The first epistle to Timothy was written so that a person may know how to behave in the house of God, the local assembly, 1 Timothy 3:14,15. The second epistle was written so that Timothy, and we, may know how to behave in the presence of men, and in particular, in the presence of false teachers. Timothy was directed to stay at Ephesus to see to it that the truth was maintained, but it is a sad thing to realise that even such a privileged assembly as Ephesus had its problems.
The chapter may be divided for ease of understanding as follows:
|SECTION 1||Verses 1-7||The exhortations to Timothy and four figures of speech.|
|SECTION 2||Verses 8-10||The experience of Paul and four encouragements.|
|SECTION 3||Verses 11-13||The examination of the believer, and four tests.|
|SECTION 4||Verses 14-18||The exposure of false teachers and four remedies.|
|SECTION 5||Verses 19-21||The escape from iniquity and four assurances.|
|SECTION 6||Verses 22-26||The exemplary behaviour of the servant, and four warnings.|
SECTION 1 THE EXHORTATIONS TO TIMOTHY AND FOUR FIGURES OF SPEECH
First figure of speech: son.
2:1 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
It is not certain that Timothy was a convert of Paul, since he was a disciple when the apostle arrived in Derbe and Lystra on his second visit. Of course, he may have been saved on Paul’s first visit, but given Paul’s commendation of Timothy’s mother and grandmother, 2 Timothy 1:4,5, and the fact that from a child he had known the holy scriptures, 2 Timothy 3:15, then it is more likely that he was saved through their testimony. There as a Jewish saying to the effect that: “If one teaches the son of his neighbour the law, the scripture reckons this the same as if he had begotten him”. In this way Timothy became Paul’s “son”. Perhaps the scripture they referred to was the reference to “the sons of the prophets”, 2 Kings 6:1. The word “therefore” links back to the previous chapter, and the ways in which God has intervened in grace in both their lives, and now the apostle urges Timothy to be strong in faith as he considers the gracious dealings of God with him. Christ Jesus is the title that tells of His exaltation by the power of God to His own right hand. This same power is available to those who believe, Ephesians 1:19-23, (Timothy had connections with Ephesus, 1 Timothy 1:3), so Timothy will be strong as he remembers this. All that God makes available to His people in grace is designed to strengthen and encourage them.
Peter made the mistake of trying to be courageous in his own strength. Having fallen asleep in Gethsemane when he was commanded to watch, he then went to the opposite extreme and wielded the sword contrary to the mind of Christ. See John 18:10,11,36.
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.
Having spoken of grace in verse 1, the apostle now balances this with truth. Those truths which Timothy had learned from the apostle, he is now to pass on to those who can be trusted with them, so that they in turn will teach others. In this way Timothy will have “sons” too. This teaching of faithful men is not just for their benefit, but so that they may be equipped to teach others in their turn. This is the process which should have been carried out throughout this age. Sadly, however, the process was interrupted at times, and there had to be a revival of knowledge of the Scriptures.
Many would testify to the godly life of the apostle, (even if called upon to do so in a court of law, for “among many witnesses” could be a legal term, equivalent to saying, “as competent witnesses would testify”). This godly life was a practical demonstration of the truths he taught, and gave confidence to those who heard him to accept what he said as the truth of God. Those who minister the word are expected to match the requirements for deacons as found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. Notice that Timothy is given a mandate only to teach the same as the apostle taught. He is not given licence to embellish or subtract from the doctrines. Sadly, it is characteristic of the present age that men have tampered with the word of God for their own ends. Because the truths of the faith are precious and vital, they should only be entrusted to faithful men. Only those who have shown themselves to be reliable in the Christian life should be asked to minister the word. The souls of believers are too precious to be endangered by the teachings and attitudes of carnal men. Those who clearly have not been gifted of God to teach, or who, although gifted, have failed to maintain a faithful attitude to his word, should be excluded from the platform. If the apostle was prepared to appeal to witnesses to his godly conduct, how much more should lesser men be expected to be tested in this way. So it is that the apostle says of deacons, “let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless”, 1 Timothy 3:10.
