“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 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.” (1 Corinthians 5:4–5, AV)
On more than one occasion, I have heard of parents giving an ultimatum to their wayward young adults. The problem was that the young adult in his or her twenties were living in such a way as to require drastic action. It might have been their open rebellion to the parents, their use of drugs or alcohol, their refusal to live by the rules of the household, or just being deadbeats. The ultimatum goes something like this. “I have asked you over and over again, to act correctly in (this area), and you have refused. If you do not change, I have no option but to tell you to leave this house.”
Given the ultimatum, the young adult has two options. Option one is to respond by changing the pattern of behavior. The second option is to leave and live on the street. Surprisingly, there are many who would unwisely choose the street. What the latter option provides is a removal of the blessings of living in the home and its protection. This means that the provision of food, clothing, and shelter is removed along with the protection provided to the rebellious young adults.
This action taken by the parents is something that breaks their hearts. They do not want to take such an action, but find no other alternative. The hope is that when the young adult hits rock bottom that they will come to their senses, like the prodigal child (See Luke 15:11-32). This is the issue of tough love.
In dealing with the man who was living in sexual sin, Paul instructs the church to exhibit tough love. It basically meant this. They were to remove the man from the household of Christian fellowship. This would put him in a place of abandonment and danger that many do not understand. The man’s unrepentant sin was an affront not only to the church, but an open rebellion against God. His refusal to repent placed him in a place where he was on his own with no church and without the blessings of God. He would be at the whim of the devil’s evil world system and schemes.
It is a puzzle to see that Paul indicated that this would deliver the man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Yes, it seems that open rebellion with a refusal to repent can place a person in a very untenable position. The Scriptures let us know that not all sickness and death is a result of a person’s personal sin. However, the Scriptures also teach that some are. Paul later related this to the church regarding their abusive way they partook of the Lord’s table saying, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (1 Corinthians 11:30, AV).
Yet, there is a positive side to this. The rebellious one may repent before the destruction of the body and be restored to fellowship. Yet, if he is a true believer, the turning him over to “Satan for the destruction of the flesh,” is so that he “may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
In summary, the action of the church in disfellowshipping a professing believer may seem harsh, but the actions are done for the benefit of the rebellious one. It is so he or she may see the error of their ways and repent. Moreover, ultimately it is for the sake of their eternal salvation.