Sermon Manuscript . . .
Be on Guard: Christians Will Have Enemies
How to deal with those who oppose you and your faith–2 Timothy 4:14-15
No feud is more famous than the legendary conflict between West Virginia’s Hatfield family and Kentucky’s McCoys–an amazing illustration of the destructive power of vendettas. The differences between the wealthy Hatfields and the more working class McCoys started during the Civil War. The pro-Confederate Hatfields made no secret of their disdain for the McCoys’ support of the Union. But the feud didn’t really begin to gain steam until 1878, when a dispute over the ownership of a pig ended with the McCoys killing one of the Hatfields.
From the death of a pig, the conflict escalated into an all-out war, with both sides regularly perpetrating killings, beatings, and kidnappings against the other. One of the feud’s most dramatic chapters, Roseanna McCoy began an affair with one of the Hatfield boys, and the family strain caused by the relationship led to a series of brutal murders on both sides.
The feud reached its bloody peak in 1888 at the now-dubbed New Year’s Night Massacre, when a group of Hatfields attacked the McCoy cabin in the middle of the night. After opening fire on the cabin, killing two children, and a brutal beating, the men burned the house down. This incident got the law involved, and the governors of both Kentucky and West Virginia deployed state militia to help get the situation under control. After a manhunt, several of the Hatfields were arrested for their part in the massacre, and at least seven were given life sentences in prison.
In 1891, after ten years of bitter conflict and more than a dozen deaths, the two families finally agreed to a truce, and from there the feud eventually ceased. Now, despite their family histories of violence against one another, the descendants of the Hatfields and McCoys have regularly participated in friendly reunions in the years since, the most recent being in 2003. And the most bizarre meeting of the two families occurred when both families appeared as rival contestants on the TV game show, “Family Feud”.
You might think that’s silly, and that Christians would never treat each other that way, until recently a well known blogger asked for examples of recent church feuds. His account blew up with hundreds of silly conflicts. Some of them included . . . an argument over the appropriate length of the worship pastor’s beard . . . a fight over whether or not to build a children’s playground or to use the land for a cemetery (I’m dying to find out how that one went) . . . a church argument over if a clock in the back of the worship center should be removed . . . a petition to have all church staff clean shaven (what does that even mean?) . . . an argument on whether the church should allow deviled eggs at the church meal.
Those are sad, and silly–but not to the people who struggled over them. They thought they were pursuing a noble cause. And though I have no desire to have an open mic, I’m confident you’ve experienced difficult, even silly conflicts. Some of you were the recipients of injustice or slander. Others of you may be less willing to share, since you might have been the instrument of a conflict.
God teaches you some guiding truths about conflict, about enemies. Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Work hard to not to make issues with others. Get over those small slights against you. Embrace the reality that as a sinner, you’ll always be in conflict with other sinners to some degree–with a husband, a wife, children, parents, in-laws, relatives, fellow Christians, EVERYONE.
Do not follow the social media trend–you stop being the victim. Don’t be the one who is always offended. Never be the one who believes it’s always someone else’s fault. God tells us in 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” This church has become a family which works hard at taking God, His Word, His church, our sin, and obedience seriously, but we do not take ourselves seriously. That means we refuse to be the always offended, blame others, I am a victim people. We take responsibility for our sin and more readily look at our own sin than the sins of others. By God’s grace alone, this is a very special church.
But that does not mean you and I will not have enemies–in the secular world, and sometimes sadly even in the universal Church you’ll have so-called Christian enemies. One opponent was a man disciplined from a church because of unrepentant sin and the belief in a poisonous distortion of Scripture, plus more. On three occasions since then, he’s looked for opportunities to slander me and oppose the church via social media and deceptive emails where he pretended to be someone else. I do hope he repents of his sin and submits to Christ, but I also know that currently he is an evil man who claims to be a believer, but is in fact a servant of Satan.
I’ve been opposed, slandered and devastated before. And though I seek to remain a trusting and transparent person, I never forget now that every person alive is capable of great evil, including Christians. In the past, there was a man who did great evil to many godly believers. The scariest part is, I don’t think he even realized–he was unaware of what he continued to do to these very precious servants of Christ.
