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Melvin Blalock

Our study has to do with disciplinary action against a brother guilty of immorality. The question to be dealt with is. “How do we deliver such an one to Satan?” We find this subject discussed in 1 Corinthians chapter 5. For clarification we would suggest reading verses 1-5 and also verse 13.

The verses that we are to primarily consider are verses 4, 5 and 13. The Apostle Paul wrote, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, und my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (Verse 13) But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from yourselves that wicked person,”

As we peer into this chapter we find that the offense committed was fornication, “This immorality was of such magnitude that even the heathen denounced it (that one should have his father’s wife). ‘His stepmother’ The marriage of a son to his stepmother was forbidden among the Jews under the penalty of death. (Leviticus 18:8: 20:11; Deuteronomy 22:30; 27:20: and It was a violation of the Roman flaw and held in abhorrence by them. From the complete silence us to the crime of the woman, it is inferred that he was a heathen.” (Commentary on 1 Corinthians by David Lipscomb)

This was a flagrant violation of God’s moral law and yet the Corinthians had been tolerant of this outlandish sin. Paul rebuked them for their moral laxity in this matter. He had already judged in this case and his disposition was, “that he that hath done this deed might be taken from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:2) He must be withdrawn from! This verse is a preview of what this chapter is about.

Throughout the forthcoming verses in this chapter he instructs the Corinthians not to company or eat with one who is guilty of this sin as well as others that are catalogued in verses 10,11. This is to be the behavior of the church toward a brother who has been excommunicated for these sins. He concludes this chapter by instructing the church to, “put away from yourselves that wicked person.”

But how?

In verses 4 & 5, the church was told to convene for this action. “The sentence was not to be passed or executed in secret, but openly. It was to have the solemnity of a judicial proceeding, and, therefore the people were convened, though they were merely spectators”? (Charles Hodge, 1 Corinthians) As I perceive it, this was not a trial to determine guilt or innocence. The guilt was well established. Neither were all the people convened to take a vote on the expulsion of this offender.

It was necessary that the church as a whole come together with a united voice to denounce this sin that they had tolerated in their midst. Not doubt the offender would feel the weight of this discipline, hopefully bringing him to repentance. This was the desired result. (Verse 5) ‘‘That the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”’ This should be the object of all such discipline.

Many believe that this man did repent because of what is written in (11 Corinthians 2:6-8). “Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with over much sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm you love toward him.”

Paul was not only concerned with the salvation of this man’s soul, but he was concerned about the purification of the church of Christ at Corinth. This action was for the purpose of removing u moral gangrene that was likely to spread through the body bringing about the complete destruction of the church. He wrote in (verse 6) “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Paul instructed them to, “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened.” (Verse 7) They were to purge themselves of this sin that they would no longer have this corrupting influence in the church.

It should be understood that this collective gathering of the church for the purpose of withdrawing fellowship is the last official act of the church until the offender repents. This weighty measure can only be taken after the guilt has been firmly established, Concerning the importance of establishing guilt and seeking repentance of the sinner the following scriptures may be helpful:

Matthew 18:15-17 “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be establish ed. And if he shall neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”

Unlike the case of the fornicator that we have under consideration, this sin was of a more private nature and the guilt had to be established in the mouth of two or three witnesses.

This is also true of the elder who sins according to I Timothy 5:19, 20, “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”

He further writes to the Corinthians in II Corinthians 13:1- 3 concerning other disorders among them, “This is the third time I am coming to you, In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. } told you before, and foretell you, as if 1 were present, the second time, and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to ail other, that, if I come again, | will not spare:” The chief differences between these cases und the one under consideration is that they were more private and had to be established. The case at hand was open and the guilt was obvious.

Another difference involves the judgment of an inspired apostle in this immediate case.

Notice Macknight on the Epistles, Verses 4, 5  “1. And of my Spirit.) – Paul being particularly directed by the Spirit to give this command, with an assurance that the offender’s flesh should be destroyed, he ordered them to assemble, not only by the authority of the Lord Jesus, but by the authority of the Spirit, who inspired him to give the command; who therefore he calls his Spirit, 2. With the power of our Lord Jesus.) – the word (power) here, as in other passages denotes a miraculous power derived from the Lord Jesus Christ.  Verse 5- “1. Deliver such an one. As the infinitive is used for the verb in all its modes und tenses  I have translated the word (deliver) shall deliver. The Corinthians having been very blamable in tolerating this wicked person, and the faction, with their leader who patronized him, having boasted of their knowledge and learning, the apostle did not order the church to use admonition before proceeding to excommunication, but required them instantly to deliver the offender to Satan, that the faction might be roused to a sense of danger, and the whole church be convinced of their error in tolerating such gross wickedness.”

The Corinthian church was instructed to deliver this one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, Macknight offers the following comments: “They who think the punishment to be inflicted on the incestuous person was only excommunication, explain the delivering him to Satan in the following manner: As there are only two families or kingdoms in the moral world, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the devil, the expelling of a person from the family or kingdom of God, is virtual delivering into the hands of Satan, to share in all the miseries resulting from his usurped dominion: and a depriving him of all those advantages which God hath provided in his church, for the defending men against the snares of the devil, and machinations of his instruments. In short, by a sentence of excommunication, it is justly founded, a person is as it were put out of the protection of God.  For The Destruction Of The Flesh — It was observed, Chapter 4:21, note, that the apostles were empowered to punish notorious offenders miraculously with diseases and death. If so, may we not believe that the command which the apostle on this occasion gave to the Corinthians, to deliver the incestuous person to Satan, for the destruction of his flesh, was an exertion of that power? Especially as it was to be done, not by their own authority, but by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Spirit who inspired Paul to give the command. Accordingly, Chrisostom, Theophylact, and Oecumenisu conjectured, that in consequence of his being delivered to Satan, the offenders body was weakened and wasted by some painful disease.”

It has been observed by many that the apostles had the power to deliver to the agency of Satan for bodily affliction. The following cases are examples: Ananius and Sapphira (Acts 5), Elymas the sorcerer (Acts 13:11): The false teacher (I Corinthians 4:21); and those who followed the false teacher (2 Corinthians 13:1 – 4, and 10). The phrase, “Deliver Unto Satan” is also used in (1 Timothy 1:20).  “Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”

In conclusion, we yet have the sin of fornication as well as the other sins catalogued in this chapter. We are no longer living in the age of miracles where an apostle can judge with the aid of the Spirit and bring on a bodily affliction upon the offender. This in no way distracts from our duty to excommunicate the impenitent sinner. This duty is clearly taught in these verses. Before one can be withdrawn from guilt must be firmly established. Without the benefit of apostolic judgement in the immediate case it appears appropriate to deliver a first and second admonition, but due to the seriousness of the sin it should be done expeditiously to prevent a lingering influence. The spiritual minded should be in charge of such procedures, preferably the elders, if the congregation has elders. After guilt is established and one is twice admonished to repent, if he refuses he should be publicly withdrawn from by convening the church. The offender should be made to realize that the saints no longer accept him and will not associate with him until he repents. All of the saints are obligated to honor this charge.

[Note from P. Melton – As reasonable as MacKnight’s comments on 1 Corinthians 5:5 are, we add the following selection found in the Pulpit Commentary for 1 Corinthians 5:5 for your consideration:

Verse 5. – To deliver such a one unto Satan. Scripture nowhere defines the character and limits of such a sentence as this. By cutting off an offender from Church communion (2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15), that is, from all the visible means of grace, he was for the time separated from spiritual influences, and was, therefore, so far handed over to Satan. The phrase is also applied to Hymenaeus and Alexander, in 1 Timothy 1:20. It is very doubtful whether it was necessarily meant to involve such physical inflictions as fell on Ananias, Sapphira, or Elymas. It is, however, important to observe that the intention of the sentence, like the true intention of excommunication, when exercised in a right spirit (see Hooker, ‘Eccl. Pol.,’ 3:1, § 13), was not wrathful, but merciful. It was, as Calvin says, “medicinale remedium” – “not for destruction, but for edification” (2 Corinthians 10:8). Hymenaeus and Alexander were handed to Satan, not for their final ruin and damnation, but with a kind and remedial purpose, “that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:20), and this offender with the express object ‘, that his spirit may be saved.” Had these facts been more deeply studied, there would have been a very different tone and spirit in many of the mediaeval anathemas. Such a one (setup. 2 Corinthians 2:7). He seems to hold aloof from the man’s very name. So “such as she” (τὰς τοιαύτας) is used of the adulteress in John 8:7. For the destruction of the flesh; i.e. that all carnal influences in him might be destroyed. It is not his “body” which is to be destroyed, but the , “flesh,” the jetzer hara, or “evil impulse,” as the Jews called it. When this was destroyed, the body might once more become a temple of the Holy Ghost. That the spirit may be saved. The destruction of the lowest element of our human nature is the salvation of the highest; it is the cutting away of the dead corpse from the living soul. In the day of the Lord; when the Lord should judge the quick and the dead. The merciful intention of St. Paul is clearly developed in 2 Corinthians 2:6-11. He looked on God’s judgments as remedial, not as solely retributive (1 Corinthians 11:29-32). Here, as Chrysostom finely says, the apostle lays down, as it were, his laws to the devil, telling him how far, and how far only, he can proceed. The object of excommunication is to save the offender, and not to do the devil’s work by ensuring his eternal ruin. We can imagine how awful would be the solemnity of these words when they were first read aloud to the little Christian communities of Corinth. It was natural that they should produce an overwhelming excitement.]

 Recommended articles:

Introducing the Church of Christ – Ronny Wade

God’s Sevenfold Unity – Jerry Cutter

Repentance – J. W. McGarvey


The Ancient Faith website is a thematic collection of scholarly yet simple Bible essays and sermons, many of which were composed by Restoration preachers such as J.W. McGarvey, Moses Lard, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Campbell. These courageous men of faith through hours of Bible investigation studied themselves out of denominationalism, asking for “the old paths” (Jer. 6:16) and seeking to return to “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We hope you will join with these men in their fervent plea to restore “the ancient order,” “the ancient gospel” or, as it was sometimes called, “the ancient faith.”