Q. I am very puzzled and troubled by 1 Corinthians 5:5, which states:
“…deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his
spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
To me, this seems to contradict eternal security because it seems to state that if this man does not repent, his spirit would not be saved. Paul sounds like he is saying that in order for this man to keep his salvation, he has to have his flesh destroyed and then repent. If this man’s spirit is already saved, then why does he have to be delivered to Satan and have his flesh destroyed in order to keep his salvation? I understand why he would need to have this done for fellowship purposes, but why for salvation purposes?
Is this how you read this verse? Have you done any research on this verse? I have looked all over the internet for a deeper understanding of this verse and cannot find it.
A. In the first place remember that the Bible can’t say one thing in one place and something else in another. So we can’t let our confusion over one verse cancel out everything the Bible clearly says about eternal security in many other verses. We have to assume we’ve misunderstood the one verse, and look for clarification. This is what you’ve done and you’re to be commended for it.
The verse you’re referring to comes from a passage where Paul told the Corinthians to expel a man for having sex with his father’s wife. Paul required this so that by being out of fellowship and lacking the support of the believers, the man could see the error of his ways, repent and confess, and get rid of his fleshly desires. As we’ll see, this is what is meant by the destruction of the flesh.
Since Paul was a staunch advocate of eternal security (Romans 7 & 8 and others) and since the man’s behavior was so contrary to Christian standards, we have to assume that the man was not saved and in fact their acceptance of his behavior could even have been preventing him from seeing the need to be saved. Notice that Paul never called the man a brother, saying only that the man called himself one.
By being put out of the fellowship, the man could confront his sin for what is was, unacceptable. It’s not widely taught, but later Paul argued for the man to be accepted back into the group, saying that the discipline had worked. He said he had forgiven the man in the Lord’s name and admonished them to do likewise so Satan wouldn’t win after all. (2 Cor. 2:5-11) That’s how we know that Paul’s “destruction of the flesh” phrase was meant spiritually, not literally.