Saturday, December 9, 2017

Alexander the Coppersmith

Paul the Apostle stands out to us as one of the all-time Christians. He wrote a majority of the New Testament, trained men for ministry, planted churches, traveled the globe, was persecuted, stood up to intimidating figures, etc. His work on this planet is impressive and he's a man to be admired. He is certainly just a man and he's not to be worshiped but we also recognize he's not just some man. 

Timothy, one of the men Paul trained, would have known this. Paul was a prominent man of his time. If I had to summarize just how big Paul was in one passage I think I'd go with this one:
Acts 19:11-15
11 God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out. 13 But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” 14 Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?”
Timothy received two letters from Paul. In both letters Paul is guiding and reminding Timothy of important information. Paul was doing more than just imparting data and instructing; Paul was investing in Timothy. What Paul did went beyond merely conveying tips to someone who might fill in for you. This was Paul, who had been a spiritual father to many, telling Timothy how to raise his children. 

Factor all of that. Paul is this huge figure. Paul is genuinely one of the most righteous men to ever live. Paul is so invested in you personally that he wrote you (if you're Timothy) multiple letters where he pours out the contents of his heart and his mind. 

All that is a means of introduction for a few short lines:
2 Timothy 4:14-1514 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching
Now imagine you're Timothy and you're reading this. This is a giant of the faith opening up to you. Talk about emotional!  When you first hear about this Alexander you're enraged! You're ticked! Yet Paul only tells Timothy two things:
1- God will get vengeance upon Alexander 
2- Watch for him yourself, Timothy. 


I don't think I can read this chapter without tears in my eyes. I put myself in Timothy's shoes and I'm overwhelmed at how vulnerable Paul is. I'm irate at this Alexander character. What a punk! But I'm blown away at Paul's patience. The emotional trauma doesn't end there, though. It's heartbreaking to read Paul say, only a few verses later: 
16 At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them.
Not only is it difficult to read from Timothy's perspective (i.e. your mentor and father is clearly in pain and you're one of the only bright spots left in his life) I think it's also excruciating to read from Paul's perspective. He's warning Timothy of the trials that are headed his way. It's one thing to experience your own pain and sorrow but seeing one of your children go through a trial is often worse. Paul's obedience to Christ brought onto him worldly trouble and he knows that when Timothy obeys the instructions Paul just gave him in the previous few chapters that trouble will fall on him, too. It's like taking your kid to get a shot or a surgery. You wish you could do it on their behalf, you know it's going to hurt them for a while, but in the end you know it'll strengthen them. 

Thankfully Paul doesn't end his letter there. He goes on to say, in the next verses, some of the most encouraging words found in Scripture: 
17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
The Lord will bring me safely into His kingdom! Nothing offers more hope.