Jesus promises you’ll have people attack you, hurt you, post painful lies about you and hate you. Read these verses–Matthew 5:11 and 12, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
John 15:18, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” Philippians 1:28 to 30, “in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.” Then Luke 6:27, “I say to you …, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”
One of the reasons FBC is passionate about the next generation is because many of our new Christian students and collegians have enemies in their own homes. Christ caused them to be born again and now they’re not only a stranger in their own house, but actually an enemy. Their parents do everything they can to undermine their faith.
I actually had to counsel a non-Christian mom who would not allow her born again daughter to marry a born again man because they had not yet had sex with each other. She was refusing to allow the marriage until they fornicated–she eventually relented. Some parents are jealous of your new relationship with Christians and a church–they will not understand your schooling choices which prefer the Word and the Church. They will not embrace your morality. Some relatives will oppose your beliefs.
You will have enemies because you follow Christ and take His Word seriously. When God’s Word says homosexuality is sin, divorce is almost always wrong, children obey, women submit to their own husbands, believers work hard, saints obey their government, Christians don’t steal, don’t lie and don’t lust–because of that, some will oppose you, hate you and become an enemy. You might be threatened with lawsuits, intimated by threats, and opposed in your faith.
Jesus Himself was opposed by the religious leaders. And Paul and Timothy were opposed by Judaizers and Gentile idol makers. At the end of his life, Paul describes his current main opponent in 2 Timothy 4:14 to 15–Alexander the coppersmith. Turn there and follow along with your outline.
Paul had enemies and Timothy needed to wisely guard against these same enemies in order for God to be glorified, the Word of God to be taught and the Gospel proclaimed. Wisely guarding glorifies God and grows you. Read 2 Timothy 4:14 to 15 aloud with me. “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.15 Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching.”
Paul is in a Roman prison–he’s writing Timothy in Ephesus, who is ministering under the external threat of Roman persecution, and the internal threat of false teachers and wayward sheep. As Paul wraps up his final writing, he asks Timothy and John Mark to travel over 1,400 miles to Rome to be with Paul and Luke, to get his cloak and Scriptures, and to receive final instructions before Paul is executed.
In the midst of this drama, Paul mentions an enemy who hurt him greatly. And since Alexander was so effective against Paul, he’ll likely be gunning for Timothy and Mark too. As they travel to Rome and once they arrive, Tim and Mark must be on guard. What does that mean? And what can you do about those who oppose you and your faith? What can you do about those who oppose your teaching, your beliefs and your walk with God.
Paul gives Timothy two major answers which make up the two big points of the outline. What will you do when suddenly you gain an enemy who opposes your faith? Are you ready for conflict? Do you know how to respond? The world tells you to fight back, protest, slander back, attack them in social media or in the courts, threaten them with lawsuits. Yet the Bible teaches wisely guarding glorifies God and grows you. Are you ready to respond to attacks and a hateful enemy in a way that honors the Lord and follows Paul’s teaching? Let’s find out.
#1 When opponents HARM you–respond with TRUST, not revenge
Verse 14, “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.” Paul reminisces with Timothy and shares a warning concerning this devilish man. But who is Alexander? Alexander is a common name, like Jones or Brown today. But who is this specific Alexander?
Paul devotes almost as many words to Alexander the coppersmith as he does to all the other men combined mentioned in the four previous verses–and for good reason. John Calvin says, “No class of enemies is more dangerous than this.” There are two mentions of an Alexander elsewhere in the New Testament and commentators are divided. Some believe it is the same man here–others believe this Alexander is a new adversary.
In Acts 19:33, Luke mentions an Alexander in connection with the Ephesian riot instigated by Demetrius the silversmith. The crowd in Ephesus was out of control when the Jews tried to put forth a man named Alexander as their spokesman. It seems the Jews wanted to disassociate themselves from the Christians. However, as soon as this Alexander tried to speak, the mob recognized him as a Jew and howled him down. If he’s the same Alexander referred to in 1 Timothy, then this Alexander was a metalworker, a smithy by trade. Perhaps that is why the Ephesian Jews chose him to be their spokesman–they thought a fellow member of the idol making guild would be heard.