One of the sad features of the book of Judges is the way that it opens with a record of decline over four generations, Judges 2:7,10, whereas in this passage the apostle is appealing for faithful continuance over the generations.
2:3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
Second figure of speech: soldier.
The faithful carrying out of the apostle’s commission will involve Timothy in conflict, for Satan always opposes the truth of God, and often uses believers to do this work for him, for instance, 2 Timothy 3:10-13. Every believer is expected to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, so certainly those who minister the word should regard themselves in a bitter conflict with evil and error.
Joshua had been a faithful minister to Moses over a period of forty years in the wilderness, and had seen what hardships he had to endure, as the professed people of God resisted the word of God. The promise was, however, that as God had been with Moses, so He would be with him, Joshua 1:5. We, too, may count upon the support and strengthening of God. As he had been with Paul, so He would be with Timothy, and with us.
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.
One of the “games” played in the Roman theatres, was that between a gladiator, and a man armed only with a net. The gladiator might be thought the easy winner in such a contest, but it was not always the case. If the man with the net could entangle the soldier, then despite his skill and armour, he would be defeated. So we, despite the armour of God we are to put on, and despite the power of the Spirit working within, may fall a prey to the net of the world. The word the apostle uses here is “bios”, from which we get the word “biology”. In other words, this does not refer to the attractions and allurements of the world, which we are warned of in other scriptures, but is rather the basic duties of life. As Wuest translates, continuing the military metaphor, “civilian pursuits”. The Greek word for “affairs” gives us the English word “pragmatic”. We must faithfully discharge our responsibilities to those who depend on us in some way, but not in such a manner that they interfere with our responsibilities to the Lord. Under the law, a man who was newly married was excused military service for a time, for the law gave no power to keep life’s responsibilities in proportion. Believers of this age, however, have the power of the Spirit to enable them not only to serve the Lord, but also to conduct their personal affairs well.
We should remember the lesson taught to us by the experience of the two and a half tribes of Israel that requested an inheritance on the east side of Jordan. The reason they gave could be summed up in the words, “our little ones, our wives, and our flocks”, Numbers 32:26. In other words, they were allowing their legitimate responsibilities to rob them of the land. It is interesting to notice that in the epistle to the Ephesians these three aspects of life are regulated by the apostle before he spoke of the armour of God. Child/parent, 6:1-4; wife/husband, 5:22:33; and servant/master relationships, 6:5-9, must be carefully adjusted in the light of Scripture, so that there be no hindrance in the battle in which we are all engaged.
The word for life used here is the same as is found in the parable of the sower, for the seed that fell among thorns was “choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life”, so that “they bring no fruit to perfection”, Luke 8:14. The extremes are listed her, for those who have cares because of poverty, and those who have riches and can indulge their pleasures, are alike in danger. Agur said, “give me neither poverty nor riches”, Proverbs 30:8.
We should remember that we are not volunteer soldiers, but conscripts. Our commander in chief has chosen us for the task of defending His interests in the world without being distracted and ensnared. It is accepted by those in the armed forces that they have to a large degree given up their own will to the dictates of their captain. So many things can trap us- desire for promotion, ambition to built up a thriving business, even gardening and decorating, and many another like thing can, if allowed to dominate us, render us useless as a soldier, for soldiering demands concentration. Only as we give the task at hand our full and undivided attention shall we please the one who has chosen us. He is very clear in His demands, that “he that loveth father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me”, Matthew 10:37.
2:5 And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.
Third figure of speech: athlete.
This verse is illustrated by the history of Israel in the Judges. Because “every man did that which was right in his own eyes”, Judges 21:25, they only knew constant defeat and servitude. The figure of speech the apostle uses here is slightly different to verse 4. There it was a soldier on the battlefield, here it is an athlete contending in the Games. The athletes in the Greek Games were strictly controlled, so that no shame was brought on the nation by misconduct. Only if the contestant has kept the rules will he receive a crown.
2:6 The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.
Fourth figure of speech: farmer.
