Online Bible Commentary
1 Timothy 1:18 Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. (NIV)
The apostle Paul begins this passage by addressing Timothy as “my son” (v.18a). Paul loved the young Timothy because of his pure heart, and thought of him as his son, even though there was no biological relationship. Paul is explaining (v.18b) why he gave Timothy the command that was cited in verse five of this chapter: “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. “ Notice that when Paul speaks of the goal as “love”, he defines “love” as being the result of: (1) a pure heart; (2) a good conscience; and (3) a sincere faith. God is love, and He alone can define love. He has here. All three components must be present when showing love: a pure heart, a heart obedient to God; a good conscience, a conscience not defiled by evil; and a sincere faith, the faith of the Bible. We do not show love for someone if we are not doing so in this manner. We do not show love for someone by supporting them in their sin, but rather by trying to turn them from their sin. That is love. That is what this passage is all about.
Paul states that he is entrusting this command of love to Timothy in the same way the “prophecies” were entrusted to Timothy. This does not mean that a prophet was involved. Prophets departed with the coming of the church age. The “prophecies” referred to Timothy’s recognition by the church, much as men are ordained today. His recognition was recalled in this verse: “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you “(1 Tim. 4:14). Timothy’s “prophecies” came from the elders, who recognized that the Holy Spirit had entrusted Timothy with the gift of teaching.
Paul then states that Timothy has these “prophecies” so “that you might war by them the good warfare” (literal Greek, v. 18c). Paul is encouraging Timothy in the fact that he has the elders behind him as he challenges the false teaching then prevalent in the church at Ephesus. Notice that when Paul talks about the “fight” here, he is not referring to a sports contest as he has at other times. He is referring to spiritual warfare, the war between God and the world, the dominion of Satan.
Paul then issues a warning to Timothy to hold on to his faith and good conscience (v.19a). Our conscience is God speaking to us. We begin with a “good conscience”. However, we can lose our good conscience by letting Satan in, either purposely or by slacking in the faith. Paul then explains why he is warning Timothy, by bringing up the cases of two men in the church to whom this happened. Hymenaeus and Alexander (v. 20a) had chosen to follow a different faith than that of the Bible and, by doing so, had purposely rejected (literal Greek “thrust away”) their faith and their good conscience from God (v.19b). In doing so, they spread their false teaching in the church resulting in shipwrecking the church (v.19c).
Present day examples of these two men are found in those churches who have purposely embraced homosexuality as a fiber of their churches, “shipwrecking” their churches. Those churches are headed for destruction.These two men were excommunicated from the church. In contrast, those churches today welcome in unrepentant sinners. Love was shown by excommunicating unrepentant sinners from the church. Those churches today welcome in unrepentant sinners. That is not love. That is supporting someone on their way to Hell.
Hymenaeus’ false teaching denied the true doctrine of the resurrection (2 Timothy 2:17-18). Alexander’s false teaching was well remembered by Paul, even after his excommunication from the church, as “strongly opposing our message” (2 Timothy 4:14). They were both “handed over to Satan”, excommunicated from the church (v.20b).
Paul states “I” handed them over to Satan (v. 20c). Only the church could excommunicate, so Paul likely means it happened as a result of his counsel with the church, as he did in 1 Cor. 5 in the case of a sexually immoral member of the church at Corinth. When the church excommunicates someone they essentially kick him out of the domain of God, and into the world, the domain of Satan. In this case it was done because the two men had blasphemed God by teaching false doctrine (v. 20d). Excommunication was not meant as punishment, but as correction. It was an act of love, a last resort, hopefully to cause the sinners to realize the seriousness of their offenses so that they would repent. It was done in love, the only love.