I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
–1 Corinthians 5:5-6
Though the Corinthian Christians would not deal with the sin of immorality that was threatening their church, Paul was ready to do so. In 1 Corinthians 5:4-5, he pronounced this judgment: “In the name of our Lord Jesus . . . I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
There are two key phrases to understand about Paul’s judgment. First of all, he said, “I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan” (v. 5). What in the world does that mean? It is simply a euphemism for turning somebody out of the church. When you revoke somebody’s membership in the church, you are turning them out into the world, the realm where Satan dwells. There are occasions when we are to do that. In Matthew 18, Jesus said the most extreme action we take toward an unrepentant sinner is to turn them out of the church. And in 1 Timothy 1:20, Paul said he handed two men over to Satan “so that they will be taught not to blaspheme.”
Second, Paul explained that he decided to turn the Corinthian Christian out of the church “for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:5). There are several interpretations of that phrase “for the destruction of his flesh.” I think it might be best paraphrased “until his flesh gets its fill of sin.” In other words, if the person will not repent, turn him out of the church until he gets his fill of sin, until he is completely broken by Satan, so his spirit might be saved.
If you are a parent, you may know the heartbreaking experience of having a child who was so rebellious you had to turn them out of your house. It is the most painful thing a parent can do. Because when you turn a child out of your house and into the world, you open them up to every kind of evil imaginable. But you do it because you know that the consequences of allowing them to continue in their rebellion are even more severe.
Sometimes we have to do the same thing in the church. We have to say, “We care too much about you and about the church to allow you to go on sinning. Because of that, we are going to turn you out of the church until you are ready to repent.” Isn’t that what happened to the prodigal son in Luke 15? It was only when he got his fill of sin that he came back to his father. I think that is what Paul had in mind for this Corinthian Christian who was caught up in sin.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Caring Enough to Confront” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.