Did Paul Really Say the Church Should Deliver People to Satan?

TODAY’S READING: 1 CORINTHIANS 5-9

“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 this spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 5:4-5

The more and more I attempt to study the scriptures on my own in their original language, the more I see how the translations have been biased by an assumed theology that God will judge people, actual people, unworthy. Therefore, because these people are evil, wicked sinners they will be cast aside.

But, this is misses the entire point of the scriptures, which is that the Christ, God, suffers, dies, and rises from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

The singular point of the word of God becoming flesh was to show that God suffers for us so that we can be forgiven. God was in Jesus on the cross reconciling the world to himself. God was not in Jesus forgiving us 2,000 years ago so that at some point in the future he can destroy, eternally burn, sinners.

What would have been the point of the suffering, forgiving, and reconciling of the world on the cross?

So, we come to a rather well known passage where Paul hears that someone has a father’s wife in a sexually immoral manner. It’s a sexual immorality such that is not in the nations or Gentiles.  The rest of the translation says that the man who has done this should be removed from the congregation. Further, the translation says that Paul already has judged the man who did this thing. So, when the congregation is assembled, they should deliver the man to Satan to destroy the flesh, which seemingly gets read as destroying the man, even though the purpose is that the man’s spirit may be saved in the end, the day of the Lord.

In English, the word man and his appear quite frequently. But, in the Greek these words are not there. The Greek uses words like “such” and “this.” To me, it seems less about the man being judged and delivered to Satan as it is the works and the deeds that are judged and delivered to Satan for destruction.

For example, according to the ESV, 1 Corinthians 5:2 says, “And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.”

However, a more literal reading would be something like, “And you are in a state of being proud, but rather not you mourned in order that the doing of this deed be removed from among you?”

It seems to me Paul is not so concerned about the man being removed. Being in a state of pride would cause you to want to remove a sexually immoral man from among you. The Pharisees were full of pride and did not want sinners in their presence. They wanted to cast sinners out.

Rather, I think Paul’s concern is that the church should have mourned so that the doing of the deed of sexual immorality would be removed from among them not the man?

Doesn’t this sound more like Jesus?

Jesus didn’t purge people from God’s presence. Because of his humility, Jesus drew sinners in so that that could be cleansed, which is to say that their sinful deeds would be purged from them.

According to the ESV, verse 3 says, “For thought 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.”

However, a more literal reading would be something like, “Because on the one hand absent in the body, but I am present in the spirit. As present, I already am in a state of judging the thing accomplished in this way.”

In this more literal sense, it is not even clear to me that Paul is judging the man or the man’s actions. Rather, it could be that Paul is already judging the thing the church accomplished by being in a state of pride instead of mourning the deed done. Paul could be judging their pride that drove the man out instead of their mourning the deed done, the sexual immorality, so that the man would be drawn in by their humility but the sexual immorality itself driven out.

Even if the thing accomplished that Paul is judging is the sexual immorality of the man, we must remember that Paul said, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:16-20)

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul said he was absent in the body but present in the spirit. He was assessing the situation in the present, not regarding the man, or the Corinthian church, according to the flesh. No matter how fleshly, or carnal, the Corinthian church was Paul called them saints. He saw them in Christ as a new creation. And, if God was not counting trespasses against them, I doubt Paul was either. Therefore, i doubt Paul advocated kicking this man out of the church, driving him out of the presence of God.

Therefore, according to the ESV, verses 4-5 says , “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.”

However, a more literal reading would be something like, “In the name of the our Lord Jesus you are gathered together (and my spirit together with the power of our Lord Jesus) to deliver such things in Satan to destruction of the flesh, so that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”

There is no “when” in the Greek. Rather, quite literally Paul says “In the name of our Lord Jesus you are gathered together.” It is in the name, the character, the mind, of our Lord Jesus that we, the church, have been gathered together.

Then, referring back to his previous comment that he was absent in body but present in spirit, Paul parenthetically adds that his spirit is there together with the power of our Lord Jesus.

What is the power of our Lord Jesus, the power of God?

In yesterday’s post, Paul said that the word of the cross is the power of God.

What is the power of God?

Forgiveness in the midst of the suffering.

Is it likely that the Corinthians were suffering as a result of this man’s sexual immorality?

Highly.

Then, instead of being in a state of pride, they should have mourned the deed done and forgiven the man despite the suffering they were enduring.

Therefore, you are gathered together for forgiveness to deliver such things in Satan. “In Satan” could also be translated “to Satan” or “by Satan.” I chose in Satan because we are delivering “such things.”

What are such things?

Either or both the sexual immorality of the man and/or the pride of the church. Both have their beginnings in Satan. And, it’s these things, these sins, that come from Satan that Jesus came to destroy.

First John 3:8 says, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”

First John 2:16 says, “For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world.”

The pride of the Corinthian church and the sexual immorality of the man are both sins and of the devil. They are part of the desires of the flesh and pride of life that are not of the Father but of the world. Satan is the ruler of this world; therefore, if they are of the world, they are of Satan.

But, Jesus appeared to destroy the works of the devil. Jesus appeared to destroy the sins of pride and sexual immorality – such things in Satan.

Therefore, in the name of our Lord Jesus we are gathered together to forgive, which is the word of the cross and the power of God, to deliver such things in Satan – pride and sexual immorality – to destruction because this is why the Son of God appeared.

Why to destruction of the flesh?

Because scripture is quite clear that the flesh is where sinful desires, which are from Satan, reside.

What is the whole purpose of everything Paul has said?

“So that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”

The Greek verb for “may be saved” is in the subjunctive mood.  According to www.ntgreek.org, “The subjunctive mood indicates probability or objective possibility. The action of the verb will possibly happen, depending on certain objective factors or circumstances. It is oftentimes used in conditional statements (i.e. ‘If…then…’ clauses) or in purpose clauses. However if the subjunctive mood is used in a purpose or result clause, then the action should not be thought of as a possible result, but should be viewed as a definite outcome that will happen as a result of another stated action.”

Paul’ statement is used in a result clause – “so that.” Therefore, it is a definite outcome that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord because we have delivered such things in Satan to the destruction of the flesh by the power of Jesus, the power of God, forgiveness. Let us not forget that in his first sermon in Acts 2, Peter declared that the Spirit had been poured out on all flesh. Everyone has the Spirit of God in them. It’s just buried underneath more flesh in some than others.

Given all of that, Paul says, “Your boasting is not good.”

What boasting?

The “you are in a state of being proud” that Paul started all of this with in verse 2.

Doesn’t Paul’s statement “Your boasting is not good” make more sense now?

My translation may not be exactly right. I’m sure Greek scholars would have problems with it. But, we have to start by coming to the scriptures with the single understanding that it was necessary that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. This one thing has to be what we are looking, the lens through which we translate and interpret the scriptures.

Then, only then, will you “have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:18-21)

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