Today from II Tim. 2:14-18 let’s look at what a workman approved by God is like. In last week’s passage Paul taught how when you suffer for the Gospel, you can tolerate the suffering. That is by remembering “Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.” (8) Jesus was born as a descendant from David. In other words, Christ’s resurrection proclaims his deity, and his descent from David shows his humanity. The real God who can’t be seen by human eyes became man and came to this earth. Then he was put on the cross for our sins. After that just as the Bible says, on the third day he rose from among the dead. By this he publicly proved that he was the Son of God. By this Jesus received glory. However, Jesus received the glory after he had suffered on the cross. In the same way the Lord’s worker must remember that after suffering he will receive glory. Paul himself was like this. Paul himself too suffered for the Gospel but that was so that those who were chosen would be saved. That was so that they would be saved and would receive eternal glory. It was for that purpose that he suffered, but after that suffering he will receive glory. That’s because if we have died with Christ “we will also live with him.” (11) Paul used a hymn that everyone in that age knew well to explain that. Those who endure will received a reward. Today is the continuation of this, but here Paul is teaching Timothy that even in the midst of such suffering how God’s worker should be.
- Don’t quarrel about words (Vs. 14)
First of all please read verse 14. “Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.”
Here Paul says, “Keep reminding them of these things.” (14) “These things” (14) are the things that Paul said in the preceding passage. In other words, what kind of glory that enduring brings. That is like a soldier who endures suffering “to please his commanding officer” (1) and is victorious. It is like an athlete that endures training and receives the victor’s crown. Also it is like the hardworking farmer who works continuously and receives “a share of the crops.” (6) Also, just like Jesus by enduring the cross and by the resurrection received the glory of God, those who endure will surely be rewarded. That reward is full of glory and it will bring great joy. If the rewards man gives are wonderful, then how glorious the rewards given by God will be! What God gives is “eternal glory” (10) and continues for eternity. We must remember these things. We are to remind others of these things.
Another thing is we must warn others “against quarreling about words.” (24) We must “warn them before God.” (24) That is because quarreling “is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.” (14) Such people sneaked into the Ephesian church where Timothy was pastoring. They were teaching wrong things. Not only didn’t they “not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching,” (I Tim. 6:3) but they had “an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction.” (I Tim. 6:4, 5)
“Quarreling about words…is of no value.” (14) If we quarrel, will anyone be saved? If we quarrel, will the faith of the people that hear it be built up and mature? No, rather it “only ruins those who listen.” (14) Rather than people being saved, it ruins people.
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” We must speak words that are “helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) Let’s spend our energy and time for this.
“Warn them before God against quarreling about words.” (14) Here it says, “before God.” (14) That means that it is that important of a thing.
However, surprisingly such “quarreling about words” (14) can be seen in many places. For example, some people quarrel about how baptism should be done. Baptism should be by immersion, or by sprinkling, or by pouring water on the head. When a person is baptized he should lay back or should kneel bowing forward. However, the way a person is baptized is not important but the essence of it. If a person repents and is baptized, he is saved. I believe in baptism by immersion, but there are exceptions to it. It is difficult to immerse people who are sick. There are conditions where sprinkling is better. Some people say that then it isn’t necessary to be baptized. However, the Bible commands us to baptize. Also it promises us, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mark 16:16)
Also some churches have infant baptisms. In such churches when that person grows up he takes confirmation and makes his own personal confession of faith. Therefore, when a person that has been confirmed joins some Baptist churches they must be baptized again. Of course, we don’t require that.
What is important is the essence not the method. Also we must “Warn them before God against quarreling about” (14) such words.
Of course, it is necessary to fight against any teaching that is clearly against the truth. For example, we must thoroughly confront anyone who contradicts things like the trinity, or the divinity of Jesus Christ, etc. These are things that we must take a firm stand on. The teaching that we are saved by faith is also an important teaching. However, we shouldn’t quarrel about differing unimportant Biblical interpretations. Rather, it is important to acknowledge and accept the differences.
However that is not just faith. In our daily lives too, surprisingly we criticize others for a slip of their tongue and quarrel. Recently I bought a computer type tablet. It didn’t arrive by the time it was supposed to. I wasn’t planning to go out so there was no problem about it being late. However, it was pass the time it was supposed to arrive so I called the call center to check on it. The person on the phone said that it was due to arrive in the morning and if it hadn’t she was very sorry. She said she would check on it immediately.
