Beware of Mindless Chatter

Day 38 – 2 Timothy 2:16–19

Having urged Timothy to be a good workman of Scripture, Paul provides negative and positive examples. The false teachers were not good workmen of Scripture. They were lazy and engaged in “godless chatter” (v.16). They demonstrated the saying that “empty vessels make the most noise”. Paul singles out two such false teachers, Hymenaeus and Philetus (v.17). Hymenaeus is also mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:19–20 as one who had shipwrecked his faith. Not much else is known of Philetus. Both had “wandered away from the truth” (v.18).

Their heresy centred on their claim that the resurrection had already taken place (v.18). How they managed to convince their gullible listeners is not clear. Scholars think that while Paul had taught that the giving of the Holy Spirit was a down payment for the future resurrection (Ephesians 1:13–14), these false teachers may have misled people into thinking that the reception of the Holy Spirit completed salvation and was a sign of spiritual resurrection, and that there was no further resurrection.

Such teaching must have caused much confusion among believers and produced unhelpful and even harmful reactions in those who believed this heresy. The need for a bodily resurrection was dismissed. False confidence that they were saved and didn’t need to care about holiness any more (licentiousness) was another reaction. They may have stopped praying. They imagined they did not have to suffer, as they connected the reception of the Spirit with a life that was free from suffering. Modern health and wealth gospels are echoes of that ancient heresy.

In short, their faith was destroyed (v.18). The heresy spread like gangrene (v.17), and those who were influenced became increasingly ungodly (v.16).

Paul, in contrast, was a good workman of Scripture. He demonstrates this in verse 19. Unlike the spreading heresy, God’s truth was a solid foundation sealed with an inscription that says two things. “The Lord knows those who are his” points to the all-powerful and all-knowing God. “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness” refers to the human response to divine grace. Our security in Christ and our responsibility to pursue holiness are both emphasised. If one is held without the other, misunderstanding and even heresy will arise. It is so important to be a good workman of Scripture.

 

 

Think Through:

Can you think of some examples of godless chatter? Why does such godless chatter lead to apostasy and ungodliness?

Why do you think Paul included both statements (v.19) as foundational for the Christian life? What would happen if one is emphasised without the other? Reflect on false security and spiritual restlessness.

 

Taken from Journey Through 1 & 2 Timothy: 50 Biblical Insights by Robert M. Solomon.

Handle God’s Word Rightly

Day 37 – 2 Timothy 2:14–15

A good craftsman derives satisfaction and pleasure from doing his best to produce high-quality work. Likewise, the student of God’s Word is expected to be a good “workman” who “does not need to be ashamed” (v.15) of negligent, shoddy, or half-hearted work.

In challenging false teachers whose favourite pastime was “quarrelling about words” (v.14), and in feeding the flock with God’s Word, Timothy is to be a diligent student of Scripture. As a careful craftsman of Scripture, he will be able to warn the false teachers and their fans of the danger of engaging in useless speculation and of carelessly handling Scripture. Such behaviour “only ruins those who listen” (v.14). Three principles can be noted in verse 15 regarding the right handling of Scripture.

Firstly, preachers are accountable to God. They present themselves to God before they present themselves to the congregation. They kneel in prayer before they stand at the pulpit. They need to gain God’s approval before they can preach. The leaders whose task it is to choose and authorise preachers must discern those whom God has approved. Remembering that they are accountable to God will make preachers conduct their ministry with all seriousness and with fear and trembling (Psalm 119:120).

Secondly, preachers and teachers must handle God’s Word accurately. The Greek word orthotomeo means “to cut straight”, the way a farmer cuts a straight line with the plough. The opposite of orthotomeo is astocheo, meaning “wandered away” (2 Timothy 2:18). Careless and irresponsible workmen of God’s Word stray from the text and lead themselves and their flocks astray. Scottish theologian William Barclay asserts that a good workman of Scripture “rightly divides the word of truth, drives a straight road through the truth and refuses to be lured down pleasant but irrelevant bypaths”.

Thirdly, good workmen of Scripture will do their best. The Greek word spoudazo means “making every effort with haste, eagerness and zeal”. There is to be no cutting of corners or laziness. Good workmen will spare no effort to accurately and clearly present what the scriptural text says and apply it relevantly to everyday life. They will emphasise what Scripture emphasises and focus on its focus.

These principles are not only for preachers and teachers, but also for all Christians, in whom the Word of God must richly dwell (Colossians 3:16).

 

Think Through:

Identify some examples of “quarrelling about words” (v.14). Why is such a practice useless and harmful to listeners and participants? How is this different from guarding the truth?

Reflect on the three principles stated. Which of these needs to be strengthened in the way you handle Scripture?

