Why Did Paul Turn Some Over to Satan?

As a pastor, as a husband, as a father, and as a Christian, I find myself so burdened for people who are struggling that, yes, it almost crushes me. Yes, we do our best to hide it for the sake of others—and pastors do it, too.  And nightly, I pray to our Father saying, “Lord, I cannot bear this burden—I’m turning it over to you.”  Easier said than done, but that’s what God calls us as believers to do: bear one another’s burdens, but to be careful that you are not falling into that same sin as the one you’re trying to help (Galatians 6:1-2).  Yet, while you’re bearing that burden, we help them most by casting that care on the One who sustains us.

Yet, twice in the NT, we see Paul turning people over . . . to Satan.  Once in 1 Corinthians 5:5 and another in 1 Timothy 1:20. I know Paul was commissioned as an Apostle and bore than authority over the churches.  Yet, on first glance, this sounds atrocious:  a Christian emissary turning another professed believer over to the Adversary?  On what grounds did Paul do this?

The first is in 1 Corinthians 5:5:  By ‘flesh,’ we mean the sinful nature.  In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul reminds the Corinthian church that they sinned by permitting an incestuous relationship to take place amongst so-called brothers.  Paul told them to “deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (5:5).

The second in 1 Timothy 1:20:  In 1 Timothy 1:20, Alexander and Hymaneaus failed to hold to the faith with a clear conscience.  By rejecting this, they made “shipwreck of their faith.”  Verse 20 says that he handed them over to Satan, “that they may learn not to blaspheme.”

So twice, the NT gives account of Paul handing men over to Satan.  Why?  This is a way of putting them out of the church for discipline. In both instances, the goal for this discipline is repentance–this is not the end for them!  In fact, this turning may serve to be the best and most soul-shaking opportunity for them to see the seriousness of their error.

From top to bottom, this is inconceivable to American ears. Turning someone over to Satan?  Church discipline?  Removal as a runway to recognition of sin, repentance of sin, and restoration into the Body?  Yes.  Yes. And… yes!

Sin is a cancer that affects the soul of man and the soul of the church. But Satan is even used as a tool of God for good purposes.

Sounds like another post on the sovereignty of God–but that’s for another time.

May God bless you this weekend as you worship Him in spirit and truth in the fellowship of believers.


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One thought on “Why Did Paul Turn Some Over to Satan?

  1. This has been a baffling passage of scripture to me in the past. Your post has clarified it for me and I believe what you have said is correct. Thanks.

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