The Latter Epistles -2 Timothy 2

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.  Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.  Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.  The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.  Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.  This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.  Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
    we will also live with him;
if we endure,
    we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
    he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
    he remains faithful,
    for he cannot disown himself.
Keep reminding God’s people of these things.  Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.  Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.  Their teaching will spread like gangrene.  Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth.  They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.  Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”
In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use.  Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.  Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.  And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

  • 2 Timothy 2:1-26

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

On ‘many witnesses’: “Such as Silas, Barnabas, and Luke, and many others in the churches who could attest to the divine authenticity of Paul’s teaching – a needed reminder to Timothy in light of the many defections at Ephesus (cf. 2 Tim. 1:15).”
On ‘reliable men … to teach others’: “Timothy was to take the divine revelation he had learned from Paul and teach it to other faithful men – men with proven spiritual character and giftedness, who would in turn pass on those truths to another generation.  From Paul to Timothy to faithful men to others encompasses 4 generations of godly leaders.  That process of spiritual reproduction, which began in the early church, is to continue until the Lord returns.”
On ‘a good soldier does not entangle himself’: “The metaphor of the Christian life as warfare (against the evil world system, the believer’s sinful human nature, and Satan) is a familiar one in the NT (cf. 2 Cor. 10:3-5; Eph. 6:10-20; 1 Thess. 4:8; 1 Tim. 1:18; 4:7; 6:12).  Here Paul is dealing with the conflict against the hostile world and the persecution (cf. v. 9;1:8;3:11, 12;4:7).  Just as a soldier called to duty is completely severed from the normal affairs of civilian life, so also must the good soldier of Jesus Christ refuse to allow the things of the world to distract him (cf. James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17).”
On ‘competes as an athlete’:  “The Gr. verb (athle-) expresses the effort and determination needed to compete successfully in an athletic event (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24).  This is a useful picture of spiritual effort and untiring pursuit of the victory to those familiar with events such as the Olympic Games and the Isthmian Games (held in Corinth).”
On ‘The hardworking farmer’: “’Hardworking’ is from a Gr. verb meaning ‘to labor to the point of exhaustion.’  Ancient farmers worked long hours of backbreaking labor under all kinds of conditions, with the hope that their physical effort would be rewarded by a good harvest.  Paul is urging Timothy not to be lazy or indolent, but to labor intensely (cf. Col. 1:28, 29) with a view to the harvest.  See 1 Cor. 3:6, 7.”
On ‘2 Timothy 2:9-10’: “Paul contrasts his imprisonment for the sake of the gospel to the unfettered power of the Word of God.  Those of the elect, having been chosen for salvation from before the world began (see 2 Tim. 1:9), who had not yet come to faith in Jesus Christ (see Acts 18:10; Titus 1:1).  There is salvation in no one else (Acts 4:12; cf. Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4, 5).  The gospel must be proclaimed (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8) because the elect are not saved apart from faith in Christ (Rom. 10:14).”
On ‘He remains faithful’: “As faithful as Jesus is to save those who believe in Him (John 3:16), He is equally faithful to judge those who do not (John 3:18).  To act any other way would be inconsistent with His holy, unchangeable nature.  Cf. Heb. 10:23.”
On ‘the worker correctly handles the word of truth’: “Lit. ‘cutting it straight’ – a reference to the exactness demanded by such trades as carpentry, masonry, and Paul’s trade of leather working and tentmaking.  Precision and accuracy are required in biblical interpretation, beyond all other enterprises because the interpreter is handling God’s Word.”
On ‘Avoid godless chatter’: “See 2 Tim. 2:14; 1 Tim. 6:20; cf. Titus 3:9.  Such destructive heresy leads only to ‘more ungodliness.’  Heresy can’t save or sanctify.  This is Pauls’ second such warning.”
On ‘articles of gold and silver’: “The Gr. word is very general and was used to describe various tools, utensils, and furniture found in the home.  In this ‘great house’ analogy, Paul cotrasts two kinds of utensils or serving dishes.”
On ‘Flee the evil desires of youth’: “Not merely illicit sexual desires, but also such lusts as pride, desire for wealth and power, jealousy, self-assertiveness, and an argumentative spirit.”
On ‘foolish and stupid arguments’: “Paul’s third warning to avoid useless arguments with false teachers (see 2 Tim. 2:14, 16).”
On ‘Opponents must be gently instructed’: “Primarily unbelievers (captive to Satan, v. 26), but also could include believers deceived by the ‘foolish and ignorant’ (2 Tim. 2:23) speculations of the false teachers; and, possibly, the false teachers themselves.”