Paul’s Alexander (verse 14) could also be the one mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:20. He may have been the man the apostle excommunicated along with Hymenaeus who, as Paul says, he handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme.
Speculate with me–we’re not certain, though it seems unlikely the Alexander described here would have risked his life to defend Paul in a riot in Acts 19. From the context of 2 Timothy 4, it seems this Alexander was living in Rome. It does stand to reason, it was especially in Rome–this 2 Timothy 4 Alexander was able to oppose Paul, who was also in that city in Rome. And if that inference is correct, this Alexander opposing Paul at the end of his life is probably not identified with the Alexander mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:20, nor with the one in Acts 19, for both those Alexanders lived in the Ephesus region.
The present Alexander, who is a threat to Timothy, is probably a different person–because he did most of his damage against Paul in Rome, not Ephesus. It’s uncertain. Paul identifies Alexander as the coppersmith, so he is a metal-worker. That may mean Alexander was an idol-maker who fiercely resented the apostle, since true faith turns people from idols. As a result, Alexander pushed back.
Verse 14 clearly asserts that Alexander himself did Paul much harm. He was intentional–this is purposeful hurt. What harm did Alexander do? In this context, with Paul in the midst of a Roman imprisonment and trial, it is highly probable that Alexander was an accuser or a witness for the prosecution. The text doesn’t tell you explicitly how this evil man expressed his wicked nature in opposition to Paul. But verse 14 describes deeds done against Paul and verse 15 describes words said against Paul. This opponent attacked Paul with speech and behavior.
It seems this Alexander helped bring about an adverse court decision against Paul, though at this time it’s uncertain exactly where the court case against the apostle stands? It’s most probable Paul knows he’s lost the court case, though the sentencing may or may not have been pronounced. Paul is certain it will be death and Paul knows he does have some time remaining, though it’s also uncertain how much time the apostle has before he’s executed. But this Alexander played a big part against Paul.
We know this, because the context of 2 Timothy tells you Paul is in jail and in court. Second Timothy 1:16 says Paul is in chains, and 2 Timothy 4:16 says Paul’s first defense didn’t go well. Plus the Greek verb “did me much harm” is used of being an accuser which may lead to arrest. The phrase “did me much harm” is actually a Greek legal term meaning to inform against. This Alexander is informing against Paul in court.
Plus, verse 15 tells us, “Alexander vigorously opposed our teaching.” Whoever he was, this Alexander hated Paul and hated God’s Word and hated the Gospel. Alexander did Paul “much harm”. The word translated “harm” is kakos, which suggests depravity, evil, bad and wrong. Alexander did evil against Paul.
Commentator John Phillips says, “Alexander likely opposed Paul in Rome at the time of Paul’s first appearance in court. Perhaps he mobilized Jewish public opinion against Paul and Christianity and in support of Nero. The Jewish community in Rome, though powerful in its own right, might have been glad to have the spotlight removed from them and focused on the Christians. In Acts 18:2, we know the Jews had tasted Roman anti-Semitism and were always nervous about it.
“Nero was well acquainted with the Jewish community because he had married a Jewess; during their more compatible moments, Nero might well have listened to her Jewish views. Perhaps Nero welcomed and encouraged Jewish Alexander. His sneers and slanders might have been a balm to Nero’s guilty soul during his crusade against the Christians. Nero might have been nervous about confronting Paul and might have wanted Alexander’s help in the trial. Paul was no pushover, even for a Roman Caesar.”
This was evil, unjust, unfair, slanderous and hurtful. So what does Paul do? Paul rallies Christians to march against Rome in protest. Paul twitters a serious of attacks against Nero’s immoral personal life. Paul writes a letter to the empire calling Christians to stop paying taxes to Rome. Paul actually sends his men to key cities to appeal to every political leader. None of that.
No, Paul says in verse 14, “The Lord will repay him according to his deeds.” Thankfully, Paul was faithful to God’s Word in the law, Leviticus 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” Deuteronomy 32:35, “Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, in due time their foot will slip; for the day of their calamity is near, and the impending things are hastening upon them.”
Paul was also faithful to his own teaching in Romans 12:19, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Paul left vengeance in the hands of God–Alexander will pay. There will be retribution. The Lord will bring payback, verse 14, “according to his deeds.”
