2 Timothy 2:14-26 ESV
(14) Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.
(15) Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
(16) But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,
(17) and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus,
(18) who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.
(19) But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity."
(20) Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.
(21) Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
(22) So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
(23) Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.
(24) And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,
(25) correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,
(26) and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
2:14 Timothy is to remind them of these things, that is, the things of verses 11-13. But to whom does Paul refer with the word them? He probably refers in a general sense to all of Timothy's hearers and in a special sense to those who were introducing strange doctrines. This is evident from the remaining part of the verse, where those who obviously occupied the place of teachers or preachers are warned not to strive about words. Apparently there were those in Ephesus who made great issues over the technical meaning of certain words. Instead of building up the saints in the truth of God's word, they were only undermining the faith of some who heard them.
2:15 Timothy should be diligent to present himself approved to God. His efforts should be concentrated on becoming a worker who does not need to be ashamed. This he could do by rightly dividing the word of truth. This latter expression means to handle the Scriptures correctly, to “hew the line,” or as Alford put it, “to manage rightly to treat truth fully without falsifying.”
2:16 Profane and idle babblings are teachings that are irreverent, evil, and useless. It is not profitable for the people of God and should be shunned. Timothy is not instructed to combat these teachings but rather to treat them with disdain, not even dignifying them with his attention.
One serious thing about these babblers is that they are never static. They always increase in ungodliness. It is so with all forms of error. Those who teach error must be continually adding to it. This explains the new dogmas and pronouncements that are constantly being issued by false religious systems. Needless to say, the more these doctrinal errors are expanded, the more ungodliness results.
2:17 The way in which evil teachings spread is compared to cancer. Most of us know only too well how this dread disease spreads rapidly in the human body, destroying tissue wherever it goes.
The word cancer can also be rendered “gangrene.” Gangrene refers to the mortification of part of the body when it is cut off from its normal supply of blood and nutrition.
Elsewhere in the NT, evil doctrine is likened to leaven, which, if allowed to spread, will eventually affect the whole lump of meal.
Two men are named whose teachings were corrupting the local church. They were Hymenaeus and Philetus. Because they failed to handle the word of truth correctly, they take their place with others in God's hall of shame.
2:18 Their false teaching is here exposed. They told the people that the resurrection was already past. Perhaps they meant that when a person was saved and was raised to newness of life with Christ, that was the only resurrection he could expect. In other words, they spiritualized the resurrection and scoffed at the idea of a literal raising of the body from the grave. Paul recognized this as a serious threat to the truth of Christianity.
2:19 As Paul thinks of Hymenaeus and Philetus and their false teaching, he realizes afresh that dark days are coming upon the church. Unbelievers have been accepted into the local church. Spiritual life is at such a low ebb that it is often hard to tell true Christians from mere professors. Christendom is a mixed multitude, and the resulting confusion is devastating.
In the midst of such a condition, Paul finds comfort in the assurance that the solid foundation of God stands. This means that whatever has been established by God Himself will endure in spite of all the declension in the professing church.
Various explanations have been given as to what is meant by the solid foundation of God. Some suggest that it is the true church. Others say it refers to the promise of God, to the Christian faith, or to the doctrine of election. But is it not clear that the foundation of God refers to anything that the Lord does? If He sends out His word, nothing can hinder it. Hamilton Smith says: “No failure of man can set aside the foundation that God has laid, or prevent God from completing what He has commenced. ... Those who are the Lord's, though hidden in the mass, cannot be ultimately lost.”
The foundation of God has a twofold seal. There is a divine side to it and a human side as well. From the divine side, the Lord knows those who are His. He knows them, not only in the sense of recognition, but of approval and appreciation. Lenski says He knows them “with appropriating and effective love.” The human side of the seal is that everyone who names the name of Christ should depart from iniquity. In other words, those professing to be Christians can prove the reality of their profession by lives of holiness and godliness. The true Christian should have no dealings with unrighteousness.
A seal is a mark of ownership and also an emblem of guarantee and security. Thus the seal on God's foundation signifies His ownership of those who are true believers and the guarantee that all who have been converted will prove the reality of their new life by departing from unrighteousness.
2:20 In this illustration, we understand that the great house refers to Christendom in general. In a broad sense, Christendom includes believers and professors—those who are truly born again and those who are mere nominal Christians.
Vessels of gold and silver would therefore refer to genuine believers.
Vessels of wood and clay refer not to unbelievers in general, but to those in particular who were evil workers and who taught false doctrines, such as Hymenaeus and Philetus (v. 17).
