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Though Martin Luther is the man credited with inventing the faith alone gospel (FAG) and the term, “evangelical”, the first Evangelicals – or faith-alone followers pre-dated Luther by 1,500 years. Among them were Hymenaeus and Philetus, two men whose gospel Paul viewed as dangerous not only because of its damning message, but its potential quickly become popular.

 

1. Who were Hymenaeus and Philetus?

1.1. Their names mean “singing man” and “friendly man” (respectively). Like Nabal (1Sa 25:25), it is possible that their birth names providentially fit the character. As such, it is also possible that these men possessed personalities or personal traits that made them very likable to–and therefore effective manipulators of–others (2Co 11:13-15).

 

1.2. They were Christians (i.e., those who had at one time expressed saving faith in Christ/were baptized into Christ – Gal 3:26-27; 1Pe 3:21) that later, had been excommunicated or apostasized from the church due to embracing and teaching a false gospel message (1Ti 1:18-20). (20) “handed over to Satan” = Hymenaeus (along w/Alexander) had been excommunicated from the church (1Co 5:1-5). That the sin both men were committing was indeed related to not simply to the gospel but the necessity of obedience is revealed in what else Paul says: 1) “fight the good fight keeping faith[fulness] (pistus = faith/faithfulness; 2Ti 4:7), 2) “and a good conscience” = Free from the guilt of disobedience due to good behavior (Act 23:1; Heb 13:18; 1Pe 3:21), 3) “blaspheme” = A crime associated w/false gospels – most specifically those whose message neglects the necessity of obedience (2Pe 2:1 w/12 “reviling” [blasphemeo] = blaspheming). Evidence therefore suggests that what led to the “shipwreck” of Hymenaeus and Philetus’ Christian Faith was their (eventual) rejection of the maintain portion of the gospel – i.e., they were guilty of embracing a faith-alone (or only) gospel.

 

1.3. Paul’s failure to mention Philetus in his first epistle is most likely because he – unlike Hymenaeus, was unwilling to repent and was therefore immediately (and permanently) declared apostate (i.e., He is church history’s first known apostate Evangelical).

 

2. What is the context surrounding of our primary text?

2.1. Timothy is suffering because of the gospel and being admonished to kindle a spirit of power, love (or loyalty) and discipline necessary to continue suffering as a good soldier for the gospel (1:3-8, 2:3, also 8-9).

 

2.2. Timothy is being admonished to continue preaching and protecting the gospel that agrees with the pattern of salvation found throughout the Scripture (1:13-14). (13) “Retain [continue to possess -or in this case, preach] the standard [Grk., hupotuposis = pattern] of sound words [words that agree w/the salvation found in Scripture]… (14) “Guard…the treasure [protect the gospel].” = Continue to preach and protect the gospel the agrees with the pattern of salvation throughout the Scripture (Old and New Testaments) (Joh 4:22). Pattern of salvation found throughout Scripture = God saving people through marriage covenants (Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic and Old Covenant are all marital in nature – which means this is pattern to be preached and protected with respect to God’s salvation/gospel under the New Covenant).

 

2.3. Timothy is to recall that suffering hardship as a result of possessing the true gospel should be expected not only because of the disobedient and deceived state of most people – including false Christians and false Christian authorities (3:1-5 “godliness” [eusebia] = Spiritual authority/religion; 3:12-13 “imposters” = False Christians and Christian authorities), but more importantly, because this is an important part of how we maintain our salvation and resist spiritual compromise and worldly wickedness (2:11-12a) = Our living and reigning w/Christ requires dying and enduring w/Christ (dying to self and enduring suffering for His gospel). (2:12b-13) = In faithfulness to His NC promise, Jesus will deny all those Christians who deny Him thru unfaithfulness (“faithless”) (Mat 10:32-39) = Confessing Christ (versus denying Him) requires “love” (loyalty) to Jesus over blood family and obedience to Jesus over sin and self (Joh 14:15; Obeying [the Law] is how we love others – 1Jo 5:2; Rom 13:8-10; Gal 5:13-14). Jesus made the same promise to those under the OC (Deu 28:1-2 w/15 w/29:9-25). (2:19) = To be a true Christian (people “the Lord knows…are His”), you must not only “name the Name of the Lord” (i.e., gain salvation by vows of faith confessing Jesus – Rom 10:9-11), but also maintain it by “abstain[ing] from wickedness” (i.e., through practicing faithful obedience to His laws/commands since what defines sin – or wickedness is anything in violation of His laws). Sin is “lawlessness” (1Jo 3:4). The point (then) not to miss: suffering hardship from others who call themselves Christians (false Christians) b/c of our gospel preaches the necessity of obedience/faithfulness (practicing righteousness) for salvation is an encouraging sign that we have the right gospel and are successfully maintaining our relationship w/Christ (Mat 5:10-12 “prophets” – See Amo 5:14-15, 21-24; 1Jo 3:7-10; e.g., Gen 6:9; Neh 9:8; Psa 18:20; Luk 1:6). Likewise it is also a sign that our opponents (Evangelicals) are going to Hell (unless they repent and turn to the truth) (Phi 1:27-28 “walk in a manner worthy of the gospel” = Obey; “sign of destruction for them” = Our obedience; See also 2Pe 2:1 and Jud 1:3-4).

