Turned over by the Church,
Given up by God
To those addicted to sin, the co-dependent, the enablers, and the pastors who have been beaten down by the leaven that infects so many churches:
The man was loud, confident, a leader of sorts. He was zealous. No one would’ve realized that he was compensating for insecurity. Then there was the woman who was manipulative. But she never let the pastor see it. It would take years to see that they needed to leave the church.
So it often goes that people get psychoanalyzed for their disruptive behavior, their sinfulness, and for their subtle but persistent trouble making. We don’t see it as disorderly and sinful any longer. We see it as mental instability, a wounded past, or some other such psychological problem. Alcoholism is now a disease. Homosexuality is now an alternative, inherited lifestyle. People “act out” because of ADHD, bipolar affective disorder, or some childhood trauma. It is seldom seen as love to “give someone the boot.” However, instead we will find ourselves turning the church into a bunch of neurotic, co-dependent enablers who fall for everything because they can’t stand for anything.
I know that there really are people who need much tender loving care. But there are others who simply are too full of themselves to admit their faults and sins. Their self-awareness is buried in pride, often wounded pride that is far too often mistaken for humility and godly sorrow. Their problem is that they are consumed with their own disapproval of themselves and disapproval by others, and they are not convicted of God’s disapproval of their sin. Then there are others who know that their sinful lifestyle is wrong, but they simply do not want to quit bad enough to do so. They are unaware that they are disgracing the Kingdom of God, despising His Word, dishonoring the Church, and disrespecting those who have loved them. Into this equation of understanding human behavior and restoration we must look at what the Bible says about persistent sin, disorderly behavior, and divisiveness.
What does it mean to be “turned over” or “given up” by God? What should I do if I feel it’s happening to me? What if someone I know is in this situation, or perhaps needs to be? This is something to really pay attention to because it is something that is happening on a national scale because of the rampant sin in America. For example, the homosexual movement in this country is defined by Paul in Romans 1 as a people who have been given up to their own lusts because they would not glorify God for who He is. The root is far deeper than a mere sexual orientation or temptation.
In the following verses we’ll see many examples of people who have been given up by God (Note that it doesn’t say given up ON by God) or turned over to Satan by the Church and by ministers. What many people don’t realize is that when people willingly leave the Church they are putting themselves into such a position as well. There are also many people who think they need deliverance when the fact is that their persistent ungodly ways have caused them to be given up to their own devices.
1 Cor 5:5 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 Tim 1:19-20 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, 20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
Note that Paul went so far as to name names. Though that would seldom be tolerated by the church today, there are scriptures that call us to mark those who walk contrary to the Word.
2 Tim 2:15-18 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17 And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18 who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.
A popular commentary has these words: Though 'delivered over to Satan' (the lord of all outside the church, Acts 26:18, and the executor of wrath, when judicially allowed by God, on the disobedient, 1 Cor 5:5; 2 Cor 12:7; Eph 4:27), he was restored to the Church subsequently, and again troubled it. Paul, as an apostle, though distant at Rome, pronounced the sentence of excommunication to be executed at Ephesus (Matt 18:17-18). The sentence operated not only spiritually but physically, sickness, or some such visitation, falling on the excommunicated, in order to bring him to repentance. "Alexander" is probably "the coppersmith" who did Paul "much evil" when the latter visited Ephesus. The 'delivering him to Satan' was the consequence of his withstanding the apostle (2 Tim 4:14-15): as the sentence on Hymeneus was for his "saying that the resurrection is past already;'' his putting away good conscience, producing shipwreck concerning the FAITH (1 Tim 1:19). If one's religion better not his morals, his moral deficiencies will corrupt his religion. The rain which falls pure from heaven will not continue pure, if received in an unclean vessel (Dr. Whately). Jammison, Faussett, Browne, Commentary
2 Tim 4:14-15 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. 15 You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.
Rom 2:24 For "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you," as it is written.
Blaspheme - God and Christ, by doings and teachings unworthy of their profession (Rom 2:23-24; James 2:7).
