[Re-issue of non-indexable old post for archives]

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and sexual immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, namely, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to hand such a person over to Satan for the destruction of his body, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord (1Cor5:1-5)

What does hand over to Satan mean?

Focusing on verse 5 which many find perplexing, I have utilized the New American Standard Bible translation which I believe comes nearest to what Paul is actually intimating. What the original Greek actually says is that the man in question should be handed over to Satan for “DESTRUCTION OF THE FLESH”, But this confuses many for they do not understand what Paul actually means by σαρκός (flesh). He is referring to the physical component of man AS A WHOLE (body and brain) that is procreated from our parents. It is that which the apostles Peter and Paul respectively refer to as our tent/tabernacle (2Pet1:13-14) or vessel (1Thes4:4), housing the God-given soul/spirit. As I have been adducing from Scripture it is not the eternal spiritual component but its temporary mortal housing that is the SOURCE of mankind’s problem with sin.

As Paul well knew, such was the case with the immoral passions that were dominating the unrepentant member of the Corinthian church to whom the apostle was referring (v1). His drastic solution (which as some commentators have rightly observed is not a timeless injunction for churches but pertained to apostolic authority within their era) was to deliver the person to Satan, whom we learn elsewhere has authority over sickness and death (cf. Lk13:16 & Heb2:14). The “flesh” cannot be referring to the sinful passions per se as many understand it, for Satan would hardly be in the business of destroying them; rather he would wish to nurture such tendencies so that they would continue to war against the soul (1Pet2:11).

A similar principal may be observed with regard to Christ’s descent into Hades to preach to lost souls: “For this reason was the gospel preached to those that are dead, that having been judged according to men in the flesh, they might LIVE ACCORDING TO GOD IN THE SPIRIT” (1Pet4:6; see also 1Pet3:19-20). Peter’s teaching confounds the many who do not believe God ever gives second chances. But as I explain in my book this is not referring to God’s elect – the future Bride of Christ who must serve the Lord NOW and “put to death the deeds of the body” NOW whilst in mortal flesh (Rom8:13). Nor shall ALL the rest be willing to call on the name of the Lord and be spared from destruction on the “Day of the Lord” that Paul refers to in this passage (v5). For some who like Cain are the devil’s children (1Jn3:12) will never willingly bow the knee or come to serve Christ, the Source and Summit of all that is good.

The three soteriological categories indicated here and throughout my writing are not dependent on this or any particular passage of Scripture but can be traced from Genesis through to Revelation. Such I have done in The Little Book of Providence; a free PDF of which is available HERE

Related post The unforgivable sin

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