Translations: Chinese GB Big5

2Timothy 2:14-26 (web)

Diligent Workman

2:14 Remind them of these things, charging them in the sight of the Lord,
that they don't argue about words, to no profit, to the subverting of those who hear.

2:15 Give diligence to present yourself approved by God,
a workman who doesn't need to be ashamed, properly handling the Word of Truth.

2:16 But shun empty chatter, for they will proceed further in ungodliness,
2:17 and their word will consume like gangrene,

of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;
2:18 men who have erred concerning the truth,
saying that the resurrection is already past,
and overthrowing the faith of some.
2:19 However God's firm foundation stands, having this seal,
"The Lord knows those who are his," and,
"Let every one who names the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness."

Sanctified Vessel

2:20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver,
but also of wood and of clay. Some are for honor, and some for dishonor.
2:21 If anyone therefore purges himself from these,
he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, and suitable for the master's use,
prepared for every good work.

2:22 Flee from youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love,
and peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
2:23 But refuse foolish and ignorant questionings, knowing that they generate strife.

Gentle Servant

2:24 The Lord's servant must not quarrel,
but be gentle towards all, able to teach, patient,

2:25 in gentleness correcting those who oppose him:
perhaps God may give them repentance leading to a full knowledge of the truth,
2:26 and they may recover themselves out of the devil's snare,
having been taken captive by him to his will.

Discussion Questions

What does he mean by "quarreling about words" and other forms of "godless chatter"?
(vs 23 - What's an example of a "stupid argument" and how do they produce quarrels?
vs 24 - Teachers can easily be resentful against those who disagree or quarrel with them. Such resentfulness must be rejected. But how do you recommended not resenting those who disagree with you?)
How does this differ from doing detailed analytic Bible study?
Or how does this differ from what Paul and others did in Acts 9:26; 15:2; 18:28?
How do people misuse the word of God?
Why would anyone say that the resurrection had already taken place?
And how might such an idea destroy the faith of some?
vs 19 What is the point of putting this verse here?
Do those belong to God, who say that they believe in Christ, but continue living a lifestyle of sin? (1John 3:6)
vs 20 Notice the relationship with the 1Cor 3:11-15 judgment. (A judgment not dealing with the issue of salvation, but rather one of rewards).
vs 22 How has fellowship with other Christians helped you in fleeing evil desires?


Quarreling about Words

2Tim 2:14 Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.

Typically these arguments he refers to involve quarreling over that which the Bible is not clear about. There are things which the Bible says which are stated explicitly and unambiguously. And I would argue that things that are most important are those which the Bible states explicitly, repeatedly, and unambiguously. But when what the Bible states in this manner doesn't agree with one's opinion or chosen lifestyle, there is the tendency to read into the Bible one's ideas by assigning meaning to particular words in the Bible of which the authors of the Bible did not intend. This is also much along the lines of Titus 3:9 "But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless."

Notice that just prior to this Paul spoke of some fundamental principles, principles which should not be denied by arguing over the meaning of words. And yet ironically you'll find Christians quarreling over the precise meaning of 2Tim 2:11-13 or the meaning of the word "elect" in 2Tim 2:10.

Correctly Handle the Bible

2Tim 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

It's common to find people claiming their views are scriptural, but mishandle the Word of truth by reading into the Bible ideas which the Bible didn't intend. In contrast, inductive study involves letting the Bible speak for itself. A few healthy principles of interpretation I recommend:
1. All scripture is inspired by God and therefore though it is subject to scrutiny with regards to its meaning, it is not subject to scrutiny with regards to its validity

2. Translations are not assumed to precisely represent the original manuscripts, and thus to get at the precise meaning one must study it in the original language it was written.

3. Passages which are unclear or ambiguous concerning a particular subject or are historical in nature are to be interpreted in light of passages which which clearly, explicitly and unambiguously devoted to teaching doctrine, rather than the other way around.
4. To say anything conclusively about a subject in the Bible one must first study it comprehensively.

Ironically this very verse has been mishandled. For as the KJV and NKJV translate it "rightly dividing" the word of truth, some have misunderstood this as speaking of simply dividing the Bible into dispensations. For example C.I. Scofield noted, "The Word of Truth, then, has right divisions, and it must be evident that, as one cannot be "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed" without observing them, so any study of that Word which ignores those divisions must be in large measure profitless and confusing." By taking the metaphor literally, Scofield did not handle this verse correctly - shame on him! For the expression to "rightly divide" simply means to handle correctly.

While the world "rightly divide" is only used here in the New Testament, the word is used twice in the LXX. Pr 3:6  In all thy ways acquaint thyself with her, that she may rightly direct thy paths. Pr 11:5 Righteousness traces out blameless paths: but ungodliness encounters unjust dealing.