 

Taken from Journey Through 1 & 2 Timothy: 50 Biblical Insights by Robert M. Solomon.

God Is Our Ultimate Hope

Day 36 – 2 Timothy 2:11–13

The “trustworthy saying” (v.11) that Paul quotes here is a quatrain (a series of four statements) that was probably taken from an early Christian hymn. These statements say something about the nature of the Christian life, the reality of suffering, the danger of apostasy, and the ultimate triumph of Christ.

The first statement (“If we died with him, we will also live with him”; v.11) refers to our conversion and baptismal experience (cf. Romans 6:8). We entrust ourselves to Christ by dying to the self and finding new life in Him. This is the secret of the victorious Christian life. For Paul, this truth would have had additional significance. He was about to die for Christ and experience eternal life with his Lord.

The second sentence (“if we endure, we will also reign with him”; v.12) points to the suffering that is often a part of the Christian life. But such suffering is nothing compared to the glory of reigning with Christ. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Cross bearers on earth will become crown wearers in heaven (2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 2:10).

The third statement (“If we disown him, he will also disown us”; v.12) is a warning against apostasy—of not enduring faithfully. We must resist all such temptations by remembering the words of Jesus (Matthew 10:33). We disown the Lord when His lordship is not declared and demonstrated in our lives. This can easily happen when Christians living in a hostile social environment are focused on saving their own skins.

The fourth statement (“if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself”; v.13) is more difficult to interpret. It could mean that God (being faithful to His character) will punish unfaithfulness. It could also mean that human unfaithfulness cannot thwart God’s purposes. Our ultimate hope is God’s faithfulness. The knowledge that God is faithful will help us to remain loyal to Him.

We should not become presumptuous of God’s grace. Instead, we should be willing to follow Christ by denying ourselves, enduring the suffering associated with it, and, by God’s grace and power, remaining faithful to Him in all situations.

 

Think Through:

Reflect on baptism as dying with Christ and rising with Him to new life (Romans 6:5). Why is the death of the self necessary to live the new life?

What are some ways by which Christians disown Jesus and become unfaithful to Him? What can we do to ensure that we do not fall into such temptations and fatal habits?

 

Taken from Journey Through 1 & 2 Timothy: 50 Biblical Insights by Robert M. Solomon.

Suffering for Jesus

Day 35 – 2 Timothy 2:8–10

Remembering is important in Christian discipleship. Servants, for example, must remember their master’s parting instructions in order to be found faithfully carrying them out when the master returns suddenly (Matthew 24:45–51). Likewise, we must remember Jesus Christ (v.8). We must “fix our eyes on Jesus” in order to run the race with perseverance (Hebrews 12:2).

Paul describes Jesus as “raised from the dead” and “descended from David” (v.8). Each description says something vitally important about Jesus. Jesus is both fully divine (proven by His miraculous resurrection) and fully human (being a human descendant of King David); He is both the Son of God and the son of David. This is a reiteration of what Paul had written to the Romans (Romans 1:1–4). The apostle John referred to Jesus as “the only begotten God” (John 1:18 NASB).

In the early church (and even today), heresies developed when either the divinity or the humanity of Jesus was denied. The Bible holds both facts together (Matthew 1:20–21; Luke 1:35; John 1:14; 1 John 1:1–4), and reflection on this truth will help us to understand the nature of the triune God and His eternal purposes to save us. Paul calls this declaration “my gospel” (v.8), for which he was suffering—“being chained like a criminal” (v.9). The truth about Jesus and His gospel is worth enduring any amount of suffering.

Paul reflected on his chains in prison while probably dictating 2 Timothy to his friend Luke (2 Timothy 4:11). He must have smiled when saying, “But God’s word is not chained” (v.9). You can imprison the messenger, but you cannot imprison God’s Word! Paul was comforted by the power of God’s Word and the failure of human and demonic attempts to suppress or snuff out the gospel. The truth of Jesus cannot be quashed because God will not allow that. God, who is out to save those whom He has predestined (“the elect” in verse 10), will see to it that Jesus is remembered well so that He can be believed and trusted.

For this reason Paul was willing to “endure everything” (v.10). Even in chains he was filled with joy as he thought about Jesus and considered himself to be privileged to serve his wonderful Lord.

 

Think Through:

Why do you think it is heresy to deny either the divinity or the humanity of Christ? Why is the truth that Jesus is both fully divine and fully human necessary for us to understand what He accomplished on the cross for us?

This passage refers to the deep remembering of Jesus and the tough resilience associated with it. How can we remember Jesus at the Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 11:23–25) so that we can endure everything for the sake of His gospel?

 

Taken from Journey Through 1 & 2 Timothy: 50 Biblical Insights by Robert M. Solomon.