A Question I Was Asked:

What is the meaning of 'to deliver one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh'?

The Question:

I have a question on the following two Scriptures:

1 Timothy 1:20: '... Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.'

1 Corinthians 5:5: 'To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.'

What does Paul mean in the above verses about delivering over to Satan?

Another question: isn't it the "soul" that is saved? So why does Paul speak of the "spirit" in 1Cor 5:5?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, looking at 1 Corinthians,

"For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 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." (1 Cor. 3-5).

Paul is saying that he is giving the church at Corinth the full authority to disfellowship this man who has been openly sinning (he has already passed judgment on this matter). He is (effectively) giving the man to Satan to cause him trials and difficulties of the flesh in order that he should repent of his sins and come back to Christ.

In the same manner, in 1 Timothy 1:20, Hymenaeus and Alexander were being disfellowshipped in the hope that they should repent.

To 'deliver such a one unto Satan' is the equivalent of saying 'to put away from among yourselves.' It is an idiom for the severing of Christian fellowship. It is to refrain from ordinary social fraternization with such a one until that person clearly repents. See also 2 Thessalonians 3:6.

Regarding the secondary question, whether one calls the element of our being which survives our physical death as 'soul' or 'spirit' does not affect the essential meaning. Ecclesiastes 12:7 states what happens at human death in the following manner:

'...and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.'

Secondly, Stephen describes his 'spirit' going to Heaven in the following Scripture.

'While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."' (Acts 7:59).

Robin A. Brace. April 12th, 2012.