18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:18-20)
Last week we looked at verses 18 and 19a together, and much of what we talked about from this passage had to do with waging the good warfare, or fighting the good fight. This of course is speaking of spiritual battle, the battles that Christians face while living in this fallen world, in these fallen bodies of our flesh. We are not yet fully sanctified and that means none of us are yet perfected. Sin is not a surprise to us, nor is it uncommon, unfortunately.
In the strict context of 1 Timothy 1:18 Paul is encouraging, really commanding Timothy to stand up to false teachers in the church of Ephesus. This is the specific battle in front of Timothy when Paul wrote this letter to him. There are times when each of us will be in a position to stand up to those who speak falsely about God the Father or Christ or the Holy Spirit or any truth from the Bible. It is our duty and our privilege to stand in this way. That is not to say it is always easy, because it is not, especially for those who may be more timid, even as we assume Timothy may have been.
So if someone claiming Christ and a belief in the Bible begins to spread some kind of false teaching in our church or in some other church then we should lovingly correct them. The correction must come from God’s Word. The correction is to be a biblical response. If it is not then we are simply, and maybe arrogantly, just saying our opinions are worth a fight and are superior to others. We know we are fighting the good fight when we are standing for what God has said in His Word. That makes it really His fight, we are simply a conduit, a tool to be used by Him, saying what is pleasing to Him.
We all have opinions and we all run into complicated circumstances and we may want to apply our opinions to our or other people’s circumstances, and many times that is okay, but if we are simply talking about our opinions then let’s not make that a war. That is not the same as fighting the good fight by bringing in God’s innerant Word that clearly applies in a situation. I hope you see the difference. There is nothing wrong if done so lovingly and trying to help, to share opinions, but if someone doesn’t want to follow it then that is their prerogative. We may not see it as wise, but people don’t always act wisely.
An exception to this would be children obeying parents, or wives submitting to husbands, or employees submitting to employers, or any of us submitting to the government. In these situations we may have to follow someone’s opinion, do what others say because we are called to submit to certain people in God’s order of things. Even this, of course, has limits, that is if someone over us is calling on us to sin.
And so I just want to be clear that Paul is calling Timothy to fight the good fight, wage the good warfare in a particular instance of standing up for God’s Word in the face of false teachers in the church. This is standing for clear biblical truth, not opinions and so on.
Now last week we ventured off a bit when it came to application of this truth of fighting the good fight. There are within each of us spiritual battles that are constantly taking place. I mean inside of us. We touched on that last week too. These battles can seem really big and potentially devastating or we can see them as minor, holding very little consequence. They are not minor, we may just see them that way. We may have battled some huge sin, public type sin, at some point in life, but we daily battle things like a lack of trusting God. Things like, “Well I am late for a meeting, and so I think I’ll drive 10 MPH over the speed limit.” What is that? It is disobeying the law, and God, and not trusting God with our time. Or, we may spend the day in anxiety over a child. Concern is good, praying is good, talking with a child is good, but worry is a sin and is not trusting God with circumstances.
For all the major battles, like what Timothy was facing in the church, he and we face hundreds more in our hearts. Even Timothy’s battle was probably very internal, like, “Will I stand in the face of trouble, will I stand for Christ and face pain, or not?” Here is the point I want to make before we move on. Be aware of what is going on in your thinking daily and fight the good fight of faith in your own life with a good conscience. I just don’t want any of us to look around and think, “Well good, no big battles today, I’m good.” If we do, then we are failing to recognize what is in us, not just what is around us. God gives us strength, all of those battles are His. We can trust Him in it all.
Now, some do not want to follow God and His Word and instead can get off on other things that are outside of or contrary to God’s Word. Ideas, philosophies, desires creep in, peace is made with the enemy and the battle ceases, the spiritual battles cease. A rejecting of faith and a walk away from a good conscience can occur. Have you seen this? Have you seen some walk away from the faith? Have you seen those who seemed to embrace truth, and now have decided to reject it? Or closer to home, does this describe you? There are consequences to actions, there always are. And I am glad that God has been forthright with us in telling us not just what it is like to follow Christ but also what it is like to reject Him. Some reject him their whole lives, some seem to follow for a while and then turn away. Jesus speaks of this in Matthew 13. We see different ways the gospel goes out and different responses to it…
3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9)
Now, if you don’t understand this parable then you are in good company because neither did Jesus’ disciples. And so here is Jesus’ explanation…
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:18-23)
Which one describes you? Each of you have heard, we have all heard the gospel of salvation, of the person of Christ living a perfect life, sinless life and Him giving Himself for us, we know that by faith we can receive Him.
