How much patience should we have with sin – in our own lives, and in the lives of those we love? Should we just “not judge” and let people do whatever they want?
Paul was shown a lot of grace by God (vv.13-17) – the Lord was patient with Paul, and rescued him from his ignorance, and used him as an example of God’s love and patience. But Paul says that he disciplined Alexander – and threw him out of church so that he would learn not to lie about God (v.20). Where is the patience?
Paul knew that patience does not mean you allow false teaching to continue – you have to address it. Even Paul was punished with scales on his eyes when he first became a Christian. God’s love includes discipline. Paul was disciplined, and now Paul – as a leader – is disciplining those he loves – so that they will turn and come back.
This is actually a much harder love – and requires much more strength from God. We are often too afraid to confront, or don’t know how to confront with love and gentleness. Paul is challenging Timothy – whom he left at Ephesus to deal with false teaching. Timothy will have to confront that false teaching with strength and love. We encounter a lot of false teaching every day – and we need to have the strength to confront in love.
12I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, 13even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. 14Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.
15This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 17All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen.
18Timothy, my son, here are my instructions for you, based on the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they help you fight well in the Lord’s battles. 19Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked. 20Hymenaeus and Alexander are two examples. I threw them out and handed them over to Satan so they might learn not to blaspheme God.