Verse 1. "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."
The opposite of being "strong," of course, is the state of being weak, and it can be observed that many in the church are strong in organizational abilities, but weak in faith and weak in comprehending the amazing grace of God. Hebrews Chapter 11 contains a review of many through the centuries who have had remarkable faith in the Lord, often within very difficult circumstances. They "were made strong out of weakness" as it is reported in Hebrews 11:34. Paul, the writer of 2nd Timothy, knew firsthand that the power of God is manifested in weak human beings. The Lord had denied Paul's request for a healing of whatever physical problem the man suffered from, saying to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Paul could have been angry at the Lord's denial of his request, but instead he understood and responded: "Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). The Lord gave His favor, His "grace" to Paul, a man who, in his early years had tried to do God's will in his own strength and failed, but now, in his weakness, received the power of God. The man's advice to Timothy is what we all need to hear: "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." And note, by the way, 1 Corinthians 4:17, where Paul calls Timothy his "...faithful son in the Lord..." Paul had led Timothy to Christ. The younger man was not his biological son, but rather his "son" in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
Verse 2. "The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."
What has been given to us by the Lord is not for us alone. If you have strength or mental abilities, wealth or spiritual gifts, God has in mind that you will help others who lack such things. We will note in places like Verse 3 that Paul suffered terribly for his faith, but he also knew the amazing depth of real comfort that only comes from God. He reported to the Corinthians that God "comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Corinthians 1:4). He went on in Verse 6 of that chapter to add that "if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation." The troubles we have experienced may not be about us at all, and they may well lead others to Christ.
God may have allowed that cancer, that loss, that humiliation, because of someone in the future we haven't even met yet, who will listen to our words because we have suffered just as they have. And if we are willing to admit that it was God who enabled us to get through all this, others may well listen to us and respond to the Lord. This truth is meant to be passed on. Paul openly taught such a message "in the presence of many witnesses" and was now instructing Timothy, and through him, you and me, to entrust the truths in these verses "to faithful men (and women) who will be able to teach others also." In the light of this verse, by the way, the "gift of God" given to Timothy as mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:6, may well have been the gift of teaching.
Verse 3. "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus."
There are many who have concluded that to surrender our lives to the Lord is to begin an easy life. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus, in many differing ways, warned us that trouble in this world comes to those who place their faith in the Lord. An example is in Luke 9:23 - "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." All of His listeners understood what the cross was all about. The Romans had erected those terrible devices of torture on the hilltops surrounding Jerusalem and along the roads leading into the city. Many Jews had suffered terribly and then died on the crosses seen by the people every day.
Paul admonished Timothy, "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." All of us who have experienced military service have come to understand that soldiers place their lives at risk by swearing an oath of service to their government. All Jewish men of the time and all others within the Roman Empire saw Roman soldiers everywhere; saw their weapons, their shields and knew these were men of war who might kill or be killed in the near future. Paul and Timothy well knew that the younger man was embarked on a life that very likely would contain "hardship" and might end in a violent death. Through the centuries, many people have seen that to offer our lives to the Lord is to find that He will take us up on our offer.
Verse 4. "No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier."
In Roman times as it has been in much of human history, someone would become a "soldier" and march off to a duty station or to a war and be gone for years. It usually did not matter to his commander if the soldier had a wife, a family, a farm or a home. Everyone understood that the "soldier in active service" was to respond to his military duty first and everything else came after. That's why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:8 "to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am," because we are soldiers in the army of the Lord.
You will also be interested in Ephesians 5:25-33 - "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it... husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies..." And "women are to love their husbands, to love their children" (Titus 2:4). There is a call from God to each of us. Some are called to leave and go into the Lord's service. Others are called to stay home. When Jesus said in Matthew 4:19 and other places to, "Come, follow Me," it is interesting to note that writings of the Early Church assert that all of them except John were already married. Paul mentioned in one of his letters to the city of Corinth that all the apostles except him were married (1 Corinthians 9:5).
Verse 5. "Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules."
The Olympic Games were even more of an attraction when Paul lived than they are today. And sporting events of all kinds were everywhere. But unlike today, the games often ended up with the death of one or more participants. As Paul commented here, there were very definite rules involved that had to be followed. A modern sporting event that rivals the Olympic Games is "futbal" or "football," also known as "soccer." It would be much easier to win the game if a team dug a hole during the night before the game, covered it with a thin veneer of sod and let the other team fall into the hole. But even though you could score a lot of goals in the absence of the other team, you would not win because you did not play according to the rules.
