I know I started using the term ‘Purity Police” before I heard any body else use it to describe a phenomena in church I saw in my teens. I am fairly sure others used it before and after that but I don’t remember having heard it before I started using to describe the self-righteous people who would look down their noses as people walked into church and judged them based on their outward appearance as to whether or not they were serving God. Paul in this passage is not necessarily dealing with the purity police but I know many of them who use this passage to justify their behavior especially the process of kicking someone out of the church if they do not meet their standards.
The thing about 1st Corinthians chapter five is it does not stand alone in the subject of church discipline. Jesus spoke on the subject and injects many things he taught and did about handling ‘sinners’. Forgiveness and grace comes into effect. Because of this I look at the nature of the offense and consider it pretty extreme given its nature. A man who is having sex with his step-mother is pretty much a gross sin that is evident to all and clearly defined as sin by the scriptures. This was not some stupid inside rule but something that could and had obviously affected the church’s reputation.
Paul warns the Corinthians about this pointing out that much like a little leaven can effect the whole large lump of dough, sin can affect the whole church. Paul has concern for both the majority of the church because of this but we cannot say he has no concern for the sinner. His judgment is to deliver the one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so his spirit might be saved. The objective is repentance not condemnation. The lost sheep is to be saved not condemned to the wolves.
When a Christian hears of a scandal how they react shows their Christianity. Is the first reaction one of contempt or compassion. Paul’s deliverance to Satan comment is actually one of compassion because his hope is the man will repent. He is not trying to destroy the man but is faced with a twofold problem. He needs to protect the rest of the church and he must work toward the redemption of the person involved in the scandal. The issue is to maintain compassion in the midst of discipline. His concern is for all.
The purity police will always try to use any Scripture to justify their self-righteousness. They will always try to use anything so they can claim some greater spiritual plane than the rest of Christians. The crossroads for the believer is either one of self-righteousness or compassion. That is the crossroad when looking at this passage to see its redemptive qualities or to see it as an opportunity for exclusion so you can label yourself as a cut above others. We have only to choose which path we think Jesus followed. My personal thoughts are that I would rather err on the side of compassion and mercy and use the kind of discipline presented as a last and redemptive resort after all other options are exhausted.