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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
2 Timothy 2

 

 

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Verse 1

‘You therefore, my child, be strengthened in the grace which is in Christ Jesus.’

Paul speaks to Timothy as basically ‘my dear son’ (‘my child’ is an affectionate term which can be used by an older person of someone below forty). And he calls on him to be empowered in the grace (unmerited favour) which is in Christ Jesus. Because Timothy is ‘in Christ Jesus’ all the resources of Christ Jesus (the suffering Saviour) are at his disposal, as Jesus promises to deal with him, not on the basis of His merits, but on the basis of His own compassion and mercy (thus ‘in grace’). His promise is that He will freely provide him with all necessary strength and power, as he will all who are ‘in Christ Jesus’. But Timothy must in return be willing to accept it ‘by faith’, trusting Him to keep His promise and himself acting on it, going forward into possible future hardship with full confidence in the Lord.

‘Therefore.’ This looks back to the behaviour of Onesiphorus. He had been strengthened in the grace which is in Christ Jesus, which is why he fearlessly sought out Paul when he could so easily have excused himself and given up. Timothy is to follow his example.


Verses 1-7

Paul Encourages Timothy To Find His Strength In The Unmerited Favour And Compassion Of Christ And To Respond By Genuinely Obedient Service (2 Timothy 2:1-7).

After first of all pointing out to Timothy his resources in Christ the emphasis in the first part of this passage is on being faithful, strong and enduring. For the very purpose of the provision of the resources by Christ is in order to enable an obedient response from His people. All the riches of the unmerited favour and compassion of Christ Jesus are available to each Christian, through which he or she can be empowered (endynamited) for what lies ahead if they will but look to Him and trust Him. But in response they must be faithful, obedient and hardy, and ready to steadfastly endure.

Analysis.

a You therefore, my child, be strengthened (empowered) in the grace which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1).

b And the things which you have heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit you to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).

c Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3).

d No soldier on service entangles himself in the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enrolled him as a soldier (2 Timothy 2:4).

c And if also a man contend in the games, he is not crowned, unless he has contended lawfully (or ‘in accordance with the rules’) (2 Timothy 2:5).

b The husbandmen who labours must be the first to partake of the fruits (2 Timothy 2:6).

a Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things (2 Timothy 2:7).

Note that in ‘a’ Timothy is to be empowered in Christ Jesus, and in the parallel he is to receive understanding from the Lord. In ‘b’ he is to establish and train a group of teachers to labour in God’s vineyard, and in the parallel it is the vinedresser who labours who must be the first to partake of the fruits. In ‘c’ he is to endure hardship as a good soldier of Christ, and in the parallel he must compete in accordance with the rules (which include enduring hardship). Centrally in ‘d’ he is to be totally taken up with the things of Christ.


Verses 1-18

SECTION 2.Paul Exhorts Timothy To Be A Good And Faithful ‘Workman’ And To Remember Jesus Christ, Risen From The Dead And Of The Seed of David, Who Has Obtained Salvation For His Own (2 Timothy 2:1-18).

In this passage Paul now seeks to bolster Timothy’s faith and courage, pointing him to his hidden resources, and calling on him to serve faithfully and truly, remembering the One Whom they proclaim. At the same time he must remember that Paul himself suffers as his commitment to Christ requires, so that Timothy must also himself be prepared for the same possibility. Meanwhile he is to concentrate on the truth of the Gospel and be a careful student of the word, avoiding being sidetracked into useless discussions.

We should note that Timothy’s timidity can be rather overdone by commentators. Any normal young Christian man who bore Timothy’s responsibilities would have needed this kind of encouragement, however strong their faith. And we should note that Paul is equally concerned that he not be caught up in the false teaching. But there is no real suggestion that he was in danger of being so. Paul is simply seeking to prevent any possible problems in the future by dealing with them before they can occur. He would not want Timothy to fall short because he himself had failed to give the positive guidance that was necessary in the present.

The passage is in the form of a chiasmus as follows:

Overall Analysis.

a You therefore, my child, be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1).

b And the things which you have heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit you to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).

c Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus:

No soldier on service entangles himself in the affairs of this life,

That he may please him who enrolled him as a soldier.

And if also a man contends in the games,

He is not crowned, unless he has contended within the rules.

The husbandmen who does the work

Must be the first to partake of the fruits.

Consider what I say; for the Lord will give you understanding in all things (2 Timothy 2:3-7).

d Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel (2 Timothy 2:8).

e In which I suffer hardship resulting in being put in bonds, as a criminal, but the word of God is not bound (2 Timothy 2:9).

f Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory (2 Timothy 2:10).

g Faithful is the saying (2 Timothy 2:11 a)

f For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him, if we endure, we will also reign with Him (2ti 11-12a).

e If we deny Him, He also will deny us, if we are faithless, He abides faithful, for He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:12-13).

d Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them in the sight of the Lord, that they do not strive about words, to no profit, to the subverting of those who hear (2 Timothy 2:14).

c Give diligence to present yourself approved unto God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

b But shun profane babblings, for they will proceed further in ungodliness, and their word will eat as a gangrene does, of whom are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who concerning the truth have erred (2 Timothy 2:16-17).

a Saying that the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some (2 Timothy 2:18).

Note that in ‘a’ Timothy is to be empowered (endynamited) in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, enjoying His present resurrection power (Philippians 3:10), in contrast in the parallel to those who say that the resurrection is past already and those whose faith has been overthrown. In ‘b’ Timothy is to commit ‘the things which you have heard from me among many witnesses’, to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also, while in the parallel he is to shun the false teachings of others. In ‘c’ he is to be a good soldier of Christ Jesus and a hardworking vinedresser, and in the parallel he is to be a workman who does not need to be ashamed. In ‘d’ Timothy is to remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, and of the seed of David, in accordance with Paul’s message, and in the parallel he is to put others in remembrance, charging them in the sight of the Lord, that they do not strive about words, to no profit, to the subverting of those who hear. In ‘e’ Paul describes his suffering hardship resulting in his being put in bonds, as a criminal, because he refuses to deny his Lord, and in the parallel if we do deny Him, He also will deny us, although if we are ‘faithless’, and yet truly His, then He abides faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. In ‘f’ Paul endures all things for the elect’s sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory, while in the parallel if we have died with Him, we will also live with Him, if we endure, we will also reign with Him. In both cases endurance is required. Central in ‘g’ is the ‘faithfulness’ of the saying that follows.

The passage now splits up into smaller sections.


Verse 2

‘And the things which you have heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit you to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.’

