Delivered to Satan – sermon by John MacArthur

First Timothy 1:18:  “This command I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which pointed to thee that thou by them might war a good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience which some having put away have made shipwreck concerning the faith, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander whom I have delivered unto Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”

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Now, Paul did this in the church at Ephesus, as he says, and he invites Timothy to carry on the same kind of work.  So it is a work of importance and it is a work of God.  There is a parallel to this, one other passage which uses the same terms, and I want you to turn to it in 1 Corinthians chapter 5.  First Corinthians chapter 5 speaks of a person who is guilty of a form of incest in the church, and it says in verse 5 of this person, this person living with his father’s wife in a fornication relationship, verse 5:  “Enjoins the church at Corinth to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.”  Those two places, 1 Timothy 1:20, 1 Corinthians 5:5, are the two places in the New Testament where we have the idea of abandoning someone to Satan explicitly stated in that way.

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It’s essential that you understand this.  There are some people who go around today and say there are no conditions under which any Christian should ever be subject to Satan.  I hear that from Charismatic people continually, and that is not what the Scripture teaches.  The Scripture clearly teaches that not only is it a possibility to be handed over to Satan but it is a ministry of the church to do that.  There are times and places and circumstances under the plan of God in which individuals are definitely to be turned over to Satan, and there are times and occasions when God Himself does that very thing. 

Now, listen carefully as we analyze this biblically.  Being turned over to Satan in both of these references that I have mentioned to you has the idea of being put out of the church, of being disfellowshipped – or in the old terminology, excommunicated.  It has the idea of being cut off from any further association with the saints of God and the Lord’s table.  It would be, in the terms of Matthew 18, to take one who has by continual sin been put out of the church and treat them like an unbeliever.  It is to say, then, that to turn someone over to Satan means that prior to that, they were not fully in his power else there could be no turning over, there could be no committing and no abandoning to Satan if they were already in his power.

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Now, 1 John 5:19 says the whole world lies in the lap of the wicked one.  The world is already in his hands.  The world has already been delivered to him by sin.  The instruction to the church to turn someone over to Satan means that that someone is not at that time fully in Satan’s control.  So we must, therefore, be talking about people who are in one way or another under the umbrella of protection provided by the church, and there is in the church the insulation and the protection and the care and the love and the blessing of God.  So we’re talking here about people who are under the care of the church or within the community of redeemed people, under the protection of God, a part of the pouring out of His blessing who are at some point in time put out of that protection and left fully exposed to Satan.

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Examples:

Sometimes the Lord turns a true believer over to Satan for a positive reason tied to His own sovereignty.  And we saw that in illustration in the life of Job.  Job was not just a good man, he was the best of men, an upright man who honored God with everything in his life, a righteous man, a God-loving, God- fearing man.  And yet it tells us in the book of Job that he was delivered over to Satan and Satan was allowed to destroy all of his possessions, to destroy all of his family, and even to bring about terrible illness on his own body.  And Job never really understood why this happened.  Even at the end of the book, he wasn’t sure specifically why God brought it other than the fact that God had revealed Himself in it to be a sovereign God.  But as we look back at the book of Job, we understand why Job was delivered to Satan:  for God to make the point that true love to Him and true faith in Him is not dependent on circumstances.  Job sums it up when he says, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him,” when he says, “The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

The great truth of the book of Job is that whether or not you possess the blessings of this life or you are stripped absolutely naked of everything, true faith in God and true love for Him stands because it is not based on what we have received by way of blessing, it is based on who He is as a worthy God.  So Job was a tool used by God, delivered to Satan for God to make a great truth clear.

Then Christ was our second illustration of one delivered over to Satan.  He was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted of the devil, it says in Matthew 4.  Literally, the Holy Spirit led Him into Satan’s temptation that He might be proven to be perfect and that by victory over Satan in the moment of His weakness after 40 days of fasting might demonstrate His power over Satan, that even in His weakest moment He was a match and more than a match for Satan; which is to say that if He was victorious in that temptation, He will ultimately be victorious in the glory of His second coming when Satan is bound forever in hell.  So Christ was turned over to Satan also in order that He might demonstrate His perfection and His ultimate power over the enemy.

