2 Timothy 2 – Advice to a Young Pastor
A. Working hard for a faithful God.
1. (1) Be strong in grace.
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
a. Be strong: This was an important encouragement. Paul knew that Timothy would need strength and endurance to fulfill the calling God gave him.
i. Again, this is one of the twenty-five times Paul encouraged Timothy to be strong and endure in his work in Ephesus. It seems that Timothy was naturally timid and easily discouraged so he needed to be told often, “Be strong.”
b. Be strong: God is always there to give us strength; He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might, He increases strength . . . those that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength (Isaiah 40:29, 30). However, we must receive this strength, therefore Paul had to encourage Timothy to be strong.
i. God makes the resource of His strength available to us (Ephesians 6:10-11). Yet it does not come as we sit back passively and suppose that God will simply pour it into us. He brings His strength to us as we seek Him and rely on Him instead of our own strength.
c. Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus: Paul told Timothy a specific way to be strong – that is, to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. This strength in grace is essential for a strong Christian life.
i. “Grace here has its simplest theological meaning, as the divine help, the unmerited gift of assistance that comes from God.” (White) Resting in the grace – the unmerited favor of God towards us that is in Christ Jesus – gives a confidence and boldness we could never have when thinking we are on probation or thinking God hasn’t made up His mind about us yet.
ii. There is nothing that can makes us as strong as saying, “I am a child of God in Jesus Christ” and “I have the love and favor of God even though I don’t deserve it.” That is the strength that comes by grace.
iii. Paul knew what it was like to receive the strength of God’s grace, as he explained in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10: And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. He could encourage Timothy like this from his own life experience.
2. (2) Spread the word among faithful men.
And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
a. The things that you have heard from me among many witnesses: Paul reminded Timothy of the body of truth that he had heard from the Apostle in the presence of many others. Certainly, Timothy heard many Bible studies from Paul, and shared much time with the Apostle in personal discipleship.
i. It may be that Paul reminded Timothy of a special message he presented at Timothy’s ordination service among many witnesses. “But he seems to refer here to the doctrines delivered to him when, in the presence of many witnesses, he laid his hands upon him; see 1 Timothy 6:12. Then the apostle gave him the proper form of sound words which he was to teach; and now he tells him to commit those truths to faithful men in the say way that they were committed to him.” (Clarke)
b. Commit these to faithful men: God gave ministry to Timothy, not for him to keep, but for him to pass on to others. An essential part of his work as a pastor was to pour into others what God had committed to him.
i. One may say that everything that a pastor does in his ministry he should train others to do. There are no duties of a pastor so holy or so secret that he should keep them all to himself. He should always seek to spread ministry about to others, and to train others to do the work of the ministry.
ii. Timothy was not to teach others his own particular ideas or theories, but simple Apostolic doctrine and example (the things that you have heard from me). What was poured into him by Paul, he was responsible to pour into others.
iii. The job of training leaders is simply part of a pastor’s job description. He should not only train leaders when the need for a leader is obvious; nor should he only train leaders for the needs of his congregation alone. He should train leaders for the Kingdom of God in general, whether they are used in ministry at the particular pastor’s congregation or not.
c. To faithful men: When Timothy looked for those whom he could pour Apostolic doctrine and practice into, he was to look for the quality of faithfulness. He didn’t need to find smart men, popular men, strong men, easy men, perfect men, or good-looking men; Paul told him to look for faithful men.
i. Through the history of Christianity, some have held to the idea of apostolic succession. This is the idea that you can know who a true minister of the gospel is because Peter ordained someone to succeed him, and that one ordained someone to succeed him, and the next one ordained someone to succeed him, so forth and so on down the line. However, this verse reveals the real apostolic succession – the succession of faithful men, who take the teachings of the apostles and pass them on.
ii. Without faithfulness to the teaching and example of the apostles, the idea of apostolic succession is nothing more than the laying of empty hands upon empty heads. “Where is the uninterrupted apostolic succession? Who can tell? Probably it does not exist on the face of the world. All the pretensions to it by certain Churches are as stupid as they are idle and futile.” (Clarke)
d. Who will be able to teach others also: This job of training leaders was so important that it could not be restricted to Timothy alone. Those whom he had trained must also be given the job to teach others also.
i. Will be able “Expresses capability as proved by experience.” (White)
3. (3-4) Persevere for God with a soldier’s attitude.
