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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 2

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Verses 1-6

A Good Servant

2 Timothy 2:1. It is not that it doesn’t bother Paul that so many people have abandoned him. He is surely suffering because of that. Yet he is not discouraged. With the words “you therefore”, by which the connection with the previous is indicated, Paul encourages his “son” Timothy not to be like the ‘abandoners’, but like Onesiphorus.

He doesn’t say to Timothy that he shouldn’t care at all about the circumstances and stoically perform his duty. He neither encourages him to introduce all kinds of commands or prohibitions for stopping the continuation of the decline. Legalistic prescriptions, rules and creeds give no power, but they on the contrary cause an increase of narrow-mindedness about being a Christian and do not prevent decline. No, he points out to Timothy what remains and where power is to be found.

Timothy doesn’t need to be depressed or take his refuge in carnal remedies if he strengthens himself in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. This is the grace of chapter 1 (2 Timothy 1:9). This implies that you are to look up to the other world that lies outside the visible one, which has to do with eternal life. Christ has not changed, whatever may happen to men. Also the power of His grace remains undiminished and great. You may also tap from that source of grace which always remains full. You can also go there to strengthen yourself in your spiritual fight. Only in the power of grace is it possible to resist evil.

2 Timothy 2:2. Then Paul points his spiritual child to the Word, the truth that he had passed on to him. The many testimonies that went together with it may confirm Timothy in his conviction about the truth. That gives him security about the truth. In that way he is able to recognize and reject everything as false teachings that deviates from the truth that he has heard. (Something you should beware of is: to hold fast the truth in a way that suits you best. If that is the case, then you risk, dependent on your character, falling into legalism or into liberalism.)

There are no new revelations. With the truths that God has revealed to Paul and which are passed on by him, God has said everything He wanted to make known in His Word (Colossians 1:25).

Timothy not only receives the confirmation that what he heard from Paul is the truth, he himself must also pass on that truth unchangeably. He has to make sure that the truth will be spread to others after him. That is the very normal way to let the truth proceed. You see that Paul doesn’t give Timothy a certain authority or consecrate him in a special way. The Bible is not familiar with such a thing like an official right to preach, something that is only allowed to do by men with a theological training. It is about committing the truth of God’s Word to “faithful men” who in their turn also teach others this truth.

Paul names two necessary characteristics that a person should have to be able to teach the truth. A person should be “faithful” and “able”. ‘Faithful’ means reliable, trustworthy in the way of dealing with what is entrusted (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1-Exodus :). He who is faithful has a good spiritual mind. All believers have to be faithful, but unfortunately, not all are (2 Thessalonians 3:2).

In addition to that being ’able’ is necessary to pass on what has been taught. Not all faithful believers have that ability. Herein you recognize the gift of being a teacher. To be able to practice this gift it is necessary for a person to be faithful himself, which means that he lives in accordance to the teaching he teaches to others (cf. 1 Timothy 4:12-Nehemiah :). The “others” are apparently also teachers that are taught about the truth.

This method of knowledge transfer differs from the manner knowledge is being transferred on theological faculties to which a diploma and an official degree are often connected. There it is (mainly) about intellect, here it goes through the line of faithful people:

Paul – Timothy – people who are faithful and able – other people

It is about the transfer of the irreplaceable truths of the Word of God (definitely not about philosophies or ideas of men) to the next generations, that it may also characterize their lives. This ministry of teachers – and that goes for each ministry or gift of a believer – is not intended for the person himself, but always for others.

You may profit by their ministry, for example by reading the commentaries they have written, by attending the bible lectures they give or by attending conferences where God’s Word is being explained by them. Of course listening to records of bible lectures and conferences is a wonderful possibility to obtain teachings by them from God’s Word (e.g. the audio records of www.oudesporen.nl, ‘Other languages’). And let’s not forget the meetings of the local church. It is crucial for your spiritual growth to faithfully attend these meetings.

2 Timothy 2:3. From 2 Timothy 2:3 some characteristics follow that are of great importance for Timothy in passing on the truth. They are also essential for you. These characteristics enable you to continue the work that the Lord has ordered you to do. They have to do with warfare and patience.

