Here, we have an example of three men, professed to be in the circle of believers, who have made some tragic error or decision in their walk. This error, at least in the case of Hymenæus and Alexander, calls for discipline. Paul says of these two,
Holding faith and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith, have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenæus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme. ( I Tim. 1:19-20 )
Paul is exhorting Timothy to “war a good warfare” by the prophecies which have been laid before him. In this warfare (lit., a military campaign), he must hold fast faith and a good conscience. The two of these are indispensible with regard to our walk with God and our walk among the world. In the phrase, “...having put away concerning faith...” we must understand this as The Faith, since the definite article is present. That is, the profession which we have of believing in Jesus as the Messiah of God and Saviour of men. In the phrase before it, Paul mentions ‘faith’ and ‘a good conscience’. Here, faith is understood as our spiritual walk of trust and reliance upon God. The phrase, a good conscience, likely refers to our relationship with our fellow man.
These two men had obviously said some hurtful (blasphemous) things against the Church and/or God. They had thrust away from themselves a good conscience, and therefore, their ship (walk in life) was cast upon the rocks, shipwrecked. What they had cast away, from Paul’s imagery, was a stabilizing factor, for their faith. But when they threw it aside, it threw their ship off course concerning the Faith and caused them to crash upon the rocks. What does Paul do?
He does not say, Oh, well, some will make it and some won’t. Having a true shepherd's heart beating in his chest, he seeks to be redemptive towards these brothers, not punitive. He says that he delivered them to Satan. What does this mean? It is unclear, and most scholars fall into two opinions. One is that it signifies an excommunication. That is, it is the turning out of a believer from the fellowship and protection of the community of Faith. The other opinion is that it is a turning over to Satan for the destruction of the physical life. It likely is somewhere in the middle of these two ideas. We have a strong clue, in I Cor. 5:5.
Here Paul is dealing with a believer who had been involved in sexual sins, that the Corinthian Church had taken lightly. However, Paul took it quite seriously. It was a sin that even those outside the Church would find unacceptable. That a man should have sexual relations with his father’s wife, his own stepmother. This sin would reflect upon the reputation of the Church and on the Gospel of Jesus. So Paul makes this same pronouncement, of delivering this one to Satan. However, here also, the judgement is redemptive, not punitive. However, it is severe in its scope. Paul states that this one is delivered to Satan, “for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” The phrase, “destruction of the flesh”, may sound immediately like he is referring to the taking of the physical life. However, this is not conclusive. If Paul meant the killing of the body, he likely would have used the word, soma, which specifically refers to the physical human body. Here, Paul uses the word, sarkos, which is normal language for Paul, when referring to the old man of sin, the sinful nature in man.
When these two cases of “delivering to Satan” are viewed together, we see that the goal is corrective discipline, not punitive judgement. In the case of I Cor., the goal is that the spirit of the offender would be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus, through the discipline of destroying the flesh. That is, destroying the power and hold that the flesh has on this one. In the I Tim. passage, the goal is that they would learn (lit., be instructed) not to blaspheme. In both passages, the discipline is the grace and mercy of God, “for whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth.”
DEMAS HATH FORSAKEN ME
Make haste to come to me shortly, For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is gone to Thessalonica. ( 2 Tim. 4:9-10 )
Demas is mentioned in Col. 4:14, as one of Paul’s traveling associates in the gospel. Not much is known about this brother, accept that he travelled with Paul to some extent, and that at a point near the end of Paul’s life, Demas bugged out of Paul’s service. The charge set before Demas, is that he “loved this present world.” In the grammatical sense, his loving the world (lit., the now age), happened before he departed Paul’s company. What is amazing and puzzling at the same time, is that Paul offers no rebuke, no ‘delivering to Satan’, no judgement upon this man. He is silent. Why? We do not know. But the facts remain. Demas was counted as a companion of Paul, and somewhere he started turning his heart toward the now age, instead of keeping his eyes fixed upon the world to come. Having this love in his heart for the now age, and seeing an opportunity to bow out of the scene, he does so.
It is unclear what to do with Demas. Do we conclude that he was an apostate from the faith, or that he simply could no longer sustain his association with Paul, which I am sure was no easy task? We must take into account what Paul does not say. He does not lay to the charge of Demas, that he rejected the faith. If this had been the case, Paul would have no trouble saying so. What Paul does say, is that Demas deserted him personally. That perhaps Demas had too much of a love for this now age, to endure the trials being inflicted upon Paul and anyone associated with him. Perhaps he had fallen prey to the things that the beloved John warns believers against.
Love not the world, neither the things in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (I Jn. 2:15-16)
Here, John exhorts the believers to literally, ‘stop loving the world’. This implies that they were being seduced by its attractions. The apostle exhorts them to stop an action in progress. This has been and is a problem within the Church. Believers, like the ancient Israelites, still hanging on to an affection for Egypt. Just as God, by a mighty hand, delivered Israel from Egypt, but found much difficulty delivering Egypt out of Israel. So also, there are many who find it difficult to put down their attraction for this present age. This age may find a hold in many, through:
1). The lust of the flesh. That which is gratifying to our sensualness (five senses).
2). The lust of the eyes. That which is pleasing to our view and others view of us.
3). The pride of life. That which tends to the vain and empty boasting of our earthly existence (boasting of who we are and what we have in this world).
Demas, not unlike many that fill our Church buildings and some pulpits, have still not broken off their relationship with their old love, in order to be chaste and devoted to their new and supreme love. Perhaps we feel superior when we throw stones at Demas. For we say to ourselves, ‘I would never have deserted the great apostle Paul.’ Let’s remember Peter, and the claims he made concerning his own devotion to the Lord. Perhaps we should not be so quick to condemn this Demas, until we have judged the Demas that lives in us. The Demas in me and the Demas in you. Oh, yes, he’s there, just waiting for the opportunity to slip away, and meet with his old love. However, let’s remember, The world is passing away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God, abideth for ever.
The world, just like a parade, is passing by, and will soon come to an end. If we jump into the world’s procession, lured by all of its bells, whistles and shiny trinkets, we will pass away with it. But if we stand in His Love, doing the will of the Father, which is to love the Son, we shall abide forever. This must be the lesson we take away from Demas. Loving the world, will carry us away from our true purpose and destiny in Jesus. It aborts our potential, and causes short-sightedness, so that we cannot see afar off, to the world to come. God forgive us and correct us, so that the Demas in all of us, does not lead us astray. Amen.