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.
a. You therefore must: This was not a suggestion from Paul to Timothy; must carries the sense of a requirement or a command. There was something that Timothy had to do, and Paul would tell him to do it.
b. Endure hardship as a good solider: Timothy must take the attitude of soldier who expects to endure hardship for their cause. No real solider – or at least no good solider – ever gave up simply because some hardship came to them.
i. In the same way, if a believer is not willing to endure hardship, they will never accomplish much for Jesus Christ. They will give up as soon as something hard is required of them; they cannot fulfill Jesus’ call: If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (Matthew 16:24)
ii. “Never dream of delicacy; think not to find God in the gardens of Egypt, whom Moses found not but in the burning-bush.” (Trapp)
iii. “Paul does not exhort Timothy to be a common, or ordinary soldier, but to be a ‘good soldier of Jesus Christ;’ for all soldiers, and all true soldiers, may not be good soldiers. There are men who are but just soldiers and nothing more; they only need sufficient temptation and they readily become cowardly, idle, useless and worthless; but he is the good soldier who is bravest of the brave, courageous at all times, who is zealous, does his duty with heart and earnestness.” (Spurgeon)
c. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life: Timothy must take the attitude of a solider, who willingly detaches himself from the things of civilian life.
i. A solider has to give up many things. Some of them are bad things (pride, independence, self-will), and some of them are good things (his home, his family). Nevertheless, if a soldier is not willing to give up these things, he is not a soldier at all.
ii. The things that might entangle a soldier might be good or bad for a civilian. The soldier can’t ask if something is good or bad for those who are not soldiers; he must give up anything that gets in the way of being a good soldier or serving his commanding officer. A faithful soldier does not have the right to do anything that will entangle them and make them less effective as a soldier.
iii. “It is well remarked by Grotius, on this passage, that the legionary soldiers among the Romans were not permitted to engage in husbandry, merchandise, mechanical employments, or any thing that might be inconsistent with their calling.” (Clarke)
d. That he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier: If Timothy did not endure hardship and if he did not put away the things that entangled him in the affairs of this life, he would not be pleasing to his Commanding Officer.
i. Jesus Christ is the commander of all heaven’s armies. In Joshua 5, Jesus appeared to Joshua as Commander of the army of the Lord (Joshua 5:14). He is our Commanding Officer, and we owe total obedience to Him as such.
ii. It is likely that Paul was chained to a soldier even as he wrote this. He saw how these soldiers acted, and how they obeyed their commanding officers. Paul knew that this is how a Christian must act towards their Lord.
4. (5) Persevere for God with an athlete’s attitude.
And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
a. If anyone competes in athletics: Paul often drew upon the world of athletics for illustrations of the Christian life, mentioning track and field (1 Corinthians 9:12), boxing (1 Corinthians 9:26), and wrestling (Ephesians 6:12).
b. He is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules: The point is clear. An athlete can’t make up the rules as he pleases; he must compete according to the rules if he wants to receive the crown.
i. It is possible to fall into the mistake of thinking that we can make up our own rules for our Christian life. For some people, their special arrangement goes something like this: “I know this is sin, but God understands, so I’ll just keep going in this sin.” This goes against the attitude of an athlete who must compete according to the rules.
5. (6) Persevere for God with the attitude of a farmer.
The hard-working farmer must be first to partake of the crops.
a. The hard-working farmer: In calling Timothy to have the attitude of a farmer, Paul emphasized the fact that farmers are hard-working. In the same way, all who serve the Lord should be hard-working.
i. Unlike the soldier and the athlete, there is nothing glamorous about the work a farmer does. It is often tedious, boring, and unexciting. The nation’s best farmer really isn’t a celebrity. But he must work hard just the same.
ii. God has no place for lazy ministers. If you will not work hard, get out of the ministry. If you will only work hard if you are in the limelight, then let God change your heart.
iii. “Idle drones disgrace every department of the Christian Church. They cannot teach because they will not learn.” (Clarke)
b. Hard-working: Paul knew the value of hard work. He could say, comparing himself with the other apostles, I labored more abundantly than they all (1 Corinthians 15:10). Paul wasn’t just called, he wasn’t just blessed, he wasn’t just anointed; Paul also worked hard. And his ministry would have been far less than it was if he had not worked hard.
i. Some people expect something for nothing. But wise people know that you often get out of things according to the measure you put into them. If you are putting forth little effort in your Christian walk, you should expect little result.
ii. Yet at the same time, Paul knew that all the work he did was the gift of God’s grace in him: I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me (1 Corinthians 15:10). Paul knew the balance of working hard, yet always knowing it is all of grace.
c. Must be the first to partake of the crops: When Timothy had spiritual food to give to the congregation, he must eat of it first. If he isn’t being fed from the Word of God, he can’t really feed others.
i. An effective pastor or teacher will get more out of the message than the audience does, and his time of preparation to teach God’s word will also be a time of warm fellowship with God.
d. Partake of the crops: Like a good farmer, any godly pastor will work hard and he will patiently await the harvest – which really comes at the end of the age, not at the end of the meeting.