You find yourself on a hostile territory where powers are active that want to hinder you to pass on the truth. Therefore it is important that you endure and suffer (2 Timothy 2:3), that you are not engaged with the affairs of everyday life (2 Timothy 2:4), that you fight according to the rules (2 Timothy 2:5) and that you labor first before you enjoy the fruits (2 Timothy 2:6).

The first is “suffer hardship”. In connection to the previous verse Paul asks to suffer with him for the truth and the gospel. You are a good soldier when you are aware of the enemy and notice him before he notices you. The soldier here is in active service and not in the barracks or on leave. He is in the front line and finds himself continually in a war situation. He receives his orders from his Superior, “Christ Jesus”, and stands therefore continuously in contact with Him.

2 Timothy 2:4. He doesn’t have to worry about anything. His life is not entangled with or engaged in “the affairs of everyday life”. The civilian matters are meant by that in contrast to the military obligations.

This attitude goes for all who serve the Lord and it is not only for the so-called ‘fulltime workers’. When you serve the Lord only one thing is important: how you could live to the satisfaction of the Lord. Demas lost sight of that and was attracted by the pleasure of the world (2 Timothy 4:10; cf. Luke 8:14). The Lord Jesus is the One Who has enlisted you as a soldier and into service and nobody else, no man or church. Be aware that if you want to satisfy men, you cannot be a soldier of Christ, let alone a good one (Galatians 1:10).

2 Timothy 2:5. Another character you can’t miss in your service is that of someone who “competes as an athlete”. It literally means ‘to fight as an athlete’. The fight of a soldier makes you think of a war situation. The fight of an athlete is about winning the prize, the medal or, as it is here, the crown. The picture of the athlete is derived from a person who participated in the national sports matches of the Greeks. When a person won he received a crown (2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Peter 5:4). This crown consisted of a garland, made of branches and leaves of possibly an olive tree. The material value of the crown was nil. But the other side was that the fame this crown represented was extraordinary great (Hebrews 2:7; Hebrews 2:9). If you wanted to receive that you had to win.

Yet, the victory could only be claimed when the athlete considered the rules connected to the match. One of the conditions was for example that the athletes had to be Greeks. They also had to have trained. They had to swear before Zeus that they had trained for ten months and that they would consider the rules of the branch of sports they had subscribed themselves for.

In the same way the servant of the Lord Jesus has to fight according to the rules. That means that he ought to know the rules and that he obeys them. This doesn’t mean obedient to the law but to the Lord and His Word. He is not allowed to act to his own understanding.

2 Timothy 2:6. The last character that Paul mentions is that of a farmer, literally ‘worker of the land or field’ (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 9:7). A farmer is the whole year engaged in the production of the fruit. He is not able to accelerate the growth, but he is able to make sure that there are no hindrances for the growth. Therefore he will spud out weeds, trim, nourish, water and protect the plants. Only when that work has been done well and unceasingly, he will see the results of his labor. Then he will see that his efforts are being rewarded and he will be the first to enjoy the fruit. If he gets lazy and impatient and stops halfway he will destroy all the work he has done earlier and will stand with empty hands when the harvest time comes (Proverbs 20:4; Proverbs 24:30-Obadiah :).

Sometimes you get to see some results of your service already on earth. Though the real enjoyment of all fruits of your service will be only when you are with the Lord.

Therefore you should remember: the Lord takes care of you (2 Timothy 2:3-Numbers :), you are to make sure that you act according to God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:5) and you can look forward to the coming enjoyment of everything you have done here for the Lord (2 Timothy 2:6).

Now read 2 Timothy 2:1-6 again.

Reflection: What are the characteristics of a good servant? Which characteristics are not so evident with you? What could you do about that?

Verses 7-12

Understanding In Everything

2 Timothy 2:7. It appears to me that the examples in the previous verses are in plain language. Nevertheless Paul points out emphatically to Timothy that he has to bear in mind what he just said. “Consider” means to grasp with the mind, to ponder on it, to think it over. Paul admonishes Timothy here in the sense of an order. He wants Timothy to understand the real meaning of the examples he used by considering them. This attitude is of course important when reading the whole Word of God. You obtain insight from the Lord when you consider His Word. You will learn to understand His thoughts.

Here you see, like often in the Scripture, the connection between what you should do and what the Lord does. The more you ponder on the Scripture and meditate it, the more the activity of the Holy Spirit grows to clarify the teaching of it. If you are restfully and peacefully engaged in His Word in God’s presence, the Lord will come to you and give you insight. Not by using your intellect – although it is not separated from it – but by the working of the Holy Spirit you dig into the Divine matters and understand them.

