— 58 —
Why have some churches turned
persons over to Satan?

This idea may sound contradictory to the church's purpose, however this comes from the Apostle Paul's instruction to the church of Corinth regarding an internal disciplinary matter. It seems that there was a person in the church who was persisting in a matter of sexual immorality, and Paul told the leaders that such continued sin by a professing believer was not to be tolerated within the church fellowship. He told them, "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Cor. 5:4-5).

To implement this action, it appears that the church did little more than to excommunicate this person from the fellowship of the saints. "...Therefore put away from yourselves that wicked person" (1 Cor. 5:13). Such expulsion obviously removed them from the church's comforting influence and exposed them to the harsh reality of the Holy Spirit's absence — thus turning them over to Satan's world of darkness and torments. Some suggest that "destruction of the flesh" may mean a direct visitation of some type of physical affliction or even death.

Today, Bible believing churches still utilize this type of disciplinary action when such circumstances warrant. The purpose of turning a person over to Satan is not merely punitive, but for a twofold objective:

(1) To reconcile the person back to God. "...that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus..." The hope was that when abandoned to the wages of sin — the inevitable loss of peace and Satan's torments, they would seek repentance and restoration.

(2) To protect the church from further infection by such sinful behavior. Paul reminded them that it was one thing to be among immoral people in the world, but it is not acceptable to fellowship with immoral people who profess to be Christian brethren. "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; not even to eat with such a person" (1 Cor. 5:11). Persons in the church fellowship who resist correction in any of the immoral behavior mentioned, are eligible for expulsion.

Excommunication is never the first choice for the church. The Lord is a reconciler and wants His church to restore people whenever possible. Paul wrote, "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted" (Gal. 6:1). Our Lord is the Father of the prodigal, whom He so much wants to repent and to receive His forgiveness (1 John 1:9). But despite our best efforts, there are times when loving correction is not accepted and fails to alter communicable sinful behavior. In those cases, God requires that such persons be removed from the fellowship so to prevent sin from spreading, and to impress upon them their need for repentance.

Jesus used the metaphor of a spreading infection to warn us from withholding personal sin in any area of our life. Similarly, if the infection of sin is allowed to spread unabated within the body of Christ, it will bring gangrene that will destroy the whole body. Obviously, to expel anyone from Christ's body is a dreaded and painful task, no more desirable than to amputate one of our own limbs or organs, but there will be times where there is no other choice. Jesus said, "...if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire" (Matt. 18:8-9).

According to the Victor Bible Source Book,¹ the Bible indicates at least seven specific sins for which excommunication is prescribed if repentance is not secured (See Prov. 22:10, 1 Cor. 5:1-13, Titus 3:10-11, Matt. 18:15-20):

(1) Immorality (homosexuality, lesbianism, incest, sexual impurity)
(2) Greed — The desire to get gains by base methods.
(3) Idolatry — Participation in occult practices.
(4) Drunkenness — Intoxication with alcohol.
(5) Extortion — Robbery.
(6) Foul tongue — A railer, verbally abusive, reviling, slandering, insulting, contentious, using speech to injure or damage.
(7) Heretic — One who causes divisions by a party spirit, factions, and a self-willed opinion which is substituted for submission to the power of truth and leads to division (An expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W.E. Vine).
The procedure to seek either restoration, or grounds for excommunication, is usually based from Jesus' teaching in Matt. 18:15-20.

¹ The Victor Bible Source Book, Stephen D. Swihart

This article is from the book, What People Ask About the Church, authored and copyrighted © by Dr. Dale A. Robbins, 1990-2015, and is a publication of Victorious Publications, Grass Valley, CA - Nashville, TN. Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible, © Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982. You may download this article for personal use as long as you retain credit to the author. Obtain permission before reproducing copies for any reason, by filling out our simple use permission form. Many of our writings are also available as free pdf tri-fold pamphlets, which can be downloaded for reproduction from our Online Catalog. For media reproduction rights, or to obtain quantities of this title in other formats, email us. A newer revised version of this book is available from Amazon. If you have appreciated these online materials, help us reach the world with the Gospel by considering a monthly or one-time tax-deductable donation.