Alexander The Metalworker
Robert Wurtz II
Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. (2 Timothy 4:14–15 ESV)
Paul is penning his last words to young Timothy knowing that the time of his departure from this world was at hand. He inserts into this epistle these two verses that have always struck me as curious. Who was this person, Alexander the Metalworker (Coppersmith)? What was he doing? Why did Paul warn Timothy about him? Why did Paul pronounce judgment towards him?
First, it is uncertain exactly who this Alexander was. It is likely that he is the same man, along with Hymenaeus, whom Paul delivered unto Satan in 1 Timothy so he would “learn not to blaspheme.” Hymenaeus taught that the resurrection was past overthrowing some peoples’ faith. It would seem that Alexander shared in this “blasphemous doctrine.” It is possible he is the Jew from Acts 19, but not probable. Yet we need not know who this man was for certain as we can observe some important details from the text in 2 Timothy 4:14-15.
Second, it is certain that he “did great harm” to Paul. Some commentators such as renowned Greek scholar A.T. Robertson suggest that this “harm” or “evil” was done mainly for personal reasons. Having been “delivered unto Satan” (similar to the concept of being excommunicated see 1 Tim. 1:19-20), he did not learn his lesson, but became all the more antagonistic to Paul and his message. Notice that Alexander did “me” much evil, said Paul. He had apparently overthrown other Christians’ faith before, but now he is vexing Paul. He likely continued to blaspheme. If A.T. Robertson is right it was a personal vendetta that drove his behavior.
Third, Paul warns Timothy to be aware of him as well. Whatever antagonism Alexander had towards Paul was sure to spill over onto Timothy. Perhaps this was because he was hostile to the message of the Gospel and therefore blasphemed it. Or he could have been bitter towards Paul and attacked his works and his friends. Regardless of the motivation it is certain that Paul viewed the man as a serious threat to the ministry after his decease.
Forth, Paul reminds Timothy that the Lord will repay Alexander according to his deeds. At first the impression may be that Paul was angry at Alexander and wanted him to get what was coming to him. This is not likely the case. Paul was not expressing desire here, but rather, making a statement of fact. The Lord is going to repay him. Paul was telling young Timothy that there was no need trying to avenge any evil this man was committing; vengeance belongs to the Lord and He will repay. The emphasis in these verses is on the Lord. Paul was saying in effect, “Watch out for this man, but don’t fight Him. The Lord will deal with Him in His proper time.”
There will always be people like Alexander the Coppersmith whom the enemy uses to vex those who labor in the Gospel; so there will always be a need for the grace necessary to respond rightly to such people. Some do it even believing they are doing God a service. They are oblivious to the destruction they are causing even though they can see it right in front of their eyes. As a metal worker Alexander knew that when you make a blow with the hammer it makes a dent in the metal. In a figure, He had hammered the churches until his marks are still remembered in the reading of 2 Timothy 4:14-15. Had he known then what he knows now he may have acted differently. His evil is now legendary. But it’s too late… what is done is done and all that’s left is the record of it.
A.T. Robertson seems to suggest that Alexander must have been a Christian or Paul would not have delivered him unto Satan. Why would Paul deliver a sinner to Satan — he was already alienated from the people of God? I suggest Robertson is right. Alexander was a man who professed Christ and yet caused “much evil” among the churches that Paul and Timothy labored in. He did his own thing and defied anyone to stop him. It’s pretty bad when a person has been delivered to Satan and they still keep acting out. Nevertheless, this is the extent of Alexander’s evil. He would no be reproved not matter what happened to him. Therefore Paul stated, “the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.”
Without Paul’s warning Timothy might be tempted to take matters into his own hands. The natural reaction to such people, especially those who care about the churches, is “Alexander has to be stopped! We can’t have people running around overthrowing the faith of the saints.” Undoubtedly Timothy did encounter Alexander after Paul was martyred. God provided a route of escape through these words… the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself. These things have the potential of greatly angering us, especially when their behavior is threatening the faith of other believers. Regardless, once we have done all that the scriptures provide for dealing with such things we have no further recourse. We must leave them to their own devices. Beware of them; avoid them; work to minimize the effects of their evil; and leave them to God.