This is the ideal situation, but the Lord warned the people of Israel that if they disobeyed Him, others would eat their crops instead of them doing so. “Thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather the grapes thereof…the fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not eat up…thou shalt plant vineyards and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes”, Deuteronomy 28:30,33,39. We see this illustrated in the experience of Gideon, Judges 6:3-6.
The point for Timothy is that there is no fruit if there is no labour, and when there is labour, the labourer has first claim on the fruit. Elsewhere the apostle wrote, “But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden”, Galatians 6:4. Every man shall receive for what he himself has done. And moreover, will have to associate with what he has done at the judgement seat of Christ.
2:7 Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.
The apostle first of all exhorts Timothy, and then is found praying to God to enable him to respond. “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do His good pleasure”, Philippians 2:13. The imposed blindness of Samson, and the near-blindness of Eli are symptomatic of the spiritual condition of the people of the times of the judges.. The apostle prayed that the Ephesians believers might be given “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye might know”, Ephesians 1:17,18. The Laodiceans were marked by blindness, and were urged to buy eyesalve to remedy their spiritual ignorance, Revelation 3:17,18. It was not that the Laodiceans were deprived of the truth, but that their vision was clouded by other things. In fact, it is very possible that the epistle Paul commands in Colossians 4:16 to be read at Laodicea, was the epistle to the Ephesians. They were without excuse. So are we, for we have the completed scriptures for our guidance.
SECTION 2 Verses 8-10 EXHORTATIONS TO TIMOTHY AND FOUR ENCOURAGEMENTS
2:8 Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:
First encouragement: Jesus Christ is raised from the dead.
Even though he was anointed king, David had many distressing experiences. He prayed to the Lord on one occasion, “Remember David, and all his afflictions”, Psalm 132:1. These included his Cave of Adullam experience, as he sought to evade Saul who sought his life. This sort of experience Timothy must expect, for the firm setting forth of the truth is not pleasing to carnal men, and there were some of these even at Ephesus where Timothy was. Hebrews 13:23 informs us that Timothy was imprisoned at some point.
No experience can match that which Christ knew however, yet He has emerged, not from an open cave, but from a sealed tomb. This gives great encouragement to those who are afflicted for the truth’s sake, for He who raised Christ from the dead still has all in His control. He will vindicate His faithful servants at last.
2:9 Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.
Second encouragement: the word of God is not bound.
The “wherein” refers to the gospel. He had exhorted Timothy to “give thyself wholly unto it” in 1 Timothy 4:15, or as the words are literally, “be in it”. The apostle certainly suffered trouble as one who was “in” the gospel, giving himself wholly to it.
The apostle was brought before the legal authorities as an evil-doer, as Acts 24:1-9 shows. David was treated by Saul as if he were an evil-doer, but all the time David was conscious that nothing could frustrate the word of the Lord that told Samuel to anoint him. When he came to the throne, he was anointed again “according to the word of the Lord through Samuel”, 1 Chronicles 11:3.
Whatever the trials, even to imprisonment, the believer experiences, he may be confident that nothing can bind the word of God. Many have been used, even in prison, to bring the gospel to their fellow-prisoners. We are to “remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them, and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves in the body”, Hebrews 13:3.
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.
Third encouragement: believers are elect.
Fourth encouragement: eternal glory is in prospect.
This verse illustrates the fact that the word of God is not bound, for it accomplishes God’s purpose regarding His elect people, and that involves eternal glory. There is no indication that the apostle is speaking of those not yet saved, for if that were the case he could simply have said that he endured sufferings so that people could hear the gospel and get saved. Nor is he speaking only of those already saved, since they have already obtained salvation. Since this is the case, he must be thinking of all the elect, whether saved already or as yet unsaved. We must remember that believers are only called the elect in connection with the full purpose of God. It is significant that Paul reserves the description of the saints as the elect until he has spoken of the whole process of Divine Purpose, so that those who are foreknown, predestinated, called, justified, glorified, are then described as God’s elect, Romans 8:33. As far as God’s purpose in eternity is concerned, they are chosen in Christ. As far as events in time are concerned, they are chosen to salvation by the sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, 2 Thessalonians 2:13. Once genuine faith is in evidence, then the marks of an elect person can be seen, as 1 Thessalonians 1:4-7 indicates. Scripture does not speak of elect sinners.
