Q. I do not have understanding on 1 Corinthians 5:5. In my bible the heading for vs. 3-5 is “method of judgement for sin in the local church.” Even while I incorporate the literal, historical, grammatical, contextual method, I still cannot reason the meaning of this verse. How does one go about “turning or delivering” one over to Satan? How does one know when to enact such a seemingly cruel action? It doesn’t sound like grace but more like judgement.
A. Paul was the apostle most often criticized for his teaching on the Grace of God. His detractors regularly accused him of being too soft on the consequences of disobedience, so it’s not likely that his instructions to the church were intended to be unnecessarily harsh. His phrase “hand this man over to Satan” (1 Cor. 5:5) simply meant to exclude him from the fellowship of believers, depriving him of the comfort, support, and encouragement of his brothers and sisters in the Lord, and the opportunity to worship with them. It was neither cruel nor judgmental, but simply allowed him to experience the consequences of his behavior which Paul said would be considered scandalous even among pagans.
The fact that his advice was sound can be seen in the result, found in 2 Cor. 2:5-11, where Paul said the punishment had been sufficient and instructed them to restore the sinner and forgive him. Failing to maintain standards of Godly behavior among their members is an area where many local congregations are negligent today.