And in the course of this he is to train Bible teachers for the future. Paul has given Timothy solid training in the traditions of the Gospel, and he has testified to him of his own experience of seeing the resurrected Christ, and of what the Lord had said and done. Furthermore, Timothy had also heard it in front of ‘many witnesses’, many of whom, if not all, would have been eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus. The church laid great stress on the unique Apostolic witness - John 15:27; Acts 1:8; Acts 1:22; Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15; Acts 5:32; Acts 10:39; Acts 10:41; Acts 13:31; 1 Peter 5:1, for they had testified of both Jesus’ life and resurrection as eyewitnesses and would have confirmed what Paul had been saying (compare 1 Corinthians 15:3-10). Later Paul was specifically incorporated among these ‘witnesses’ by the risen Jesus Himself (Acts 26:10). Thus at the time when Acts was written, possibly not long before Luke was called on to attend on Paul in his prison (2 Timothy 4:11), the term ‘witnesses’ held this special meaning (it was, of course, occasionally used otherwise, but not of witnesses to the Lord Jesus). To be a witness in this sense was no small thing. It is apparent from this how careful the early church were to preserve the true tradition, and to ensure that it was based on eyewitness testimony. Paul is thus not talking here just about his own teaching. He is speaking of the teaching of the whole Apostolate, as backed up by those who along with them had literally been disciples of Jesus, and had been witnesses to His life, death and resurrection.

We should note that there would really have been no point in the mention of ‘many witnesses’ here had Paul not felt that it greatly added to the authority of what he, as an Apostle, was saying, and for such ‘witnesses’ to provide such an addition to his authority it required men who would be seen as in some way ‘Apostolic’ and knowledgeable and certainly independent of his own teaching. Witnesses whom he had himself taught would hardly have been seen as greatly adding weight to his words. We should note in this regard that Paul had had great respect for the fact that, in accordance with the teaching of Jesus, the Apostles were, through the Holy Spirit of truth (John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:13), to be seen as the final source of doctrine, for he had deliberately gone up to Jerusalem in order to confirm that what he taught agreed with them (Galatians 2:2). And he had probably taken Timothy with him. This last fact of presenting what he believed and taught before the Apostles also condemns the suggestion that the early church were not interested in statements of faith, for a statement of faith was certainly present at that meeting, and it confirms that they (or certainly Paul), had suitably formulated their doctrines. It would be pedantic to suggest otherwise.

So Timothy is to seek out ‘faithful men’, men of unfeigned faith (2 Timothy 1:5), and hand over the true tradition to them, so that they too may in their turn pass it on to others without alteration, as being the teaching of the Apostles. Here was provision for the continuation of the church and its solid Apostolic teaching until the Lord comes. Note that it is not a question of them being ‘bishops’, but of being men of faith and trustworthy. The Apostolic tradition was to be passed on by passing on the ‘whole truth’ (which has now become the New Testament), through men of faith. It was not something that could be subsequently altered and expanded on, it was to be passed on complete as it was. This was in fact how the early church saw it for in the end the canon of Scripture was finalised on the basis of what they at least thought were Apostolic writings


Verse 3

‘Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.’

He is also, like Paul himself, to face up to any hardship to come as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. The Lord’s army is on the march, the comforts and entanglements of home life have been left behind, and he must be ready to face both physical shortages and danger, and spiritual battles. He must especially recognise that such a life will often result in hardship and require perseverance and endurance, something that he must take on himself without regret because he has become one of Messiah’s chosen conscripts. And such a life is also required to be a life of discipline and obedience, and of keeping the weapons of their warfare constantly ready for battle (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Paul knew well some of the hardships of a soldier’s life first hand from the soldiers to whom he was manacled. Did he count as one of those hardships that, whether they liked it or not, they no doubt had to listen to the Gospel from him time and again? Hopefully for some it would turn out to their good, but for many it was probably seen as a great trial. For other references to the soldier-like nature of the Christian life see for example Romans 6:13; Romans 7:23; 1 Corinthians 9:7; 2 Corinthians 6:7; 2 Corinthians 10:4-6; Ephesians 6:11-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 1 Timothy 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:12. See also Philippians 2:25; Philemon 1:2


Verse 4

‘No soldier on service entangles himself in the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enrolled him as a soldier.’

2 Timothy 2:4-6 now give three examples of what is required of those who follow Christ. The first requires commitment and sacrifice. The second requires commitment and obedience. The third requires commitment and hard work. So the lesson about enduring hardship is applied. A soldier has to go forward ready for anything. He must lay aside all earthly entanglements, which in this case means all ‘the affairs of this life’. His one aim must be to please Him Who has chosen him to be a soldier. In future if he does anything connected with this world it must be for Him, not with eye-service as a man-pleaser, but as serving Christ and doing the will of God from the heart (Ephesians 6:6). It is a call for total commitment, and a demand that from now on everything be looked at in a new way. And it applies to all Christians. There are no exemptions. We have all been signed on.

‘The affairs of this life.’ This cannot mean literally that Christian leaders are not to do any secular work for Paul himself acted as a tentmaker in order to pay his way. The point with a soldier is that he leaves secular life and does not allow anything to get in the way of his efficiency as a soldier. Thus the same applies to a Christian leader. He must look on secular life as something that is not for him, and must thrust away anything that might hinder him in fulfilling his Christian responsibilities. All else must be subservient to properly fulfilling his ministry, and in that light the things of this life must count for nothing. His eye must be singly set on being the very best that he can be in the Lord’s service. Even in his recreation he must ask, is this genuinely making me better capable of serving God?

‘That he may please him who enrolled him as a soldier.’ His aim must at all times be to please his commander-in-chief, and no less so when the Commander-in Chief is present all the time.


Verse 5

‘And if also a man contend in the games, he is not crowned, unless he has contended lawfully (or ‘in accordance with the rules’).’

The second principle is the principle of obedience. He must also follow the example of contenders in the Games, by contending in accordance with the rules. Commitment does not mean that we follow our own ideas. God has laid down His rules in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). We must therefore read them and follow them, although as Paul tells us elsewhere, they are all summed up in the commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (Galatians 5:14). For if we do not obey His words then there will be no crowning, and no reward. Jesus demands that we live a full-orbed Christian life. In other words we cannot pick and choose but we must live wholly in accordance with His word.

‘Lawfully, in accordance with the rules, in a correct style.’ The rules for the Games not only required men to compete fairly and honestly, but they also required men to swear that they had trained properly for the event and had been properly disciplined in readiness for it. Christians must thus have the same dedication as athletes in preparing themselves for His service by spiritual exercise and a determination to do what is right. And they must then fulfil those responsibilities in total righteousness.


Verse 6

‘The husbandmen who labours must be the first to partake of the fruits.’

