From:  Busy Teacher’s Guide to 2 Timothy                         Return to Home 

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.  © 2021

 

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Busy Teacher’s Guide to the New Testament:

 

Quickly Understanding 2 Timothy

 

by

Roland H. Worth, Jr.

 

 

Copyright © 2021 by author

 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

            For the reasons discussed at the end of the fourth volume of my detailed analysis of First Timothy, I will not attempt the kind of in-depth treatment that I did on that epistle of Paul.  I figured now was a good time to see how the approach I used in regard to the gospels would work in analyzing the letters of Paul and to do so by beginning with the one that came next in Paul’s writings.  I hope the different treatment will still benefit you!

            I have altered the “running title” of the series to Busy Teacher’s Guide to the New Testament for I am including additional materials that may prove especially useful to those intending to teach classes on the subject.      

            What I wrote in the Introduction to the gospel volumes remains relevant here however.  It is only slightly modified in order to better explain both what continues from the earlier analyses and how it has been modified and expanded with the special intention of benefiting teachers: 

 

            When the great scholar Jerome was producing what came to be known as the “Vulgate”--the authoritative Latin text for the Roman Catholic Church--the equally renowned Augustine was upset and annoyed:  Why do we need another Bible translation? he insisted to his fellow scholar.  Quietly Jerome hit at Augustine’s own weak point:  Why do we need another commentary?  (The production of which was a hallmark of Augustine’s labor.)  Augustine reconsidered and backed off from the criticism as being, perhaps, a bit hasty.

            Augustine’s question remains relevant to our age, however.  You could invest all of your surplus income--assuming you are part of the prosperous but overworked middle class--and still not afford to purchase all that are available.  Much less find the time to read them.  So why another commentary and why this one in particular?

            Historically commentaries have been written more often than not for either the well educated or the self-designated religious “elite” who are so absorbed in the text that they want to learn as much as they can about it and prefer exhaustive analysis.  There is a definite place for such commentaries and I am not above writing such myself.

            Yet in the past and even more so today, there is also the need for a very different type of exposition:  concise and to the point.  Even the most devout has only 24 hours a day.  The hasty pace of keeping one’s family’s financial head above water takes an inordinate amount of that time.  Family obligations and one’s religious interests eat yet further into what is available.  In this pressure cooker environment, the time to merely set down and think has become extraordinarily precious.

            Hence these Quickly Understanding commentaries have been produced to allow the Biblically interested but time limited reader to get the most out of their restricted study time.  First, read a section of the text itself.  For your convenience we divide the commentary into such sections; the headings are not intended to be merely descriptive of what is in that section, but, often, interpretive as well—to make plain one or more points that are underlying the discussion.

            These are presented in the able New English Translation.  They officially permit—rather than unofficially permit or “overlook” the usage--so long as it is done absolutely without any financial charge.  (Or read it in your own preferred translation:  the commentary will work with just about any except the most paraphrasistic ones.) 

            Individual verses then follows.  All individual verse translations we provide, however, are from the New King James Version--an able update of the KJV and utilizing the same underlying Greek text.  In a limited number of cases multiple verses are studied together.  A typical cause of this happening is the way certain verses end at awkward places and in the middle of a thought.

            Instead of having to wade through highly technical long paragraphs and even multi-pages you find simple and direct language.  A matter of a few paragraphs instead of a few pages.  Not everything you could find of value of course but, hopefully, a few “nuggets” of something useful in every verse analyzed. . . .

            We have avoided fanciful and far-fetched interpretation.  We have assumed that Jesus and Paul intended to give guidelines for life in the here and now.  Realistic.  Reachable.  Reasonable.  And we have interpreted the text with those assumptions as our foundation.  I have no problem introducing inferences but we have tried to limit this to the more probable ones unless we include cautionary language as well.  After all, inferences can range from necessary to probable to possible to conjectural to fanciful to outright delusional.  It is a tool to be used with caution, common sense, and prudence.

            We have supplemented this with a limited number of side excursions into Alternative Translations, Greek, and Historical Context.  These should be useful for both those reading the book to gain a better understanding of the epistle and, perhaps even more so, for those whose responsibility is to teach on the letter.

            For those who wish to grasp the essence of the still living message, this book should provide invaluable assistance.

            We have avoided those areas that require elaborate and sustained discussion.  Issues of authorship, date, and canonicity are all useful and of value.  But here we are interested in the contents of the book. . . .  Most importantly, what can we learn that will help us better understand the text or morally improve our own lives?  Hence the sometimes obscure scholarly arguments relating to the book’s background are best left for a different context.

 

            A few supplemental thoughts:  That still leaves us with the question, however, of what are the differences between the earlier style of text and what we have here in the Teacher’s Guide version? 

            In the others we attempted to provide a short summary of some relevant thought and idea relevant to each verse studied.  Here we have in mind the needs of teachers of the text and not just that of readers.  Hence we have attempted to provide brief and concise remarks on virtually every key word or phrase in every verse--something vastly beyond what was attempted in the earlier works.  Even when I wander “longer than I would prefer”--some verses have so much substance in them that nothing else would do justice--it is still pages shorter . . . often many pages shorter . . .  than the “writing in depth” style that I prefer. 

            Yet it also has, I hope, a special benefit to the individual preparing to teach on these books by providing a variety of ideas and thoughts around which to center one’s presentation of the text to the class.  Truth be told, it offers a special benefit to myself as well:  writing “short” is just as much an “art” as writing “in depth.”  And one far more adaptable to my health in my old age.

                                                            Roland H. Worth, Jr.

                                                            Richmond, Virginia      

 

 

 

 

Alternative Translations Cited

Amplified        =          Amplified Bible

CEB                =          Common English Bible                     

CEV                =          Contemporary English Version

ESV                 =          English Standard Version

GNT                =          Good News Translation

GW                 =          God’s Word

Holman           =          Holman Christian Standard Bible

ISV                  =          International Standard Version

NASB             =          New American Standard Version (1977 edition)

NCV                =          New Century Version

NET                =          New English Translation

WEB               =          World English Bible

Weymouth      =          Weymouth New Testament

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greetings From Paul

(1:-2)

 

 

            From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to further the promise of life in Christ Jesus,  to Timothy, my dear child. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord!  --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            1:1       Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus.  Paul’s apostleship was not given to him by some convocation of first century Christians.  Nor was he self-appointed to the position either.  (Contrast this was with the arrogance of modern individuals and churches to designate such individuals!)  Indeed he was the least likely man to choose because of his well known opposition to Christianity.

            Although “Christ Jesus” might be used by Paul to emphasize His role as the Anointed and appointed messiah and “Jesus Christ” to put the emphasis on the Lord’s earthly embodiment, it seems far more likely the apostle simply uses them as synonymous expressions in order to vary the language he writes in. 

 

            1:2       To Timothy, a beloved son:  Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.  There is a clear emotional and psychological intimacy between the two for Paul regards him as the spiritual equivalent of a “son” but he makes that even more emphatic by stressing that he is “a beloved son.”  He is special in his eyes due to the closeness of their work together and by Timothy’s persistent effort to be faithful to God under all circumstances.

            Divine favor (“grace”), forgiveness of sins (“mercy”), and reconciliation (“peace”) are wished for Timothy in the coming years.  He already had these, but Paul wishes to assure Timothy that he is continuing to receive these.  He need not live in some continuous fear of his spiritual state.  He already has what God wants.  Now it’s simply a matter of preserving them. 

            These three blessings are clearly interlocked.  It would be impossible for Timothy to successfully have one of these without having the others as well.

 

 

           

 

 

Paul Remembers the Spiritual Dedication

of Both Timothy

and His Mother and Grandmother

(1:3-5)

 

 

            I am thankful to God, whom I have served with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I remember you in my prayers as I do constantly night and day.  As I remember your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.  I recall your sincere faith that was alive first in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I am sure is in you.  --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            1:3       I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day.  Paul regularly thanked God for Timothy’s continued service to their shared cause.  It never vanished from his thoughts whenever he prayed.  Sometimes we put ideas on the mental “back burner” and forget its importance over time.  Paul never fell into that mind frame:  He knew that the gospel needed Timothy’s faithful service both now and into the future.  So he regularly made mention of the man and his needs in his prayers regardless of when they are given (“night and day”).

            Paul shared with his faithful ancestors (“forefathers”) the determination to serve God “with a pure conscience.”  An unalloyed dedication, uninfluenced by any earthly priorities at all.  Paul sees this not as some unique accomplishment of his own but as the continuation of a pattern of spiritual loyalty that had been constantly manifested in his family and its ancestry. 

           

            1:4       greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy.  There was a close bond between the two.  No matter how important the work Timothy was doing, he still felt sorrowful at their separation (“your tears”).  It was a sentiment that Paul felt quite sympathetic toward since he himself would be “filled with joy” when they again were able to work together--or at Timothy’s success in Ephesus.  Many prefer to find here a reference to Timothy’s tearful sorrow at some occasion of great abuse coming down upon Paul’s head.  Or upon when Paul had sent him out on this mission to Ephesus.  

            Which ever way it was, there was clearly a deep emotional bond between the two based upon their individual and joint service to the Lord.

 

            1:5       when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.  Some people go through the motions of religion and feel quite “pious” in the delusion that that makes them acceptable to God.  Timothy had never had that mind frame for it was “genuine faith” that could be seen manifested in his convictions and behavior.  He had received great encouragement to cultivate that approach since the same thing was present in both mother and grandmother.

            No mention of his father encouraging him in faith is made.  That might be because he is now dead while the other two are still alive.  More likely it is because he had been a Gentile who never embraced either Judaism or Christianity.  This is argued from the fact that Timothy had to be circumcised and any Jewish father would have done it automatically (Acts 16:1-3). 

 

 

           

 

 

Paul Urges the Continued Dedication and Service

to the Lord That He Has Already Seen

Manifested in Timothy 

(3:6-14)

 

 

            Because of this I remind you to rekindle God’s gift that you possess through the laying on of my hands.  For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.  So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me, a prisoner for his sake, but by God’s power accept your share of suffering for the gospel. He is the one who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not based on our works but on his own purpose and grace, granted to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but now made visible through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus.  He has broken the power of death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel!  11 For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher.  12 Because of this, in fact, I suffer as I do.  But I am not ashamed, because I know the one in whom my faith is set and I am convinced that he is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day.  13 Hold to the standard of sound words that you heard from me and do so with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  14 Protect that good thing entrusted to you, through the Holy Spirit who lives within us.  --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            1:6       Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  Timothy had received a Divine gift when hands had been laid upon him.  By whom and for what purpose?  The main use of laying on of hands language is as a sign of appointment to a task--of endorsing the person in their appointed task.  Hence under direct instruction of the Holy Spirit, Paul and Barnabas were appointment to a ministry taking the gospel to others (Acts 13:1-3).  Therefore most interpret this as referring to Timothy being embraced and appointed to the position of minister of the gospel as well.  The “gift” would then be that of the honor and responsibility that goes with gospel preaching.  Because he had this gift of acceptance and endorsement, “therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (verse 8).  

            However there is another use of the language as well.  Although we read of Divine powers being given by the apostles’ laying on of hands (Acts 8:14-17), we read nowhere of that occurring by anyone else doing it.  Paul wrote the Romans that he looked forward to giving them miraculous gifts by this means, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established” (1:11).  Taken this way, it refers to the supernatural gift given Timothy as others had received such in Acts 8.

            What may tie both of these approaches together is a reference found in 1 Timothy 4:14, “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.”  In other words at the same time the elders laid hands on Timothy to embrace and accept him as a minister, Paul also did the same in order to give him a supernatural gift of some type.  There seems no particular reason to accept only one of the alternatives when both fit together so well. 

            Indeed if it only refers to Timothy’s acceptance as a minister of the gospel then “the gift of God” would seemingly have to refer just to the privilege of publicly serving the Lord.  How this could be described as “in you” is difficult to conceive.  On the other hand this might refer to the fact that every faithful preacher has been the recipient of sound doctrine and instruction and that teaching--which ultimately originated in God--indwells him.  Cf. 1 Corinthians 4:7:  “What do you have that you did not receive?”

            Even in our day and age when the period of genuine miracles is far past, there is a principle here that is useful for all Christians and not just preachers.  Whatever “gift” of ability or skill that we have in us should be periodically “stir[red] up.”  We should not ignore it but use it.  We should not allow it to slumber when we could effectively use it to become better Christians and be of benefit to others.

            The instruction has often been used to argue that Timothy’s enthusiasm had waned under concern over what Paul was going through.  He could not take as seriously as he should what was happening in the Ephesian church due to preoccupation with his old friend and mentor.  Perhaps . . . but the instruction remains applicable to anyone with prolonged service to the Lord:  Enthusiasm levels inevitably vary within one’s life.  Periodically it needs to be “reved up.”   

            Alternate translations:  “The verb [= stir up] may be rendered fully, dwelling on the metaphor, ‘kindle the glowing embers of the gift of God,’ or as margin of R.V. ‘stir into flame.’ ” (A. E. Humphreys).  “The metaphor is taken from kindling slumbering ashes into a flame by the bellows. . . .”  (Pulpit)

 

            1:7       For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  In verse 6 Paul discusses the special gift God had given Timothy in particular; here he generalizes to the gifts plural that God has given all believers.  He has given us spiritual “power,” an attitude of “love,” and the ability to think clearly (“a sound mind”).   Love is added, as showing that the servant of Christ always uses power in conjunction with love, and only as the means of executing what love requires.”  (Pulpit)

            The fact that He has given us these things proves that “God has not given us a spirit [= mind-frame] of fear.”  He’s given us the tools to deal with any such fear because we live in a world where dangers exist (next verse). 

            “A spirit of fear” equates roughly to cowardiness.  “A spirit . . . of power” indicates we have the ability to overcome whatever obstacles we face.  We are not outmatched.  “A spirit . . . of love” indicates that He provides us the ability to be of value to others in a world that will often despise us.  “A ‘simple, self-forgetting, self-sacrificing love’ that can lay itself out to win even ‘the uninteresting, the hard, cold, rude, ignorant, degraded.’ ”  (How quoted by Humphreys)  Their unconcern, annoyance, and even contempt will not crush our love.

            “A spirit . . . of a sound mind” indicates that just as our love overcomes the temptation to hate our foes, our intellect remains firm in dealing with the mental gymnastics used to emotionally seduce us into evil.  They may twist facts and reality, but we will be able to “think our way through” their fog of misunderstanding and misrepresentation.    

 

            1:8       Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God.  Even though the world is potentially dangerous for any Christian--even more so for those who work as their leaders--Timothy is to never allow this ongoing pressure to break his spirits . . . and he become “ashamed” of what the Lord had taught or of his own responsibility for sharing it.  Remember Jesus’ own warning, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26).  But the principle goes even further; it includes being embarrassed by Paul’s imprisonment, as others had been (4:16). 

 

            1:9       who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.  God did not call us to discipleship because of our pre-existing behavior (“works”) but in order to carry out His “purpose” and that purpose was to faithfully serve Him and be the beneficiaries of Divine favor (“grace”).  Both of these opportunities were set apart for our benefit “before time began.”  Note that it was not you and I personally that were set apart for salvation from eternity but “His own purpose and grace” that were ordained at that time.  He foresaw clearly the future and what we would need and determined how He would deal with it long before the need for action actually arose.

            His “holy calling” is twofold.  First of all, the One who calls is the embodiment of absolute purity.  (“Which of you convicts me of sin?” John 8:46.  “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil,” John 18:23.)  Secondly we ourselves are called to a life of holiness--not some kind of mystical “super righteousness” but a steady path of doing the right thing, treating others as we should, and living by the moral standards the Lord has established.  

 

            1:10     but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.  Both the Divine “purpose and grace” (verse 9) have been revealed to humankind through Jesus of Nazareth.  The “gospel” (= good news) explains how spiritual “death” is destroyed and how spiritual and eternal life is obtained (“life and immortality”).

            The Old Testament system has been described, with justice, as the means by which God “rolled forward” the sins of His people through animal sacrifice until Jesus arrived and provided His own blood to actually obtain and finalize forgiveness.  Hence the ability to be forgiven now rather than at some time in the future became available only at the time of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  Everything before had simply been a preparation for it.

            “The gospel’s” role in this was to provide those who came next the information that was necessary to provide it for themselves as well.  The ability to obtain it was spread out for all nations to take advantage of--if they dared (Matthew 28:18-20).  But it involved a change in attitude and behavior that many would find impossible to make.  But that sprung from their weakness and not that of the gospel.       

           

            1:11     to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.  Paul’s relationship to the gospel was threefold:  (1)  He had been appointed to preach it; (2) he had been appointed to be a leader of it (an “apostle”), and (3) he had been appointed to spread the redemptive message among “Gentiles” in particular (i.e., the entire non-Jewish world).  However much Peter and other apostles could minister among them, God recognized that Paul had a unique background that would make him even more capable in that role.  Perhaps also because he had done so much to destroy the fledging movement (Acts 7:57-58; 8:1-3; 9:1-2) he was especially appropriate as a vehicle to promote its spread:  He knew exceptionally well the case to make for both sides.

 

            1:12     For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.  Just as Paul had urged Timothy not to be ashamed of Christ and His word (verse 8), the apostle emphasizes that he isn’t either.  In other words he is an example of what he advocates.  None of that “do as I say rather than as I act” nonsense! 

            Furthermore no matter what Paul might suffer, he is convinced (“persuaded”) that the Lord is able to preserve everything he had committed to Him--his soul, his faith, his intellect, his commitment--until the climatic “Day” of existence.  That could be the day of death, the day of the resurrection of the human race or the day of the final judgment.  Truth be told, if Paul can preserve his commitment to the first of those (death), then having it at the others comes automatically.  The same is true of us.

           

            1:13     Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  Paul did not preach and teach inconsistently.  He had an established “pattern of sound words:”  What he taught today would be the same thing as he would advocate tomorrow.  He did not change his mind as to the substance of his message; he did not alter it in any way.  Hence it was “sound:”  reliable, trustworthy.  They were the never failing “standard of sound words” (NASB, NET); the “pattern of accurate teachings” (GW).  Hence whatever God had revealed was authoritative and could not be changed due to human preference (cf. “see you make all things according to the pattern,” Hebrews 8:5).   

            After all, since he was inspired by God, why should it be changed?  “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12).  Hence why would he dare?  Would he not be defying God Himself?

            But Paul was always an honest man.  When he did not have a specific instruction from the Lord he was willing to give his opinion, his best judgment and to stress that it was exactly that.  But even there he was confident of its validity because “the Lord in His mercy had made [me] trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 7:25).

            Also, since he spoke by inspiration, God chose to speak certain truths through the apostle that the Lord had not dealt with during His earthly ministry.  For example, Jesus had dealt with the marriage of believers (1 Corinthians 7:10-11), but He had not provided instruction as to one with an unbeliever.  So when Paul dealt with such he candidly confessed that “I, not the Lord, say” such and such (7:12-13) for the Divine command was now being given through the apostle rather than coming during the earthly ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.  (Jesus would have had no reason to deal with the issue; it was as close to “unthinkable” as would have been possible among the Jewish people in geographic Palestine where He preached.)  

 

            1:14     That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.  If we capitalize the two words, the lesson would be that the Spirit encourages us and helps us to fulfill our spiritual commitments through the revelation He had provided to us and the entire human race--the Divine chain of revelation being Father to Son to the Holy Spirit and from there to inspired men who taught others and us (John 16:13-15).  The Spirit does this indirectly through the gospel message that lives within us.  Those believing that the Spirit somehow directly acts personally and directly within the believer, would take it to mean a more immediate and miraculous action.

            An alternative to both of these approaches:  The gospel had been “committed” into Timothy’s hand and he was to teach and preserve its influence within by cultivating internally the kind of “holy (purified) spirit” that God intends for His people to have.  Our job is to keep our spirit holy.  If we do it, we vastly simplify and make easier our discipleship to the Lord. 

 

 

 

 

 

Though Paul Had Encountered

Large Scale Abandonment, There Were Also Those

Those Who Stood by Him

(1:15-18)

 

 

            15 You know that everyone in the province of Asia deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.  16 May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my imprisonment.  17 But when he arrived in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me.  18 May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!  And you know very well all the ways he served me in Ephesus.  --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

 

            1:15     This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.  This pervasive rejection of Paul refers to what the apostle was facing in Rome (cf. the opposite reaction in verse 17).  This would be of interest to Timothy since he was currently preaching in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3), which was part of Asia.  The fact that this epistle would be shared with the brethren would be Paul’s way of telling the others in their community what their contemporaries in Rome were doing.  The fact that two people are specified by name argues that these two particularly annoyed/upset Paul by their actions.  When some people “do us wrong” it simply hurts more than when others do and this must have been the situation in this case.

            We have taken the reference to “in Asia” as alluding to those with roots there but who were currently in Rome.  However it can easily be taken as a reference to powerful locals who could have spoken kind words about his character and nature.  Think the Asiarchs who were friendly (Acts 19:31).  But if that were the case, would it not seem likely that the locals would already know about this?  

 

            1:16     The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain.  Paul doesn’t express any wish for Divine retribution upon those who had turned their back on him, but he does hold up for praise those belonging to the family and staff of Onesiphorus. 

            He had visited and “refreshed” (brought supplies?  encouragement?) to Paul not merely once or twice but on many occasions (“often”).  If this is a reference back to the apostle’s first imprisonment in Rome:  He would have found this quite useful because he had been allowed to have his own living quarters outside of jail for at least two complete years.  Although Acts 28:30-31 tells us that he “received all who came to him” to discuss the gospel, not even a dedicated preacher like Paul “lives by his sermons alone!”  He needs food and supplies for the household!

            Furthermore there is more to life--an emotional aspect of existence that is heightened by contact with others to discuss things and to pass the time.  I write these words in April 2020 and I have been isolated due to age because of the plague called coronavirus.  For a full month it has been this way and it will last at least for two more weeks.  If isolation, even with modern conveniences, is driving me and millions of other Americans “up the wall,” imagine what it would be like to be a prisoner and wearing a chain!  The presence of friendly visitors would be an “emotional lifeline” to an emotionally well balanced life.  No wonder Paul cherished such a pattern of helpfulness!

            If this is, like is normally assumed because of the “eminent death” references in 4:6-8, a reference to his second imprisonment:  There seems no reason to assume that conditions this time around were anywhere near as lenient as during the first jailing.  Hence the helpfulness would have been even more appreciated.  A prisoner’s physical health and dietary needs were of minimal interest to the guards.  Hence anything someone could do to help him would be deeply appreciated.  The fact that he saw every reason that the guards would permit him to receive his cloak and other goods when Timothy delivered them (4:13) argues that though the guards might do little to assist him, they would not stand in the way of others doing so.

            Historical context:  It should be remember that the imprisonment at the end of Acts was extraordinarily generous in light of the variety of places the Romans had to imprison a person.  The remarks of A. E. Humpheys describes the alternatives this way:

 

            Where did Onesiphorus find St Paul?  Nero to screen himself had given the word for the most virulent animosity against the Christians (Tacitus Ann. xv. 44).  When St Paul then was brought prisoner to Rome, he must have been known as one of their chief leaders, and as such would be confined now not in any ‘hired house,’ not in any ‘guard house’ of the praetorium, or any minor state prison, such as that of Appius Claudius if it still existed, or even the ‘Stone Quarry Prison,’ lautumiae, at the furthest north-west corner of the Forum, but (we may believe) in the Carcer itself, the Tullianum or ‘Well-Dungeon,’ at the foot of the Capitol.  This last with its chill vault and oozing spring was the worst, as we gather from Seneca . . . —the Prison par excellence. . . .

 

            1:17     but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me.  Presumably he was there on business of some type.  He knew that Paul was there as well but had no guidance of exactly where.  Population wise Rome was a huge city:  somewhere between 500,000 and a million people, with estimates strongly running toward the larger number.  That would have produced a population density of what you find in 2020 in major sections of Hong Kong.  Without the modern conveniences of internet or printed directories, finding him could have been a difficult task in itself.  That he found it so important that he took time to accomplish the task shows how profoundly he was an admirer of the apostle and wished to be of help to him.

 

            1:18     The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day—and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus.  Here we find the reason why the example of Onesiphorus would be especially of interest to Timothy and those in the city where he labored:  he was from their own community.  He was a name and person they were well acquainted with.  In fact he had helped the apostle when he had been there.  Now he was going out of his way to continue to do so in a different and faraway metropolis.

            Not only had Onesiphorus deserved praise, it was good for those from the biggest city in Asia to know that not everyone had turned their backs on him.  Paul doesn’t exactly criticize those who had said nothing in his behalf; he clearly believes that the very fact of their inaction was enough criticism in and of itself.  But it was even more important that they recognize this had not been the uniform pattern:  That one of their own had provided yeoman’s assistance to the apostle.  This was for the sake of their own pride in their congregation and community.  Someone had risen to their opportunity and superbly so.          

            Some assume that Onesiphorus had been martyred in Rome.  That is far from established; in other words far from the strongest foundation for an argument.  Based on the assumption of his death, though, this passage is introduced as evidence that Paul believed in praying for the dead--for his salvation at the time of final judgment.  But after such dedicated helpfulness to Paul, would it not have been natural for Paul to wish for salvation even while the man was still alive?  Furthermore because of his generosity to the needy, Paul had every reason to think Jesus would count him among the redeemed.  After all Jesus had stressed that such assistance would be heavily involved in determining one’s eternal destiny (Matthew 25:41-46, especially the reference to “in prison” in verse 44). 

            To pray for even a dead Onesiphorus would be no more than telling the Lord, “He really deserves the reward awaiting him.  Grant it to him!”  Not a prayer of doubt but of passion--something profoundly different.           

            Greek:  Very well:  The sense is comparative; better than I can tell you.”  (Vincent’s Word Studies).  In a way Timothy understood it better than anything Paul could add.

 

 

 

 

 

Faithfulness Must Be Held Onto

In Spite of Difficulties and

the Hard Work That Is Required

(2:1-7)

 

 

            So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And what you heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well.  Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one in military service gets entangled in matters of everyday life; otherwise he will not please the one who recruited him.  Also, if anyone competes as an athlete, he will not be crowned as the winner unless he competes according to the rules.   The farmer who works hard ought to have the first share of the crops  Think about what I am saying and the Lord will give you understanding of all this.  --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            2:1       You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  We speak in terms of God giving us grace and He certainly does by forgiving us our sins.  But there is still the question of how are we going to use that Divine favor?  Will we simply take it for granted, thereby running the danger of not taking the obligation for continued faithfulness with the seriousness we should?  Or will we recognize that its availability provides us a reason to grow in spiritual commitment . . . knowing that the Lord will be standing with us in our “growing pains” while we increase our service and spirituality? 

            The Lord will help us, but we still must do our part as well.  This, after all, had been Paul’s own experience:  But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. . .” (4:17).  

            2 Corinthians 12:9 (“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness”) has been appealed to to show that it is Divine favor that provides us the strength of purpose and action that we would otherwise lack.  1 Peter 5:10 could be appealed to in a similar manner:  “But may the God of all grace . . . perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.”    

 

            2:2       And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.  Paul wasn’t into covert teaching:  what he said to one person he was quite willing to share with any and all who were willing to listen.  Hence there were “many witnesses” to what he had to say and it could be verified by a large array of listeners. 

            The purpose of teaching was not only to increase the knowledge of the listeners, but to enable them to share it with others as well.  Paul would have regarded it as a strange delusion to believe that teaching was uniquely confined to a small elite.  To whatever extent and skill they possessed, he would have wanted all of them to use it in sharing the gospel with others as well.  One does not have to have the skill of a twenty year veteran of the pulpit to do it, but to have a sufficient knowledge base--like in what book chapter and verse various doctrinal points are made--in order to share it with others.

 

            2:3       You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  The “therefore” in this verse seems odd indeed:  how in the world does it grow out of what is contained in the previous verse?  Perhaps it is present to convey the implicit message that not everyone Timothy teaches will take it well . . . that some will misunderstand or outright reject what he has to say although he had thought these to be among the “faithful men” mentioned in verse 2.  Alternatively the point would be that by the very act of developing spiritual depth among others he himself will land up facing “hardship.”  On a spiritual level that becomes a parallel with what a combat soldier does for his country.

            A soldier’s life is not uniformly easy.  At the best there’s going to be a lot of strenuous and difficult labor and long hours of service.  There is going to be absolute “hardship” as well as difficult circumstances and foes are faced.  Faithful preachers will face that same danger.  Rather than feel sorry for himself, he is recognize that this comes with his job as a minister of the gospel.  A “duty of office” if you will.

 

            2:4       No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.  Gospel preaching involves the preacher in spiritual warfare against moral evil.  Popular preferences will encourage a wide spectrum of evil ranging from annoying to outright depraved.  In Ephesians 6:10-20 Paul develops this imagery at length and stresses that all faithful church members are engaged in that kind of conflict.  Fascinatingly that extended description was written to the very place Timothy was currently preaching!

            Paul is not condemning the act of being involved in various “affairs of this life” but of them becoming our only priority.  The obligations of support of family, to give but one example, make such involvement inevitable.  That very obligation Paul stressed in the preceding epistle (1 Timothy 5:8).  Unless we believe that Paul is repudiating what he had previously written to the young man, such a scenario is impossible.  Likewise becoming married doesn’t have to involve a repudiation of such responsibilities nor does earning a living.  Paul endorsed the first though he personally did not practice it (1 Corinthians 7:6-9).  He practiced the latter as he worked in the trade of tentmaker (Acts 18:1-3; 1 Corinthians 4:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:8-9).  

            But there is a point where such things become the center of existence and all that we are really interested in.  At the point where priorities shift in such a manner, one has betrayed one’s obligations as a spiritual warrior and traded our soul for what provides only temporary value. 

 

            2:5       And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.  Just as there are “rules” that soldiers must follow (verse 4), that is even more obvious in athletics.  There will be those overseeing the competition and they will not permit those rules to be violated and declare you the winner when you are acting in defiance of them.  Not even when you claim “I meant well!”  That doesn’t in any way change the fact that you knew what the standards were and willfully did not go by them. 

            The spiritual lesson is the same.  Although every person must “work out your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12), everyone must work it out according to the same Divine rules.  In other words, our “spiritual athletic contest” has rules as well.

            Historical context:  Paul’s argument was obviously true of all athletic contexts, but the most famous to us--and his first century audience--was the Olympic Games:

 

            . . . They, their fathers, brothers, and trainers had to take oath that they would be guilty of no misconduct in the contests; and they had then a month’s preliminary exercises in the gymnasium at Elis under the superintendence of the judges.  The ‘games’ included longer and shorter foot-races for men and for boys, chariot-races, horse-races, wrestling, boxing; the pentathlon, a combination of leaping, flat-racing, discus-throwing, spear-throwing, and wrestling; and the pancration, a union of boxing and wrestling.  ‘Without interruption for upwards of a thousand years the full moon after the summer solstice every fourth year witnessed the celebration of these games, b.c. 776–a.d. 394.’ ”  Wordsworth, Greece.  (A. E. Humphreys)

 

            2:6       The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops.  Soldiers (verses 3-4), athletes (verse 5), and farmers share a major characteristic in common no matter how vastly different their pursuits:  They are all “hardworking” people.  However it takes not merely effort, but ongoing effort to accomplish their tasks the way they should.

            In the case of the farmer his reward is to get the first pickings of the crops he has harvested.  Paul does not tell us how this principle of reward applies to him as a minister, but the allusion to having food to eat “first” would almost certainly convey the idea that the congregation should regard their providing for a preacher’s survival needs to be at the top of their priority list.  The “right to support” is developed at length in 1 Corinthians 9:3-14 though Paul stresses there that he had been known to avoid using it--in particular in regard to the Corinthian congregation (verses 15-18)

 

            2:7       Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.       Timothy may well not understand everything Paul is driving at in his first reading of the epistle.  Hence he is to “consider” (meditate) on what has been said--its ramifications and implications.  Even preachers need to continue learning!  Note that thinking carefully on the written message is presented as the prerequisite for God giving him the “understanding” of what the text is driving at.  God will, so to speak, bless Timothy as he drives from Norfolk, Virginia, to Richmond, Virginia, but Timothy still has to get in the car and do the driving.  To receive Divine blessings we must do our part as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever Adversity We Have To Go Through,

Jesus Christ Will Never Desert Us

(2:8-13)

 

 

            Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David; such is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship to the point of imprisonment as a criminal, but God’s message is not imprisoned! 10 So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God, that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory.

            11 This saying is trustworthy:

            If we died with him, we will also live with him.

            12 If we endure, we will also reign with him.

            If we deny him, he will also deny us.

            13 If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful,

            since he cannot deny himself. 

            --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            2:8       Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel.  That Jesus was a descendant of King David (“of the seed of David”) was a prerequisite for being the Messiah who was to come.  However that created a paradox because the Messiah was also supposed to be superior to David (as Jesus Himself points out in Mark 12:35-37).  The fact that Jesus was Deity incarnated into a body of flesh and blood enabled Him to fulfill this paradox.

            The Pharisees had no problem with believing in a resurrection but Sadducees were pure materialists and that disagreement could drive them apart from joint action even when both sides were angry at the same man:  Acts 23:6-10 provides the vivid case where both thought Paul deserved the severest of punishment but were so involved in their doctrinal disagreement on this matter that the Romans rescued the apostle from the immediate danger.

            He describes the resurrected Christ as being part of “my gospel” not because he originated that gospel but to show that it was embedded in the system that he routinely shared with one and all.  One did not have to wonder what Paul thought on the subject.  One only had to pay attention to what he preached.  This is “‘a solemn way of speaking, identifying these truths with the preaching which had been the source of Timothy’s belief.’ ”  (Alford as quoted by A. E. Humphreys)  

 

            2:9       for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained.  Paul was enduring the kind of treatment that could justly happen only to a true “evildoer” rather that one whose only crime is trying to serve God.  But that unjust chain he wore only impeded his body; it did nothing to stop the spread of the gospel . . . and it was that message which was the important thing for it provided the path to salvation for those who would heed it.

            His enemies regarded it as “evil” that he taught the resurrection.  In regard to his arrest, we know that the Roman authorities landed up treating him as “an evildoer” (= criminal) because those who opposed him were willing to throw a community into chaos and the only thing the Romans were certain of was that he had been at the center of the conflict.  (See the account in Acts of how he was arrested:  Acts 21:27-36.)  If this, as usually believed, refers to a second imprisonment, it is a way of stressing that the same preaching that gotten him in trouble with the authorities the first time had done so a second.

 

            2:10     Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.  Paul was willing to endure his mistreatment (verse 9) so that others might obtain “salvation” and, through that, the “eternal glory” they will enter into after death.  Note the “also” that is added:  by enduring his own mistreatment, it assured himself as well an everlasting reward.  The abuse hurts, but it simultaneously gains us greater acceptance in eternity.  As the apostle wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

            Greek:  “The Greek word rendered ‘endure’ is our Lord’s word in His charge to the Seventy (Matthew 10:22) and in His discourse of the last things (Matthew 24:13; Mark 13:13):  ‘He that endureth to the end the same shall be saved.’ ”  (A. E. Humphreys)  

 

            2:11     This is a faithful saying:  For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.  He makes a two-fold conclusion based upon successfully enduing abuse for being a Christian and he labels it a fully reliable (“faithful”) adage.  In other words, there can be no legitimate doubt about it; the adage is absolutely true and valid.  The scenario that this is the fragment of some ancient hymn is not required, though the words may well have given birth to one with that same message.

            The first adage lays the condition for the second:  “if we died with Him”--an act that we perform in our baptism according to the apostle (Romans 6:3-5).  The second one is that we must then “live” our life in a way that is acceptable to Him as the result of that conversion.  Paul’s repeated insistence that disciples remain faithful to the Divine standard argues that this is an obedience that we never dare end if we wish to harvest the promised eternal reward.  Our unending steadfastness produces joyful eternal life as its compensation (cf. Revelation 2:10). 

            However in light of the seriousness of Paul’s situation in prison (2:9), death was a real possibility.  Hence the first truism could refer to if we imitate the Lord’s loyalty to God in our own death, like Him we shall survive death and be resurrected just as surely as He was (= “shall also live with Him”).  Even our death will not remove the reward; if anything it assures it, a point Paul mentions in that same Romans passage (verse 6). 

 

            2:12     If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.   If we deny Him, He also will deny us.  The reward for faithfulness does not require actual death.  It is equally certain if we “endure” whatever adversities we are afflicted with.  Not only will we have eternal life we will also “reign with Him” in eternity, i.e., enjoy a special status of importance for what we had accomplished earthside.

            The Lord himself had implicitly embraced the first half of Paul’s statement and explicitly the second half:  Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).

            In other words, success is not guaranteed; that is determined by our actions or inactions:  our denial of Him will produce His inevitable rejection of us as well.  We had a “bargain with the Lord” and we have broken our joint commitment.  He “denies” us by no longer recognizing us as part of the faithful. 

            In Matthew 25 Jesus drives home that point by describing an ultimate day of judgment in which our behavior will have determined whether we have the kind of eternity any wise person wishes after (25:31-46).  However if we demonstrated our unwillingness to be reliable in the current world, how could He possibly consider it wise to joyfully accept us into the next world?    

 

            2:13     If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.  In spite of our abandonment of the Lord, He will still be willing to receive us back if we repent since “He remains faithful.”  Upon rejection I suppose most humans automatically reject the other person in annoyance.  Not so the Lord.  He “cannot deny” the commitment of loyalty He made in accepting us into His spiritual flock.  He will always remain ready to receive us back.  Remember the story of how the “good shepherd” will do his best to bring back the lost sheep of his flock (Luke 15:4-7).  Some argue that this indicates that the Lord will accept us regardless of our failures, but that contradicts verse 12 and would result in His not being faithful to the commitments and threats He made in His earthly teaching.  

 

 

 

 

 

While Deep Dedication Is Required,

That Does Not Justify Needless Wrangling

(2:14-19)

 

 

            14 Remind people of these things and solemnly charge them before the Lord not to wrangle over words. This is of no benefit; it just brings ruin on those who listen.  15 Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately.  16 But avoid profane chatter, because those occupied with it will stray further and further into ungodliness, 17 and their message will spread its infection like like gangrene. Hymenaeus and Philetus are in this group.  18 They have strayed from the truth by saying that the resurrection has already occurred, and they are undermining some people’s faith.  19 However, God’s solid foundation remains standing, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from evil.” 

--New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            2:14     Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.  Although it is so crucially important to continue one’s faithful discipleship (2:11-13), that gives no one a legitimate excuse to stir up conflicts and uproars.  There is a profound difference between having disagreements and even lively arguments and using them as a tool to destroy the reputation of others.  That kind of misplaced zeal also results in “the ruin of the hearers” for it encourages the recipients of the criticism--and bystanders--to follow in the same footsteps of needless divisiveness.  Yes, division must occasionally happen, but that should always be the last step rather than one’s default position. 

            Of course these excesses threaten to poison the soul of the person launching the “holy war” as well.  The “hearers” include those spewing out the venom.  If you “poison the well” the others are drinking out of, you poison your drink as well.

            These needless internal disputes can also distract attention from even greater external dangers.  For example, it is said that at the time of the Soviet Revolution the Russian Orthodox Church was bitterly divided over . . . church vestments.  At the very time that dangerous adversaries wanted to destroy their very existence!

            Greek:  To no profit.  Literally ‘a course useful for nothing. . . .”  (A. E. Humphreys)

            Alternative translations of “to no profit:”  “of no value,” NIV; “is useless” (NASB). 

 

            2:15  Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  Timothy is not to do “sloppy work.”  He is to routinely “be diligent” in his religious life.  Just as a skilled craftsman works hard to produce quality work, this preacher is to have the same attitude toward living the best Christian life he possibly can.

            The result is being “approved to God.”  Being “approved” by our own minds is secondary; if we leave out being sure we are measuring ourselves by God’s standards, we are going to be a religious failure no matter how much we deceive ourselves. 

            If this is to be our standard, we obviously have an obligation to properly (“rightly”) use and interpret the Divine revelation “of truth.”  That is what tells us what God’s standards are.  If we don’t we have failed to be the kind of Christians we should be.  This is far from an insignificant matter that can be glossed over.  Instead it should cause us to be “ashamed” at our failure.

            “Rightly dividing the word of truth” seems such an obvious truism that is applicable to stressing the division in authoritativeness between the Old and New Testament that there is no proper way to avoid that application.  However the point being driven home by the words applies to all other Biblical truths as well:  we have to use them rightly . . . interpret them rightly . . . rather than bending them to some purpose other than that for which they were intended. 

            This reality is echoed in many recent translations.  For example the New English Translation speaks in terms of “teaching the message of truth accurately.”  That this broader point is intended--rather than just teaching Old Testament/New Testament differences--can be seen in the consequences of not “rightly dividing” that are stressed in the next verse. 

            Other applications:  Various homiletic fancies have been founded on the word[s] (rightly dividing / ὀρθοτομοῦντα ), as to divide the word of truth, giving to each hearer what he needs: or, to separate it into its proper parts: or, to separate it from error: or, to cut straight through it, so that its inmost contents may be laid bare.  Others, again, have found in it the figure of dividing the bread, which is the office of the household steward; or of dividing the sacrificial victims; or of cutting a straight furrow with the plough.”  (Vincent’s Word Studies)       

 

            2:16     But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.  Want to know one of the easiest ways to misuse the scriptures?  It is by falling into meaningless “babblings” that may sound good to the ear but produce nothing of spiritual value.  This kind of foolishness feeds upon itself, encouraging one to do it even more.  Hence the reference to how it “will increase”--in personal use as well as in encouraging others to trade rhetoric for substance as well.

            What Paul is concerned with is not only meaningless rhetoric in itself--though it is undeniably bad--but the kind of broad sweeping overgeneralizations and exception making that is used to justify various specific evils.  Hence though the words will multiply, what it will still produce is yet additional “ungodliness.”  There is always some exotic way of justifying every human behavior imaginable.  Having begun to justify our own departures from the Divine standard, it becomes the mindframe to justify yet others.

            Paul stresses that others will do this but Timothy is to carefully avoid and reject all such excursions into “fantasy land.”              

 

            2:17     And their message will spread like cancer.  Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort.  Not only is their hot air theorizing wrong (verse 16) it feeds on itself and spreads among others like a “cancer” destroying the spiritual body of the church.  We don’t know anything about the two men who are named, but since Paul clearly regards their names as being immediately recognizable in Ephesus they were likely either locals or men with significant ties to the city.

            Alternate translations of “cancer:”  “spread like gangrene” (ESV, ISV, NASB, NIV); “is like a sore that won’t heal” (CEV); “is like an open sore that eats away the flesh” (GNT).

 

            2:18     who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.  The doctrinal error they propagated was that the “resurrection” that would eventually occur had already happened.  This had destroyed the faith “of some” Christians and Paul is obviously concerned that it could do the same for yet others. 

            How they rationalized the physical resurrection had already occurred we aren’t told.  One means would be to argue that the only people to be physically resurrected were those that were given that blessing at the time of the Lord’s death (Matthew 27:50-53).   Hence the “promise of resurrection” had been fulfilled decades ago.

            Another means would be to contend that since Christians are collectively Christ’s body (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:27; Colossians 1:24), and since Christ was physically resurrected three days after His death, Christians were considered resurrected at the same time.  Hence the resurrection was in the past and those who had confidence in the Pauline assurance that there was yet a physical resurrection in the future for all of us (1 Corinthians 15:35-42, 50-52) would have their confidence undermined.

            The previous scenario attempts to create a bridge uniting two different types of resurrection--physical and symbolic.  Of course they may have instead insisted that the believer resurrection is entirely symbolic and non-literal.  If so they would have faced the weighty load of explaining why Jesus’ physical resurrection could meaningfully be given as evidence for our purely spiritual one.  Especially when, to the extent that we have a symbolic resurrection at all, it is presented as through baptism at our conversion (Romans 6:3-5).  What we now wait for is something far different and quite literal. 

            Not so was the opinion of at least some later ancients.  Irenaeus and Tertullian both refer to the belief held by some in their day that the resurrection consisted of our bursting forth from the grave of our sinful bodies at our conversion.  They settled for symbolism; Paul insisted upon cold, hard, and inevitable literalness.     

            Whatever was the exact nature of their teaching, some had been convinced by it.  Instead of liberating themselves from a major misunderstanding, it had destroyed (“overthrow[n]”) their faith.  That could carry either the connotation of their faith in the true teaching about the resurrection or destroying their entire Christian faith.  Most likely the latter since it is such a pivotal element. 

 

            2:19     Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal:  “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”  There are two inscriptions on the foundation stone, the one guaranteeing the security, the other the purity, of the church.  The two go together.  The purity of the church is indispensable to its security.”  (Vincent’s Word Studies)

            Although the Lord is well aware of who His people are, those people still need to remember their obligations that flow out of that unique relationship:  One and all (“everyone”) needs to leave behind (“depart from”) any sinful behaviors.  Paul makes no specification of which sins--and how could he?  They would vary from person to person.  Rather he is laying down a guideline for general behavior.

            The first of Paul’s two truisms--“the Lord knows those who are His”--reflects a principle found in Numbers 16:5 and in the words of Jesus Himself (John 10:14).  The reverse is also true:  He is fully aware of who is not one of His own (John 19:25-28).  The judgment is infallible; He makes no mistakes

            The second axiom--“Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity”--reflects the Old Testament principle of living a moral life (consider Psalms 37:27) and not being contaminated by the sins of others (as in Isaiah 52:11).  Note Paul’s own insistence that believers do such (2 Corinthians 7:1; Colossians 3:5-8).  Paul is quoting no one; he is summing up in his own words fundamental truths of both Testaments.    