2 Timothy 2:8. With all meditation on the Scripture it is important that you “remember Jesus Christ”. It is all about Him, He is the center of all God’s thoughts. Understanding in everything is first of all understanding in Who Jesus Christ is and what He has done.

Paul also helps you on the way by mentioning two main points of the truth that relate to Christ (cf. Romans 1:3). In the first place you ought to remember Him as “risen from the dead”. What do you think of when you consider Him as the Resurrected from the dead? Then you think of God, Who is able to establish something completely new by His creating and life giving power. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus is the proof and the beginning of it. God has got nothing to do with the world, sin and death. He has to judge over those issues. What Christ has done opens a new world with new people where everything is in accordance with God and where Christ is the Center.

There is another thing that you should remember in relation to Jesus Christ and that is that He is “descendant of David”. That determines you that God is faithful to the promises He made to His people Israel. He will fulfill all those promises. In the future Israel shall dwell again in the land that God has given them. In that land the Lord Jesus will be seated as the true Son of David, as the promised Messiah on the throne of His father David in the city of His father David. Then from Jerusalem He will rule the world in peace and righteousness.

Again, as ‘risen from the dead’ He is now the living Lord in heaven. He lives there to always intercede for you before God (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). He knows how difficult it is to remain faithful to God’s Word as a loner. Regarding the phrase ‘descendant of David’ you may reflect that to the fact that the suffering will come to an end when He comes to reign. Then the things on earth will be like they are in heaven: totally in accordance with God. By remembering Him in this way it will strengthen you to live to His honor in these later days.

What Paul says doesn’t deviate from what he calls “my gospel”. That means that he has proclaimed this in his preaching of the gospel and he himself has kept it in remembrance. That is why he has persevered up till now and has not given up. Therefore he is also still powerful in the faith and is able to encourage Timothy by that. What he writes now applies to all ages, also for now and also for you.

2 Timothy 2:9. On the basis of the preaching of the gospel and his commitment to it he endures these things. He is no evildoer, for he has not committed any legal offence. Paul receives the same treatment like the two crucified next to the Lord Jesus, who are also called evildoers (Luke 23:32; Luke 23:39). It makes clear what society thinks of them and of him. People bracket them in the same category as such people. Above all he is here in the footstep of his Master Who “was numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).

He was so impressed by the gospel that he would do anything for it. His hands may be chained, but the Word of God cannot possibly be chained. His faith in its power is maintained unbroken. The power of God’s Word cannot possibly be limited or abolished by anything from man. Its advancement will move on. It will convince hearts and consciences and will liberate people from spiritual chains. The Word of God will conquer any adversary.

Man is like grass that fades, but the Word of God lasts forever, it remains to eternity (Isaiah 40:6-Ruth :; 1 Peter 1:24-Lamentations :). When an instrument is being hindered to actively spread the gospel by imprisonment or death, God will deploy new instruments. Are you deployable?

2 Timothy 2:10. Despite the fact that Paul is deactivated, regarding the preaching, he is not deactivated regarding his involvement. His imprisonment and suffering are a part of it. Paul knows that God is using his chains and hardships to reach and bless “the elect”. That’s why he puts everything on the line to make that happen. He doesn’t think of his own pain and hardships, but he thinks of the elect. For their sake he endures everything.

Also in this way he looks like his Lord. The Lord Jesus has also endured all things for the sake of the elect. In His atoning work for each of the elect He is of course unique. Regarding this no one is able to follow Him or share it with Him. You are indeed able to share in His devotion and suffering that was caused by men. That is a privilege.

Paul’s heart goes out to all who will be saved by the preaching of the gospel. The more who are saved the more the glory of the Lord Jesus will be multiplied (Proverbs 14:28). God has people in mind who He wants to save. In His counsel He has also decided that they will be saved. You didn’t know that before the gospel reached you and you came to faith. You have also no idea who God has taken into His counsel to be saved. That is totally God’s business and not yours.

What you are to keep in mind is that God wants all people to be saved. Therefore the gospel is to be preached to all people. God’s love goes out to all people (John 3:16). That’s how it should also be with us (2 Corinthians 5:14). That the elect will accept it is another encouragement to endure all adversary and rejection. It is because of them. It is presented here as if it depends on your dedication that the elect will indeed be saved. After that salvation an eternal glory follows. That is also the part of the elect. Paul is not satisfied with less than that. Are you?

