Matt. 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

What does this verse mean? What is the extent of it? Does it apply when
1) someone opposes our teaching?
2) someone does us personal harm?

Does it apply in the case below?

2 Tim. 4:14-15

a) Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm;
Is complaining about a person to others an attitude of love? Does the Lord's word not apply in extreme cases?

b) the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.
Is it sufficient to not repay evil for evil? Is speaking this way love? (Compare this to the Lord's words in Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.)

c) Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message.
Can a believer warn others in this way about a person he loves?

Is Paul presenting himself as an example to Timothy? What pattern does he want Timothy to learn? Can we take him as a pattern in this verse?

Is Paul's speaking lower than the Lord's standard? Is he in slight error here?

  • Some of us see an impostor within the NT in several places, just as the NT warns. It's where Paul doesn't sound like Paul, or when there are lots of words that say absolutely nothing. For me, I see it as a test for discernment - all is what True God meant to be there, or it wouldn't be.
    – tblue
    Jul 5, 2018 at 2:32
  • The opposers of the gospel are the enemies of the Lord. And he, not anyone else, will reward such - according to the deeds they have done.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 5, 2018 at 12:11
  • @tblue Sounds like seeking a certain kind of Paul.. or deciding what is Scripture or not.. Jul 6, 2018 at 10:25
  • The expression the Lord will repay him according to his deeds means that Paul is refraining from doing just that, as he himself teaches elsewhere (e.g., Romans 12:17-19, 1 Thessalonians 5:15), following, of course, Christ's own example.
    – Lucian
    Jul 8, 2018 at 22:38

2 Answers 2


37For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess. 38Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another. 39But if ye enquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly. 40For we are in danger to be called in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse.
-- Acts 19:37-40 (KJV)

According to the town clerk, Paul had not blasphemed Alexander's goddess nor her temple. So, Alexanders words "that they be no gods, which are made with hands" (Acts 19:26) hadn't come from Paul.

The Jews, as it happens, were the ones provoking Alexander's protest against Paul:

And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward...
-- Acts 19:33 (KJV)

It was they who had coached Alexander in his words to stir up the people against Paul.

Paul says this:

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
-- Romans 12:19 (KJV)

When Paul said to Timothy "the Lord will repay him [Alexander] according to his deeds." his words were consistent with His teaching in Romans, which was consistent with the teaching of the Law (Levitucus 19:18).

Paul's caution "Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message" was no different to Jesus' caution, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" (Matthew 16:6) -- their trouble-making in Ephesus being a perfect example of what Jesus was referring to.

Additional Comments

The change to the question makes it a little more explicit what the OP is asking. Although one has to give the OP the benefit of the doubt in regard to whether or not the question is legitimate or merely rhetoric.

16Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. 17But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; 18And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. 19But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. 20For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
-- Matthew 10:16-20 (KJV)

These words were spoken to the twelve disciples of Jesus when he empowered them for their journey through the towns of the lost sheep of the house of Israel. What did he mean when he said to them, "I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."?

As I see it, Jesus was instructing his disciples concerning their relationship with people: that they should intend no harm towards others, but to be acutely aware that others will not be of the same mind towards them. As a serpent is sensitive to the possibility of intended threat by movement toward them, so Jesus' disciples are to be also.

Jesus' words concerning giving, going the extra mile, loving one's enemies, etc, were not intended to make his disciples codependent, i.e. let wrong notions of love bind them to the "needs" of sinners -- if you loved me you would do this or that.

Of course, this was not Alexander's intent, but it is surely something one should be mindful of concerning questions that would subtly use such incidents in scripture to point an accusing finger.


The truth is, love is not simple. It demands discernment and a heart in total accord with Jesus, which the "entire" testimony of the NT in regard to Paul confirms. Paul in no way was speaking or acting contrary to the Lord. Of course, whether or not he prayed for the silversmiths, or the Jews who were egging Alexander on, is left to whatever the reader might prefer.


Your question, though flawed, is good. There are, however, several hermeneutical principles being violated in your question. Allow me to summarize one of them:


The Bible is nothing if not totally transparent regarding the failings and faults of the people whose names and narratives are found within its pages. The Bible does not gloss over their mistakes, their sins, their lack of good judgment, and the rough edges of their temperaments and personalities.

When interpreting the Bible, to expect perfection of even its heroes of the faith is unwise. To be human, even a regenerated human, is to be something less than perfect.

I've always balked at the expression "I'm only human" for a couple reasons. One, people often mouth that platitude to excuse or justify their faults and failings. Two, the expression may have the ring of truth, but it does not contain the whole truth, for to be human is a tremendous privilege and honor. To say "I'm only human" is by implication to derogate our being made in God's image.


The psalmist said,

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,

The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;

What is man that You take thought of him, [think here "How privileged is man that You take thought of him"]

And the son of man that You care for him?

Yet You have made him a little lower than God,

And You crown him with glory and majesty!

You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;

You have put all things under his feet,

All sheep and oxen,

And also the beasts of the field,

The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,

Whatever passes through the paths of the seas (8:3-8 NASB, my bolding and my gloss).

