2 Timothy 2:14-19 – Worker, approved or ashamed?

2 Timothy 2v14-19


The world in which we lived is complex, complicated and can be quite confusing. We live in a multicultural, multi-faith world. In the past people of other faiths and cultures tended to live “over there”. The majority of people we mixed with were of the same culture and same basic faith – Christianity – even if they didn’t practice it.
Today the fastest growing religion in the UK is Paganism – People have largely turned away from the church to embrace other faiths or no faith. People are generally less concerned about ‘Truth’ and more concerned about comfort and feeling happy and self-fulfilled.
This is reflected in the political correctness of our day where it is considered unacceptable to say what someone else does or believes is wrong unless it interferes with someone else’s lifestyle.
TV chat shows reflect this – there is generally an exchange of views but less often is there any conclusion reached as to what is actually right or wrong.
Pop music reflect this – a year or so back the group “Manic Street Preachers” had a song entitled [something like] “This is my truth tell me yours”

Many today believe that there is no such thing as absolute truth and basically we humans make our own truth – and they are generally happy as long as every one else’s truth agrees with my truth!!
Interesting that logically to claim there is no absolute truth is self-contradictory because that is an absolute statement!

From a purely human perspective it is probably true that every one’s opinion is equally valid BUT such a position leads to meaninglessness.
What the writer of Ecclesiastes, probably Solomon, wrote many centuries ago, “Form an under the sun point of view everything is meaningless!”

For the Christian, however, there is a strong belief in absolute truth – not a truth which we have concocted but as revealed from a God who is Truth.

The challenge and responsibility placed upon us therefore is to handle this revealed truth correctly so that God’s Word of Truth remains true and that we therefore will receive his approval and not be ashamed before Him because we have done a bad job by distorting / denying his revealed Truth.
Of course the supreme revelation / pinnacle of God’s Truth is Jesus Christ. John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. …
Paul in writing this letter to Timothy has commended him for faithfully receiving God’s Word of Truth and has instructed him to faithfully entrust it to others [2v2]

The primary task of the Christian worker is to convey the Word of Truth.
This applies esp. to those like pastor/teachers because it is how they earn their living, BUT this applies to every Christian – the task of passing on God’s message about Jesus Christ.

There are two kinds of workers Paul tells us – those who are approved – tried and tested and found to be true AND those who ought to be ashamed of themselves for corrupting the truth.

What are the criteria by which some are approved and some are ashamed?
It is how they handle / treat the Word of Truth / the good deposit of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Is their handling of God’s revealed Word of Truth accurate and straight and true?


2 Timothy 2:15 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (NIV)

correctly handles [rightly dividing –KJV]

Lit. means not to divide but to cut straight. This is the only time in the NT that this word is used. It is used twice in the Greek translation of the OT; viz.:-
Proverbs 3:6 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 11:5 5 The righteousness of the blameless makes a straight way for them, …..

So the picture is one of cutting a straight furrow through a field – cutting a straight road through the countryside. In our modern car-oriented world cutting a motorway that is straight and true so the traveller may follow the way to the destination.

Timothy has received from Paul the word of truth – the good deposit of apostolic teaching – in short the bible.
To ‘cut it straight’ or to ‘make it straight’ is quite simply to be accurate in the interpretation and explanation of the Bible so that those who hear can understand it.

It is essential that ALL believers, but esp. those with responsibility to teach the scriptures, devote time to bible study and prayer. That is why when I came to Binscombe I asked that unless it is an emergency, you do not disturb me in the mornings so that I can devote myself to the study of God’s Word. {I repeat the request} Why? Because I don’t want to talk to you? NO!! BUT because if I am going to teach the bible accurately and faithfully I need time to study and pray. Most mornings of the week Tue – Fri from 0845 – 1300 I am in my study [sometimes in the house for peace and quiet – Toddlers etc.].

Now I must give more time to this task because it is my job and I have more time …. BUT, and it is a BIG BUT, it is not ONLY the task of those whose job it is. ALL believers are require to study God’s Word / to meditate / to pray / to learn God’s Word of Truth.
Without this there will be no spiritual development – I have been thrilled to see how excited those doing the SEAN courses are about learning God’s Word of Truth. Learning to cut/make straight.

In our handling of the Word of Truth we must be scrupulously careful that we ourselves stay on the pathway / highway and avoid side roads and detours BUT also that we make it easy for others to follow. That we do not behave like the Pharisees of Jesus Day of whom he was fiercely critical. He condemned them because them put obstacles in the way and burden’s on people’s shoulders that hindered belief and trust in God.


Paul changes metaphor now from road building / ploughing straight to shooting a bow and arrow.

2 Timothy 2:17-18 17 … Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 .. have wandered away from the truth. … (NIV)

wandered away – comes from the word for target and lit. means to ‘miss the mark’ or to ‘deviate from’ something.

Paul accusation against these bad workers is that as far as the Word of Truth is concerned they have missed the mark / swerved from the Truth / shot wide of the Truth.

One of the subtleties of Satan is not that he tries to get us Christians to deny the Truth completely BUT simply to deviate sufficiently to miss the target. And as the saying goes “A miss is as good as a mile!”

