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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 2

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

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Verses 1-2

A Minister’s Duty to Be Strong

After telling Timothy of the two contrasting attitudes of brethren toward God's message bearer, Paul urged him to be strong like Onesiphorus. Remember, God gives the Christian a spirit of power and not of fear (1:7). Our power is found in God's unmerited favor which is found in our Lord ( 2Ti_2:1 ; compare Joh_15:4-5 ).

A part of being strong would be the further spreading of the gospel. Timothy had heard the truth proclaimed by Paul. The witnesses to this fact could either be those who heard the truth at the same time Timothy did, or they could be other sources proclaiming the same truth, as in 3:15. In either case, the young preacher was instructed by Paul to place the gospel trust in the hands of men who would be loyal to the truth and, in turn, pass the trust on to others ( 2Ti_2:2 ).

Verses 3-7

Different Images of a Minister’s Life

If Timothy was to pass along the gospel, he would have to be prepared to suffer persecution, self denial and the onslaught of the enemy like a soldier on active duty. Guthrie says Paul is telling Timothy that he will have to take his share of suffering. He went on to use the image of a soldier loaded down with items not pertaining to his warfare. When it came time to draw his sword, he would find it tangled up in the things he is carrying and could not have it drawn when the fight began. All Christians need to keep a constant watch on their involvement in the things of this world. Of course, we need to work to provide for our own, for example, but such work should never entangle our sword, or God's word, and prevent us from using it to defeat Satan. Our overriding concern should be to please the Savior, who is also our commander ( 2Ti_2:3-4 ).

Just as an athlete competing in the Olympic games must abide by the rules if he would be declared the winner, the Christian must pursue the goal of heaven along the course laid out by the Master. Followers of Christ are also like the farmer who works hard to produce a crop and gets to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Those believers who work hard to teach others the will of God will find themselves becoming the first beneficiary of laboring with God's word ( 2Ti_2:5-6 ).

Paul urged Timothy to carefully consider the images he presented. If he did so, the apostle said the Lord would help him gain a complete understanding of all things. Once anyone has grown in the knowledge of God's word, he needs God's help to have the wisdom to properly apply it to his life ( 2Ti_2:7 ; Jam_1:5 ).

Verses 8-13

Encouragement to Continue Despite Suffering

The Christian's constant source of strength during times of trial is Jesus Christ. That he was a man is plainly seen in his being the seed of David ( Rom_1:3-4 ; Jer_23:5-6 ; 1Ti_2:5 ; 1Ti_3:16 ). The enemies of the man, Jesus, put him to death and caused him to be laid in a tomb. However, as Paul declared in his preaching of the gospel, God raised him up ( 1Co_15:1-4 ). Suffering Christians should remember Jesus' enemies could not ultimately defeat him, nor can ours, because God can raise the dead ( 2Ti_2:8 ; Heb_12:1-2 ).

Paul was in prison chains as if he were a common criminal guilty of theft or robbery. While they could bind the Lord's messenger, they could not bind the Lord's message. Paul could still write the truth and thousands of others outside the prison walls could preach the message that sets men free. The apostle endured suffering so that all those who would obediently receive the gospel call would have an opportunity to hear ( Rom_8:28 ; Joh_10:16 ; Act_18:9-10 ). He also bore the pain so those who had already obeyed could receive the end of their hope, eternal life ( 2Ti_2:9-10 ; Rev_2:10 ; 1Co_10:12-13 ).

There are two senses in which one can be dead with Christ. First, one dies to sin with Christ in baptism and is raised to live a new life ( Rom_6:3-10 ). Second, one might also die with Christ under the persecution of the enemies of the cross. In such a case, one can be assured the Lord will raise him up to live with him in the resurrection ( Php_1:21-23 ). Though a Christian’s enemies could cause him to suffer persecution or even death on earth, they could not prevent him from reigning with Christ in the hereafter.

However, those who turned their backs on the Lord and denied him would find themselves being denied by the Son before the Father ( Mat_10:32-33 ). Though some might be unfaithful and fall back into unbelief, Paul promised God's Son would continue faithful (compare Heb_6:13-18 ; 2Co_1:18 ). Individual Christians might be unfaithful in their service to Christ, but the Lord will remain true and truthful forever ( 2Ti_2:11-13 ; Tit_1:2 ).

Verses 14-19

Urgent Matters In the Midst of Doctrinal Error

Paul charged his son in the gospel with reminding those who would listen to him of the truths listed in the previous verses. Any charge placed before one with the reminder that the Lord is witnessing the proceedings should cause one to take the matter seriously. Useless arguments over things not revealed in scripture cannot be resolved to anyone's satisfaction and most often result in causing many of the listeners to have weakened by faith. In place of that, the faithful proclaimer of the word should “study,” or give his all, to present himself in God's presence in an acceptable condition. This is done by being the best worker in God's service that one can be. The word translated "rightly dividing" literally means to cut a straight path. If one would have God's approval, he should cut a straight path through the gospel, or word of truth ( 2Ti_2:14-15 ; Jam_1:12 ).

The wise student of God's word will walk all the way around senseless arguments about words. Such only encourage those involved to be less like God. Much like a gangrene that eats at the flesh and infects the bone, false doctrine and arguments about things that cannot be resolved poison the spiritual man. The church had already disciplined one such false teacher, Hymeneous ( 1Ti_1:20 ), yet he continued to dispense false doctrine. A part of his error, along with another man named Philetus, was the teaching that the resurrection was already past. Their doctrine had caused some to stray way from the truth ( 2Ti_2:16-18 ).

Despite the fact that some false teachers have ruined their own faith and taken others with them, God's foundation holds firm. Men used to put an inscription on the foundation stone of a new building. Paul uses that imagery to describe the foundation of our hope. First, we can be sure in the knowledge that God can readily identify his faithful people (compare Num_16:5 ). Second, those who have put on God's Son in baptism and wear his name should abandon all sinful ways ( 2Ti_2:19 ; compare Num_16:26 ; Isa_52:11 ).

Verses 20-26

A Call for Purity in the Midst of Doctrinal Error

Some see believers in Christ living in a way completely dishonorable and reach the conclusion that there is something wrong with the church, or God's house. However, God's house has many different vessels in it that will all be used for God’s purpose and to his glory. So, we should cleanse ourselves from every defilement, such as empty babblings, and be used by God for his glory and to our own. The Christian's purpose is to be a workman for God ( 2Ti_2:20-21 ; Eph_2:10 ).

Timothy, and all other Christians, were further warned by Paul against letting passions run wild. This, of course, could describe any type of unrestrained passion for power, sex, money, etc. Paul told him to pursue the ways of right living; be true to God's law, which is the way of faith; love for God and our fellow man; and live in peace with all others who are trying to do what the Lord wants and keep their hearts free from sin.

Timothy was also admonished to stay away from questions for which God did not reveal the answers. Disputes about such matters will only cause friction and division in the church ( 2Ti_2:22-23 ).

If one would help others to see the error of their ways, he would have to avoid involving himself in heated arguments. Instead, he would be compelled to exhibit the tender care of a nurse taking care of a sick child. Also, he would need to work to be a patient teacher who carefully listens to others and strives to more thoroughly instruct them. If the Lord's teacher will approach the false teachers with a gentle spirit and show them through teaching how they are acting against their own best interests, they might turn away from error and to the truth. Like a man who has been sleeping in an alcoholic stupor, the false teacher needed to wake up and escape the trap of Satan who had been holding this one captive to do his will ( 2Ti_2:24-26 ).

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 2". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/2-timothy-2.html. 2014.
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