The third principle is the principle of hard work. Living by faith is not to be an easy option. It is the one who does the hard work who expects to benefit first from the fruit. When the harvest comes he is the first to be rewarded. He can pick it even while it is on the tree. Then he benefits from the sale of the remainder. Timothy must therefore expect, and delight in, hard labour in his Christian service so that fruit may result, which he may enjoy when he hands it over to his Master, and is the first to hear His ‘well done, good and faithful servant’. In labouring in this way he can be confident that with God’s help there will be fruit, for just as the husbandman/vinedresser/farmer works hard and depends on God for the right weather, so must the Christian leader work hard trusting in God for the heavenly rain. God alone can send the rain, but the workman can ensure that the soil is ready in order to achieve the best results (compare also John 4:36-38).

Some have compared this with 1 Corinthians 9:10-11, but it is doubtful whether that thought is in mind here. Here the eye is mainly on the final reward.


Verse 7

‘Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things.’

Now let Timothy consider (think over, understand) all that Paul has said, opening himself to the Lord’s guidance, for the Lord’s promise is that through the Scriptures He will give us understanding of all that is required (2 Timothy 3:14-15; compare 1 Corinthians 2:11-16).

As we look at these three examples they remind us of how we should be living. Note for example how none of the people mentioned would have been put off by the rain or bad weather. The soldier would still have dug in or continued marching, the athlete would have continued with his training or his race, the farmer or vinedresser would have continued with his work. They would not even have hesitated or thought about it. Nor would they have expected others to show them favours. They would have known that they bore the responsibility for success themselves, and would have buckled down to the task. They would also have put all their efforts into accomplishing what they were seeking to achieve, going forward, training, disciplining themselves, labouring, for their eye was on the goal, the soldier’s on winning the war and on his marshal’s baton, the athlete’s on the tape and the laurel crown, the farmer’s on the coming harvest. These things would have taken up all their thoughts. How much more then should we be like this, who look not at the things which are temporal, but at the things which are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18)


Verse 8

‘Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel,’

Timothy is called on to remember Jesus Christ, both as the One Who has risen from the dead, and thereby has been designated the Son of God with power (Romans 1:4), and as the Davidic Messiah Who will rule over the everlasting Kingdom (2 Samuel 7:13; 2 Samuel 7:16; Isaiah 55:3; Ezekiel 37:24-25) . The idea of the resurrection is central to Paul, and lies behind all his teaching. Compare especially 1 Corinthians 15; but it is central throughout his letters. The fact that He is risen is the guarantee of the future for all who are His. It also indicates that the flesh has risen with the spirit. Both have been glorified. Less prominent, but still important is that Jesus is the Davidic Messiah (Romans 1:3), although usually it is the Messiahship (Christhood) that is mainly emphasised by Paul (‘Christ Jesus’, ‘Jesus Christ’) rather than the Davidic angle. This demonstrated that Jesus was truly born of man (of David) and was so as the coming fulfiller of all the Old Testament promises. Here Paul’s purpose is to bring out:

1) That Jesus Christ is truly man in the flesh, born of the seed of David (see Romans 1:3).

2) That He is thus the promised Coming King spoken of in the Scriptures (e.g. Isaiah 9:5-6; Isaiah 11:1-4) Who will come to the throne of God to receive Kingly Rule (Daniel 7:13-14).

3) That He truly died, and was buried, so that He could rise again (compare 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

4) That He is now risen from the dead as the conqueror of death and offerer of life to His own (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

Note how by its emphasis on Jesus’ true humanity, His death in the body, and His resurrection in the body, this hits at the heart of any heresy that puts an emphasis on any ‘heavenly experience’ which is not firmly conjoined with human fleshliness. In Paul’s mind the Good News and flesh are firmly linked, and Jesus Christ Himself was firmly rooted in fleshliness (John 1:14), and was raised in the body. Man also is therefore to be saved as he is, as a human being, and not by rejecting his association with fleshliness.

But in recognising the relevance of these words in combating the Ephesian heresy, we must not lose sight of their positive message, and that is:

1) That we must fix our eyes not on a religion or a religious organisation, but on a person, the person of Jesus Christ.

2) That Jesus Christ is the risen One with all the implications that lie behind that of the defeat of death and the guarantee of a future hope (2 Timothy 1:10; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28).

3) That as the risen One He can offer men life and hope, and empower them with the power of His resurrection (2 Timothy 1:7; Philippians 3:10-11).

4) That because He lives we can live as well (John 14:19).

5) That as the seed of David He is the fulfilment of all the Old Testament prophecies concerning the future Coming King (e.g. Psalms 2; Psalms 110; Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1-4; Ezekiel 37:22-28; Daniel 7:13-14; etc.).

6) It is all this that is the Good News.

‘According to my Gospel.’ Compare Romans 2:16; Romans 16:25. This is a typical Paulinism, and by ‘my Gospel’ he is clearly indicating some kind of primitive summary of faith which he had formulated, at least in his head, by the time he wrote Romans. However the phrase ‘of the seed of David’ has suggested to some that here, as in Romans 1:4, he is citing from an ancient creed which has been generally agreed, probably by the Apostles. Thus we have further confirmation that Paul’s Gospel is the same as that of the other Apostles.


Verses 8-14

Paul Calls On Timothy To Keep His Eyes Firmly Fixed On Christ (2 Timothy 2:8-14).

In view of the urgency of the times and the dangers that loom ahead Paul tells Timothy (and us) to remember Jesus Christ as the Risen One and as the Davidic Messiah, Who is the essence of the Gospel that he proclaims, and through Whom those who are His chosen ones may obtain salvation and enjoy eternal glory. Nevertheless this hope makes demands on us and reminds us that if we confess Him before men, He will confess us, but if we deny Him, He will deny us (compare Matthew 10:32-33). It is incumbent therefore on Timothy to constantly remind all Christians of these things and not get involved in secondary arguments which are of no real profit to anyone.

Analysis.

a Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel (2 Timothy 2:8).

b In which I suffer hardship unto bonds, as a criminal, but the word of God is not bound (2 Timothy 2:9).

c Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory (2 Timothy 2:10).

d Faithful is the saying: For if we died with him, we shall also live with him (2 Timothy 2:11).

c If we endure, we shall also reign with him (2 Timothy 2:12).

b If we shall deny him, he also will deny us, if we are faithless, he abides faithful, for he cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13).

a Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them in the sight of the Lord, that they do not strive about words, to no profit, to the subverting of those who hear (2 Timothy 2:14).

Note that in ‘a’ Timothy is to remember Jesus Christ and His resurrection and status and in the parallel the church is to be called on to remember the same. In ‘b’ Paul’s courageous confession of Christ is emphasised, and in the parallel the warning of the consequences of denying Christ is described. In ‘c’ Paul is enduring all things so that God’s elect may benefit eternally, and in the parallel endurance results in eternal benefit. Centrally in ‘d’ is the call for us to die with Christ and live with Him.