In 2 Corinthians 12, we saw our third illustration who was Paul.  Paul was delivered over to Satan, given a messenger of Satan, a thorn in the flesh, and he said, “I glory in that” or “I rejoice in that,” “I boast in that because in my weakness, His strength is perfected.”  So Paul was turned over to Satan with limitation, as all of these are.  You remember Job was turned over to Satan but God set limits.  There were limits set in terms of Christ.  There were limits set in terms of Paul.  But in order for Paul’s case, that he might be humble and dependent, he was given a messenger from Satan.

Then we saw Peter.  And Peter also, Jesus said to him in Luke 22:31, “Satan desires to have you that he may sift you like wheat.”  Perhaps Satan had come to God like he did with Job and said, “I want Peter.  I’ll show you what kind of a guy he is.  I’ll strip him naked.”  Maybe he gave the little bit of the same speech regarding Job, and so Peter was turned over to Satan, not because he had committed some willful sin or lived in some defiant, rebellious attitude, but Jesus said, “When you have come back, strengthen the brethren.”  And we learned in that that Peter was turned over to Satan in order that he might be able to strengthen others who would go through severe trouble.

So in those cases of Job and Christ and Paul and Peter, there was a positive purpose in the sovereign plan of God.  I was reading also this week about those who will suffer in the great Tribulation.  In Matthew chapter 24 in verses 21 and 22, it talks about those who will suffer during the Tribulation, right before the second coming of Christ.  In Revelation 6, it shows them crying out because they’ve been killed in that Tribulation.  There will be believers deprived of food, deprived of water, deprived of a job, deprived of their lives during the Tribulation when Satan wreaks havoc all over the globe.

But today I want to talk about another aspect of it:  being delivered to Satan not for a positive reason but for a negative one because this is the issue in 1 Timothy chapter 1.  These two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander, were delivered unto Satan not in order that they might prove the truth of their faith, not in order that they might maintain humility and dependence, not so that they could strengthen others, not so that they could receive a crown of life, not so that they could give unlimited and unhindered and eternal praise to the living Christ who had spared them and brought them through a terrible tribulation.  No, they were turned over to Satan for judgment.  That’s different, for judgment.  And the Scripture illustrates this very aptly.

Let’s go back to 1 Samuel chapter 16, and I’m going to show you several illustrations of this as we move through briefly.  First Samuel chapter 16, Samuel comes to anoint the one God has chosen to be the new king.  We pick up the narrative in verse 12.  Samuel has arrived at the household of Jesse.  God has pinpointed one of Jesse’s sons.  He sent and brought him in.  He was ruddy and of a beautiful countenance and handsome.  The idea was he was masculine and he was handsome.  And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, this is he.”  Samuel took the horn of oil, anointed him in the midst of his brethren, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day onward.

Now, here was the anointing of David, the son of Jesse, to be the king of Israel to replace Saul.  Saul had had the anointing of the Spirit of the Lord.  That’s not a commentary on his personal salvation or on his spirituality.  The Spirit of the Lord came on David here for the role of king, just as the Spirit of the Lord had come in Judges 16 on Samson as the judge of Israel.  This is for the governing of the people so that God’s will would be worked out.  It is not a matter of commenting on the spirituality either of Saul or David.  The Spirit of the Lord had been on Saul for the reason that he was king and in order for God to carry out His Will through that king.  Verse 14 says that.  “The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul.”  Now, if it had to do with his personal salvation, it would be something altogether different.  But the point is when the Spirit came on David, the Spirit left Saul because the coming and going of the Holy Spirit in reference to these two men had to do with their function as king of Israel so that God’s will would be effected through their ruling.

Now, notice verse 14:  “When the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.”  People get worried about how the evil spirit could come from the Lord.  It doesn’t mean the Lord is evil.  It doesn’t mean the evil spirit dwelled in the presence of the Lord.  All it means is that even the demons can’t function unless the Lord allows them.  And when the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, it’s as if God turned him over to Satan.  And Satan dispatched some very key powerful demon who went and became the constant companion of Saul.  And the word “troubled,” that common Old Testament word means to terrify or torment.  He became demon tormented.  The word “demon possessed” is not a biblical term.  It’s better to use a biblical term so we understand what we’re talking about in reference to passages of Scripture.  Saul became demon tormented – demon tormented.

