When Paul wrote his last epistle to Timothy he knew his time was short. I have often commented that what you include in your last communication with a dear friend will reflect what weighs the most heavily upon your heart as you stand on the brink of eternity. So it is important to see that though he did not wax on about it, Paul was a hurt man. I do not have time today to fully unpack the section, but take a look at 2 Timothy 4:14-18. Paul says that at his first apologia “no one showed up.” He was alone. Why? The older I get, the more I experience false brethren and the strife and hatred they sow, I think I know why. Can you imagine what the private Facebook group for the former members of the churches of Galatia was like? Oh my. The slander. The railing. The lies. Former members who have been put out of a fellowship can be like that, as everyone actually involved in ministry knows—at least those who still practice church discipline and call for repentance and restoration. Paul surely did, and can you imagine what vilification he was subject to on a daily basis?
But here’s the point: I am sure many recognized the lies that were hurled at the Apostle, but that is why slander is so vociferously condemned as sin in Scripture: it works. It distracts. It divides. It poisons. It destroys, both the one against whom it is directed as well as the one producing it (it is poison to one’s soul, but it is often a slow and very fatal poison). But it is easy to make the calculated decision to “stay away” when the incoming fire is heavy, and hence, was that why “no one showed up” at Paul’s first apologia?
But notice that even in this, his last word to Timothy, he “names names.” Alexander the coppersmith. Alexander did Paul much “kaka,” evil, harm. God allows that to happen. I wish He didn’t, but He does. Evil men can harm even apostles of the Lord. Godly ministers have had to endure Alexanders throughout the history of the church. They have been sanctified by the suffering these men have brought into their lives. But notice as well. “The Lord will repay him according to his deeds.” There’s actually a variant here. Either, “the Lord WILL repay him” (statement of fact), or “the Lord repay him” (expression of desire or wish). God may use these Alexanders, but oh my, the judgment that awaits them will not tarry, and it will be harsh.
Then Paul warns the next generation: you will have to be on guard. This will not stop with Paul’s passing. No, the Alexanders are tireless. They stay up at night digging for dirt and lies and slander. They wake in the morning hatching plots and scheming schemes. This is their life, and a miserable one it is, but oh how they love it! Power over others! They do not care about money—they want to destroy, divide, draw men away, all to their own advancement and position. So Alexander will keep going like the Energizer Slanderer, so watch out, Timothy! He will come after you as well, for “he strongly stood against our words,” i.e., our teaching. Whether Alexander was a false brother or just a pagan opposer, we cannot know for certain. But one thing we do know: Paul had to endure him, and Timothy did as well.
It has never been God’s intention that His church should sail through calm waters with ease. Each generation has its battles, and one of the most severe comes from within, from false professors, false brethren, who sow division and strife. The opposition of the world we can abide, but when it comes from those professing the name of Christ, there is little more draining, more challenging. But we can with Paul have his confidence: even though no one showed up, “the Lord stood with me and strengthened me,” and as a result his faith was strong: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and will (literally) save me into His heavenly kingdom.” In the end, we have to put it all in the Lord’s hands. He knows our hearts. So many times we cannot even defend ourselves (as we are prohibited by Scripture, and others would be destroyed by our defense) against the lies and slanders of the modern day Alexanders. But God knows, and God will save, and God will judge. There is a far greater court than that of twenty first century social media, and as long as you know you can stand before that judge with a clear conscience, all is well.