1Ti 1:18-20 “This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.”
Paul began this chapter by delivering a charge (or command) to Timothy to instruct some at Ephesus to “teach no other doctrine, neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith (1Tim 1:3-4).” As an encouragement to Timothy, Paul then related how he (Paul) had been put into the ministry in spite of all his failures up to the point when Jesus came to him on the road to Damascus. He calls attention again to the truth that Jesus Christ saves sinners and shows mercy for their sakes and as an example to others. Here, Paul returns to his original purpose concerning his command to Timothy.
There is evidence in the scripture that some prophets remained in the church during Paul’s time (Acts 11:27, Rom 12:6). It is possible that one of these gave a prophecy concerning Timothy and his ministry. It is also possible that Paul was referring to testimony of Timothy’s brothers and sisters in Christ as to the gift they had witnessed in him (even as we do today). Regardless of the actual source, it is obvious that God had made his call in Timothy’s life apparent to others.
When God calls us, it makes a change in us that others can see. Not everyone may understand what it is they are seeing, but some will. Not everyone will love the changes they see, but some will. These changes are wrought in us by God for His glory.
We often marvel at the change in Paul and the blessed story of how God sent Ananias to him. Our hearts are touched when we hear Ananias refer to him as “Brother Saul (Acts 9:17).” We rejoice at the change in Peter and his manner of preaching when the enemies of the gospel were amazed that an ignorant fisherman could speak like Peter did (Acts 4:13). Timothy, although still very young (1Tim 4:12), was blessed to preach with power and understanding.
It is encouraging when others can see and testify to the changes that God works in our lives, and it was to encourage Timothy that Paul called attention to this. Those who minister need encouragement because they have been given a mission (see Strong’s definition of war). Only by God’s grace are men able to carry out the mission they have been given. Not only are there those who would oppose this mission of preaching the gospel from the outside, but there is also the daily warfare within as we subdue our carnal nature.
To the end of carrying our mission successfully, we must hold faith and a good conscience. We cling to the truth that we are totally reliant of Christ for salvation with a solid awareness. If we put away the truth that we are totally reliant on Christ, then we become stranded (made shipwreck) in the churning waves of doubt and despair. Paul calls this blasphemy.
Paul here names two such men directly. By delivering them to Satan, Paul is not saying that he called on Satan to take them. Instead, he is declaring that he had reached the end of laboring with these men through his ministry that they might realize the full futility of putting away a good conscience concerning faith. Please note that he was not doing this in order to wash his hands of these brothers, but instead it was an effort to teach them to repent of their blasphemy.
May we, like Timothy, give diligent heed to the charge we have been given by God to declare only the truth as it is in Christ Jesus!