2 Timothy 2
1You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
In light of the fact that so many have fallen away and broken Paul’s heart, Paul exhorts Timothy to be strong in the grace that is in Christ. He must be willing to trust Christ no matter what circumstances befall him. He must understand that He has no strength apart from Christ in Him, and He must depend wholly on Christ to do all things to His glory (Philippians 4:13).
2The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Timothy has learned much from Paul, and Paul wants him to share these things with other faithful men who can then teach others as well. Timothy cannot possibly teach everybody, for a shepherd can only shepherd so many sheep. But if he can train others who will replicate the ministry, just as Paul had done with him, then the work of the church can multiply and go forward. Paul has not given up on the work of Christ simply because those in Asia deserted him. He continues to believe that God will build His church, and he continues to invest his time and energy in faithful men such as Timothy.
3Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
4No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
Paul wants Timothy to be willing to suffer the hardship and persecution that comes from following Christ. He wants him to be a soldier for Christ, meaning that he is willing to obey Christ’s orders, serve Him unto death, and fight the good fight of faith of proclaiming the gospel and defending the truth no matter what. A soldier has this mindset of full devotion, commitment, and allegiance even in the face of death and danger, and this serves as a great analogy of how Christians should serve their Master. If a soldier is in active service, his focus is on the battle and the task at hand, not the ordinary, everyday issues of life that can distract from the commission of Christ to go and make disciples and teach them all that He has commanded us (Matthew 28:19-20). Christ wants total commitment in all areas of life, both in the ordinary and in the times of great challenge, and we are to be bond-servants of our loving Master. A soldier views his calling as a life and death matter, and our calling to win souls and keep them from eternal death is just as serious.
5Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.
It is important for Timothy and any servant of Christ to do ministry on God’s terms. An athlete can train and compete, but he cannot win unless he competes according to the rules. In the same way, a person can study the Bible and prepare for ministry, but if he gives into sin or false doctrine, he disqualifies himself from the work (1 Corinthians 9:27). Timothy must guard his heart and his doctrine so that he can run to win (1 Corinthians 9:24) and press on toward the prize (Philippians 3:14).
6The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.
A farmer works hard to plant crops and harvest them, and he should be the one who first receives a profit from his work. In the same way, a minister of the gospel will be rewarded justly and generously by God for faithfully planting seeds of the gospel and pruning young plants according to truth so that they can grow (1 Corinthians 3:6-7, Galatians 6:7). Though the results are not always immediately seen, a faithful minister who teaches and preaches the Word of God without compromise can expect to have a great harvest to partake of in the day of Christ. Thus, Timothy must keep laboring, trusting that God will bring the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6) and that He will reward him (Hebrews 11:6).
7Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
Timothy is to meditate on these commands of Paul, and Paul trusts that the Lord will give him understanding so that he knows what to take from them and how to apply them. The bottom line is that Timothy needs to remain steadfast, committed, and driven to fulfill his calling in Christ. Paul here practices what he believes about the sufficiency of God’s Word to effect its desired purpose (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
8Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel,
9for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned.
Timothy is to remain mindful of Christ and His love, sacrifice, and subsequent resurrection so that he remains motivated to share boldly and perseveringly of Christ’s love to others. It should also encourage him to live in holiness, and it should motivate him to defend the true gospel about the true Christ, the true son of David. Paul is suffering imprisonment for this Christ, being treated even as a criminal. Yet he rejoices, for the purposes of God go beyond his cell as God’s Word and will still goes forth. He has a chance to impact the world through his prayers and letters, for God cannot be imprisoned.
10For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.
It is for the sake of Christ and His glory and kingdom that Paul endures his hardship and anything else that might come his way. Yet it is also for the sake of the work of Christ in His church, for Paul wants to do what he can to further the work of the gospel. He endures for the sake of Christ, for the building up of the church, and for evangelism of the lost. He wants to see people everywhere obtain salvation through Christ and the accompanying eternal glory. His is not nearly as concerned about his own difficult state as he is about enduring it for the sake of God and others. This is a wonderful demonstration of self-sacrificing love (Philippians 2:3-4) and a focus set upon others and the glory of God (Isaiah 48:11).
