I Timothy 1:12-20 “Shipwrecked”
I would like to begin in the end and move back to the beginning in today’s sermon. The reason for this is that it is not until the end of the text do we all realize that Paul really had two people in mind all along while he was writing his theology to Timothy. I think we would say today that Paul was being passive aggressive, excepting the fact that eventually he names Hymaneus and Alexander outright and hands them over to Satan! I am not even quite sure how one does that, but Paul has got it figured out.
So, who were Hymaneus and Alexander? What horrible thing had they done? They were recognized as leaders of the early church in Ephesus. However, their theology did not align well with Timothy’s and Paul’s. They were of an epicurean ilk. To them, Christian morality did not matter. To them, one could go out and live the most wretched life imaginable, for they thought Jesus would not mind that. To them, Jesus came to save sinners, so the more you sin, the more grace is coming your way!
When Paul states that he has handed them over to Satan, that really causes us to wonder—does it not? What power is that? I think it is the final recognition that perhaps someone is just beyond salvation. I do not think that Paul in prayer somehow got in touch with the devil and thereby delivered these two souls over. More likely in prayer the Holy
Spirit whispered gently in to Paul’s ear: “Tell Timothy that Hymaneus and Alexander are not worth his trouble anymore.” Because they are living a life of deceit, they belong to the Great Deceiver already. Hymaneus and Alexander have turned themselves over to Satan.
After the insurrection on Wednesday at our nations capital, the FBI put out pictures of the people who had violently taken over the Capitol. They asked the public to identify them. I saw one man carrying a steel pipe in one hand and a Jesus banner in the other. Yes, there were apparent pipe bombs left in the building. Molotov cocktails were found later. That man apparently has the faith, but not even an ounce of morality. Hymanaeus? Alexander? Is that you? Are you really doing these things in the name of Jesus?
Another person had cornered hostages in the gallery of the Senate Chamber was screaming, really blasting, an incoherent prayer of some sort over their captives. Wow, that is like a brand new evangelism style! Kick down the door to someone’s house, take them hostage in fear, and then scream nonsense at them! Hymanaeus? Alexander? Do I see you in there?
This morning I “hand these people over to Satan.” Doesn’t that feel right? For every Christian who thinks that they are somehow justified to terrorize, commit acts of violence, lie, cheat, and steal; I turn you over to Satan right now, but I do this knowing that you have already made your deal with the Devil.
One man broke into Speaker Pelosi’s personal office and put his feet up on her desk while he reclined in the chair. He took a selfie of himself so the police know now who he is. He qualified having taken letterhead and an envelope from that office by saying, “But, I did not steal! I left a quarter on the desk.” I hand you over to Satan for your life is already in His hands.
Is it okay to just write somebody off like that? Is it good to withhold salvation and redemption from anyone? Let us go back up to the start of this passage now that we understand why Paul names these two miscreants pretending to be Christian leaders. Paul states that he is the biggest of all sinners himself. He is the “prototype” of the worst sinner there could be. He names the very sins that he is guilty of. Paul confesses that he had blasphemed, persecuted, and insulted the Lord.
If you would like to scan the Book of Acts to see all of the treachery that Paul was engaged in before his conversion, be my guest. That will be great homework for you. Paul had been present at the very stoning of the first Martyr. That was Saint Stephen in Acts 7:54 to the end: “Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him. But he. . . .then they cast him out of the city and stoned him, laying their garments at the feet of Saul—and Saul was consenting to his death.”
That is right Saint Paul was the very prototype of a sinner as he had even been involved in the stoning of believers in Christ. Acts 9:1 “Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest to ask for letters to the synagogues at Damascus so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them back to Jerusalem.”
Yet, on that road to Damascus, Saul is met by the risen Lord himself. Saul’s life is changed forever. He even changes his name to Paul. We know him now as Saint Paul. He experienced the love and grace of God directly that day. He was made blind by the light of heaven. He continued to Damascus to be healed by a Christian named Ananias. It is there that he meets Barnabas, who first acknowledges that Saul is no longer the man of sin and persecution he had been before. They begin their ministries together.
If Jesus can save a man like Paul! We all have good shot at salvation, no?! Why is Paul then handing Hymaneus and Alexander over to Satan? Paul, of all people, should know the power of God’s redemption over sin. The answer seems to be in this one word: “Shipwreck.”
You see, Saint Paul once he had received the faith in Jesus Christ never wavered. He stayed the course. He is on the journey. Even when he himself is shipwrecked on the island of Malta as he is being sent to Rome as a prisoner, all we see is that he remains strong in the faith and committed to Jesus Christ in his life.
We all can think that we are on our way, on the Way, with Jesus. Then, we plow ourselves into a rock and start taking on water. We become so sure of ourselves that we run full steam ahead just like the captain of the Titanic did. We think that nothing can get in our way. Think again. Real icebergs are out there! You will not see them. You might be taking on water and going down before you even know what happened. You might be up to your elbows already.
One time I was flying from Mexico City back to Los Angeles. The plane took off in the evening and was scheduled to land about three and half hours later. About twenty minutes into the flight I saw the stewardess go to the front bulkhead of the plane and hit one of the many buttons that were there. An announcement then came over the loudspeakers, “Ladies and gentlemen, please prepare for landing at Los Angeles International Airport. Please make sure your seats are upright, and so on.” As it turned out, nobody on the staff on the plane, Mexicana, could speak any English. So, they pressed the pre-recorded landing statement.
Thereafter it was announced in Spanish that the plane was making an emergency landing in Guadalajara. The hydraulics had gone out on the plane. Actually, the pilots did a great job landing the crippled plane. But, what I still remember so vividly were the people who were actually not strapped in flying out of their seats and hitting the luggage bins above when we semi-crashed. There were real injuries. Babies had been tossed to the air. Everything was a wreck in the cabin and undercarriage of the plane. But, the announcement had been “We are now approaching LA International. . .” It took me two days to get home after that.
You have a real emergency in your faith life? Yet, all you hear is the same pre-recorded message of a nice safe landing? Shipwrecks happen. Planes crash land. Life is never going to be that pre-recorded voice.
Just like Paul, we pray for God’s mercy! Whether we see tomorrow, and whether we still believe, it is by the absolute grace and mercy of God on high.