Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:19-1)
We know more about Alexander than Hymenaeus. Some people believe he was the same Alexander who was brought into the theater at Ephesus when an angry crowd couldn’t find the apostle Paul. A riot had ensued over Paul’s ministry, which had led to people rejecting sorcery and idol worship. Sorcery and idol worship constituted a big chunk of the economy in Ephesus, and some businessmen were ready to tear Paul to shreds.
If this was the same Alexander, then it appears he was faithful enough to the Lord at this time to be considered a target by Paul’s enemies. But that was to change. In our passage this morning, he is said to have “shipwrecked” in his faith, along with Hymenaeus. And in 2 Timothy, 4:14-15, assuming Paul is talking about the same Alexander, we learn he was a metal worker and that he had become a strong opponent of the Lord’s work.
It is possible Alexander was also a part of the idol worship industry in Ephesus before giving his life to Jesus? Did his persecutors finally wear him down? And did he finally decide it was better to fight Paul than suffer harm?
It is interesting to speculate on the possibilities, but perhaps the most important issue at stake in this morning’s passage is the status of a believer who has “shipwrecked” and has been “handed over to Satan”. Is this person lost to Jesus? And is it possible for someone like the Apostle Paul to hand someone over to Satan…i.e. throw them to the lions?
One important detail in our passage is the fact that the ultimate outcome of handing these men over to Satan is that they would be taught not to blaspheme. In other words, Paul doesn’t want them to continue down their current path. Instead, he wants them to find their way again.
There is strong evidence in the New Testament for a strategy of restoration that requires people to absorb the full force of the consequences of their actions, in hopes their pain will lead them to repentance. In 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 Paul wrote: “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.”
I believe this is Paul’s hope with Hymenaeus and Alexander. Paul, of all people, knew he was not in charge of people’s eternal destiny, and he has just finished talking about the fact he was the “worst” of sinners, but received grace. Yet, he is extremely frustrated by the actions of Hymenaeus and Alexander and knows they need to be confronted.
Some people have to learn things the hard way. And when we ignore their sin, or “soft-pedal” our approach, we might actually be doing them more harm than good.
Dear God, teach me the importance of being firm. In Jesus’ name, Amen.