Sin has gotten sophisticated. Though it is obvious that the people described in the preceding verses needed to be marked and dealt with, there is far too much sin within the body today that goes unchecked. There is public drunkenness, and sexual immorality. I asked someone the other day if they thought drunkenness would send a person to hell. This professing Christian said, “No.” I said, “Well, there’s your problem.” Within a day of saying she was totally committed to the church and my discipleship, she was high, obnoxious, and gone. So is it also that people living together outside of marriage are becoming a significant population of many Bible believing churches! People beginning in ministry in the church are sleeping around, having babies, and creating headaches.
There are occasions where men either have not the opportunity, nor are in the position to, nor would it seem to be of any consequence to turn them over to Satan by putting them outside of the protection of the body of Christ. Many such simply leave the church. Yet God is no fool. He may just as readily be true to His own precepts and turn one over in other ways for their unrepentant sin as would His pastors if they had the chance or need. The fact is, that when a person is turned over to Satan, there is nothing they can do to reverse it except humble themselves, repent, get totally honest, and accept the cleansing of the Lord by faith.
Rom 1:20-24 …they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts,
Rom 1:28-29 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness,
The phrase, “gave them up,” “gave them over” means surrendered to. God allowed them to be taken hold of by their lusts and passions. In other words He would not deliver them at present from their sin, but to their sin. Sometimes we may call it, “opening a door for the devil,” when in reality God permits the opening of this door because we would not repent. We can wear ourselves and others out trying to bring about deliverance, when the reality is the need for repentance.
Oftentimes, the call to repent will bring a demonic response with deliverance following. Persistent and unrepentant sin within the body of Christ will be dealt with by God either directly or indirectly through His Church. There may be those sins that Christians think their leadership doesn’t know about, but God does.
Though we often like to use this passage in Romans in application to homosexual sin, it is not limited by it. Whatever we consistently do that is outside of the confines of the faith, if it is affecting the entire body, and if it is demeaning the glory of God by what is done or left undone, the turning of one over to his/her own lusts is within the parameters of the will of God. Grace does not mean an unfettered, and continual license to sin. If we either will not grow in the power of grace’s deliverance, or if we will not apply what we have already been given, God will allow the works of the flesh to consume the flesh – sometimes to ultimate degrees.
1 Cor 11:27-32 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
Most people don’t stop and think that chastening done by God and by the Church is part of the process of deliverance from sin. We think of prayer, sharing an encouraging word of faith, loving people with our comfort and fellowship, and spending time with them is about the extent of reaching out to people caught in sin. But there are times when separating ourselves from them is also a part of love for the soul of another.
For sexual sins, for not glorifying God as God with gratitude, for turning the truth of God into a lie, and for things such as defying the truth of the Word, there can come this “turning over.” But in this passage we also see that such can happen to those who talk the talk, but do not walk the walk. When the power of God is present, when He is being glorified in the body, and there are those who represent themselves to be something that they are not in secret, there can be an ultimate price to pay. “Be sure your sins will find you out.”
Acts 5:1-11 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God."
5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. 7 Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter answered her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?" She said, "Yes, for so much."
9 Then Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. 11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
Not only do we see that the church leadership and the Lord himself will bring about a turning over to one’s own devices or worse, so does the body of believers have a part in this. Speaking about a brother who sins against another and will not own up to it, the Bible says:
Matt 18:17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
There are many, many instances in the Bible where God calls us to withdraw from people who persist in sin, disorderly behavior, and ungodly lifestyles. The consequence of this is allowing the covering of the Body to be removed, to allow the protecting hand of God to be pulled back, (whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, Matt. 18:18). Of course, great care must be taken that we never, ever do such a thing from a motive of personal offense, an angry and unforgiving spirit, or for anything but for love of the Body of Christ first, and then of the individual.
Rom 16:17-20 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.