When reading this psalm, some Bible interpreters have the mistaken impression that the words "What is man . . .?" are an expression of the smallness and insignificance of the human species in contrast to the vastness of the universe, with its billions of stars--if not galaxies of stars! That is poor hermeneutics.

To be human is to have an inherent worth which exceeds that of the animal kingdom and the inanimate aspects of God's creation, whether a billion stars or a billion pounds of gold. God has invested a great deal in us and has proved his love for us by sending his Son to die for us.


All this to say, when interpreting the Scriptures, we need to keep in equipoise both the inherent worth of our humanness on the one hand and our inherent tendency to fall short of the glory of God on the other.

Therefore, when putting our Lord's words in Matthew Chapter 5 and Paul's words in 2 Timothy 4 side by side, a keen interpreter keeps in mind the dichotomy which exists between the ideal, as expressed by Jesus to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors, and the often less than ideal way in which the ideal is implemented by sinners saved by grace. Those sinners, by the way, include the apostle Paul!

Am I saying that Paul was sinning by invoking those strong words of denunciation regarding Alexander the coppersmith and those of his ilk? No, not necessarily. I am simply pointing out that Paul, as with all believers, had some rough edges to his personality and temperament which the Lord was in the process of smoothing.Some of that smoothing, I imagine, took place in Arabia, where Paul spent three years subsequent to his conversion (Galatians 1:19).

As Johnny Cash said in one of his songs,

I'm just an old chunk of coal

But I'm gonna be a diamond some day

I'm gonna grow and glow

'Til I'm so blue pure perfect

I'm gonna put a smile on everybody's face

But I'm gonna kneel and pray everyday

Lest I should become vain along the way

I'm just an old chunk of coal, now Lord

But I'm gonna be a diamond some day

I'm gonna learn the right way to talk

I'm gonna search and find a better way to walk

I'm gonna spit and polish my old rough-edged self

'Til I get rid of every single flaw

I'm gonna be the world's best friend

I'm gonna go around shaking everybody's hand

I'm gonna be the cotton-pickin' Rage of the Age

Yes I'm gonna be a diamond some day ("Old Chunk Of Coal" Lyrics | MetroLyrics)

Yes, Paul was a chunk of coal. For proof, we need look no further than the sharp disagreement with the phlegmatic and easygoing "son of comfort," Barnabus (Acts 15:39). Furthermore, Paul told the Galatians he wished the Judaizers would emasculate themselves (5:12); he got into the apostle Peter's face for being two-faced and hypocritical (Galatians 2:11); and he himself admitted that he was the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).

In short, "even the gods have feet of clay," and Paul and scores of other heroes of the faith were useful, however fallible they were, in God's kingdom. They, as with all of us, were works under construction. As the children's chorus puts it,

He's still working on me

To make me what I ought to be

It took Him just a week

To make the moon and stars

The sun and the earth

And Jupiter and Mars.

How loving and patient He must be,

He's still working on me.


One of my favorite books is Orville E. Daniel's "A Harmony of the Four Gospels NIV" (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986). In it Mr. Daniel puts the texts of all four Gospels, not just the Synoptics, side by side in four columns, so that you can either follow the bold print from column to column if you want a continuous flow of text which includes all the information which is unique to each writer, or you can read the text of each writer separately, one column at a time.

That book is a perfectly legitimate use of textual analysis by examining different texts side by side.

The same cannot be said of putting two different genres of text side by side, pointing out an apparent contradiction, and then speculating as to how to account for that contradiction. That, however, is what you are doing in your question, and as I have suggested earlier, that is not good hermeneutics.

  • So you are saying that in Acts 15:39, Gal. 5:12 and 2:11, and in 2 Tim. 4:14-15, Paul was not one with the Lord in saying that and that the Spirit included that in the scriptures to show Paul's error, kind of like Peter's words in Matt. 16:22, 17:4, and Acts 10:14?
    – RobV
    Jul 6, 2018 at 19:05
  • Are there other cases where you feel Paul was below the Lord's standard? Could you say more about the nature of Paul's error and ideally what he should have said or how he should have handled the situation in those four (or more) cases? (Since, this answer may exceed the scope of the main question, maybe a link to your answer would be good.)
    – RobV
    Jul 6, 2018 at 19:24
  • @RobV: To you first question/comment: Yes and no. I'm not qualified to make a judgment about either Paul or Peter as to whether or not they were not "one with the Lord" in the verses you cited. Acts 10:14 is a good example of how the Bible gives us the unvarnished truth about Peter's bad attitude, but for me to call it sin is above my pay grade. Peter eventually had a change of heart. He went from "Not so, Lord" (which a preacher once pointed out is a contradiction in terms--"no" and "Lord"!) to "Yes, Lord," as indicated by his obedience to God's orders (Acts 10:23 ff.). Jul 6, 2018 at 20:06
  • As for attempting to answer your question "what . . . should [Paul] have said or how . . . [should he have handled] the situation in those four . . . cases?"--again, any speculation would be above my pay grade. The Holy Spirit included the words He wanted to be included, even accounts which might tend to make the words and actions of even heroes of the faith look bad.The same can be said about untruths and lies found in the Word. The Bible records them accurately but does by any means condone them. Rather, it leaves the surmising up to us as we do our own "hermeneuticking"! Jul 6, 2018 at 20:20

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