Monday, September 14, 2015

What does Paul mean when he says to hand someone “over to Satan?”

“I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” -1 Cor. 5:5

“Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme.” -1 Timothy 1:20

When Paul speaks of handing individuals over to Satan, it is startling and scary. What does it mean to be delivered to Satan? It sounds so unforgiving and harsh. In both places, Paul is encouraging local churches to do this ancient practice. The word “handed over” or “delivered” means to hand over, to give over, to commit. It is not just a possibility to be handed over to Satan it can be a reality! God does hand people over to Satan at times to accomplish His will. It is the ancient practice of church discipline or disfellowship. A practice that many modern churches have stopped. The concept is being cut off from any association of the saints of God and the Lord’s Table. Being part of a local church provides an insulation, protection, and blessing from Satan and the world.

Even unbelievers share in the splash effect of protection and blessing as they deal with or are involved with believers. For example in Gen. 18, we see Abraham seeking to save Sodom and Gomorra if only ten people were found righteous. Think about it, God would spare a city of thousands whose wickedness has provoked God’s judgment if only ten righteous people could be found. So the biblical principle shows that a nearness to and involvement with true believers of God provides a layer of protection and blessing. To hand someone over to Satan is to expose him or her to the evil and wickedness of the world unprotected, with the goal of restoring their soul. Handing someone over to Satan is the atomic bomb of rebuking. The goal is always restoration to fellowship and forgiveness.

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