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Monday, November 26, 2012

Stranded and Forsaken

Stranded and Forsaken

Timothy was made a leader of a war, a good war, a war based on the love of God and the lordship of Jesus Christ. His ministry was a part of God's plan, a component of the overall strategy that envisions thousands of churches, millions of Christians filled with the knowledge of God's love, controlled by God's Spirit, displaying the power and mercy of God in Jesus Christ.

Spiritual warfare fights for something positive. The battle is not ultimately to defeat evil, but to uphold good, thereby defeating evil. Paul's charge to Timothy began with a call to love, expressed with a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. Now, at the end of this first chapter, Paul again recalls this over-reaching goal, exhorting Timothy, to hold to faith and a good conscience.

Paul had two men specifically in mind when he entrusted this charge to Timothy:

"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 1:19-20 (ESV)

"This" refers to faith and a good conscience. Paul knew of two men who had made shipwreck of their faith because they had rejected Christ and allowed their consciences to become bad.

SHIPWRECK: nauageo (to be stranded, unable to "navigate"); from naus (a boat, of any size) and ago (to lead, bring, drive, go, pass or induce); from nao (to float)

Paul describes faith as a boat or ship, well-founded, afloat and on course. Disregarding the charts, ignoring the compass, allowing the lines to chafe or overloading the cargo...the captain allows the ship to wander off-course, broach-to in the waves or founder onto the reefs, stranding the boat until rescue or death.

"Holding faith" means much more than praying the sinner's prayer or belonging to a church.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Can you describe a time in your life when you felt you had made shipwreck of your faith? What were you ignoring or rejecting? What brought you back on course?

HOLDING: echo (to hold, in possession, as ability, with contiguity, in relation or condition)

"Hold" is used over 700 times in the Bible, meaning anything from a child, to wearing a jacket, to a people.

"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel - (which means, God with us)." Matthew 1:23 (ESV)

"Son" is the same Greek word as "hold".

"Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey." Matthew 3:4 (ESV)

"Wore" is the same Greek word as "hold".

"They brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them." Matthew 4:24 (KJV)

"People" is the same Greek word as "hold".

It is plain that "hold" means something very close to a person, something essential or valuable, something connected with their identity or their body.

To "hold faith" means to consider a specific truth to be absolutely essential. "Faith" means confidence in truth that is not seen - there is no outward evidence of the truth - but nonetheless, the truth is essential.

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)

"The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known." John 1:17-18 (ESV)

"Jesus Christ: Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:7-9 (ESV)

"He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen." 1 Timothy 6:15-16 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Why does God's invisibility often seem to be the hardest thing about our relationship with God? How does invisibility glorify God?

Hymenaeus and Alexander were spiritual sailors who disregarded their charts and compass, trusting only what their eyes could see. They disregarded their conscience, relying only upon their stomachs and their hearts of flesh.

Their ship became stranded.

HYMENAEUS: Hymenaios, from Hymen (the god of weddings)

Hymenaeus was named after Hymen, a god who ruled over weddings, often connected closely with "Hymenaios", the wedding hymn which was sung by the bride's attendants as she was led to the house of the groom. A wedding would be expected to be disastrous unless Hymen blessed the union, and his name was called aloud repeatedly during the ceremony. Both "hymn" and "hymen" are derived from the Greek wedding ceremony. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hymen_(god))

The name of Hymenaios evokes beauty and joy. But if the song of Hymen ignores conscience, the wedding ceremony will become a noisy, drunken riot, broken by arguments and lust.

Paul later referred to Hymenaeus as an irreverent babbler, leading people into ungodliness, spreading heresy like gangrene infects a body (2 Timothy 2:17).

ALEXANDER: Alexandros, from aleko (to ward off) and aner (a man, an individual male)

Alexander's name exudes authority and strength of Man. But if Man ignores the Creator's chart and tosses his life's compass overboard, he changes strength to strident pride. He becomes one man, strong and superior, repelling all challengers, maintaining his exalted position.

Paul considered Alexander a personal enemy, saying only that Alexander had done Paul great harm (2 Timothy 4:14). Alexander may have been related to Anna, the Jewish high priest. As such, Alexander would have undoubtedly known Paul earlier as "Saul of Tarsus", the fervent, young Jew who persecuted Christians. When "Saul the Persecutor" became "Paul the Christian", Alexander most likely became Paul's enemy. (Acts 4:6)

Paul names Hymenaeus and Alexander as examples of "certain persons" who were teaching different doctrine, devoted to myths and endless genealogies, and swerving away from love, a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. Paul pointed the two out as men desiring to be teachers of the law, but without understanding the lawful use of the law.

How did Paul deal with these two men? He handed them "over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme." (1 Timothy 1:10)

Paul had a similar response to a man in the Corinthian church who had committed adultery with his own father's wife, with the knowledge and arrogant support of the church.

"Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord." 1 Corinthians 5:2-5 (ESV)

The terror of Satan's power can be seen in Job's experience.

Although Job was a blameless, upright man, one who revered God and turned away from evil, a man of integrity, God allowed Job to be delivered into Satan's hand:

"The Lord said to Satan, - Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand." Job 1:12 (ESV)

With God's permission, Satan ruined Job's life. Mauraders attacked, killing Job's servants and stealing livestock. A storm of fire consumed his sheep. Raiders took his camels. Every source of wealth was lost in a single day.

This was only Phase One for Satan.

A great wind came across the wilderness, smashing into the house in which all of Job's sons and daughters were gathered, killing all his children.

Satan's final touch was against Job himself, stopping just short of killing him.

"Satan answered the Lord and said, - Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face. - And the Lord said to Satan, - Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life. - So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes." Job 2:4-8 (ESV)

Job was not a "certain person". Job was not swerving from love or becoming an enemy of God. God's purpose was not one of vengeance or correction. It ultimately resulted in joy for Job and glory for God.

In handing Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan, Paul was not expressing anger. He was not desiring revenge. His hope was that they would learn not to blaspheme. For the man in the Corinthian church, Paul expected the suffering experienced at the hand of Satan would soften the man's heart, allowing the Holy Spirit to change evil actions into repentence and rejoicing.

Job's horrific experience in the hands of Satan resulted in a transformed heart. Outwardly he had been a model of integrity, but within he had doubts and confusion, pride in his own strength and ignorance of God's power and wisdom. After days of unrelenting pain and loss, Job's eyes were opened.

"I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. - Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? - Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. - Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me. - I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Job 42:2-6 (ESV)

The man in the Corinthian church, as well as the entire church, also benefited from suffering:

"I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God." 2 Corinthians 7:9-12 (ESV)

This was Paul's expectation for Hymenaeus and Alexander. Paul could hand over an enemy to Satan only because he was sure that God would be in control of Satan. The story of Job makes it plain that God allows, but still retains ultimate control over, Satan's demonic power. God uses Satan as a tool at times to convert sinners into saints.

Paul's aim in handing over his enemies to Satan was for their good, not for his vengeance.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How would you define "enemy"? Do you have an enemy, and would it be appropriate for you to "hand over to Satan" your enemy? How would you do that? What prayer or ceremony or behavior would accomplish it?

Shipwreck II BW (Abandoned shipwreck at the bay of Praia, Cape Verde), by David Gil, Creative Commons License