2 Timothy Chapter 2: Christian Conduct

Jan 10th, 2010 | By | Category: 1 & 2 Timothy, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

2 Timothy Chapter 2: Christian Conduct

2 Tim. 2:1 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

“My son” was an expression of endearment and confidence in Timothy (1 Tim. 1:2,18). Paul told him to be “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Timothy was to be confident in giving Paul’s instruction to others. However, while he was to act with strength, that strength could lead to a condition of self-confidence and attaching too much importance to self unless he always kept in mind that he was an object of grace. He was ministering to others, teaching and helping them, but as an instructor, he was as much in need of grace, mercy, and forgiveness in Christ as those to whom he spoke. In proportion as Timothy was bold and strong, he was always to remember that it was only in Christ and by grace that he was saved.

It is known that under strange circumstances, some people who have an inferiority complex can become the most savage and brutal of creatures in later life. This phenomenon, which seems to be a contradiction of fact, is evidently also true in the spiritual realm. A person may start out not having confidence in himself, but then, through certain providences and leadership experiences that are thrust on him, he changes character completely and goes to the other extreme. However, remembering the grace that is in Christ Jesus will keep one humble. He who teaches and he who is taught are both brothers in the Lord on the same plane.

Comment: Simply stated, we should always remember that by grace we are saved.

Brethren in the early Church began to go out with a chip on their shoulder. In criticizing the emperor, idol worship, etc., they precipitated persecutions unnecessarily, thinking that was suffering affliction for Christ, but they were producing the suffering by foolish reasoning. Some were even put to death for castigating rulers at a public ceremony. However, that is not the type of suffering the Lord is looking for in His people. The suffering is by grace and must be received with a humble attitude at all times.

2 Tim. 2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

Paul realized that his earthly career was coming to an end, so he was writing to Timothy as a faithful son. He instructed Timothy to keep up the good work, to continue to espouse the true doctrine, and not to feel browbeaten by his fellow contemporaries. Since, with few exceptions, all in Asia Minor had forsaken Paul, Timothy would have to be careful in his ministry with regard to giving approval or commendation to others. Just as Paul had exercised considerable thought and prayer in addressing his epistle to Timothy, so Timothy had to be careful in selecting other individuals.

Incidentally, these “faithful men” were not all ecclesia-appointed individuals. As an illustration, when we witness to others, very often those whom we think are noble prove to be weak in later life. Thus appearances are deceiving.

Paul was saying it was better to wait awhile before commending one to a leadership role. In other words, Timothy was to allow time for character development and not fill leadership roles too quickly. If, for example, he was preaching in a particular town and certain individuals were attracted to the message of truth, a newly formed ecclesia should not elect officers. Having recently consecrated, the brethren would be inexperienced and unlearned in certain areas. The best Timothy could do would be to try to see which one of the brothers showed the most promise and had some background of experience. Paul was saying, “When you commit approval to an individual, make sure you can see justification for doing so.” If Timothy too hastily endorsed one as a teacher, he would be responsible, to a certain extent, for conditions that subsequently arose. Of course all are fallible, including Timothy, but this was the principle on which to operate. How could Timothy know a person was faithful unless he allowed a period of time for him to manifest faithfulness? The implication is that the person had to be active on behalf of the Lord.

Not only was Paul’s decease soon to come, but we think he felt that Timothy did not have a long time to live either. Timothy’s stomach affliction is one clue (1 Tim. 5:23). In the meantime, when Paul passed off the scene, Timothy was to be his advocate, for although he had certain limitations in not being an eloquent, fluent speaker like Titus, he was very alert doctrinally. Paul was hinting that Timothy should prepare for his own demise and meanwhile get as many others as possible indoctrinated with the truth so that they would be emissaries of the gospel in the proper light with the proper emphasis. Timothy was to talk on constructive subjects that built up the brethren as soldiers in Christ and defenders of the faith.

2 Tim. 2:3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

Paul told Timothy to “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” In other words, “Timothy, if you obey my instructions and try to straighten out this matter, you will get a lot of flack, but do not let the opposition deter or discourage you. You have a responsibility to carry on, and a soldier is expected to experience fatigue, hardship, and wounds.” Thus Timothy was to prepare himself to defend the truth and to teach the better way to other Christians. We are in an endurance race, a marathon battle, not in just one climactic round or struggle. We are engaged in a lifelong fight of faith. A soldier sometimes has pleasure, joys, and periods of relaxation, but he must expect and be prepared for times when duty calls or danger. A good soldier endures hardness. At times there will be no bed to sleep on, little food to eat, inclement weather, etc.

Comment: A good solider cannot run from the battle but must stand his ground and fight.

Reply: Yes, he may have hard experiences, but he keeps fighting and perseveres and endures.

2 Tim. 2:4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

This principle is true, for the more one entangles himself with the affairs of this life, the less he can be a warrior of the gospel. Paul was not saying that those who were married should leave their spouses to preach the gospel to other nations. Rather, each Christian was to soberly consider his present status and not further entangle himself in the affairs of this life. Attention was to be focused on the Christian warfare.

A Christian should not entangle himself with the affairs of this life so “that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” The head soldier is Christ himself—the beginner and the finisher of the race (Heb. 12:2). The Author of the race is God Himself.

Comment: The Revised Standard is good for verse 4: “No soldier on service gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him.”

Reply: A danger for the Christian today is getting involved in politics or in a social gospel of helping the poor, the afflicted, and the distressed.

Comment: Verse 4 in the Diaglott has “occupations of life” instead of “affairs of life.”

Reply: Yes, that is a good term to use. For example, if we become a convert to Christ by realizing we are a sinner, reforming our ways, asking forgiveness of God, and dedicating our life to Him, will we go to college for four years to get a degree? After making a sincere commitment to serve God for the rest of our life, we should see such an action as incongruous, for we would be pursuing the “affairs of life” and running in a different direction. Thus the affairs of life can be any number of occupations. Paul properly evaluated his consecration by saying, “This one thing I do … I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13,14). We are to bend every effort but, at the same time, do things decently and honestly in the sight of all men (Rom. 12:17; 2 Cor. 8:21). Perhaps a marriage contract was entered into prior to consecration, or there may be another type of responsibility.

Sometimes mortgages on one’s time and efforts have to be considered, but we certainly do not want to get further entangled than the situation at the time of our commitment to serve Christ.

2 Tim. 2:5 And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.

Why did Paul say that a person is not crowned unless he strives lawfully? For mastery and a crown, the rules of the Word must be followed. The RSV reads, “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” Striving lawfully means that the Christian walks in harmony with and obeys the counsel and teaching of the Scriptures, not worldly philosophy.

Paul was using the principle of a race where lanes are marked out. In some track events, a contender has to stay in the lane allotted to him, lest he inhibit or trip another runner. In the type of race indicated here, a reward was given to the winner, and rules had to be observed.

The lesson for the Christian is that in running for the high calling, one has to keep within the boundaries—the rules and regulations of Scripture. God’s Word tells us what to do and what not to do. If we successfully strive in that fashion and are successful, we will get the Lord’s approval.

False gospels masquerade as ministries of Christ. When examined, they have very little substance. One of the most damaging doctrines is “once saved, always saved.” To follow that teaching is to put off the armor. We cannot just say a prayer of faith and be saved, for we must believe into Christ and follow his instructions. Hear Jesus’ words: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils?

and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity [lawlessness]” (Matt. 7:22,23). The ones who do these “wonderful works” really think they are serving God. True, they are using the Lord’s name, but they are not following his teachings. The gospel is a lifetime work.