2 Timothy 2:11. For the fourth time Paul points out that it is a trustworthy statement (1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 3:11 Timothy 4:9). In the next letter he repeats it one more time (Titus 3:8). It refers to what he just has said; you can count on it. It also applies to what follows after that. He confirms again that the Word remains, although he is not able to continue his service. You find everything in it that you need to find out how God wants you to live and what His plans are with you, the church, Israel and the world.

The starting point is that you died with Christ. You ought not to take the word “if” as a doubt or insecurity, but in the sense of ‘because it is so’. Because it is so that you have “died with Him”, then living for yourself has ended, a life that you lived without considering God. You have acknowledged that you have lived in sin as a sinner and that God had to throw you into hell for that. The answer of God to that confession was His gospel. Therein He made known to you that Christ has gone through the judgment and that He judged you in Him. When Christ died, you died with Him.

But Christ did not remain in death. He rose. And therefore you also rose and live. Only you do not live for yourself anymore, but for Him (Galatians 2:20). If that would mean that you like Christ would have to die the martyr’s death, then you will like Christ indeed live and also with Him.

2 Timothy 2:12. Actually, to die the martyr’s death is just not for everyone. Surely everyone who testifies of the Lord Jesus will experience a form of suffering. On the other hand the endurance of that means that you will reign with Him. The coming kingdom is related here with suffering (cf. Acts 14:22; Romans 8:17; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-Deuteronomy :). Having some insight in that great future where you will reign together with the Lord Jesus, gives strength today to endure slander and rejection. Reigning soon with Him is a reward for enduring now.

You see that reigning with Him still doesn’t occur yet. Our task now is not to reign but endure. Earlier Paul already told that to the Corinthians too, who also wanted to take some advance on reigning in the millennial kingdom of peace, because they didn’t want to endure slander (1 Corinthians 4:8-1 Chronicles :). The Lord Jesus has given the perfect example when He was being abused and said to Pilate: “But as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36).

2 Timothy 2:12. After having used several times a positive ‘if’ with the corresponding promise, now several times a negative ‘if’ follows with a corresponding result. To “deny” Christ means to deny against better judgment to know Him. That happens when people confess to be in relation with Christ but deny that relation before other people.

A clear example you have in the denial by Peter (Matthew 26:69-Prayer of Azariah :). Of Peter we know very well that he is a believer, for he has confessed this sin and the Lord has forgiven him. Therefore this sin can be committed by any believer. When that happens the Lord has to deny that believer, as He had to deny Peter too. From the moment that Peter denied the Lord Jesus, the Lord said to His Father that He did not know Peter.

That doesn’t mean that the Lord did not keep an eye on Peter and didn’t bring him to repentance (Luke 22:61). But until the moment of repentance the Lord denied before His Father that He knew Peter. This denial by the Lord also implies that Peter lost the blessing and reward that he received if he had not denied the Lord. The denying of the Lord has therefore a consequence for today and for the future.

Also people who only confess with their lips that they know the Lord address Him with “Lord, Lord” (Matthew 7:21), will find themselves in situations that they deny Him. The Lord will deny them too, but the consequences will then be endlessly worse. They will be denied by Him forever (Matthew 10:33; Matthew 7:22-Isaiah :).

Now read 2 Timothy 2:7-12 again.

Reflection: What do you learn here about the Lord Jesus and your relation to Him?

Verses 13-19

The Solid Foundation of God

2 Timothy 2:13. With the denying you could speak about a denying that happens by men and a denying that happens by the Lord (even though it is with a difference in meaning). That is not possible regarding being faithless. We people can be faithless, but the Lord cannot possibly be faithless. He can deny people who deny Him, but He cannot deny Himself. He cannot possibly become faithless to Himself. He cannot act in contrast to Whom He is as the Holy and Righteous. He cannot join us when we are unfaithful.

When we are faithless He will encounter us with proper measures to bring us back on the way of obedience to Him. That can be painful measures. In any case they are measures that humble us, because God wants to bring us to repentance and confession. Then He can bless us again in that same faithfulness to Himself, for that is what He has in mind for us.