Verse 9

‘In which (or ‘in whom’) I suffer hardship unto bonds, as a criminal, but the word of God is not bound.’

And it is because of this Gospel (in which), or because he is in Christ Jesus (in Whom), and for no other reason that he is at present suffering hardship, that is, roughing it, in his manacles as though he was an evildoer. At his previous trial he had made known to the judges the full message of the Gospel and that time he had been released. And he was now here because he had insisted on proclaiming the same message and serving the same Christ Jesus. But the fact that he is suffering ‘as a criminal’ suggests that the charge against him was not that he was a Christian. Possibly he was being blamed for pubic affrays that had arisen as a result of his preaching, or for incendiarism with regard to the fire in Rome which was blamed by Nero on the Christians because most people thought that he himself was responsible, or it may simply have been because he was the leader of an unauthorised society (all societies were strictly regulated lest they ferment rebellion).

‘But the word of God is not bound (manacled).’ In spite of the fact that he is bound, he wants Timothy to know that the word of God was not bound. It was going freely to the Roman soldiers who were manacled to him. It was going to all who visited him. It was going out in his letters, so that, although he was manacled, his words were not. It was going out through all the hundreds of thousands of Christians who were still freely proclaiming the Gospel throughout the Empire and beyond. Nothing could bind the word of God. Rome would attempt it by political means, Rome would then try it again by ecclesiastical means, but both times it failed. And whoever tries to bind it anywhere at any time they will also fail.


Verse 10

‘Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.’

And why did Paul allow himself to be treated like this? Why did he not just renounce his faith and be released? It was because he was enduring whatever came upon him for the sake of the unrestrainable word of God and for the sake of those whom God has chosen for Himself from the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) who would be delivered through that word. It was for the sake of God’s ‘elect’, His chosen and called out ones (compare Matthew 20:16; Matthew 24:22; Matthew 24:24; Matthew 24:31; Luke 18:7; Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:2; Revelation 17:14). And it was so that they might obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus to eternal glory.

‘The salvation which is in Christ Jesus to eternal glory.’ Such ‘salvation’ is to be found ‘in Christ Jesus’, by union with Him. The word here describes the whole of the process of salvation from start to finish, the process whereby we are forgiven and reconciled to God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20-21), made into new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), changed from glory into glory even as by the Lord, the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18), finally ending up in eternal glory (Colossians 3:4). And this because Christ is in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27; Colossians 3:4; 2 Corinthians 4:17). For once the process truly begins as a result of a person being genuinely ‘saved’, it will be carried through by our Lord Jesus Christ right up to the consummation when it becomes complete and final (although we will always be ‘the saved’ or ‘the redeemed’ even then, just as He will always be ‘the Lamb as it had been slain’). This certainty of salvation is made clear in a number of Scriptures such as, 2 Timothy 2:13; 2 Timothy 1:12; John 6:27; John 10:27-28; 1 Corinthians 1:8-9; Philippians 1:6; Jude 1:24, but it must be emphasised that it is salvation from sin. We can only be saved if we want to be saved from sin.


Verses 11-13

‘Faithful is the saying:

For if we died with him, we shall also live with him,

If we endure, we shall also reign with him,

If we shall deny him, he also will deny us,

If we are faithless, he abides faithful,

For he cannot deny himself.’

Paul then declares as ‘a faithful saying’, and thus one to be relied on utterly (compare 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Timothy 4:9; Titus 3:8), the words of what was probably a Christian hymn, which sums up differing attitudes and responses to Christ. Such hymns would inevitably have arisen during the thirty years or so since the death of Jesus is absurd. The process was inevitable. There would always be some with inventive musical minds who would provide others with a means of worship, especially in churches without a firm Jewish background, so that they could ‘speak to one another with psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs’ (Ephesians 5:19). The problem would not be a shortage of such hymns, but that a tight control would have to be maintained so that heresy did not creep into them.

‘For if we died with him, we shall also live with him.’ This new life is both in the present and in the future, and results from ‘Jesus Christ, risen from the dead’ (2 Timothy 2:8). The point here is that every true Christian sees himself, as a result of having responded to Christ, as having died to himself and as living to Christ (see Romans 6:3-11). This is what is symbolised in his baptism (Romans 6:3; Colossians 2:12, compare 1 Corinthians 12:13), and it is those who thus die, and receive His new life and live accordingly (Romans 6:4; Colossians 3:10), who reveal themselves to be Christians (compare Galatians 2:20). We are therefore called on to die to our old lives (Colossians 2:20; Colossians 3:3; Colossians 3:9-10), dying to the claims of the world (Colossians 3:2-3), and to receive through faith the benefits of His death (Colossians 2:13), as those who have by faith died with Him (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:3), and have ‘risen’ with Him (Ephesians 2:5-6), and have commenced walking in newness of life (Romans 6:3-11; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9-10). Compare Matthew 16:24-26; John 12:24-25. Thus will we be assured of eternal life, both now (John 5:24; 1 John 5:13) and in eternity, and living with Him for ever in His glory (Colossians 1:27; Colossians 3:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:14). ‘The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children then heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, ‘if so be that we suffer with Him, that we might be glorified together’ (Romans 8:17).

This having died does, of course, also have in mind those who have actually been martyred, they too will live with Him (Revelation 20:4). But it does not refer exclusively to them. All who are truly His have ‘died with Him’.

‘If we endure, we shall also reign with him.’ Here we are called on to remember ‘Jesus Christ of the seed of David’, the One to Whom all dominion will be given (e.g. Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:1-4; compare Daniel 7:14). He is the One Who will reign for ever and ever (Revelation 11:15). And the point here is that those who would reign with Christ, both in this life and the next, must first be willing to ‘endure’ whatever is thrown at them. Some have a harder time than others but all those who would reign with Him in life (Romans 5:17; Romans 6:14; Revelation 5:10) must also endure, and those who would share His throne in glory must first share His sufferings (compare 2 Timothy 3:12; Matthew 5:10-12; Matthew 24:13; Acts 14:22; Romans 5:3-5; and often). As Paul elsewhere wrote to the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5), ‘we ourselves glory in you among the churches of God for your patient endurance and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you endure, which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God; to the end that you may be counted worthy of the Kingly Rule of God, for which you also suffer.’ See also Revelation 2:10; Revelation 2:26-27; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 3:21). Once having suffered with Him, therefore, we will share His throne (Revelation 3:21).