And what are the "rules" for our lives, for our ministries on this earth? We saw in Chapter 1 that we are to receive "grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord" (Verse 2). Jesus told us in John 3:3,7, that we are to be "born again." If you don't receive the Lord and don't trust in Him, you can't compete because you aren't on the team. And we just saw in Verse 3 of this chapter that the rule of the normal Christian life includes that we will be willing to "Suffer hardship with (one another) as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." The key evidence that we are following the "rules" in the rulebook itself, by the way, is in John 13:34-35, for as Jesus said, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Father, help us to be strong in our service to You. Help us to understand that all we have, all we are, is by the grace, the mercy of God. Give us hearts that truly care for our fellow Christians and for others as well. Let us not be put off by hardship, but instead take every opportunity to praise Your Holy Name and use our limitations in serving others. In Jesus Name. Amen.
Audio Study - 2 Timothy 2:6-10
Give Us Understanding
Verse 6. "The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops."
A dynamic touch of God lovingly entered humanity through the Lord Jesus Christ and within the centuries since that time, His touch continues in, around and through ordinary people like you and me. In Verse 3 we saw that in the Christian life we must become willing to "suffer hardship" for our God. We are to be like the soldiers of Verses 3 and 4, who train diligently in order to do well against the enemy and please our Commander-in-Chief. We are compared with athletes who train constantly because the only reason to compete is to win. Through the millennia we have been like a relay team and each of us is to race diligently so that we may "win the prize" and help others to do the same (Verse 5).
Here in this verse we are compared to "hard-working farmer(s)." Some plant seeds of life into those who are willing to hear; and some of us water the "crops" as they grow, like Paul and others did, then there are those who reap the harvest in people's hearts and lives (1 Corinthians 3:5-8). The farmer does not send all of the crops to market, but shares with those who plant, water and reap with him. We are all in this together. The reality of it is this: The result, the crop is from God, and it is about His grace, for to participate in this process is a gift from Him. We are not actually needed, but we are blessedly permitted to share in what He has done.
Verse 7. "Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything."
Further on in this letter, the Holy Spirit will observe through the Apostle Paul, that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). "Inspiration" is also translated as "God-breathed." It is not made clear whether Paul expected his writings to ever be "Scripture," but Peter expected exactly that. He spoke of "our beloved brother, Paul (who) has written to you... in all his epistles (which others) twist to their destruction as they do also the other Scriptures" (2 Peter 3:15-16).
We desperately need to LISTEN to such men as Paul and Peter, for they saw and heard the Lord, were filled with His Holy Spirit and gave their lives over to the Lord like few have done since or before. And note that Paul did not insist that he was right in everything, as some do. He merely urged, "Consider what I say." And he continued that the understanding we all need is not found through mere logic, intellect or cleverness, but "the Lord will give you understanding in everything." It is given to us that we can read the Word of the Lord and it is also given that we can pray, looking to the Holy Spirit for our understanding.
Verse 8. "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel,"
The Psalmist wrote, "I will look to the hills," and then he asked a question: "From whence comes my help?" Should I expect my help to come from the things of this world? And then he answered his own question: "My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth" (Psalm 121:1-2). The author of the Book of Hebrews encouraged us to be, "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2). Look to the Lord, look to Jesus Christ, who gave you the capacity to have faith and He died to save you from your sins. Can you trust in Him? Yes you can, and you should, for He died the death we all should have died. He did it for you, in your place, and He proved His love, His faithfulness, for He is "risen from the dead."
And what is the origin of this "Jesus Christ" who died for us and then arose "from the dead?" For one thing, He was a descendant of King David, in the royal line of the nation Israel. You can read about His physical lineage in Matthew Chapter 1 and Luke Chapter 3. The two are not quite the same, and the Early Church taught that the difference was this: The Matthew account was the genealogy of Joseph, Jesus' stepfather, and that which was written in Luke related to the line of His mother, Mary. Right in the middle, in Luke 3:31, we can read about that line: He is "the son of David." And that was the prophecy about Him, as it said in Micah 5:2 - "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."
Verse 9. "for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned."
