Question: In 1st Corinthians 5:5, it says “hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.” My question is, why should we give people up to Satan? In almost everything it says to show people the light of God, or God’s gifts, or something else, but never give someone over to Satan. Why is it saying to give someone over to Satan?
Answer: It is always important to understand the context of a verse, and the subject that s being discussed. The context of 1 Corinthians 5 is church discipline. The man being disciplined was guilty of immorality – serious sexual sin. He was to be put out of the Church, or excommunicated. At the present time, Satan is the “prince of this world” (1 Corinthians 2:6), so another way of expressing the unpleasant discipline of excommunication is “handing over to Satan.” That is, the man was to be put out of the fellowship of believers, and into the world.
While this procedure seems tough, in the long run it should have the beneficial effect of driving a true believer to repentance and back into church fellowship, because a true member of the Body of Christ longs to be back in happy fellowship with fellow-believers. In this case, it seems that this is exactly what happened. 2 Corinthians 2 appears to exhort the Corinthian church to bring back this man into the fellowship, since he had repented.
“Handing over to Satan” in no way refers to sending a person to the brink of hell, or anything like that. Remember, Satan is not in charge of hell (that’s cartoon theology!). Satan cannot send anyone to hell, nor can he do anything to the believer (1 John 5:18). God is in charge of hell! Satan will eventually be in hell, but even then, he will not be in command (Matthew 25:41). God is forever in charge of hell. So the phase “handing over to Satan” does not mean putting a person under Satan’s control, but putting him out into the world – the realm of Satan at the present time.