2 Timothy 2:15

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

The previous verse exhorted Timothy to charge others “before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit.” Now he contrasts that with a thought concerning Timothy himself, beginning with, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God.” The word translated as “Be diligent” carries with it the sense of being swift, or hastening. And so there is a sense of urgency in the act. To paraphrase it, “Present yourself approved to God, and do so with fervency.”

In his statement is a contrast to striving about words to no profit. Such striving will only ruin those who hear. However, in presenting oneself approved to God, the minister will teach what is sound, reasonable, and in context. His doctrine will be set in order to please God rather than his hearers. Instead of ruining the hearer, there will be edification and growth in sanctification and towards holiness. In performing in this manner, Timothy (and any such minister) will be “a worker who does not need to be ashamed.”

In presenting proper doctrine, there may be bitterness towards the teacher, but there will be no shame before God. Which is more important? In 2 Corinthians 11:13, Paul contrasts this with those who will be ashamed. There he says, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.” Timothy is implored now to remember such people and not act like them. In the end, all will stand before God, and they will have their works revealed. They will be tested for purity at that time. Many will stand ashamed. One particular way to ensure that such will not be the case is for the minster to ensure he is “rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Here Paul uses a word found only here in the Bible. It comes from two words which signify “straight” and “cut.” We can imagine a carpenter ensuring that the board he is cutting is straight, so that it will fit properly elsewhere. A tile-setter will make his cuts straight so that the mosaic will be harmonious and pleasing to the eye. The priest of Israel would cut the sacrifices properly to ensure that the parts which were dedicated to God would be wholly reserved to Him as required. To improperly cut any such thing will lead to faults or flaws in what is cut. Therefore, the one receiving the item will have a diminished quality of product. The house frame will be off, the mosaic will look odd, and the sacrifice to God will be displeasing.

The same is true with presenting Scripture. Pulling one verse out of its intended context, and then inserting it with another verse in an inappropriate manner, will lead to something wholly unintended by God. Scripture should be used to interpret Scripture, not misinterpret it. The axiom, “A verse out of context is a pretext,” is correct. It should always be remembered. To rightly divide the word of truth is to maintain truth in the word. Anything else is to form a lie, not intended by God for the instruction of His people.

In 1 Corinthians 3:9-15, Paul speaks of erecting a building upon a foundation. He says there that the foundation is Jesus Christ. Elsewhere (Ephesians 2:20), he says that the foundation is the prophets and apostles with Christ as the chief Cornerstone. What that means is that the prophets and apostles spoke of Christ. Their word is what teaches of Him. Thus He is both the Cornerstone and the Foundation, as revealed through their words. This building is now being constructed out of the people of the church. Our works are being revealed through this process, and Paul says that there is a time of judgment upon those works. Take time to read that passage and consider if what you are doing is in line with the concept of “rightly dividing” the word of truth.

Life application: It can be difficult for a minister to continue with sound doctrine when the numbers are dwindling and no new congregants are coming in to replace them, or when people turn away because they don’t like what they hear. But in the end, if the ministry is the Lord’s to begin with, it is His to end. A church not established on this ideal is one not worth attending. And one that is faithful should be considered that way, even if it is time to close the doors. If He established it, then He will continue it or close it. Changing doctrine away from what is biblically correct to keep a church open is evidence that the church is not in the Lord’s will at all. Run, don’t walk from such a place.

Lord God, when a church is established on Your word, and it later changes its doctrine away from what Your word teaches, it really is no longer Your church. Your word is eternal and unchanging. How sad it is that so many churches are now accepting what You have already forbidden. What a mournful day for them when they present their life and doctrine for Your evaluation. Convert hearts now Lord, before that terrifying day comes when many find out that they were never approved. Amen.

2 Timothy 1:14

Friday, 30 March 2018

Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. 2 Timothy 2:14

Paul now exhorts Timothy concerning what he has been speaking about. This doesn’t mean just the preceding few verses, but all of the exhortations thus far. In verse 1:8, he spoke of not being ashamed of the gospel. In 1:13, he exhorted Timothy to hold fast to the pattern of sound words which he had heard. In 2:1, Timothy was told to be strong in the grace of Christ Jesus. In 2:8, Paul spoke of Christ’s person, ancestry, and resurrection. In 2:11, he gave the poetic thought concerning the relationship between Christ and those who have or have not called on Him. These, and so many other points connected to those verses, are what Timothy is to remind others of. But along with reminding them, he is to charge “them before the Lord.”

