1 Timothy 1:18-20
This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on you…
1. The charge. "This charge I commit unto thee, my child Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that by them thou mayest war the good warfare; holding faith and a good conscience." The reference seems back to ver. 3, which, though distant, is the only charge which has been defined, viz. the charge laid on Timothy, that he should charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine, neither to give heed to fables and endless genealogies. This involved his coming into contact with these men, and so there is naturally introduced the idea of warfare, He was to embrace his opportunity in Ephesus of warring the good warfare. "Knighthood" is Luther's word, the suggestion being the whole service in war that is required of a good Christian knight, such as he would wish the youthful Timothy to be. It is the good warfare; for it is not mere romance, but a warfare against all forms of sin - a warfare in the Name of the Savior and with his gospel, and a warfare which has the promise of success. To call forth the knightly qualities in Timothy, Paul calls up the prophecies which went before on him. These were founded on the good hopes which he awakened in good men, when first he began to show his qualities; he must not disappoint these good hopes. As prophecies, or uttered under the inspiration of the Spirit prior to or at his introduction into office, they were to be taken as a Divine indication that he was being put to his proper work. They would also, we may believe, point to the hard work which, as a good knight, he would not fear to face. Thus using the prophecies, they would be a Divine assistance to him; they would be as amour in which he was clad. Especially, however, with a view to what is to follow, would the apostle impress on him the importance of holding faith and a good conscience. Prophecies, expressions of good opinion, are only useful in so far as they help us to lay hold by faith upon the great Source of strength, in whom alone we can show all knightly activity and endurance. They are also useful, only if we do not allow them to seduce us to part with a good conscience, our better self - that inward monitor that from moment to moment points to us our duty, and in whose approval we can feel that we have the approval of God.
2. Warning. "Which some having thrust from them made shipwreck concerning the faith: of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I delivered unto Satan, that they might be taught not to blaspheme." For Timothy's warning, Paul points to the heretics. Instead of holding faith and a good conscience, these thrust away from them the latter, as men, with a certain violence, put away something that is disagreeable. Their truest friend they thrust aside, as they would a troublesome creditor. The result was, that they made shipwreck of their faith. Throwing away all that was needed to direct them, all that served as chart, compass, rudder, they made shipwreck of themselves concerning faith in Christ, thus coming short of eternal life. How disastrous, especially for those who seemed to make a fair start in the voyage of life! The teaching of the apostle is suggestive regarding the causes of heresy. "As unbelief nearly always leads to grosser or more refined immorality, so not rarely it begins from an immoral ground, at least when faith existed before (Romans 1:21). This is a deep mental truth; for it is far too common to represent faith or infidelity as a matter of abstract opinion." Earnestness in life leads to correct opinion (John 7:17), whereas moral indifference makes it for Our interest to doubt. Heresies have a secret moral genesis which will one day be made plain. Two notable heretics are mentioned here - Hymenaeus and Alexander. In 2 Timothy 2:17 Hymenaeus is associated with Philetus in this, that their teaching did eat like a cancer. He and Alexander (not the coppersmith of 2 Timothy 4:14) are here referred to as having been delivered unto Satan. This seems strong language to us who have nothing to impress us in the shape of such apostolic discipline in our time. It is properly regarded as "a form of Christian excommunication, declaring the person to be reduced to the state of a heathen, accompanied with the authoritative infliction of bodily disease or death." In this case the infliction of punishment was with a view to reformation. There was nothing to hinder their being received back into the Christian Church. Their probation was not at an end; there was reason for further dealing, and what was suitable to their case was the hard. dealing here referred to. Better that men should be excommunicated - with which power the Church is still invested - better that men should have disease sent upon them, than that they should remain in a state of religious indifference or be spreaders of error. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;