Can a Christian be delivered to Satan?
Today, a Christian can be delivered over to Satan, but not by another Christian. The principle is derived from two passages that describe a Christian believer who is delivered to Satan for punishment in time. How is it possible, when a Christian believer is indwelt by the Lord (John 14:20; 17:20-23; Rom. 8:9) to be delivered to Satan?
Fortunately, by the grace of God, every person who has genuinely trusted in Jesus Christ as his Savior, accepted the finished work of Jesus on the cross for his sins, that is, by faith believes in Jesus as the only way for salvation, receives the irrevocable gift of eternal life. That eternal life with God (John 17:3) cannot be terminated because the person is forever a child of God (John 1:12). So how could a Christian be delivered to Satan and what would be the purpose?
There are two clear examples of Christians being delivered to Satan. The first is the example of the young Christian in the Corinthian church (cf. 1 Cor. 1:2) who was committing incest with his step-mother (1 Cor. 5:1) . Paul chided the church who thought they were acting in grace, but were not upholding the holiness of God. Paul wrote,
4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1 Cor. 5:4-5 NKJ)
Paul, first, directed this action in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Secondly, they were to be gathered together, that is, be in unity and agreement with each other. No one was to decide and act on his own. No one was unilaterally to make this action. The authority was in the whole of the church, because they would have followed church discipline described in Matthew 18:15-17. Thirdly, he was delivered over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. His spirit, however would be saved in the day of judgment, but the body would be given to death, the Sin unto Death.1 His life would cut short, so fewer sins would be committed. Fourthly, Paul introduces Satan to allow for horrible discipline and removal of God’s blessings. Yet, remember the purpose is so that “…his spirit may be saved…
The second clear passage is 1 Timothy 1:18-20. Here Paul is training Timothy as the next leader in the church, to take strong stands and confront those who rebel against authority within the church. Paul wrote,
18This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,
19having 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. (1 Tim. 1:18-20 NKJ)
First, Paul acknowledges the spiritual warfare in every local church, “that by them you may wage good warfare.” Secondly, Timothy stands in contrast to others in the church, who have left the faith and suffered shipwreck. The term “shipwreck” refers to those Christians who have followed the Lord in salvation and were moving in God’s journey, but rebel against God’s growth pattern and the authority in the church. Therefore instead of enjoying God’s peace, end up in pieces floating in the turmoil and waves of life. Thirdly, Paul delivers them “that they may learn not to blaspheme,” or make light of God in sin. Satan’s punishments are designed to force them to repent back to the Lord, not to lose their salvation. Fourthly, Paul is an apostle establishing the churches. He helped Timothy go through the discipline process. As an apostle, he has special privileges.
An additional passage explains how Jesus describes Satan’s involvement. Luke recorded for us,
<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>31 And the Lord said1, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>32 “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32 NKJ)
Jesus could have delivered Peter to Satan, but He chose against that action. Instead, Jesus prayed for Peter, because the action is ultimately in the hands of God the Father. Jesus was in His humanity and did not act independently from the Father (John 5:19, 30). Satan, on the other hand, looks for those who are rebellious, become passively indifferent or act independent from God. When a Christian needs to repent, there are times when allowance is given to Satan for his evil works. Satan can never choose to act on his own initiative. He must seek permission to interfere in the lives of believers. Job is a clear example of God’s sovereign will over Satan’s ability.
God gave permission to Satan to test Job. Job was a righteous man (Job 1:8), yet God allowed Satan to destroy his business and murder all of his children (Job 1: 12). Satan could only do what the Lord allowed. A second allowance was granted, because Job proved faithful to God (Job 1:21). In the second part of the test from God, Satan was allowed to touch Job’s body, but not take his life (Job 2:6). Satan put boils over Job’s body, but did not take his life (Job 2:7). God delivered Job to Satan, not for discipline, but for God’s glory.
Consequently, we learn that God the Father may deliver a believer to Satan to reveal faith and bring glory to God. Each situation is under the sovereign control of the Lord at all times. When God sovereignly allows the devil to punish a Christian, He makes those decisions also. A Christian can be delivered to Satan for righteous living and for wickedness, but only under the sovereign and merciful care of the Lord.
There are times when a believer is ensnared by the devil and the Lord does not allow repentance. Paul wrote,
And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient,25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (2 Tim. 2:24-26 NKJ)
First the “snare” of the devil is something in which a person was caught. This is like the “foothold” that a Christian can give to the devil for unconfessed sins, like anger. Paul wrote that if a person lets anger fester beyond the sunset, he gives “place to the devil.” (Eph 4:27 NKJ) The word “place” means a foothold into the spiritual life. That “place” or “foothold” is the snare in which a Christian can be caught and awaits the Lord’s granting of repentance. There are a host of reasons for God’s sovereign work to be seen and understood. The point is, some Christians are caught in the snare, because God has delivered them over to the devil to learn dependence on the Lord.
In the beginning of the Church, God recorded a special account of deliverance to Satan by Peter. As many in the church gave up of their resources to care for the needs of suffering saints, some Christians gained great attention by what they contributed. Ananias and Sapphira had good intentions, but they wanted to ensure they received acclaim for themselves as well. When they sold property, they kept back part of the sale for themselves, thinking no one would notice. By their own sin in the Downward Spiral,1Satan was already influencing them and they died the Sin unto Death,
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession.2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?4 “While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” (Act 5:1-4 NKJ)
There are many other warnings in Scripture regarding the place Satan can gain into a believer’s life. For example, Paul warns husbands and wives to refrain from sexual intimacy for a short time and only for fasting and prayer, lest Satan gain a foothold (1 Cor. 7:5). Satan can take advantage of a local church because of a failure of forgiveness (2 Cor. 2:11). Satan is the chief disguise artist, who works through many people within the church (2 Cor. 11:13-15). These can be Christians, who are influenced by Satan, although they cannot be indwelt by him.
Paul acknowledged Satan’s work in his own life to cause Paul to remain humble (2 Cor. 12:7-10). God’s purpose in Paul was to strengthen him and depend on God more boldly. However, Satan can hinder Christians from accomplishing God’s will, so we need to be on alert (1 Thes. 2:18).
Many times Satan can function in churches. In the seven churches of Asia Minor in Revelation 2-3, John recorded Satan’s influence. For example in Smyrna, “those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” (Rev 2:9 NKJ) In fact, Satan, the devil was “about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev 2:10 NKJ) Satan dwelt in Pergamos and God said, “Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.” (Rev 2:13 NKJ) In Thyatira had not learned “depths of Satan…” (Rev 2:24 NKJ) In Philadelphia, John told them to hold to His name, because those “of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not…” would be humbled before the saints. (Rev 3:9 NKJ)
A Christian can be delivered to Satan, but Christians do not have that unilateral authority. When a church follows discipline procedures (Matt. 18:15-17), then the church leadership puts the unrepentant brother out of the church (Matt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:5). The purpose was always for restoration through repentance (2 Tim. 2:24-26; Jam. 5:19-20; 1 John 5:16). The key for all Christians is to “submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.(Jam. 4:7-8 NKJ) Why? You need to “be sober, be vigilant; becauseyour adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8 NKJ)
1See the Downward Spiral at this link: http://renewingtruth.blogspot.com/2013/06/question-what-is-downward-spiral.html
2Also see how a Christian can be in the Downward Spiral at: http://renewingtruth.blogspot.com/2013/06/question-how-sinful-can-believer-get.html