Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Some people have deliberately violated their . . . faith

1Tim. 1:12-20 NLT 
  12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, 13 even 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. 14 Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. 
   15 This 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. 16 But 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. 17 All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen. 
   18 Timothy, 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. 19 Cling 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. 20 Hymenaeus and Alexander are two examples. I threw them out and handed them over to Satan so they might learn not to blaspheme God.

It is not often that we see in the Bible where an apostle "threw them out" of the church. People of the world who criticize us for having church in the first place would not hesitate to criticize us if we were to throw someone in our church out on the same basis as did Paul to Hymenaeus and Alexander. We read of Hymenaeus again in Second Timothy for continuing to cause cancerous sin inside the church community.

Paul was never quick to take such action for he saw himself as 'chief among sinners.' And he constantly recounted joys of being permitted to call sinners to repentance. He called these particular sinners to repentance. He calls sinners in our churches today who engage in similar activities to repentance--something we should do as well. And even this was not Paul's key message in these verses. His main point was to lift up awareness of God's grace in forgiveness of sin. He wants young Pastor Tim to 'cling to your faith in Christ. . .' He wants Pastor Tim to 'fight well' in the battle that belongs to the Lord. He wants us to do that also.

Paul uses himself as the case-in-point. Since God could deliver him from sinning and forgive his own terrible sins, then God will forgive anyone's sins. However, some just blithely turn their backs on this great grace and even enter the Church of the Lord with the intent of doing harm to weaker believers. These people are condemned by their very actions and Paul simply advises us to purge our congregations of them, until they genuinely repent.

This is a tough teaching? But we should never take action like this in haste. Only after prayer and fasting and much coaching and conversation can we do this. In all my years as a pastor there was only one that I had to take such action about and it broke my heart. But it had to be done. I still pray for that person that they will yet be redeemed.

Your servant in Christ's love

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