2 Timothy 2:14. What Paul said in the previous verses Timothy must remind the believers of. He has to impress these particular aspects of the truth unto his hearers and not only once, but again and again. Furthermore Timothy must strongly warn the believers to carefully pay attention to their words. He has to empower his warning further by pointing out to them that all of their words are indeed spoken out to one another, but also in the sight of God.

The consciousness that God is Witness of what we say, will make us cautious in our words. Then we will not be quickly tempted to strive about words. Words are important in clearly explaining the truth. But when it causes a strife about words the result will be the ruin of the hearers. The goal of every service is that the hearers will benefit and profit by it and not that it will cause damage to them or even destroy their whole faith life.

2 Timothy 2:15. To maintain yourself and not to be dragged into a strife about words for example, you must be “diligent to present yourself approved to God”. The point is that God can see you as someone who despite continuous trials, has remained faithful to Him. That doesn’t come naturally to you, but it demands of you that you discipline yourself and carefully make efforts for it.

When the only important thing for you is what the Lord thinks of you, you will be “a workman who does not need to be ashamed”. The word ‘workman’ doesn’t indicate a particular position. It is about people who make efforts and great sacrifices to serve the believers. If you also want to make efforts for that you will have no reason to be ashamed of yourself, for your labor will not be in vain or worthless.

The “accurately handling” of “the word of the truth” (that is the total of the revelation given by God in His Word) means that in explaining the truth a right course has to be followed through the Scripture, that the explanation of the truth may be well-balanced. The expression ‘accurately handling’ was used for example by architects at designing a building. Each part was put in the right place whereby the ground parts had to stand in the right proportion towards the walls.

This shows how important it is that each part of the Word of God is given its right context and place. The highlighting of the one truth will not be at the expense of the other truths, but the harmony between the different parts of the truth will be proven. When law and grace are mixed together or when Jewish rituals are being introduced in the Christian worship service there is not an accurately handling of the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:16. When you deal with God’s Word in this way you will have no difficulty with recognizing "worldly [and] empty chatter" and with avoiding this. It is not expected of you that you try to make them change their mind. That is wasted energy and you will also expose yourself to their depraved chatter. It is not unthinkable that you will be influenced by them.

2 Timothy 2:17. These people will not repent, but on the contrary, they will make things worse. They cannot be stopped. “Their talk will spread like gangrene.” The word ‘spread’ literally means ‘find pasture’, like in John 10 (John 10:9). Their message refers not only to their doctrine as a false doctrine, but their total speech reveals their evil thinking. What they say works like leaven: it affects everything that comes into contact with it. In that way this virus of their evil words spreads around them and extends itself unstoppably. Therefore you are ordered to abstain from it and not to have anything to do with it.

Again Paul names two names. In chapter 1 he named two names of persons who turned their back on him (2 Timothy 1:15).

2 Timothy 2:18. The names he now mentions regards persons “who have gone astray from the truth”. Their error is that they say that the resurrection was already past. They actually do not deny the resurrection, but declare that as something that had happened already and therefore not something that is still to take place. That would mean that you are made perfect already, that you cannot sin anymore and that you can claim the world for yourself. It furthermore means that when you die everything stops there. The resurrection had taken place already after all, had it not?

To avoid any possibility to be caught in the snare of any error, it is essential for you to read and know God’s Word. You are not to have anything to do with men who proclaim things that mutilate the work of the Lord Jesus and its results by relating their own arguments to it. They make themselves instruments of the devil who always seeks to distort God’s Word and in that way deprive it from its true meaning. Those are people who “upset the faith” of unstable souls, people who do not read the Bible themselves in a praying attitude in order to experience in that way their fellowship with God.

2 Timothy 2:19. These servants of the devil who are among Christians are not always directly recognizable. Sometimes you may wonder: Is it a child of God whom I am dealing with, or not? Many things they say may sound so familiar, so biblical, that you love to accept it as an enrichment of your faith life. It often also sounds wonderful.

Still they also say things or teach things that make you sense that something is wrong or of which you must admit that they are not in accordance with the Bible. You observe a certain mixture. You hear beautiful things and you hear strange or even wrong things. This confusion has entered Christianity because Christians have not remained alert, which gave the devil the opportunity to introduce wrong elements (Matthew 13:24-Lamentations :; Matthew 13:37-Malachi :).