  • John MacArthur, One Faithful Life

2 Timothy 2:3: “I submit that the whole hectic scramble after happiness is an evil as certainly as is the scramble after money or fame or success.  It springs out of a vast misunderstanding of ourselves and of our true moral state.  The man who really knows himself can never believe in his right to be happy.  A little glimpse of his own heart will disillusion him instantly so that he is more likely to turn on himself and own God’s sentence against him to be just.  He doctrine of man’s inalienable right to happiness is anti-God and anti-Christ, and its wide acceptance by society tells us a lot about that same society.
”The effect of this modern hedonism is felt also among the people of God.  The gospel is too often presented as a means toward happiness, to peace of mind or security.  There are even those who use the Bible to ‘relax’ them, as if it were a drug.
“How far wrong all this is will be discovered easily by the simple act of reading the New Testament through once with meditation.  There the emphasis is not upon happiness but upon holiness.  God is more concerned with the state of people’s hearts than with the state of their feelings.  Undoubtedly the will of God brings final happiness to those who obey, but the most important matter is not how happy we are but how holy.  The soldier does not seek to be happy in the field; he seeks rather to get the fighting over with, to win the war and get back home to his loved ones.  There he may enjoy himself to the full; but while the war is on, his most pressing job is to be a good soldier, to acquit himself like a man, regardless of how he feels.”

  • A. W. Tozer, Of God and Men

2 Timothy 2:8 ‘remember’: “In a letter written within earshot of the sharpening of the blade that would sever his head, Paul urged Timothy to remember.  You can almost picture the old warrior smiling as he wrote the words, ‘Remember Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead … This is the Good News I preach” …
“When times get hard, remember Jesus.  When people don’t listen, remember Jesus.  When tears come, remember Jesus.  When disappointment is your bed partner, remember Jesus.
“Remember holiness in tandem with humility.  Remember the sick who were healed with callused hands.  Remember the dead called from the grave with a Galilean accent.  Remember the eyes of God who wept human tears.”

  • Max Lucado, Six Hours One Friday

2 Timothy 2:9 ‘God’s Word not being chained’: “What are the reasons the Word of God is not bound?  It is not bound because it is the voice of the Almighty.  If the gospel is indeed the gospel of God, and these truths are a revelation of God, omnipotence is in them.  It is not possible that the omnipotent Word can be bound.
“Moreover, the Holy Spirit puts forth his power in connection with the Word of God; and as he is divine, he is unconquerable.  He comes as a rushing, mighty wind; and who can stop him?  He comes as fire, and who can stand before his flaming vehemence?  The Holy Spirit’s being with the gospel is the reason for its great power.  It is not that truth alone is mighty and will prevail but that the Spirit of truth works mightily by it and causes it to subdue human minds.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

2 Timothy 2:13: “Then there’s the Christian who may have been unfaithful to the Lord through the years.  ‘If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself.’
”Then there’s the discouraged person.  ‘Faithful is he calleth you, who also will do it’ (1 Thessalonians 5:24).  You may have been serving God quite a while, but instead of getting better, you feel you’re getting worse.  You know what’s happening to you?  You’re getting to know yourself better!  There was a time when you didn’t know who you were and you thought you were pretty fine.  Then, by the good grace of God, He showed you yourself – and it was shocking and disappointing to you.  But don’t be discouraged, because He is faithful that calls you and He will also do it.  God will finish the job.”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God II

2 Timothy 2:22-23 ‘Flee the evil desires of youth’: “Run away from them.  It is no use contending with them.  Fight with the devil.  Resist the devil and make him flee, but never fight with the flesh.  Run away from that.  The only way to avoid the lust of the flesh is to stay out of its way.  If you subject yourself to carnal temptations and fleshly lusts, remember it is almost certain that you will be overcome by them.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

My Thoughts

There seems to be three separate themes in this chapter of 2 Timothy, but there is still the underlying theme of fighting heresy.

The three analogies given at the beginning are excellent, each in its own way to convey goals for Timothy (and us) to achieve.  It is strange that within the past sixty years, the Army has developed a group of people that get involved, to a limited extent, with civilian affairs.  Even though I was not “Special Forces,” my last reserve assignment was as a “real estate officer.”  I had to know the Geneva Conventions as they pertained to real estate.  If called onto active duty, I would have had to negotiate with the civilian personnel so that we did not simply take something by force when the civilians were friendly.  That, and all the engineering that went into figuring out what facilities could be used for which purposes.  Yet, in all cases, a soldier’s primary goal was to please his (and these day’s her) commanding officer. In the photo above, the Colonel cutting the ribbon was the commanding officer that I most wished to please. He and the officer beneath him to whom I directly reported were my best bosses ever.

