5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. 3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 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.
Much head scratching has been caused by this passage and much ink spilled as well. In 2 Peter chapter 3, Peter writes that Paul wrote many things difficult to understand which unlearned and unstable men twist to their own destruction.
That's exactly what was happening in Corinth. Men were twisting the words of their former teachers into teachings that allowed them to commit sins even the society at large would not commit. How did they do it? Quite easily actually but we'll get into that more tomorrow. For today we need to wrestle with Paul’s counsel. He tells them not only should they not be permitting this behaviour but they should hand the guy over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. If he ended there it would seem extremely harsh and we might conclude sadly necessary at best. However Paul doesn't end there. He ends with "so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."
So whatever we take from this advice it must be said that the punishment is designed to be restorative. All Godly punishments are. It's a reality we seem to struggle with more and more. We increasingly seem to see love as never punishing and always showing mercy while punishment is seen as revenge. This does not jive with Jesus declaring "Those I love I rebuke and correct."
Before I continue I want you to note that Peter says it is unlearned and unstable men that twist Paul's words. Unlearned because they don't take the time to become familiar with the terms Paul uses and interpret them according to their own views. Paul often uses the terms flesh and spirit. These word are often interpreted body and soul by unlearned men but that is not how Paul uses these words. Flesh refers to the desires we have that are completely out of harmony with God’s character, desires like lust, greed, power, etc... Spirit refers to that part of us that wants to serve God and do right.
What Paul is saying is pretty clear and simple actually. By not "punishing" this man for having sex with his mother or stepmother (we aren't told which) it allows for him and others to grow into the idea that it isn't such a big deal. How often do you hear people justifying their behaviour by saying "well so and so does it." By putting the man out of the church he would be forced to wrestle with, process, and hopefully confront how evil his choices are. Leaving him with the cosequences of his actions rather than shielding him from them is the best possible way of rescuing him from his twisted desires.
When King David killed his loyal soldier Uriah and stole his wife God could have "patted him on the back" and left the impression it was ok. Instead He sent the prophet Nathan to confront David and it lead to his realization of how wrong it was and he became truly sorry.
That's what Paul meant by telling them to hand him over to Satan. Let him live his bad choices outside the body of believers. Don't allow him or anyone else get the twisted impression that we can live like devils while safe in the grace of Christ. The rebuke will force him to make an eternal choice "that his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord Jesus."
We'll continue tomorrow...