Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Handing Them Over to Satan Part 1

Catchy title, eh?

Been sitting on this one a while, meditating on it, but thought it was time to start the series ... should be fun and interesting.

I think one of the ways my Christian walk truly changed was when I stopped interpreting the scripture according to my doctrine or theology and just read it and believed what it said, developing my principles after an honest assessment of the Bible ... instead of developing principles based on a lofty theology and then skimming scripture to support it.

This includes parts we don't like and will probably never hear mentioned by some teacher at a megachurch. But they are in there, and we might as well deal with them.

As we look into some of these scriptures, it becomes important when we re-examine big questions like, what is the Church? What is Her role? Who is She supposed to be? Things like that. It's cool and new to re-examine, to question everything, but often that examination is dishonest and too driven by worldly agendas to really change anything. The emperor is still after we're done making fun of him.

One of these issues is Church discipline, and an uncomfortable one to look at in reference is 1 Corinthians 5, which has the handy quote, "deliver such a one to Satan," hence the catchy title.

In part 1, we'll tackle the first five verses:

It is actually reported that there is ual immorality among you, and such ual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. 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.

First off, Paul is amazed that there is extreme sin named among the community of faith, gross ual immorality, at that (a man, on some level, has had some type of ual relationship with his father's wife ... his mother? don't know ... no more detail than that). Paul contends that it is so bad, that even the "Gentiles" (the unsaved) don't do these things.

What's worse to Paul is that they are proud of it. The whole Church is "puffed up" because they have accepted or allowed this sin in their midst. What were they boasting in? Their freedom? Their tolerance? Regardless, they were prideful about it, boasting.

Rather, this should have caused them to mourn, to weep for the sin committed among them. They, as the family of God around this man, should have taken personal responsibility for this sin and felt the seriousness of it intimately.

Then in verse three, Paul firmly announces that they should, in the name of Jesus, place judgment upon this man: to hand him over to Satan.

Here's where it gets interesting. This was obviously some sort of public shaming (done not in secret but while they were gathered together) and expulsion. He basically commands them to do this the next time they met and give this man a swift kick in the rear. They were to no longer associate with him at all.

And, before you start quoting scriptures in your head about not judging and planks and specks, this was to be done in the name of Jesus, in Jesus' stead, with His power, as if Jesus Himself were doing this.

Why? Paul isn't saying this out of malice or revenge or even punishment, but love. Yes, love. Paul's goal here was to expose the acts of the flesh for what they were, the seriousness of them, and the consequences based on their seriousness. What are the consequences? Separation from God and His Kingdom (Paul repeatedly lists people who actively participate in certain sins as not a part of the Kingdom at all).

So how is this love? Well, Paul wanted his soul to be saved in the judgment of Jesus Christ, on that Day. Isn't that love? Not to condemn him. Based on his sin, in God's eyes, he was already condemned. Paul wanted the Church to express by outward expulsion the inward truth that had already occurred.

Now, realize, this was a very serious thing, and this man was unrepentant ... did not even see it as wrong ... and the whole community had been led down this path with him. To keep fellowship with this man, in his unrepentant state in something so serious, was lying to him, thereby hating him. That is the opposite of love.

Also interesting to me is the implication that, on some mystical level I don't understand, to be in fellowship and community is to be in the Kingdom ... that to not have fellowship with this man was to hand him over to Satan ... for his redemption.

Still uncomfortable? There's a happy ending, so stay tuned ...

Peace.

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