11It is a trustworthy statement:
For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
12If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
13If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
An important trustworthy statement to keep in mind is given. Those who have died in Christ, meaning that they have died to self, having been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) and buried with him through baptism into death (Romans 6:4), will certainly live with Christ in eternity. Coming to know Christ is possessing eternal life and having the promise of living forever with Him. The old self dies, and a new self is created (2 Corinthians 5:17). Eventually, a new body will replace this old corrupted one as well (Romans 8:11), so that all things will be made new. Secondly, if we endure we will also reign with Him. All believers are promised to reign with Christ (Revelation 5:9-10), and it is also true that all believers will endure. It is not to say that all believers will be totally faithful and finish the race strong. All will stumble in some way (James 3:2), and some will make shipwreck of their faith (1 Timothy 1:18-20). Yet all of these will bear at least some good fruit (Matthew 13:23), thereby showing that they are truly saved. Their endurance, even if practically not all that it should or could be, will still be completed simply because of the grace of God. Christ Himself is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), and He will finish the good work which He has begun (Philippians 1:6). Ultimately, our ability to persevere and our promise to reign with Christ are based in His grace, though our rewards and honor in the life to come is based upon faithfulness in this life as believers (2 Corinthians 5:10). Thirdly, if we deny Christ, He also will deny us. A true believer cannot reject Christ, for Christ has adopted him as His child. A child of God can harden his heart against God, and he can rebel. But he cannot reject Christ and undo his adoption. He can deny Christ by his lifestyle, but the only condemning and unforgiveable denial is to reject and therefore blaspheme the call and conviction of the Holy Spirit as He draws a person to repent (Mark 3:29). If we deny Christ in this way, we can be sure that we will be denied heaven. But to deny Christ by doubting and sinning in this life after receiving Him as our Savior does not condemn our hearts, though we certainly need to repent. Those who make a lifestyle and practice of sin ought to question their salvation (1 John 3:9). Peter denied Christ three times, but he did not lose his salvation. He repented, was forgiven, and then tended the sheep of the Lord very faithfully unto death, albeit with a few stumbles along the way (Galatians 2:11-12). Fourthly, God’s faithfulness is not dependent upon our performance. God is faithful no matter what because faithfulness defines His nature. If we lack faith and fail to place our trust in His Son for salvation, we will be denied heaven, but God is still faithful. Our failure to enter eternal life does not compromise His nature. If we as believers doubt or grow weak in faith, God is still faithful. Our disobedience does not change our Father’s nature. He will faithfully convict us, and He will desire to forgive us. He will finish the work He has begun because He is faithful even when we lack faith. Yet the call of the Christian is to be faithful so that God can faithfully showcase His glory and power through weak vessels. We have daily needs, but God is faithfully our portion each and every day (Lamentations 3:22-24).
14Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.
Timothy is to remind his fellowship about the danger of becoming contentious and wrangling about trifling matters. This does not edify, and it only breeds destruction for those who pointlessly argue and for those who have to listen to the vain disputing as false teachers plant seeds of doubt and destruction. Timothy is simply to declare the Bible as it is and to teach what it says. There is to be no debate when it comes to the authority of the Bible. Doctrine can be analyzed, discussed, and conversed about, but it is a waste of time to discuss irrelevant issues and ideas that do not edify the listeners. All thinking and study must edify (Ephesians 4:29), and Timothy is to solemnly charge his fellowship to seek edification and purposeful conversation.
15Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
Timothy is to diligently put great effort into studying the Bible so that he is able to serve as a minister of God that accurately presents and preaches the Word of God. The Bible is not to be taken lightly or haphazardly. It must be studied and meditated on, and the Spirit must give illumination. An elder like Timothy would be held accountable by God for a stricter judgment than most based upon how he handles the Word of God. Teachers bear a greater responsibility in the sight of God because they have the capacity to lead many to the truth or to lead many into deception (James 3:1). If Timothy works hard to present sound doctrine, then he will have no worries about being ashamed before Christ when He comes (1 John 2:28). The imagery in this passage based on the original language is that of an agricultural laborer (workman) who cuts straight ways and holds a straight course (rightly handling). He doesn’t veer to the left or the right, but he stays the course because Christ directs His steps and makes His way straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). He rightly and accurately presents the full counsel of God, and he is able to do this because he has laborious poured over the Scriptures in humility and dependence upon the Spirit for insight and understanding.
16But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness,
17and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus,
18men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.
19Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness."
Paul here repeats a command that he gave in the first epistle in 6:20, challenging Timothy to shun, avoid, and stay away from worldly, empty chatter. Talk is unbiblical and unhealthy if it is vain, evil, unedifying, or erroneous. Paul has in mind here specifically any vain speech that propagates false doctrine, given that he speaks about Hymenaeus and Philetus spreading erroneous teaching about the resurrection having already occurred, which of course it had not. Christ had not yet returned. This teaching that some had missed the resurrection was upsetting the faith of some, leading them into doubt and error as they perhaps wondered why they missed out.
