I want to begin this morning with a little show and tell. It all begins with my 17 year old daughter. As most of you know, she is attending Rock Valley College right now, and is struggling in her Anatomy and Physiology class (which, according to the teacher, is the hardest class at the college). Anyway, when Grandpa, who is an orthopaedic surgeon heard about it, he wanted to help. So, we had them over for dinner this week. He brought with him his box of bones to help Carissa look at them in 3 dimensions. She says that it really helps. One of the bones he brought was a lower left leg, with the tibia and fibula. This is the leg that Mrs. Kottke shattered in her motorcycle accident. This past Tuesday, I went in to see her in the hospital before her big, reconstructive surgery and brought in my show and tell. As soon as I took it out of my bag, she said, "That's my leg!" I told her, "Yes, it it. And this is what I’m praying for you." I’m praying for a straight leg. I’m praying for a restored leg. I’m praying that the orthopaedic surgeon will be able to cut things straight in your leg. I'm praying that he might use his skill to align your bones, that they might heal.
My message this morning is entitled, "Cutting It Straight," much like the surgeon needs to do. Our text this morning is found in 2 Timothy 2:14-19. Let’s consider them now.
2 Timothy 2:14-19
Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some. Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness."
The main idea of our text this morning comes in verse 15. I want to direct your attention there, because it forms the basis of the title of my message, and because it forms the basis of my first point. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." This is the call of every minister of the gospel: to work hard at their craft, to work hard at handling the word of truth accurately.
A carpenter isn’t to be ashamed as to how he wields his hammer. An author isn’t to be ashamed as to how he wields his pen. A surgeon isn’t to be ashamed as to how he wields his scalpel. With a minister of the gospel, it is no different. He isn’t to be ashamed as to how he wields the word of truth.
Now, for a pastor, the stakes are higher. The carpenter doesn’t want to mess up with his hammer, because the building inspector will fail his work. The author doesn’t want to mess up with his pen, because his reading audience will fail to purchase his books. The surgeon doesn’t want to mess up with his scalpel, because the health of his patient is at stake. But, a pastor doesn’t want to mess up with his tool, the word of truth, because God is inspecting his work. Look there in verse 15, ...
2 Timothy 2:15
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
The aim here is to accurately handle the word of truth. The King James Version here translates it, "rightly dividing the word of truth." This comes from a literal translation of the verb at the end of verse 15. The word, literally translated, is "straight-cutting." It’s the job of an orthopaedic surgeon, cutting it straight.
There is much discussion among Bible interpreters as to the exact illustration of this word. Some say that it comes from the world of the stone mason, whose job it is to chisel away at the large stones to create a perfectly flat edge, for another stone to sit. Some say that it comes from the world of the farmer, whose job it is to plough a straight furrow in the soil. Some say that it refers back to Paul’s days of tent making. Surely, in all their time together, Timothy observed Paul cutting a straight line in the hides, so as to be able to sew them together. Perhaps this is what Paul had in mind.
In ancient Greek, this word was used to describe the process of laying a road. Laying it straight. For instance, the ancients translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, the translators used this word in Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." So also Proverbs 11:5, "The righteousness of the blameless will smooth his way."
And you can easily pull all of those various usages together, and the idea is the same, even if we don’t have the exact imagery of Paul in our mind. "Let’s make it smooth. Let’s make it straight. Let’s make it easy to use." Thus, my sermon title this morning: "Cutting It Straight." That’s what Paul is calling Timothy to do.
Pul told Timothy, to take the word of God to make a straight path with it. Don’t turn to the right. Don’t turn to the left. Go straight down the middle. Make it clear! Make it plain! Make it easy to understand, thereby "Cutting It Straight." This counsel comes to Timothy because there were those all around him who weren’t going down the middle of the road. They were taking serious detours and side tracts. They were interested in non-important matters. They were making the way bumpy.
Paul mentions them in verse 14. He mentions them in verses 16-18. In verse 14, they are those who "wrangle about words." In verse 16, they are those engage themselves in "worldly" chatter. Again, in verse 16, we see those who engage themselves in "empty chatter." None of the results of these things are good. Look at the result in verse 14. Wrangling about words is "useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers."
