Summary: Paul writes in his letters to Timothy and warns about those who have turned away or deserted him!
FEELING ALL ALONE
In my recent reading of I and II Timothy, I was struck by Paul’s declaration to the young preacher how many had turned from the faith. Although partly as a warning to Timothy, a theme that runs through both letters is to avoid foolish arguments and that some will turn away. Paul offers specific examples of people Timothy knew. He offers personal examples of those who had turned from him. It is a warning to the minister that there will be those who cannot accept sound teaching and those who disappear at the first sign of trouble. In order to better understand this concept, I have separated some of these out and attempted to examine them.
THOSE WHO TURNED AWAY FROM TRUTH:
Hymenaeus and Alexander (is this the coppersmith/metalworker Paul mentions in II Timothy 6:14-15) refused to pay attention their own conscience and have “ruined” (CEB) their faith. King James, Holman Christian Standard Bible, and the New International Version all use the idea of “shipwrecked” when describing what these people have done to their faith. Shipwrecked, I believe, is a much stronger word image, at least for me, because it implies that they have run aground, are not making progress. They are, at best, castaway on an island of error, or clinging to their wrong doctrine to keep from sinking. It is Paul’s desire that while they are under the power of Satan they will learn their lesson.
In the context beginning even a few verses earlier, some had wandered from the truth and sought out those clever sounding arguments because of the love of money. CEB uses a powerful word picture saying that they had impaled themselves on the love of money and brought a great deal of pain into their own lives because money became their goal.
Paul once again names Hymenaeus, this time adding Philetus and describing their particular error—claiming that the resurrection had already taken place—and not only hurting themselves but undermining the faith of others. Paul dealt with the church regarding this false doctrine of the resurrection having already taken place in his first letter to the Corinthians. These men had deviated (intentionally taken a wrong turn) from the truth. Avoid the silly discussions, is Paul’s instruction to Timothy because during this discussions others are forced to choose sides, and some will choose the wrong side. God doesn’t call us to debate with those who are in error, but simply to preach and teach truth.
I am not certain that Alexander the craftsman\metalworker (coppersmith) is the same Alexander named in I Timothy. He may have been the Alexander in Acts 19 who is brought forth, possibly because of his membership in the artisan guild, whose defense of THE WAY is shouted down by the people of Ephesus who chose their own God, Artemis.
Whether or not he is the same Alexander is unclear. However, the Alexander that Paul refers to in these verses had really hurt Paul. This could be because Paul considered him an ally in the faith and then he switched sides. I believe Paul was deeply hurt. He says that this man “has really hurt me” (CEB). This is z really good way of Paul describing the depths of the personal injury he felt by this man’s opposition.
Alexander’s problem is that he was now in opposition of Paul’s teaching, therefore Paul warns Timothy to beware of this man. It is possible Paul wanted to warn Timothy that this craftsman may have appeared to be an ally in the faith, when instead he was an enemy.
Those who had deserted Paul
Paul says that everyone in Asia had deserted him—among them Hermogenes and Phgyleus. These names would have been familiar to Timothy and I’m certain that Paul was speaking of those that were confused by his imprisonment because in context Paul was telling Timothy not to be ashamed of his imprisonment. With no media spin—as people learned through the grapevine that Paul was imprisoned—there is no telling what people were told Paul had done. These people who were turning away from Paul either felt that Paul deserved his imprisonment. Perhaps they were deceived about what he was imprisoned for. On the other hand, maybe they saw the growing persecution of Christianity and felt that they might be identified as disloyal to the Roman government should they identify with Paul. So they turned away.
Paul says everyone had turned away from him. In fact, he says in II Timothy 4:16 that nobody took his side or spoke for him at his first court hearing. He also says he was rescued from the lion’s mouth so in some manner the hearing must’ve gone well.
I’m certain that as Paul wrote that everyone had turned from him, he wished that ancient letters had decent erasers. For in the next breath he describes the faithfulness of Onesiphorous. In fact, he names others that we will discuss in the next section.