In spite of having the Spirit of the Lord on him for his kingly rule, he was given to rash judgments.  His decisions made under pressure were stupid.  One of them almost caused him to have to execute his own son for eating honey.  He fell to pride.  He despised the authority of Samuel and wanted unilateral control and wanted full confidence and trust and glory from all the people rather than sharing it with anyone.  He was greedy.  He flaunted his injustice everywhere.  He flagrantly disobeyed God.  He took the role of a priest and he tried to hide his disobedience under a cloak of spirituality.  He was a very wicked, very evil man.

As a result of this, the Spirit of the Lord left him, and an evil spirit came to terrorize that man until his death.  In chapter 18, we get a little insight into this.  And David was wherever Saul was.  David was the one who played the harp for Saul, you know the story.  And Saul set him over men of war and lifted him up to a place of prominence, and they won a great battle, the slaughter of the Philistines mentioned in verse 6.  And as they were coming back, women came out of all the cities of Israel as they marched back toward Jerusalem, and they were dancing and singing and timbrels and joy and instruments of music.  And the women spoke one to another as they played and this is the song they sang, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”

Now, an egomaniac like Saul is never going to be able to handle that.  And Saul was very angry.  The saying displeased him and he said, “They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, to me they have ascribed but thousands, and what can he have more but the kingdom?”  Now, he’d been anointed but he’d not yet taken the throne.  And Saul was in great fear, and he watched enviously David from that day and onward.  And it came to pass on the next day, the evil spirit from God came on Saul.  He was terrorized again.  He prophesied in the midst of the house, apparently, some ecstatic utterances.  And David played with his hand to try to soothe him as at other times.  And there was a javelin in Saul’s hand.  He was a great warrior, a giant of a man, skilled with a javelin.  And Saul threw the javelin and said, “I’ll smite David even to the wall with it, I’ll pin him to the wall.”  And David escaped from his presence twice.  And over in chapter 19 verse 9, the evil spirit from the Lord was on Saul as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand.  And David played with his hand and Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin, but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence.  He smote the javelin into the wall and David fled and escaped that night.

Now, this man is demon terrorized.  The story of Saul the tormented man goes from bad to worse.  When that demon was given to him and he was turned over to Satan, even though he’d been under the Spirit of the Lord, even though he’d been part of the covenant people of God and known the insulation of that, whether or not he was actually a true believer, he had known the protection of the covenant people.  He had known the protection that comes from being within the framework where God is pouring out the fulfillment of His promises.  He had known the presence of the Spirit of the Lord as a king.  But he is now thrust out.  The Spirit of the Lord departs, and he’s all alone, abandoned to the kingdom of Satan.  And he becomes not just melancholy, not just despairing, this isn’t some psychological disorientation, he is demonized and he is subject to the control of a supernatural evil power, vile and wicked, who leads him to insanity, to mass murder, into the occult, and ultimately to commit suicide.  And as Thomas Manton, the Puritan, said, “The devil delights to vex men with unreasonable terrors.  The devil both tempts and troubles.”

The Lord turned him over to hellish power, not for instruction in divine sovereignty, not for him to be able to maintain his humility – he had none – not to make him dependent, not to help him strengthen others, not to give him a crown of life, not to cause him to praise for all eternity, but to punish him, to judge him.  And he went right into the pit of the occult.  He then consulted with the witch of Endor, delving with mediums and demon spirits.  And when the Lord did come back in the form of the Spirit in chapter 19 and cause him to prophesy, he was so out of control in the prophecy that he stripped himself naked, fell on the floor prostrate and totally exposed in total humiliation.  Really, in a sense, bereft of his own understanding.  Later on, he massacred a whole group of good priests because they had given provisions to David and then ended his life as a suicide – which, by the way, is a rare act in all the annals of Israel’s history but not rare among those who are delivered to Satan.