When Christ returns to judge, described in verses 1 and 8 of this chapter, the Lord will not forget what Alexander has done. Our all-powerful Lord will give him his due. God never forgets and He will not forget any evil done against you. He will not forget. Psalm 62:12, “And lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord, for You recompense a man according to his work.” Romans 2:5b-6, “the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds.” Second Corinthians 11:15, “It is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.”
At the end of time, both believer and unbeliever are judged by their deeds. Only a believer can do deeds which are acceptable to God–but only those deeds done for the glory of God and in the power of the Spirit are acceptable to God. But an unbeliever can’t do any deed which is pleasing to God–nothing they do is for God’s glory and nothing they do is done through the power of the Holy Spirit.
And God reminds you and I that any of those deeds which are done against you or others will be judged. For the Christian, revenge is sin–yet believers are still tempted to go for it. A man tweeted this–“Coffee shop. People next to me are loud and rude. They found the perfect name for their new business. I just bought their domain name.”
How about the waitress who wrote, “When middle aged women come in and are rude to me for no reason, I politely ask them at the end of the meal if they would like the senior discount for 65+ only.” She laughs at how their eyes bulge out of their head after her comment.
Or how about the renter with his landlord–he says, “I pay my landlord $1800 a month and yet she still complains about how loud I am when I walk around above her.” So the renter bought a dog whistle and plays it for hours so he can complain about how much her landlord’s dog barks.
These people are taking revenge. Your Savior, who suffered and died for you, expects you to trust Him to take vengeance when others are unjust against you. Verse 14, in the future “the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.”
Alexander probably testified against Paul. He could have cited the Ephesian riot as a prime example of Paul’s alleged rabble rousing and destabilizing sedition against Roman law. Alexander might have paraded a string of such incidents in Galatia, Macedonia, Corinth, and Jerusalem–doctoring the narrative, editing out that it was the Jews who instigated the riots, while portraying Paul as a lawless rabble-rouser and the chief proponent of an illegal religion.
Alexander might have found favor in Nero’s eyes, but he was a doomed man–his judgment was coming. Verse 14, “in the future the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. There is no malice or spite in Paul’s words. He was simply thankful God was still on the throne and in control and men like Nero and Alexander will not live forever.
To repay means to recompense, to pay him back, to deal with him according to what he has done, to receive what he is due, according to what his actions deserve. Just like a believer will receive what he is due in reward, Alexander here will get his deserved punishment for the actions he’s done and words he has said.
To demonstrate Christ when someone treats you unjustly, to show wisdom which glorifies God and grows you, you will not take revenge, but you will trust God who will give revenge in His time. How else do you show wisdom with unfair treatment against you?
#2 When opponents vigorously OPPOSE your beliefs, respond with guarded CAUTION, not naivety
Verse 15, “Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously [very] opposed our teaching.” The preceding statement that Alexander did Paul “much harm” serves as the grounds for this warning. Timothy must “guard against” Alexander–he was a dangerous man, and Timothy needed to be warned.
In the Greek text, there is a whom also connecting verses 14 and 15. Verse 15 should say literally, “Whom you also guard against him.” Alexander did me much harm and you also need to guard against him, Timothy. And be on guard against means to guard closely–to look out for, to beware and to avoid. In other words, keep your eyes open! Remain on alert!
This Greek verb guard is a command in the middle voice. Paul is literally commanding Timothy, and now you–for you yourself to literally be on your guard against. You yourself look out for this enemy, this opponent, this attacker Alexander. The present tense of the command tells Timothy he must continually be on his guard. Like 2 Peter 3:17, “You … be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.”
God doesn’t want you to run away, hide, or attack back–but to practice guarded caution. What does it mean to practice guarded caution? Be on guard against him yourself. Guarding is looking, paying attention, looking at life biblically. You are not naïve, you look at people and interpret circumstances with proper theology. You know unbelievers are fallen and you know Christians are saved, but still can sin.
