Lesson Four – Hand This Man over To Satan

Hand This Man Over to Satan


The following chart is the other side of the coin of the “in Christ” realm chart in Part III, Lesson Two.  The theologies listed in the previous chart were acknowledged in the first chapters of I Corinthians.  Paul had taught these doctrines and many others to the church for one and one half years.  He made use of what they knew, or should have known, as he began his task of helping them understand their “boasting” problem.  Our study text in this lesson is I Cor. 5:1-13.  We are introduced to the sin of sexual immorality, church discipline and Satan.  Paul had sent a previous letter about sexual immorality (I Cor. 5:9).   He will continue to offer more divine information and solutions in chapters six and seven about God’s program for satisfying the innate sex urges of all mature people.  Satan offers many programs, God offers one.  We will get back to God’s program for the sexual needs He created in each of us in Part IV.  In this lesson we will study church discipline.  This is the main function of chapter five in the I Corinthian letter.

In chapter five we are informed about a member who was practicing sexual immorality.  The church was boasting about their membership.  Paul attacked this situation with the command: “Hand this man over to Satan.”  I Cor. 5:5.  It was a critical problem demanding an immediate response.  It was a different category of sin than what we were introduced to in the first four chapters.  He dealt with their boasting problem as a sin of ignorance and spiritual weakness.  The solution he offered was different from the solution ordered in chapter five.  Immediate discipline was required in this case.  The divine principle we learn is that each congregation of God’s people is responsible for their own discipline.  Different problems require a different kind of discipline.  See Rom. 16:17-19; Gal. 5:1; Phil. 3:2; Col. 2:16-19; II Thess. 3:6-10; Tit. 3:9-11; II John 9-11; Jude 20-23.

We can understand about the different categories of sin from Paul’s letter: “To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse.” Col. 1:2.  In Col. 3:5, we are presented with a list of sins that cannot be overcome while continuing to practice them.   Sexual immorality is on the list.  In Col. 3:8 and following we are presented with a list of sins that pertains to our character and personality.  We may be ignorant about the cause of some of our unrighteous behavior.  This was the category of sin Paul dealt with in the first four chapters; the sins of ignorance and weakness.  Jesus said anger may lead to murder.  We cannot simply stop being angry; we can work on being patient.  We grow up into our salvation (I Pet. 2:2).  We cannot grow up out of sexual immorality while continuing to make it our practice.

All sin is lawlessness (I John 3:4).  That is to say, all Christians “fall short of the glory of God.”  Rom. 3:23.  Jesus revealed God to us and by doing so; He became the light of our lives.  This enlightenment is synonymous with the law of life in the new covenant (Heb. 1:3; John 1:3-5; Rom. 8:1, 2; Gal. 6:2).  We know this because when Christians let God write His spiritual laws of life on our hearts and minds, we always conform to the personality and character of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:27).  This requires spiritual growth and continual maturing.

Now about the purpose of the “world realm” chart and the long discourse about the environment in which people live:  The positive side of this chart is the “in Christ” realm presented in Lesson Two.  Most of the doctrines presented in that chart were brought to light in the first four chapters.  The church members knew about those doctrines and we learned about them if we did not already know what the recipients’ knew.  Paul worked great theologies into his solution for their problem for us.  It is also evident the church knew about Satan’s vast kingdom in the “world realm.”  They had been taught about the clear line that exists between the “world realm” and the all new “In Christ” realm.  They knew what he meant by his rhetorical questions: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?  Are you not to judge those inside?”  I Cor. 5:12.  They knew what Satan understood about how God created mankind in two parts.  They were aware of their “sinful nature” because Adam sinned (I Cor. 5:5).  In case we do not know what they knew, we will not understand the deeper meaning of what it means to be “handed over to Satan.”


1. I Cor. 5:10-13  2.  I Cor. 5:5; II Cor. 2:10, 11; 11:13-15  3.  I Cor. 15:56  4.  I Cor. 16:22  5.  I  Cor. 6:12, 18  6.  I Cor. 6:13    7. II Cor. 5:10    8.  I Cor. 1:21; 15:22

The Chart

The following is a personal elaboration for the students of this lesson on the proceeding chart.  The drawing is an attempt to illustrate how the mental condition of our “world view” affects our “self” development.  You, plus your environment today, will produce the “you,” you will be tomorrow. Your natural needs and your personality with its weaknesses and strengths will drive you into your mental and physical environment to look for satisfaction for your needs. Your successes and failures will mold the type person you will become in the future. This process has been in operation since the day you were born and, some think, even before.  Please see lessons by this writer in my book entitled “The Kingdom of God” Part I, Lesson Two, “The Truth about Mankind.”  Also see my book “Sermon on the Mount” Part I, Lesson One and Part V, Lessons, Three and Four.  These books are posted on the website;   https://kingdomofchrist.info

If our past environments have been friendly we have a healthy personality and strong character. We are happy. This may sound like an over simplified analysis of our life, but if we will give it a few minutes of serious thought, we may see some merit in this hypothesis about who we are and the effect of our environment on our “self.”  Since we always have our “self” as a part of our environment, any worthwhile change we can make in our personality will improve our environment; consequently, our self improvement serves to maintain a constant upgrading of ourselves.

