Here is a good question I just received:
I’ve been chewing on 1 Cor. 5:5 for these last days, and I can’t get assurance out of the final words “hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” The more I read it, the more it tells me that one may lose his salvation and has to work to get it back. Any help?
The key is to let Scripture interpret Scripture.
From other passages we know that:
- Everlasting life cannot be lost (e.g., John 10:27-30; 11:26).
- Salvation in the NT often does not refer to regeneration (e.g., Matt 8:25; 14:30; Mark 15:30-31; Luke 1:71; 6:9; John 12:27; Acts 27:20, 31, 43).
- Often in the NT the expression being saved refers to being healthy (e.g., Matt 9:22; Mark 5:34; 10:52; 8:48; 17:19; 18:42; James 5:15).
- While some translations of 1 Cor 5:5 read, “the day of the Lord” (NIV, HCSB, ESV, NET), the majority of manuscripts and many translations read “the day of the Lord Jesus” (KJV, NKJV, NASB, RSV).
- Elsewhere in the NT, the expression “The day of the Lord Jesus” refers to the Judgment Seat of Christ (e.g., 1 Cor 1:8; 2 Cor 1:14; see also Phil 1:6, 10; 2:16; 2 Thess 2:2).
- Thus the words “that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord Jesus” refers to being spiritually healthy at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
The reader is thus correct that this future salvation is not guaranteed. Of course, it cannot be lost since we do not have it yet. The only way to be spiritually healthy at the Bema is to endure in the faith (2 Tim 2:12; 1 John 2:28). The salvation of 1 Cor 5:5 is a potential future salvation, not an actual present salvation (unlike Eph 2:5, 8, which is a past salvation with an abiding result).
The issue here is not salvation from eternal condemnation. That is a done deal the moment we first believed in Jesus for everlasting life (e.g., John 11:26; Eph 2:8-9). In contrast, being healthy at the Bema requires endurance.
Dwight Hunt says, “Salvation from eternal condemnation is not in view here since the man is a believer and is secure whether he repents or not…Paul’s desire is that this man would respond well to church discipline so that his spirit would be healthy at the Judgment Seat of Christ” (The Grace New Testament Commentary, Volume 2, s.v., “1 Corinthians,” p. 726).