, this verse is not discussing walking past the person as though they don’t exist, giving them a withering look as you pass them in public, refusing to accept change from them at the store or buying anything of theirs at a yard sale or even applying with their company… it isn’t talking about being RUDE in other words. The verse tells the church to deliver the person who does the things listed above (idolatry, fornication, drunkenness, extortion, covetousness, or railing (abuse)) to Satan (in other words to put them outside the safety and support of the church)… not to act like the devil themselves!
God never approves of rudeness and outright cruelty, self-righteousness or pride. Read what Paul wrote (NLT): “Then you must cast this man out of the church and into Satan’s hands, so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved when the Lord returns. How terrible that you should boast about your spirituality, and yet you let this sort of thing go on. Don’t you realize that if even one person is allowed to go on sinning, soon all will be affected? Remove this wicked person from among you so that you can stay pure.”
God in no way condones the rudeness that many people have allowed through these verses. Paul is simply telling the church to stop bragging how righteous they are, when they “associate with anyone who claims to be a Christian yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler.” (v 11, NLT) He goes on to tell them that while a person is unrepentant they shouldn’t be considered a brother or sister. He doesn’t say the person should be counted as less than a heathen, or should never be able to come to church again, just that they should stop counting that man as a Christian as long as he is unrepentant.
Think about the bolded and the list in v 11 for a minute. If we are not to fellowship people who claim to be Christians and do the things listed above, and if we could be affected by those things if we allow them to continue in our midst, is it wrong to leave a church where these things are allowed to continue, and even encouraged?
I don’t advocate throwing people out of churches if they have these problems. But after having had this verse used on me more than once, I have to believe that if it is ever used, it should only be used as it was in this passage. This was an extreme case, for a widely known sin. The action wasn’t recommended for something people guessed might have happened, but for something that was well known both in and out of that body of believers.
If a church believes in removing someone from fellowship based on this passage, they can remove the person from the support of the church without removing them from the pews, and without being rude. We can help the swindlers without putting them over the offering, the drunkards without putting money for their next bottle in their hands, the sexually immoral without allowing them to teach our Sunday School classes, and the railers and abusers without putting them behind our pulpits.
Paul isn’t talking about banning anyone from all Christian contact or treating a person rudely, he is simply saying not to give that person the full benefits of true Christian fellowship. Separating him or putting him out of the church at that time didn’t mean casting him off a pew or out of a building. There weren’t pews or churches to throw him off of or out of. It simply meant to stop counting him as a complete part of the church until he repented.