Hymenaeus, Alexander, and Church Discipline

By Tim White

Church discipline is never easy. It's always difficult to confront someone with their sin. But there comes a time when talk will do not good, and the sinful believer needs to be removed from the church and "handed over to Satan."
This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. 1 Timothy 1:18-20
In 1 Timothy 1:20, Paul calls out two people who hurt his ministry because of personal attacks. Paul had just encouraged Timothy in "holding faith and a good conscience." Listing examples of those who have stopped "holding faith and a good conscience," he names Alexander and Hymenaeus. They had "shipwrecked" their faith. We know from 2 Timothy 2:17 that Hymenaeus was speaking ill of Paul, and from 2 Timothy 4:14 that Alexander was doing Paul much damage in reaching others.

This does not mean that these two lost their salvation. As a matter of fact, a similar situation occurred in Corinth, but with more clarity and closure.
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are 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.
1 Corinthians 5:1-5
There was a man in Corinth who claimed the liberty of the grace of God and had taken his father's wife. The Church was responding, "Isn't grace wonderful?"

Paul's response to this was that they should remove the man from the church and let Satan destroy his flesh so that his spirit could be freed of his sin.

Notice that the "flesh," or body, was delivered to Satan. Since he was a believer, his spirit and soul were untouchable by Satan. But everything physically would go wrong because he was turned over Satan in an attempt to create repentance.

The church did this, and the man repented. We know this from Paul's second letter to the Corinthians:
For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 2 Corinthians 2:6-8
When this man repented and corrected his moral life, the Church accepted him back completely with love and comfort. He was restored, not only to walk with God, but to walk in unity with God's faithful people.

Paul prayed that Alexander's and Hymenaeus' flesh be turned over to Satan. He prayed that God's protective hand would be removed from their lives so they would be moved to repent. As with Job (although for a totally different reason) Satan brought pain and conflict to these men. We aren't told Hymenaeus' and Alexander's responses. Hopefully their harsh punishment caused them to follow the Corinthian man's example and repent of their sins before Satan destroyed their flesh.

Image Credit: Stefano Corso; "All the Memories that remain..."; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Church-Issues  | Sin-Evil

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Published 3-6-17