6. (7) Looking to the Lord for understanding.
Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.
a. Consider what I say: Paul has just explained three illustrations of the Christian life – a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. Each of these three occupations need great perseverance to succeed.
· The solider who stops fighting before the battle is finished will never see victory.
· The athlete who stops running before the race is over will never win the race.
· The farmer who stops working before the harvest is complete will never see the fruit of his crops.
b. May the Lord give you understanding in all things: Timothy was here instructed to see the importance of perseverance, and to receive understanding from the Lord in all these things.
i. God is faithful give us understanding in all these things, and He will be faithful to give us the grace to be strong. God gives this and we must receive it.
B. Holding steadfast to the truth.
1. (8) The content of Paul’s gospel.
Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel.
a. Remember: Paul did not give this warning because it was something Timothy might easily forget. He said it because Timothy needed to be reminded to keep this in the forefront of his message.
b. Jesus Christ, of the seed of David: Timothy needed to keep the fact that Jesus was the Messiah of Israel – the seed of David – in the forefront of his preaching.
i. God’s plan of rescue through Jesus Christ did not begin when the baby was born in Bethlehem. All of history looked forward to what Jesus would do to save us.
c. Who was raised from the dead: This is the great fact, the great credential of the authenticity of Jesus Christ – His resurrection from the dead.
i. Remember that Jesus was the first one ever resurrected. Others, such as Jesus’ friend Lazarus, had been resuscitated, but only Jesus had been resurrected – raised to a new order of life, with a new body, which though based on the old, was still new and fitted for the glories of eternal life.
ii. Jesus’ resurrection was the proof that though it looked like He died on the cross like a common criminal, He actually died as a sinless man out of love and self-sacrifice to bear the guilt of our sin. Jesus’ death on the cross was the payment but the resurrection was the receipt, showing that the payment was received as perfect before God the Father.
d. Of the seed of David: This statement means that Jesus was fully man; raised from the dead means Jesus was fully God. For Paul, it was essential that Timothy remember and teach the truth about who Jesus was.
e. According to my gospel: Of course, the gospel belonged to Paul in the sense that he preached it; but it also belonged to him in the sense that he believed it. It was his gospel and it should also be the gospel of each individual Christian.
i. Remember what the word gospel means: “good news.” For Paul, the best news was not about more money, more love, more status, or more stuff. The good news was about a real relationship with God through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
2. (9) The consequences of Paul’s gospel.
For which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained.
a. For which I suffer: This gospel did not bring Paul a life of glamour and ease. It brought him a life full of adventure and challenge, and a life also marked by suffering.
i. It was around this time that a terrible fire destroyed much of Rome, a fire that was reportedly set by the emperor Nero as the first step of his own peculiar urban renewal program. The fire destroyed vast neighborhoods of the poor, and when they rioted, Nero blamed the Christians. He then arrested many of them – perhaps including Paul.
ii. One of the most spectacular sights in Israel is the ancient city of Bet Shein – a spectacular city that is, piece by piece, being uncovered and restored by archaeologists. If you ever visit, you can see the coliseum there – the oval stadium, complete with chambers and rooms for lions and other wild animals – animals that were almost certainly set upon Christians for the entertainment of the mob. For me, to walk on floor of that stadium – on the ground that had almost surely received the blood of Christians – was something sacred, and reminded me of the extreme price many have had to pay. Does any small price we must pay seem like much in comparison?
iii. Any true follower of Jesus Christ will be willing to suffer with Him. Those who are determined to never suffer for Jesus may admire Him from a distance, but they do not genuinely follow Him.
b. To the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained: Paul’s wrist was shackled at the very moment he wrote this. Nevertheless, he understood that they could chain him but they could never chain the word of God.
i. The Bible has been attacked more than any other book through history. It has been burned, banned, mocked, twisted, and ignored – but the word of God still stands forever. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:8)
ii. The Word of God is not chained. No government, no religious authorities, no skeptics, no scientists, no philosophers, or no book burners have ever been able to stop the work of the Word of God. Yet, if there is any sense in which the Word is bound, it is bound when it is abandoned by its very friends. When pulpits sound more like self-help books than those who proclaim God’s word; when Scripture is used sparingly like a spice in a message, instead of being the core of it, pastors themselves put a chain around the Bible.