1 Cor 5:11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner — not even to eat with such a person.
2 Thess 3:6-7 But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you;
2 Thess 3:14-15 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
1 Tim 6:5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.
2 John 10-11 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
“Avoid, do not keep company with, withdraw,” from such as live persistently in an ungodly manner. Take great, great care not to do so from personal reasons. But at the same time, do not fall prey to the current pop psychology of grace that makes you feel guilty for not simply ‘loving’ them. If you have a thorn that persistently causes you pain, you love your body enough to dig it out. You don’t allow it to infect you until sepsis sets in. That is not loving the body. No matter how much good that thorn may do you, it will bring you down. It’s removal will cause a little pain, but the alternative will be much worse.
Job’s friends used some of these principles to beat him into the ground. Their accusations drove Job to justify himself. They were not to blame for Job’s afflictions, nor were they to blame for Job biting into that “apple” of self-justification, and incurring the wrath of God. That was in Job all along, and it needed to be drawn out. But Job was not displaying persistent sin in his life and bringing dishonor to God. So we too need to take care that we do not use the reality of God’s discipline in the Church to be abusive to those who refuse to repent. Treat them as a brother who needs to be cut back. But do so with love.
God’s highest form of discipline is His Word. Those who tremble at His Word and live in a healthy fear of the Lord will take heed. However, the Word is not a mere formula that we can plug into every life situation without God’s leading. It is a living source of a relationship with the Holy Spirit whereby we are led in the necessary pathways that bring God’s will into action. Some resist this being “given up” saying, “Satan is not God’s whipping boy.” But scripture doesn’t bear that out well. He is allowed to successfully tempt those who don’t heed God’s Word. God has built a natural, spiritual consequence into living in disobedience. He doesn’t allow demonic influence to bind us as a punishment. Jesus took the punishment for our sins. But neither does He allow the indiscriminate work of darkness to come in for no reason. He is still in charge! Obedient repentance that comes from faith will always defeat the devil! I Tim. 2;25. Chastening will also have its intended work in those who are properly exercised thereby. Heb. 12:11.
There is never any reason to fear and lose hope for those who have been disciplined by God and His Church, as long as there is a humble and honest heart. God’s intention is always to move us toward His blessing and freedom in Christ. Much unnecessary anxiety and confusion has resulted by those who have not understood God’s ways in purifying His Church. He will have His way!
Now, after Paul talks about delivering the immoral person to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, he says these words: 1 Cor 5:6-8 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
During the preparation for the Passover, the Jews used great care to rid their homes of all old leaven. Just a little leaven will leaven the whole lump, a little sin will pollute the whole body of believers. Jesus spoke many times of being wary of the leaven of the Pharisees which Luke 12 identifies as hypocrisy. Leaven can come in many, many forms of evil.
Pastors are often very reluctant to rid evil from their churches for many reasons. Among them are the desire to give second, third and fourth chances to people in the name of loving grace. Another is the fear of losing too many people and too much money, numbers, gifting, or in the name of ego. But it is often at a severe price.
Someone with the demonic influences of sin and deception can slowly but surely infect many others. Hebrews 12:15 warns of allowing people to come short of the grace of God and thus allowing a root of bitterness to grow and defile many people. Whether it be bitterness or some other demonic influence growing out of someone’s past, many people can become ensnared in impossible depths of Satan’s devices. The Church that will not deal with the leaven of sin and Satan’s snares will find itself bogged down with all sorts of problems. Attitudes of people will sour. Hard feelings will brew under the surface, sometimes for years, until finally a purely demonic destruction starts taking over people’s lives.
There comes a time where pastors and other caring people in the congregation can actually become co-dependent upon the manipulations of those who should’ve been turned over and put out of the church for a season. These addictive personalities will defile the hearts of innocent people who are not strong enough to withstand such forces. They feel they should’ve been strong enough to love no matter what. But being tolerant and passive instead of pro-active with people who will not face the issues in their lives causes a sickness almost as bad as that of those with too much baggage which they hang on to. The Church winds up becoming a group of loving but neurotic enablers that wonder what happened. Why is everyone so uptight, out of joint, easily angered or offended? It’s possible that the leaven was not carefully taken out of the body for a season.