So to what end is he enduring all things? The answer must be that the emphasis is on the words “with eternal glory”. They already have the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, and now Paul seeks that they might have it with eternal glory, in other words, with God’s commendation of them. Peter desired that believers have an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom, 2 Peter 1:10,11. It is said that a city whose sponsored athlete had been successful in the games would pull down part of their city wall, in order to give him a large welcome, or “an abundant entrance”.
Note the “also”, for the apostle was confident that reward awaited him in heaven, and he desired that believers have a reward too.
SECTION 3 Verses 11-13 THE EXAMINATION OF THE BELIEVER, AND FOUR TESTS
2:11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him:
First test: if we be dead with Him.
In verses 11-13 there are four conditions a person may be in on earth. He may be dead with Christ, suffering for Christ, he may deny Christ, and he may believe not.
This assessment of those Timothy comes into contact with is in line with the character of the epistle as a whole, which envisages that there may be those amongst the believers who are not genuine.
First the apostle speaks of those who are genuine believers, for only such are vitally linked with Christ. That they are genuine is seen in the change of expression from that used in the other three cases. Here, it is “for if”, meaning, “with a view to the fact that”, whereas in the other three cases it is plain “if”.
The apostle wrote in Romans 6:5, “If we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, (and we have, because we have been buried in a watery grave), we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, (for we have emerged from the waters of baptism which buried us). This is not only one of the tests of reality, it is also one of the confidence-builders that Timothy needs as he faces opposition. Eternal glory is known in resurrection conditions, and those who are linked with Christ risen are in a position to accumulate that eternal glory by obedience and faithfulness to Christ. How this is done is told us in the next phrase.
2:12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him: if we deny Him, He also will deny us:
Second test: if we suffer.
All who show the reality of their faith by suffering, or enduring, are assured here that they shall reign with Him, and this is part of the eternal glory. To glory in tribulations is a sign of genuineness, according to Romans 5:3. Those who, like the plants growing in rocky soil, only have temporary faith, as is seen in that they wither under persecution and affliction, show themselves to not be genuine believers, Luke 8:6,13.
It was those who endured the privations of life with David in his obscurity that reigned with him eventually. Suffering is a passive thing, whereas enduring is a positive and assertive thing, and it is this the apostle is encouraging. All believers are in the kingdom of the Son of God’s love, Colossians 1:13, but what position they eventually hold in that kingdom depends on the way they behave down here.
Third test: if we deny Him.
We may adopt two views of the expression “deny Him”. Either this speaks of those who deny Christ as Peter did, but not absolutely, and can be restored, or those who recant and disown Christ altogether, and show themselves apostates. Those who deny the Lord, and by so doing renounce all connection with Him, they will find that their denial on earth will be matched by His denial when He comes into the air for His own, for they will be left behind, and this will manifest that they are not His. Those who deny Him, but not absolutely, will find themselves denied a reward at the judgement seat.
2:13 If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself.
Fourth test: if we believe not.
The expression “believe not”, which can refer to those who are unfaithful in some way to the Lord, but without renouncing allegiance to Him altogether, or alternatively to those who are totally without genuine faith. That it refers to a believer’s unfaithfulness is indicated by the fact that “believe” is not a verb, but an adjective, meaning unfaithful, and is in direct contrast with Christ’s faithfulness.
Note the apostle is putting himself amongst the “we” he speaks of. This by no means indicates that he is speaking of himself as a possible unbeliever, but is simply showing that no-one, whatever his apparent position before God, is exempt from the tests being applied here. The apostle John did the same thing in 1 John 1 when he said, “if we say we have no sin…if we say we have not sinned…”, yet he also claimed to be an inspired apostle, in fellowship with the Father and the Son. 1 John 1:8,10,3.
If God pronounced as genuine those who were not, He would be unfaithful to His promises to those who do believe, for those promises would be of no value to believers if they were true of unbelievers as well. If he did this, He would be denying in practice what His character is as one who is faithful.