Comment: Paul clearly refuted the thought of “once in grace, always in grace” when he said, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor. 9:27).

Reply: With all the remarkable things Paul did and his tremendous witness work, he did not feel confident until he was an older man and had been imprisoned the second time and knew his life was ebbing. Only then could he say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). At that point, God’s providence had shut the door, and he knew the next step was the grave. He could then rest and just faithfully submit.

Comment: We cannot gain an incorruptible crown if we are involved in this world’s affairs.

Reply: Paul said, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain” (1 Cor. 9:24). We are to run with our utmost efforts. If we run according to our abilities and keep that up, we will get the crown, but we need to have that drive. Those who excel in any field in the world devote time and energy and make sacrifices, and the same principles apply to the heavenly race. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).

Comment: To ignore the sound doctrine of these two epistles to Timothy would be an example of following one’s own will, not the Lord’s rules.

2 Tim. 2:6 The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.

The “husbandman,” the farmer, labors long and hard to obtain crops. He must break, till, seed, and weed the ground, and when the produce matures and ripens, he must harvest it. Just as each crop requires considerable attention, so Paul was emphasizing that continued activity in the Lord’s service results in a crown. The RSV has, “It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.” Accordingly, the Christian who continues in faithful service gets the crown. Just as the farmer who works faithfully and properly is the first to benefit from the crop, so the Christian who runs well enough according to the rules will get the crown. A farmer toils hard in the sun—from sunrise through the heat of the day to sunset. The results, or benefits, do not come right away, but at the end, at the harvest. Similarly, Christians who are more than overcomers get the benefit in the first resurrection.

Comment: The hard-working farmer who labors to produce must be the first to partake of the fruits.

Reply: Yes, and of course Paul was referring to a laborer in spiritual things.

Verse 6 is a terse statement of a broad subject that can be interpreted in different ways. From one slant, the laborer is worthy of his hire (Luke 10:7). The “husbandman,” or farmer, can also be the owner of the property, which provides another perspective.

Comment: What excellent analogies! The Christian is compared to a soldier, an athletic contender, and a farmer.

2 Tim. 2:7 Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.

Paul was saying, “Take note of what I have said. Pause and reflect on the instruction and pray about it—and may God give you understanding in all these matters.” In other words, he gave instruction as to what to do on certain occasions, but when Timothy would go out, he might meet slightly different circumstances, even though the principles would be the same. The Holy Spirit would help Timothy to discern what precept to follow in his experiences.

The same is true with us. We study the principles in God’s Word, but since many of our experiences do not exactly fit a case in Scripture, we need the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Through prayer, we ask God to help us select the appropriate principle for each circumstance. Stated another way, to be able to select the correct precept for a particular situation is a God-given quality. Our problems in life are usually a mixture of circumstances, some of which are very perplexing. We ask the Lord for guidance when we do not know how to meet a problem, and the selectivity of precepts and principles comes from the Holy Spirit.

On matters that occur again and again, Paul gave very explicit instructions, and we can clearly see the principle right away.

After Paul’s departure, Timothy was to teach others to be teachers. Therefore, Paul was saying, “You have observed me for many years. When you accompanied me on tours, you heard me speak and saw my actions. Make use of this background information in teaching others so that more teachers will go out and the gospel will prosper.” Timothy’s responsibility to teach others in the truth would require time and effort. Of course he needed an income, but to concentrate on teaching others, he could not be employed full-time. Thus Paul said, “The Lord give thee understanding in all things”; that is, “The Lord will supply your needs. Do not be embarrassed about giving full-time attention to the Lord’s service, for a laborer is worthy of his hire. God will make sure that you get the necessities of life.” This advice was vaguely along the lines of, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). Timothy was to redeem the time (Eph. 5:16). If he used the time left to him after Paul’s departure to try to make as many teachers as possible, the Lord would take care of him. With Timothy apparently being single, he did not have the mortgage of a wife.

Down through the Gospel Age, single brethren have gone out preaching the gospel, not knowing where the next meal would come from. Having no other temporal responsibilities, they took 100 percent responsibility for preaching the Word and trusted in the Lord and in the prayer “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11).

2 Tim. 2:8 Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:

2 Tim. 2:9 Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evildoer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.

Why did Paul bring in here that “Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel”? The RSV reads, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my gospel, the gospel for which I am suffering and wearing fetters like a criminal. But the word of God is not fettered.” In preaching the gospel, Jesus received opposition because he was not of the Aaronic priesthood. However, he inherited the regal promise in David, who received the “sure mercies” of the house of Judah (Isa. 55:3).

This inheritance—the scepter, the right to rule—will be apparent in the Kingdom Age, when the Church will share that blessing with him. Incidentally, we would not be surprised if one day it is seen that Jesus had a relationship with the Aaronic priesthood through Mary, his mother. The Aaronic order will be dissolved or superseded by the Melchisedec priesthood in the Kingdom.

David’s suffering and rejection as a warrior before he ascended to the throne picture the suffering and trials of The Christ in the present life, and his being enthroned pictures the honor and glory of The Christ in the Kingdom Age and beyond. (We usually contrast David and Solomon as picturing the present life and the future reign of peace, respectively, but the two phases of David’s life can also have that representation.)

Thus Jesus’ humanity—his being of the seed of David—is emphasized in verse 8. The lessons of David’s life, including the kingship aspect, are also inherent in that analogy. For Jesus’ suffering and faithfulness unto death, he was rewarded with a resurrection to spirit nature. If we are faithful, that will be our experience also.

Paul seemed to be telling Timothy, “Whenever you have problems, try to think back on your association with me, as well as on the Word of God.” Sometimes we are so overwhelmed with the circumstances of an experience that we momentarily forget even to pray. Instead we try to proceed in our own strength and wisdom, using human rationale. After a while, we remember to pray for the Lord’s guidance, to seek instruction from His Word, and to ask brethren for counsel. To always keep in mind that Jesus was raised from the dead is an inspirational or motivating factor, for we are worshipping not merely a crucified Savior but a risen and living Savior. Jesus said, “I am he that … was dead; and … [now] I am alive for evermore” (Rev. 1:18).

Comment: Paul was trying to say that Jesus is the perfect pattern. The very things Paul did and Timothy was to emulate were according to the pattern set by Jesus in his earthly ministry.

Jesus first had to suffer on the human plane; then he was raised and exalted.

Reply: Paul’s suffering for Christ was not too favorably viewed by those who forsook him in Asia. Therefore, he reminded Timothy of the example of Jesus, the beginner and finisher of the faith.

At this time, which was near the end of Paul’s life, Gnostic teachings were coming into the Church. Gnostics tried to show that the Messiah was not the man Christ Jesus, that what was seen was not a reality but a vision with spirit beings. Because Gnostics were falsely teaching another way of life, a sort of mystic gospel, Paul wanted to emphasize Jesus’ words, namely, that no man can come unto the Father except by the Son, and that he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). To refute the error of the Gnostics, Paul found it necessary to go back to what Jesus taught, to what the apostles said, and to Old Testament promises. The great Messiah was to come from the lineage of David, he was the “seed” of woman promised in Genesis 3:15, he was born of an earthly family, etc. God’s Word is the basis of our understanding, and the Old Testament testified that Messiah would come from the royal lineage of David. Stated another way, David was the progenitor of one who would come on the human plane, and Jesus came down and was made flesh of the seed of David. Paul brought the matter down from the field of fantasy and speculation that was rampant at that time. Phygellus and Hermogenes were leading others astray with their harmful doctrinal teachings, and Paul, wanting to nip Gnosticism in the bud, gave Timothy advice accordingly (2 Tim. 1:15).

People like to imagine things, for they feel that new teachings are exciting. However, the false teachings of the Gnostics were dangerously diversionary, for they deviated, or got away, from the Cross, the gospel of Christ. Evidently, false teachers were weaning believers away into other teachings, and Timothy’s role was to combat that trend. We believe he was successful until the Apostle John came and faced up to the problem of the Gnostics in his three epistles.

The spirit of antichrist was already working, saying that Jesus had not come in the flesh, that he was an appearance, not a reality (1 John 4:3).

Paul said, “Jesus Christ … was raised from the dead according to my gospel [the gospel I am preaching].” In other words, “This is the truth—Jesus really was raised from the dead.” This theme has to be constantly kept in remembrance. All other themes are supplementary.

“Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evildoer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.” A prevalent Gnostic teaching was that one should not visit Christian Jews who were in prison, the reason purportedly being that to suffer persecution, they must have done something wrong. Thus imprisonment was considered their own fault, and there was no empathy for the suffering. Gnostics saw weakness instead of strength in those who were persecuted. Paul directly confronted this thinking by saying, “I suffer bonds and am not ashamed.” If an elder manifests shame when persecuted, right away those underneath his teaching reason, “We should pursue a path of prudence and wisdom and not stick our necks out.”

Wisdom (Greek sophia) became prized, but there are two kinds of wisdom: spiritual wisdom, which comes down from above, and worldly or carnal wisdom, which is earthly. Some did things in exactly the wrong way in the name of Christ.

2 Tim. 2:10 Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

While we struggle to make our own calling and election sure, we should also be very much interested in helping others make their calling and election sure—to the extent that we experience a certain amount of deprivation, hardship, and inconvenience. We should expect to suffer in various ways in trying to help others and should consider the suffering a privilege. Paul certainly endured “all [kinds of] things for the elect’s sakes” (2 Cor. 11:24-28). Our individual desire should be to fill up the afflictions that are left behind of Christ. It is a privilege to fill that cup of woe (Col. 1:24).

Comment: Verse 10 expresses a Christlike quality in Paul. It was in his heart to suffer for the brethren, for the sake of the elect.

We have observed over the years that many who minister the truth think it is most prudent to purposely teach doctrine that is not too deep. As an illustration, one elder boasted in his talk that whenever the class finished the First Volume on Sundays, the brethren voted to start it all over again. The rationale was that they should do this for the new interests who came to their meetings. However, this policy compromised the teaching of doctrine. The desire should be for all of the brethren to mature in the truth. To repeat the same study indefinitely keeps the class from increasing in understanding. The substance of the teaching for the consecrated should not be mostly restitution and the coming earthly Kingdom. The subject of restitution is part of the present-truth message, but the real focus of the gospel is the heavenly call. Thus Paul said he endured all things “for the elect’s sakes.” In other words, the standard has to be kept up high— on the one hope of the calling (Eph. 4:4).

To preach restitution encourages an earthly hope and the attitude “What is the use of consecrating now? The Kingdom on earth will be so wonderful that I will be satisfied.” Paul wanted others to be like him, that is, to inherit the heavenly promises, to get a crown, to “obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus [to live and reign with him] with eternal glory.” There have even been talks that discourage thinking too much about the glory of the divine nature and urge, instead, thinking about what we can do for others. The social gospel has a very touching, tender, emotional appeal on the human heart, but Paul said to endure all things for the sake of the elect. Accordingly, he shunned not to declare the whole gospel (Acts 20:27).

2 Tim. 2:11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:

2 Tim. 2:12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:

“It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him.” Over and over in his epistles, Paul stressed being faithful. He was in chains in the dungeon at this time, but he said, “The word of God is not bound” (verse 9). Although he was fettered, his confidence that the truth would prevail made him even stronger. In other words, if we think confidently and faithfully, we are uplifted.

On the one hand, many Christians have strong confidence that God will accomplish all of His purposes but do not equate that power in their own lives. They need to personally feel strong in the Lord. As Paul said, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Eph. 6:10). On the other hand, some Christians feel strong in the Lord but are not as strong as they think because their supposed strength is based on bravado and self-confidence, whereas the relationship to Christ exists by grace. They exude a confidence that may not be properly warranted. Neither extreme is good. We should not be so confident that we put off our armor, nor should we be so doubtful and wavering that we are not strong in the Lord.

To a certain extent, Paul got his confidence by the things that he suffered lawfully (not rashly) in the Lord’s service. Striving lawfully over a period of time and fighting in obedience to the regulations of Scripture developed strength of character in him. Paul expressed the degrees of development by saying we glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation works patience, patience works experience, experience works hope, and hope makes us not ashamed (Rom. 5:3-5). Faithfulness in obeying the Word of God over a period of time bears fruitage in giving us a measure of confidence and boldness that is proper. True faith, hope, and love are not emotional, for these qualities must be established in the instruction of the Word of God.

In spite of whatever limitations Paul might have had in speech and in being a little man, the fervency and the spirit with which he sermonized came through. He was not an Apollos—he was not given to flowery language but concentrated on the real meat of any situation.

Therefore, he would have put a lot of emphasis on the clause “It is a faithful saying,” for he believed what he was talking about. Right down into the gut of his being, he believed that if we suffer with Christ, we shall reign with him. Such zeal and fervor were contagious. Those who were a bit on the timid side were encouraged that maybe they could consecrate and be faithful. Jesus committed to Paul the ability to teach others.

Paul continued, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.” Verse 11 referred to the suffering aspect, but what about the thought of denial? There are two ways of denying Jesus. (1) An indirect quiescent denial is to bury the truth, to not talk on the truth, to not let our light shine. (2) A direct denial can easily be seen. Both types of denial are negative, and they will bring consequences.

Comment: The Diaglott has, “True is the word” and “If we endure patiently,” instead of “It is a faithful saying” and “If we suffer.”

Reply: Paul was speaking of long-suffering, as opposed to cheerful endurance.

Comment: Jude 4, which reads, “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ,” shows that denial among a teaching element at the end of the age can also include presuming on God’s mercy and forgiveness by not sufficiently heeding the authority of God, the Scriptures, and Jesus.

2 Tim. 2:13 If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.

If we do not believe the “faithful saying” of verses 11 and 12, Jesus is still faithful. Consecration is like a contract in which two parties sign an agreement. If we fulfill the conditions, we will receive the reward of that contract. If we suffer with Christ, we shall reign with him. If we do not see the need for being disciplined to receive the reward, the Lord is not lacking in his part of the contract. We will not reign with Jesus unless he thinks we have met the conditions.

Jesus “abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” What is the thought here? In a marriage contract, for example, two parties enter into an agreement. If one party commits adultery, the innocent one is free to enter into another contract with someone else. Accordingly, if we believe not or deny Jesus, if we fail to suffer with him, we will lose out on the prize for the high calling. In other words, there comes a time when one can lose out on the high calling. The next issue would be whether the individual is even worthy to receive life. Depending on the nature of the unfaithfulness, retrieval is possible with proper repentance. There is a Great Company but only a Little Flock. Many run, but only one wins the prize, relatively speaking. Jesus does not shirk his commitment to the contract, but if we do not fulfill our part, he is not bound hand and foot from doing other things.

Jesus cannot deny himself in the sense that when he makes a contract, it is bona fide. He will not forget. If we do our part, we will get a crown, for Jesus’ words are binding. He is faithful to his words and cannot deny himself. Otherwise, he would be going back on a fundamental principle of his character. However, he can deal with someone else if we are unfaithful. In verses 11 and 12, Paul was speaking of the terms of the Little Flock, not the terms for life.

Comment: “God … cannot lie” (Titus 1:2). Neither God nor Jesus can or will renege on a promise.

As long as a person’s hopes are raised to realize that if he is faithful, he will attain a crown, the door to the high calling is still open. In other words, since the Adversary has blinded the minds of men lest they see the glorious light of the gospel, God would not engender the hope of the high calling in a person if the door were closed (2 Cor. 4:4). Stated another way, no one will hear the call once the door is closed, for the calling will have ceased.

The call to the high calling is miraculous in nature. The Reprints speak of one who, after having great light, went into great darkness in just a year or so because of unfaithfulness. “The wages of sin is [second] death [that is, continual, eternal, everlasting death, annihilation]” (Rom. 6:23).

Paul said, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? … [Who] shall be able to separate us from the love of God[?]” (Rom. 8:35,39). Nothing because “the Father himself loveth us” (John 16:27). Here in verse 13, Paul was saying the same thing in a condensed fashion. Jesus abides by the promises he has made. If we are faithless and do not take action on the promises, that is our problem, but he is still faithful, for “he cannot deny himself.” His faithfulness becomes operative toward us only when we are in the receptive mood. Jesus recognizes those whom the Father sends to him and will in no wise cast them out (John 6:37). He stands faithful, but if we disobey the warnings and expostulations of Scripture, we will inherit the penalty. There are two kinds, or different degrees, of disobedience: direct disobedience and the lack of obedience, the former being more serious.

Who does the casting out, should it be necessary? The Father does the pruning, Jesus is the vine, and his followers are the branches. As the “husbandman,” God cuts off the branches that do not bear fruit (John 15:1,2,5). The matter of life and death is in His hands, especially in regard to the serious decision of Second Death. After all, God did the calling in the first place.

2 Tim. 2:14 Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.

While Paul’s instruction was meant for every child of God, the force of verse 14 is that Timothy was to help those who were influential put the proper emphasis on the gospel. He was to appoint “faithful men,” that is, leaders and teachers (2 Tim. 2:2). Just as Paul, who was about to leave the scene in his old age, was preparing Timothy, so Timothy was to prepare other teachers by giving them sound advice. Then when Timothy got old and died, a sufficiency of doctrine and instruction would be left behind for others to know how to serve the flock. By observing stability and constancy of character in individuals, as well as faithfulness and loyalty, Timothy was to discern those who were more likely to be faithful. To such, he would commit a trust.

Paul said to avoid striving about words “to no profit.” However, depending on the situation, there are times when disputing about words can be profitable. One way to determine the difference is to think, before getting involved in a heated and animated discussion, “Is this topic worth the striving, or would it be better to leave the subject on the shelf and go on to something else?” For the proper balance, Jude said we are to earnestly “contend for the faith,” that is, for important doctrines (Jude 3).

Romans 16:17 is pertinent: “Mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” Many quote just the first part, “Mark them which cause divisions,” but that statement is qualified. The Reformers all caused honorable divisions and separations, and generally speaking, they were on the right side of the issue.

When faced with a division, we should analyze the situation and ask, “Is the division proper? Is it worthwhile? Is it based on God’s Word? Is the doctrine important?” We should question almost every step along the way in learning or hearing the Word of God. The quicker we question, the better it will be for us, for then we will not get deeply into a situation that is not of much value. For example, if we see that tempers and problems arise, then it is not worthwhile to pursue the issue unless the doctrine is very important.

In verse 14, the word “but” is supplied and should be deleted. The verse should read: “Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, to the subverting of the hearers.” Paul was saying, “Do not strive if there is no profit and if the hearers would be harmed.” Idle talk and discussions on relatively superficial subjects not only are a waste of time but can be harmful.

Comment: We (and especially teachers) are to build one another up in the most holy faith and contend only if the matter is important to be properly understood.

Reply: If the discussion is on a serious issue, it should be earnestly considered and not be allowed to pass by as the easy way out. In that case, we should strive and not mince words, for misunderstanding or having the wrong thought on the issue would be destructive. To the contrary, Paul was saying to avoid discussions that are not profitable—discussions that are not of constructive value to the Christian.

Comment: If the elders of an ecclesia continually strive and contend over unnecessary and nonconstructive issues, the spirituality of the class is adversely affected, and the hearers go home discouraged.

Reply: An atmosphere where contention is practiced can lead to ruination, as suggested in the RSV, but not one discussion on one occasion. With some individuals, arguments and contention are a way of life. They like to stir up controversy because they think it is exciting, but controversy can be destructive.

Actually, all of us are probably guilty of being argumentative on occasion, but that attitude should not be practiced, for it can lead to the overthrow of the hearers. Of course the one or ones who cause the discussion are more responsible. It is one thing to raise a question, for sometimes a matter should be aired and given serious consideration, but the matter should not be continually aired. However, a wrong question or comment, such as a joke, can destroy the holy atmosphere of a meeting.

When Paul used the expression “to the subverting of the hearers,” he was referring to a topic or issue that was in the direction of a catastrophe but was not catastrophic in and of itself. In other words, the strife about words was harmful, damaging, and evil and, if persisted in, would lead to ruination.

Comment: Individuals who delight in stirring up controversy should not be chosen as leaders. Paul was telling Timothy how to encourage and choose those who were most apt to teach.

Reply: We recall an occasion when a joke was told that destroyed the holy atmosphere of the meeting. Being incensed, we let the party know with a look that we were thoroughly displeased with such an intrusion at a most inappropriate time.

In both epistles to Timothy, Paul harped on the admonition to “strive not about words to no profit,” using terms like “vain babblings” and “endless genealogies.” As listeners to teachers, we can discern the profitability, or substantive value, of their thinking. Entertainment and storytelling pass the time and make discussions interesting, but they are not wholesome words. Paul kept reminding Timothy to stick to the fundamentals, the real truth, and not to get into mythological subjects. Words “to no profit” subvert, topple, and undercut the hearers. Incidentally, the word “babblings” is close to the word “Babylon”—meaning confusion.

Comment: Teachers who tell jokes and make light of very serious matters may be trying to cover up their own embarrassment in their lack of understanding.

2 Tim. 2:15 Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

One translation has, “Concentrate on showing yourselves approved of the Lord.” The workman is to show himself approved unto God. In other words, we should earnestly desire to have God’s approval of what we are doing. Trying to please and be faithful to God and to Jesus should be our primary concern. Secondarily, we should try to help and be beneficial to others—but not if doing so conflicts with obeying God. Stated another way, sometimes we have to displease others in order to please God.

We should try to be “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,” but not ashamed of what? We do not want to be ashamed as regards God or not standing up for the truth. For instance, if a subject comes up and the spokesman is weak and not qualified to address it, he can be shamed by one who has diligently studied the subject. We need to study the Word so that in a debate, we can defend the right principle and not be ashamed of our lack of understanding. As God’s representatives, we desire His approval and do not want to be ashamed, nor do we want to be shamed before others for our inadequacy. We should learn the “word of truth” so that we can rightly divide it. It is nice to show God that we understand what He is teaching us, that we are putting the right emphasis in the right place.

Paul was telling Timothy (and us indirectly) to study to show himself approved unto God. He was to be “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.” Verse 6 uses the illustration of a farmer, a “workman,” showing that he is entitled to partake of the fruits before he sells them to others. Although from another perspective we are God’s “workmanship,” we have to participate by being active in the Lord’s service in some capacity, using our individual judgment according to our situation (Eph. 2:10). In other words, we should not be stereotyped, cajoled, or frightened into a particular avenue of service.

The workman is to rightly divide the word of truth. One application is that we should apply statements of Scripture to their proper dispensation according to the Divine Plan and not take verses out of context. For example, the nominal Church teaches that “now is the [only] day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). To the contrary, Jesus said, “Sit down and soberly count the cost before you consecrate” (Luke 14:28 paraphrase). Another way to rightly divide the word of truth is doctrinally, line upon line, precept upon precept, that is, to compare Scripture with Scripture (Isa. 28:10).

Comment: Instead of “rightly dividing the word of truth,” the Diaglott interlinear has “cutting straight the word of the truth.”

There are different ways to study. For example, we may meditate on what we previously heard about a particular Scripture. As we think about the Word of God, we try to come to a judgment, and that mental exercise is a form of study. Timothy could reflect on Paul’s life, and he heard firsthand much of the New Testament through Paul’s writings. In addition, Paul said to Timothy, “Remember how you were brought up in your youth by your grandmother and your mother.” Timothy’s lifetime experience with truth served as guidelines or parameters for his ministry. We can also study our own manner of life and moral deportment.

2 Tim. 2:16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.

2 Tim. 2:17 And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;

2 Tim. 2:18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.

Although we should avoid “profane and vain babblings” (godless and idle chatter and gossip), the context here is deeper. Paul was referring to certain types of religious discussions that “increase unto more ungodliness.” Then he named two men, Hymenaeus and Philetus, who were engaged in such discussions, specifically, “that the resurrection is past already.” Just as was stated earlier in the warning to “strive not about words to no profit,” we must analyze a subject to see whether it is profitable to the new creature (verse 14). Some translations give the thought to avoid philosophical reasonings that are of no value because they result in “more ungodliness.” Verse 17 gives the weight of such talking; namely, “their word will eat as doth a canker.” Again Paul was primarily addressing those who were teaching—not necessarily formal teachers but those who were espousing certain doctrines. For example, sometimes one who is not the elder, leader, or chairman dominates a study and promotes his thinking.

A disease in the blood, a “canker” is a putrefying or running sore, a slow spreading of infection like gangrene. In the later stages, it is usually painful. Fluid from an open, inflamed sore spreads contagion. “Canker” is probably the old-fashioned word for “cancer.” Any sore that persists for a long period of time, and thus pertains to the bloodstream, almost invariably turns into cancer. Philetus and Hymenaeus taught or promoted thoughts that ate like a canker; that is, “their word [teachings]” spread, damaging and subverting the hearers. Hymenaeus overthrew the faith of some by blaspheming God’s Word (1 Tim. 1:20).

Q: What were some of the dangerous teachings of Hymenaeus and Philetus?

A: We will consider what was so damaging back there in order to help us reexamine certain peculiar doctrines now, at the end of the age.

Hymenaeus and Philetus erred in teaching the Gnosticism doctrine that the resurrection was past. This damaging doctrine was stated in two different ways, as follows.

1. “There is no resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:12). Advocates of this teaching felt that the Christian should eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow he would die. Paul responded that if there is no resurrection, then Christ is not raised, and not only did he die in vain, but also one’s faith is in vain. This teaching was very damaging. Paul reasoned, “If there is no resurrection, then we, of all men, are the most miserable of creatures. Why should we suffer for righteousness’ sake?”

2. “The resurrection is in the past; it has already occurred.” This thinking was the beginning of the teaching in the early Church that the Kingdom was already here and that Christ was invisibly present. Because the bodies of many sleeping saints arose at the time of the earthquake in connection with Jesus’ crucifixion, some concluded that Jesus had returned, the resurrection was past, and they would not die henceforth (Matt. 27:51-53). After three days, those saints went into Jerusalem and appeared to many. (Incidentally, the omission of seven spurious words—“and the graves were opened” plus “and went”—does not change the meaning, for the rest of the account is intact and authentic, as proven by its inclusion in the Sinaitic and all of the other ancient manuscripts.) In addition, a common teaching was that the Apostle John would tarry and not die until the Kingdom was here. The awakening of those sleeping saints from their graves was a resuscitation like that of Lazarus. Since these individuals had been disciples prior to the Crucifixion, the conclusion was that the resurrection had already taken place and that Jesus was present. The damaging part of this teaching was that Christians no longer had to suffer and die for Christ.

Paul wrote a letter to the Thessalonians about the need to watch and wait because Jesus’ return would be invisible like the coming of a thief. That doctrine was understood correctly in the early Church, but Paul had to add that Jesus’ return could not occur until, first, the man of sin, the Antichrist, appeared. The brethren back there had the correct understanding of a secret, invisible presence. Otherwise, they would have said, “If Jesus is here, where is he? We do not see him.” However, although they had the correct view of the secret presence, they had a wrong view of the time. Today we believe the sleeping saints were raised in 1878, and it is important for each of us to prove and be sure of this doctrine, for if incorrect, it would be damaging and would subvert hearers and overthrow our faith. Certain things must be considered lest one hastily (and erroneously) conclude that this doctrine is wrong. How do we know that we are not deceived with regard to the doctrine of 1878? Since the Antichrist has already come, it is now possible for the resurrection to occur, but what would be so damaging about believing that the resurrection is past? There is an important distinction; namely, we believe not that the resurrection is past but that the resurrection of the sleeping saints is past, which is a qualified statement.

The danger in the early Church in thinking the resurrection was past was that Christians still in the flesh believed they had already proved faithful and thus did not have to die. Moreover, while still in the flesh in the present life, they felt they were reigning as kings. Paul said on another occasion, “You have reigned as kings without us, and I would to God that you did reign so that I might reign with you” (1 Cor. 4:8 paraphrase). If not corrected, that erroneous understanding would have adversely affected their consecrations and overthrown their faith, for they no longer felt they had to suffer and be faithful unto death (Rev. 2:10).

To believe the sleeping saints were raised in 1878 does not adversely affect our faith because we know the raising pertains only to saints of the past. We are not confident we have proved faithful, for we know the general resurrection and our own resurrection, if faithful unto death, are yet future. But in the early Church, the damaging doctrine that the whole resurrection was past ate, or spread, like “a canker.” The teaching was that they, being alive, would continue (supposedly like the Apostle John) right on into the Kingdom. This doctrine was the start of the teaching “once saved, always saved.”

Jesus’ statement in Luke 9:27, shortly before the vision on the Mount of Transfiguration, was also misunderstood: “But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.” Because some brethren in the early Church were powerfully misusing Scripture to teach error—and because the doctrine was spreading and was shipwrecking the faith of believers—Paul wrote to Timothy about Hymenaeus and Philetus, telling how damaging this false doctrine was and showing the responsibility to try to clarify the teaching and to see that it did not prosper.

An evil disposition is always looking for flaws in brethren, doctrinal or otherwise. However, if a discussion comes up, it is proper to say certain things or to ask certain questions if we know that the thoughts being introduced could be predicated upon a wrong doctrine. Then our comments would be pertinent to the reasoning at hand. We should not be spiritual policemen, but we are responsible for what we hear others teach or for what we teach ourselves.

Q: We can see how, based on the resuscitation of sleeping saints at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, some could have gotten this wrong thought about the resurrection, but Hymenaeus was turned over to Satan to learn not to blaspheme. Is the implication that Paul and/or others tried to correct him, but he stubbornly resisted and continued to promote the wrong doctrine? In what sense was he blaspheming?

A: Paul wrote in his first epistle to Timothy that he had delivered Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan “that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:20). His second epistle to Timothy was written only about two years later, so the two epistles were relatively contemporaneous. The point is that Hymenaeus had already done the damage. Paul had seen that the doctrine was pernicious, and now he was referring back to the damage, even though he had previously exposed Hymenaeus. The ideas were still being promoted and embraced by others. Just as Paul told Timothy to study so that he would have God’s approval and not be ashamed before God or others, “rightly dividing the word of truth,” so Timothy had the responsibility of teaching others who would be study leaders to be careful and not give room to damaging doctrines (2 Tim. 2:15).

Incidentally, harmful teachings are sometimes promulgated on the side during idle periods. For instance, fellowship periods at a convention may be golden opportunities to spread beautiful ideas, and it is good to share sound and constructive thoughts. However, some may use such opportunities to spread pernicious and damaging doctrines. Those individuals may think they are enlightening and broadening the scope and understanding of others, whereas what they are doing is actually harmful. Those in positions of responsibility should teach brethren to examine what they hear, to “try [analyze] the spirits whether they are of God” lest they embrace strange ideas (1 John 4:1). Before one spreads new thoughts and ideas, he should try to analyze them to see if they are profitable.

Gnostics liked the thought of the inner man. It is true that we have a new creature and an inner creature, for we have our treasure, the new mind, in an earthen vessel, the old man (2 Cor. 4:7). However, Gnostics built up a whole theology of a mysterious type of life based on the new creature, and they considered indulging the old creature in lust and other sins as being a beneficial experience. They falsely reasoned that such experience would help the Christian know how to properly judge the world in the next age. To the contrary, it is our fighting against and overcoming the sins of the flesh that will enable us to have empathy for and to assist others in the Kingdom. The Gnostics liked Paul, but they quoted only those parts of his teachings that were convenient to support their line of reasoning.

When the Apostle John came on the scene, he rescued many from Gnosticism. His type of thinking and approach was perceptive and very different from that of the other apostles. He was the right man for the job at that time, and for that reason, we believe he was the “angel” to the church of Smyrna, which began after the demise of Peter and Paul (Rev. 2:8).

Paul spoke strongly: “Shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” In teaching, the Scriptures use a lot of helpful repetition, whereas Jesus advised us to avoid vain repetition—repetition that has no value, such as a prayer wheel (Matt. 6:7). The prayer itself may be very reverent, but a prayer from the heart is more substantive.

The word “profane” can have the thought of “worldly.” There are pleasures and studies in the world that are not sinful, but for the Christian, they can be a waste of time. For example, some scientific studies are very interesting, but they should not be our general pursuit. If we stay in the gray in-between area, we will gravitate toward the world and worldly thinking. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12).

The implication is that Hymenaeus and Philetus once had the truth, but when they consecrated, they brought a mixture of wrong doctrines and habits with them. When we come into present truth, we have to cut off what we cultivated previously and not carry false thinking into our life as new creatures. We must sever the past and henceforth live wholly for God until death. For example, teachings of pagan philosophy lasted with some, so that they became Christianized pagans. To be acceptable, one has to be in Christ, to believe into him. Just as there are different Catholic churches—Roman, Anglican, Armenian, Coptic, Russian Orthodox, and Greek Orthodox—so there were variations in Gnosticism.

2 Tim. 2:19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

How is verse 19 related to what Paul was just saying? It is as if Paul were talking to the Little Flock. Those who are recognized of God, desiring to make their calling and election sure and bending every energy in that direction, will heed the instruction given and be alert to do certain things. Although the majority may flounder on some issues, either momentarily or longer, adversely affecting their destiny, God will make known those who are truly Christ’s.

They shall be taught of God and not be in darkness in regard to certain issues. They may not all be brilliant scholars, but they will be faithful, almost intuitively, as they see circumstances arise. If zealously faithful to their covenant, they will be led in the proper direction.

“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure,” and faithful more-than-overcoming Christians have “this seal [or inscription], The Lord knoweth them that are his.” What was Paul saying? He was talking about conditions down here in the present life. First, he said that the foundation of God is sure, and then he gave the reason why—because “The Lord knoweth them that are his.” In other words, those who will make the Little Flock are known by God prior to death. A Christian does not know if he has attained a crown, but God knows where one stands in regard to not only the future but also the present. He knows those who will be faithful and make their calling and election sure, no matter how many years they still have in the flesh, and He is very solicitous of these individuals. When some false steps are taken, the individual can be recovered to become a member of the Little Flock, but suppose a false step is taken that makes one irretrievable as far as making the Little Flock but not irretrievable for getting life. God deals with each class and provides providences accordingly, watching those who will attain the Little Flock most carefully and the latter class from the standpoint that they might not go into death. Stated another way, since God wants those who will make the Little Flock to get the chief crown, He is especially solicitous of those who are faithful, prayerful, and obedient up to the present. Therefore, if a subverting of hearers occurs and some are falling by the wayside, God stands near to make sure that the faithful ones get the proper instruction. Of course some who are given the opportunity for instruction do not heed it, but the class with the proper heart attitude will get the instruction and obey it and be successful.

Many translations use the word “stone” instead of “foundation.” On this stone, or monument, are inscribed two principles that are important for the Christian. These guideposts, or signposts, call attention to the Christian who is trying to make his calling and election sure. They are (1) “The Lord knoweth them that are his,” and (2) “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” In other words, God knows those who are His, and those who are His obey Him in departing from iniquity. But what “iniquity” do they depart from? A general principle is that if we obey God, we will be His in the full sense. Obedience is the cardinal doctrine of the Bible. Jesus taught in effect, “He who loves me knows and keeps my word, and my Father and I will dwell in that individual. Our home is resident in the one who knows and obeys my commandments.” Down through the Gospel Age, the chief weapon of the Adversary has been the flesh.

Paul was saying that these two principles applied in connection with this second letter to Timothy. Of course they are not confined to this epistle, but they applied in the sense that if we see things that are damaging to our faith, we should avoid them. We are not to cater to and spend time on things that are not profitable to the new creature because we want to make our calling and election sure. We should shun what is not profitable and cling to what helps us. God knows those who are His, and those who are His know God in the sense of wanting to obey Him. They flee from anything that has a potential for injuring them spiritually.

Comment: In running for the prize, those who will make the Little Flock go past things that do not apply and concentrate on what is more important.

Reply: Of course a lot of other side doctrines are helpful in giving us a better perspective.

Instruction is of the utmost importance, and we need to analyze every single step. To have to question everything seems almost fatiguing, but we do so with generosity, not suspicion. We must be careful with regard to what we learn and understand, for we have to make our own calling and election sure—no one else can do that for us.

Comment: Verse 19 is the assurance that God knows who will be faithful as a more-than-conqueror in the Gospel Age. That the same was true with the Ancient Worthies is shown by God’s statement to Abraham, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do [to Sodom and Gomorrah]; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Gen. 18:17-19). God knows exactly how and when the 144,000 crowns will be apportioned, so He will close the door at precisely the right moment.

Reply: Yes. We should not be discouraged if that which is unprofitable to us as new creatures prospers, for if our faith is such that God is leading us, the rest does not matter. We should be determined to make our calling and election sure, and we will be blessed if that is our one goal in life. The secret of the Lord will be given to the class who diligently apply themselves. It is nice to have the fellowship of the many, but as individuals, we have to work out our own salvation.

No one who is impure in heart will see God. Without holiness shall no man see God. Of course we are in the flesh, so there are certain problems, but holiness is the goal or standard that all must meet to the extent of their ability. We have the robe of Christ’s righteousness, and we hope we do not commit the unpardonable sin. As David said, “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression” (Psa. 19:13).

2 Tim. 2:20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.

In a great house, there are vessels of gold and silver (the first couplet) and vessels of wood and earth (the second couplet). Gold and silver are both vessels of honor. Clearly, the gold vessels refer to the Little Flock, but what Paul was referring to with the silver is debatable. The gold and the silver could refer to distinctions of honor in the Church, or the silver could represent the Great Company. If both metals refer to the Little Flock, as we are inclined to think, the gold represents special honor in the divine nature, above the silver, as star differs from star in glory (1 Cor. 15:41).

Combustible wood and fragile earth (clay) are vessels of dishonor, or less honor, as some translations state. Another thought is that the gold and silver vessels are of special value, and the wood and earth vessels are of ordinary use. The question is, What is of ordinary use? We normally associate wood with useful, practical furniture but certainly not with a vessel of honor. Clay suggests the possibility of destruction, and both wood and clay suggest mortality,

in which death is a possibility, the wood being more durable of the two. Of the vessels of less honor, some will be discarded, and some will be kept for ordinary use. At any rate, Paul seems to have been saying that of the consecrated, some will make Little Flock, and others will serve an ignoble or ordinary purpose.

Q: Does the “great house” represent spiritual conditions?

A: Yes. Many are called to this “banqueting house,” over which is a banner of love (Song 2:4). Of the many, some fail utterly, and some fail to attain the priesthood and thus get lesser service as Levites.

The emphasis is on the Little Flock, and if we want to be a vessel of honor, we have to apply ourselves to the instruction. Of those who are schooled down here, some will attain the divine nature (gold or silver) and some will get ordinary use and less honor as Great Company. Although we are not dogmatic with the definitions, it is hard to see the Great Company as vessels of honor.

As stated in the first epistle, Hymenaeus, a destructive troublemaker in the Church, was turned over to Satan. Now, in the second epistle, he not only had not changed his ways but was described as overthrowing the faith of some, so it is likely that he did not get life. Alexander the coppersmith was also mentioned unfavorably in both epistles (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 4:14). Therefore, the clay vessels may picture those who go into Second Death.

2 Tim. 2:21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.

“If a man therefore purge himself from these [unprofitable and often destructive doctrines— and from the fellowship and pernicious influence of those who spread such doctrines], he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified [set apart], and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work [as gold and silver vessels].”

From an idealistic standpoint, when we consecrate, we set ourselves apart from our former life and endeavor to be fit for the Master’s use. The Lord is looking for useful, obedient servants who are trying to please Him in all matters of life. To be a vessel sanctified and set apart for the Master’s use means that one is concentrating as much time as possible on serving the Lord, His cause, and His people.

Paul also said, “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Cor. 3:12-15).

In that context, the gold, silver, and precious stones are gradations of the Little Flock. The combustible materials—wood, hay, and stubble—will be saved after being burned and hence are gradations of the Great Company. Even though their superstructure is desolated, as long as these individuals hold onto Christ, the foundation, they will get life.

2 Tim. 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Paul told Timothy to follow righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Of course we cannot judge the heart, but we should notice those who call on the name of the Lord with more depth and evident sincerity. In other words, we can observe humility and depth of desire without wrongly judging, and we are looking for those who give evidence of depth of dedication. If we have the opportunity to fellowship with different groups and can make a choice, we should seek out the situation that is most beneficial and practical to us as a new creature.

Comment: Criteria for selecting fellowship include the degree of spirituality in conversation apart from meetings, how leisure time is used, whether the Lord is addressed in a spirit of reverence, and even habits of dress.

Reply: Yes, Paul was indicating that it is possible to discern those who “call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” There will be some evidence upon which we can make some discrimination.

“Flee also youthful lusts.” Earlier Paul told Timothy to purge himself from myths, profane and vain babblings, endless genealogies, and oppositions of science falsely so called, and now he added “youthful lusts” (plural). Paul was not especially referring to sexual passions here, for such desires can afflict those of middle age as well and thus are not necessarily peculiar to youth. Rather, the thought is to flee unprofitable desires such as ambitions to be a doctor or a professor, to pursue sports excessively, etc. One prepares for his life’s work in his youth, and if he wants to be proficient in a particular field, he has to devote considerable time, study, and attention to attaining that goal. Normally, the older one gets, the less interested he is in pursuing a college degree because he can see more clearly the impropriety of doing so. Also, his vitality for excelling in sports decreases.

Comment: If one does not flee “youthful lusts,” he will end up with the opposite of the four qualities of righteousness, faith, love, and peace. He will gravitate toward unrighteousness, less faith, love based more on emotion than on scriptural principle, and a lack of inner peace. Earlier in this same chapter, Paul compared a Christian to a soldier, saying that once he enlists, he concentrates on spiritual warfare, not on civilian pursuits.

Reply: All are susceptible to these dangers but especially idealistic youth. As we get older, we are in a different situation, whereas younger people are faced with multiple attractions. In contrast, for example, the instruction to avoid profane and vain babblings applies to all ages. Paul was telling Timothy to discriminate between what is profitable and what is unprofitable for the Christian. Two other translations of verse 22 are as follows:

1. “Instead of giving in to your impulses like a young man, fasten your attention on holiness, faith, love, and peace in union with all those who call on the Lord with pure minds” (Jerusalem Bible). Those who are governed by impulses in late life show that they have not progressed. Still in the infant stage, they have not learned the propriety of judgment in certain matters. The principle is stated in Hebrews 5:14, “Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both [or between] good and evil. The continual exercise of discrimination as to what is and is not good has to do with development.

2. “Turn from the wayward impulses of youth, and pursue justice, integrity, love, and peace with all who invoke the Lord in singleness of mind” (New English Bible).

To “follow righteousness, faith, charity, [and] peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” is to do good as we have opportunity, especially unto the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). After consecration, our fellowship is more with one another than with former friends.

2 Tim. 2:23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.

Chapter after chapter, Paul kept harping on the necessity to avoid what was unprofitable for the new creature. We are to avoid “foolish and unlearned questions” by analyzing each situation. The reason for avoiding what is unprofitable is that it engenders, or produces, strife.

We should ask, Where will the situation lead? Will it be helpful? If not in any way specially beneficial, it should be avoided. For example, instead of just engaging in chitchat, we should look for more relevant topics and more constructive thinking. There is a time for rest and relaxation, but that time has to be carefully watched. The more we think about the Lord Jesus and our Heavenly Father, the more profitable it is for us as new creatures.

A Christian must consider these puzzling questions at all times. If practiced and pursued as a course of life, foolish questions bring strife about words that is to no profit and that subverts the hearers, leading to the ruin, or destruction, of Christian character. Doctrine is important to discuss, but we should weigh the matter according to the circumstances. The question to ask is, Would a discussion at this time be profitable or damaging? Is it worth the time and the trouble to settle this issue? What is the overall value? Some things in God’s Word are vital, and others are not, although they are interesting and helpful. We should weigh a situation before plunging in. Yes, we are to avoid vain babblings, but there are other discussions we should not avoid because the understanding is important to us and to others. To put such matters under a rug would be compromising. Some think the study of prophecy or difficult parts of Scripture is unprofitable because it brings friction. Thus they advocate staying with the simple and more wholesome subjects, whereas both are needed, including the principles in God’s Word. Of course we are to avoid human theories and speculations and invalid cliché statements.

Sometimes sober questions engender strife. For example, we are told to contend for the faith, even though that proper attitude might cause strife (Jude 3). However, we need to stay as calm as possible. On the one hand, we are to guard the faith on questions that involve principles of character and important doctrines, and on the other hand, we are to avoid foolish and unlearned questions that bring strife. It is wrong to create creeds and sects. To shun those who are dogmatic about nonfundamental beliefs may mean division, for we must protect the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free (Gal. 5:1). Accordingly, we have to think upon and judge our experiences in life—in the workplace, in the home, in school, in the ecclesia, etc.—and try to sort out and avoid that which is foolish.

Paul gave some illustrations of injuring the faith of others. For example, he warned against immediately bringing up our difference(s) with one who walks into the room. If a Christian esteems one day above another and another Christian considers all days alike, we should let every man be convinced in his own conscience (Rom. 14:5). It is important for a person to obey his conscience. Of course the conscience needs to be educated, but we cannot be dogmatic except where serious principles are involved.

The Church was so fractious and disputatious in Paul’s day that it was necessary for Timothy to foster the doctrine of peace. The brethren needed to straighten out their priorities. However, Paul did not say to avoid important subjects that “gender strifes.”

2 Tim. 2:24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,

2 Tim. 2:25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;

2 Tim. 2:26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

Verse 24 is talking about general habits and the personality of the teacher. He must not be given to strife and contention, lest there be a strained atmosphere. Of course there is a time for strife, but the usual temperament of the teacher should be one of patience, the avoidance of unnecessary contention, and gentleness.

Here Paul was speaking about a habit, for as isolated situations arise, we are to be strong with the strong, and weak with the weak. The general attitude is to weep with those who weep, and to be joyous with those who are rejoicing, but under certain circumstances, that deportment would be improper and exactly the wrong reaction. Paul was instructing Timothy how to be helpful in teaching others; that is, Timothy was to be “patient,” forbearing, and long-suffering. Verse 25 pertains to doctrinal disagreement. The King James wording is not clear, for it gives the thought of those who oppose themselves. Paul was saying that we should try, with meekness, to help those who contradict and do not follow his advice. The Revised Standard is good for verses 24 and 25: “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to every one, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth.”

Q: Was Paul referring to consecrated opponents, or was he witnessing to some in the world?

A: He was speaking primarily about the consecrated. In order to help them, we should be gentle and not impugn their motives. Some brethren are offended just because we differ with them, no matter how we do it. It is hard enough for a brother with the wrong thought to receive correction, but the one who makes the correction should put his own personality out of the picture as far as possible and just use pure reasoning—dispassionately, if possible, so that we are not implying the other party does not know the Lord or is not developed. We should reason on the facts alone with the thought that the other person might later repent. In other words, we should not slam the door by exhibiting a wrong attitude but should leave the door of access open to us for the possibility of their repentance.

We are speaking of instances of doctrinal disagreement, whereas other situations may require different actions. For example, a person may not be our doctrinal opponent but may instead be doing something in Christian walk and practice that is damaging to the faith and thus need to be rebuked. To rebuke a person is to strongly admonish him. To the contrary, Paul was talking about unprofitable discussions or damaging doctrines where, to reach a person, we try not to interject personality but to discuss the issue with patience and forbearance. An example of a rebuke is where Jesus disputed strongly with Satan about the body of Moses but did “not bring against him a railing accusation” and said firmly, “The Lord [will] rebuke thee” (Jude 9). Jesus left the vengeance aspect, the pronouncement of the judgment, to the Father. Thus there are some cases where we should be patient and other cases where we must be firm and resolved. With regard to doctrines that may be inimical to the truth, we have to reason dispassionately, without emotion, on the bare principles, the purpose being that the opponent might be recovered “out of the snare of the devil.”

If we have the proper understanding of a subject, it can be difficult to deal with someone who does not have that understanding. Patience toward the individual does not necessarily apply during the discussion, but it would apply over a period of time—if perchance the person might be retrieved. Patience does have limits, but it must be exercised before those limits are reached.

Q: Does the phrase “apt to teach” indicate t hat verse 24 applies especially to elders, who are to have that qualification (1 Tim. 3:2)?

A: Yes, it was directed specifically to Timothy and then to all elders. In addition, the principle applies on a lower plane to all of the consecrated, but from a practical standpoint, the danger is particularly with those who are doing the instructing. Trying to help someone else should be done dispassionately, as far as possible, in order not to create obstacles to reconciliation.

Verse 26 suggests that the Adversary is silently watching and interjecting thoughts to cause problems. For example, when Peter said to Jesus, “Do not go up to Jerusalem, for the religious leaders are waiting there to kill you,” the Master replied, “Get thee behind me, Satan” (Matt. 16:22,23 paraphrase). He realized that Satan had put the suggestion in Peter’s mind, and in expressing the thought, Peter was momentarily influenced by the Adversary. Therefore, in connection with doctrine, the suggestion is that wherever possible, Satan tries to interject thoughts that can be damaging. To a greater or lesser extent, Hymenaeus, Philetus, and others were overcome in that fashion, being ensnared by the Adversary or, as verse 26 states, being “taken captive by him at his will.”

“If God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” The motive should be the retrieval of a person from the error of his way. The unnatural, unholy Adamic desires of the old man want to go in the opposite direction; that is, the thoughts are not so much on repentance and the retrieval of the individual as they are on punishment and correction. It is almost like wanting the destruction of the person and his influence in one way or another.

If the desire of our heart is to see the retrieval of those who err in the truth, that attitude helps us to be patient and long-suffering. Jesus said, “Love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44). The opposite of long-suffering is to be impatient, rash, hasty, and judgmental and to lose our temper. In other words, the one teaching should have a general deportment of control and not ill will toward others. The exception would be when one is definitely seen as an enemy of the truth, and in some instances, there are real enemies. Incidentally, a very happy situation is when one recognizes the sin, repents, and is retrieved, being recovered “out of the snare of the devil.”

Q: Were Hymenaeus and Philetus examples of enemies?

A: Yes. In verses 16-18, Paul was identifying the enemy: “Shun profane and vain babblings …[which] will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.” Paul was advising Timothy, an elder, that there is a time to identify individuals as enemies. With rare exceptions, we cannot judge a person to Second Death. However, we are to judge between that which is good and that which is evil, between that which is profitable and that which is unprofitable, etc.

People are privileged to have their own thinking, but if we find that the thinking is injurious to us as Christians, we should absent ourselves from such. A difference in thinking can become more of a problem if it occurs in the group where we are. If the uprising and contention pertain to a dangerous and serious error that is being introduced within the class, the duty of the elder is to warn the sheep in no uncertain terms. But when the dangerous thinking occurs in another class, we can only set an example and speak the truth wherever we are in the hope that our conduct and life will be helpful. Paul was telling Timothy to forget his youth and to speak, warn, and expostulate as a mature person.

If a group becomes too unruly or there is a personality conflict or two different thoughts are continually dividing the class, why not divide the class in good faith? Someone could say, “With two such strong opinions, we cannot make headway in this climate, so I would suggest that the class be divided.”

Comment: The Apostle John encouraged a division.

Reply: Yes, he mentioned an individual by name—Diotrephes—who was forbidding John and those sympathetic to him to speak and was casting them out of the ecclesia (3 John 9-11).

Sometimes the teachers themselves have to withdraw because in the atmosphere that prevails when another element comes in, they do not have the proper control, and their ministry is not that profitable.

Q: How much time elapsed between the writing of the two epistles to Timothy?

A: At the most, there was a two-year time gap.

Comment: Then in two years, Hymenaeus had not changed his thinking. Since Paul now felt that he would be off the scene shortly, he was warning Timothy to beware of this individual.

Reply: Yes. The wording of verse 26, “that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will,” indicates that Hymenaeus had not repented.

Comment: When it is necessary to expose and disfellowship a brother for unrepented-of grievous sin, many brethren feel the procedure is wrong. They have little understanding along this line and do not see the seriousness of such sin in one who bears the Lord’s name.

(1982 Study with Excerpts from 1999 Study)

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