Then a moment later the doorbell rang and when I answered the door, the delivery man was standing there. He said that he had forgotten to bring the tablet that was to be delivered in the morning so that he would go back and bring it so to please wait a little longer.
Then there was a telephone call from the call center. They said they looked into it and the person that was supposed to be delivering it had left. They were very sorry for being late. However, I was the one that should have been apologizing. I had bothered them about something that wasn’t that important. I felt very ashamed. Like this we think we are right and quarrel over little things that don’t really matter.
However, such attitudes are “of no value, and only ruins those who listen.” (14) Therefore, we must be careful not to quarrel “about words”. (14)
- A workman approved by God
The key to not quarreling can be found in verses 15 to 18. Verse 15 says, “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.”
Here Paul is saying that those who quarrel “about words” (14) are the opposite of what a workman of God should be. Such a person is to be “as one approved” (15) by God, accepted by God. In other words, the workman must do his best to be approved by God. He must do his best to be a workman. To do your best is to eagerly give your all to the task before you. Workmen have work to do, and they must take pains in it. Those who work diligently with all their soul and might, do “not need to be ashamed.”(15) However, workmen that are unskillful, or unfaithful, or lazy, those who don’t keep their mind on their work, or do it half- heartedly or don’t try to do their best will be ashamed. The workman’s job is to correctly handle “the word of truth.” (15) “The word of truth” (15) is the Gospel which Timothy is to believe, obey and to preach. Timothy must do his best to present himself to God as such a workman.
To correctly handle (15) means to cut straight. It was originally used when a farmer dug trenches straight. There were no curves, but were straight. God’s Word is also the same. There must be no waves, but be straight. It must be handled correctly. It must not be warped by human wisdom. We must listen obediently to message that the Bible is telling us and preach that.
How we can become such a workman approved by God is by doing our best to present ourselves to God. We are do our best to present ourselves as “a workman who does not need to be ashamed”. (15) To “do your best” (15) is to do something with your whole heart, with a devoted heart. We must do our best to present ourselves to God as a workman approved by God that understands correctly the meaning of what the Bible is teaching and who can teach it to other people.
I try not to preach from the same passage I have preached on before because if I preach on the same passage then I don’t learn so much. Without studying there is no understanding. Without understanding, you can’t share with other people. Therefore, the weekly message takes a lot of time. However, for me I am really thankful that I can study.
However, that is a miracle. I originally was not good at sitting. I always want to be moving. To be moving is easier. However, to prepare 1 message I am sitting in a chair for a long time. That is a miracle! It is only by the work of God that I can sit in a chair for that long of a time every day and study which I don’t like to do either. Without the help of the Holy Spirit I would never be able to do it. Why I do this is because if I don’t, I can’t understand the Bible. If I don’t understand it, then I can’t preach it. In order to be a workman approved by God we must do our best to present ourselves to God.
Please look at verses 16 to 18. Here it says, “Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Phileptus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroyed the faith of some.”
Here it talks about another characteristic of a workmen approved by God. That is they “avoid godless chatter.” (16) That “godless chatter” (16) is teaching that is different from the truth and causes people to “become more and more ungodly” (16) and causes them to wander “away from the truth.” (17) This “teaching will spread like gangrene.” (17) Strange and bad topics spread faster than good topics. The Bible compares bad things to yeast. Just like only just a little yeast causes all the dough to rise, such teaching spreads throughout the body of Christ, the Church, and destroys it.
Here the names of two people “Hymenaeus and Phileptus” (17) are specifically given. Hymenaeus was mentioned by name in I Timothy 1:20 too as having shipwrecked his faith. Such “godless chatter” (16) spreads “like gangrene.” (17)
Their mistake was that they “wandered away from the truth.” (17) They said “that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroyed the faith of some.” (18) They broadcasted to everyone that the resurrection was not a bodily resurrection and that there is only a spiritual resurrection. They interpreted the resurrection allegorically, not literally. They claimed that to rise from the dead is unthinkable so it is stupid to believe in the resurrection. However, the resurrection that the Bible teaches is that when Jesus comes again, our bodies will in reality change into an imperishable glorious body. “The dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” (I Thess. 4:16,17) Just as this says this will actually happen. It isn’t just a spiritual resurrection. Please look at I Cor. 15:51 and 52. Here it says, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
When the Lord comes again our bodies “in a flash” (I Cor. 15:52) will be changed into an imperishable glorious body. “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’” (I Cor. 15:53, 54) Like this the Bible clearly promises us that we will be given an imperishable body. Therefore, a workman approved by God avoids “godless chatter”. (16) We must be careful that such people don’t enter the flock.
