There are only three ways we learn
When comes to how we learn and develop in life, there are really only three ways to do it. We can learn because we’re taught by instruction, we can learn by watching someone else’s example, or we can learn the hard way. The problem with the hard way is that it’s hard.
Since this is true for all of us, we are each responsible for how we choose to learn. The biggest difficulty we have with this process typically isn’t that we have to make tough choices for ourselves; we tend to accept that. Instead, we struggle with the decisions that other people we love and care for have to deal with.
This tension most often reveals itself in the parent-child relationship. As our child grows older, we parents must learn to let go, little by little, and allow our understudy to chance to flex his or her decisive muscle.
Paul knew this as well. Take a look at how he instructs his adult child in the faith:
1 Timothy 1:18-20
Timothy, my child, I am giving you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies previously made about you, so that by them you may strongly engage in battle, having faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and have suffered the shipwreck of their faith. Hymenaeus and Alexander are among them, and I have delivered them to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme.
No matter which way we’ve chosen to learn the lessons of life, career, and faith…we cannot make the learning choice for anyone else, especially not for our children. We can only lovingly give them instruction, trust them to make their own choices, and allow them to deal with the consequences – good or bad.
Paul wants Timothy to make the right choices and continue to walk with God, so he points out an example for Timothy where someone else has rejected instruction and suffered the consequences. Due to their choice to reject instruction, properly grounded faith, and a good conscience before God, there are those in the church who have suffered greatly. For a shipwreck to be salvaged, it requires a massive undertaking. A shipwrecked faith isn’t one that is lost forever, but the damage done is severe and will require a lot of intentional work to be fully repaired.
Paul gets specific and names names here. Timothy needs to know how high the stakes are for his choices. If he persists in Paul’s instruction and what has been revealed to him by God, then he will be able to strongly engage in battle, having faith and a good conscience. However, if Timothy takes the easy road, or follows false teachings, he will travel down the same path as Hymenaeus and Alexander.
Both Hymenaeus and Alexander have done significant damage to their relationship with God and also with those inside the church family. Their heresy was so great that they actually blasphemed God, which means their teaching was so twisted it was, in fact, full of slanderous lies that insulted God’s character. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul warns that Hymenaeus’ teaching was equivalent to gangrene, that he had deviated from the truth, and he was responsible for overturning the faith of some – see 2 Timothy 2:17-18.
As such, drastic steps had to be taken against someone who intentionally diverged away from the faith and was dragging others down with him. Paul’s statement of “I have delivered them to Satan” most likely refers to some form of excommunication, either temporary or permanent. Hymenaeus and Alexander were in need of a spiritual wake up call, and Paul was hopeful that exposure to the Satan-governed outside world would bring them to their senses – much like the prodigal son.
However, Timothy still had a choice to make…and as such, so does each of us. I can’t choose for you. Your pastor can’t choose for you. And we can’t choose for our children. We have to decide, and then act upon our decision.
Will we listen to instruction and what God has revealed to us?
Will we learn from the examples of others?
Or will we have to learn the hard way?