Certain things should be noticed about these vessels. First of all, there is an important distinction between the materials of which the vessels are made. Secondly, there is a difference in the uses to which they are put. Finally, there is the distinction as to their ultimate destiny. The vessels of wood and clay are discarded after a while, but those of gold and silver are retained as valuable.
The expression some for honor and some for dishonor has been variously interpreted. Some suggest that dishonor simply means less honor. In that case, all the vessels would stand for true believers, but some are used for the highest purposes and some for the lowest. Others feel that the vessels for honor would refer to men like Paul and Timothy, whereas those for dishonor would refer to such men as Hymenaeus and Philetus.
2:21 The interpretation of this passage largely depends on one's understanding of the meaning of the latter in “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter.”
Does latter refer to the vessels of wood and clay? Does it refer to the false teachings that have been mentioned previously in this chapter? Or does it refer in a general way to evil men?
The most natural meaning seems to be to connect latter with vessels for dishonor. Timothy is instructed to separate himself from evil men and especially from evil teachers such as those Paul had just mentioned—Hymenaeus and Philetus.
Timothy is not instructed to leave the church. Neither is he told to leave Christendom as such. It would be impossible for him to do this without giving up his Christian profession, since Christendom includes all who profess to be believers. Rather, it is a question of separating from evildoers and avoiding contamination from wicked doctrine.
If a man keeps himself free from evil associations, he will be a vessel for honor. God can use only clean vessels in holy service. “Be clean, you who bear the vessels of the Lord” (Isaiah 52:11). Such a man will also be sanctified in the sense that he will be set apart from evil to the service of God. He will be useful for the Master—a quality greatly to be desired by all who love the Lord. Finally, he will be prepared for every good work. He will be ready at all times to be used in whatever way his Master may dictate.
2:22 Not only is Timothy to separate himself from iniquitous men, but he is to separate himself from the lusts of the flesh. Youthful lusts may refer not only to physical appetites but also to the lust for money, fame, and pleasure. They may also include self-will, impatience, pride, and levity. As we have mentioned, Timothy was probably about thirty-five years of age at this time. Therefore, youthful lusts do not necessarily mean such lusts as would be particularly characteristic of a teenager but would include all the unholy desires that would present themselves to a young servant of the Lord and seek to divert him from the path of purity and righteousness.
Not only is Timothy to flee; he is also to follow. There is the negative and the positive.
He should pursue righteousness. This simply means that his dealings with his fellow men, saved and unsaved, should always be characterized by honesty, justice, and fairness.
Faith may mean faithfulness or absolute integrity. On the other hand, it may include a continual dependence on the Lord. Hiebert defines it as “sincere and dynamic confidence in God.”
Love cannot be limited here to love to God alone, but must also include love for one's brethren and for the world of lost sinners. Love always considers others; it is essentially unselfish.
Peace carries the idea of harmony and compatibility.
These virtues are to be followed with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Just as in verse 21 Timothy was warned to separate himself from wicked men, so here he is taught to associate himself with Christians who are walking in purity before the Lord. He is not to follow the virtues of the Christian life in isolation, but rather he must take his place as a member in the Body and seek to work with his fellow members for the good of the Body.
2:23 In the course of his Christian ministry, Timothy would often be faced with trifling and stupid questions. Such questions would spring from an ignorant, uneducated mind and would have no real benefit connected with them. Such disputes should be refused because they only stir up strife. Needless to say, these are not questions connected with the great fundamentals of the Christian faith, but rather silly problems that would only succeed in wasting time and causing confusion and arguments.
2:24 The servant of the Lord here is literally the Lord's bondservant. It is fitting that this title should be used in a verse where gentleness and patience are encouraged.
Although the Lord's servant must contend for the truth, yet he must not be contentious or argumentative. Rather, he must be gentle to all and approach men with the purpose of instructing them rather than of winning an argument. He must be patient with those who are slow to understand and even with those who do not seem disposed to accept the truth of God's word.
2:25 The Lord's bondservant must exercise meekness and humility in dealing with opposition. A person wrongs his own soul by refusing to bow to the word of God. Such people need to be corrected lest they ignorantly go on with the mistaken notion that their view is in accordance with the Scriptures.
If God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth. At first, this might seem to suggest that there is some question as to God's willingness to grant repentance to these people. That, however, is not the case. The fact of the matter is that God is waiting to forgive them if only they will come to Him in confession and repentance. God does not withhold repentance from anyone, but men are so often unwilling to admit that they are wrong.
2:26 The servant of the Lord should so deal with erring men that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil. They have been taken captive by him to do his will, and, as it were, bewitched or intoxicated by him.