Many pastors wind up co-dependent and confused about why they can’t handle pressure like they used to. Why can’t they respond with patience and compassion? It’s because their emotions have been so abused, their hearts have been so worked over by manipulation and controlling powers of sin in others, that they have become casualties. They’ve been standing against sin for so long, battling so many forces – oftentimes nearly alone – that they’ve been broken down. Sad it is that it all started because they didn’t follow the scriptural mandate to get the leaven out of the church early on.
I have no doubt that demonic forces work to put key people into churches that become like a plague. They seem like angels of light with gifts, zeal, influence and finances. People are either drawn to them or otherwise influenced by forces that they don’t understand. Little wonder that Jesus often warned about the leaven of the Pharisees.
Personally, as a pastor I’ve seen many people, usually women, who have done great harm over the years. They have all appeared close to the church’s leadership. They have been zealous. But they have also caused more problems over time than most all of the rest of the church put together. Beneath the surface there has been a profound dishonesty, a hidden agenda, and suspicion created that has been hard to prove, and hard to put one’s finger on. When they do finally leave, they often do so with a huge bang. Some have a following. All have insecurities. All have families in crisis.
I was only a pastor for a short time when a woman came in who was very zealous. She wanted discipleship. She wanted to see false doctrine publicly exposed. We were even going to hold a public discussion (debate) about doctrine with other churches. The Holy Spirit said, "Don't." When her husband finally came to the Lord and started attending church, and when it became obvious that she was pursuing me instead of God, she divorced her husband and left town. The point is, listen to the Holy Spirit as a leader, and be wary of people's motives.
If you are a leader reading this, then you know what has to happen. If you are one of those who are leaven, you also know what needs to happen. Honesty and humility will be your best friends. Denial will bring about a lot of sifting into your future. If the righteous experience a lot of affliction – and they do – yours will be a double dose until you come to your senses and get honest, get help, and accept the hope that comes from God. He is near to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit, Ps. 34
One of the first necessary steps in restoration, deliverance or transformation, whatever word we use, is that a person will experience the natural consequences of their behavior. Something less is enabling. Far too often we have tried to counsel, disciple, pray for, preach to, and put up with persistent disorderly lifestyles. We wait for a “move of God” in their lives, but it often does not come. We feel it’s because we may have not had enough love, wisdom, faith or time to invest. But the reality may be that the move that is needed is not a move of God, but it is rather their moving to a place outside of the body for a season.
You can’t counsel chronic sin out of someone. Neither can they believe or think their way out of their life controlling problems. The only way is to obey their way out, to obey the Word and the will of God. Time and time again I have been bitten by people with root problems because I have not decisively dealt with it. I often become the “bad guy” in the end. Their sin comes to full fruit. Their defensiveness kicks in. Then these people leave, criticize to justify themselves, and the church is left wondering. What will happen is that they will go somewhere else and a cycle of several years will repeat itself. People who run will run for the rest of their lives.
I am reflecting on years of experience in seeing how people problems have been dealt with, or rather have not been dealt with biblically. In the name of caring, loving, and not wanting to hurt people, and being afraid of the consequences, pastors have far too often let things slide, only to see things get worse instead of better. God’s Word is true. A little leaven does leaven the whole lump. Allowing sinful hearts and attitudes to remain unchecked opens the door for demonic influence to affect the entire body. Pretty soon, many are being attacked by the same demons that infect the original lump of leaven. It’s like a virus that you can’t see, but it’s very real, very powerful, and very destructive. It weakens people against every other attack and temptation until everyone’s mind is on the flesh instead of the Spirit.
One time a man came up to me and said, "You think I'm a legalist, don't you." "Yes, I do," I replied. "What do you mean?" I told him that I thought he focused far more on the standards of God than on the grace of God. He admitted it. It was said that he was a real supporter of me, but it seldom felt like it. His legalistic attitudes could easily contribute much harm to the body and to me. Shortly before he died, he pulled me close and said, "I have been too legalistic, and I'm sorry for the way I treated you."