3. (10) Why Paul endures the consequences of the gospel.
Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
a. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect: We might have expected Paul to say he endures all things for the sake of God. Yet Paul knew that his love for God could reliably be measured by his love for God’s people.
i. “St. Paul was much sustained by the thought that his labours and sufferings were, in the providence of God, beneficial to others.” (White)
b. That they may obtain the salvation: Paul’s life was not spent merely in getting people rescued in Jesus, but also in seeing them grow and become complete in their relationship with Him.
c. Eternal glory: The idea of eternal glory is hard for us to comprehend. The Bible tells us there is a glory that belongs to the people of God in eternity that is greater than any earthly glory. Eternal glory is worth much more than earthly glory.
4. (11-13) Paul describes his gospel with a faithful saying.
This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him if we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.
a. This is a faithful saying: We know what it is like to have a worship song on our mind, one that expressing our heart. Here Paul quoted an early Christian hymn known among the Christians of his day.
b. For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him: The song begins with a promise of resurrection to those who have died with Jesus.
i. The Bible speaks of dying with Jesus in two ways:
· The first is common to all Christians, and is illustrated by baptism (Romans 6:3-5). Each of us can have a life-after-death experience with Jesus, seeing our old life ended with Jesus on the cross, and have our new life beginning with His being raised from the dead.
· The other way the Bible speaks of dying with Jesus is, of course, in the sense of martyrdom – of paying the ultimate price for following Jesus. This is probably Paul’s idea here; he is saying, “If we die with Him, we aren’t dead – we live with Him.” More significantly, Paul wrote this awaiting his own execution by the Roman government.
ii. “The context here seems rather to point to physical death as the highest point of suffering for Christ. The reference then is to the martyr’s death now viewed from the standpoint of the crowning day.” (Hiebert)
c. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him: The song assures the faithful believer of eternal reward. This principle assures us that our present difficulty or trial is worth enduring. The reward is greater than what one might gain from quitting. We will reign with Him!
i. The Bible says that we will rule and reign with Jesus Christ. This future destiny explains much of the difficulty described in this passage. We understand that God is training us to rule and reign beside Him in the world to come.
d. If we deny Him, He also will deny us: The song warns those who deny Jesus that they themselves will be denied. By doctrine or manner of living, one may deny who Jesus is, deny what He has done for us, or deny what He commands us to do.
i. Jesus said it plainly: But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:33)
e. If we are faithless, He remains faithful: We cannot deny Jesus and we must keep our allegiance to Him. Yet if one does fall away, it doesn’t change who God is – He remains faithful.
i. It is a terrible thing when people who name the name of Jesus show themselves unfaithful; many have been turned off from Jesus because of the hypocrisy of those who take His name. But all the faithlessness of man doesn’t disprove the faithfulness of God.
ii. “Our faithlessness cannot in any way detract from the Son of God and His Glory. Being all sufficient in Himself He has no need of our confession. It is as if he had said, ‘Let all who will desert Christ, for they deprive him of nothing; when they perish, He remains unchanged.'” (Calvin)
iii. But the Christian can stand faithful as God empowers them. Even if one has been wavering, they still have time – as the Spirit of God calls to them even now – to turn back to the faithful God. We can be like the prodigal son, who came to his senses, saw his faithfulness, and came home to his father who had been faithful to him the whole time.
iv. When one Christian in the days of the ancient Roman Empire was commanded to give money to the building of a pagan temple, he refused; and though he was old, they stripped him practically naked, and cut him all over his body with knives and spears. They started to feel sorry for him, so they said, “Just give one dollar to the building of the temple.” But he still would not. “Just burn one grain of incense to this pagan god,” they asked – but he would not. So he was smeared with honey, and while his wounds were still bleeding, they set bees and wasps upon him until he was stung to death. He could die; but he could not deny his Lord. The Lord can give you the same strength to live for Him, even as this man died for Him.