The "gospel," the good news, is all about "Jesus Christ, risen from the dead," as we saw in Verse 8. And Paul, the writer of this letter, continued, That is why "I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal." But we must all notice the rest of this verse, where Paul added very important words: "But the Word of God is not imprisoned." Through the centuries, many have been beaten, imprisoned, tortured, exiled and killed because of their understanding that to believe the Gospel of our Lord is not only the best part of life, but the Lord is so wonderful that they were willing give up EVERYTHING, if necessary, out of their love for Him. Even their lives.
How important is your life to you? When you honestly look at concepts like personal safety, health, being loved, wealth, and a good reputation, how do those needs compare to the idea of abandoning yourself to the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. The men and women who have truly given their lives to the Lord in such a manner have not only been blessed by their decision, but they also have tended to suffer because of it. Note again Paul's words: "The Word of God is not imprisoned." Each of us has a small part of transmitting the Gospel to the world, and some seem to contribute more than others, but the Word of God is not stopped by our limitations. The question for you and me is this: Are we willing to suffer hardship, whatever it takes, to live for our Lord?
Verse 10. "For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory."
"Those who are chosen" are the men and women who have experienced "adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself," simply by willingness to have faith in Him (Ephesians 1:5, 2:8). Ephesians 1:4 reports the amazing news that "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." Isn't that amazing? When we study Scripture, we make the amazing discovery that it wasn't the disciples and apostles that somehow were nice people who chose the Lord and were therefore accepted. Instead they were ordinary men and women who were going about their lives, working, living, loving, and it was the Lord who suddenly confronted them and demanded, "Follow Me," as you can read in places like Matthew 4:19. Is He calling you today?
And what is the problem in our lives today? Is it cancer? Are we imprisoned in some kind of situation that is difficult for us? Have we made mistakes that seem to be leading us to destruction? Did we waste many years and wish we could go back and start again? Has somebody or some group of people done something to us that is so terrible we can't get over it? Do we live in a repressive society or family that has caused us to know infinite sadness? Come to "Christ Jesus." Have you come to Him before this time? Come once more and this time let yourself fall into His loving arms and direct your life. He will enable you to "endure all things," finding that there is a great purpose in all you have endured. You are headed for His "eternal glory," and in the mind and heart of God, you are already there, hearing His words: "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Father, I confess to You that I have resisted giving myself utterly and completely to Your care. You have carefully been preparing me for eternal glory, but I have been transfixed by the here and now. I give myself utterly to You, knowing that You have a better plan for my life than I do. I love You, and now I surrender all. Thank You for loving me. In Jesus Name. Amen.
Audio Study - 2 Timothy 2:11-15
He Remains Faithful
Verse 11. "It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;"
It is a reality of life that we are born into humanity through a very risky, physical process, and if we survive that experience, we grow up, making our way through a jungle of threatening diseases. If we make it through all that, we are confronted by an adulthood filled with dangers and heartaches, and whether we succeed or fail in life, we begin to notice something very odd. The strength, the abilities, the reputation we gained through our struggle - it all begins to fade. Our once smooth skin begins to wrinkle. No matter how much we "work-out," our muscles weaken. Mentally we lessen, discovering that when we reach for a familiar word to describe some place or idea, the word is not there anymore. We may have had a good reputation and people listened to us, but our abilities are not what they once were and people listen to us less, smiling sadly as our words conclude.
For such reasons, Solomon bitterly commented about our lives: "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 1:2). But here is the amazing fact about us that few understand: we are dead! When God said to Adam in the Garden, "In the day you eat of it (the tree of knowledge of good and evil) you shall surely die" and He meant what He said (Genesis 2:17). Ever since our ancestors did what they did, humanity's relationship with the Lord has been severed - we are dead to God. And that is why Jesus Christ died for you and me: so we would come alive to God once more. Paul said in Romans 6:6-7 that "our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with... he who has died has been freed from sin." When Jesus entered that tomb, we entered that tomb with Him, along with our sins. When He returned to life, we who have faith in the Lord came alive and left that tomb with Him, but our sins stayed in that place of death - forever.
Verse 12. "If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us;"
Read Verse 11 and the commentary about it. You are offered the opportunity to become ALIVE in the sight of God; to be REFRESHED deep inside and know PEACE with God. What if you refuse that gift? What if you "deny Him?" as it says in this verse. For one thing, note that God is a true Gentleman who will not force you to place your faith in the Lord. This is very much a simple contract between consenting parties. God is offering you forgiveness, everlasting life, and even more wonderful, you, men and women, are offered the absolute certainty that in eternity you will "reign with Him," becoming servant-leaders, royalty actually, in a gentle eternity where you will be perfectly equipped to do a significant work that you will always enjoy. This is not some "pie-in-the-sky" idea, either. It's the Lord's promise for your life and mine.
The opposite is true as well. There really is a "hell" for those who reject the Lord. What would heaven be like if it were merely an everlasting extension of what this earth is like right now? It would be an awful place and God will protect His people from such an outcome. And note that those who reject Jesus Christ do so simply because they don't want God to control their lives. All "hell" really consists of is Him providing a place to go for those who reject the living God - they will get their wish and will not have to endure Him any longer. Such people can go on existing in a universe, an inescapable dimension, where God has withdrawn His offer of saving them from themselves. They can "Do It My Way," as Frank Sinatra sang, a few decades ago.
Verse 13. "If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself."
There are times when life hits us so hard it makes us wonder: Could a good God allow something like this to happen? And while the circumstances last and we are still upset, it may seem sometimes like our faith may not still exist. Then, at a later point in time, we begin to discover that He was with us all during our tribulation and we see that our faith actually has grown as a result of the experience. When You look back you may wonder, what if I had died during the time I was "away" from the Lord? Would I have been lost forever? The answer is: No, you would not be lost.
Everyone in some way is and has been "faithless" before God. We are that way when we hate our enemy and do not pray for them. We are faithless when we do not love one another. We are faithless when we neglect to pray. If it was left to us, our faith would not sustain even our salvation and we would all be lost. And yet there is a certain hope for you, for me and for every one who has ever called upon the name of the Lord: "He remains faithful." He who is always faithful "cannot deny Himself" - He will always think and act in a manner that will be consistent with the goodness of God, and His faithfulness is imputed to those who will place even the smallest bit of trust in Him.
Verse 14. "Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers."
For some, the doctrinal understanding of God, the Bible, the role of the church, of angels, of Creation, the Return of Christ and more, has become increasingly more complex after many years of study. As people, as amateur theologians (and all are amateurs because we are merely human), we have tended to make things more difficult as the years rolled by. And for many it has been an opportunity to disagree with others on fine points of doctrine. But there is a whole different way of how we should approach the Christian life in relation to other people.
When you simply ponder theology, the study of God, you can see that there are lots of reasons for people to argue. But when you think about salvation, about how to become right with God, the arguments should begin to lessen. Abraham found favor with God because "He believed the Lord, and He counted it to Him in righteousness" (Genesis 15:6). Paul revealed the way to please God by saying, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9-10) which is the same as it was for Abraham. Paul and Abraham both had faith in the Lord and if we allow ourselves to have such faith, we will meet them in eternity. But if we merely "wrangle about words" as so many do, we waste our breath. It is "useless" and leads many to "ruin."
Verse 15. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth."
Many have wondered about the "gift" Paul mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:6. It had been given to the younger man, as Paul said, "through the the laying on of my hands." However, the phrase in this verse, "accurately handling the Word of truth" in this verse does suggest that the gift given to the man by the grace of God, was in fact the gift of "teaching," as seen in places like 1 Corinthians 12:29 and the context of that verse. "Teaching" may take differing forms in different people, as it is created within us by the Holy Spirit. It seems to include a love of the written Word of God coupled with a deep desire to understand more, and you not only have an urgency to share what God has given you with others, but also you will find that others will surprisingly want to LISTEN to you about Scripture, whereas before they were not particularly interested.
The "Word of truth" mentioned in this verse is actually the "Gospel," the "good news" about Jesus Christ, as revealed in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the other writings of what we call "the New Testament," and also it is shown to us in varying forms throughout what is termed "the Old Testament." "Accurately handling the Word of truth" involves having our eyes opened to the intention of God in showing us His Son who lived in eternity, came to this earth, taught us, showed us God's power and mercy, died for our sins, rose from the dead and ascended back to the Father. Our teaching about Him will honestly reveal to others the truth about Him and give them the opportunity to place their faith in Him as we have done.
Father, help us to become less interested in wrangling about words, even when those words are from and about the Lord. And assist us in becoming much more inclined to seek the truth about the Lord without hitting others over the head with our understanding. Let us accurately handle the Word of Truth, and let all that we say and do be done in love. In Jesus Name. Amen.
Audio Study - 2 Timothy 2:16-20
Avoid Empty Chatter
Verse 16. "But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness,"
You might wonder: How much of what purports to be discussions about the Lord and His Word are actually the "worldly and empty chatter" of this verse? When I was in college, it was a shock to discover that a good number of the textbooks and classes presented to seminary students operate from an assumption that the Bible is not truth as we would understand it. A favorite word in such textbooks is "myth," often used disparagingly to describe the words of the prophets and the miracles of Jesus. Generations of ministerial students have been infected by such ideas. The human writers of Scripture were for the most part eyewitnesses of the events they wrote about, and here are authors, thousands of years later, objecting to events and words they had neither seen nor heard. God does do the impossible, which is what miracles are all about.
That's what Paul is concerned about in this statement to Timothy, so many centuries ago, and of course, the Lord God knew that the letter we call "Second Timothy" was to be an integral part of what we call, "Scripture," the "Word of God" or the "Bible," a word that originally meant "book." "Ungodliness" is something like the "gangrene" Paul will mention in the next verse. "Ungodliness" is a pervading disease which permeates our culture, ruining relationships between the generations, promoting wars between nations, ruining marriages and ending friendships. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 4:12 that "a threefold cord is not easily broken." Scripture is about relationships - it will help us and help those we relate to, but the Lord Himself and His love must be woven into our relationships, treaties, marriages and friendships or they will fail. Our empty talk leads to ungodliness and ruin in our lives.
Verse 17. "and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus,"
"Gangrene" was a plague in the world of the time when Paul wrote. Injuries were all too common, not only in the wars which were always occurring in proximity to every nation, but people were also hurt in peacetime as well, just like today. Nothing like penicillin had been invented or even thought about and when gangrene took hold in someone's body, it was almost always a death sentence for the afflicted person. Obviously the Lord could heal a victim of gangrene and likely Paul and Timothy had seen healings result from the prayers of faithful people, but the "talk" of this verse, interestingly compared to "gangrene," was considered by Paul to be about something very damaging as a spiritual infection which had the potential to ultimately destroy the church.
In this verse, Paul warned Timothy about two men who were examples of the time and effort wasted in the "worldly and empty chatter" he mentioned in Verse 16. Included was "Hymenaeus" named after the Greek "god" of marriage, a man Paul had previously ordered to be excommunicated from the church (1 Timothy 1:19). The other man was "Philetus" ("worthy of love") and the two of them were apparently going to the various churches in cities around or near the Mediterranean Sea of that time, teaching false, inflammatory doctrines which were contrary to the teachings of Paul, the other apostles, and especially their teachings were not from the Lord.
Verse 18. "men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some."
The mistake often made by those who are called "Christians" is that we, and I say "we" because I believe it applies to all of us - is that we fail to truly understand what are called the "spiritual gifts" given to us by and through the Lord Himself. The one who has the gift called "evangelism," tends to be annoyed that all of us do not knock on doors and lead the lost to Christ like they do. A person with the gift of "teaching" doesn't understand why everyone else doesn't spend as much time in studying the word as he (or she) does. "Why don't they visit the sick and pray for them like I do?" wonders the person with a gift of healing. And so on.
There are those whose focus on what is called "the end times" and wonder why others don't understand the seriousness of what they want to talk about. The "Hymenaeus and Philetus" of Verse 17 may be an example of such people. But the context suggests something worse. These men, Paul said, had "gone astray from the truth." They didn't talk and teach about the "end times" as something in the future, which it is, but instead as something that had "already taken place." Christians in the various churches these men had visited had become "upset." The words of these men were like saying to someone: "The rapture has already happened and you missed it!" And in doing so, those teachers had "gone astray from the truth," unnecessarily bringing fear into the lives of those who listened.
Verse 19. "Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, 'The Lord knows those who are His,' and, 'Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.'"
In the Old Testament, one of the many statements about the Messiah, the Christ who was to come, was that He would be "a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation..." (Isaiah 28:16). And we are reminded in the New Testament that, "No one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:11). He is our "firm foundation." Further on in that context it is revealed about us: "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16). We who have faith in Jesus Christ are built on the Lord who fills us with His Spirit, and we are sealed for the day of salvation.
Jesus Christ is our sure foundation. If we stand on Him, if we believe in Him, trust in Him and receive His love, though the world falls around us, we will stand. He is the only "firm foundation" we will ever have. And note in this verse that you are not some lost person on a far away planet, forgotten by everyone - "The Lord knows those who are His." You are not lost, you are not forgotten. He knows your name. He knows everything about you and He will bring you through. He only asks that you will give yourself to Him in return. And note that a great work of what is called "sanctification" (a word seen in Verse 21) is being done in your life - "Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness" and this is not done in our own strength. It is the Lord we stand in and upon, who will accomplish the VICTORY in your life and mine.
Verse 20. "Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor."
When you read the word, "vessel" in this context, it is helpful to think of the glasses and/or cups that you or your guests might drink out of. In some homes there are at least two sets of such drinking vessels. The ordinary ones are for everyday use and a special set is reserved for honored guests. The imagery here in these verses is that if you have faith in the Lord, you are one of His vessels, either similar to the "gold and silver vessels" used for special occasions at the time Paul wrote, or those made from carved wood, seldom found today, but in common use at that time. Much like today there were also vessels made of "earthenware" (fired clay). The ones made of precious metals he called vessels of "honor" and the others were considered to be of "dishonor" by comparison.
From a human vantage point there is nothing particularly wrong with the latter vessels, but from God's perspective and for the purpose of the parable described in this verse, the difference is very great. God has been creating a special group of people out of humanity since the beginning of time. They have been washed and made clean by the blood of Christ. And note that God considers His people to be like beautiful, clean vessels, with intricate designs etched upon us, with words like, "faithful, full of love, hopeful, righteous, Christ's" and more, written there. Such people are soon to be presented as precious vessels at what is called "the wedding supper of the Lamb" and all of His vessels are on this earth for His purposes right now, awaiting His soon return.
Father, we offer our hearts and lives to You, asking that You will purify us and help us to be clean in thoughts, words and actions. We trust in You, Lord, and ask, please fill us with Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus Name. Amen.
Audio Study - 2 Timothy 2:21-26
Vessels of Honor
Verse 21. "Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work."
The "vessels" mentioned here and in the previous verse are intended by the Lord to be washed clean. In the work of God, we who have faith in Him were something like dirty dishes - caked with muddy sin; but we were thoroughly washed by what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. But then like the drinking vessels in the cupboard of a typical home, if they are not used for a time, dust will settle upon them and they must be rinsed before additional use. The "dust" and other impurities that cover our lives and make us less fit for the Lord's purposes are seen in words and phrases we will encounter in the verses of this chapter. We are made clean by fleeing from youthful lusts (Verse 22), from foolish and ignorant speculations along with quarrels (Verses 23-24), and from worldly and empty chatter as we saw in Verse 16.
We need help, for just like the glass in our cupboard that needs to be rinsed clean, we cannot effectively wash ourselves. It is the Lord Himself who does it. Jesus said to His disciples, "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you" (John 15:3). And then He continued, "Abide in Me. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me" (John 15:4). Reading on from those verses reveals that we are not to do all of this alone, for the Holy Spirit of God has been given to us. Yes we are to make ourselves clean, but what we have to do is being done for us by the Spirit of God.
Verse 22. "Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart."
One of the disturbing aspects of our "modern" culture is that "youthful lusts" are actually being encouraged in most of the countries in the world. Outsiders could look at what are the latest "fads" and see that the world is becoming what many have called in the past a "decadent" civilization. And it's happening everywhere. Little concern is given to "righteousness, faith, love and peace," even though the actions associated with those words are valued highly by the Lord. Those words are included within a list of what is called "the fruits of the Spirit" in Galatians 5:22-23. Another word there is "self-control," a subject about which our "modern" culture seems to care little about.
It should be noted by those who purport to be a part of the church that people in other religions look seriously at us and believe our actions more than our words. If we have a reputation for being "Christians," we are under scrutiny. There was a time, early in the formation of the USA, when the European settlers in America were drifting away from Christ, and the Lord sent men like Jonathan Edwards, urging the people he called "sinners," to get right with "an angry God." Many were "born again" as Jesus called it in John 3:3,7, and it can be argued that certain countries only exist because some of its citizens trust in Jesus. Whoever we are, we need to turn our backs on the mentality of "youthful lusts" and instead repent, pursuing the "righteousness, faith, love and peace" He gives, calling out in prayer "from a pure heart."