How do we get started on our improvement program if we find a reason for change?  If our personality and natural drives appear to be in a static state, we may want to attempt to make a change in our environment.  A change must be made or things will remain the same.  Paul elaborated on the world realm environment in his letter to the Ephesians in the following passage:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.  Eph. 2:1-3

The mature people who are in the world realm can transfer out of that realm with its dismal environment of lust, sin and death any time they desire a change.  They can come into Christ by a new birth and immediately begin to enjoy a new mentally healthy environment.  God’s purpose for this grace is to accomplish His goal in the creation of mankind.  He wants all of us to be His children.  This is why we were created and this why He sent Jesus Christ.

Remember, you, plus your environment, will be the “you” of tomorrow. If you are not in Christ you may want to ask yourself if you want to risk your future in the world environment of lust, sin and spiritual death.  Since the world environment will not make a change for the better, you will need to make the change.  Please consider the Apostle Paul’s contrast of the world realm and the “in Christ” realm in his letter to the Roman Christians. “…that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Rom. 5:21.  We have a choice!

The following lesson is about the principle of church discipline.  Our text is I Corinthians, chapter five.  Please read it carefully with the foregoing chart in mind.  It was prepared to help us perceive of what is meant by “Hand this man over to Satan.”


The members of the Corinthian church had obviously lost their spiritual view of the mental environment “in Christ.”  Faithful Christians live on the mercy seat behind the curtain that split when Jesus was crucified to become His own sin offering in His priesthood (Matt. 27:51; Heb. 6:16-20).  This is where Jesus’ priesthood functions 24/7.

The situation Paul addressed:  One member was practicing an ill-favored sin, even by the standards in Satan’s world realm in the first century.  A man in the church had his father’s wife – and the church was proud.  In some self-proclaimed churches in the twenty-first century, a member may claim another individual of the same gender in marriage – and the members are proud.  Wow! How would our Lord Jesus have spoken via the Holy Spirit through a letter to this kind of confusion?  Several states in the U.S.A. have now legalized what God condemned and destroyed in Sodom and Gomorrah – and the majority of the population in those states are proud (Gen. 18:20; 19:23-26).  They have legalized what Paul said would happen when people suppress the truth about God (Rom. 1:18, 26-28).

Paul may have made reference to this socially unacceptable sin to capture the church’s attention.  They were actually “boasting” about fellowshipping a willful sinner while claiming to be a part of the body of their “Passover sacrifice.”  I Cor. 5:7.  Please note how Paul was continuing to make a literary play on the word “boasting.”  They had become arrogant toward the word of God that Paul, as an apostle, had delivered to them (I Cor. 1:31; 4:7, 18).  He developed the word “boasting” within the structure of his letters to help them recognize they were boasting about what could be seen – that which is passing away.  Paul also employed the literary tool of asking rhetorical questions.  He was writing to help them “examine themselves” to see if they were in the faith (II Cor. 13:5).

If he could get them to meditate on “the faith” that had been confirmed in them, they could perceive of their non-spiritual outlook (I Cor. 1:6).  They had to make the necessary corrections from the “inside out.”  The sanctification of Christians is an “inside out” program.  Please review the “in Christ” chart in Lesson Two to appreciate what Jesus had sent Paul to offer the Corinthians.  Christians still enjoy these same blessings today so we can correct our “self” and; consequently, our practice of righteousness.  We can examine our own weaknesses without feeling guilty about what needs to be corrected.  This is because Christians have the grace doctrine of justification of faith (Rom. 5:1-5).

Paul used the story about the socially deplorable sexual immorality of a member of the church to emphasize the divine principle of church discipline.  However, immorality was not the only type of sinners that required discipline.  There are several other categories of wickedness that will prevent Christians from receiving our inheritance.  Paul classified swindlers and slanderers with idolaters and adulterers.

