Paul ends the first chapter of 1 Timothy on a very sad note. He encourages Timothy to be faithful to the Gospel, and contrasts him with two men who have “made a shipwreck” of their testimony. These individuals named Hymenaeus and Alexander were “handed over to Satan”, or allowed to face the full consequences of their actions, so they would stop blaspheming the name of God (1:20).
Verses nineteen and twenty can be confusing, so it’s important to view them in the context of 1 Timothy chapter one. The chapter itself focuses on the danger of false doctrine, and specifically the danger of a works based relationship with God.
- We Reject False Doctrine Because it Focuses on Man Instead of God (1:3-7)
- We Reject False Doctrine Because it is Based on Good Works (1:8-10)
- We Reject False Doctrine Because Salvation, and Growth is Based on Grace (1:11-17)
- We Reject False Doctrine Because Good Works Destroy a Testimony (1:18-20)
From the concluding challenge of Paul in chapter one, and the theme of the passage itself, it appears that Hymenaeus and Alexander went from Grace to a works based relationship with God……..
And that absolutely destroyed their testimony
Their testimony (and the testimony of that church) was compromised because they had bought into one of the most deceptive forms of false doctrine. A belief that you are saved by grace through faith (apart from works), and then you grow spiritually in your own strength. What makes this false doctrine so dangerous is it doesn’t affect your belief system, but your actions.
It is possible to believe and preach that everything we receive from Christ comes through grace, while at the same time living as if it depends upon works. This creates a contradiction that undermines our testimonies as Believers, and creates hypocrites.
So it’s incredibly important that we don’t just refuse to believe false doctrine, but refuse to live it as well
It is incredibly easy for us to move from a grace-based relationship with God that relies on Him, to a works-based relationship with God that doesn’t need His help.
- It’s found in prioritizing work over worship (success is defined by accomplishment instead of closeness to God)
- It’s found in impatience with God
- It’s found in a lack of faith when we pray (read more about this in yesterdays post here)
- It’s found in a mindset or philosophy that emphasizes working harder
- It’s found in being too busy to hear the call of God
Thankfully few of us reach the level of Hymenaeus and Alexander who have completely destroyed their testimonies, but we have each found ourselves drifting from grace to works.
When we do fail Satan tells us we need to “fix the problem” which simply continues the cycle of works. Instead God calls us to fall upon His grace and mercy.
I am grateful the Lord has reminded me the most powerful false doctrine isn’t one that says God doesn’t exist, it’s one that lives as if He doesn’t exist.