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To be more clear, how can the person be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ by delivering such person (sexual immoral) to Satan for the destruction of the flesh?

1 Corinthians 5:5 (NKJV)
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.

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Better on Biblical Hermeneutics. – DJClayworth May 31 '13 at 13:03
up vote 9 down vote accepted

If you read the general context of this passage in Chorinthians you will find that there is a lot of stuff about church order, roles in the church, how to deal with problems inside and outside the body of believers, etc.

The verse you quote in particular is starts to make sense when you see it as a reference to to church discipline and understand what the purpose of that discipline is. In this case we're specifically talking about the last stage of possible disipline: excommunication. This is the final step that a church will take in trying to bring the life of somebody who claims to be a believer into alignment with their confession. Although the step is a drastic one, the purpose is no different than the earlier steps: Christ receiving glory as people people are saved and brought from darkness to light.

Excommunication (or total removal of a person from the church) serves two purposes.

  1. It protects the church. The church is supposed to be holy: the bride of Christ spotless and reserved for Him. Of course the church is also comprised of sinners, but we are in the process of being made holy. Step by step we are supposed to be conforming to his standards and looking more like him. If somebody is moving the oposite direction — deliberatly and intentionaly continuing to sin and justify their sin; then removing them from the body helps stop the corruption from spreading.

  2. It stands as a severe warning. The hope is that by being rejected by the church they will be made aware of the seriousness of their sin before God and realize that they need to repent. Removal from the church only happens after teaching, warning, and internal discipline measures have failed — in other words the person is not listening to lighter warnings. They still insist they are Christian but are also insistent on living in a manner inconsistent with Christianity. By rejecting their claim to "be Christian" and not allowing them to participate in church functions, they are forced to consider whether they really are Christian.

Back to your verse in particular: "Deliver this man to Satan" is a reference to excommunication -- where the church rejects a persons claim to be Christian and forces them to live outside the community of the church. If the person truly has been chosen and is being saved by the Lord, finding themselves outside the blessing of the church is an opportunity for them to discover and destroy another part of their flesh: repenting of their worldly deeds and re-dedicating themselves in alignment with their stated belief.

If they do so, they are to be welcomed back into the church and the whole process will have been for their well being (and a step in their eventual complete salvation). If not, the process will have proven that they never did belong to Christ and actually serve another master.

If you turn the whole problem inside out it becomes more apparent why this works. The alternative is for the church to turn a blind eye to serious sin — allowing people who profess to be followers of Christ to live like followers of the devil as if there were no consequences. Doing so would produce a false sense of temporary security and they would find out on the final day of Judgement that what Jesus had in mind for his true followers was something else entirely.

By enacting current temporal consequences for non-repentant sin on this earth, the church grows in ito it's roll of a spotless bride.

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Thank you @Caleb for your elaborate answer, it does make sense. Only after being lost again, one can be found again. So by excommunicating that person, will have hope to be found again in Christ Jesus. – Lawson May 31 '13 at 11:48
This is very helpful-- I somehow (fearly, thankfully-wrongly) got the impression it was talking about the congregation burning the errant sinner at the stake! – pterandon Jun 2 '13 at 11:50
@pterandon Unfortunately I can't say that hasn't been done. However I in my understanding the church doesn't have authority to punish those outside the church whether they haven't been convert or whether they have been kicked out. We might refuse the privileges of the church and denounce their practices, but at the same time an outsider is an outsider: and our responsibility toward them is to be a witness for the light, and compassionate ones at that. Thankfully I believe most of Christian history agrees with me on this although recent history has perhaps gone too far the other way. – Caleb Jun 2 '13 at 12:44
how can the person be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ by delivering 
such person  to Satan for the destruction of the flesh?

We see in 1 Corinthians 5:5 that Paul calls for the sinners to be handed to Satan for the destruction of his flesh so that his spirit can be saved. The devil is not supposed to save souls, and it seems anomalous that Paul would expect the devil to destroy a person's flesh but save his soul. This exhortation may well involve excommunication or expulsion from the church, but that still does not explain how this would save the person's soul.

This passage uses is the Greek word for 'Satan', not 'devil', so it is useful to look at pre-Christian Jewish or proto-Christian (pre-gospel) usage of the word Satan, and avoid reading into the passage any meaning that may have arisen in later times. While Christianity has come to equate Satan with the devil, rabbinic Judaism regards Satan as the loyal servant of God, tasked to test the righteousness of the faithful. Consistent with this view, in the first New Testament gospel to be written, Mark, Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness (Mark 1:13), but does not seek to do evil; when Jesus rebukes Peter and calls him Satan (Mark 8:33), he is speaking of Peter as offering temptation, but not as an evil person:

But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.

The Book of Job gives us a good portrayal of the kind of Satan that fits the passage in 1 Corinthians 5:5. It describes Satan as doing God's bidding, going to and fro on earth:

Job 1:6-7: Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

God asks Satan whether he has considered Job, an upright man:

And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

Satan is sent to test Job, and causes great harm to his family, in an attempt to have Job curse God and thereby demonstrate his unrighteousness. When this fails, Satan causes physical damage to Job's flesh, which ultimately results in him (and the reader) realising his sin of pride and repenting.

This is what Paul seems to be talking about - let Satan test and punish the Corinthian sinners in the flesh and, by their repentance, save their souls. If Paul did not actually have the Book of Job in mind, then he should at least have been aware of the tradition of which the Book of Job forms a part.

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I disagree. I think when a Christian gets to such a state that he would commit such an act God knows he will sink even deeper and so might have him die to keep him from sinking any deeper but deliver his soul.

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