The word translated as “charging” indicates solemn witness. It is an intensified compound word which gives the sense of giving complete and clear testimony. Therefore, Paul is particularly interested in Timothy’s special handling of what he has been taught. Paul is an apostle, and therefore Timothy could use the words written to him as authoritative. Anyone contradicting what is written would then be given the charge to correct his error. This is exactly what responsible teachers of the Bible should be doing to this day. When someone wants to get argumentative over an issue, the teacher is to charge them, in the presence of the Lord, “not to strive about words to no profit.”

The idea here is someone who argues over points which are invalid, twisting words to suit a perverse and incorrect agenda. He engages in “Scripture tennis,” pulling verses out of context, and manipulating words, thoughts, verses, and concepts in order to come to improper conclusions. Paul’s focus is consistently centered on the Person and work of Christ. This builds up his audience, edifies them, and sets them on a sound path of doctrine and holiness. However, those who strive over words to no profit do so “to the ruin of the hearers.”

They confuse the minds of those untrained in the word, mislead them into strange doctrines, divide the fellowship so that they can conquer as many as possible to their perverse side, and overthrow the faith of these people. They go from being set and secure in Christ, to becoming legalistic work-your-way-to-heaven robots. Or they go from purity in Christ to license-to-sin-and-call-it-ok deviants. On and on it goes with cults and aberrant sects. They are filled with people who have been ruined by those with perverse agendas.

Life application: Paul always sets doctrine as the most important point in our relationship with Christ. Those who dismiss biblical doctrine do so because they have no knowledge of the Bible, and they are to lazy to put in the effort to get to know it. After all, it is so much easier to watch a movie than it is to engage one’s brain in sound, reasonable theology.

Lord God; Heavenly Father; Almighty Creator – You have pieced all things together for Your glory. You have set in motion the plan of redemption, and You have fulfilled what is needed for our salvation through the work of Christ. Connected to this are many points of doctrine, given to keep us on a sound and straight path in life. And yet, we spend a lot more time watching TV than we do engaging our brains in the pursuit of theology. What a waste! When we stand before You, what will we present as having brought You honor? So many will have little to identify them as even minutely interested in the great things You have done for us. Help us to correct this, O God. Help us to desire You more, and to be pleasing and approved in Your sight. Amen.

2 Timothy 2:13

Thursday, 29 March 2018

If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself. 2 Timothy 2:13

There are several major opinions on what Paul is saying in this verse. Two of which are diametrically opposed to one another. The word translated as “faithless” is one which everywhere else speaks of not believing. In using the word in this consistent manner, the first view looks at this as comparable to Romans 3:3 –

“For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?”

Therefore, the opinion is that God is ever faithful, even when some do not believe. This would then indicate that God cannot receive as faithful one who has not proven true to him by receiving Christ Jesus. To do so would be to deny Himself. In this then, the view is that it is speaking of those who have never believed and been saved, who are then contrasted to God who is unchanging, and who cannot accept those who do not come to Him in faith.

The second view is that the word Greek word translated as “faithful” is a correct translation (which it is). Therefore, the word “faithless” is not speaking of “not believing,” but of not remaining faithful after having believed. In other words, the two words, “faithless” and “faithful” are set in opposition to one another. This would be the person who “died with Him” in verse 11, but has not been perfectly faithful to Him after receiving Him – a failure that every single person who has come to Christ is guilty of.

The words would then explain God’s character towards those who have received Him, but have slipped and tripped along their walk. Despite any faithlessness in us, God remains faithful. Examples of this relationship are found in 2 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Hebrews 10:23; Hebrews 11:11; & etc. In such a case, the final clause, “He cannot deny Himself,” is speaking of keeping safe the believer despite his failings. If God were to deny one who has come to Him, then He would be denying Himself, because those who have come to Him are “in Christ.” They are united to Him through faith. To deny them, despite their times of faithlessness, would be a denial of the covenant commitment rendered through His shed blood.