This was the type of leaven that Paul also was deeply grieved over. He suffered greatly by this spirit. At one point Galations records that Paul withstood Peter publicly to his face for wanting to shrink back into legalistic Judaism. Such are also some of the ways in which churches and leaders can be greatly hindered.
The Lord knows the way out of your wilderness. Follow Him. Listen to Him. Shut yourself in with God for a good season until you start to hear from heaven. He hasn’t forsaken you. He will always be with you. If the devil tells you that God is resisting you, humble yourself, for God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Usually, if God truly is resisting you, the devil won’t tell you. He’ll just let you slide further downhill. If you keep running into the devil, don’t worry about it. It’s because you and he aren’t going in the same direction, and that’s a good thing!
It would be a mistake to leave the impression that being disciplined to the point of excommunication is intended to be a permanent thing. Paul's second letter to the Corinthians opens with instructions to forgive and welcome home the one who has been turned over. He says that such must happen lest their sorrow be too over-powering.
It's also important to note that Paul speaks of the discipline that was meted out by some - but on all. Seldom will everyone agree that such action should be taken. That's another reason it is so tough. But people assume that they should know all of the dirty details of someone else's problems. I don't believe that it is proper to broadcast all of the areas of sin in another's life. If it ever happen to those who don't agree, I'm sure they would want to be treated with the same dignity.
Usually, when the church has to discipline someone, it becomes just like it does in the criminal justice system. People argue with the process more than focusing on their problem. "How did you know that? Who's been gossiping about me? This is not fair!" If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that! Such statements show that the decision was the proper one. When people see extreme sin in members of the body of Christ, they're going to tell someone. It's going to get out. The whole community may know about it. To attempt to "strain at a knat and swallow a camel" is not going to help. We're a society where the personal rights of the criminal often trump the rights of the offended. The reason people get bitter over such things is that there is bitterness in their hearts. The defensiveness they have is what got them into trouble in the first place.
If you've been turned over, the darkness (defensiveness) that protects your strongholds needs to be broken. Otherwise, you'll go somewhere else, blaming your Church for ill-treatment. But not only that. You'll go claiming love to make yourself look better, not admitting, "I have committed high treason against the Kingdom of God and trampled under foot the blood of Christ whereby I have been saved."
God's will is available for everyone, but it is not inevitable. Jesus spoke to every single Church in Asia Minor in the book of Revelation and said, "He who overcomes to the end will be saved." Peter said that it's possible for a dog to return to its own vomit. It's possible for our faith to be shipwrecked. The consequences are serious enough that such a turning over is designed by God that a person may be saved in the day of the Lord. Though God will remain faithful, the scriptures are clear - we must remain faithful to Him. There is no scripture that says, "Well, maybe you weren't really a Christian to start with."
I knew a man who was a homosexual once. He told me, "I'm delivered!" I asked him, "How long ago?" He said, "Last Sunday." I didn't discourage him, but this thought came to me, "Tell me that a year from now, and time will tell if you're truly free." Many people are a few days 'out' and think that they're free. But the devil has been doing this for a long time and he's very good. If we don't realize it, we'll easily be fooled into thinking someone is free simply because they shed a tear, shared a testimony, and convinced a few people.
It is the nature of our faith to be tested and tried. That proving ground takes time and seasoning. Oftentimes people will simply move on, and we'll think that they will never face the truth. But the possibility that keeps us ever believing, hoping and praying is that though we may never see them again, God hasn't given up on anyone! People can learn from the pain of being turned over that sin just isn't worth it. It cost them much. Earthly relationships may be severed, but the process can bring eternal reward if they are willing to persevere.
Paul wondered why the Corinthians were too puffed up with pride to put someone out of the church for their immorality. That's really one of the bottom lines with churches, especially leadership. When you have to turn someone over, it really works on your pride. You usually take a beating. If there's too much self there, too much pride, the soul can't handle the onslaught. The fear of loss that comes from pride and self life will be overwhelming. But the consequence of obeying man, even self, is far more costly in the long run.