Avoid Godless Chatter

2Tim 2:16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.

Godless chatter is, among other things, that which doesn't take God into account. The example that follows in verses17,18 is that of those who gave a religious opinion while ignoring what God said on the matter. Ungodliness is lifestyle which ignores God. No matter how allegedly "virtuous" the atheist, he is inherently ungodly for not deferring to God in the realms of ideas and behavior.

Paul had spoken previously to Timothy on this subject in his first letter where he said, "Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith." 1Tim 6:20,21 Thus "godless chatter" is that which is inconsistent with the content of our faith as declared to us in the Word of God, and thus such chatter is godless insomuch as it ignores what God has said.

Likewise he also advised Timothy, "Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly." 1Tim 4:7 "godless" is the same word as elsewhere.  Here he seems to be alluding to superstitions. And indeed in perhaps every culture you will find Christians combining their faith with superstitions. Don't be drawn into such things. Don't indulge in idle speculations.

Eschatology Matters

2Tim 2:17,18 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.

"Gangrene" is much like cancer, and so translations will often translate this "cancer". But gangrene is more visible. In either case the illustration is clear. And indeed the history of Christianity has shown, even in the book of Acts, that false teaches can spread quickly and destroy the faith of some. For example in Acts there was the cancer of the Circumcision which grew right out of the church of Jerusalem. Peter, James and John simply overlooked the fact that there was a cancer growing in their church and was spreading abroad. But when it spread to Galatia, Paul was outraged that such a thing had not been nipped in the butt from its inception and so went to Jerusalem to deal with this issue personally. Through that encounter and through his writing of the book of Galatians (the book that also inspired the inception of the Protestant Reformation, removing the visible church from the cancer of Catholicism which had grown corrupt at the time), the heresy of the Judaizers no longer posted a significant threat for the last two millennia. Consequently I would argue that heresy should not simply be avoided, it should be opposed, as Paul also said, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2Cor 10:5

Now in particular here these men, Hymenaeus and Philetus, propose that the resurrection has already taken place. This kind of reminds one of "date setters" concerning the return of Christ. Indeed there are those today who claim that the second coming has already occurred. This is usually the result of them setting a date for Christ's return. The date comes and goes. Nothing happens so they claim that something "invisible" actually did happen. Likewise the claim of the resurrection have already occurred is not uncommon. Today there are those who claim a viewpoint they refer to as "Full Preterism" in which the Coming (Parousia), resurrection, rapture, day of the Lord and day of judgement all occurred in AD 70. I would argue they fit into the same category as Hymenaeus and Philetus.

To be noted, Paul is making a big deal about and area of theology referred to as "eschatology" - a theology of the end times. Many today tend to treat issues of eschatology as peripheral, non-essential issues. Yet, for example, if you read Paul's two letters to the Thessalonians he makes a big deal about such things.

"Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness  is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?" 2Th 2:1-5

or this:

"Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." 1Th 4:13-17

Here we see the whole of the resurrection of the righteous includes the Rapture, which shortly follows the resurrection of the righteous who had died. And in 1Cor 15 he further speaks on the nature and timing of the resurrection, including the Rapture.

Therefore, as divisive as it may seem, there are certain views of eschatology which should not be tolerated. Paul says, "I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead." Acts 23:6 But if such resurrection (including the Rapture) had already occurred, and one missed out on it, there is no hope offered in the gospel.

Who are His?

2Tim 2:19 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."

These were not quotes from scripture, but rather here Paul endorses a couple of expressions which encapsulate a couple of ideas foundational to the faith. But it's interesting to consider the implication of him bringing up these two ideas in this context of godless chatter.

"This Lord knows those who are His" implies that it might not be obvious from the standpoint of one's institutional allegiance. In other words, there are those who claim to be Christians, but their mere claim does not make one a child of God. There are those among the Christian community - the visible Church - who are His, namely the invisible Church - those who have actually been born of God - the genuine believers. Korah and his followers were Israelites, yet Moses said to them, "In the morning the LORD will show who belongs to him". Nu 16:5 What happened? "The ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions. They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community." Nu 16:31-33 Yet such also will be the fate of nominal Christians.

"Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness." And indeed, "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." 1John 3:9,10 So departing from iniquity is not a condition for salvation, but rather a characteristic of those who have been saved. Those who characteristically don't depart from iniquity show they don't belong to God.