A third view is that this is speaking of someone who once believed, but has fallen away. That does not at all square up with Romans 3:3, nor does it square up with Paul’s words elsewhere. Only the first two options can be considered as valid. And so which of the first two is correct? The answer is most assuredly “both.” Matthew Poole evaluates this verse with the words, “…whether we believe or believe not, or whether we be faithful to our trust or be not, yet God will show himself faithful, either to his promises made to them that believe, or to his threatenings denounced against those that believe not.”

For those who have not come to Him, there will be wrath and indignation. For those who have come to Him, there will be mercy and salvation. Either way, the Lord cannot deny Himself. If someone is not in Him, He would deny His own character to save him anyway. If someone is in Him, He would deny His own character by not following through with that person’s salvation. As Paul says, “…let God be true but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).

Life application: Being “in Christ” means that one is united to Christ. If this is true, He would have to deny Himself if He rejected such a person. But God cannot deny Himself. Be of good cheer. If you have come to Christ, you are saved despite yourself – wholly and eternally.

Lord God, Your word says that those who received Jesus as Savior are “in Christ.” If at some point we act unfaithfully after coming to You, Your word also says that You cannot deny Yourself. You remain faithful, even when we are faithless. This is really great news, because the fact is that all of us are unfaithful at times. And yet, we continue to be saved despite our failings. Thank You for the sure, complete, and eternal covering of Christ. Amen.

2 Timothy 2:12

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

If we endure,
We shall also
reign with Him.
If we deny Him,
He also will deny us. 2 Timothy 2:12

Paul continues with his poetic offset, instructing Timothy on the mystery of our relationship with Christ. He now says, “If we endure.” The word is properly translated. It signifies not just suffering, but bearing up under a load. All believers in Christ suffered in Christ, participating in the penalty of the cross through His substitutionary act. We have died to the law through His death. In accepting what Christ did, we bear up under the load of His work. This may continue on after receiving Christ, but it does not naturally follow so. Some receive Christ at the end of their lives, and they are taken to glory. Others have lives which are not riddled with suffering. While others have to endure a lifetime of suffering because of their faith in Christ. This then obviously speaks of the penalty of the cross, and bearing up under what it signifies. If we so endure, “We shall also reign with Him.” This is specifically stated again by Paul in Romans 8 –

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Romans 8:16, 17

The truth we shouldn’t miss is that suffering, in and of itself, doesn’t meet the necessary conditions for the glory of heaven’s riches. Only suffering with Christ does. When we suffer with Him in this manner, Paul says that we will “also be glorified together” with Him. There is nothing shameful in suffering for Christ, and in fact, it is the most honorable of all aspects of our Christian walk. To suffer for Him, and to endure with Him, is to have emulated Him in His highest moment leading to glory – the cross.

We are to bear the reproach of the cross with us at all times. If that turns into actual suffering, we are to endure through it. This is the expectation of the faithful believer, and it is a proof that we shall reign together with Christ. Paul then gives the opposing scenario for us to consider by saying, “If we deny Him.”

The verb is in the future tense and speaks of anyone who would deny Christ at any point into the future. The result of such an action is that “He will also deny us.” To deny Christ is to be denied by Christ. It is a voluntary act of the free-will. The implication is that to confess Christ is to be saved by Christ. Thus receiving Christ is an act of the free will as well. Paul made this explicit in Romans 10 where he states the opposite of what is being referred to in Timothy –

“…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

Romans 10:9 is a verse of salvation. It is applicable any time and at all times. When a person receives Christ, they are saved. Their salvation is from the time of Paul’s writing, a future action which is passive in nature. In other words, Christ saves the person based on the proclamation. The same is true with denying Christ. His denial of them is in the future tense as well. At any point that a person denies Christ, Christ will also deny him. However, this cannot negate a later acceptance of Christ which leads to salvation.

