Wednesday, 11 April 2018
… and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:26
The words of the verse are rather complicated, but with a bit of thought, the true meaning should come through clearly.
First, Paul has been speaking of “those who are in opposition,” meaning those whose doctrine is unsound. He was instructing Timothy to not quarrel with such in hopes that God might grant them repentance, and thus come to the truth. Understanding that, he now says of them, “and that they may come to their senses.” The Greek word is found only here in Scripture. It gives the sense of recovering from a drunken stupor. The root of the word was used twice in 1 Thessalonians 5, imploring those in the church to be sober. Paul’s admonition here is that those who have incorrect doctrine are just like those who are inebriated, they have no idea of the danger which surrounds them.
In coming to their senses, they will then be able to “escape the snare of the devil.” In having bad doctrine, a person is caught as in a snare. A snare is something unseen, and it suddenly springs up and catches the unsuspecting one. From there, he is held prisoner, or as Paul says it, “having been taken captive by him.” This is speaking of the devil. It must be remembered that the word of God has been misused by him from the beginning. By subtly changing or manipulating the word, he caused the fall of man. He attempted to do this with Jesus, but Jesus stood on the word without compromise. Anyone caught up false doctrine has been snared by the devil, and he is now in bondage to him.
This leads to the final words of the verse, εἰς τὸ ἐκείνου θέλημα, which in the literal Greek reads, “for to his will.” The major question and debate among scholars is, “Who is ‘his will’ referring to?” There are two possibilities, either the devil or God. If it is speaking of the devil, it is saying that in possessing bad doctrine, they are doing the devil’s will, and are thus subject to him. If it is speaking of God, then it is saying that once they have come to their senses, having escaped the devil’s will, they will now serve God’s will.
Without being overly dogmatic, a few points should be considered. First, verse 25 spoke of God granting “them repentance, so that they may know the truth.” The focus is on God and the truth. Secondly, two different pronouns are used in the Greek, both translated as “his.” The first is αὐτοῦ, and the second is ἐκείνου. It appears that Paul is using these different words to show a difference in subject. And thirdly, Paul is speaking of believers with faulty doctrine, not unbelievers. This goes back to verses 14-19. Therefore, it appears that Paul is speaking of God’s will. In order to accomplish this, these believers with faulty doctrine must come to their senses and escape the devil’s snare. This idea is expressed in 1 Corinthians 10 –
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-6
Charles Ellicott gives his rendering of this verse –
“And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil—being held captive by him—to do His (God’s) will.”
Life application: There are verses which are difficult to discern what is actually being said, or who is actually being referred to. Rather than being dogmatic, giving both possibilities will help the reader come to a fuller knowledge of what is being said. Further, by looking at the surrounding context, the meaning usually becomes clearer. And finally, by referring to other comparable passages, the actual intent may become realized. The study of the word of God is to be taken slowly, methodically, and with great care. In the end, our doctrine must be in accord with the Lord’s intent.
O great and glorious God! How good it is to be in Your presence, and to share in Your goodness. You have fed us with the bread of Your word, You sustain us with Your open hand of grace, and You lead us in paths of righteousness – all for Your name’s sake. Help us to follow on that path, never diverting from it. Help us to receive Your grace with thanksgiving and praise, and help us to feast upon Your word daily – nourishing ourselves on that which truly sustains. All to Your glory we pray this. Amen.