Venturing out on the lonely highways and byways of Asia Minor in the days of the early church put travelers at risk of robbers, beatings, and other perils. Seafaring journeyers also faced multiple dangers, and the apostle Paul experienced them all, on land and sea alike. Perhaps the hardest thing he had to endure was the betrayal of one close to him, one who had labored with him in the Lord’s vineyard, only to turn against him.
In Paul’s own words, “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil. The Lord reward him . . .” (2 Timothy 4:14, KJV). Paul did not have much else to say about Alexander, but possible clues could expand our knowledge and understanding.
Under Demetrius’ leadership, the metalworkers of Ephesus raised a great ruckus against this apostolic giant and his teachings. The work of the church in their city diminished the smiths’ business opportunities as people turned to worship the Lord instead of the local goddess, Diana.
During the uproar, one Alexander was put forward to speak to the crowd to allay the situation, but was shouted down because he was a Jew (Acts 19:34). It is possible, but not proven, that this Alexander was the same man who later caused trouble in the Ephesus church and was put out of the fellowship along with Hymenaeus (1 Timothy 1:20).
Though he started well, Alexander evidently made some serious mistakes regarding his faith that hurt Paul in the end. He needed to remember the person and work of Christ and to hold firm to his faith to the end.
Reconciliation through Christ
Preeminent in all things, Christ reconciled all things to Himself, thus making peace through His blood. The Jews had held little regard for Gentile nations, aliens and strangers from the wealth of a relationship with God. But Christians now believe that Christ’s death accomplished two things: reconciliation as the “wall of partition” between Jew and Gentile was torn down (Ephesians 2:14, KJV) and the indebtedness of our sins remitted in full. We have only to claim the receipt for payment that guarantees our future by accepting Christ as Savior and Lord of our lives.
The coming of Messiah with His gospel message revealed the riches of that Genesis-generated mystery: Christ in us, who gives hope for a glorious future for all humanity. Christ’s final instructions to His disciples were to go into every corner of the world making disciples. In the same place where worship of Diana had reigned supreme, Paul and his co-workers made some serious inroads with this gospel message. So it seems that Alexander had a good start.
But there’s more to the gospel. While yet in our sinful nature, we were invited to die with Christ in baptism, ending our slavery to sin, and then being created anew in Him (Romans 6). Instead of the burdensome ordinances of animal sacrifices, we become living sacrifices, following the dictates of the Holy Spirit.
We can’t do this without God’s help. Jesus felt the need for daily communion with His Father. That same daily renewal in God’s presence is necessary for us to steady the course of our lives. Maybe that’s something Alexander lacked. Without this contact with the Father, we can easily slide back into old haunts and habits, to get caught up in common, everyday trappings, to even become an enemy of the gospel.
That’s why Alexander’s story is so troubling — and a warning. In the day of judgment, some will be properly shocked to hear that they have been rejected. After all, haven’t they prophesied in Jesus’ name, cast out demons, and performed many wonders in His name? Yet Jesus declared that He would tell them, “Sorry, I don’t know you, for you have ignored My words and followed your own ways” (see Matthew 7:23). Reconciliation effects change and brings us into conformity with the will of God. It appears that Alexander didn’t conform to God’s will. He didn’t realize that while yet in our sins, Jesus saved us from our sins and offers new life in Him. Though we are created anew to perform good works, grace alone through faith saves us.
If we’re not careful, we too can end up like Alexander — lacking complete commitment in our faith. What holds us back from total devotion and servitude to our heavenly Father? Church splits? Personalities? Doctrine? Family upsets? Worldly attractions? Where do we stand? Are we teetering on a shaky fence or standing firmly on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, leaning on that Rock — Christ the Cornerstone, our hope of glory?
Having begun in faith and a good conscience, Alexander floundered and his faith shipwrecked (1 Timothy 1:19, 20). With one foot in the fledgling church and the other yet involved in his craft, Alexander desired the best of both worlds. As a result, he squandered the promised inheritance he could have enjoyed in Christ.
The same thing can happen to us. Without the peace that reconciliation brings through Christ, we are lost and undone. Our love of God and our fellowman is paramount to our attaining that peace: “[Christ] Himself is our peace . . .” (Ephesians 2:14). May we all claim that peace today — and keep it, by the grace of God!