‘If we shall deny him, he also will deny us.’ This was very much a theme of Jesus Who declared that those who denied Him (by not confessing Him) would be denied before His Father in Heaven (Matthew 7:23; Matthew 10:32-33; Matthew 25:12; Luke 9:26; Luke 12:8; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 2:22-23). Denial includes denying Him by not acknowledging Who He rightfully is (1 John 2:22-23), and denying Him by not seeking to live in accordance with His words (Matthew 7:13-27).

‘If we are faithless, he abides faithful, for he cannot deny himself.’ This appears to be describing those who are truly His (‘He cannot deny Himself’) but who have proved weak and faithless in their lives and testimony (compare 2 Timothy 1:15). For these whose hearts are open towards Him in spite of their weakness He remains faithful towards them. If they have been made one with Him He will not deny them. For He knows those who are His (2 Timothy 2:19). However, they are promised no reward. We can compare here those described in 1 Corinthians 3:15.

It should be noted how this hymn summarises the situations described in the letter. Paul knows that he is shortly literally to die with Christ prior to receiving a crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Timothy is called on to endure (2 Timothy 1:8; 2 Timothy 1:13; 2 Timothy 2:3) in order that he might receive his reward (2 Timothy 1:10; 2 Timothy 2:5-6), along with Onesiphorus and his household (2 Timothy 1:16-18). Hymenaeus and Philetus are of those who have denied the Lord and will in turn be denied by Him (2 Timothy 2:17-18); Phygelus and Hermogenes are of those who have been ‘faithless’, but not finally rejected, because in spite of their weakness they are still His, and will be restored (2 Timothy 1:15).


Verse 14

‘Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them in the sight of the Lord, that they do not strive about words, which is profitable for nothing, to the subverting of those who hear.’

God’s people are continually to be put in remembrance of ‘these things’, of Jesus Christ the Risen One (2 Timothy 2:8), of Jesus Christ, God’s ruling King (2 Timothy 2:8), of the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory (2 Timothy 2:10), of the fact that our Saviour Christ Jesus has nullified death, and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel (2 Timothy 1:10), and of all God’s requirements that we endure as good soldiers of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3), all as summed up in the hymn that he has just cited.

And it is these things that must possess their minds, rather than words and arguments about things which are not only not beneficial (‘profitable for nothing’), but are actually harmful (they subvert those who hear them). The seriousness with which Paul viewed this injunction comes out in his words, ‘charging them in the sight of the Lord’. The Christian is under a duty to Jesus Christ to concentrate on the essentials of the Gospel, and not to be taken up with peripheral arguments and extraneous doctrines which can divert their minds and the minds of others from Jesus Christ Himself.


Verse 15

‘Give diligence to present yourself approved to God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth.’

Positively he is to ‘study zealously’ to present himself before God as one who is ‘accepted after testing’, that is, as one who is the genuine and well-proved article. He must recognise that what he believes and teaches must pass the test of the inspection of God. He must be like the workman who can watch confidently while his work is subjected to examination, in order for it to gain approval. And he will do this by ‘cutting a straight road’ (see the same verb in Proverbs 3:6; Proverbs 11:5 LXX) with regard to the word of truth, and avoiding any diversion. Thus ‘rightly handling’ it, and not going off at a tangent.

For ‘the word of truth’ compare Ephesians 1:13; Colossians 1:5 where it represents the Good News of salvation as contained in the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15-16) and the teaching of Jesus. Note the contrast with the gangrenous ‘word’ of 2 Timothy 2:17 and the connection with ‘the truth’ from which the false teachers have erred (2 Timothy 2:18).


Verses 15-18

The Need To Hold To The Truth And To Shun What Is False (2 Timothy 2:15-18).

Paul now gives an example of the approach that Timothy should take, and what is to be shunned. He must use wisely the Scriptures and the tradition about Jesus, ‘the word of truth’, learning from it, and ensuring that he properly understands it, and must shun anything that adds to it the myths and ‘babblings’ of men.

Analysis.

a Give diligence to present yourself approved unto God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

b But shun profane babblings, for they will proceed further in ungodliness, and their word will eat as a gangrene does (2 Timothy 2:16-17 a).

a Of whom are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some (2 Timothy 2:17-18).

Note how in ‘a’ Timothy is to rightly handle ‘the word of truth’, while in the parallel his opponents have erred concerning ‘the truth’. Centrally in ‘b’ he is to shun the babblings which rather produce a gangrenous ‘word’.


Verse 16

‘But shun profane babblings, for they will proceed further in ungodliness,’

All ‘profane babblings’, which includes anything that does not come from the Scriptures or the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles, are to be thrust aside. The world offers many ‘words’ and many ‘truths’, but if they do not conform to the teaching of Scripture they are to be shunned, for it is the Scriptures alone, rightly interpreted, that are able to make us ‘wise unto salvation’ (2 Timothy 3:15-16).

This is important because such profane babblings will only result in ‘more ungodliness’, in a wrong attitude and behaviour towards God and men, on behalf both of those who teach and those who listen. For ‘profane babblings’ compare 1 Timothy 6:20. It includes any religious teaching not genuinely based on Scripture and the teaching of the Apostles, the kinds of teaching which in those days poured out with great verbosity from the mouths of false teachers everywhere, and for which they were often well paid. Today we find them more in people’s writings, or on popular television, where anything is satisfactory except the truth, although now it is presented more subtly by misusing the Scriptures to suit their purpose.


Verse 17

‘And their word will eat as does a gangrene, of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus,’

But their ‘word’, in contrast with ‘the word of truth’ (2 Timothy 2:15), which feeds the soul (James 1:21; 1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 5:12-14), will be like a gangrene, eating into and destroying those who are affected by it. And in order that Timothy might be sure whom he particularly has in mind, he mentions two of the false teachers by name, Hymenaeus and Philetus. For Hymenaeus compare 1 Timothy 1:20.


Verse 18

‘Men who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some.’

For these men have not cut a straight path, they have erred from the truth. They are declaring that ‘the resurrection is past already’ (that is the general resurrection of the saved). They probably meant by this that by means of their esoteric knowledge they had already begun to rise towards God so that no future resurrection, and certainly not one of the body, would be necessary (compare 1 Corinthians 15:12-13; 1 Corinthians 15:16 where similar things were being said). It may partly have been a perversion of Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 1:19 to Ephesians 2:6. And the sad thing is that their teaching has caused the faith of others to be overthrown, although, as he will now make clear, that will not happen to any whom the Lord knows as His.


Verse 19

SECTION 3. Those Who Are Truly the Lord’s Must Equip Themselves Accordingly, Especially In View Of The Grievous Times That Are Coming (2 Timothy 2:19 to 2 Timothy 3:17).