These things are not written to upset, but to encourage us to faithfulness to the Lord, and endurance under stress. Nothing can disturb the eternal security of the true believer, (which is why the apostle brought in the idea of election), but the apostle has as one of his intentions here, to disturb the complacency of a merely professed believer.
SECTION 4 Verses 14-18 THE EXPOSURE OF FALSE TEACHERS AND FOUR REMEDIES
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.
First remedy: remembrance.
Second remedy: charge.
The things of the chapter so far are words that Timothy is to pass on to those who teach, verse 2. It is not that they did not know, but that they, like us, needed to be constantly reminded of Divine things.
They are to see to it that they do not fight about words, for that will not profit, but rather will undermine the faith of those who hear them teach. The word “subverting” is used by Peter of the “catastrophe”, or overthrow, of Sodom and Gomorrha, 2 Peter 2:6. It is a drastic word, therefore, and gives us an idea of how harmful this particular sort of strife is.
This does not mean that the particular words of Scripture are not to be discussed. The “words” are “topics”, “subjects” of discussion which if propagating error, cannot possibly build up the hearers, but will rather pull them down.
2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Third remedy: study.
The word study might bring to our minds someone bent over their books, whereas the word has the idea of giving diligence, being the word shouted by spectators at the Games, as they urged on their favourite athlete. The word “show” is used by the apostle in Romans 12:1 to urge believers to present their bodies a living sacrifice. The idea is of one who is actively and energetically committing himself to working for the Lord in some way of His choosing. In the case of Timothy, as a setter forth of the truth he had learned from the apostle. In so doing, he must be careful to “cut a straight line”. As a tentmaker, the apostle knew the importance of this if his workmanship was to be acceptable to a customer; how much more is it necessary to handle things aright in the things of God. There is no room for shoddy workmanship. Paul speaks of a pattern of sound words in 1:13, and Timothy is to be careful to cut around the pattern accurately. He is to be careful not to include error in that which he is doing for God.
2:16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.
Fourth remedy: shun.
Timothy is to stand aloof from the unprofitable and erroneous teachings of carnal men. Far from being sacred, their vain or empty sounds (deficient in profitable content), are profane. As ever, there is a strong connection between that which is taught and the behaviour of those who accept it. The teaching is profane, therefore the conduct produced is ungodly.
2:17 And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;
Just as evil is likened to leaven which spreads through dough until all is affected, Galatians 5:9; 1 Corinthians 5:6, so cancer cells multiply until increasing amounts of the body are affected. In John 12:4,5 Judas murmured about Mary’s action, in Mark 14:4 some murmured, but in Matthew 26:8 we find that all the disciples were found murmuring at her. The writer to the Hebrews warns against a root of bitterness which could spring up and trouble the believers, and thereby many would be defiled. He quotes from Deuteronomy 29:18,19, where the one whose heart turns away from the Lord affects his family and his tribe.
We see the importance therefore of not allowing false doctrine a place amongst the people of God, for it is not a static thing, and will spread to the defiling of many.
Notice that the apostle is not afraid to name troublemakers, for nothing is gained by failing to deal with matters thoroughly.
2:18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
There were those who felt themselves to be on a higher spiritual plane than “ordinary” believers, and they believed they did not have to concern themselves with the body, for that was a hindrance to the more important matters of the spirit. It seems there were some at Corinth who had embraced such an idea, hence the question of the apostle in 1 Corinthians 15:12,, “How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead”? They were not denying the principle of resurrection, but were saying that it was a “spiritual” thing, and did not relate to the body. They no doubt thought that was a superior position. They should have remembered that the Devil had offered Eve something “better” in the garden, but it was contrary to God’s word. Paul was concerned that as Satan had beguiled Eve, so he would beguile the Corinthians with his subtlety, so that their single-mindedness to Christ would be damaged, 2 Corinthians 11:3
Of course the resurrection of Christ is past already, but that is not what the heretics were saying.
SECTION 5 Verses 19-21 THE ESCAPE FROM INIQUITY AND FOUR ASSURANCES
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.
The first assurance: the foundation standeth sure.
The second assurance: the foundation is sealed.
The third assurance: The Lord knoweth them that are His.
There are two allusions to Numbers 16 in this verse. Korah and his company had spoken against Moses and Aaron, and strongly suggested that they were wrong to take the place of leaders amongst the people. The reason they gave sounding very spiritual, “all the people are holy”. In a sense this was true, for they were to be a “holy nation”, Exodus 19:6, but that holiness would express itself in, amongst other things, obedience to God-given leaders. Moses was confident that the Lord knew who He had brought near in special responsibility to Himself, and Korah was not among them. Since they persisted in their gainsaying, God judged Korah and those siding with him by causing the earth to open up and swallow them alive. But not before He had called those who were not sympathetic to Korah to separate from them and their tents.
Later on, in the days of the temple, Psalm 46 was sung by the sons of Korah, (for “the children of Korah died not”, Numbers 26:11), and they rejoiced that even though the earth and the mountains were moved out of their place, they would be secure. The very opposite of the experience of their forefather. So we may rest confidently in our God, for just as He knew who was truly His in Moses and Korah’s day, so now.
There is the responsibility of believers, however, to do what Israel did in Numbers 16, even separate from the tents of the wicked men who had rebelled against God by resisting Moses’ authority. We are to depart from “that which is not right”, particularly in relation to error taught by false teachers. We should be “wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil”, Romans 16:19.
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.
Notice that the apostle does not say, or imply, that the wooden and earthen vessels are to dishonour, but the gold and silver are to honour. There is a semi-colon after the word earth, meaning that the gold, silver, wood and earth vessels are to be considered together, and then the further thought about honour and dishonour is to be taken account of. In a large mansion the earthen and wooden vessels are necessary for the preparation of food in the kitchen, whereas the gold and silver vessels are needed to bear the food to the master’s table. So amongst believers. There are some whose gift from God necessitates that they take a more prominent role in the assembly. Others, just as vital, are less prominent. But just as the master’s table would not be furnished with food if the wooden and earthen vessels had not been used, so it is amongst believers. The apostle uses a similar figure in Corinthians 12:14-26, where he writes of those members of the body which we, in our faulty view of things, think to be less useful, but which in fact are absolutely essential to the proper functioning of the body.
So believers may have different functions, but they are all vitally important for the furtherance of God’s interests.
What is different about these vessels is told us in the last part of the verse. It is possible that some vessels are honourable, and some dishonourable. In the context this means that, whether gold, silver, wooden or earthen, they can be either fit and serviceable for the task allotted to them, or not. All vessels may be defiled in some way, so that they are no longer fit for the master’s use in the house.
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.
Fourth assurance: vessel unto honour.
The question raised by this verse is what is meant by “these”? We notice first of all that the apostle is applying the illustration he has used in the previous verse, and has now replaced the word vessel with the word man. But then he reverts back to the figure by calling that man a vessel. So we are sure that he means men when he writes of vessels.
In verse 16 the apostle had spoken of vain babblings, and then in verse 17 “their” word will eat as a canker. So we learn that we cannot separate the babblings from the men who utter the babblings. So here, if we would be purged vessels, then we must separate from the vain talking of vain men. And we cannot be separate from the talking without being separate from the men.
In Numbers 16, the way to avoid perishing with Korah was to separate from him. So to avoid the adverse effects of the babblings of false teachers is to avoid them.
If we do this, we shall be on the way to being meet, or serviceable, prepared unto every good work, or adaptable and profitable. Notice that we are not called to try to be golden if we are only earthen, but rather to be sanctified whether golden or earthen. The sin of Korah was to rebel against God’s order, and think to elevate himself to a position God had not given him. Perhaps we could say that as a Levite, Korah was a silver vessel, but he coveted the place of golden vessels like Moses and Aaron.
SECTION 6 Verses 22-26 THE EXEMPLARY BEHAVIOUR OF THE SERVANT, AND FOUR WARNINGS
2:22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
First warning: flee.
Second warning: follow.
Not only must we flee from false teaching from without, but we must flee from lusts within. To put it another way, we must run away from lusts, and run after righteousness. The Lord spoke of cleansing the outside and the inside of the platter, Matthew 23:25,26. Joseph “got him out” when he was enticed by Potiphar’s wicked wife, Genesis 39:12. And this is the policy the apostle advocates here, for if we flee, we shall distance ourselves from that which causes our hearts to lust after things. It was only as Israel remembered the things of Egypt that they lusted after them. If they had concentrated on God’s present goodness to them, and the future goodness He had promised them, they would have avoided this mistake.
Instead of following those who are profane, we should associate with those who are of a pure and undivided heart. “Evil communications corrupt good manner”, 1 Corinthians 15:33, hence the importance of continuing steadfastly in fellowship with things the apostles would have had fellowship with, Acts 2:42. This makes the question of what to have fellowship with very easy to answer. Would the apostles have had fellowship with it? Then so may we, but not otherwise.
Righteousness is that which is in accordance with the character of God, and is therefore right. We are to depart from that which is not right, (this is the meaning of the word “iniquity” in verse 19), and follow that which is.
Faith is that which depends on God, not self, for guidance. One of the reasons men follow false teachers is that they put their faith in them, instead of in the Lord.
Love is that which rejoices alongside of the truth, and never compromises, 1 Corinthians 13:6. We must not let anyone accuse us of not being loving, just because we hold firmly to the truth. The apostle John makes clear that one of the ways we may test whether we love the children of God, is to ask whether we love God and keep His commandments, 1 John 5:1,2.
Peace is the outcome of the foregoing, and will fortify us for times when men wish to make war with us because of our stand for the truth. We next read of strife, the opposite of peace.
2:23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.
Third warning: avoid.
Folly and ignorance are not really interested in the truth, but only interested in trouble. The word for strifes is based on the Greek word for war. We are called to earnestly contend for the truth, agonising as athletes did in the Games, but to make war is not an option. In fact, quite the reverse, as the next verse shows. After all, the battle for the truth has been won already, at Calvary. We have only to defend the territory that has been won for us. See the illustration in 2 Samuel 23:11.
2:24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
Fourth warning: do not strive.
The true servant (the word is “slave”), must be like his Master, of whom it is said, “He shall not strive, nor shall He cause His voice to be heard in the streets”, Matthew 12:19. When men sought to strive with Him, He either left them, or gave them an answer which silenced them. Violence was far from Christ, in word and deed. When He purged the temple, He did so with bulrushes tied together, simply the symbol of authority, not a rod of iron, bruising and crushing. David said of God, “Thy gentleness hath made me great”, Psalm 18:35; and Paul speaks of the “meekness and gentleness of Christ”, 2 Corinthians 10:1.
Aptness or skill in teaching is vital, and elders should encourage younger brethren who show signs of having this gift, which is so important for the maintenance of assembly testimony. Too often, teachers of the word are shunned, and false teachers are welcomed. Aptness to teach will enable the truth to be set forth even in difficult circumstances, for the teacher will not be distracted by lack of knowledge or confidence.
Patience is needed in teaching, for we are all slow to learn. We sometimes criticise the disciples for their apparent slowness to take in the teaching of the Lord Himself, yet we can be as slow as they were. The Corinthians were still infants, when they should have been men, 1 Corinthians 3:1,2. They were men in malice, and babes in understanding, when they should have been the reverse, 1 Corinthians 14:20. The Hebrews should have been teachers, whereas they needed to be taught again, Hebrew 5:11-14. We miss out on so much that is truly worthwhile when we do not cultivate spiritual desires.
2:25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
Meekness is another feature of Christ, being a readiness to accept the will of God in any situation. When the cities of Galilee had rejected His teaching, He said, “Even so Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight”, and then went on to declare Himself “Meek and lowly in heart”, Matthew 11:26.
2:26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
Those who set themselves up against the truth are in a very dangerous position. If they persist in it they may find there is no recovery. God sometimes graciously allows such men to repent, if they are prepared to wholeheartedly acknowledge the truth. In this way they recover themselves, for they must be willing to return, and they have gone too far for fellow-brethren to help them. The Devil’s main object with unbelievers is to stop them believing the truth. This is his strategy with believers also. Let us be determined to not let him succeed.