Let’s look at John 13.  John 13, verse 27.  It is the Upper Room, it is the night of the betrayal of Jesus Christ.  The main character of our focus is Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.  Judas, who had been with Jesus for three years.  Judas, who had seen everything He did, heard everything He said, watched the miracles.  Judas, who could not deny either the truthfulness of Christ – Judas, who could not deny either the perfection of Christ nor the power of Christ, has rejected it all.  And it says in verse 27, one of the most tragic statements in Scriptures:  “After the sop” – that is, after taking that piece of bread and dipping it in the sop, which was part of the Passover meal – “Satan entered into him.”  The divine timetable was set, and God turned Judas over to Satan.

He had been a part of the community of apostles.  He had been insulated from the full fury of Satan’s world because of the protection of that group, which God had so blessed by the presence of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  But now he is out of that group.  He is turned over to Satan.  Satan enters into him.  Jesus says, “What you do, do it quickly.”  “Do it quickly.”  And in Luke chapter 22 and verse 3, the text puts it this way, just to add to the understanding you already have:  “Then entered Satan into Judas, surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.  And he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains how he might betray Him with them.  They were glad and covenanted to give him money.”

He went out, energized by Satan, sold Jesus Christ, then went out in remorse, put a noose around his neck, hanged himself.  The rope broke or the branch broke, he fell down, hit a rock, and his bowels gushed out all over the place.  Suicide, just like Saul.  Turned over to Satan, put out of that sheltered, protected place.  Saul, I believe, illustrates the unbeliever who is blessed by being in the presence of God’s promised people.  Judas, the same.  But cast out as a judgment on their evil hearts.

Let’s go to Acts chapter 5.  Acts chapter 5.  There was a certain man in verse 1 named Ananias who had a wife named Sapphira.  They sold a possession.  Obviously, they promised the Lord they would give Him all of the proceeds from the sale, 100 percent.  But they kept back part of the price.  So they told a lie to the Holy Spirit.  They came, then, pretending to be giving everything, laid it at the apostle’s feet.  The Holy Spirit instructed Peter about their lie.  So Peter said to Ananias, “Why” – here it comes – “has Satan filled your heart?”  When he lied to the Spirit of God, it was a result of an evil intent, which literally turned him over to Satan.

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Now, remember, what is Paul saying?  Let’s go back to 1 Timothy, and I think we have it in perspective now.  What is he saying here when he says, “I have delivered Hymenaeus and Alexander unto Satan?”  Most likely, they were not believers because they had corrupted the gospel.  And he delivered them that they might learn the consequence of blasphemy.  Now, we don’t know whether it meant they would die or whether it meant some disease or the devastation of their possessions or the loss of everything they had.  Whatever devastation Satan wanted to bring within God’s allowance would come.

But Paul is saying, “Look, Timothy, you have to fight a battle in leadership in the church.  Remember what we said first of all?  You have a responsibility and accountability to the church,” verse 18.  “You have a responsibility and accountability to the Lord” – verse 19 – “to hold faith and a pure conscience.  And now you have a responsibility and accountability to deal with the enemy.  And I’ve given you the example.  What I did to them, you’re to do the rest of those who corrupt the church with false doctrine and unholiness.”

Now let’s look at verse 19 and see what he says about them.  He calls them “some” – “some.”  They’re the same as the “certain ones” of verses 3, 6, and 7.  They were some pastors at the church at Ephesus and perhaps surrounding churches who were teaching falsely.  But these pastors “which some” – “which” refers to a good conscience – “were not interested in a pure conscience.”  What did I tell you?  Bad theology always rises out of bad morals.  A man’s doctrine is always an accommodation to his morality.  And when people reject the truth of the Word of God, they do it because they want to substitute a system which accommodates their desire for sin.  So there are some who have no interest in a good conscience.  They’re not at all interested in that.

