Sunday, 19 November 2017
…of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. 1 Timothy 1:20
Paul now speaks of two people who “have suffered shipwreck” concerning the faith that he just noted in verse 19. They are Hymenaeus and Alexander. Hymenaeus is mentioned again with Philetus in 2 Timothy 2. In that letter, Paul instructs Timothy to “shun profane and idle babblings.” He then says that “Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.”
The name Alexander was (and still is) a common one, and it is not likely that he is the same Alexander mentioned in Acts 19. However, he may (or may not) be the same one mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:14. Regardless of that, Alexander and Hymenaeus were obviously well-known to both Paul and Timothy, being hearty heretics who, as Paul says, “I have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”
The Greek word translated as “learn” signifies training, often involving punishment. It signifies specifically “a child under development with strict training” (HELPS Word Studies). In saying that they have been “delivered to Satan,” it is indicating a saved believer. It is the same term, used only one other time in the Bible, when speaking of a sexually immoral brother in 1 Corinthians 5.
It is obvious that what Paul is speaking of here is the same as that of 1 Corinthians 5. It is a corrective measure for a wayward Christian. How is this obvious? Because he says that he has delivered them to Satan “that they may learn not to blaspheme.” If this was not a corrective measure, they wouldn’t learn anything. Satan would teach them to blaspheme, not the opposite! In other words, they are being handed over to Satan as a punitive, corrective tool. This is exactly the same as the sexually immoral believer in Corinth.
Satan is the ruler of this world, but he is defeated before Christ. He has no power over a believer; he can only afflict them as they continue in their earthly walk. The choice belongs to each believer. Will we will follow the truth or follow falsehood? It is a constant battle (see Romans 7:13-25). These believers had decided to follow falsehood. Paul has delivered them to Satan as a corrective measure. This is the intent behind the words of Hebrews 12, where the same word is used three times –
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”
7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:5-11
Paul is the Lord’s instrument for the establishment of doctrine. Therefore, he is also the authorized representative to accomplish that which is spoken of here in Hebrews 12. In these words, only the doctrine of eternal salvation, not a loss of salvation, can be found. The oft-asked question is, “What will happen to a person who walks away from the faith?” The answer is right here in Paul’s letter to Timothy. It is found elsewhere in 2 Peter 1:9. A person can walk away from the faith, or they can completely forget that they were ever saved, but God does not let them go, nor does He forget. If a person is truly saved at one point, they are truly saved forever. The doctrine of “loss of salvation” is proven false.
Life application: Do you have a loved one in your life who received Christ as Lord, believing in his heart that God raised him from the dead, but who has now walked away from his faith? Be assured that God has not given up on him, even if he has given up on God. The lesson of disobedient Israel as a group follows through with disobedient individuals. God may punish, but He does not cast away forever.
Lord God, it is so wonderful to come to passages in Paul’s letters where it is explicitly shown that those who have shipwrecked their faith do not lose their salvation. They may suffer your discipline, but they will never suffer Your abandonment. Just as Israel has been set for discipline, but has never been rejected by You, so it is with the individual believer in Christ. We have the surety of eternal salvation, despite ourselves. What a great comfort this is as we strive through this difficult world. Thank You for Your strong and eternal hand of salvation. Amen.