1Ti 1:18-20 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.
Who were Hymenaeus and Alexander? I suppose that you, like myself, have often read these verses and moved on rather quickly. Here were two fellows, you see, who were enemies of the cross. Unbelievers outside the church who persecuted Paul. Gotta watch out for those pagans, you know.
Hymenaeus and Alexander, says Paul, had made shipwreck of their faith. They were not pagan unbelievers. Nope. They were “Christian” unbelievers. In some way they blasphemed and they did so by failing to hold faith and a good conscience. I am not positive what that means, but I would venture a guess. They must have been hypocrites whose practice did not mesh with their profession of Christ. Furthermore, they must have taught others that their brand of counterfeit Christianity was the real deal, so y’all come and join us.
Welcome to the fight. This is the war we wage as Christ’s soldiers. Hymee and his buddy Alex are still with us today, probably in larger numbers than in Paul’s time.
Let me give you a true example.
Back in the days when I was in graduate school, just before I was ordained as a pastor and sent off to our first “little country church” that was filled with wolves (I do not exaggerate), my wife and our children attended a small church plant that had been started by men that I highly respected. Several of them were professors in the graduate school I was studying at. Even though I worked all night long on patrol as a police officer, Sunday morning would come around and I looked forward to it. I snagged some Dunkin Donuts for the kids, went home, and we all got ready and headed off to church.
Now, let me tell you a bit about that little church. It was growing rather rapidly. I suppose there would be some 150 people there each Sunday. The sermons were good. People seemed excited.
But, lurking under the surface….
One elder, a theology professor, would eventually reveal himself for what he really was. He abandoned his wife and children and took off with a gal he had been “counseling.” Same fellow who taught us in his soteriology class (doctrine of salvation) that a person could be a Christian but never obey Jesus.
And there was more lurking going on….
Another elder let it be known that two of his children, daughters, had severed all ties with him. He gave this explanation – “one of them had gone to see a therapist who had planted false memories in her mind of him (her father) sexually molesting her and her sister. Please pray for us.” I remember walking into the little Christian bookstore near campus several times each week to look at books and build my own library. One of these daughters worked there and I recall thinking how fortunate she was to have grown up in such a fine Christian home. Yeah.
As I think back on this second evil lurking in the church, and my initial reaction to it in my naivete, I realize that I didn’t have a mindset, a mental paradigm if you will (ie, God’s wisdom) to process this data. The thing was foreign to me even though I was a police officer. Oh, if I had been given a call to take a report and investigate a case of child molestation in the community, I would have handled it fine. But this business of evil within the church was a whole different ball game. I was not equipped to deal with it or even understand it. So I simply believed the father (the perp) and bought his explanation. It would be years before I looked at my wife one day and said, “you know that guy who claimed his daughters had false memories of him abusing them? He was lying!”
Because I had not been taught the Lord’s wisdom. I had not been taught what God’s Word says about evil creeping in among us (and it says a LOT!). I had been taught that pretty much everyone in a local church was a Christian, that if a pastor said he believed in the inerrancy of Scripture, I could trust him, and that the typical bickering that went on behind the scenes in the typical church was, well, typical. Normal. And we just needed to understand that we are all sinners and that requires being patient with one another. Surely then, no pastor, no elder, no member of our church could be capable of such a dastardly deed. The alternate explanation had to be the real one. False memories planted by a therapist. Those dirty, secular, ungodly psychology people did it again!
I am wiser now, thanks to the Lord taking us through many years of the difficult times Paul warned Timothy of. Now I know. I know that:
- A real Christian walks in the Spirit, not in the flesh
- A true church is going to be rather small. A remnant.
- The evil one and his agents are devilishly deceptive and quite capable of “hallelujahs and praise the Lords” that sound oh so genuine (by the way, be wary of the person who spews these phrases out habitually. Warning sign)
- Most of the enemies the Bible warns us about are operating inside our churches, not out in the world. That is to say, they claim to be Christians.
The Lord has faithfully preserved my wife and our children in the faith all these years. He has protected us, provided abundantly for us, and poured out His kindness and goodness upon us. In the midst of all the warfare, He always has proved faithful. The gates of hell have not prevailed over us, or over His church. Trust Him and I can tell you that He will do the same for you.
Psalm 23:1-6 A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (2) He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. (3) He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
(4) Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (5) You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
(6) Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.