How should you deal with that? You do not want to accuse anyone falsely, but you especially do not want to expose yourself to false doctrines. You want to learn from others, but you also want to be able to recognize the other person as a true child of God who is sound in teaching God’s Word. You want to have fellowship with believers, but you do not want to have fellowship with the evil. Fellowship with the Lord means everything to you and therefore you want to be on your guard against doctrines that cause you to move from the Lord.

Paul uses the word “nevertheless” or ‘however’ in his response to all these arguments as an introductory to a holdfast for circumstances where everything is in confusion. There indeed is “the firm foundation of God” to which a seal is attached. This seal is a security with two aspects. The one aspect of this security is the side of God, what He sees. Even though it may sometimes be difficult or nearly impossible for you to discover whether a person is a true believer or not, that is no problem to the Lord. He knows exactly who belongs to Him. It is out of the question that He can be confused. He knows exactly who has new life, because He Himself has given it.

The other aspect of this security is the side of man, what you see. You can judge someone’s life (just as others can judge yours, as a matter of fact). You see if a person “who names the name of the Lord”, he thus confesses to know Him and also shows that in his life. With someone who has new life you will notice that he doesn’t want to participate in anything that gives a wrong presentation of the Lord Jesus or His work and that he willingly gives the Word of God full authority over his life.

Now read 2 Timothy 2:13-19 again.

Reflection: Which contrasts do you encounter in this portion?

Verses 20-21

A Vessel for Honor

You may say that the verses that appear to you in this portion are very up to date. The confusion in Christianity is increasing. How are you supposed to find your way there? Fortunately the Lord has foreseen the situation that the circumstances will not be any more like at the beginning of the church. In those days no one of the unbelievers dared to join the church (Acts 5:12-2 Chronicles :). That is not the case anymore. Nowadays there is much chaff among the wheat.

You read in the previous portion that the Lord knows who belongs to Him (John 10:14), although you are not always able to see that. You also saw the side of your responsibility that you are to abstain from what is in contrast to God’s holiness and righteousness. The measure of that is Christ, His Person and His work and the Word of God. When the perfection of Christ or His work or the Word of God is being questioned, or wrongly presented or when aspects of these issues are being denied, you do not need to ask yourself whether you have to do with a believer or not. You can leave that to the Lord. Your task is to abstain from everyone who does that and from every Christian congregation that tolerates that.

2 Timothy 2:20. To clarify the one thing and the other Paul uses the example of a great house. You may remember that he also spoke about a house in his first letter (1 Timothy 3:15). There he calls the church of the living God “the house of God”. He means by that, that all true believers form that house. Here he doesn’t speak about ‘the house of God’, but about ‘a great house’. To find out what he means by that you should look at the things that are in it, the ‘vessels’.

Just like the great house represents something these vessels also represent something. First, a vessel is an indication for a person (cf. Acts 9:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:4). Furthermore two things are striking when you read the description of the vessels:
1. there is a distinction in material: “gold and silver …, but also … of wood and of earthenware” and
2. there is a distinction in use: “some to honor and some to dishonor”.

We first look at the distinction in material. It is also important what these materials do represent. You learn more about that in 1 Corinthians 3 (1 Corinthians 3:12-1 Chronicles :). You read there that the fire makes the distinction clear. The fire doesn’t change anything about the gold and silver, but it consumes the wood and earthenware. The fire represents the righteousness of God by which all things are tested and examined.

‘Gold and silver vessels’ represent the believers. When God puts them to the test and examines them in His righteousness, it will become clear that they possess God’s righteousness in Christ.

‘Vessels of wood and earthenware’ represent the unbelievers. When God in His righteousness puts them to the test and examines them they will be consumed, for they do not have Christ as their righteousness. If you think again about the seal for a minute, then you have here the side of the seal that says that the Lord knows those who are His. To say it metaphorically like Paul does here: the Lord knows who the vessels of gold and silver are and who the vessels of wood and clay are, although we are not always able to see that.

But also your side is being dealt with in the metaphor. Often you are not able to judge the distinction in material because of the confusion that prevails in Christianity. What you certainly are able to do and should do is judging whether a person is a vessel to honor or a vessel to dishonor. Here you have the other side of the seal. A vessel to honor is a person who names the Name of the Lord and demonstrates that by abstaining from wickedness.

