Alexander The Metalworker

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.   


Guarding the Churches

Guarding the Churches
Robert Wurtz II

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17, 18) 

Paul employs a familiar verb to solicit action from the Romans when he writes, I beseech you.” This is the Greek word parakaleo and in this context means to call to ones side to urge them to action. It is a sincere and earnest plea to do what is written next, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. Obviously, the Christians to whom this epistle is addressed, were unified in believing and acting upon the teachings they had received. However, Paul warns them that some people will not accept the form of Christianity he teaches, and will therefore lead people astray with fair speeches that deceive simple-minded folks. These people are not serving Christ, but their “own belly.” That is to say, they are as the sons of Eli in the Old Testament who abused their priestly position in ministry, using it for their own belly — rather than regarding God’s purposes. (See 1 Samuel 2:1ff)

Paul is writing the Romans and urging them in the strongest of terms to avoid a similar situation as to what happened with the House of Eli. These men in 1 Samuel 2 were charged to do the service of the Jehovah (YHWH), but they high-handily abused their position to the point that God warned Eli of coming judgment. Nevertheless, because he honored his sons more than God, he never stopped them and the bad behavior continued. What were they doing? They were walking contrary to the doctrine that they had received. God had given Israel the Law along with specific instructions for the priests. In spite of that, they were fornicators and gluttons. Scripture refers to them as children of the Devil, even though they were functioning as God’s servants. 

Paul knew that people who behave badly have to be dealt with in decisive ways. The challenge is found in getting Christians to take Paul’s words seriously and actually do what he is saying. I am convinced that a great amount of trouble that exists in the churches of God today is the consequence of not taking warnings and directives like this one Romans 16:17,18 seriously. There have always been people who creep in unawares to being divisions and offenses contrary to what God’s word teaches. It was in Eli’s House in the Old Testament and later Paul warned the elders at Ephesus of similar patterns. What are we to do?

Serious moral failings such as were found in the House of Eli are to be dealt with by the churches in accordance with Paul’s teachings to the Corinthians. Fornicators and such must be removed from ministry and put out of fellowship if necessary in order to see repentance. In extreme cases the church is to turn the person over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh until they truly repent (emphasis on truly). Otherwise, a fornicator will destroy a church. No doubt many of churches have been split because leaders failed to deal properly with a fornicator. Indeed, the “spirit of Eli” has wrecked many harvest fields. Nevertheless, God is not mocked, and will hold the leaders who have allowed this to happen accountable on judgment day. 

In the case presented in Romans 16, we do not have a directive to turn the offenders over to Satan or any such thing. This could be because the offender is being harbored and protected by some church. This makes for quite a dilemma. Sadly, it happens all too often in modern times. Offenders don’t usually stay in the church they divided with their bad behavior, they move someplace else. Some go from church to church wreaking havoc and leaving a trail of stumbled souls all over the place. 

What can we do in such situations? Paul told us to mark them and avoid them. Marking them according to A.T. Robertson means “to keep an eye on them so as to avoid them.” Our Greek word for avoid according to Vincent is better translated as “turn aside.” When you see them, go the other direction. Have no fellowship with them whatsoever. Do not bid them godspeed with your presence. In other words, give no one the impression that you are in agreement with them. If you are a minister, don’t share the platform with them. Vincent continues, “Not only keep out of their way, but remove yourself from them if you fall in with them.” 

This is Paul’s plea for dealing with those who profess Christ, but cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned. Bad behavior cannot merely be ignored. Sometimes offenders will find refuge with people they have charmed with their good words and fair speeches. Charm is the ability to make a person like you. It is not a spiritual gift, but a potentially dangerous character trait. People who are charmed by bad people often hang around with them — overlooking their behavior until it’s too late. eventually something awful happens and the churches of God are damaged. This is why Paul says, I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. He is concerned more about the safety of the churches than maintaining friendships. He was no Eli and this is no small directive. We do well in this crisis hour to heed Paul’s words and take them as seriously as “thou shalt not murder.” This would position us as God’s people to protect as many of the flock as possible from the destruction divisions and offences cause     

