1 Corinthians 5:5 – What Does It Mean?

To get a better context for this verse, here are verses 1-5 (I’ve underlined verse 5):

    It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.  And you are arrogant!  Ought you not rather to mourn?  Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.  When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. (ESV)

What is Paul saying here?  I honestly don’t know.  From what I can gather, a man has engaged in sexual activity with his father’s wife.  Paul is suggesting that this man be removed or cast out from them.  Then further down he takes it a step further and says that not only should be be removed, but that he should be delivered to Satan for the destruction of his flesh.  A couple of questions arise out of that:

  • How does one deliver another to Satan?
  • Why do we have the authority to deliver people over to Satan?
  • Do we have any control as to the result of delivering someone over to Satan, as is stated “for the destruction of the flesh”?

Even more interesting that than is the reason for which to do this, namely, “so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”  I have further questions about this as well:

  • How does turning someone over to Satan result in someone’s spirit being saved?
  • Is this saying that people who never believed, or have turned from God will have an opportunity to be saved after death?
  • It seems like a more commonly understood approach would be to love the man, teach him, and help him see the wrong to help him turn from it and repent.  Wouldn’t that be a better route towards his spirit being saved?

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