C. Keeping attention on the most important things.
1. (14) Keep focused; don’t be distracted by unprofitable things.
Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.
a. Remind them of these things: After reminding Timothy of the essential points of the gospel, Paul adds that Timothy must always remind his hearers of these things. Timothy’s job as a pastor was to keep his congregation always focused on the gospel.
i. The church is constantly tempted to get its focus off of the message that really matters, and is tempted to become an entertainment center, a social service agency, a mutual admiration society, or any number of other things. But this temptation must be resisted, and the church should constantly remember these things.
· The things of 2 Timothy 2:8: Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel.
· The things of 2 Timothy 2:11-13: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we deny Him, He will also deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful, He cannot deny Himself.
b. Not to strive about words to no profit: At the same time, there were things that Timothy must not focus on. The church must stand for the truth, but it must not become a debating society.
i. We can get distracted by endless discussion or strife over things that don’t have central importance. “Words, not things, have been a most fruitful source of contention in the Christian world; and among religious people, the principle cause of animosity has arisen from the different manner of apprehending the same term, while, in essence, both meant the same thing.” (Clarke)
ii. “Let us notice first that teaching is rightly condemned on the sole ground that it does no good. God’s purpose is not to pander to our inquisitiveness but to give us profitable instruction. Away with all speculations that produce no edification!” (Calvin)
c. To the ruin of the hearers: This shows that it is a serious matter and there is much to lose. If we take the focus off the message of God, and put the focus on human opinions and endless debates, it will result in the ruin of the hearers.
i. The Bible says, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). Yet if people do not hear the word of God, then ruin comes by hearing the opinions and speculations and entertainment of man.
2. (15) Keep focused; pay attention to your own life and ministry.
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
a. Be diligent: Paul often had to exhort Timothy to courage and action. Earlier in the chapter (2 Timothy 2:3-5), Paul encouraged him to hard work and endurance for the service of the Lord.
b. To present yourself approved to God: Timothy’s goal was not to present himself approved to people, but to God. He wasn’t to regard the job of being a pastor as a popularity contest but instead as a call to faithfulness to God.
c. To present yourself approved to God: Timothy wasn’t to worry so much about presenting other people approved to God (though there was a place for this in his pastoral ministry). His first concern had to be to present himself approved to God.
d. A worker who does not need to be ashamed: It is embarrassing to do a job poorly and then to have your work examined. The Bible warns us that the work of each Christian will be examined at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). Therefore we have another motivation to work diligently for the Lord, so we will not be ashamed when our work is examined.
i. “It is better explained as a workman who has no cause for shame when his work is being inspected.” (White)
e. Rightly dividing the word of truth: This was to be a focus of Timothy’s hard work. He was to work hard so he could rightly divide the word of God.
i. Timothy, as a faithful pastor, was to be rightly dividing God’s Word. That is, he had to know what it said and didn’t say, and how it was to be understood and how it was not to be understood. It wasn’t enough for Timothy to know some Bible stories and verses and sprinkle them through his sermons as illustrations. His teaching was to be a “right dividing” of the Word of God, correctly teaching his congregation.
ii. “Swords are meant to cut and hack, and wound, and kill with, and the word of truth is for pricking men in the heart and killing their sins. The word of God is not committed to God’s ministers to amuse men with its glitter, nor to charm them with the jewels in its hilt, but to conquer their souls for Jesus.” (Spurgeon)
iii. Rightly dividing has several ideas associated with the ancient term.
· Rightlyhandle the Word of God, as one would rightly handle a sword.
· Plow straight with the Word of God, properly presenting the essential doctrines.
· Properly dissect and arrange the Word of God, as a priest would dissect and arrange and animal for sacrifice.
· Allot to each their portion, as someone distributing food at a table.
f. Rightly dividing: This also means there is such a thing as wronglydividing; not everyone cuts it straight. We must understand that Biblical truth is not just an issue left up to everyone’s interpretation. There is a right way and a wrong way to understand the Bible, and a pastor especially must work hard to master the right interpretation.
i. For example, many people love to say when the Bible is quoted, “Well, that’s just your interpretation.” Their idea is, “You interpret the Bible your way, I interpret it my way, and another person interprets it their way. We can never really know what it means, so don’t judge me with your Bible verse.”
ii. When someone tells me, “That’s just your interpretation,” I think in response: “It’s true that it is my interpretation, but it isn’t just my interpretation, it is the correct interpretation, and we need to pay attention to what the Bible says correctly interpreted.”