False teaching leads the faithful away from certainty, faith, and confidence in the Word of God. Hymenaeus was a professing Christian who fell into false teaching, and Paul expelled him from the church so that he would learn not to blaspheme (1 Timothy 1:18-20). Even believers can be deceived and start fighting for the wrong team, which is what happened here. Their sin worked like gangrene, devouring their ability to honor Christ in service to Him and in discouraging and deceiving others so that they would become unfruitful as well. False teaching must be purged from the church (Revelation 2:20) for the purpose of preserving the pillar and support of the truth and for the good of those who are in deception so that they might be restored (1 Corinthians 5:5). If false doctrine is not removed from the church, spiritual gangrene will continue to spread through the body of Christ, devouring it to the core. Gangrene eats away at the flesh until even the bones are consumed. The bones are the pillars and support of the physical body. Thus, the illustration of gangrene is fitting to demonstrate how important it is for Timothy to remain bold and forthright in teaching sound doctrine, lest the support and pillars of the body of Christ fail. Truth upholds Christ’s body, and truth must be defended, lest the church succumb to worldliness and apostasy (Jude 1:3). Paul’s encouragement is that even as false teaching goes forth, it cannot undo or change the true and enduring Word of God (1 Peter 1:25). This is a firm foundation that is built upon the person and work of Christ (1 Peter 2:7, 1 Corinthians 3:10). Truth is Christ and Christ’s, and those who have put their faith in Christ will be kept by Him. This is because they are sealed by Him as His own with His Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). Even if they are led astray into deception and worldly chatter, Christ still knows if they are His. He is faithful to complete the work He started in them (Philippians 1:6), though in no way does this justify their error and behavior. They will be held to account for how they lived while in the body (2 Corinthians 5:10). Since the Lord knows who are His, believers don’t need to worry as if the resurrection has already taken place. God won’t forget us, and He will come for us because He knows us. In the meantime, believers are to abstain from wickedness, false teaching, and error. This demonstrates that they are indeed Christ’s (1 John 3:9), and it gives them confidence that they can know that eternal life is theirs (1 John 5:13).
20Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
In a large house, it would be common for there to be vessels of precious metals for honorable uses such as for serving food, and there would be vessels of earth or wood for less honorable uses such as for collecting waste. It is true that those who do not know Christ must be dishonorable vessels, but the point Paul is making is that even believers can make themselves useful only for dishonorable purposes by giving into false teaching and sin. Sin purges the believer of the power of Christ and the wisdom that He gives to make wise decisions and to understand and keep His commands. We so desperately need Christ’s power and the Spirit’s filling in order to do anything of spiritual value (Zechariah 4:6, John 15:5, Ephesians 5:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:19). Without Christ, we can do nothing, and we are useless because all we do is collect and spew waste. We must purge ourselves through confession and seeking forgiveness of God (1 John 1:9) and any we have wronged (James 5:16) so that the Spirit can work powerfully in and through us. Then, we will have sanctified ourselves by faith so that we can be useful vessels suitable for honorable purposes. We can become as a precious silver or gold vessel that is of benefit to others and that bears abundant fruit for the kingdom. The only way to be prepared and made adequate to do the good works God has ordained for us (Ephesians 2:10) is to purify ourselves from sin. As we fix our hope on Christ, we will be motivated to keep ourselves pure as we recognize that without His work in us, we are useless and not storing up any reward for eternity (1 John 3:3). As we let go of sin, we must also take in the Word of God, for it is able to make us adequate (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Christ can work powerfully in us as we submit to Him and obey and learn His Word. Then, we will have much to give to others, and God will open up opportunities for us to serve Him. Only the clean vessels are useable for God’s holy purposes.
22Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
Thus, Timothy, if he wants to be useful, must remain pure and obedient, fleeing anything that could tempt him as a young man, whether sexual immorality, the desire to be liked by others, the fear of standing firm and boldly declaring the truth, or any other behavior or thought process that was devoid of faith, love, peace, and righteousness. These things he must pursue and be willing to fight for so that he can retain a pure heart and therefore be able to call on the Lord and expect answers. God honors effectual fervent prayer from a righteous heart (James 5:16), not one which hides sin (Psalm 66:18). Timothy must avoid foolish thinking and speculations by not getting led astray, by not participating in them, and by not allowing those who propagate the error to go unchallenged and uncorrected. He must be willing to avert the gangrene of false teaching by refusing it and entreating those who are participating in it to repent or be put out of the fellowship.
24The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
When dealing with those who oppose Christ, the gospel, or any sound doctrine, Timothy is not to be one who delights to attack and fight for the sake of argument. He is not to lose his temper, but he is to gently and kindly with longsuffering correct those who are wrong. As Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Timothy is not to add fuel to the fire of disputing, but he is to simply be able to teach the truth in all kindness. God must grant those who are in deception the light to be able to see and escape, for they are held captive by the devil to do his will. They have been ensnared by various lusts and deceptions, and arguing with them in a wrathful manner is not helpful in leading them to escape. Those who are deceived can’t see that they are wrong, and thus an attack against them will be resisted. But a kind and gentle word might at least be considered. A person must approach them gently and with great patience, praying earnestly for them and simply declaring the truth to them. God in grace may open their eyes so that they can see. Unbelievers are enslaved to the devil because they are sinners by birth. They automatically do his will, and they are unable to change save for the grace of God Who delights in changing them as they respond in faith. These need the truth declared boldly but not in anger as if we hate them or want to judge them. We must simply and gently give them the gospel and pray that God will open their eyes. They must repent of the error of their thinking and ways so that they can come to the truth. Believers can also succumb to deception either because of insufficient knowledge (Hosea 4:6) or willful compromise (1 Timothy 1:18-20). Satan can grab a foothold of naivete or lust. If a believer does get held captive, he has the power in Christ to be free if only he will repent and come to his senses. He needs to literally “sober up” and get out of his drunken deceptive stupor. He needs to be able to make an accurate assessment of his condition and of his error (Luke 15:17). The gentle, kind, and patient teaching of truth is the only answer as we pray for God to open eyes and reveal truth.