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To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh (1st Cor. 5:5)

Can it be inferred somehow from the text here that Paul was calling on the believers in Corinth to start physically torturing the believer who had sinned (had sex with his mother in law)?

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@GoneQuiet - It's not so much "deliver unto satan" as "destruction of flesh" that made me contemplate that possibility. – brilliant Nov 24 '13 at 22:49
up vote 3 down vote accepted

The full context of this passage makes Paul's case very clear - the body is to expel the immoral unbeliever, and the Accuser (Satan) is in charge of destroying the flesh, not the church.

The problem:

5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?

Paul's Judgement

3 For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. (παραδοῦναι τὸν τοιοῦτον τῷ σατανᾷ εἰς ὄλεθρον τῆς σαρκός, ἵνα τὸ πνεῦμα σωθῇ ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ κυρίου.)

The Body's Response

6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people

  1. "Handing Over" παραδοῦναι means to transmit - to deliver from one place to another. In the same fashion that a judge might hand over a prisoner to a foreign country or to the cops for prison, handing over implies that no harm is done by the person doing the handing over. Even if Satan is going to kill this person (which I don't think is the point, see next), the person doing the handing over is not taking part in the actual punishment

  2. "In order that the Spirit might be saved" (ἵνα τὸ πνεῦμα σωθῇ) The sozo here indicates that Salvation (saving) is the point of church discipline. The spirit that commits incest and perversion here is the thing that must be rescued. Even if the body is to be delivered to Satan σατανᾷ εἰς ὄλεθρον τῆς σαρκό , the important part is that the spirit is saved. This points to a desire for reconciliation.

  3. The remaining verses show that the protection of the body is the other important thing - when the Jews would cleanse the house of Yeast (representing Sin) during the Passover, one didn't "punish" the yeast - it was merely disposed of in order to keep the house clean, and not to sully the house. Beyond the desire to help the immoral one whose Spirit needed to be saved, the point of protecting the body was simply one of discarding the impurity- not "punishing" it.

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The only thing I care to add to Affable Geek's fine answer is to cite the book of Job, where we read,

"Satan answered the LORD and said, 'Skin for skin? Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face.' So the LORD said to Satan, 'Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.' Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head" (2:4-7)

I fully realize that Job, unlike the Corinthian who was guilty of incest, was blameless before the LORD (see 1:8 and 2:3). Nevertheless, the commonality between the two passages is neither accidental nor coincidental. While Job was not guilty of any particular sin for which the LORD loosed Satan upon his body, the sinner in Corinth was, and the common effect of Satan's efforts was to bring dis-ease to Job and possibly "the destruction of the flesh" to the excommunicated Corinthian (though we do know this for certain).

Both Job and the Corinthian were true believers, but God had His own sovereign purpose in allowing each one to experience the malignant influence of Satan. That common purpose, I suggest, was for the greater good of the men and the greater glory of God.

Of the two men, obviously Job's experiences have been much more perplexing and troubling to God's people for thousands of years. After all, we have an entire book devoted to Job's experiences but only a few verses devoted to the offending Corinthian! Moreover, Job was blameless before the LORD, and the Corinthian, clearly, was not.

If I were to summarize in précis form the primary difference between Job's experiences and the Corinthian's experience, it would be as follows:

Job was handed over to Satan for the purpose of testing his faith in Almighty God and in God's sovereign purposes even in the absence of a clear explanation from God, whereas the Corinthian sinner was handed over to Satan for several purposes: church discipline, church cleansing (i.e., ridding the local church of the leaven of blatant sin), and punishment with a view to repentance and restoration.

Interestingly, even blameless Job repented in dust and ashes, realizing he had spoken rashly of "things too wonderful for [him]" (see 42:1-6). As for the Corinthian, we obviously do not know whether he repented or not. Perhaps one day in heaven we will find out!

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