2 Timothy 2v23-26
The Christian Teacher / Witness as a Slave.
All through this chapter 2 Paul has been using different metaphors to highlight different characteristics needed by Timothy as the pastor / teacher at the church in Ephesus. To say however, that these apply only to Christian teachers / leaders would be to miss the point. In v2 Paul urges Timothy to pass on to all faithful believers what he himself has received, viz. the good news of the gospel. This is to be passed on in word and deed and attitude from one generation of Christians to another.
So far Paul has used five metaphors to illustrate his points – Soldier, athlete, farmer, worker, household vessel – now he likens the task of the Christian teacher to that of a slave. In a 1st C household it was often a slave who was the teacher. They were not all uneducated good only for menial tasks.
2 Timothy 2:24 And the Lord’s servant …
The word is ‘doulos’ – lit. slave. Now the idea of being a servant let alone a slave doesn’t sit too well in our modern, stand-up-for-your-rights, western democracies! The thing about a slave is that he is not free to do as he pleases – he had to do what his master said. The sole purpose of a slave’s life was to please his master. We wouldn’t consider ourselves slaves, or even servants. BUT the Bible makes it quite clear that we are all slaves – we are all mastered by something – our appetites, our desires, our drives – whatever it is that motivates us to do whatever it is that we do / desire – that is our master. If we are driven by our own selfish desires then that is what we are slaves to.
The Bible makes it quite clear that we are all slaves –
Romans 6:16-17 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey — whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. (NIV)
Paul commends the Roman Christians for their wholehearted obedience to teaching of Christ as their master. In the days when slavery was an accepted part of life it wasn’t all bad – exploitation of slaves, yes! BUT not all slaves were exploited and some when offered their freedom chose rather to stay with their master who had been very good to them.
Exodus 21:2-6 2 “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. 3 ……5 “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ 6 then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the door-post and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life. (NIV)
He would choose to be a love-slave. He trusted his master enough to know that he has his best interests at heart.
So called freedom was not always better – a freeman had to struggle to make a living and provide for his family BUT a slave working for a good master had all his needs provided! Security for him and his family, he had no worries about food, clothes, housing, health care, pensions etc — he had a good master to care for him.
In response it was not a chore to serve this master but a delight. He would know what the master’s wishes and commands were – in fact he would know his master so well that his own instincts, judgements and character would reflect that of his master.
This really is what we as Christians are called to- a free-slave of a Good Master. Called to believe and obey what our Good Master says and to reflect his character. What Paul is calling Timothy and us to do is to follow Christ and exhibit his characteristics in our attitudes and behaviour – in this verse esp. as regards passing on the gospel as reliable and faithful followers.
2 Timothy 2:23 23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. (NIV)
Some have translated this to mean – controversies / useless speculations / quarrelsome speculations.
Paul touches on this in 1 Timothy 1:3-4 3 … command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work ….. (NIV)
1 Timothy 6:4-5 4 … He [false teachers] has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, …
Strong words – here he tells Timothy not to get drawn into these senseless arguments.
What actually is Paul prohibiting? That Christians should not argue or debate? NO!
Paul himself was a great arguer and debater when it came to the truth of the gospel. He publicly opposed the apostle Peter to his face [Gal. 2]
What is forbidden however is “Stupid and senseless speculation and controversies” which lead to quarrels.
ILLUS.: I said a few weeks ago that one of the things that scholars in the Middle Ages argued about was “How many angels could sit on the head of a pin!”
We laugh and think it ridiculous – I have heard Christians get very heated about whether or not the preacher should wear a tie / or if we should do the ironing on a Sunday / or whether a church should have pews or chairs.
Not only are these things not worth arguing over IF we do argue over such trivial issues we are we are just like the Pharisees of Jesus day [straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel] – and we are neglecting to give time to the big issues of the Word of Truth.
Those, says Paul, who do get caught up in these senseless arguments are “stupid” [lit. uninstructed] – because they haven’t submitted themselves to the rigorous investigation into the revelation of God.
ILLUS.: We have a proverb in English – “Empty barrels make the most noise!”
That is no less truth in the church – those who talk the most are not always those who know the most.
It is bad enough when we do not know the Word of God as we should. BUT what is even more dangerous is when we don’t know that we don’t know.
ILLUS.: A few years ago at the Keswick Convention one of the main speaker had to deal with a passage of scripture in which there were a few very difficult and controversial verses the interpretation of which in uncertain, if not unknown. He had the humility and the honesty to admit that he didn’t know what it meant AND thus saved us all from his speculations as to what it could possibly mean.
I don’t say that so we should avoid the difficult parts or be slack in our investigative study BUT that we should avoid speculation. We accept that morally we are sinners and need repentance to come to Christ BUT we must remind ourselves that sin affect not only our moral character BUT also our ability to think
When we move away from God’s revelation into human speculation everything becomes subjective – My opinion is as valid as the next person’s and that is when egos get bruised and arguments start. THEN the body of Christ is damaged, God is not glorified and the witness of the church becomes ineffective / or even negative!