The Devil’s Device of Discouragement

The Devil’s Device of Discouragement
Robert Wurtz II

Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. (2 Cor. 2:8)

Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. (2 Cor. 2:11)

I wish in this short entry to draw attention to this passage in order to demonstrate how the enemy of our soul will use discouragement to destroy a person if he is given the opportunity. It is one of his ‘devices’ or ‘strategies’. The church at Corinth was dealing with a young man that committed a terrible sin, worse than was even found among the Gentiles. He took his fathers wife to himself. Paul gives direction to them that they are to put away from themselves this wicked person. He has as a first line of priority the protection of the congregation. Fornication is a leaven that will leaven an entire church if it be not dealt with. So Paul deals strongly with it. However, it was not to destroy the person, but was always with a design of seeing the person come to repentance. 

 Restoring the Person

Paul never forgot about this young man. In fact, a close reading of the text reveals that he was very concerned about his time having been put out of the church. His desire was to see a godly sorrow bring about a repentance where the mind and behavior changed and did not change back. But there is a point in which leaving the person in the hands of Satan and this world could actually destroy them and their faith- rather than securing repentance. This is important to consider. Satan desires to destroy our faith. He wants people to feel unloved and bitter towards the church. Paul said we are not ignorant of the Devil’s devices. We know he will try to do this. The solution? Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. (2 Cor. 2:8) This is it. We must confirm our love. 

There are times when things go on in the churches of God that need to be dealt with, but we must ever be mindful that the enemy will try to jump right in the middle of what we are doing to bring confusion and destruction. He uses discouragement as a powerful weapon. Paul said if we are not careful Satan will gain an advantage over us. Literally the passage reads, “in order that we be not made gain of, or overreached, by Satan.” The Revised version renders it, “that no advantage may be gained over us.” Satan is opportunistic and when we let our guard down he will strike. Discouraged people are a primary target of Satan. It is during these times that he will move in with temptation and lies seeking to turn your heart away from God. 

Common Sense

Satan wants people mad at the church or mad at God. He wants circumstances to develop that may or may not be of our own doing that he can use to discourage us. It could be a misunderstanding or what C.S. Lewis spoke of in Screw Tape Letters when he described how Satan works on peoples minds. The devil talks to people in their mind and heart and he will work a situation with slander and lies until he has made a mountain out of a molehill. He will put the worst possible construction on an event and speak that into your mind. Where there are uncertainties he will fill the blanks in with all kinds of lies and exaggerations. Before we know what has happened Satan has brought the whole church low. Understand that the word discourage means to cause a person to lose confidence or enthusiasm. Both parties in a conflict could be right from their particular point of view and yet both end up discouraged because of the conflict of disagreement. This is Satan’s common sense strategy. Sow strife and confusion. 

Discouraged and Tempted

Don’t be surprised when Satan comes to tempt you during times of discouragement. It is his strategy. Thanks be to God we are not ignorant of it. He is liable to tell you to go back to the very sins that God set you free from. Stress and pressure can weaken our defenses and if we are not careful we can fail in the grace of God. Satan don’t discriminate, he wants to destroy the fornicator and the minister. He wants to destroy everyone he possibly can. So we have to be on guard. How? Recognize when Satan is bringing discouragement and try to deal with situations such as sin and disagreements without allowing him to prevail. Some situations are complicated and hard to deal with. Paul’s answer, again, Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. (2 Cor. 2:8) The answer is love. Why? because love counteracts the lies of Satan by compelling us to put the best construction on events. Satan will work our minds to put the worst construction on. We must not succumb to his slanderous ways. 

What about just overall discouragement? Satan will move in those times as well and we must be alert to his plan. If we get discouraged he will start talking into our ears and before we know it we are thinking carnally and reverting back to old patterns of dealing with things. Recognize these times and submit yourself unto God. We are told that if we will do this and resist the Devil- He will flee from us. (James 4:7)

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