- God’s solid foundation (Vs. 19)
Let’s look at verse 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.’”
“Nevertheless” (19) is even though the false “teaching will spread like gangrene” (17) and some people wander “away from the truth.” (18) “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.’”(19) There were people in the Ephesian church that taught false teachings. Such people drew the devout to themselves so many people got caught up in it and “wandered away from the truth.” (18) “Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm.” (19) God’s firm foundation is the church. It is a firm foundation. It will never be shaken. It is a foundation laid by God. It is God’s church. No matter what happens “God’s solid foundation” (19) won’t be moved. Even if false teachings come into it, even if the teachings stir up the church, the church will definitely not be shaken up. That’s because the church is “God’s solid foundation” (19) established by Christ.
Please open your Bibles to Matthew 16:18. Here Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” In this passage Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?” (Matt. 16:15)
Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16)
Peter made the right confession. However, Jesus said that he didn’t make the confession by his own ability to understand, but it was revealed to him by God. He said that he would build his church upon that confession “and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18) It is built upon a firm foundation. That is what the church is. If the church was started by a person, no matter how grand it is, it will perish. Man is unstable. However, God is different. Even if the heavens and earth perish, God’s Word will never perish. Everything will be fulfilled. It is that definite. Therefore, God’s church that was started by God no matter what will “stand firm.” (19) Even if false teachings enter the church, even if a huge problem occurs, the church will continue to “stand firm.” (19)
“God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with” (19) two inscriptions. One is ‘The Lord knows those who are his.” (19) The other one is “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” (19) Both of these are words quoted from the event of Korah and his sons in Numbers chapter 16. If you look at them in the light of Jesus words I think you can understand well.
Now we can’t look at this in detail, but William Barclay, a Bible commentator explains these two inscriptions so I’d like to introduce what he says.
“The first is a reminiscence of a saying of Moses to the rebellious friends and associates of Korah in the wilderness days. When they gathered themselves together against him, Moses said: “The Lord will show who is his” (Num.16:5). But that Old Testament text was read in the light of the saying of Jesus in Matt.7:22: “Many will say to me in that day, `Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, I never knew you: depart from me you evil-doers.” The Old Testament text is, as it were, retranslated into the words of Jesus.
The second is another reminiscence of the Korah story. It was Moses’ command to the people: “Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs” (Num.16:26). But that, too, is read in the light of the words of Jesus in Lk.13:27, where he says to those who falsely claim to be his followers: “Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity.”
Two things emerge. The early Christians always read the Old Testament in the light of the words of Jesus; and they were not interested in verbal niceties, but to any problem they brought the general sense of the whole range of scripture. These are still excellent principles by which to read and use scripture.
The two texts give us two broad principles about the Church:
The first tells us that the Church consists of those who belong to God, who have given themselves to him in such a way that they no longer possess themselves and the world no longer possesses them, but God possesses them.
The second tells us that the Church consists of those who have departed from unrighteousness. That is not to say that it consists of perfect people. If that were so, there would be no Church. It has been said that the great interest of God is not so much in where a man has reached, as in the direction in which he is facing. And the Church consists of those whose faces are turned to righteousness. They may often fall and the goal may sometimes seem distressingly far away, but their faces are ever set in the right direction.
The Church consists of those who belong to God and have dedicated themselves to the struggle for righteousness.” ( William Barclay, Commentary of I Timothy, II Timothy, and Titus, “II Timothy 2:19”)
“The Church consists of those who belong to God and have dedicated themselves to the struggle of righteousness.” (Barclay) Therefore, even if they fall and the goal may seem far away, even if something is distressing, even so, their faces are always facing the goal. Therefore, no matter what happens to God’s church, it is not shaken. Let’s believe this promise of God and let’s reconfirm that we belong to God and that we have dedicated ourselves to the struggle for righteousness, and move forward aiming for the goal of God.