Having called on him to endure hardness and suffering, Paul now calls Timothy to a life of holiness and establishment in the truth according to the Scriptures. Those who would serve the Lord are to rest secure in the fact that He knows them, and are to purify themselves, and look to the Scriptures, so that they are prepared and furnished unto every good work (2 Timothy 2:21; 2 Timothy 3:17). This involves fleeing from the temptations of the flesh and mind (Ephesians 2:3) and following the way of righteousness, faith, peace and love along with all who call on the Name of the Lord from a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22), just as he has (2 Timothy 3:10), rejecting foolish ideas out of hand, and seeking gently to restore any who have strayed from or come short of the truth (2 Timothy 2:22-26; 2 Timothy 3:6-7) and have been deceived (2 Timothy 3:8-9; 2 Timothy 3:13). For grievous times are coming when true godliness will be thrust aside (2 Timothy 3:1-5), and foolish men and women who are led astray will indulge in unsavoury desires (2 Timothy 3:6-9), which will in the end only bring them to a standstill (2 Timothy 3:9). Meanwhile Timothy is to follow the example of Paul, revealing faith, longsuffering, love and patient endurance, and enduring persecutions and sufferings like he had, for these are the lot of all who will live in a way that is pleasing to God (2 Timothy 3:10-12). Realising that evil men and impostors will only ‘wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived’ (2 Timothy 3:13) he must ensure that he himself is firmly grounded in the Scriptures, and thus be furnished to every good work (2 Timothy 3:13-17).

Overall Analysis.

a The Lord’s foundation is sure, being sealed by the fact that the Lord knows those who are His, and that such people who name the Name of the Lord must depart from iniquity, for God’s vessels are to keep themselves pure, and by purging themselves from all that is false and unclean, must be vessels which have an honourable use, set apart as holy to God and suitable for His use, being ‘prepared for every good work’ (2 Timothy 2:20-21).

b This involves fleeing from youthful desires (2 Timothy 2:22 a).

c And following righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with all who call on God out of a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22 b).

d Rejecting foolish questionings which only produce strife (2 Timothy 2:23-24).

e And gently seeking to lead back to the truth those who have gone astray, as the Lord’s servant making them captive to the will of God, or as a result of being ‘taken alive’ by the Devil (2 Timothy 2:25-26).

f For grievous times are coming when men will fully let loose what they are as evidenced by their sinful lives, while justifying it in the name of false religion (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

e This will include those who are taken captive by men who creep into their houses and lead them astray (2 Timothy 3:6-7).

d And those who withstand the truth as Pharaoh’s magicians withstood Moses (2 Timothy 3:8-9).

c Timothy is therefore to follow Paul’s example of faith, longsuffering, love and patient endurance, recognising that he and all who would live godly live must endure persecutions and suffering like Paul did, while evil men will get worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:10-13).

b For evil men and impostors will get worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:13).

a But Timothy is to abide in the truth, looking to the Scriptures, and becoming a man of God ‘completely furnished unto every good work’ (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

Note how in ‘a’ the honourable vessel is to be prepared unto every good work while in the parallel Timothy is to be completely furnished unto every good work. In ‘b’ he is to flee from youthful desires, in contrast in the parallel with those who get worse and worse. In ‘c’ he is to follow after righteousness, faith, love and peace, and in the parallel follows Paul’s teaching and ways, faith, longsuffering, love and patient endurance. In ‘d’ he is to reject foolish questionings and strife, and in the parallel describes Pharaoh’s magicians who attacked Moses’ with foolish questionings and strife (Exodus 7:11; Exodus 7:22 compare Exodus 8:18-19 when they ceased questioning). In ‘e’ he is to gently seek to lead back to the truth those who have gone astray, as the Lord’s servant making them captive to the will of God, and in the parallel Paul describes those who have been taken captive by false teachers and have been led astray. In ‘f’, and centrally, is the warning of the grievous times that are coming.


Verse 19

‘However that may be the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are his’, and, ‘Let every one who names the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness.’

‘However that may be the firm foundation of God stands.’ Whatever the heresies that arise, and however many are led astray or have their faith overthrown, it will not affect the firm foundation that God has laid, which stands solid and has been sealed by God with two seals, one declaring that He knows those who are His, and the other declaring that all who name the Name of the Lord must depart from unrighteousness. The basic principle is clear. Here is certainty. Nothing can stand in the way of God’s purposes. Those who are His elect are secure, and in return they are being called on to turn from unrighteousness.

But what is the ‘firm foundation of God’?

1) Some have referred this foundation to the ‘sure foundation’ described in Isaiah 28:16, (although the rendering in LXX does not specifically lend itself to the connection). If we do refer it to this verse on the basis of the Hebrew text (‘the sure foundation’) then the firm foundation that stood there was the statement ‘he who believes will not be in a hurry’ (because ‘in quietness and confidence would be their strength’ - Isaiah 30:15). That would tie in well with the fact that the foundation here also connects with two such statements and would in the end make the firm foundation here refer to the sovereign purpose of God, as it did there.

2) Others see the firm foundation as simply indicating the foundation which is God’s eternal purpose, which is sealed in two ways, one by the certainty that He knows those who are His, and the other by the requirement that those who name the Lord’s Name depart from unrighteousness. We can compare how in the Old Testament ‘the prophetic teaching ‘ was sealed (Isaiah 8:16), and the prophetic future was sealed (Daniel 12:4; Daniel 12:9). Here then we may see the foundation as God’s sovereign overall purpose seen as a firm foundation that is sealed, just as it is God’s purposes that are sealed and opened up in Revelation 5-6. Then the statements can be seen as revealing the working out of that eternal purpose.

3) Others see the foundation as Jesus Christ Himself (Matthew 21:42). As it was in Him that the eternal purposes of God for the salvation of His own was being accomplished, this is very similar to 1) and 2), but with the additional element of His personal Being and activity. And the assurance is that He knows those who are His, and the requirement is that those who name His Name should depart from unrighteousness. This certainly agrees with the idea that the Lord ‘knows’ His own as found on His own lips in Matthew 7:23; Matthew 25:12; John 2:24; John 5:42; John 6:64; John 10:14; John 13:18; and also in Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 8:3; Galatians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:2, compare also Amos 3:2. It is also made clear in Matthew 7:23 that those who do not depart from unrighteousness are not known by Him.

4) Others see it as referring to the foundation that God has laid in the Apostles and Prophets, with Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. Then it is the foundation on which is built the whole household of God which is growing into a holy Temple in the Lord, as a dwellingplace of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:20). Thus in the end the firm foundation here is the church, as founded on Jesus Christ and His words (see Matthew 16:18), whether worldwide or local. The ancient practise of engraving inscriptions on buildings in order to indicate their purpose then explains the two sealing statements. This would certainly then tie in to some extent with the idea of the ‘great house’ mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:20, but if that was the intention why was the latter ‘a great house’ and not the Temple (as it could easily have been)?

5) Others suggest that the firm foundation is simply the foundation of the household of God, the church, seen as a regular household set up by the Father (which would fit in with the following illustration). See 1 Timothy 3:15, where the ‘household of God’ is ‘the church of the living God’, and compare John 8:35-36; Hebrews 3:1-6. See also all the parables which depict the people of God as a household (e.g. Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 11:36-40; Luke 11:42-48; Luke 15:11-32; Luke 16:1-13).

6) Still other suggestions are that the foundation is the truth of the Gospel, or the work of God in the believer.

The two statements which are the seal of the firm foundation have been connected with Numbers 16:5; Numbers 16:26, where Moses says to Korah and his friends, ‘in the morning YHWH will show who are His, and who are holy’, which in LXX is ‘God has visited and known those who are His’ (Numbers 16:5) and ‘depart from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins’ (Numbers 16:26). (‘Depart from unrighteousness’ could then indicate that those who name the Name of the Lord should remove themselves from the presence of the false teachers). That incident is very pertinent here, for there too men were rebelling against God’s truth, and were opposing the appointed leaders of the people of God. And there too the Lord knew who were His, and called on all his people to depart from unrighteousness. Others see the second statement as coming from Isaiah 52:11, ‘Depart, depart, go you out from there, touch no unclean thing, go you out of the midst of her. Be you clean who bear the vessels of the Lord.’ The same verb for ‘depart’ is used in LXX, but there they are bearers of the vessels of the Lord, not the actual vessels.

Whichever interpretations we prefer we must not lose sight of the fact that the general principle is the same. Firstly that God’s purpose is sure and firmly founded whatever happens, and secondly that He knows who are true and who are not, and that He requires those who are true to depart from unrighteousness.


Verses 19-26

Those Who Are Truly the Lord’s Are Built On The Firm Foundation Of God And Are Inwardly Sealed By The Fact That He Knows Them As His, And Outwardly Sealed By The Fact That For His Sake They Depart From Unrighteousness (2 Timothy 2:19-26).

Here Paul affirms the certainty of the Christian’s position as known to Christ, and as therefore safe in His arms, with the result that he must depart from unrighteousness and seek to be a pure vessel suitable for the Master’s use. Thus Timothy must flee what is bad and follow what is good, refusing to be drawn into strife and showing love, patience and meekness towards his opponents so as hopefully to win them back to Christ from the snares of the Devil.

Analysis.

a However that may be, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those Who are His’ (2 Timothy 2:19 a).

b And, ‘Let every one who names the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness (2 Timothy 2:19 b).

c Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver (2 Timothy 2:20 a).

d But also of wood and of earth (2 Timothy 2:20 b).

e And some unto honour, and some unto dishonour (2 Timothy 2:20 c).

d If a man therefore purge himself from these (2 Timothy 2:21 a)

c He will be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, meet for the master’s use, prepared unto every good work (2 Timothy 2:21 b).

b But flee youthful lusts, and follow after righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart and foolish and refuse ignorant questionings, knowing that they gender strifes, and the Lord’s servant must not strive, but be gentle towards all, apt to teach, forbearing, in meekness correcting those who oppose themselves (2 Timothy 2:22-25 a).

a If perhaps God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him unto his will (2 Timothy 2:25-26).

Note how in ‘a’ the foundation of God stands sure and the Lord knows those who are His, while in the parallel the hope is that those who are truly His, who have strayed, will be recovered from the snare of the Devil. In ‘b’ those who name the Name of the lord must depart from iniquity, and in the parallel the iniquity from which they must depart is described. In ‘c’ there are vessels of gold and silver, and in the parallel vessel unto honour (and therefore gold or silver) sanctified and fit for the Master’s use. In ‘d’ there are vessels of wood and earthenware, and in the parallel the Christian mist purge himself from these. In ‘e’, and centrally, some vessels are to honour and some to dishonour (or less honour).


Verse 20

‘Now 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 (or ‘less honour’).’

This illustration might be seen as suggesting that the firm foundation in mind is the foundation of the household of God, (not a literal building), although it should be noted that its lesson is nowhere connected with the idea of the foundation. But its close proximity to the idea of the firm foundation may well be seen as suggesting that we must see the firm foundation as indicating a metaphorical building comprised of the people of God (see 1 Timothy 3:15). If the vessels in mind here had been Temple vessels then that would have confirmed the connection with Ephesians 2:20-22 and Isaiah 52:11, but they do not appear to be so. They are rather the normal tableware of a large household. It is probably best therefore to see the sure foundation as that of ‘God’s household’, firmly founded on Jesus Christ, with the vessels representing the members of that household, while possibly including some of the other aspects as being at the back of Paul’s mind.

And the suggestion is that in that household, as in all households, different vessels have different places of honour. Some are made of gold and silver. Others are made of wood or earthenware. Some have an honourable use. Others have a more mundane use. There is no reason why we should not see all these as representing the children of God, with some having higher honour than others, although in this case by their own choice. Compare Matthew 5:19 where we have a similar idea. Note here that underlying the whole illustration is the fact of the divine Potter producing His workmanship (compare Romans 9:21-23; Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:1-4).

A similar idea of vessels to honour and dishonour is found in Romans 9:21, although in that case the vessels to dishonour were subject to eternal wrath. Here they are simply Christians who are lacking in faith and dedication. The same illustration is thus being used from different angles. God is able to make vessels for honourable use, vessels for less honourable use and vessels only fitted for destruction. But here in 2 Timothy Paul is bringing out the element of choice which is available to the raw materials. They can choose which they will be in response to the working of the Potter/Metalworker’s hands.


Verse 21

‘If a man therefore purge himself from these, he will be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, meet for the master’s use, prepared unto every good work.’

Each man must choose, therefore, whether he will be a vessel of gold and silver, or whether he will be one of wood and earthenware, whether he will be more honourable to God or less honourable (compare 1 Corinthians 3:12; 1 Corinthians 3:15). And in order to be the former he must purge himself ‘from these’. ‘From these’ may simply mean that by his response to God he will purge himself from being one of the vessels made of wood and earthenware, that is, he will by his godly behaviour separate himself from being among the wood and earthenware vessels. Alternately ‘from these’ may refer to the unrighteousness from which the one who calls on the Name of the Lord has to depart (2 Timothy 2:19), seen as being in the plural, with the plural pronoun signifying ‘acts of unrighteousness’, or it may refer to shunning profane babblings and the false prophets mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:16-18. For the Christian is not only to seek positive teaching, but must beware of negative teaching, and especially of getting involved above their heads with the teaching of clever men who manipulate the truth. Compare 1 Corinthians 5:7 where the same word purging involves the removal of all that is sinful, including sinful men. We must therefore rid ourselves of, and flee from, all wrong behaviour and all false teaching.