iii. This is an important point: The Bible does not mean just what anyone wants it to mean. There may be many people trying to twist the Scriptures to their own ends, but they are wronglydividing the word of truth. We can’t just pick the interpretation that seems most comfortable to us, and claim it as true – it must be rightly dividing the word of truth, and it must be consistent with what the Bible says in the specific passage and with the entire message of the Scriptures.
iv. For example, a correct interpretation of Matthew 7:1 (Judge not, that you be not judged) is not the idea of “You have no right to judge my behavior or any one else’s behavior.” If this were the case, then Jesus repeatedly broke His own commandment, because He often told people their behavior was wrong in the sight of God. The correct understanding of Matthew 7:1 is easily seen by reading Matthew 7:2: For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you. Jesus was saying “Don’t judge anyone by a standard you are not willing to be judged by. God will hold you to the same standard you hold others to.” This clearly does not forbid judging someone else’s life, but it does prohibit doing it unfairly or hypocritically, or living with a judgmental attitude.
v. The point is clear: There is a right way and a wrong way to divide the Matthew 7:1, which is one verse in the word of truth. Every Christian, but pastors especially, must work hard to be rightly dividing the word of truth. Though perfection in understanding God’s word is impossible, and should never be assumed, we should still work hard at it.
3. (16-18) The price of not keeping focus: The faith of some is overthrown.
But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.
a. But shun profane and vain babblings: This refers to anything that takes the focus off of the gospel and God’s Word. These babblings are profane because they are unholy in contrast to the holiness of God’s Word. They are vain, because even though people like to hear them, they don’t have lasting value.
i. Man’s opinions, man’s teachings, man’s opinion polls, man’s stories, man’s programs, are all profane and vain babblings compared to the simple Word of God. When these things become the focus of the message from the pulpit, it will increase to more ungodliness.
b. Their message will spread like cancer: The message of profane and vain babblings may spread quickly and be popular. They are like a cancer that spreads fast and captures an audience.
i. Who in 2 Timothy 2:18 “Implies that Hymenaeus and Philetus were only the more conspicuous members of a class of false teachers.” (White)
c. Hymenaeus and Philetus: Hymenaeus is mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:20 as a man whom Paul delivered to Satan that [he] may learn not to blaspheme. This is the only place where we hear of Philetus, and here Paul tells us of their error.
i. They were of this sort – that is, they had a message full of profane and vain babblings, and apparently the message was somewhat popular, because it spread quickly.
ii. They had strayed concerning the truth: Apparently, they started out correctly, and then strayed from that correct position.
iii. They were saying that the resurrection is already past: It seems they were teaching that we were already in God’s millennial kingdom, or that there was no resurrection to come – it had already occurred.
iv. They did overthrow the faith of some: Though the only false doctrine Paul mentioned regarding these two is that they taught that the resurrection is already past, the effect was to overthrow the faith of some. Undoubtedly, this was not their only error; and a fundamental error in such an area often leads to many more strange beliefs, until one has abandoned Jesus and His truth all together.
v. Many today accept and honor teachers who are way off in one area or another; and they justify it by saying, “I eat the meat and spit out the bones.” This kind of thinking will certainlyoverthrow the faith of some, because some will certainly choke to spiritual death on the bones you say you spit out.
vi. Notice Paul said, they overthrow the faith of some. We shouldn’t require that everyone be led astray by a teacher before we avoid them; even if some are having their faith overthrown, it is bad enough.
4. (19) The reward of focus: The solid foundation of God.
Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
a. Nevertheless, the solid foundation of God stands: In the preceding passage, Paul sounded as if he were under severe attack and might not stand against the rising tide of deception and wickedness. But here, he makes it clear, both to himself and to us that the kingdom of God cannot be shaken.
i. Though men like Hymenaeus and Philetus made dangerous attacks against the church and their message spread like cancer, and even though the faith of some might be overthrown, nevertheless, the solid foundation of God stands.
ii. God has a plan, God has a purpose, God has a strategy, and it is not going to fail. It doesn’t matter how many fall away, how many reject the truth, how many go their own way after profane and vain babblings – Nevertheless, the solid foundation of God stands.
b. Having this seal: There are two seals on the solid foundation of God. “The one seal bears two inscriptions, two mutually complementary parts or aspects.” (White)
i. It seems that Paul drew these allusions from Numbers 16, in reference to the rebellion of Korah.