"Free Grace Theology" or Antinomianism or Keswickian theology, however one refers to it, is the idea that departing from wickedness is optional. "Chaferism", for example, a form of Kewsickian theology to which Campus Crusade for Christ, or CRU as it's known now, has historically advocated the idea that one only need accept Christ as Savior to be be saved, accepting Christ's Lordship being optional. Yet in fact there is no such category among the saved who continue to live a lifestyle of sin, according to Paul's writings and John writings in 1John, and elsewhere. Consequently such theologies may be likened to godless chatter.

Be Useful

2Tim 2:20-21 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

This sounds very much like 1Cor 3:12-13 "If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work."

The thing about wood, hay or straw that is that they're combustible. They vanished in the fire. There are things we may get caught up in with regards to this life, which won't last. "The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives" 2Peter 3:10,11a  "The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the LORD endures forever." 1Peter 1:24a-25 Give yourself over to that which will last forever. Don't get caught up in vanity. "What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away." 1Cor 7:29-31

 "We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Eph 2:10 But we must prepare ourselves to be effective in serving the Lord.

Flee and Pursue

2Tim 2:22 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.

Have nothing to do with the lusts characteristic of the immature - anything which is antithesis to a godly life. "Flee sexual immorality" 1Cor 6:18a "Flee from idolatry" 1Cor 10:14b "You, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness." 1Tim 6:11

Grow up! But realize the Christian life is not simply about abstaining from sin. "Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it." 1Peter 3:11 It's about pursuing righteous living, applying faith with an attitude of love, being at peace with God, with others, and with one's own conscience. These are to be pursued in \ with other Christians. The Christian life is not intended to be lived isolated from other Christians. It is a serious thing when Christians depart from the fellowship of the body. "A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment." Pr 18:1

But, granted, Paul is referring to fellowship among those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart, and such people among the Christian community may be rare. Part of pursing righteous living is pursing such quality believers to fellowship with. If none exist, grow your own.

Stupid Arguments

2Tim 2:23-26  Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, 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.

So if someone wants to quarrel about such things you need only reply, "Sorry, the Bible tells me I'm to have nothing to do with foolish and stupid arguments". Granted there are ideas worthy of debate, but all too often people bring up arguments that are just too stupid to even comment on. And if you enter into such debates they end up merely as quarrels as you'd be arguing with a person who is just too irrational to see the stupidity of their own position. So don't even bother.

A teacher should be dispassionate. Which is not to say removed of passions, but rather one whose passions do not influence their judgements. Truth, getting it right, is the priority, and second to that, communicating it effectively. Teaching is in the realm of ideas. Pride and resentfulness are counter-productive to teaching. In fact in teaching and in discussion with others, one person's attitude tends to invoke the same in the other. Thus one person who approaches the subject rationally, dispassionately, with humility, but unaffected by insults, tends to invoke the same attitude in the other person. In fact one of the battles in discussions and debates is who is going to control the attitude. Those who are losing the argument, if they are too proud to modify their position, often end up simply belittling the other person to see if they can win with regards to controlling that person's emotions. So one of the challenges of teaching is to remain dispassionate and keep it on topic.

God granting repentance indicates those who are in opposition are not in full control. But rather they are described as being captive to the devil. Though granted, as with all sin, there's no doubt a degree of cooperation on their part, else there would be no culpability on their part. But it does help, with regards to those who oppose Biblical teaching, to visualize such people as captives to the devil, victims of whom you are trying to rescue. And realize that no matter how convincing your own position may be, there are those how simply won't be convinced because the real problem they have is spiritual and not simply rational.

As throughout 2Timothy, this section is filled with with the sense of purpose. Timothy has a job to do, a mission to fulfill. May it be that we all have such a sense of responsibility. For without the sense of "mission", we all can become lazy, even fulfilling the desires of our flesh while we wait to die, idly standing around doing nothing or busily involved in fulfilling the vain and futile goals that our flesh or the world dictates to us. Those with the sense of purpose are involved in the process of preparation and sanctification to serve the Master.
vs 14 "arguing about words" (logomacheo)
"To wrangle about empty and trifling matters."

The culture at the time, being dominated with greek philosophy, was ripe for such empty and foolish debates as was common in the pagan community to have its influence on the Christian community. Paul was not speaking against the style of argumentation, as he himself had argued in Athens itself in a similar manner as the greeks. Rather he was against the content commonly used in such debates filled with empty, vain reasoning not based on truth but on the mere speculation of depraved men. Those who mishandle the Bible by reading into it their own vain ideas rather than reading out of it the meaning that the author intended will end up being ashamed of doing so. Arguments based subjectively on mere speculation tend to produce unnecessary quarrels since everyone may have his own opinion about such subjective ideas. (Which is one of the reasons why God had to write down His word in black in white so as to provide a more objective source of truth).

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Edition: Wednesday, 29-Jul-2015 17:23:09 EDT