For example, Bill denies Christ, and so Christ denies him. However, five years later, Bill receives Christ. At that time, Christ no longer denies Bill, but rather He saves him. It is important to understand this because Paul’s words here in Timothy cannot be referring to a loss of salvation. This will become clear with the third verse in his poetic offset, meaning verse 13.

Life application: Does the Bible teach one can lose his salvation? Taking verses out of their context could lead one to believe that this is possible. 1 Timothy 1:12 may lead someone to believe that such is the case. But it is a part of a larger section of thought which Paul is fleshing out for us to consider. He has already said that if we die with Christ, we will live with Him. That is a done deal for those who have accepted the finished work of Christ. He now says that if we deny Him, He also will deny us. How can the first sentence be true if this overrides it? The full and final thought must then be considered. As a life application, keep all things in context. Context is needed to derive proper interpretation.

Lord God, there sure are a lot of opinions about various verses in Your word. But when You wrote it through Your chosen prophets and apostles, there was one meaning flowing from You. Where is the breakdown then? It is obviously in us. Help us to keep all things in context, and to not pull individual verses out of that context in order to form a doctrine. In doing so, we only produce a pretext. Give us wisdom in how we handle Your word so that our doctrine will be approved by You. Amen.

2 Timothy 2:11

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

This is a faithful saying:
For if we died with Him,
We shall also live with Him. 2 Timothy 2:11

Like the book of 1 Timothy, Paul’s second letter to his young protege centers on a poetic saying. Paul now begins that poetic saying for us to consider. He has just spoken of “the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” With that in mind, he says, “This is a faithful saying.” As with the words found in 1 Timothy 1:15, 3:1, and 4:9, the Greek reads, “Faithful is the saying.” Thus, this refers to what precedes it, meaning the “eternal glory.”

From there, he begins his words. It is believed by some that what he says formed an ancient Christian creed that was already in use, being a part of the liturgy of churches. There is really nothing to substantiate this, but it is still possible. Whether it is true or not, what he says is also reflected in other parts of his writings. Paul is ever-consistent to relay the truth of the works of Christ. For now, he begins with, “For if we died with Him.” This is speaking about our death to sin; it being crucified with Him.

Although we are still physically alive, and although we continue to do things which could be considered as sin, God no longer views us in this light. Through faith in the work of Christ, meaning His death, we are counted as having died with Him. Thus when God looks at us, He no longer sees us as we were, meaning dead in sin. Instead, we are reckoned in a new way – alive in Christ. That is confirmed by the next words, “We shall also live with Him.”

We are positionally in this new state already. Our hope and faith stands in the fact that it will be realized in us actually at some future point. This is a sentiment similar to Romans 6:8 – “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.”

What occurred here is explained by Paul in a very detailed way in 2 Corinthians 5 –

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

Dying with Him means that our sin nature (even if we still actually sin) has died with him. As we are dead to sin through Him, God no longer counts our sins against us. As the wages of sin is death, and as we no longer have sin imputed to us, then we are alive with Christ. And so even if our earthly body dies, we must (no if’s, and’s, or but’s) resurrect to eternal life. Just as it was impossible for death to hold Christ (Acts 2:24) because He had no sin, it is likewise impossible that death can hold us. We have died to sin, sin is not being imputed to us, and thus it is not possible that death can hold us. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 –

“So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

55 ‘O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where 
is your victory?’

56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Indeed, if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.

Life application: Beloved, if you have received Jesus Christ as Savior, you have died to sin. The process of resurrection to eternal life is more assured than the next sunrise. Christ did not die to give you a possible hope, and the Bible is not written to teach you eternal insecurity. Rather, Christ died for us to give us a sure hope, and the Bible records that eternal salvation is found in the blood of Christ. Death is swallowed up in victory, and nothing in all of creation can separate you from God’s love which is found in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Heavenly Father, the magnificence of what You have done through Christ Jesus for us is only matched by its simplicity. Christ died for our sins. When we accept that premise we die to sin. The law can no longer accuse us because You are no longer imputing sin to us. As we have died to sin, and as we no longer have sin imputed to us, it is not possible for death to hold us. Death is swallowed up in victory! Thanks be to You, O God, for the full, final, and forever effective work of Jesus Christ in our lives! Amen.