3. What does the backstory on Hymenaeus and Philetus – as well as the surrounding context of Paul’s 2nd letter to Timothy – most especially verses 2:11-13 and 19 (the verses between which our primary text is sandwiched), reveal about the resurrection heresy being preached by Hymenaeus and Philetus?

3.1. That it served as support for their blasphemous (FAG) which rejected the need to maintain one’s salvation after expressing faith in Christ (18).

 

3.2. What then they were (and were not) teaching by saying “the resurrection had already taken place”:

3.2.1. What they were not teaching: previously dead Christians we presently walking around alive. How we know this isn’t what they we teaching: because this kind of ludicrous “talk” does not “spread like gangrene,” (i.e., quickly become popular) — the very thing Paul states was true in relation to what they taught (17).

 

3.2.2. What they were teaching: the reality of our future resurrection is already a done deal (or is as good as already done). The moment we put faith in Christ, our resurrection unto eternal life is a permanent, irrevocable guarantee. It is (therefore) as if it had “already taken place”

 

3.3. Possible teaching by Paul that Hymenaeus and Philetus may have twisted to come to this conclusion (2Pe 3:15-16): Paul’s original letter to the Ephesian church (the church attended by Hymenaeus and Philetus, the church where Timothy pastored) – most specifically Ephesians 2:6, where Paul says that after we are “made alive together with Christ” (v5 – a reference to our baptism and gaining of salvation by faith, See Rom 6:3-4) we are not only “raised up w/Him” but “seated…in the heavenly places”. It is very likely that Hymenaeus and Philetus (along w/Alexander) took this to mean that upon gaining salvation, we are also guaranteed a permanent, irrevocable place in heaven (1:20 “heavenly places” = heaven) —which is the same as saying our resurrection is also guaranteed, permanent and irrevocable. IOW: it is as if it had “already taken place”. The problem w/interpreting (Eph 2:6) this way: Paul does not say we are seated in the “heavenly places” but the “heavenly places in Christ Jesus” – a reference not to heaven itself, but rather the heavenly places that are a part of (or “in”) Christ – i.e., the Body of Christ, or the church (God’s house/heavenly outpost on earth, 1Ti 3:15). Paul confirms this understanding in (Eph 3:8-10) “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” = The Jewish spiritual authorities (those a part of the OC church/God’s OC house/outpost on earth) who needed to see the “light” w/respect God’s “mystery” – i.e., His inclusion of the Gentiles in His salvific plan and NC church.

 

3.4. How this understanding of the statement, “the resurrection has already taken place” (i.e., our resurrection unto heaven was irrevocably guaranteed the moment we put faith in Christ) denies the need for obedience (or maintaining what we gained by faith through faithfulness): Like Evangelicals who believe that by putting faith in Christ we have already received forgiveness for all sins – including those in the future, such thinking makes what we do after faith, irrelevant to our future standing with God. Obedience becomes simply nice-but ultimately not necessary (to salvation) since (once more), our place in heaven has already been irrevocably secured.

 

3.5. In summary then, what Hymenaeus and Philetus were guilty of preaching was a gospel message that taught salvation by faith-alone (i.e., the FAG), which makes them (among) the world’s first Evangelicals. And they are not only condemned by Paul and the early church for such beliefs, but the reason Paul gives special instructions to Timothy for dealing w/them in our remaining verses (14-17a).

 

4. What is Paul’s special instruction to pastors (and true Christians) for dealing w/those peddling the (FAG)?

4.1. Don’t engage them in debate unless you are able to soundly prove your position (14) “wrangle about words” = Struggle w/words (i.e., the words of Scripture – their meaning or interpretation). “useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers” = Not only a waste of time, but will create confusion and ultimately doubt in the hearts of those who are listening.

 

4.2. Be so diligent in your study of Scripture that you are never caught off guard, unable to answer their objections or deliver a convincing defense (15).

 

4.3. Do not tolerate (expose) the employment of worldly tactics, illogical arguments and baseless accusations (16-17a) = By allowing for such things (which is what happens when we don’t expose such tactics by the enemy), we are not only feeding the ungodliness associated w/their antinomian position (no law/no obedience necessary), but fueling its fast spread throughout the world (“If I were to remain silent, I would guilty of complicity” – Albert Einstein).