Sunday, 8 June 2014
…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. 1 Corinthians 5:5
In Christianity, doctrine is often thought of as an obstacle to a right relationship with the Lord. Instead, emotions rule theology and it rules the hearts of worshippers to the exclusion of doctrine. This only leads to ineffective Christianity, unsteadiness in a right walk with the Lord, and eventually churches becoming merely social gatherings with no true grounding in what it means to be “Christian.”
However, doctrine is actually of paramount importance as we can learn from the verse under consideration. Paul has established doctrine on several levels here. First, he has shown what is right and proper to do in the case of such a heinous sin as was being committed within the church. The reasons for taking this action are long and detailed, but above all, it was to keep purity within the faith, a right perception of Jesus Christ to those within and without the faith, and to keep the church from devolving into a pattern of abuse which would eventually mean its right to even be called a “church” would be removed by the Lord (see Revelation 2:5).
Besides these and other considerations, there is another point of doctrine which can be discerned from this verse, especially when taken in context with other such verses within Paul’s writings. It is the doctrine of “eternal salvation.” Christians debate whether one cane “lose” their salvation or not. The debate is unnecessary if one understands the nature of God and properly handles the word of God. The answer is “no.”
If one believes in Christ, they are sealed with the Holy Spirit at that moment. This is a deposit (also called a guarantee) of their new state. Ephesians 1:13, 14 (among other verses) shows this is so. As God cannot err, and as God has placed His seal upon the believer, then the sealing (and thus the salvation) must be eternal in nature.
This is confirmed by verses such as 1 Corinthians 5:5. In this verse, Paul is speaking to the body of believers about a believer. In his direct way of handling the case before him, he makes his judgment which he anticipates they will obediently follow by stating for them to “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.”
Satan is the ruler of this world, but he is defeated before Christ. He has no power over a believer, but can only afflict them as they continue in their earthly walk. The choice is each believers as to whether they will follow the flesh or follow the leading of the Spirit and it is a constant battle (see Romans 7:13-25). This believer had decided to follow the flesh. Paul instructs them to deliver him over completely to the flesh then by delivering him to Satan.
If one is an alcoholic and comes to Christ, they are saved. The deal is done and they have moved from Adam to Christ. However, if they fall back on their old ways, they will eventually have their flesh destroyed through alcohol. The same is true with drugs, sexual immorality, or any other such carnal sin which affects the flesh of the believer. Whatever perversion lays hold of a believer, the result will be exactly the same as a non-believer; they will eventually have their flesh destroyed by that sin.
However, there is a difference between the two. In the case of the non-believer, they were never united to God spiritually by calling on Christ and their spirit will be lost for all eternity. On the other hand, a believer remains saved regardless of whether they return to earthly lusts or not. The spiritual connection has been guaranteed by God (again, see Ephesians 1:13, 14) and it remains for eternity. For such a person, his flesh will be destroyed. He will suffer all the hardships of any other person following that path.
But Paul says there is a difference in his final end when he completes his thought. Instead, he is handed over to Satan so that “his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Though his rewards will be lost (see 1 Corinthians 3:12-15), though his body may be tormented and afflicted (1 Corinthians 5:5), and though he will suffer much in this life (see 1 Timothy 1:18-20), he still retains the promise of God; the surety of the sealing of the Spirit unto eternal life.
In this, and for a jillion other reasons, doctrine does matter. To believe otherwise concerning this issue is to believe that God will not keep His promises. Instead, our salvation would be up to us, not Him. Further, the one to decide such “eternal” matters would then be the pastor or preacher who teaches this aberrant doctrine in the first place. Talk about bondage! If your position is based on your faults and those faults are decided by another human, then these two things have happened –
1) The human teacher has elevated himself to an untouchable level and has obtained complete control over the actions (which are still earthly and failing) of those under him. He becomes the ruler of the prize and the one to decide any and every facet of the spiritual life of those under him.
2) The person who so believes this concept has subordinated themselves not to Christ, but to the decisions of another fallen soul. They now place their trust in the decisions of a lesser, not the Greater. And this is exactly what Paul has been speaking about for four full chapters – unhealthy divisions!
It is the word of God which establishes our doctrine, nothing more, nothing less. Be approved, stand approved, and hold fast to the truth of the message God has given.
Life application: Once saved means always saved. Jesus Christ doesn’t make mistakes.
Well Lord, despite what any other person says, I will trust Your word in all matters of life, faith, and practice. Teachers can be as wrong as they desire and for whatever personal reason they choose, but I will hold to Your word alone. When a dispute arises, I will check the context; when a disagreement comes up, I will pray to You for clarity; and when I have finished my evaluation, I will place myself and my doctrine in Your capable hands. Guide me, be my Teacher through Your word, and keep me from unsound theology. This is my prayer. I desire to be pleasing to You above all else. Amen.