Our inheritance is the final goal for a Christian; that is, we either go away from Judgment Day as a son of God with our inheritance of the kingdom of God, or we go to eternal hell.  In either case it will be the same person we are now.  Wicked behavior comes from an unhealthy character and personality.  Please note, Paul began the following declaration with a rhetorical question.  He wanted them to think.  Do people who practice the following belong in the temple of God where God dwells by His Holy Spirit?  Was their lifestyle compatible with the laws of life Jesus lived out for Christians?  They knew the answers were, “no and no.”

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  I Cor. 6:9, 10

This church’s more serious character weakness was that they knew about the spiritual scene “in Christ.”   Yet they were boasting about their freedom to sin.  This would destroy the holiness of the environment “in Christ.”  Paul gave them a principle they could easily understand.  The law of nature is “a little yeasts works through the whole batch of dough.”  I Cor. 5:6.   Or, a little curd permeates the whole container of milk.  This was an analogy to help them understand the law of the spirit about sin and life.  Sin permeates life with death (Rom. 5:21; I Cor. 15:56; II Pet. 2:19; I John 1:5, 6).  The yeast analogy can be applied to an individual Christian; however, Paul applied it to the whole congregation of God’s people.  The whole batch represented the church.

The law of the Spirit of life in the new covenant describes the way our inner-man is designed to live (II Cor. 3:3).  It says, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’”  I Cor. 15:33.  Whether we are baking bread or living an interdependent life in God’s kingdom, the principle is the same.  A willful sinner in the church, when accepted in fellowship, will permeate the body and destroy the holiness of the church just as yeast works through dough.  This is the principle in chapter five.  God ordained the laws of nature and the laws of life.  This is the truth about yeast and it is the truth about Christian fellowship.

This kind of law belongs in a different category of law than the law of a state.  Laws of the state are man ordained; however, God makes use of them to prevent chaos in the world realm (Rom. 13:1-7).  Laws made for states belong in the category of the last eight laws God gave to Moses to write on the tablets of stone (Ex. 20:1-17; 34:4, 5).  They pertain to the acts of an individual.  The laws of life deal with the inner-man (See Matt. 5:21-30; II Cor. 3:1-6).  The law of life can be understood by “Everything is permissible for me – but not everything is beneficial.” I Cor. 6:12.  Farmers and gardeners understand this principle.  It is the law of nature.  Paul was describing the way the spirit of a human being develops.  The law of nature and the law of life belong to the same category of law.  They do not condemn.  They describe the phenomenon of growth.  The law of the Spirit of life in Christ describes the growth of our inner “self.”

Christians learn how to understand these principles in the context they are presented.  The knowledge of a principle serves no useful purpose unless members of the body of Christ have the courage to apply them in the local congregation of which they are members.  Jude addressed his letter to the churches late in the first century.  An appalling situation had developed.  Some congregations had failed to do what Paul had told the Corinthian church to do.  Please read Jude’s short epistle.  The result of the failure to apply the principles of discipline is “chilling to the soul.”  A church, having failed to listen to Jesus speaking by the Holy Spirit, will surely find themselves in the situation Jude addressed.  We have been warned of the ungodly situation in the, quote, Christian world today:

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold.  They said to you, ‘In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.’  These are men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.  Jude 17-19  

The church members have the responsibility to discipline the congregation of God’s church in which they have decided to be a member.  Willful sin of one person will permeate the fellowship of all the members of the body.  Paul asked: “What fellowship can light have with darkness?”  II Cor. 6:14.  The law of fellowship in the church says, “None.”

This was not the first time Jesus had had the church in Corinth instructed about the subject of immorality.  Paul had written a previous letter warning the members “not to associate with sexually immoral people.”  I Cor. 5:9.  His instructions about what action to take were very clear.  This action will serve two purposes: one aim is to save the spirit of the man being removed from the fellowship of the church.  The other is to save the sanctity of the fellowship of the church.

When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and I am with you in the spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.  I Cor. 5:4, 5

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why might the chart in the Introduction serve to “drive home” the value of discipline in the church of God?
  2. Why might it be fair to say, as Paul suggested; the church had obviously lost their spiritual view of the mental environment “in Christ?”
  3. What was the church’s boast about in relation to church fellowship?
  4. Name two of the literary tools Paul used in the fifth chapter of I Corinthians.  What was he trying to accomplish by the use of these tools?
  5. Give the principle Paul embedded in the story of the man who had his father’s wife.
  6. What is the final goal of a Christian?
  7. List some unhealthy character and personality problems, other than sexual immorality, that would prevent a Christian from attaining our final goal.
  8. In what sense do the law of nature and the law of life belong in the same category of law?
  9. What is the difference in the function of the law of life and the Law of Moses?
  10. In what category of law does the Law of Moses belong?
  11. How does I Corinthians, chapter five, and Jude’s letter relate?
  12. List two purposes of church discipline.

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