555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

521. What Did Paul Mean by "Delivering" an Offender unto Satan?

As the apostle himself states explicitly it was that the offender might be saved (see I Cor. 5:5). The man, a member of the Corinthian Church, had fallen into grievous sin, and was living a vicious life. Paul, hearing of it, decides that he must be excluded from the church. He repented, as the event proved, for in his second epistle Paul directs that he shall be tenderly received, lest he be swallowed up by over-much sorrow (II Cor. 2:7). The exclusion was leaving the man without means of grace, and Paul tells the object of it, namely, that the flesh, that is, the lusts and passions of his nature, might be purged from him, so that his soul might be saved. The casting of him out of the Church meant, in Paul's mind, the giving him up to punishment and the will of the enemy, not for his eternal destruction, but for temporary chastisement. Some commentators have thought that Paul's sentence included the infliction of some malady, which he certainly did inflict in another case (Acts 13:11), but that is not directly stated. The words imply discipline that would render the man less under the influence of his fleshly appetites. The man is put out of the church, the fold of God, temporarily, on account of his wrongdoing. It was probably so persistent and inexcusable that the apostle despaired of Christian influences effecting a change. He must be made to feel how wicked he was, and by the church expelling him they practically gave him up for the time. This was probably regarded as delivering him to Satan. They ceased to bring Christian love to bear upon him. In at least one case, it is thought, the discipline had a good effect, if, as is probable, the offender is the one referred to in II Cor. 2:6-8.