ILLUS.: So to claim, for example, that Jesus was a good man, did miracles, and even died on a cross a martyr’s death BUT to deny he was Divine and rose from the dead is to miss the mark!
To believe that somehow we can earn God’s approval by good deeds when the Bible clearly teaches that salvation us by God’s gracious gift alone is to miss the target and deviate from Word of Truth.

Paul has used two metaphors to test whether or not a worker is good or bad.
 In respect of the Word of Truth being a Target – does he hit it or miss it?
 In respect of the Word of truth bring a road / furrow – does he cut straight or crooked?

What Timothy, and others including you and me, teach is bound to have an effect on others for better or worse.
If we cut straight others can keep to the way.
If we miss the target attention is bound to follow the arrow and focus will be drawn away from the target – in this case the Word of Truth.
Paul gives an illustration of this very point:-
2 Timothy 2:17-18 17 … Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 .. have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. (NIV)

Of course, in one sense the resurrection has taken place – Christ is raised and we are raised with him YET our bodily resurrection is still to come –what these two were teaching was that this resurrection had already happened. It was the begin of a heresy that developed fully later on known as Gnosticism – meaning knowledge. This basically taught that the body was an evil hindrance to the spiritual fulfilment therefore any thought of a bodily resurrection was undesirable. They believed that human could be realised from the evil body by attaining spiritual knowledge.
By spiritualising faith this way it became very mystical and intangible.

We find not dissimilar thinking and belief in Post-Modern New Age beliefs. Basically any mystical ethereal thoughts or beliefs you may have are find – so as long as I have a spiritual experience that’s find it is all very personal and individual and subjective. “This is my truth tell me yours!”

But the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the Word of Truth is not like that – it is rooted in history – in tangible events. It followers are called to live in the real world, dealing with real life issues looking forward to a real, bodily resurrection where we will physically be with Christ, albeit with a different kind of physical body, but no less real.

Activities of the worker who needs to be ashamed.

2 Timothy 2:14 … Warn them before God against quarrelling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. (NIV)
2 Timothy 2:16 16 Avoid godless chatter, …

quarrelling about words – .. godless chatter – in other words, hair-splitting and empty talk. The kind of thing that scholars in the Middle Ages engaged in, viz. arguing about how many angels can sit on the head of a pin.
Now we may not even think much about angels but we too can get caught up in arguing about peripherals – style of music / times of meetings / translations of the Bible /…. And we might have passionate views about these things AND they may not be unimportant BUT when they push the important things like evangelism / prayer / encouraging one another / loving one another /… to a lower place THEN we too are guilty!

ILLUS.: The Church in which I grew up had a group of people who emerged who held a very strong reformed theological position. They would argue endlessly with anyone and everyone who held a different view. BUT they were ungracious, unloving and divisive and eventually split the church – they then left and the church was badly scarred.

That is exactly what Paul warned would happen if we stray from the Word of Truth. The Word of Truth is not just about neatly packaged, all correctly labelled Theology. Jesus embodies the Word of Truth and John describes him this way -John 1:14 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (NIV)

Paul describes what happens when we deviated from the Word of God – full of grace and truth. 2 Timothy 2:16-17 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. …..

He describes the result of such activity both ‘godless’ and ‘ gangrenous’. – not only for themselves but also for others – [2:18].. they destroy the faith of some.
It is an inevitability that teaching that deviates from the Word of Truth will be dishonouring to God and damaging to people.

The opposite is equally true that the accurate teaching of the Word of Truth when done graciously and sincerely will honour God and promote godliness.

3. God’s Comforting reassurance.
While people’s faith can be upset God himself is a sure foundation – 2 Timothy 2:19 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” (NIV)
A man misrepresenting the Word of Truth in no way diminishes the Truth of God’s Word.

The true church of true believers has her foundations in God:
The twofold inscription:-
 The first is secret and invisible to humans – “The Lord knows those who are his,”
BUT lives before the world…
 The second is public and visible – “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”
The Lord knows who his people are – – the genuine from the spurious.
We cannot see the heart but we can see the outward actions / attitudes which is fairly reliable evidence of the condition of the heart. “By their fruits you will know them”

These two things together, the divine and human, the unseen and seen, bear witness to God’s firm foundation, – his true Church!

For Timothy and for us there is a responsibility to faithfully pass on the Word of Truth. This in the way we live as well as what we say. Not splitting hairs about minor theological points or godless chatter that damages the body of Christ. We are called to build each other up in the Lord / to encourage one another / to love one another / to work together for the good of the body and the honour of Christ even if it means putting aside our favoured views; viz. preferring one another / thinking of others more highly than ourselves.

It is easy to break down / to criticise / to be negative it is more difficult to build up / to help and encourage BUT it is much more valuable / rewarding and God glorifying.


2 Timothy 2v14-19

1. The Approved Worker

Cutting a straight furrow –
– handling God’s Word
accurately and faithfully
2. The Ashamed Worker.

Missing the mark – deviating from The Word of Truth
REASONS to be ashamed:-
• quarrelling about words
• godless chatter

Resulting in …
… becoming more and more ungodly themselves …
… and infecting other like gangrene.
3. God’s comforting reassurance.

twofold inscription:-
 1st secret & invisible – The Lord knows those who are his
 2nd public & visible – Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness
A good worker builds up / edifies …
– a bad worker breaks down / damages


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