II. DOING MANY EVILS
Verse 14 says, “Alexander the coppersmith did many evil things to me; the Lord will repay him according to his works.” Paul did not curse Alexander, but he did utter a word of righteousness, saying that the Lord would repay him according to his works.
In verses 10 and 14 we see two aspects of the issue of the decline. On the one hand, certain of those affected by the decline loved the present age; on the other hand, certain ones did evil things against the apostle. In times of degradation these things occur again and again.
In 1 Timothy 1:20 Paul speaks of Hymenaeus and Alexander. In 2 Timothy 2:17 he again refers to Hymenaeus, and in 4:14, to Alexander. Were Hymenaeus and Alexander genuine believers, or were they impostors? This raises the question concerning the boundary line between the great house (2 Tim. 2:20) and the house of God (1 Tim. 3:15). Only the Lord is able to draw the line with finality. Only He has the full knowledge concerning who is genuine and who is false.
Those who have conducted a scientific study of the difference between the wheat and tares in Matthew 13 point out that in every respect of their appearance, in size, color, and shape, the tares and the wheat are the same until the fruit is brought forth. At that time, the wheat brings forth golden ears and the tares bring forth black ears. Prior to that time, no one can differentiate between the wheat and the tares. This does not mean, however, that we should make no distinction between true believers and false ones. As long as we know that a certain person is not wheat, we should not receive him or accept him as wheat. But if in a particular situation we are not certain, we should receive the person. Such an action is not contrary to our conscience. It is possible that some of those whom we receive may not be genuine believers. It may have been that Hymenaeus was a true believer who became shipwrecked concerning the faith. Some may think that Hymenaeus was not a genuine believer, whereas others may think that he was a genuine believer who later became heretical. Because only the Lord knows for sure, we should not devote too much attention to the case of Hymenaeus.
Concerning ourselves as believers, there should not be any gray areas. This means that it should be easy for others to discern whether we are “black” or “white.” Certainly no one doubts that Timothy was a genuine believer. Timothy was not only white, but was white in a bright, shining way. It should also be clearly evident that we are true believers in the Lord.
We have pointed out that it is difficult for us to draw the boundary line between the great house and the house of God. (In the eyes of the world, we are considered part of organized Christianity.) Certain things in the great house may be used by God. However, we should not be used by God in this way. In the great house there are vessels not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and earth. Do you want to be used by God as a wooden or earthen vessel, or as a golden or silver vessel? I want to be used by Him as a golden and silver vessel in the house of God.
Do not spend too much time trying to discern whether or not Alexander was a true believer. Instead, concentrate on those matters which are positive, clear, and nourishing. Whether Alexander was genuine or false, a wheat or a tare, will be decided by the Lord. One thing, however is certain: we should not follow his example. We should be a Timothy, not an Alexander.
Concerning Alexander the coppersmith, Paul advised Timothy, “You also guard against him, for he greatly opposed our words” (v. 15). No doubt, the words opposed by Alexander were the healthy words of God’s economy. Today we are facing similar opposition from those who oppose the words of God’s economy.
Verse 16 continues, “At my first defense no one came with me, but all forsook me; may it not be counted against them.” We do not know whether Demas left Paul before the time of his first defense or after. We know only that all forsook him, that no one came with him.
In verse 17 Paul testifies, “But the Lord stood with me and empowered me, that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and all the nations might hear; and I was delivered out of the lion’s mouth.” The expression “the lion’s mouth” is a figure of speech referring to an evil matter (v. 18) or an evil person (1 Cor. 15:32). Perhaps at the time of Paul’s trial a certain person dealt with him in an extremely cruel manner. Paul may have such a person in mind when he speaks of “the lion’s mouth.”
In verse 18 Paul says, “The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto His heavenly kingdom, to Whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” The heavenly kingdom is the kingdom of our Father (Matt. 13:43), the kingdom of the Father (Matt. 26:29), the kingdom of Christ and of God (Eph. 5:5), and the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:11), which will be a reward to the overcoming saints. It equals the crown of righteousness in verse 8, and it is an incentive to the believers to run the heavenly course. Paul had the assurance to make the triumphant declaration that he would be saved into this heavenly kingdom.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Chapter 20, by Witness Lee)