In fact, “which some having put away” – have put away.  That word apōtheō, a very strong word, means to violently reject.  It means to discard aggressively.  They don’t want anything to do with it.  They don’t want a pure conscience.  They don’t want to live for holiness.  They don’t want to live for purity.  They want to live for their own lust, their own success, their own gratification.  As a result, when they throw away a good conscience, they shipwreck the faith.  It’s like throwing away the rudder; you’re at the mercy of the wind and the sea.  They confess to be Christians and pastors and teachers of God’s law but with no interest in purity, no commitment to holiness.  They are literally devoid of any truth.  They shipwreck the truth because truth does not rise out of an immoral heart.

No, an evil conscience and error always go together.  In 2 Timothy 2, we find a note that should be compared with this.  It says their word, these kinds of people, eats like gangrene.  It kills, of whom are Hymenaeus, here he’s mentioned again and this time another fellow, Philetus, who concerning the truth have erred – have erred.  And then in verse 19 it says, “Let everyone that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”  So we see error and iniquity again.  These men have erred, don’t you err, so depart from iniquity.  The foundation out of which error comes, the soil out of which error grows, is the soil of unholiness.  So these men were not interested in a good conscience; they were interested in evil, and so they threw the rudder away, which is the conscience that gives guidance, and they were at the mercy of the wind and the sea, and they shipwrecked the faith.

It names them for all time.  Hymenaeus, who is also mentioned, as I read in 2 Timothy 2:17, we don’t know anything about him, he’s just mentioned twice.  The other one is Alexander.  There is an Alexander mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:14-15.  There is an Alexander mentioned in Acts 19:33-34.  There is no reason to believe they are the same because the name was as common as the name John is today – a very, very common name.  What we have here, then, are two pastors, self-righteous egotists who wanted to be prominent teachers of the law but didn’t know anything about what they were speaking of, substituting myths and genealogies and fables and human reason for God’s revelation and living ugly, ungodly lives.

And Paul says, “I put them out.  And that’s the pattern, Timothy.  If you’re going to be a good soldier in the noble warfare, you understand your obligation to the church, you understand your obligation to the Lord, and you understand your obligation to deal with the enemy.”  Now, when he says, “Whom I have delivered unto Satan,” he means “I put them out of the church.  I put them out.  I put those sinning people away from the protection and insulation of God’s people.  I put them in the domain of the devil, away from the influences of all that is good and godly.”  Why?  That they may learn that you can’t blaspheme and get away with it.  And the word “learn,” paideuō, is to train through punishment – to train through punishment.  It’s a very significant word.  It is used in Luke 23 verses 16 and 22, it’s translated “chastise,” and it speaks about the scourgings that were given Christ.  It is to train or to punish someone with the afflicting of physical blows.

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Several things to remember, then, as we sum it up.  To be delivered to Satan may be for God’s sake, like Job, for God’s sake, for God to make His point.  It may be for my own sake, like Paul, that I may maintain humility and dependence.  It may be for others’ sake, like Peter, that I might be able to instruct others.  It may be for the sake of God’s desire to reward and give a crown of life.  It may be to produce great praise when such is over.  But on the other hand, it may be for chastening’s sake, like in the case of an incestuous brother in Corinth, or Ananias and Sapphira.  It may be for chastening’s sake unto death, as in the case of the church at Thyatira, committing fornication and listening to false doctrine.  It may be also for final judgment’s sake, such as in the case of Saul or Judas or Hymenaeus and Alexander.

Now, what is the remedy?  What is – how do you avoid the chastening part and the judgment part?  By receiving the truth and the holiness of God in Christ.  And that’s really the message.  All of that was to lead to this.  It may be that God wants to turn me over to Satan.  It may be that for His own purposes, He wants me to suffer some inflicted wound from Satan to one degree or another, in one way or another in my life.  My only prayer is that it will be for His glory and my good and the strengthening and advancing of His Kingdom, not for punishment and not for chastening.  And that if it need be that I have to suffer some messenger of Satan, if I have, like Peter, to be turned over for a period of time, I can only pray that out of it God will gain the greater glory and I’ll be a more faithful servant, and that makes it a welcome turning over if that’s God’s design, as opposed to being turned over to be physically punished for blasphemy.  So as believers, we seek to avoid that by the pursuit of a holy life.  Let’s bow in prayer.

 

 

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