This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:18-20)
The early church faced many obstacles with division, greed, neglect, self-seeking men imposing their rule upon others, disorder in public worship and apostasy. Satan began immediately to shake the foundation of the kingdom and succeeded in drawing disciples of Christ to him. Paul sternly warned in his letters the cost of allowing the leaven of sin to penetrate the fabric of the New Testament church. Much of his writing is devoted to combating the many fires begun by the ungodly attitudes, doctrines and practices of those who sought to corrupt the purity of the gospel. The Jewish question had to do with imposing the Law of Moses on the followers of Christ. Gentiles brought the baggage of idolatry into the doctrines of Christ corrupting the pattern and design of the church. Immorality caused the souls of many saints to stray from the truth. One of the most fundamental teachings of the new covenant was the belief in the resurrection of Jesus and yet there were some who began to preach a denial of resurrection. There would be time given to patiently teach those in error but when all efforts were exhausted and hearts refused to change the power of God’s wrath was executed upon those who rebelled. Paul warns in his first letter to Timothy the dangers of straying from the course of faith in the troubled waters of apostasy pointing out two individuals who had shipwrecked their faith.
There is very little information about Hymenaeus and Alexander. Hymenaeus will be mentioned again in the second letter Paul writes to Timothy as a man who denies the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Alexander could be referred to in other passages but it is unclear which Alexander Paul addresses. Regardless, these two men were children of God who had tasted the heavenly gift and enjoyed the spiritual covenant with God as saints, disciples and Christians. However their faith was not grounded on the purity of God’s word but rather they chose to follow after the wisdom of men to blaspheme and reject the teachings of Christ. Paul exhorted Timothy to wage a good fight in keeping the faith pure and not allowing men like Hymenaeus and Alexander to move him away from the hope of the gospel. Men of faith can be moved by the philosophies of men and lose their faith. Many in the religious world teach that a child of God can never lose their salvation. In the words of Paul those who can never lose their salvation can never shipwreck their faith. Hymenaeus and Alexander are two men who walked away from Jesus and went their own way. Concerning the faith they suffered shipwreck. A ship that is shipwrecked does not float, cannot be serviced for anything and will sink. Faith can be destroyed in the lives of God’s people if they allow Satan to influence them and draw them away. When men persist in turning away from God they will sink into the mire of apostasy and without repentance lose their souls. Faith shipwrecked is faith lost.
Life is likened to that of a ship sailing the wide oceans of the world. There are no landmarks to determine the course so sailors rely on what they see above. For centuries the stars guided men across the deserts of land and the oceans of the earth to move from place to place. When the compass was discovered it continued to guide men but the best compass was not kept on the deck below where iron would disrupt the magnetic field but rather at the top of the mast away from all influences below. So it is with faith that it must be guided by that which is above so that nothing contrary would change the course of a person’s life. Hymenaeus and Alexander no longer looked above for their wisdom but relied on their own carnal wisdom to serve themselves. Denying the resurrection is creating a totem of self-worship that always ends in destruction. Paul charged Timothy to wage a good warfare against the wiles of the devil seeking to shipwreck the faith of God’s people. Hymenaeus and Alexander should be monuments of what happens when men leave the pattern of God’s word. Rejecting the only way, the only life and the only truth is denying the only hope of salvation man has. Stay the course. Do not lose faith.