John Calvin Complete Commentary - 1 Timothy 1:20 - 1:20

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John Calvin Complete Commentary - 1 Timothy 1:20 - 1:20


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20Of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander. The former will be again mentioned in the Second Epistle, in which the kind of “” which he made is likewise described; for he said that the resurrection was past. (2Ti_2:17.) There is reason to believe that Alexander also was bewitched by an error so absurd. And shall we wonder at the present day, if any are deceived by the various enchantments of Satan, when we see that one of Paul’ companions perished by so dreadful a fall?

He mentions both of them to Timothy as persons whom he knew. For my own part, I have no doubt that this is the same Alexander that is mentioned by Luke, and who attempted, but without success, to quell the commotion. Now he was an Ephesian, and we have said that this Epistle was chiefly written for the sake of the Ephesians. We now learn what was his end; and hearing it, let us keep possession of our faith by a good conscience, that we may hold it safe to the last.

Whom I have delivered to Satan. As I mentioned in the exposition of another passage, (1Co_5:5,) there are some who interpret this to mean that extraordinary chastisement was inflicted on those persons; and they view this as referring to δυνάμεις “ powers” mentioned by Paul in the same Epistle. (1Co_12:28.) For, as the apostles were endowed with the gift of healing, in order to testify the favor and kindness of God towards the godly, so against wicked and rebellious persons they were armed with power, either to deliver them to the devil to be tormented, or to inflict on them other chastisements. Of this “” Peter gave a display in Ananias and Sapphira, (Act_5:1,) and Paul in the magician Bar-Jesus. (Act_13:6.) But, for my own part, I choose rather to explain it as relating to excommunication; for the opinion that the incestuous Corinthian received any other chastisement than excommunication is not supported by any probable conjecture. And, if by excommunicating him, Paul delivered him to Satan, why should not the same mode of expression have a similar import in this passage? Besides, it explains very well the force of excommunication; for, since in the Church Christ holds the seat of his kingdom, out of the Church there is nothing but the dominion of Satan. Accordingly, he who is cast out of the Church must be placed, for a time, under the tyranny of Satan, until, being reconciled to the Church, he return to Christ. I make one exception, that, on account of the enormity of the offense, he might have pronounced a sentence of perpetual excommunication against them; but on that point I would not venture to make a positive assertion.

That they may learn not to blaspheme. What is the meaning of this last clause? For one who has been cast out of the Church takes upon himself greater freedom of acting, because, being freed from the yoke of ordinary discipline, he breaks out into louder insolence. I reply, to whatever extent they may indulge in their wickedness, yet the gate will be shut against them, so that they shall not contaminate the flock; for the greatest injury done by wicked men is, when they mingle with others under the presence of holding the same faith. The power of doing injury is taken from them, when they are branded with public infamy, so that none are so simple as not to know that these are irreligious and detestable men, and therefore their society is shunned by all. Sometimes, too, it happens that — being struck down by this mark of disgrace which has been put upon them — they become less daring and obstinate; and therefore, although this remedy sometimes renders them more wicked, yet it is not always ineffectual for subduing their fierceness.