How as Christian Teachers / witnesses are we to deal with such people?
We have already seen that one of our tasks as teachers / witnesses is not only to promoted / teach the Word of Truth BUT also to opposed error.
Paul is urging Timothy not to shrink back from those who oppose him or his teaching. He must reach out to them with gentleness and forbearance, with courtesy and humility BUT that doesn’t mean that he must be tolerant of their foolishness and arguing.
2 Timothy 2:24-25 24 And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, ….
Warren W Wiersbe points out that God’s slave doesn’t have an easy time teaching God’s Word, firstly, because Satan opposes him and tries to trap his listeners [look at this in a moment] BUT secondly, because some people are just difficult to teach. They enjoy foolish and stupid arguments just for the sake of it. They have no desire to feed on the nourishing Word of God. Or maybe just because they don’t really think that the Word of God is that important. Oh, they may give lip service to its important but the little time they dedicate to learning it gives the games away.
The thing is we can get along in the church – be active– and our fellow Christians may not know about our lack of submission to God’s Word. BUT God knows / God sees all, nothing, absolutely nothing, that we say or do or think escapes God’s attention.
If we are neglecting the Word of God we need to respond to its instruction and the first step is repentance. The purpose of Christian instruction is not to fill our heads with facts – the purpose is so that we will know God!
You see those who opposed Timothy at Ephesus were sinful and needed to repent AND they were in error and needed to come to a knowledge of the Truth.
2 Tim 2:25 25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,
Further, coming to repentance and a knowledge of the truth sets them free from the devil’s snare!
God uses the teaching of His Word by his servant / slave to grant repentance to those who are quarrelsome, to illuminate their minds so that they acknowledge the truth and to liberate them from the power of Satan.
The teaching about repentance and coming to know the truth are NOT two unrelated events – on the contrary that are inextricably linked.
In order to acknowledge the truth as revealed in Jesus Christ we must come to repentance. We cannot acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Truth nor his revelation, the Word of Truth without repentance. It is generally accepted that our beliefs determine and condition our behaviour.
ILLUS.: Why do you take medication? Because it is enjoyable – you like the tasted of paracetamol? Do you enjoy having needles stuck into you? NO! Not unless you are a masochist. You do in the belief that it will make you better. Your belief determines your behaviour.
So in the spiritual realm as we come to believe that God is righteous and we are sinful we need to repent – our belief conditions our behaviour
BUT it I also true that our behaviour conditions our beliefs.
1 Timothy 1:19 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. (NIV)
What does Paul mean here? By the act [behaviour] of not obeying their faith and their conscience some have made a shipwreck of their beliefs.
BUT the opposite is also true – by repenting of our sin [an act / behaviour] we come to know the truth.
In Scripture the moral and the intellectual are always linked. Knowledge of the Truth is not some abstract entity divorce from our moral behaviour. It is as we come to God in repentance and faith that our knowledge and understanding of him and his word increases. And as our knowledge of God and his word increases it leads us again and again to repentance and faith. SO that we avoid senseless and stupid controversies and many other sins besides.
2 Timothy 2:26 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (NIV)
I don’t think as western Christians we are sufficiently aware of the constant spiritual struggle that we are involved in. This is esp. true when the Word of God is being taught. When we step forward as it were to teach the Word of Truth and to witness to Jesus Christ we put ourselves in the frontline and Satan is going to use all means [always foul] to stop the Word of God. And he most often uses other people to do that.
Paul likens him to a hunter who sets a trap for his prey.
So the people who were opposing Timothy and making his life difficult and the task of preaching and teaching difficult were being used as instruments of Satan to disrupt God’s work. The real enemy is not people but the devil himself – maybe if we realised that more, we would pray more. Satan is a liar [John 8 – Jesus called him the father of lies] He captures people by his lying promises as he did Eve in the Garden of Eden.
His victims need to escape his trap and “come to their sense” [lit. return to soberness], in other words they have been doped by the devil as well as trapped.
Until we come to Christ in repentance and faith we are all ensnared and intoxicated by the devil’s schemings.
It is only God who can deliver by granting repentance.
It is only God who can enlighten by bringing to a knowledge of the Truth.
Yet the amazing thing is that God uses the human ministry of his servants / slaves like Timothy / and George / and KT / and Roger / and Jean … who avoid stupid quarrelling and who teach and witness with kindness and forbearance and gentleness – the truth of God – those who in their beliefs and behaviour reflect Jesus. The purpose of God’s servants is not to win senseless and stupid argument but to win people for the kingdom of God. God’s greatest desire, which should be ours also, is to see people come to repentance and a knowledge of the truth – viz. Jesus.
The Christian Teacher / Witness as a Slave.
…BUT is the master served good or bad?
Show gentleness, forbearance, courtesy and humility.
… deliver by granting repentance
… enlighten by bringing to His Truth