Hymnaeuse was an early Christian who spread false teaching. Does theology really matter? Doesn’t it actually divide the church, rather than unite it and build it up? This common criticism toward doctrine, or official beliefs and teachings of the church, may sound appealing at first—but a careful look at a man named Hymenaeus should help us see that theology is indeed important and even critical to a healthy church.
What the Bible tells us about Hymenaeus is not good. Apparently he and two other men named Alexander and Philetus were stirring up the church in Ephesus with their teaching about the resurrection. It seems that Hymenaeus was teaching that the resurrection—the day when all the dead are raised to life and eternal judgment—had already taken place. It is not certain whether this means that he was saying that the day had come and gone and that they had missed the event, or that somehow the resurrection occurred as part of their acceptance of new life in Christ. In any case, it was upsetting some other believers, who were no doubt confused and concerned by all this.
So did Paul simply downplay the significance of the teaching about the resurrection? Did he say that Hymenaeus is entitled to his beliefs? No. Paul described the effect of his teaching as “gangrene” (2 Timothy 2:17). In another passage, Paul also spoke of Hymenaeus as having been “handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:20), which might have had to do with his teaching as well.
It is not known for sure exactly what Paul meant by “handed over to Satan” when speaking of Hymenaeus’s punishment. Most scholars take it to mean some form of excommunication or conditional expulsion from the church to lead him to repent of his actions.