2 Timothy 2:21. Up till now it seems that it is only about judging what others do, but the important question is of course whether you want to be a vessel for honor. The answer to that question can be ‘yes’. But there is a condition attached to that. To be a vessel for honor you are to cleanse yourself from the vessels to dishonor. And who are the vessels to dishonor? People who do not depart from iniquity.

What does that mean: to abstain from wickedness? This abstaining has two aspects. It means to abstain from people who bring the wrong doctrine. It also means abstaining from people who do not bring the wrong doctrine themselves, but still consciously remain in relation to those who bring the wrong doctrine. They don’t do anything about it when things are being proclaimed that are directly in contrast with the Scripture. You have an example in Christian congregations where liberal theologians are allowed to freely bring their depraved doctrines or where unbiblical ways of life e.g. unmarried cohabitation or homosexual relationships are being accepted, while according to God’s Word chastisement is to be practiced over it.

I would like to point out emphatically that in this portion it is about your personal faithfulness and your personal responsibility. It is important for you to keep seeing the context of this portion. Then you will see that abstaining from wickedness is something you do yourself. God’s Word doesn’t say here that you must demand that of others. Each person must deal for his own sake accordingly this Scriptural word. You are to cleanse yourself from sin in your own life and from sin in the congregation you are. When the congregation doesn’t ‘purge out’ (1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Corinthians 5:13) the leaven (a metaphor of sin), you have here the instruction to ‘purge’ yourself ‘out’.

I would also like to point out emphatically that it is about doctrines or practices that violate the foundations of the Christian faith, namely Christ and His Word. Therefore it is not about a distinction of insight in certain truths of the Scripture. Unfortunately, there are a lot of differences among Christians about e.g. the future or about the church. But that’s not the point here. I don’t say that it is not important what the Scripture says about the future or about the church. Everything in the Scripture is important, for the Scripture is totally God’s Word. Nevertheless you are not supposed to put the different understanding of a truth from the Scripture on the same level with the violation of the Person of the Lord Jesus or the violation of the foundation of our faith. And it is about the latter in this portion, for it is about Him and His work. Regarding that there must not be any difference of understanding.

The reason why I also separate from other believers when it is about how to be a local church, has nothing to do with the call to abstain from wickedness. I also do not join congregations where there is no evil in the sense of fundamentally false teachings, but where the form of being a church is not according to what I have discovered about it in God’s Word. When I for example look at Acts 2 or 1 Corinthians 14 (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 14:26-Matthew :), I really want to be there where people desire to practice that.

I have gone into more details regarding this issue, because many believers were caused and are still being caused much injustice on the occasion of this portion. That happens by speaking about them as ‘vessels to dishonor’, while those believers also reject everything that violate Christ and His work and Word. Even though their idea of fulfilling the conditions of ‘being a church’ is different from what my conviction is, they will stand up for the honor of the Lord. They resist against wrong teachings and do not tolerate living in sin. Such Christians also want, like I do, to “be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master”.

Fortunately there are all over the world devoted Christians to be found who honor the Lord with their life. They are real vessels for honor. They live a holy life and they therefore often experience slander and persecution by the world, more often than we do. They not only confess with their mouth the Lord Jesus to be their “Master”, a name that indicates the absolute authority of Christ over their life, but their whole life testifies of that.

I hope that it also applies to you. Then you are “prepared for every good work”, that means that you are ready to do a service that is ‘good’. That is also what you want and that is very plausible.

Now read 2 Timothy 2:20-21 again.

Reflection: How could you be a vessel for honor?

Verses 22-26

Flee, Pursue, Correct

2 Timothy 2:22. Before you rush out to “pursue …”, it is being made clear to you what you should really be aware of. You actually have to deal with “youthful lusts”. You may think that this refers to sexual lusts. They surely have to do with that, but that is certainly not where it ends and I also do not think that that’s the main point. It is the lusts that are characteristic to youth. You should think of assertiveness, demanding people’s attention, desiring to be of importance.

One of the clear marks with young zealous believers is a sharp eye for other people’s faults, while they themselves have only a very limited knowledge of their own heart. When you notice that assertiveness determines your actions you are to flee, depart from the situation before you make mistakes (cf. Genesis 39:12; 1 Timothy 6:11; 1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Corinthians 10:14). Acknowledge that you don’t know yourself very well and that you do not have the spiritual maturity to say or do something in certain cases, even if you would have had the right view in a situation.

