2 TIMOTHY 2
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14 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.
A certain amount of metaphysical subtlety is doubtless essential to complete mental action: but there is always a danger that it may run away with the lion's share of mental energy, and leave the mind impoverished. As in some departments of natural philosophy, men reason themselves out of the recognition of all facts whatever, so there is a possibility of metaphysical disputation dissolving the substance of the truth, and robbing the mind of all the joy, and love, and praise that the facts of the truth inspire.
The metaphysicians of the first three centuries of the Christian era blighted the work of the truth as effectually as the hot wind of the desert parches vegetation. The glory and the joyfulness of the gospel were lost amid their arid definitions and cantankerous disputations; and the faith of Christ was reduced... to as ugly and lifeless a thing as Barnum's manufactured mermaid, or the showman's Egyptian mummy. Like causes produces like effects. There is a danger of the joy and the beauty of the truth being destroyed by metaphysical contentiousness at this supreme hour of destiny, when the advent is nearly due.
A contention for the faith once delivered to the saints is a totally different thing. But even this dies down in the shadow of the judgment-seat. For everything there is a time. It is far more important at such a time as this to establish truth-believers than to contradict errorists.
It is far more important to bring forth the fruits of the spirit than to expose the pretences of superstition. It is far more important to comfort the heart of believers by the joyful facts of the truth than to bewilder both stranger and saints by the endless logic-choppings of metaphysical ingenuity. There is such a thing as propensity in these directions: which differs as much from the wise handling of knowledge as the brandishing of razors by children differs from the use of tools in the hands of trained mechanics. The mischief will never stop till the Lord comes. Still, it may be minimised in many cases by the reminders that are said to be useful for those who love wisdom.
The Christadelphian Dec 1896
15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
The character of a man's faith is altered by the quantity and quality of his knowledge.
...We may choose Christ, but he may not choose us. Our election turns not upon our choice, but upon his. We may choose him upon our own principles, while he rejects us upon his. He chooses us through a belief of the truth, the unadulterated truth; men choose him by believing what suits them, and rejecting the rest. Such may choose Jesus as their "portion forever," but they will assuredly have no portion in his joy.
Herald Apr 1853 - Our position scriptural and tenable.
But how? When we contemplate the endless multitude of theories developed on the supposed basis of the Word of God, we wonder how we should go about avoiding similar pitfalls. But actually it is not the problem that it may appear. The Truth is simple. It is adjusted to our mental capacity. As long as we hold fast to its simple elements, we are safe. And it has largely to do with our way of life. Jesus said (John 7:17) --
"If any man will DO God's will, he shall know of the doctrine."
Truly much of Scripture requires study, but there is plenty that is very clear and of practical bearing on our lives, and if we do this part then -- and only then -- will we know the other. *
Rightly dividing the word of truth
The Bible, like nature, is so constructed, that if a man does not use his senses, he may easily break his bones. There are plenty of occasions for stumbling, if a man is not anxious about true and careful walking. "Not of works, lest any man should boast," gives the libertine excuse for any sinful indulgence to which he may be prone. "Not every one that saith, Lord, Lord," gives another occasion to justify his disregard of doctrinal truth. "God, the Saviour of all men," helps a third to believe it is a wide gate that leads to salvation.
The Christadelphian, Sept 1887
16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.
17 And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;
"The depths of the Satan as they spoke" in apostolic times, were the speculations of Hymeneus and Philetus, and of the many other false prophets that had gone out into the world, acuminated in Origen and others (2 Tim. ii. 17; 1 John iv. 1), whose "word," or teaching, Paul said would "eat as doth a gangrene."
This is known by all pathologists to be destructive of all organization, and consequently of life. The word-gangrene of "the Satan" has consummated its work upon the theory and practice of christianity apostolically delivered. This is obvious to all scripturally enlightened observers of the spiritual system of the world. The word is not preached by the clergy, who are ignorant of the first principles of the oracles of God. They preach the dogmas they have traditionally received from the "false prophets" they style "the Fathers" -- the fathers of their "Holy Orders," at the head of which is "the Holy Father" they term "the Pope."
