Gospel ministry has always had its opponents. In one of Paul’s final paragraphs to Timothy he calls out Alexander, a metalworker (in Ephesus?) who resisted Paul.
Alexander the metalworker (coppersmith – KJV) did me a great deal of harm.
Paul doesn’t detail the offence but he names this man who had been a troublemaker and quantifies his opposition. What kind of harm might such an opponent generate? Slander, falsehoods, physical disruption, troubling new converts—the list of possibilities seems endless. Where the Lord has His servants, Satan has his emissaries. You can see this principle in Scripture (e.g. When Moses performed miracles in Egypt, the Egyptian ‘magicians’ counterfeited at least the first few; Galatians portrays the conflict with Judaizers, those who wanted to obligate Gentile converts to follow Jewish cultural standards after their conversion to Christ.)
How does Paul respond to such a troublemaker?
#1 He reminds himself and Timothy of God’s law of harvest.
“The Lord will repay him for what he has done.” Paul is confident that all actions, all ministries, all lives are lived under the all-seeing eye of God. People may ‘get away’ with some action, but the final verdict is not in. Some troublemakers wreak havoc in a local gathering of God’s people, stirring up dissension and opposing sound teaching. God has his way of addressing the people involved.
I thought of this recently when I learned of a divisive leader who many years ago had sued a local congregation for ‘wrongful dismissal,’ led half the congregation to form a new group elsewhere in Toronto and left a horrible testimony in his wake. Now that ‘church’ has imploded, (if it really was a church), the leaders are battling health issues among other problems. Would that the ‘rebels’ would repent, returning to those they have sinned against and ask forgiveness for their sinful conduct. Don’t you think that restoration following repentance might be what would most honour God? Personally, I remain sceptical that any such acknowledgment of evil will take place. The self-deceived heart often hardens with the passing of time. Even ‘spiritual arguments’ where Scriptures are cited are used to defend some of the explicit things God hates (e.g. Proverbs 6:16-19 namely-haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and A MAN WHO STIRS UP DISSENSION AMONG BROTHERS.)
#2 Paul warns others including Timothy of the danger this troublemaker presents to other ministries.
“You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.”
Timothy, watch out! This man may offer help. He may show up in your meetings, contributing financially to the work and even offering to serve in some capacity. Check his references. Ask him about what he did in his previous fellowship. Contact the leaders where he was in fellowship and ask for their counsel. Be on your guard!
Shepherds are protectors. The vulnerability of sheep is plain. Leaders need courage and discernment as they guard the flock from destructive influence.