· The Lord knows those who are His: “The words are taken from Numbers 16:5, ‘In the morning the Lord will show who are His.'” (White)
· Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity: “The language is perhaps another echo of the story of Korah (Numbers 16:26-27). But Isaiah 52:11 is nearer in sentiment.” (White)
c. The Lord knows those who are His: This is the first inscription on the seal. If Hymenaeus and Philetus continue their destructive ministry, the Lord knows those who are His. If profane and vain babblings sweep through the church like cancer, the Lord knows those who are His. If the faith of some is overthrown, the Lord knows those who are His.
i. We don’t always know those who are His. We can know for ourselves, for as Romans 8:16 says, The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. But with others, we cannot always know those who are His.
ii. God does not sit in heaven, wondering and worrying if you are saved or not. He does not hope or wonder if you will make it to the end. He knows. The Lord knows those who are His.
d. Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity: This is the second inscription on the foundation of God. It is true that God knows those who are His; and He calls those who are His to leave their sin behind.
i. Some might say, “I belong to the Lord, I know I’m His. I am going to heaven. It doesn’t matter so much how I live.” Yet, such a son has forgotten that there are two inscriptions on the foundation of God. There are two – and those who are His will have the desires and the actions to depart from iniquity.
ii. If someone does not have the desire or the actions to depart from iniquity, it is fair to ask if they really belong to Jesus or if they have just deceived themselves.
e. Thesolid foundation of God stands: It isn’t going to change; therefore, we can keep our focus on it. It is hard to focus on something that often changes, so God gave us a solid foundation in His Word to keep our focus on.
i. “The first seal marked it for the Lord, the second secured its removal from the common stones around it. First comes election, and sanctification follows. I want every professing Christian to have that double mark, and so to be Christ’s man, known of all to be such by coming out from the unclean, and being separated unto the Lord.” (Spurgeon)
D. Living your life and being used by God.
1. (20-21) Vessels of honor and dishonor.
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.
a. But in a great house: Paul just used the picture of God’s building (the solid foundation of God stands). Now he thinks of that building as a great house that has a variety of vessels in it – bowls, plates, vases, and other such things.
i. The church of God is indeed a great house.
· It is a great house because of who it belongs to. The house of our great God is certainly a great house.
· It is a great house because it is planned and designed on a great scale. It has the most brilliant Architect and houses a great multitude of the greatest people to ever walk the earth.
· It is a great house because of the great cost it took to build it. This is a mansion far more valuable than any real estate on earth, built by the great work of Jesus on the cross.
· It is a great house because of its importance. This house and what happens in it is at the center of God’s plan of the ages. The business of this house is more important than any of the trivia most of the world is interested it.
b. Vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay: Some of these vessels are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. Some are used on occasions of great honor (the gold and silver vessels), and some are used for dishonor – such as a garbage bin or an ashtray.
c. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter: The latter things are the things of dishonor mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:20. If we cleanse ourselves from dishonorable things, God will regard us as vessels of honor, sanctified and useful for the Master.
d. If anyone cleanses himself: Paul spoke about a cleansing that isn’t just something God does for us as we sit passively. This is a self-cleansing for service that goes beyond a general cleansing for sin.
i. There is a main aspect of cleansing which comes to us as we trust in Jesus and His work on our behalf. This work of cleansing is really God’s work in us and not our work. This is the sense of 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
ii. But there is another aspect of cleansing which God looks for us to do with the participation of our own will and effort. Not that it is our work apart from God, but it is a work that awaits our will and effort: If anyone cleanses himself. This aspect of cleansing is mostly connected with usefulness for service, and closeness to God.
iii. “Oh, happy be you that you be now in this scouring-house; for shortly you shall be set upon the celestial shelf as bright as angels.” (Trapp)
e. Sanctified and useful: Sanctified means set apart, just as much as there are certain bowls and plates that we use more than others, or are set aside to some honorable purpose, so some people are more sanctified and useful to God than others. They are more prepared for every good work than others.
i. We must never think that some Christians are better than others, or that some have passed into a place where they are super-spiritual. However, we must also realize that some Christians are more able to be used by God than others, because they have cleansed themselves, and made themselves more usable to God.
f. Prepared for every good work: We must not think of being usable primarily in the sense of serving in the church. God wants to use His people for every good work, including those at the workplace, the school, in the home, in the community. This happens as one will cleanse himself and set yourself aside to God as a vessel for honor.
i. There is a large sense in which it is left to us how we want to be used by God. We have the potential to be used as a vessel of honor or as a vessel of dishonor. According to this picture, we could be a gold platter in the house of God, beautifully displaying the fruit of the Spirit. Or we could be an ashtray or a garbage can in God’s house.
ii. Your conduct – clean or unclean; set apart to God or not set apart to God; useful to Jesus or not useful to Jesus – really matters. It greatly effects how God can use you and will use you to touch the lives of others.
