Paul wrote of delivering different people unto Satan and I thought this evening we would address this odd act of the apostle. I mean, it does sound like a strange thing to do, right? Delivering someone to Satan almost sounds like a betrayal of sorts, however it serves a purpose. One of which, I do believe, some have misinterpreted and misused.
Paul wrote in Galatians 6 that there is the possibility of a person being overtaken in a fault. The word fault here means, side-slip; unintentional error or wilful transgression. Whether on purpose or by accident, it is possible for someone to be overtaken in a moment of weakness. During this time, Paul calls upon the spiritual believers to restore them. The word restore means here, to repair; to adjust; to mend. Paul instructs in the act of reconciliation of the straying person. In all of Paul’s writings, he seeks to teach the doctrine of restoration.
In the two cases of Paul writing of delivering an individual unto Satan, it is not to destroy them or to see them get what’s coming to them. No, it is for their restoration. Notice in 1 Cor. 5:5 where Paul gives the purpose and that it is so the spirit will be saved. This is not a direct reference to salvation, but rather deliverance from the sin that has been committed and in this case it was fornication. The other mention of delivering one unto Satan is in 1 Tim. 1:20 regarding Hymenaeus and Alexander. These two men had made shipwreck of of their faith. To be shipwrecked is not necessarily to be lost, as Paul was shipwrecked at least three different times. It simply means that one is stranded. Evidently, these two had become stranded in their faith, meaning they strayed away from God and in the process blasphemed. Now the word blaspheme means to speak impiously (ungodly); to rail on; to defame. In question is who they were blaspheming. Some may assume God, but Paul does not indicate such; therefore it is up for speculation. They very well could have been blaspheming God, maybe due to things not going the way they wanted. They also could have been unhappy with something Paul had said or done and blasphemed him. Whatever the case may be, Paul’s purpose was so that they would learn not to blaspheme.
Many times it isn’t the goodness of God that helps us realize where we have strayed to or what we have done. Sometimes it will be the wickedness of Satan that opens our eyes. You see, when a believer strays from God, one of the sure fire ways they can be assured of their salvation is realizing where they have gotten to and thinking, “How did I get here?” It isn’t a geographical position, but rather a spiritual position. Paul, as you notice did not condemn, nor did he condone such by other believers. He knew they were not in a good place spiritually and did not attempt to reason with their flesh, but rather turned them over to Satan. In the process, his hope was that they realize and then be restored. Restoration can never be accomplished through condemnation. Things must be done in churches to govern the body and maintain order. However, at no time is the spiritual well being of a believer to be compromised. Sure, the individual may not understand at the time, but if actions taken are done in a spirit of love and respect, then God will have the environment needed to work. Sadly, many times people act in an emotional heightened state, causing problems and hindering the Spirit of God.
In conclusion, ensure that you understand Paul’s motivation in his writings before you seek to exercise “church discipline.”