Verse 23. "But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels."
The concerns noted in relation to Verse 22 are not the focus of most who say they are a part of the religious system called "Christianity." People want to look young, act young and do things that young people do, no matter how old they may be. Plastic surgery, cosmetics, hair replacement and more - people are choosing "youthful lusts" over "righteousness, faith, love and peace;" over hearts made pure by the Lord. Plastic surgery to repair a disfigurement is wonderful, but the process becomes ugly when it is done merely because of vanity. Our outward appearance is far less important than what we are inside.
We are at our best when we merely are what we are, using the gifts He has given us, and avoiding "foolish and ignorant speculations" which, as this verse so clearly states, only "produce quarrels." The world looks at the church and decides we are superficial, vain, deceitful and argumentative. The fact that "ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) escapes their notice, for people like to point accusingly at others and try to avoid blame themselves. We in the church need to "examine (ourselves) as to whether (we) are in the faith" (2 Corinthians 13:5), for the world is looking and deciding we fall short of the glory of God.
Verse 24. "The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,"
Sometimes Christians act like they think God is some sort of personal-assistant. We tell Him what we want, insist that He answers our need and become angry when He doesn't seem to do it. The word for "bond-servant" in this verse should be a wake-up call for us to recognize that most of us are badly mistaken about who we are in relation to the One who created us. The Greek word here is "doulos," which means we are the bond-slaves of God. He is the One who directs us and tells us what He wants, not the other way around. And He is the One who should be angry, not us, for humanity is in rebellion against Him.
A great deal of conversation among Christians remains superficial, because if we talked about deep things, a fight might break out. "Quarrelsome" here was a word generally used of armed combatants, those who engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Instead of such words, we are indeed to speak meaningfully, but we are also to be "kind to all," gently sharing with others in a spirit of loving honesty. We will be "wronged" by others, but those are moments when we pray, letting the Holy Spirit answer in and through us with the profound patience that comes from God.
Verse 25. "with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,"
There were many in opposition to the teachings of the Apostle Paul, the writer of this Second Letter to Timothy. Some just didn't like him and many had some kind of agenda they wished to present. Paul mentioned two men, "Hymenaeus and Philetus," earlier in this chapter. They went around telling people that "the resurrection has already taken place," for some reason, which shook the faith of many who listened to their words. They spoke something of the truth for there will be a resurrection, but assigned it to the past as though it had already happened, which was a lie.
Paul knew precisely how it felt to be lied about, to be slandered in a manner that would lead others away from "the knowledge of the truth." We are indeed to prayerfully correct those who are in opposition to the Word of God, but do it with "gentleness" when we can. Such a response is usually impossible for two obvious reasons: If we reply meekly they might not listen, and second, if we answer with strength, we can become "quarrelsome" as Paul warned about in the preceding verse. There is no formula about how to act, but rather we look to God in each situation, understanding that, "When I am weak, then I am strong" as Paul noted in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. It is God's words we need; not our own.
Verse 26. "and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will."
Sometimes, when we are attacked because we love the Lord, He will whisper into our hearts, "Say nothing!" and we should be quiet. As a general rule, whatever our response is, we are to respond "with gentleness" if possible, as Paul advised in Verse 25. In any case, we are to look to the Lord and not merely trust in some ability we might think we have. The hope is that "God may grant them repentance," that those who are deluded will be led out of lies and into the truth.
The youthful lusts, the foolish and ignorant speculations and the quarrels mentioned in the preceding verses, are, as Paul said, from the "devil." That doesn't mean that you can excuse bad behavior by saying, "The devil made me do it," for James observed that "each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires..." (James 1:14). We all would prefer others to like us, to listen to us and believe what we say, and unfortunately both sides in an argument are often wrong because they argue from selfish motives. We are to pray and look to the Lord, for His motives are infinitely good.
Lord, we come to You now, understanding that our motives tend to be poor. We ask, Holy Spirit, for Your strong gentleness to fill us, along with the love that comes from God. Keep us in truth. We pray that our words and actions will lead others and ourselves to repentance and to the Lord. In Jesus Name. Amen.