The Apostle now gives directions how to deal with the unprofitable disputes which were common amongst professed teachers in the assembly, and the evil effects of such conditions in leading to false doctrines. The servant of God is enjoined to keep himself free both from such useless questionings and from the strife and error which they produce, and, keeping himself from lusts, to behave in a Christlike manner towards all and so to act that those who have fallen into error may be recovered from the Devil’s snare.
Of these things put them in remembrance, - the verb hupomimnesko, to cause to be mindful of, is used in Paul’s Epistles elsewhere only in Titus 3. 1. The present tense here indicates the need of contant reminder of the truths which had just been stated. For the corresponding verb anamimnesko see at 1. 6.
charging them in the sight of the Lord, - the solemnity of this injunction stands in contrast to the profitless disputes against which the Apostle now gives warning. The realization of the presence of the Lord is to be a governing factor in the life and ministry of His servants. So Paul himself gave instructions to Timothy (1 Tim. 5. 21), and so Timothy was to instruct others. Only as this is observed can ministry of the Word be effective.
that they strive not about words, - this translates the one verb logomacheo and is used here only in the N.T. Cp. 1 Tim. 6. 4, where the kind of evil is mentioned as characteristic of false teachers. Such deputes were common in the Greek world generally.
to no profit, - more literally, “which is profitable for nothing.” This adjective is used here only in the N.T.; for the corresponding word see verse 21 below, “meet for … use,” and for a different word with much the same meaning, see at 3. 16. In all our ministry the question should be, how can I profit my hearers?
to the subverting of them that hear. - the noun in the original gives us our word “catastrophe” and is used elsewhere only in 2 Pet. 2. 6, where it is rendered “an overthrow.” What is unprofitable tends to go further and works the mischief of overthrowing what has been wrought in hearts by the Holy Spirit.
Give diligence - a better rendering than the A.V.” study;” the word is used again in 4. 9 and 4. 21.
to present thyself approved unto God, - to present is something more than to shew (A.V.), it signifies to place at the disposal of another and so to lay oneself out for the use of another (cp. Rom. 6. 13, 19; 12. 1). The tense of the verb here indicates a decisive, whole-hearted act; yet in this case it is one requiring the diligence of repetition.
That the purpose in view is that of being “approved unto God,” suggests the consciousness of His presence and of living and acting in His sight, as so to please Him in all things. Cp. 1 Thess. 2. 4 (R.V.), where, however, the thought is that of being approved by God, as a result of being proved.
a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, - the adjective rendered “that needeth not to be ashamed” is an intensive one (used here only in the N.T.), signifying having no cause for shame, not Hable to be put to shame. This requires watchfulness against carelessness in walk and conduct and lethargy of soul. Only wh6n our work is thus carried on can we stand the test of the fire that will “prove our work of what sort it is” (1 Cor. 3. 13).
handling aright the word of truth. - the verb orthotameo literally denotes to cut straight, as in road-making or ploughing. It is here used metaphorically (and is found here only in the N.T.). It conveys the injunction that the Word of God is to be handled strictly in accordance with the lines of its teaching. If the metaphor is drawn from cutting a straight furrow as in ploughing, the verb would express a careful cultivation, so that the best results may accrue from ‘the ministry. The A.V. rendering “dividing” has led to the idea that the Scriptures are to be divided dispensationally (as it is termed), but that is not what is here intended.
But shun profane babblings: - cp. 1 Tim. 6. 20 and see Note there; the word used there signifies to turn aside and occurs in 4. 4 of this Epistle. The word “profane” is set in contrast to what is sacred.
for they will proceed further in ungodliness, - to seek to meddle in barren controversies with a view to settling them, is utterly futile. Not only is there a danger in doing so of attaching an importance to them which they do not merit, but those who advocate them or engage in them are pursuing a path which leads to still greater impiety.
and their word will eat as doth a gangrene: - i.e., an eating sore, spreading corruption and producing spiritual mortification. The word is used here only in the N.T. What is referred to is not only the teaching of errorists but their talk. Perverse doctrines and even discussions tend to spread their evil influences through a whole assembly.
of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus ;-it seems probable that the former is the person mentioned in 1 Tim. 1. 20. If so, he had apparently not abandoned his evil course. Nothing further is known of Philetus.