These fathers were the perverters of the gospel Paul preached, by their inventions, which substituted sacramentalism for faith; nullified the doctrine of a resurrection to judgment; abolished the kingdom; transmuted the great mystery of godliness into scholastic jargon about "trinity;" destroyed the sacrifice of the christian passover by affirming the immaculateness of Christ's flesh; in short, totally abolished the faith, and instead thereof, set up a system of RHANTIZED HEATHENISM, which may be defined, the sacramental deliverance of immortal ghosts from Plutonic fire and brimstone, and consequent translation into an Elysium beyond the realms of time and space!!!
This definition is the symbol of "the depths of the Satan as they speak" now from the pulpits of Satandom in all the world. The Satan's ministers, transformed, as Paul says, into ministers of righteousness, all proclaim the heathen dogma of a soul or spirit in man capable of disembodied existence in eternal weal or woe; and all the religion or pietistic invention they have patented proposes or professes to do, is to save this phantom from the flames of their Tartarus, and land it in Elysium, which they call Paradise!
It is this pagan dogma which lies at the bottom of all their "depths." Abolish this, and the religion of the clergy is abolished too; for their religion, which is "a cure" for such "souls," can be of no use to the people if it be proved that there are no such souls in them to be cured. Hence the clergy, when they find courage enough for the conflict, fight hard for hereditary immortality an immortality derived hereditarily from the earthy Adam, the first sinner upon whom the sentence of death was pronounced by the judge of all the earth.
A man under sentence of death is as a dead man. Immortality derived from a dead man by natural generation, is the immortality for which the clergy contend in all their "depths." Without it, their craft is destroyed and their occupation gone. It is the great sand-bag of their system, which, when removed from the foundation-corner of their temple, leaves it without support, and in its fall, reveals to the contempt of all observers the shallowness of "the depths as they speak."
18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
To deter men from crime, and to move them to "get religion" that their souls may be cured of sin, frightful pictures are painted, sometimes on canvas, sometimes on the imagination, and sometimes sculptured on stones, of the crackling and sulphurous flames, hideous devils, and horrid shapes, which fill the Tartarian habitation of the immortal ghosts of wicked men. This destiny of condemned ghosts was a part of the "vain philosophy" of the Greeks and Romans before the advent of Christ.
It was introduced into the churches of the saints soon after "God granted repentance to the Gentiles" (Acts xi. 18). But, as the apostles taught the resurrection of the mortal body (Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:42-54) the dogmatism of the Greeks was variously modified. Some admitted the resurrection of the dead; but, as it interfered with their hypothesis about souls, they said it was already past (2 Tim. 2:18); and consequently, that "there is no resurrection of the dead" (1 Cor. 15:12).
This gentilizing the hope of the gospel filled Paul with zeal, and caused him to pen the fifteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians to counteract its pernicious influence. He wrote to Timothy to put him on his guard against it; and styles the gentilisms, "profane vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called" (1 Tim. 6:20). He exhorts him to shun them, and "not to strive about words to no profit;" for they "would eat as doth a canker" (2 Tim. 2:14, 16, 17).
Elpis Israel 1.2.
19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
Men may waver back and forth, but the foundation standeth sure: and all who will may stand by it -- be they many or few. Paul's concern was to keep the foundation before the eyes of men, regardless of the appearances or conditions in the external Christian body all around him. *
20 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 honour, and some to dishonour.
The apostle, far from despondency, sounded out from his prison-cell inspiring words of courage, and patience, and glorious hope. Without bitterness, but with terrible significance, he points out to Timothy, that in a great house there are not only vessels of honour, but also vessels of dishonour. *
21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.
If a man will purify himself, he shall be among the vessels of honour, he says. This may seem a strange way to give encouragement, but it would help Timothy to realize that ecclesial disappointments and difficulties do not necessarily mean an abandonment by God, but are rather a part of the divine wisdom of probation. *
23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.
"Shun profane and vain babblings" (v. 16).
"Avoid foolish and unlearned questions" (v. 23).
One thing it will do us good to remember -- it is much easier and more flesh-pleasing to dream and speculate than to study and learn. Imagination has timeless wings, but solid learning is slow, and plodding, and against the grain, especially scriptural learning. Let us briefly consider Paul's three points.
1. "Strive not about words." Words are just tools. Much strife has been caused by attaching different meanings to a word. Our contact with the mind of the Spirit is through the recorded words of Scripture, so let us study to get the true meaning of those words, and to use them properly. Let us never think we know the meaning of a word until we have looked it up and have checked its use through Scripture. Words as they are commonly and locally used are often very inaccurate. The greatest pitfall is thinking we know, without making the effort to really find out. The Word of God is the only true education there is, but it is not something we can peck at. To get anywhere we must, as Paul told Timothy, give ourselves "wholly to it."
2. "Shun profane and vain babblings." On the face of it we thoughtlessly assume that that never applies to us. But the real meaning is just empty, human talking -- that is, the natural expressing of natural thought. The natural mind is foolish in God's sight. Man can learn and observe facts, and modern man has made great strides in applying learned facts to modern inventions. In spiritual realms he must learn and stick to the facts -- the revealed facts -- he is lost if he begins to speculate on what is not revealed.
3. "Foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they gender strifes." There are many unanswered questions in the Bible, and they are often bandied profitlessly back and forth, while the practical meat of divine instruction is overlooked. The real teaching of Christ bears down hard on the flesh, so naturally the flesh prefers to turn its attention to side issues which do not relate to the way of life.
But when we read the Scriptures, let us try to keep our attention on the heart of the flesh-mortifying teaching, and not allow it to deceitfully expend itself on the incidental scenery, for the heart of man is "deceitful above all things." Let us concentrate on the practical aspects -- the holiness, the service to God and others, the self-denial, the kindness and meekness, the purification, the eschewing of earthly treasures and pleasures, the faith and fearless allegiance to Jesus, the humble, lowly way of life -- *
24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
So Paul sets forth the way to contend 2 Tim 2 : To develop skill in the Word (v. 15), which will enable us to discern what to avoid (v. 16) and to refuse (v. 23). For an effective and efficient servant will not waste his time and spend his strength in ignorant questions and profane babblings, in arguments concerning words to no profit, in philosophy and vain deceit after the traditions of men and not after Christ.
A gentle, peaceful, forbearing and patient spirit must be cultivated. Negatively, we should not strive over trifles (v. 23) nor with acerbity of temper, nor for mere victory (v. 24). Positively, be gentle, use persuasive skill (apt to teach), be forbearing, do not retaliate (vv. 24-25), seek divine help (v. 25). Have a clear aim (conversion under God's influence: v. 25). Then the true and faithful spiritual labourer will be revealed. - GEM, Logos.
The word used here means "fight" or "quarrel" and is never scripturally used in a good sense. (Five other words are also translated "strive"). If we can accomplish this basic attitude, then we have the groundwork for the gradual bringing unto perfection of the fruit of the Spirit. But it must go deep. The natural, evil, irritable, human tendency to quarrel must be completely dissolved away by the mind of the Spirit, not just side-tracked into other channels by being given a spiritual veneer. The servant of the Lord must not strive, fight, or quarrel, but must be calm, patient, and gentle toward all. *
25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
If we can bring ourselves to realize that all things are at all times in the unerring and almighty hand of God, and that we are each but a small cog in a vast machine, we shall not be trapped into that self-important anxiety that leads to hastiness and harshness.
When we see worldliness, and unclean, debasing habits gaining ground in an ecclesia; when we see modern customs and fashions making a mockery of scriptural ordinances: when we see some we have loved and labored with drifting away into looser groups that have the appeal of numbers; when we see attendances gradually diminishing and worldly things interfering even on Sunday mornings, we are apt to become despondent and panicky. But why should we? Did Paul? NO! *
*Bro Growcott - No Man Stood With Me.