In our passage this morning, 19b – 20, we read this: “By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” Paul speaks openly about a rejection. The word here for reject comes from a Greek word that indicates almost a violent rejection, it is a willful rejection. Grammar here indicates the rejection is primarily that of a good conscience, that is rejection of obedient living. This rejection of conscience or obedient living is described in terms of a disaster, or specifically a shipwreck. A shipwreck of their faith.
I’ve never been in a shipwreck, a literal one, but I know there is nothing good about a shipwreck. A ship tearing apart at sea would be a frightening experience for all aboard. Choosing to live outside of God’s direction for us is like a shipwreck. Contrast a shipwreck with this from Philippians 4…
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9)
Trusting in God and practicing obedience deliver peace, a good conscience. This is so in contrast to living a life that would be described as a “shipwreck.” Would you agree?
As any of us may ponder sinful living, willful sinful living, and as we think about the consequence of willful sinful living, we need to think of this word shipwreck. It is foolish to try and minimize the word shipwreck, that is to think, “Well, my willful sinfulness, it will just be a minor shipwreck or a shipwreck that I can handle okay.” No, a tearing apart of a ship at sea cannot be minimized. It is painful, it is hard, it is not fun. Sin masquerades as something that will be fun, but a shipwreck is not fun, and it affects a lot of people.
These two men mentioned here, Hymenaeus and Alexander, they lived the shipwreck life. I wonder if they could have a do-over, how their lives might have been different. I wonder if they could talk to us today, how they would encourage us? I can imagine a passion in their voices if they could speak to us, a passion urging us to avoid the shipwreck that they faced. Their lives, their shipwrecked lives included this: “whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” These are chilling words. Can you imagine your name being inserted here? Being handed over to Satan in order to learn a lesson. This should be chilling to us. But, oh man, we can be so delusional in our thinking. We can think, “Well okay, as long as I get to keep doing this thing I want to do. I can take being handed over to Satan as long as I get to keep ___________,” and you fill in the blank. Our minds can go there only because we believe that our sin makes us happy. Can you see the facade of that? A big picture of happiness in our sin but it is paper thin and behind it is not happiness, it is shipwreck. We believe a lie and steer the ship right into the rocks.
This is why our pre-salvation life is described in Ephesians 4:22 as one filled with deceitful lusts. Those deceitful lusts are sinful desires that promise peace and joy, that is the paper thin facade of happiness hiding our view from the shipwreck ahead.
To blaspheme is to slander God, it is to misrepresent the truth in what we say or even in how we live. Christians can do this too.
But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. (Colossians 3:8)
Even for believers God provides remedial discipline.
5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:5-11)
This turning them over to Satan is to turn them over to what they already desire, giving them over to their sinful lusts. This would have included putting them out of the church, removing them from the insulation and protection of the church environment, fellowship, and leadership. It is a sad story of the consequences faced by these two guys. It is a vivid picture of how life works in the real world, it is a warning, I believe, for each of us as we go through life.
But thank the Lord, we don’t have to go there. The solution for each of us is a pursuit of Christ daily, moment by moment delighting and believing in Christ. It is to say and to believe what David said in Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” It is to agree with Jesus who said that the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure in a field. It is priceless and of more value than all other things combined. It is to agree with Paul who said, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” It is a guarding of our hearts and a filling of our minds with Christ and His truths. It is a crying out to God to be our Rock and our fortress forever. The Psalmist said in Psalm 34…
6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
9 Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack! (Psalm 34:6-9)
We are needy people, but God loves and protects those who call on Him. Take refuge in Him, taste and see that He is good, fear the Lord, for those who fear Him have no lack!
There is a lesson for us as we read of those like Hymenaeus and Alexander. Let’s not be those whose lives are shipwrecked. For God’s glory, let’s run to Him!
By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:19b-20)