men who concerning the truth have erred,- the word rendered “have erred” denotes to miss the mark; it was used in 1 Tim. 1. 6,” having swerved,” and in 1 Tim. 6. 21. The truth and the faith are identical, the former characterizing the doctrines of Scripture as free from error, the latter marking them as that which is to be believed. To teach error is to fail to follow and attain to the aim designed of God and involves serious and eternal loss to the errorist, as well as the damage done to those who follow such teaching.
saying that the resurrection is past already, - various propagandists in the early centuries of this era taught that resurrection was simply a spiritual matter, affecting the experiences of the soul. Such a theory was advocated by the agnostics. That error has been revived in recent times by the teachers of what is known as “Millennial Dawn.” There were others who denied the resurrection of the body, such as Sadducees and other J ewish ascetic sects. Evidently the two men mentioned denied the truth of the resurrection of the bodies of the saints who fall asleep, thus dissociating that glorious hope from the fact which involves it, the resurrection of Christ. That resurrection has certainly already taken place, and as certainly those who believe on Him will share with Him “in the likeness of His resurrection” (Rom. 6. 5).
and overthrow the faith of some. - the verb anatvepo literally means to turn up, or over, to upset, as in John 2. 15. Here and in Titus 1. 11 it is used metaphorically. An illustration of its use is found in a papyrus writing of the 2nd century, where it refers to the complete upsetting of a family by the riotous conduct of one of its members.
Howbeit (i.e., in spite of the upsetting of the faith of some) the firm foundation of God standeth, - this is the right order of the words; in the original the word rendered “firm” is an adjective describing the foundation, and not part of the predicate (as in the A.V.). The foundation of God is the foundation laid by God, and is not the Church (which is never spoken of in Scripture as a foundation), but Christ Himself. Upon Him believers are built. For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3. 11). In Eph. 2. 20, “the foundation of the apostles and prophets” is not the foundation consisting of the apostles and prophets, but the foundation laid by them. No matter how great the apostasy from the faith, no matter how subversive the work of false teachers, God’s foundation stands in its impregnable character.
having this seal, - a seal is associated, with ownership, authentication, security, and destination. There does not seem to be any allusion here to the custom of carving inscriptions on pillars and stones and over doors.
The Lord knoweth them that are His: and, Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness. - these are the two parts of the inscription. The one signifies the Lord’s ownership, the other the response to it on the part of everyone who names His Name. The quotations are from the narrative concerning Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. In reply to their presumptuous self-will Moses said,” The Lord will shew who are His,” and when the Divine judgment was about to decend he said to the congregation, “Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins” (Num. 16. 5, 26).
Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some unto honour, and some unto dishonour. - the reference to a great house (i.e., any large mansion) is simply by way of illustration and is not metaphorical. It is necessary therefore to avoid pressing the details (as to what the great house represents) into an application beyond that which they are intended to bear. Some have interpreted the house as representing the world, others Christendom, others what is mis-termed “the Church on earth” (an entirely unscriptural and misleading phrase - the Church is never viewed as “on earth”; there are churches on earth). All this misses the point of the passage. The phrase “the House of God” in 1 Tim. 3. 15 is different. There the language is metaphorical and the application is given.
The phrase “vessels unto dishonour” connotes those designed for meaner household purposes.
If a man therefore purge himself from these, - this is the responsibility of the individual believer; church discipline is not here referred to. We are to keep ourselves pure in both doctrine and practice, and to avoid identifying ourselves with errorists like Hymenaeus and Philetus (ver. 14), as well as with those who do not walk in moral rectitude. This separation is not Pharisaical aloofness, it is a matter of loyalty to Christ. To attempt to maintain a union between “the Name of the Lord” and “unrighteousness” (ver. 19) is to dishonour the Lord, bring discredit upon the Christian faith, and ruin our prospects of reward.
he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, - i.e., maintaining that state of holiness, of separation to God from evil, into which believers are called when they enter upon their new life as .those bom of God (1 Cor. 1.2). Sanctification is not an attainment, .it is a condition to be maintained.
meet for the Master’s use, - the word euchre stos, “meet for use,” is rendered “useful” in 4.11 (R.V.), and is used elsewhere only in Philm. 11, where it is rendered “profitable.” The word despotes, “Master,” implies complete ownership; some would here render it “Owner’s”. Cp. 1 Tim. 6. 1.
prepared unto every good work. - good works are prepared by God for us to walk in , Eph. 2. 10, and we must ourselves be prepared to fulfil them. The order of the effects of keeping ourselves from evil is very suggestive: separation to the Lord, fitness for His use, readiness for service. We cannot be fit to be used unless we are maintaining our sanctification; we cannot be prepared for what is entrusted to us unless we are fit to be used.