2. (22-23) How to cleanse yourself.
Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.
a. Flee also youthful lusts: This is the first aspect of cleansing that Paul mentioned to Timothy. Youthful lusts describes the sort of desires and temptations that are especially prominent when someone is an adolescent or young adult. Sexual temptation, illicit pleasure of the flesh, and a longing for fame and glory often mark one’s youth.
i. The command is simple: Flee also youthful lusts. Don’t entertain them. Don’t challenge them. Don’t try and endure them. The idea of “I will just test myself on this one to see if I can stand against it” has made many fall into sin.
ii. If you cannot flee also youthful lusts, there is a real limit to how much God can use you, a limit to how useful to the Master you will be. You can’t really say “yes” to God until you can say “no” to some other things.
iii. “He has just been cautioned against the errors of the intellect; he must be warned also against vices of the blood.” (White)
b. But pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace: Cleansing can never be a matter of just avoiding bad things. It must also be the pursuit of good things. Therefore there are both things that we must flee from and things we must pursue.
c. Pursue . . . peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart: To be cleansed, we must do everything we can to be right in our personal relationships with others. Cleansing needs to extend to how we treat others.
i. Sometimes relationships are not right with others, but we have done all we can do to set it right. We must take great care that we do all we can do. As Paul wrote in Romans 12:18: If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
ii. Bad relationships really hinder our service to the Lord. We must do what we can to set things right if we want to be used of God as much as we can be.
d. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes: Walking clean also means staying clear of endless disputes and arguments. These distracting interests can limit how much God can use us.
3. (24-26) The kind of attitude God can use: The gentle servant.
And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
a. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all: The great men of our world are not usually thought of as servants nor as gentle. Yet in the kingdom of God, greatness is marked by being a servant of the Lord and by being gentle to all.
i. “Paul’s meaning is that gentleness should be shown even to those who least deserve it, and even if at first there is no apparent hope of progress, still the challenge must be accepted.” (Calvin)
b. A servant of the Lord must: When Paul wrote to Timothy about a servant of the Lord, he told him about some of the basic characteristics of a godly pastor.
i. Timothy must not quarrel but be gentle to all. It was not his job as a pastor to pick fights and to look for conflict. Some men only feel energized and motivated if they have an argument; Timothy (and every pastor) should be of a different sort.
ii. Timothy must be able to teach. With the great emphasis Paul placed on God’s Word, a pastor who is not able to teach is like a surgeon who can’t use a scalpel.
iii. Timothy must be patient. God’s work often takes time. Sometimes we can see why it takes so much time, sometimes we can’t – but God is not in a hurry, and wants us to learn how to patiently trust Him.
iv. Timothy must be in humility correcting those who are in opposition: The gentleness and patience Timothy must have does not mean he is to never confront those who need to be confronted; but he must do it in humility.
c. In humility correcting those who are in opposition: Paul specifically told Timothy how to correct these opposing ones.
i. If God perhaps will grant them repentance: They need to repent, and this repentance will never happen apart from a work of God in their heart.
ii. If God perhaps will grant them repentance: The idea is not, “Maybe God will or maybe God won’t grant them repentance.” The idea is more, “It’s remarkable thing to see this work of God, and I won’t presume upon it happening.”
iii. So that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses: Anyone who fights against God is deceived, and must come to their senses; repentance flows as someone comes to the truth in this way.
iv. And escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him: Those who are in opposition to God’s work, whether they know it or not, are bound in a demonic deception, and are doing the devil’s work. They need to escape the snare of the devil, and God is ready to set them free.
d. Taken captive by him to do his will: Paul spoke of those who serve the devil and those who serve God. There is a choice for every person, every Christian, who they will decide to serve.
i. To be a servant of the Lord – a vessel of honor for Him – we must be empty, clean, and available. If we refuse to empty ourselves, clean ourselves, and make ourselves available to the Lord, we will find ourselves captive to the devil in one sense or another.
©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission