5:5 destruction of the flesh. What an awesome insight this provides into the unseen world! Ever since Adam, Satan in some sense has “the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14) over human beings. This power, however, is normally restrained by God, at least in the case of those who have been redeemed, so that Satan can only hurt them or stress them to the extent that God allows for His own good purposes. The classic example is that of Job (Job 1:12; 2:6), but also note Luke 22:31-32, and II Corinthians 12:7, in the cases of Peter and Paul, respectively.
In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, Satan was the instigator of their sin (Acts 5:3), and evidently God (speaking through Peter) removed His protection from them, allowing Satan to slay them. In the case of the incestuous sinner in the church at Corinth, God similarly spoke through Paul to deliver the man over to Satan, in like fashion to his later treatment of the blasphemers Hymenaeus and Alexander (I Timothy 1:20). In these latter cases, however, the divine purpose was to induce repentance, if possible, rather than immediate death. The early church had already seen, with Ananias and Sapphira, what could happen if repentance was not forthcoming. In fact, as Paul wrote in the same epistle, “many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (I Corinthians 11:30), as a result of their partaking of the Lord’s supper while also partaking of flagrant unconfessed sin in their lives. Although there are no apostles in the church today to make such judgments, God can still do it Himself. Satan is still the tempter as well as the accuser (Revelation 12:10), and God can still allow him to injure or even to kill His children if He so wills and if His eternal purposes are served thereby. No pastor or other church leader today, however, should make such pronouncements.
5:6 a little leaven. The symbolic use of “leaven” always views it as false doctrine or practice. See notes on Matthew 13:33; Galatians 5:9.
5:11 called a brother. That is, anyone who “bears the name” of a brother in Christ, whether or not that person is a true brother (only God knows that).
5:12 without. Meaning outside the Christian community.
5:13 put away. In addition to the “destruction [this word could mean either death or severe physical punishment] of the flesh” permitted Satan by Paul on this wicked church member, Paul had also advised the church was also told to excommunicate him from its fellowship. Further, Paul told the church to withdraw fellowship from any in its professing membership who were still involved in any of the gross sins listed in I Corinthians 5:11. The ultimate purpose of such discipline was not only to keep the reputation of the church itself wholesome, but also to prevent “a little leaven” from “[leavening] the whole lump” (I Corinthians 5:6). Finally, Paul hoped that these judgments would convict the sinning brother to repent and return to Christ, “that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (I Corinthians 5:5). This did actually happen in this particular case (see II Corinthians 2:4-11).
Although the apostles are no longer available to guide the church today, the church now has the complete Word of God, as well as pastors and teachers, and still has the responsibility of maintaining a faithful witness. Only God now has the authority to “deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (I Corinthians 5:5), but the church does have the right and responsibility to excommunicate (that is, withdraw fellowship) from those of its number who persist in flagrant sin.