Paul commands Timothy to literally, be you yourself continually on guard against him yourself. This leads commentators to believe that Alexander lived in Rome and caused Paul trouble during one or both of his imprisonments. If that is accurate, Paul was warning Timothy to be on the lookout for Alexander when he arrived there to visit Paul. Guard/keep your eyes open 24/7 The great reformer Zwingli has said, “The Christian life, then, is a battle, so sharp and full of danger that effort can nowhere be relaxed without loss.” This guarding is to be vigilent–the phrase, for he vigorously opposed. Vigorously means strongly, exceedingly, and violently. Alexander was encouraging violence against Paul and was so hateful, it says he opposed Paul–and opposed means to withstand and to resist. He attacked God’s Word.
Let Timothy, in coming to Rome, be constantly on his guard against wicked Alexander. He will try his best to harm the disciple even before Timothy has reached his mentor. Let Timothy take the necessary precautions so he’ll know what to say and what to do, if and when Timothy is confronted by Alexander. And take note, Timothy–the violent opposition was toward Paul’s teaching, for “he vigorously [very] opposed our teaching.” Alexander opposes Paul’s teaching.
The word teaching is used in the New Testament for preaching, teaching, everything Paul said, everything the Apostles teach. The Greek word teaching is plural–literally our words, describing the content of their teaching. What Paul and Timothy are teaching–the New Testament Alexander hates and opposes. “Our teaching” refers to the verbal presentation of the words of the Christian Gospel–the message, preaching, teaching, and the doctrine Paul and the church proclaimed.
The literal meaning of our words might refer to Paul’s defense at the trial, describing the teaching of the Word and preaching of the Gospel Paul gave in court. Alexander hates God’s Word. Alexander was not only hateful of Paul, but opposed to God and His Word. More than an enemy of Paul, he was the enemy of God. This alone is why Spirit-filled Christians will have enemies, because people hate the God you faithfully represent.
This Alexander was a relentless persecutor, one who vigorously stood against God’s Word and Christ’s precious Gospel. But God’s Word tells you faithful ones, 1 Peter 5:9, “But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” Stand firm against, resist, speak up against those who are against God’s Word.
Reformer John Calvin made this challenge–“A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.” What do you do about enemies–those who attack you because you obey God’s Word? “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching” (2 Timothy 4:14-15). Wisely guarding, glorifies God and grows you.
First If you don’t have opposition, then something is wrong with your walk with Christ
Many hide, others compromise to keep the peace, most will do anything to not make waves in order to have fellow students, people at work, family members not be offended by your faith. But when you live by truth, you will be offensive. Your beliefs or behavior will offend someone. If there is no offense or opposition by non-Christians or pseudo-Christians, then your choices contain some compromise.
Matthew 5:11, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.”
Second When opponents harm you, respond with trust in Christ
Trust the Lord with all thoughts and intentions of revenge. Our Savior is the only one who knows the motives of every heart. Christ is the only one who could judge righteously, and make perfect decisions about any evil deed. Vengeance is just another expression of pride–you think you know what’s best, but you don’t. Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.”
When others wrong you, remember Luke 14:11, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Pride will seek revenge on its own, but humility will put revenge completely in the Lord’s hands.
Third As opponents oppose your convictions, respond with truth and grace
Be on the alert–remember you are in a spiritual war with an enemy who hates you. The more you stand on truth, live your faith and minister to others in the Spirit, the greater the attack of the enemy will be upon your life. Look at everything through a biblical and theological lens and respond with grace and love.
Know that there will be some who will hate you anyway, but you respond with grace. Like Jesus, pursue living by uncompromising truth and self-sacrificing grace. John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, … full of grace and truth.” Stand on truth, react with grace and leave revenge in the hands of a just, all-knowing God.
Fourth Everyone is accountable for what they say and what they do
Jesus says in Matthew 12:36, “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.” Raise your hands, student, man, woman and child–how many of you have said something that was sinful, inappropriate and hurtful to another? Then each one of you is going to be judged for your sin. If you turn to Christ in repentance and faith, then God poured out all His judgment for sin on Christ on the cross on your behalf.
But if you have not surrendered your entire life to Christ, then you will be judged for your sin and the consequences for your sin are eternal torture, eternal fire, weeping, torment forever. Your sin is that bad and God is that holy. Revelation 21:8, “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Turn to Christ today–He alone is the only way to escape judgment for your sin. Let’s pray.