 

 

 

 

 

Beware of Human Weaknesses

That Can Lead to Sin

(2:20-22)

 

 

           20 Now in a wealthy home there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also ones made of wood and of clay, and some are for honorable use, but others for ignoble use.  21 So if someone cleanses himself of such behavior, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart, useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.  22 But keep away from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness,  faithfulness, love, and peace, in company with others who call on the Lord from a pure heart.  --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            2:20     But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.  Even in the mansion of earthly monarchs and economic tycoons there is a wide variety of items.  Some are very expensive and others are, in comparison, of little value.  Some are things that bring prestige (“honor”) to the household while others embarrass or degrade (“dishonor”) it.  This seems to be a way of warning that Christians who are unfaithful may remain in the church but their behavior that is hidden from others still discredits them in the eyes of the Lord.  But their past does not have to be their future, as Paul immediately points out in the next verse.

            Alternate translations:  Since “honor” and “dishonor” are words that normally carry moral overtones, it is hard to see how they apply to household items.  Facing this problem, some translations suggest a different kind of qualitative difference:  “for special purposes / common use” (NIV); “for special occasions / ordinary use”; “are honored / others aren’t” (GW).

 

            2:21     Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.  The moral parallel is that by getting rid of all that brings dishonor upon himself--if he “cleanses himself” of them--then he is prepared to be of true usefulness to the Lord.  Even if he previously had been a lackadaisical Christian.  He is now prepared for “every” opportunity to do good that comes his way.  If he fails to set his life right, though, he has failed the threefold standard Paul has set: 

            (1)  He is not bringing “honor” to his Master. 

            (2)  He has not set himself aside for His service (“sanctified”). 

            (3)  He will not be truly “useful” in the Lord’s service.  He may still go through the motions, but his lack of full commitment has crippled his potential.

 

            2:22     Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.  We need to set aside youthful desires (“lusts”) that can divert us away from the Lord.  Although “lust” typically has a sexual orientation, there are those who have an equally passionate drive for wealth, power, and other things--especially in their youthful years when they have the greatest potential for gaining them.  However even the honorable things we might pursue can become the instruments of our destruction if we allow them to bend our ethics away from our honor.

            This means that one must pray (“call on the Lord”) from a heart that is undefiled with evil.  Paul gives four standards to help determine whether one has that kind of heart.  Each requires “pursu[ing];” in other words, they do not come automatically but are the result of ongoing effort:

            (1)  “Righteousness” = moral character, moral excellence; these become the defining essence of the person’s nature.   

            (2)  “Faith” = confidence in God’s reliability and willingness to help us.

            (3)  “Love” = positive attitudes and actions that help ourselves and others.  See Paul’s description of the nature of love in 1 Corinthians 13.

            (4)  “Peace” = a stable, tranquil, and non-confrontational relationship with others.  It so often does not come “naturally” to people that Paul labels this as a trait that all Christians should cultivate and develop.

            The result of this four fold development is that we are dedicated to the Lord from “a pure heart.”  Not out of gaining some type of advantage but out of the recognition that it is praiseworthy in and of itself.  Then when we pray we “call on the Lord” with the right internal character to have our wishes granted. 

 

 

           

 

 

Beware of Needless Controversies

and Always Treat Others

With Restraint

(2:23-26)

 

 

            23 But reject foolish and ignorant controversies, because you know they breed infighting.  24 And the Lord’s slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient, 25 correcting opponents with gentleness.  Perhaps God will grant them repentance and then knowledge of the truth 26 and they will come to their senses and escape the devil’s trap where they are held captive to do his will.  --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            2:23     But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.  Some things are simply not worth fighting about:  they are “foolish” because even if we can resolve them they do not contribute anything constructive to our lives and behavior.  Other disputes are “ignorant.”  A few translations prefer the marginally stronger criticism that these are “stupid” arguments (GW, ISV, NIV).  “Ignorant” and “stupid” obviously walk hand-in hand as beloved brothers.

            The classic would be, “How many angels can dance [or stand] on the head of a pin?”  Wikipedia makes the relevant remark, “In modern usage, the term has lost its theological context and is used as a metaphor for wasting time debating topics of no practical value, or questions whose answers hold no intellectual consequence, while more urgent concerns accumulate.”  It strikes me that pretty well sums up the attitude Paul is rebuking!

            Needless argument over trivial . . . secondary . . . almost useless matters run the very real danger of “generat[ing] strife.”  Not just strife but needless strife.  The church didn’t need that in the first century and doesn’t today either. 

            This is relevant not just to others but to Timothy in particular.  He is urged not to yield to any obsession with such marginal, irrelevant, or speculative matters.  That would also involve not being drawn into them if members came asking for his “opinion” on the matters.  A good response in many cases would likely be:  “Even if you are right, what real difference in everyday life would it make?”  

 

            2:24     And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient.  Because of his position of leadership, a minister can make religious and moral disagreements far worse.  But when Paul is talking about the “servant of the Lord” he is talking about any and all such servants.  Although addressing the preacher Timothy it is clearly a mind frame to be cultivated in every Christian whether they preach or not.     

            The guidelines for any good teacher--or any faithful Christian for that matter--are well spelled out:

            (1)  You don’t seek or engage in needless arguments (“must not quarrel”).

            (2)  You are restrained (“gentle”) toward everyone (“all”).  Not just toward the richer members or the more important members but toward everyone regardless of status or age.

            (3)  You need to be “able to teach,” to share the gospel in a meaningful way with others.  Not everyone has to be an expert or a scholar, but they need to know what the truth is and where to find key textual evidence that supports it.  Then others can examine it and see for themselves whether you know what you are talking about--as was done in Acts 17:11.

            (4)  One must have a “patient” disposition.  Not everyone “sees” things as quickly as others.  One person sees the text and the argument and immediately grasps that it makes full sense.  Others may have to do considerable thinking and meditating upon the argument(s) before making up their mind.  The wise person learns this important lesson about how people differ.  Otherwise one may prematurely give up on reaching them.       

           

            2:25     in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.  When you have the truth there is still no need for arrogance.  Indeed your attitude may convince the other person that you are so “full of yourself” that it isn’t worth considering the matter even if you turn out to be right.  Hence the need for what you say and how you say it to reflect “humility.”  What would be the best approach to take if you were on the receiving end and in the wrong?  Hollering, shouting, a vehement appeal to “what all faithful brethren believe”?  Or would a calm but emphatic presentation of the evidence work far better?  Remember that they are not so much “in opposition” to you personally but to the truth of the gospel.  

 

            2:26     and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.  When one lives a life of sin, one is surrendering life to the control of “the devil.”  You are caught in his “snare”--his trap:  What looked so good and attractive serves someone else’s interests rather than your own.

            But your worst impulses he gleefully uses to make you even worse.  Once the devil “has you” he hardly wants to lose you!  Therefore to rescue him will take all the mature believer’s efforts to move him back in the right direction.

            But if you have done your part, should you feel guilty if you fail?  When all is said and done, it ultimately comes down to the other person’s reaction.  That you have no control over.  If they “come to their senses” and recognize what they have done, then you will get them back.  Otherwise, as the old saying goes, they are “in God’s hands.”