18This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, 19keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. 20Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme. 1 Timothy 1:18-20
Timothy was tapped on the shoulder for the work in Ephesus not because of winning a popularity contest, passing a standardized test, or due to family connections. Leaders including Paul chose him with a sense of mandate from the Holy Spirit, and they let him know that at the beginning. Here Paul, as a spiritual dad, is reminding Timothy of his particular calling to “instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines.” (1:3) For the time being, this was Timothy’s “faithful fight.”
In all ministry work, the jagged rocks just beneath the surface, those that represent potential moral compromise, pose a constant threat. As a leader, when you reject any aspect of the faith, you are a shipwreck waiting to happen. That is why you must remain constantly vigilant, not only in fleeing and resisting the devil, but in refocusing constantly on your calling and from whence it came.
Paul points to two characters, Hymenaeus and Alexander, as exhibits A and B of shipwrecked would-be ministers. At the least, Hymenaeus apparently did not accurately handle the word of truth and chose instead “worldly and empty chatter” (2 Timothy 2:15-18). Alexander may be the same Alexander the coppersmith in 2 Timothy 4:14 that did Paul “much harm,” but this is unlikely. But we have learned that blasphemy can be aimed at God or God’s representative. You can slander God and/or his mouthpiece. Paul, we know, was up against this all the time. So in this case, Paul turned these men over to Satan to be taught a lesson. The original language seems to indicate that this action was taken after multiple offenses, so we can surmise Paul was longsuffering. The underlying words also suggest that there was some doubt that even buffeting by Satan would do the trick.
It’s a sad thing to see someone take a wrong turn in his ministry. How blessed was Timothy that Paul stayed after him to “fight the good fight.”
Staying qualified is a battle. (1 Corinthians 9:27)