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Practice of Turning Over Believers to Satan

In 1 Timothy 1:18-20 (KJV) we read:

18 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, 20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

The church of both Protestant and Catholic branches is besmirched with a history of turning over true believers to Satan in flames to punish them for erroneous beliefs. Rather than praying to free them from their supposed error (or better yet leaving them as tares in the field as Jesus commanded), these church leaders handed over souls to Satan.

John Hus' Execution in 1415 AD

The first Protestant reformer was actually John Hus. He was excuted in 1415 AD. He believed Jesus was both human and divine rather than solely divine. Hus' beliefs were the orthodox view of the church in the Nicene and Athanasian creed. But by 1415 AD, the Roman Catholics now claimed Jesus had no human element as part of his being. Then as Albert Henry Wratislaw tells the story of Hus' execution:

Before they placed the paper crown of blasphemy on his head, they said to him, amongst other things: "We commit thy soul to the devil." (Wratislaw, John Hus: the commencement of resistance to papal authority (E. & J.B. Young, 1882) at page 330.)

Servetus' Execution in 1553 AD

Servetus believed Jesus was God because the Logos was in Him, but disputed whether Jesus was an "Eternal Son" side by side with an "Eternal Father." Servetus said that smacks of polytheism. For this Calvin persecuted Servetus, a visitor of one day's duration at Geneva, to a death sentence. When the flames lept at Servetus' feet, Farel, a partner in Calvin's persecution of Servetus, shouted to the crowd:

"Listen! Satan is about to take possession of this soul!" (Jean Mary Stone, Reformation and renaissance (circa 1377-1610) (Duckworth: 1904) at 336.)

What Is The Source Of This Practice?

As our introduction hinted, Paul is the source of the notion of turning someone over to Satan to stop them from sinning.

Paul speaks of publicly dismissing a man from the church fellowship and apparently killing him. Paul speaks of the "destruction of the flesh" of this man by Paul's judgment upon him. Paul said the congregation was to thereby “...put away from yourselves that wicked person” (1 Cor. 5:13). Paul viewed doing this was "turning him over to Satan" which many interpret as returning him to Satan's "world of darkness and torments." ("When Sin Persists...") See 1 Cor. 5:5.

The purpose of turning someone over to Satan was supposedly a good objective. In 1 Cor. 5:5-7, Paul commands "turn him over to Satan . . . that he might be saved."

Paul learned this from the "Lord" he assumed was Jesus. For Paul said in 2 Cor. 12:6-7 that Satan was tormenting himself (Paul) to keep him humble. Paul fans acknowledge that this in effect means "Paul was delivered over to Satan..." ("Delivered to Satan, Part 2," 1985.) Hence, Paul learned from his own experience with the "Lord" Paul assumed was Jesus that it was a good thing to be turned over to Satan. 

But let's think this through harder than Paul did.

How can it ever help to give Satan dominion over someone? Shunning which Jesus spoke about in Matthew 18 simply cuts off contact with friends. It is not intended to give authority to Satan over the person. When we shun someone, Jesus never suggested we ask Satan to take over that person's life. Or ask God to give that person over to Satan. But to have people asking God or Satan to take a soul into Satan's control is indeed a "terrifying thought," as a pro-Paul person commented on 1 Tim 1 where Paul says this should happen to two believers giving Paul trouble. ("Delivered to Satan," part 2 (1985).) This pro-Paul commentator said Paul means we take believers and "thrust [them] out of the protected place of the church into the Satanic dimension." Id.

Notice how differently Jesus talks. Jesus says Satan asks to sift individuals, and he sometimes gets his wish. So sometimes Satan does get hold of persons, even Peter for a time. Jesus never says that we as believers should pray or ask God that this happens. Instead, Jesus says when this happens, the right response is to pray for the individual who is battling Satan's control. We don't pray that the person is delivered to Satan. Jesus gives us the right example of what to do:

"Simon, Simon! You must know, Satan has got his wish to sift you all like wheat; but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and once you have recovered, you in your turn must strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:31)

Let's never turn any sinning soul over to Satan. Let's instead pray "they resist the devil and he will flee from them," as JaMesa says. Let us pray for the intervention of God's spirit to bring healing, light, and truth to the one on the wrong path who is battling Satan's influence. By listening to Paul and praying that such a person is turned over to Satan, we are subtracting ourselves from any role of being a benefactor spiritually of that person. To the extent God listens to your prayers, you are not asking the right prayer at all -- which should be to pray instead that one who sins should be strengthened to overcome Satan rather than be subjected to Satan's power and influence. Jesus taught us in the Our Father to pray to "lead us from temptation" or "deliver us from evil." Jesus did not teach we should ask for ourself or others to be subject to temptation and under the power of evil / Satan. That is precisely the OPPOSITE of what Jesus taught.