Project Augustine

Home » Biblical Studies » Biblical Exegesis and Hermeneutics » 1 Corinthians 5: 1 – 5

1 Corinthians 5: 1 – 5




It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife.2   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 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.        – 1 Cor. 5: 1 – 5  (NASB)


Q: Paul instructed the church on how to deal with incest. What specifically do you make of Paul’s command to hand the offender to Satan for the destruction of the sinful nature?





  • In this part of Paul’s epistle he addresses the sin of sexual immorality and the church’s indifference to it. Corinth was noted for its loose and licentious living.
  • In this chapter Paul condemns the sin of incest (specifically b/w a man and his stepmother) within the Corinthian church, which he calls porneia (“sexual immorality”). He rebukes the church for its arrogance in the matter and its failure to excommunicate the violator- something Paul insists on (vv. 1 – 5).
    • Later (vv. 9 – 13) he gives instruction that the church should guard its own membership against sexually immoral persons, but that it should not try to Christianize unbelievers by forcing biblical standards on them.
  • In verses 4-5, when Paul states his apostolic authority over them and says that the decision is to be made “in the name of our Lord Jesus” (i.e., by the authority of the Lord Jesus ) and that it is to be done with “the power of our Lord Jesus.” (Expositor’s Commentary CD-ROM, The Pradis, 1 Corinthians)
    • When Paul states to “hand this man over to Satan, so that his sinful nature may be destroyed,” Paul means to include the man’s excommunication and his suffering physically in some way. (ibid)
      • The word “sarx” (flesh) can mean the “sinful nature” (NIV), but since “flesh” in this verse is in contrast to “spirit.” The reference seems to be the body.
      • This bodily punishment by Satan, Paul hoped, would have the effect of causing the man to repent so that his spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord.
      • In 1 Thess. 2: 18 Paul mentions Satan having the power to afflict the body or cause limitation.
        • 1 Thess. 2: 18: if one believes that “Satan” is a metaphor symbolizing human weakness, our tendency/propensity to sin, our lack of self-control, our desire for autonomy (from God), or cognitive impulse to sin, it makes little sense here in context when Paul states “For we wanted to come to you… but Satan blocked our way.” If you substitute “Satan” here with “human (cognitive) propensity to sin” it makes little sense here and most likely Paul didn’t intend to mean this.
      • 2 Cor. 2: 11: “And we do this so that we may not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his” (NRSV)
        • Again, Paul clearly seems to be referring to a personal adversary of Man rather than Man’s inherent propensity to sin.
      • 2 Corinthians 11: 13 – 14: Paul gives warnings about prideful “false apostles of Christ” and then says “And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness.  Their end will match their deeds.”
        • Here Paul seems to make a correlation b/w false apostles (persons) with Satan and “his ministers”. Why would Paul make a correlation b/w persons and our lack of self-control/propensity to sin when here he’s logically making references to persons (false apostles) with persons (Satan and his ministers) or at least with beings to beings (even though these may be supernatural beings)?
        • Though one can creatively say here that sometimes our sinful/selfish actions or thoughts can be covered over by deeds that look to be righteous that may fool and deceive others- and this is true- I don’t think this is what Paul was really referring to this here.
      • Going back to our verse, it is Paul’s hope that any restitution for this particular church member, if it happens at all, is left to God: by expelling the man from the church into Satan’s sphere of influence, the man’s inclination to sin (his “flesh”) will be destroyed and his life (“spirit”), thus purified, will be saved at the Day of Judgment.
        • The word “flesh” here seems to refer more to our propensity to sin, lack of self-control.
        • Paul could’ve just said “you are to hand this man over to his flesh (or sinful actions of incest)
      • However, I’ll concede that it does get a bit tricky and a bit difficult with Paul’s other reference to Satan in 1 Cor. 7: 5.
        • Here Paul is quick to point out that Satan is present to motivate the people of God to use even good and normal human processes wrongly and so to displease God.
        • Paul does talk about lack of self-control and temptation to marital infidelity (i.e. cheating) if one or both spouses deny one another of sex.
        • You don’t need the prodding of a supernatural evil being to get you to commit sexual immorality; just the natural/biological sexual urges are enough for a person to commit sexual immorality.






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: