“Deliver This Man to Satan” (1 Cor 5:5): A Case Study In Church Discipline -- By: Simon J. Kistemaker
MSJ 3:1 (Spring 92) p. 33
“Deliver This Man to Satan” (1 Cor 5:5):
A Case Study In Church Discipline
Professor of New Testament
Reformed Theological Seminary
Part of understanding the difficult passage in 1 Cor 5:1–5 is the interpretation of the words “deliver this man to Satan” in 5:5. To explain this statement correctly, one must establish what the sin is that caused Paul to deliver the declaration. Then he should realize the responsibility of the local church in Corinth to deal with such a situation. The nature of the authority behind the directive needs also to be appreciated. Then details of the disciplinary action itself need clarification. The whole set of circumstances emphasizes how important it is for local churches to implement church-disciplinary actions in dealing with sinning members and to use sound principles in doing so.
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In his second epistle, the apostle Peter remarks that some things in Paul’s letters are hard to understand (2 Pet 3:16). This is surely an understatement. Anyone who has studied Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians knows that a few passages are not only difficult to interpret, they are enigmatic. Among others these include Paul’s command to deliver to Satan the man who committed incest (5:5), the sign of authority on the head of a woman because of the angels (11:10), and the reference to the ones baptized for the dead (15:29). We have the
MSJ 3:1 (Spring 92) p. 34
text of these verses, but could wish that Paul had incorporated explanatory footnotes along with them.
In this article, we will investigate the context,2 the significance, and the message of 1 Cor 5:5. By studying the text carefully in the setting of the preceding verses, we will gain a better understanding of it and, at the same time, glean some principles for local churches to follow in exercising church discipline. A personal translation of the paragraph of vv. 1–5 is in order as a start:
1It is actually reported that there is immorality among you and of such a kind that does not even happen among the Gentiles, namely, that a man has the wife of his father. 2And you are arrogant! Sh...
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