2 Timothy 2: ‘Be Careful’

This chapter we have labelled “Be careful”, for in it Paul urges Timothy to “shun”, “depart”, “purge”, “flee" and “avoid" certain perils that beset his path. At the end of the chapter he speaks of those who have been caught alive by the devil and entrapped, and trusts that, through Timothy’s efforts, they may awake to a true consciousness of their state, be released from the snare of the devil and made free to do the will of God.

For his onerous task, Timothy may find all requisite grace in Christ Jesus, grace which will impart to him strength, v. 1. He must transmit the things he has heard from Paul among many witnesses to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Thereby a relay service will be established, and the truth will be passed on from one to another throughout the age till the Lord come, v. 2.

Paul then uses three illustrations to enforce upon Timothy certain important lessons, (i) The soldier on active service docs not entangle himself with the affairs of this life, since he has but one aim in view, to please the one who enlisted him. The man who has a business for which he is solely responsible cannot carry on that business and simultaneously be engaged in armed warfare. The one must be abandoned if the other is to be prosecuted. Timothy must have no divided interest; he cannot serve two masters. He must be solely occupied with the will of his Superior, (ii) Paul then alludes to the athlete who competes in the games. He must adhere strictly to the rules, and failing to do so, he would be disqualified from receiving the prize. He must be occupied with the word. So, too, Timothy will find the Word of God a sufficient guide for him in the contest in which he is engaged, (iii) Again, the farmer must concentrate on the work before he can expect to partake of the harvest. He may be assured of the fact that he will be first to participate (as now-a-days, in the case of a bankruptcy, wages must be paid before dividends), but he must work first, then partake secondly.

Verse 8 should read as in the Revised Version, for it is not the recollection of a fact but the remembrance of a person: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the seed of David”. Although the Lord Jesus was of the seed of David, He did not have His rights prior to His death. They are established and assured in resurrection. He is the pre-eminent example of One who sought ever to please His Father and to do His Will. He was the One in whose heart was the Word of God, Ps. 40. 8, and it was He who said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day”, John 9. 4.

The Lord Jesus had suffered and come through triumphantly ; Paul was then suffering and he was assured of a triumphant issue. Timothy may, therefore, resolve for himself likewise. Men may bind the preachers; they cannot bind the word.

In verse 10 Paul uses words that stretch from eternity to eternity: “elect" casts the mind backwards, Eph. 1. 4, and “eternal glory" throws it forward, while in the centre is “the salvation” of which he has already spoken in 1. 9. He regards the “elect" as the Lord did - “the excellent, in whom is all my delight”, Ps. 16. 3, and this enabled him to endure for thensake.

This backward and forward look leads Paul to mention some “faithful saying" well-known to the saints of that time, v. 11. (i) Identification with Him in death assures identification with Him in life, (ii) Present endurance of adversity will be followed by victoriously reigning with Him. (iii) Present denial of Him will result in His future denial of us. For confession of Him is an indispensable necessity for salvation; see Rom. 10. 9; Heb. 13. 15; Mark 8. 38. A temporary failure through lack of courage, as in the case of Peter, is not here in view, but rather a determined course which knows no repentance, (iv) Faithlessness on our part will not change the Lord; He abides faithful, He cannot deny Himself. He changes not.

Timothy must charge his brethren not to engage in a battle of words; it yields no profit, but rather tends to subvert the hearers. He has been entrusted with the “word of truth”, v. 15, and he must use every possible endeavour to present himself a workman approved unto God that has no need to be ashamed. He should handle the word of God aright or, as the A.v. and R.v. marg., “rightly dividing" it. His handling of Scripture should be done in spiritual intelligence, ensuring that both the motive of the interpreter and his exegesis are proper, v. 15.

Salutary Warnings. Timothy must shun profane babblings (godless chatter) for they will but lead people into more ungodliness, and instead of their word being sound teaching, it will prove to be of a cancerous nature, gradually eating away healthy tissue. Such was the case with Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who had erred concerning the truth. They affirmed that the resurrection had passed already, possibly mixing up Paul’s doctrine of a future resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 with the believer’s experience of having already been raised with Christ as taught by him in Ephesians 2. 6 and Colossians 3. 1. This was a clear case of not handling aright God’s Word. It was upsetting the faith of some, but not, thank God, of all. Nothing could subvert the firm foundation of God which had, as many constructions have today, a double inscription-seal: the one Godward, “The Lord knoweth them that are his”, and the other manward, “Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness”, r.v. This latter is the sole way by which we may judge whether a person is real or false.

Verse 20 is an illustration used by Paul to illustrate the fact that in the Christian profession there are two classes, the vessels to honour and those to dishonour; that is to say, there are those utensils which find their use in the dining room, whilst others never appear there but are used in the kitchen. In the former case, the master of the house uses them; in the latter the servants in the house use them. If therefore, I am desirous of being used by the Lord Himself, I must purge myself from “these”, v. 21. To what does “these" refer? It cannot mean that I must purge myself from the other vessels; that would never make one useful. It seems that Paul has in mind purging one’s self from the babblings of verse 16 and the babblers of verse 17. Verse 21 denotes those from whom we are to disassociate ourselves, and verse 22 indicates those with whom we are to associate ourselves.

As to the word “purge”, v. 21, which Paul uses here, it only occurs elsewhere in 1 Corinthians 5. 7. There the “wicked man” has to be purged out of the company: here the man has to “purge himself" out from other things and persons. The verb is here strengthened by the addition of the Greek preposition apo (from).

It is well-known that verse 26 is difficult to render into English, but the writer regards its sense as follows. The verse relates to those who “oppose themselves” to the truth; Paul trusts that God will use the endeavours of Timothy to bring these opponents to repentance, and the acknowledgment of the truth that they have before opposed. They have allowed themselves to come into a state of stupor, and are unaware that the devil has caught them alive in his snare. The Revised Version margin seems to the writer to give the proper sense, namely “and that they may return to soberness out of the snare of the devil, having been taken alive (and captivated) by the devil, unto the will of God".

It is natural to those who seek to defend the truth so to act that they lack the gentleness and meekness that marked the Lord, thereby making strife, even in the cause of truth. Such things ought not to be, v. 24. Ponder carefully verses 22 to 26. Opponents are much more likely to be won if these exhortations are heeded, than if we resist them ungraciously by mere argument.

The word Paul uses for “patient" (r.v. and A.v. marg. “forbearing"), v. 24, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means suffering evil patiently – a thing hard for unaided human nature. It is a medical term for suffering an illness bravely.


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