With this mind you may do something positive. To abstain on the one hand is essential, but negative. Therefore you should on the other hand pursue what is in accordance with the Lord:
1. In the first place that is “righteousness”, that is a way of doing what is right before God and men.
2. Also “faith” or confidence of faith is a crucial characteristic when everything around you is in confusion and the only holdfast is the Lord and His Word.
3. In addition to this is “love”. Without love in your heart righteousness and faith become expressions of a legalistic spirit.
4. Finally it is said that you should pursue “peace”. You do not seek to quarrel, but you want to be a peace maker.

And in case you may think that you have to do all this by yourself alone, then you hear at the end of 2 Timothy 2:22 that that is a mistake. You will never in Scripture find the command to be a Christian on your own. Abstaining from vessels to dishonor is essential. If you limit yourself to that, it will lead you to Pharisee-ism, an attitude like ‘I am holier than you are’. Therefore you should join them “who call on the Lord from a pure heart”.

With the help of the Lord you will be able to discern whether the other person has a pure heart, just like the other is to discern whether that is also the case with you. Therefore you should talk with one another. Let Christ and His work and Word be the issue and it will become clear whether He is being called on from a pure heart.

2 Timothy 2:23. After having spoken about the calling on the Lord from a pure heart you can certainly sense that “foolish and ignorant speculations” are clearly the opposite of that. Discussions and disputes are being organized for amusing of audiences that even chose a winner for that. Most of the time that doesn’t bring people closer together, but makes the gap even bigger. The disputes are not settled, division only increases more and more. These disputes are often about nothing. It is just useless, undisciplined squabbling.

Such questions do not come from a pure heart, but from someone who follows his own thoughts and will. Don’t expose yourself to them, don’t even listen to them, but “refuse” them. If you enter into disputes you will participate in producing quarrels.

2 Timothy 2:24. Producing quarrels and quarrelling yourself is just something you as a bond-servant of the Lord ought not to do. Instead of feeding an arguing spirit you ought to be “kind” and meek to all without distinction. When you are gentle you will not repulse people, but on the contrary attract them. Kindness is an attitude that arouses confidence.

It is also important that a bond-servant of the Lord in a position like that of Timothy is able to teach others. A bond-servant of the Lord gives clear teachings, it is not difficult to understand him and he doesn’t use fuzzy or mysterious words. Another significant characteristic of a bond-servant of the Lord is his ‘patience’. He endures the wrong that people cause him or speak about him, without becoming impatient or rebellious.

2 Timothy 2:25. That he rejects quarrels doesn’t mean that he rejects the person. The opponent of the truth is a person that is to be won for the Lord. Therefore he will not want to correct the opponents in a snappy tone, but “with gentleness”. This is a characteristic of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 11:29) and therefore has nothing to do with softness or weakness, but on the contrary with steadfastness. The important means through which people come to conversion is definitely through this characteristic. He who is gentle looks like the Lord Jesus.

God brings people to conversion “leading to the knowledge of the truth”, by bringing them into connection with His Son. Paul uses the expression “if perhaps”, because he knows that only God can grant repentance and is sovereign about it. He leaves the result to God. Again you see that the responsibility of the servant and the sovereignty of God don’t exclude one another.

In the Lord Jesus, Who is the truth (John 14:6), it is seen what the truth is about both God and man. He who gains insight into Him, gains insight into the truth.

2 Timothy 2:26. By being drawn to pay attention to Him the opponents may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil. Here it is not about unbelieving people in general, but about those who profess to know God, but have been taken captive in the snare of the devil. They participate in distorting God’s Word and teach wrong things about the Lord Jesus. As captives of the devil they do his will. They seek to proclaim the lie. They are blinded by the devil in such a way that they think to be proclaiming the truth (cf. John 16:2).

Thus it is about the conversion of professing Christians. Only when they convert they will acknowledge the full truth and reject the verisimilitude that they have preached. Up till that moment they live in an infatuation, an illusion, while they think that they bring the right doctrine. Through conversion they will “come to their senses”, that they may see and think clearly to do the will of God.

Now read 2 Timothy 2:22-26 again.

Reflection: Which positive and which negative orders do you receive here?

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Timothy 2". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/2-timothy-2.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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