But flee youthful lusts, and follow after righteousness, faith, love peace, - the injunction against contamination by false teaching is followed now by a warning against contamination from one’s own evil propensities. It is not sufficient to guard against evil in others, we must be watchful against evil within.
The fact that Timothy had been many years associated with Paul in his missionary service, and was now for a time in a position of responsibility in the assembly at Ephesus, did not render it unnecessary for his senior fellow-worker to exhort him against a yielding to prejudicial influences from without and passions within, and it is to be remembered that these things were written not for Timothy only but for ourselves.
with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. - the believer is not intended to regard himself as an isolated unit, he is to identify himself with those who confess the Name of the Lord (for that is what calling upon His Name involves),and worship Him in sincerity and holiness, with a heart free from all corrupt motives.
But foolish and ignorant questionings refuse, - the word zetesis primarily denotes a seeking; it is rendered “(how) to inquire” in Acts 25. 20. Such discussions became prevalent early through the influence of false teachers. Cp. 1 Tim. 1. 4, 6, 7; 4. 7; 6. 4, 20. The word rendered “ignorant” (A.V., “unlearned”) signifies uninstructed. It is used here only in the N.T.
knowing that they gender strifes. - this is set in immediate contrast to “peace” (in the preceding verse). Mere questionings tend to assume an uncalled-for importance among those who discuss them, and thus produce unseemly controversies and wranglings.
And the Lord’s servant must not strive, but be gentle towards all, - everything in our service is to be regulated by our relation to Christ as our Lord. “It is enough for the servant that he be as his Master”; of whom it was said, “He shall not strive nor cry aloud; neither shall anyone hear His voice in the streets,” and of His gentleness, “a bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench” (Matt. 12. 19, 20). We are to find our rule of conduct in Christ’s example. Only the Spirit of Christ can enable us so to conduct ourselves.
apt to teach, - didaktikos (Eng., didactic) means skilled in teaching; it is used elsewhere only in 1 Tim. 3. 2. For this quality our great source must be the holy Scriptures. As to the mode of teaching, we cannot do better than observe the characteristics of Christ’s teaching. An outstanding feature of this was His presentation of even the profoundest truths in the simplest language. Instead of being mysterious and incomprehensible, He imparted the great lessons for His hearers by means of illustrations and details drawn from the most familiar facts of nature and from the treasury of our household affections.
forbearing, - the word so rendered is, lit., “patient of wrong,” and signifies enduring patiently what is naturally difficult to bear with in the attitude and conduct of others.
in meekness correcting them that oppose themselves ;-forbearance does not require abstention from faithful dealing, where evil demands correction. It is the meek spirit, however, that wins, and that spirit is requisite even in circumstances where a rebuke or other censure is necessary.
if peradventure God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth, - refusal to accept and obey the truth is a sure way to induce the blinding deception of error and of the evil one, who seeks ever to spread it. Only the mercy of God can produce the spirit of repentance in such cases, and the Lord may be pleased to use one of His servants to bring this about where the opposition is met with in the spirit of meekness.
The word epignosis, rendered “knowledge,” denotes full knowledge or complete recognition; it is a strengthened form of gnosis.
and they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, - the verb ananepho, rendered “recover themselves” denotes to return to soberness, as from a state of delirium or drunkenness (see the R.V. margin). The suggestion therefore is that the reception of error produces a state of insensibility to the will of God. The Devil is ever seeking to capture the believer in his snare and prevent him from doing the Lord’s will.
having been taken captive by the Lord’s servant unto the will of God. - this rendering is in part an interpretation instead of a translation. There is no mention of the Lord’s servant in the original, which reads as follows: “and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the Devil (having been taken captive by him) unto His will.” The “him” in the parenthetic clause refers to the Devil. Recovery from the captivity is recovery to the will of God. “The pronoun in the original, used for “His,” clearly points back to God. The phrase in the R.V., “by the Lord’s servant,” is inserted to make sense, but it does not represent the meaning.
The renewal of the fulfilment of the will of God in teaching and practice is the evidence of restoration from departure from the truth and backsliding in the life. To this restoration the efforts of one who seeks to recover the erring are to be directed.
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