Lesson 25: "The Lord Knoweth Them That Are His." (II-Timothy 2:19)
Paul's Letters To Preachers. Welcome again! This is lesson # 25 (beginning in II-Tim. 2:14). Please get that N.T. on your workbench, open and ready to read. We would like to finish ch. 2 in this lesson, 13 more verses; but, we'll read only v.14-15 to start. Please get tuned-in, here we go; beginning in II-Tim. 2:14,let's read.
"Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
Alright, verse by verse, notice how v.14 starts with the words: "of these things..." In these words, the apostle ties the thought he presents here back into his discussion we covered in our last lesson (i.e. v.1-13): be a good soldier of Jesus Christ, do it with the determination of a good athlete, be patient like the farmer who must wait for the harvest and be willing to suffer if necessary, just like the apostle himself. That section ended with Paul's "faithful saying," recorded in v.11-12-13...IF, IF, IF, IF. If we be dead with Christ, (that's a reference to baptism in which we crucify the old man that we are (or were) and rise to walk in a new life, Rom. 6:4). The old person that we were is crucified, i.e. "that the body of sin might be destroyed," Rom. 6:6). In further discussing this, down in Rom. 6:11, the apostle said: "reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God..." You see, this brings about a mental change on our part. It's more than just a mental change; however, it includes a conscious mental change on our part. The apostle Peter said: "baptism...[is] the answer of a good conscience toward God," (I-Pet. 3:21). Thus, IF we do this, "if we be dead with" (v.11), i.e. dead with Christ, THEN WHAT? "Then we shall also live with him" (Paul answers in the last of v.11). Then as part of that "newness of life," i.e. the Christian life (here in v.12, he says), "If we suffer," i.e. with Christ is implied; THEN WHAT? Then, the apostle answers: "we shall also reign with him," or in other words be a part of his kingdom. On the other hand, "if we deny him," instead of suffering with him, then the apostle answers that contingency (end of v.12), "he also will deny us." You see, we have a part in this; we can obey in baptism (have that answer of a good conscience), i.e. put on the new man, or we can reject God and not obey. However, if we deny Christ and God in this way; then, they will deny us and we will not be part of His kingdom. You see, to be part of that kingdom, we must do something, the contingency is built upon "if we"..."IF WE be dead with him...", "IF WE suffer...", "IF WE deny...", it depends upon us...NOT upon God. Finally (v.13), even "IF WE believe not" it will not change God in any way. "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself."
Now, all of this thought is encompassed in "these things" (here in v.14), i.e. "Of these things put them in rememberance..." In other words, this is a summary of what Timothy should teach. The soldier, the farmer, the athlete and the apostle Paul himself are examples of HOW it should be done and HOW Timothy should faithfully present it. Then point #2, (in v.14), going even beyond that, Timothy is to CHARGE THEM not to strive about "words to no profit," i.e. don't get into big arguments and big discussion over little petty things that, in the apostle's words: will subvert the hearers (end v.14). In other words, getting into methods, etiquette, technicalities, private interpretations, ethnic slants (and such like) may get people involved in those petty distinctions and turn them off without ever getting down to the meat of the thought. In contrast to that attitude (going to v.15), "Study to show thyself approved unto God." The word "study" here in the KJV gives preachers something to harp on; but, none of the other translations (that I have), use the word "study." So, I think in the Greek, the idea may have been more associated with proper attitude (here) than just plain reading and research as we sometime interpret the word. For example, in the Knox translation, it is said like this: "Aim first at winning God's approval." Now, I'm not trying to argue that, that's a more accurate translation (that I don't know), I'm simply giving an example, trying to milk out the thought. Then, the last part of v.15, "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" is more or less a restatement of that "winning God's approval" thought, isn't it? In other words be precise and accurate.
Then, as the apostle usually does, he gives the contrast in the next verse (v.16), here's the other side of the coin. Let's read v.16...please read: "But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness." In other words, this is where denominational creeds come from, this is the hot bed that generates volume after volume of theological nonsense, this is the thing that keeps us divided and splintered and then sometimes glued or united back together in a skewed form or ill shaped confederation (if you will) that doesn't fit the pattern. America is loaded with that kind of organizations and that kind of nonsense. As a matter of fact, true American thinking (so-to-speak) PROMOTES THAT, as dumb as that sounds, that's true. Democracy gone to seed and applied to the church. Go to the church of your choice, do your own thing. AND, this is WRONG! Absolutely wrong! The apostle condemns it from start to finish. Stick strictly to the word. If we could just learn this in this lesson, then we could practically throw out the rest of the course; because, this is the center of confusion. And, it's NOT something NEW! Look at verse (v.17), the apostle illustrates his point. We'll read v.17-18, have you got it? Two more verses, here we go: "And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hyrneneus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some." O.K., that's Paul's example of this nonsense and that's Paul's analysis. Now, I know nothing about Hymeneus and Philetus. Their homespun doctrine is not exactly clear to me, AND I don't have to understand their doctrine to get Paul's point. One of these guys, Hymeneus, the apostle Paul mentioned once before back in I-Tim. 1:20 along with a man named Alexander; however, nothing is said there that clarifies his erroneous doctrine. The man Philetus is not mentioned elsewhere to my knowledge. What do we do with such people and how do you handle such nonsense? The apostle Paul said he "delivered [them] unto Satan." (I-Tim. 1:20). That simply means: consider them lost. I'm not being judgmental, I'm just telling you what the apostle said. Deliver that nonsense to Satan, it fits in Satan's department. If it is not truth, if it is error (v.17), then toss it out. Stick to the word, stick to the truth. Let Satan take care of his business. You take care of your business. And, don't overlook the ramifications. I'm not exactly sure what Paul had in mind in that word "canker" (v.17). Some translate the word "cancer" and others render it "gangrene" or blood poisoning. So, you see here is one of those places we don't have to get down to petty distinctions to get the point. You understand that it's deadly stuff, don't you? These false teachers, Hymeneus and Philetus said: "the resurrection is past already." I would assume by that description, that they were teaching there would be no second coming of Christ and no general resurrection of the dead, as the apostle Paul very distinctly taught there will be (back in I-Cor. ch 15). Possibly they were teaching the resurrection was figurative or some other slant. Whatever they were teaching, the apostle says in this verse, they erred...that is not the truth. Every time I read this verse about Hymeneus and Philetus and what they were teaching, I can't help but think of a book I have in my library someplace that was written very near the time of World War I, by a man named Judge Rutherford, entitled: Millions Now Living Shall Never Die. This man prophesied that Christ would return some time in 1920 or 1921 (he gave a precise date). When it didn't happen, his followers said: "HE CAME, you just didn't see him." According to them, only a select few people saw Christ return. But, you know that Rev. 1:7 says, "every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him..." It's amazing, Hymeneus and Philetus got a following, Paul said: they "overthrow the faith of some" (end of v.18). Their teaching grew like a canker on the church at Ephesus. Paul delivered them to Satan.
Now, go back up and re-read v.13 one more time, that's part of Paul's faithful saying: "If we do not believe," i.e. if our faith is overthrown like the faith of some were who followed Hymeneus and Philetus, Paul said: "yet he [i.e. Christ Jesus] abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself." In other words, such errors and departures from the truth as Paul gave (in his example here) don't change the church. It doesn't change the doctrine of Christ. It doesn't change the truth of the matter. Christ did not depart from them, they simply departed from Christ. Then, tune-in the next verse, I'm talking about v.19, let's read it (now, get it in context, the apostle has just used these two false teachers and their new homespun doctrine as an example of profane and vane babblings), Paul said: "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his." You can't fool the Lord! The Lord knows those who are following him, studying and seeking his approval. And, the Lord knows those who are inventing unto themselves new doctrines and new creeds and re-naming themselves, i.e. denominating themselves. Then in the rest of that verse, Paul said (let's read it): "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." The word "iniquity" is simply another word for "SIN." You can't follow Christ and follow mammon at the same time, that's what Jesus said (Matt. 6:24). If you are not getting it right, then you are following Satan. Jesus said, "he that is not with me is against me" (Matt. 12:30). You can't have it both ways. And it couldn't be said plainer. Yes, but Bro. Horsley, there is some good in all churches. One's just as good as another! Don't be taken in by such philosophy. That does not correspond to what Paul is saying (here). There is one Lord, one faith and one church (Eph. 4:4). Anything beyond that is "iniquity."
Alright, v.20, let's read the rest of chapter two. Beginning in v.20, we'll read down through v.26, let's read: "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient; in meekness instructing those who oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will."
O.K., back to v.20, another of Paul's illustrations. What's this vessels business? Do you get the illustration? The apostle here compares the church, the camp of the saints, to a dwelling, i.e. an ordinary household or home. The church of Christ is of course greater, "a great house" the apostle calls it. The master of an ordinary house is the father or the husband. Of course in the church or the kingdom, this refers to Christ or God. In an ordinary household, we have a lot of containers, almost everything we use is a container, did you ever think of it like that? A simple spoon, you use to eat with is a container, you fill that little container on your plate and use it to carry the food to your mouth. We honor these little containers and call it silverware. They are usually made of sterling silver or some places they may be gold plated. We honor these little containers by making them of the very best of materials. An ordinary dinner plate is a container usually made from china or a fancy form of ceramic material. A pot you cook in is a container or a "vessel," that's Paul's word for it. Cooking utensils are usually made from good metals. The drawers in your kitchen where you store silverware, food, dishcloths and similar materials are usually made from wood; but, they are a form of a container, a vessel (if you will). Your waste can (or garbage can) IS A CONTAINER or a vessel. Some are made from plastic today; but, at the time of Paul they were made from earth, i.e. they were clay pots, we would say. Now, we don't bestow much honor upon a garbage can; although, it is a very necessary vessel and serves the master and the members of his household in a very useful and necessary way. It takes a lot of vessels and containers to make a good home. A room is in essence a container. What about closets and coal bins and cellars and attacks and on and on? The church of Jesus Christ is made up of vessels, i.e. vessels called people, Christian people. They contain the word, they serve the master in the mission of the church, i.e. to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Now, what kind of a vessel are you? Well, how do you serve the master? What do you do in his service? Now, just an ordinary old wooden drawer is very useful in a household, it gets pulled and tugged and pushed and slammed; but, it's part of the necessary operation of a household. Do you get Paul's illustration? Be a good vessel! Serve the master! Purge yourself! i.e. clean yourself up spiritually and shine in the master's service. How do you do that? "Flee youthful lusts" (v.22). "Follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace." Do your part, serve along with your brethren "that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." Don't strive (v.24) and argue and use profane babblings (v.16, the apostle has already been over that). In contrast (v.24), "be gentile unto all men, apt to teach, patient; in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves." You know, if that old garbage can gets too cruddy, the master of the house sometimes replaces it. If a container no longer serves our purpose, we send it to the dump. However, if we serve well (v.25-26), we by example and by our conduct, encourage others in God's church to serve well, to acknowledge the truth (end v.25), to repent and change their mind and shine up that old vessel they are. They are given an opportunity to "recover themselves out of the snare of the devil." Either you are a vessel in the Lord's great house, or you are a vessel in Satan's army. Is Satan using you? Whose vessel are you? Does Satan capture you once and awhile and use you in his cause? Do you get the apostle's illustration? Timothy, be a good vessel AND have a good day!