C. Grace-inspired faithfulness (1:18-20):
The validation for Paul’s right to charge Timothy to “fight a good fight” of the faith was based on his own life. Paul revealed leadership in living the gospel, and thus, he enjoined on Timothy the same. In other words, Paul was saying to Timothy, “If I can do it, so can you.”
It was not that there were specific prophecies in the Old Testament that named Timothy as one who would be a courageous warrior for the gospel. Some New Testament prophet in the immediate historical context of these matters possibly affirmed that this previously young man from Lystra would be a great man of God when he left the security of his mother and grandmother. Since Timothy may have at this time in his ministry been discouraged because of the opposition that some brought against him, Paul wanted the young man to remember that there were many others who had invested a great deal of trust in him to preach the gospel to the world. Timothy needed to remember that he had been sent forth by the “laying on of the hands of the presbytery” (1 Tm 4:14). There may have been someone at the time who said that Timothy would do great things for God.
In order to fight the good fight, one must keep the “faith and a good conscience.” Paul had faithfully labored when he was an enemy to the faith, and steeped in religion (See Gl 1:13). He reminded Timothy that even as a persecutor, he conscientiously believed that he was doing the Lord’s will. But now as a disciple, he simply continued on with his faith and good conscience in preaching the gospel. He called on Timothy to do the same.
But some “shipwrecked their faith.” They did so by rejecting the principles of a good soldier for Christ about which Paul wrote in this context. In the text, Paul listed two individuals whom Timothy evidently knew from past association. Hymenaeus and Alexander were by Paul “delivered to Satan so that they might learn not to blaspheme.”
To blaspheme means that one assigns the work of God to be the work of Satan. On his first missionary journey there were those Jews who were “filled with envy. And contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed those things that were spoken by Paul” (At 13:45). These Jews were so set in their religion that they could not connect the dots from prophecy to fulfillment in reference to Jesus being the Messiah. And since they could not connect the dots from prophecy to fulfillment, they were set against Paul who did.
In the case of a Christ-sent apostle, we have in this context at least two people who were “delivered to Satan so that they might learn not to blaspheme.” We are not told if they were struck blind as was Bar-jesus (See At 13:9-11). They certainly did not drop dead as Ananias and Sapphira before the Christ-sent apostle Peter (At 5:1-11). But we could assume that some physical affliction came upon them so that they might be taught not to oppose the message of the gospel by assigning it to be a message from Satan.
We might conclude that this could be the same Hymenaeus that Paul mentioned in his second letter to Timothy. If so, then Hymenaeus did not learn his lesson. Paul mentioned that Hymanaeus’ word “spread like gangrene” (2 Tm 2:17). In the second letter Paul also instructed the young disciple Timothy to “avoid profane and empty babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness” (2 Tm 2:16). Hymanaeus and Alexander were two who generated conflict, and thus they were to be avoided.
[Next in series: April 2]