Paul’s ministry was not easy. From the moment of his conversion, after he was struck blind on the Damascus road, to the moment he was beheaded in Rome, Paul knew hardship. He provided a graphic, pen portrait of his ministry in 2 Corinthians 11:23–33. Some of the hardships Paul faced included “dangers among false brethren” and “the daily pressure . . . of concern for all the churches” (11:26, 28). Paul was on the front lines of opposition.
Some of the most troubling opposition came from Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:20). Alexander likely joined in the teaching of Hymenaeus’ heresy, which was just old-fashioned Gnosticism. Greek philosophers viewed the soul as immortal and the body as the soul’s temporary prison. The bodily resurrection of Christ and Christians, therefore, was not only foreign to the Greek mind, it was foolishness. Hymenaeus probably taught that the spirit was resurrected at conversion or at baptism but that believers shouldn’t look forward to a bodily resurrection.
So when Hymenaeus and Philetus—and presumably Alexander—taught that “the resurrection has already taken place,” they denied the bodily resurrection of Christ (2 Timothy 2:18). But Paul made it clear in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Christ did not rise in bodily form, then our salvation is in vain.
Presumably, Paul tried to correct Hymenaeus and Alexander, but they “rejected” sound doctrine and the testimony of their consciences and thereby “shipwreck[ed] . . . their faith” (1 Timothy 1:19). Because their teaching and their example would have been dangerous to the church at Ephesus, Paul “handed [them] over to Satan” (1:20). This is a curious phrase. Paul didn’t mean he handed them over to Satan literally. Rather, Paul meant he excommunicated them from the church, exposing them to the realm of satanic influence. Those outside the church are not under the spiritual protection of the body of Christ and, in this way, are exposed to the dangers of sin. Paul used a similar phrase in 1 Corinthians 5:5. In both cases, the intent of the disciplinary measure was to bring about repentance and return to true fellowship (1:20).
Excerpt taken from Excellence in Ministry: Starting Strong-Doing What’s Right in the Work of Ministry Bible Companion by Charles R. Swindoll and Insight for Living Ministries. Copyright © 1983-2015 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide.