WORTHY WORKERS

2 TIMOTHY 2:14-26

The first part of this chapter utilized three illustrations of the Christian. He is likened to a soldier, an athlete and a farmer. Now there will be three more such illustrations: A workman, a vessel and a servant.

Illustration

The Call

The Reward

2:3

A Soldier

Suffer hardship

Please the One who enlisted you

2:5

An Athlete

Follow the rules

Win the prize

2:6

A Farmer

Work hard

Receive your share of the harvest

2:15

A Workman

Accurately handle the Word

Be approved to God

2:20

A Vessel

Be cleansed

Be useful to the Master

2:24

A Servant

Be at peace

God may grant repentance to some

Paul is addressing this to Timothy. Each of these illustrations are addressed to a minister of the Gospel. But they also have an application to all Christians.

 

A WORKER IN THE WORD

Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless, and leads to the ruin of the hearers.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth. 16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and thus they upset the faith of some.

Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness." (2 Timothy 2:14-19).

Paul begins with a call to remember. In verse 8 he told Timothy the remember Jesus. Now Timothy is told to call others to remembrance. Who is he to be reminding? He is to be reminding those mentioned in verse 2. He is to remind those faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. The instructions that have been given to Timothy throughout this chapter are not just for Timothy. They are also for those who will come after. They are for US.

When I was a lot younger, I used to enter with regularity into debates about the Bible. I got to the point where I was quite good at it. But Iím older now and I like to think that I am a bit wiser. Iíve come to see that this sort of activity is not only useless; it is worse than useless. It puts the focus upon what one knows and is able to elucidate rather than upon taking the truths of God and applying them to your life.

That is not to say that words are bad or that it is bad to be able to state and even to give reasons for why you believe the way you do. The next verse will make this very clear. But it is bad to argue for the sake of arguing.

Notice that this passage does not tell you to BECOME a workman. It says to give attention to what kind of a workman you are. The plain truth is that you are a workman. The only question is what kind of a workman shall you be?

An Approved Workman

An Unapproved Workman

A Workman that does not need to be ashamed

A Workman that is properly ashamed

A Workman that accurately handles the Word of Truth

A Workman that inaccurately handles the Word of Truth

This command begins with a call to diligence. This is a much better translation than the King James which says, "Study to show yourself approved." That old translation can mistakenly lead one to believe that all that is required is to keep your nose in a Bible. But that is not what Paul says. He calls for diligence. I agree that this diligence may include Bible Study, but it is not limited to that. This is a diligence, not only of reading and studying the Bible, but also APPLYING the truths of the Bible to your own life.

Paul contrasts the way of the Godly workman over against the way of the worldly word-monger. His life is characterized by chatter. And to make matters worse, it is an empty chapter. Nature abhors a vacuum. It is not long before that empty chatter has become filled with further ungodliness. It spreads like cancer, only faster. Paul likens it to gangrene.

In the last chapter, Paul used the negative illustration of Phygelus and Hermogenes, two men who had turned away from him in his need. Now Paul uses the negative illustration of two other men.

Phygelus and Hermogenes

Hymenaeus and Philetus

They turned away from Paul in the hour of his need (1:15).

They turned away from the truth of the resurrection (2:18).

They are guilty of abandoning Paul.

They are guilty of having upset the faith of others.

Today there are people who claim the name of Christian while holding that the resurrection has already taken place. They are known as Preterists. To be fair, there are some who would better be classified as partial preterists and who feel that a number of the prophecies of the return of Christ were fulfilled in the first century but that Jesus will still one day return. But the Full Preterist denies any future resurrection. He believes that Jesus came back spiritually in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. He believes that this is when the resurrection took place -- that it was merely a spiritual resurrection.

Preterism is a growing movement. It is also remarkably similar to the teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus. Their teaching was that the resurrection had already taken place. They taught that there was no more future resurrection. They were wrong. They still are.

The Bible teaches that Christ is coming back. To deny this truth is not a minor issue. It is serious. If there is no resurrection, then there is no hope and we are of all men the most to be pitied.

In spite of the fact that there are those who are being driven about by every wind of doctrine, there is a place of serene stability. It is found in God and it rests upon a promise and an application to that promise.

      1. The promise is that the Lord knows those who are His.
      2. The application is that everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness.

Both this promise and this application are drawn from the pages of the Old Testament. They are from the book of Numbers. Specifically they seem to be taken from the Septuagint translation of Numbers.

Numbers 16:5. 26

 

2 Timothy 2:19

Translation from the Hebrew

Translation from the Septuagint

Yahweh will show who is His

God has visited and known those that are his

The Lord knows those who are His

Depart now from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing that belongs to them, lest you be swept away in all their sin

Separate yourselves from the tents of these stubborn men, and touch nothing that belongs to them

Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness

The quotations are taken from the incident of Korahís revolt. It was in the wilderness when Korah rose up and set himself up against Moses. After all, why should Moses have the exclusive right to represent the Lord? God called Israel to separate themselves from Moses and then he caused a great judgment upon Korah and his followers.

In the face of such judgment, there is a promise and a precept. They are not contradictory. They compliment one another. The fact that the Lord knows those who are His is a motivation to name the name of the Lord and to abstain from wickedness -- literally, to apostatize from unrighteousness (aposthtw apo adikias).

There is an important point here that will be repeated throughout James. It is that right doctrine is to be accompanied by right living. The one who names the name of the Lord is also to abstain from wickedness.

 

AN HONORABLE VESSEL

Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. 21 Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:20-21).

There are a number of points to this illustration. While I donít wish to make it stand on all fours, it is worthwhile to look at the various points of comparison.

Do they look familiar? They ought to. When you look at the vessels you are looking into a mirror. You are looking at yourself. They represent all of mankind.

What kind of vessel are you -- a vessel of honor or a vessel of dishonor?

What kind of bowl are you -- a salad bowl or a toilet bowl?

The portrait of a vessel is an appropriate one for the Christian. A vessel, by its very nature, is a container. It holds certain things within it. We are also containers. We have been called to be filled with the Spirit. But we cannot be filled with the Spirit if we are being filled with sin. We are called to go to the cross and to be cleansed from all that is dishonorable so that we can be filled by the Master.

 

A PEACEABLE SERVANT

Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:22-26).

In this section we shall come to the last and final portrait of the Christian. He is described as the Servant of the Lord. This is a high and a holy calling. It served as an Old Testament title for the Messiah.

This reminds me of the story of Joseph and Potipharís wife. It is a story of a beautiful woman who attempts to seduce a young man. Joseph was a servant. He was the servant of Potiphar. But more importantly, he was the servant of the Lord. And so, he did not stick around to argue the point -- he fled from her presence.

The thing to do with sin is to run from it. If you stay around to argue the point, you risk succumbing to its temptation.

Notice the negative and the positive. The Christian is running away from something and he is also running toward something. He is fleeing and he is pursuing.

There are some things in the Bible that are vague. There are some questions for which we do not necessarily have a concrete answer. Our tendency is to speculate and before too long we are arguing about our speculations. It is better not to go there in the first place.

Notice the balance. On the one hand, we see that the Lordís servant is not to be quarrelsome and that he is to be kind and patient. On the other hand, he is to correct those who are in opposition, albeit with an attitude of gentleness.

We have a tendency to go to extremes. One is to adopt a casual attitude in which error goes uncorrected. This kind of attitude says, "I donít care what you believe, just be nice." Such an attitude is wrong because it turns away from the truths taught in the Scriptures. The other extreme is equally wrong. This is the extreme that takes great delight in beating others over the head with your doctrinal cudgel.

This is the goal of correction. It is restore people to the truth and thereby deliver them from the snare of the devil.

Peter and the disciples were called to "catch men." This symbol is also used of Satan here in verse 26. He also attempts to catch men. He has a snare and a goal of captivity. He wants to capture you and to make you his slave.

Here is the question before you. Whose slave will you be? Will you succumb to the temptations of the devil? Or will you recognize yourself to be the servant of the Lord?


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