‘He will be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, meet for the master’s use, prepared unto every good work.’ This is to be the aim of every Christian, to be a vessel whose use is worthy of all honour, and which is valued by all. He is to be ‘sanctified’, that is, his life should be set apart wholly to the service of God, leaving behind all mundane things, and allowing the God of peace to set him apart to Himself wholly, in spirit, soul and body, so that they may preserved entire, without blame, to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23). He is to be free from all impurity, possessing his vessel in all sanctification and honour. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4). He is to look to Jesus Christ to fulfil His sanctifying work within him (Ephesians 5:26). He is to be sanctified through His truth (John 17:17). Note the threefold aspects of this continuing sanctification. It requires a dedicated and separated heart, it involves looking off to Jesus Christ to do His work within, and it involves knowing and understanding the truth from His word.

‘Meet for the Master’s use.’ His aim is to be that he might be fully satisfactory for the Master to use, both as a result of turning from all impurity and sin, and as a result of a positive response to Him and His word. In the words of Paul in Romans 12:1-2, he is to present his body to Christ as ‘a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God’ and is not to be ‘fashioned according to this world’ but is to be ‘transformed by the renewing of his mind’ that he may ‘prove what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God’.

The word for ‘use’ (euchrestos) is very much a Pauline word, being found elsewhere only in 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 1:11.

‘Prepared unto every good work.’ This is the theme of this section, compare 2 Timothy 3:17. Those who would serve God must allow themselves to be prepared in every way, and should seek God to that end. For God’s eternal purpose for them includes their fulfilling His ‘good work’ on earth.


Verse 22

‘But flee youthful desires, and follow after righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.’

To this end he has to flee from youthful desires and longings (a man was considered youthful up to forty, when he was considered to have matured), whether of the flesh or of the mind (compare Ephesians 2:3). We must not just think of sexual desires, but of all the desires that can possess men, such as angry passion, impatience, love of argument, ambition, desire for something new, longing for fame, party spirit. Compare also the lists in Romans 1:29-31; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21, some of which could apply to Christians as to all men.

Note the decisive action to be taken. It reminds us that when temptation comes that it is possible to flee from, that is what we should do. If we hang around under such temptation we will fall, and no one will be to blame but ourselves. And even when the temptations are in the mind we can flee to God (see James 4:7; 1 John 2:15-17).

But the action is not only negative. The mind and heart must be turned towards other things. Thus he must also follow after righteousness, faith, love, and peace (compare 1 Timothy 6:11) along with all others who call on the Lord out of a pure heart (compare 1 Timothy 1:5). The void caused by turning from the world and its temptations is to be filled by positive spiritual living.

‘Follow after righteousness.’ This is in fact the positive side of what is involved in those who call on the Name of the Lord ‘departing from unrighteousness’ (2 Timothy 2:19). The Christian must live a life of positive righteousness. ‘To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin’ (James 4:17). Note the repetition of the idea of calling on the Lord (compare 2 Timothy 2:19) and of the fact that it must be from a position of purity. So here righteousness is seen from the positive angle. In both cases, however, it involves full obedience to God’s requirements (compare Matthew 7:13-27). That is what departing from unrighteousness involves. So there is really little difference except in emphasis.

‘Faith, love, peace.’ At the commencement of the letter Paul wished for Timothy ‘grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord’ (2 Timothy 1:2). ‘Faith, love and peace’ can be seen as the human response to these benevolent attitudes of God. Faith is man’s response to God’s offered grace (unmerited favour), love is man’s response to God’s own compassion and mercy, peace results from a man obtaining peace with God and peace from God. Compare here also the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22.


Verse 23

‘But foolish and ignorant (inane, senseless) questionings refuse (or ‘avoid’), knowing that they engender strifes,’

Timothy must avoid being caught up in foolish and inane issues and questionings, and must reject them, knowing that all they do is cause arguments (in general early philosophers were very, and often violently, argumentative). Furthermore they also result in time wasting.


Verse 24-25

‘And the Lord’s servant must not strive, but be gentle towards all, apt to teach, forbearing, in meekness correcting those who oppose themselves, if perhaps it may be that God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth,’

In contrast the Lord’s servant (especially the Christian leader, see Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:7; Titus 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; Jude 1:1, but of course true for all Christians) must concentrate on the essentials, and must not strive and be argumentative, but must be gentle towards all (compare Isaiah 42:1-4). He must be ‘apt to teach’ (compare 1 Timothy 3:2), fully versed in the whole Gospel and able to present its message clearly. He must be forbearing. He must correct those who oppose him in ‘meekness’, that is with understanding and humility, recognising his own tendency to stray (compare Galatians 6:1). For his hope must ever be that he may win them round, and that ‘God may give them repentance unto the knowledge (epignosis) of the truth’, as against their own false ‘knowledge’ (gnosis). (For God desires that all men come to a knowledge of the truth - 1 Timothy 2:4). Note the indication that their false understanding requires repentance. Men go astray in their lives before they go astray in their doctrines.


Verse 26

‘And they may recover themselves (or ‘return to sober thinking’ or ‘awaken from sleep’) out of the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him (either the devil or the Lord’s servant) unto his will.’

The object of the Lord’s servant should be to recover them out of the snare of the Devil. The word for recover means ‘sober up, awaken’. The point is that they have been in a state of stupefaction. They have been led astray and deceived by the Devil (the god of this world who has blinded their eyes lest they see the glory of Christ - 2 Corinthians 4:4), and, stumbling along, have been caught in his trap (see also 1 Timothy 3:7; 1 Timothy 6:9). The idea of the Devil as a deceiver is a common one (2 Timothy 3:13; John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:14; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 13:14; Revelation 20:8).

‘Having been taken captive (‘taken alive’) by him (either the Devil or the Lord’s servant) unto his (either God’s or the Devil’s) will.’ The problem here is the significance of the pronouns ‘autou’ (him) and ‘ekeinou’ (his). Is the intention of the change in order to indicate two different persons? Is the ‘him’ the instrument of recovery (the Lord’s servant seen as ‘taking them alive’ as in Luke 5:10) and bringing them back to the will of God (see 2 Timothy 2:24), or is it simply indicating that they have been taken alive by the Devil in his snare so that he can lead them in his will. In this regard the restoration by the Lord’s servant of those who had gone astray would fit in well with 2 Timothy 2:19, which begins the chiasmus, and with God giving them repentance to the knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 2:25).

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 2:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/2-timothy-2.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, December 10th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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