What is the meaning of 1 Corinthians 5:5?
The verse that you are asking about and the preceding one are as follows,
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 5:4-5 (NAS95S)
Meaning of “Destruction”
One of the keywords in this sentence is “destruction.” It is translated from the Greek word olethros. This word occurs only four times in the New Testament. Each time it has the sense of destroying or ruining someone or something. The first occurrence of the word has already been cited above. The other occurrences are as follows,
While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 1 Thess 5:3 (NAS95S)
These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power . . . 2 Thess 1:9 (NAS95S)
But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 1 Tim 6:9 (NAS95S)
In the first passage, the destruction follows a period of peace and safety. This is the first part of the Tribulation period at the end of the world. The second passage refers to the eternal judgment that awaits everyone who has rejected Jesus Christ. This eternal judgment will occur in the Lake of Fire. The last passage is a warning that a person given strongly to the pursuit of wealth will forfeit his soul since he will ignore God in the process. Jesus warned that it is hard for a rich man to enter heaven (Matthew 19:23). Each passage is about the actual destruction of the body and/or soul.
Meaning of “Flesh”
The second keyword in this sentence is “flesh.” It is translated from the Greek word sarx. This is a common word throughout the New Testament. This word normally refers to that which covers our bones and includes our skin – the part that decays first in the ground. Since Paul is referring to an individual (see 1 Cor. 5:1), it is best to understand the meaning as referring to the “flesh” of a person.
Meaning of the Phrase
Therefore, the phrase “the destruction of the flesh” implies the potential death of this individual. 1 Corinthians 5 is about a man who was having sexual intercourse with his father’s wife. This entire chapter is about church discipline of the couple. The reader is encouraged to review an answer to a previous question. It outlines the process of church discipline. Apparently, the wife has already responded with repentance but not the son. So the apostle Paul was giving Satan freedom to afflict the body by following the process of church discipline. The ultimate end could be his death, if necessary. The man needed to repent and start living a holy life. That would honor God.
God is more interested in our holiness than in our comfort. This passage is a difficult one for many, since we want our freedom to do as we desire, without any constraints. God is more interested in our holiness. He will discipline us Himself, if necessary. He will also eventually end our lives if we do not stop sinning. This could be included in what the apostle John called the “sin leading to death” in 1 John 5:16. Although there is also probably a specific sin that will result in someone’s death. How can one escape such discipline? If the person is not a Christian, he or she must believe in Jesus Christ and trust Him to forgive his or her sins. If the person is a Christian, he or she need to confess his or her sin(s) and stop sinning (1 John 1:9).
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