Then the athlete analogy has been used in sermons probably ever since this letter was written by Paul to Timothy.  The athlete is the one to which each of us can relate, maybe better than the other two.  But if you have worked as a farmer, or even with a large garden, you put in a lot of back breaking work with the hope that you will have a crop once harvest happens, and never a guarantee.  In my flower garden, I never got a dahlia to emerge from the ground, much less bloom, but the lilies, with many more steps in the planting process, seemed to be easier to work with.  In the vegetable garden, it seemed that I had the knack for black-eyed peas in abundance, but I never got my money’s worth in growing tomatoes.  And thinking back to the turkey farm and thinking of it being hurricane season, I remember chasing turkeys in the middle of the night to prevent them from huddling together and drowning during what had been a hurricane upon landfall.  We worked very hard to prevent a tropical storm from wiping out the fruits of our labors.

But put them together, for they each have a different lesson.  The soldier does what it takes to please the commander, our Lord.  The athlete robs himself/herself of victory if they violate the rules.  And the farmer works hard, trusting in God that there will be a harvest.  Each of these goals relates to the Christian leader, but also each Christian.  We serve to please God, playing by the rules, and not knowing if we will gather the harvest of that next generation of Christians or if that will be left for others to harvest.  We work to help others along the path, working in faith.

Then, the Apostle Paul speaks of the faithfulness of God, including the poetry in the middle of the chapter.  I love the line about God never disowning us since Jesus is in our hearts, at least the true believers.  The Holy Spirit is within us to guide us.  Thus, if God disowned us, He would be disowning Himself.

And then we get to multiple warnings not to enter into foolish arguments.  It is so easily done.  Someone makes a comment to a post that is so clearly against biblical teaching, so you feel you must respond.  But that is what internet trolling is all about.  A “troll” does not look for articles that can help them grow as a Christian (or whatever their “thing” is); they look for the opportunity to attack.  Making a clear statement to correct their errors may be necessary, but if they escalate, it is best to ignore them, or even delete the comments.  I know, some people have difficulty with that, but it may be necessary to prevent false doctrine being the last word spoken.

All Christians, with true faith, should have the desire to spread the Word of God to those around us, but not everyone is equipped to be an apologist or even an evangelist.  Os Guinness describes the apologist (even though definitions vary from one school of thought to another) as the person who works primarily in the intellectual realm, breaking down the barriers raised by atheists and agnostics.  Then, once the listener intellectually decides that God is real and presently working in the world, the evangelist helps the listener move toward a spiritual understanding and acceptance.  Apologetics can also be considered any defense of the faith, which we can all do, based on how that faith affects us.  But arguing that Noah’s global flood really happened requires the work of many scientists at places like the Ark Encounter.  Trying to argue on your own, without a team of PhD scientists to back you up, could be difficult and might easily lead to being considered a foolish or stupid argument.

And I have heard countless evangelists talk about how no one comes to faith by having someone else argue them into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  I do not know if that superlative, that absolute, is really true, but it is a poor method.  If they do not concede your argument to be true, you may have driven them farther away from God.  And all that was gained was an intellectual knowledge transfer.

Our message must convey that God loves them.  When we argue that they are “wrong,” they get on the defense and bottle up their emotions or pour them out in anger.  None of that helps in showing love.

And sadly, if you are talking to someone that you deeply love, your emotions are already on edge.  It may be better that someone else does the talking.  Your frustration could show, and they might interpret your unspoken feelings as being anger instead of frustration, borne of love.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

 “5. When it comes to living out your faith, what do you have in common with a soldier?  What don’t you have in common with them?”
“1. How can you begin polishing up some of the dusty, mundane articles in your life for God’s special use (vv. 20-21)?
“2. Of the four goals in verse 22, which one do you need to work on this week?  How will you do so?
“3. How does one ‘defend the faith’ against heresy without arguing over truth?  Cite a recent example.”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

First, this starts with question 5, which was included in the last Bible lesson.  (The Serendipity Bible not breaking the discussion at the end of the chapter.)  Since 2 Timothy 2 starts with the analogies of the soldier, athlete, and hardworking farmer, it should have been moved to this discussion.

As for question 2 (or the third question above), the goals in verse 22 are “righteousness, faith, love and peace.”  That is, if I am reading the question correctly.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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