Look at verse 16, "Worldly and empty chatter ... will lead to further ungodliness." Verse 17 says, "Their talk will spread like gangrene." And in Verse 18, "They upset the faith of some." It’s no surprise, then, that Paul urges Timothy to "handle accurately the word of truth."
In fact, this is my first point,
1. Handle the Word Accurately (verses 14-18)
I want to begin by picking apart the positive (as shown in verse 15). And then, we’ll go to the negative. Paul writes, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth."
The call here is for diligence and hard work. The Greek word here is a very common word in the New Testament. It means diligence, eagerness. It describes a certain zeal. Paul used the word three times in 2 Timothy. Here, and then twice in chapter 4. In verse 4:9, he says, "Make every effort to come to me soon." And in 4:21, "Make every effort to come before winter." "Make every effort." Other translations say, "be diligent" to come to me. Some translations say, "Do your best" to come to me. This is the idea here. The minister of the word of God is to "do his best" to present himself approved to God, not ashamed of his work, in any way.
The King James Version here says, "Study to shew thyself approved." Here’s a frame that used to hang on the wall of my office. It was there to remind me to work hard in the word. Now, there is something lacking in this translation, "study.". While this isn’t wrong, it’s just not the full picture. The picture here isn’t of the student in the library pouring over his books, so that he can get an "A" on his test. Rather, the picture here is of the one who is diligent in the word of truth to know it, to live it, and to apply it to others.
In this instance, Ezra is a great example of this. Ezra 7:10 tells us, "For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel." He first put the law in his mind. Then in his life. Then, and only then to others. This is the pattern for all good ministers of the word. That’s why Paul told Timothy in his first epistle, "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching" (1 Timothy 4:16). His interaction with the word of truth was far more than a mere transmission of it on a Sunday morning.
Rather, it was to be his life. That’s why Paul had told him in the previous verse, "Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all" (1 Timothy 4:15). In other words, "Let others see your diligence in the word. Let others see your progress in knowing, loving and applying the gospel to your life and extending it to the lives of others.." And it’s right here where there is great application for all of you.
Now, certainly, these words were originally written to Timothy, the pastor of the church in Ephesus. They primarily have to do with how he leads the church in the truth. But, before he can lead with the truth, he first needs to know the truth and practice the truth, which is what every believer needs to do. We all need to know the word of truth. We all need to be diligent in our efforts to live the word of truth, whether or not we are an official leader in the church. We all need to present ourselves as good workmen in the word, whether or not we are officially teaching others in the church.
I love the story of Jim Elliot. He was one the missionaries who sought to bring the gospel to the Waodani Indians. After making initial contact with them, Jim and four other men were speared to death on a beach in the jungles of Ecuador. But, Jim Elliot didn’t merely go and give his life for Christ in a vacuum. While a college student at Wheaton College, he wrote in his diary, "My grades came through this week, and were, as expected, lower than last semester. However, I make no apologies, and admit I’ve let them drag a bit for study of the Bible, in which I seek the degree A.U.G., ‘approved unto God’."  He had his mind set upon the approval of God, not upon the approval of man.
This is the vision of the children’s ministry called AWANA - A. W. A. N. A. - Approved Workman Are Not Ashamed. The premise of the ministry is to engage the children in the memorization of the word of God, that it might take effect in their lives. Many people have benefited from this program. And I trust that as the word of God has been internalized in the lives of many, it has born fruit in their lives.
So, study the word. Make progress in the word. Seek to obtain the approval of God, not the approval of man. I think that we get this. We all know that we should be reading our Bibles. We all know that we should be studying our Bibles. We all know of how God wants us to do this. We may not always live up to what we know. But we get this.
However, I want for you to notice here that Paul’s admonition to Timothy isn’t merely about studying or teaching and passing on the word. Sometimes, being a good workman of the word means being silent, knowing when to talk and when not to talk. Sometimes, being a good workman of the word means to tell others to be silent. In other words, a good workman knows when to speak the word and when to remain quiet. Look back at verse 14, ...
2 Timothy 2:14
Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.
There is a way that you can talk about God’s word, which is not using God’s word properly. Let me show you what I mean. Turn back to 1 Timothy. And turn to chapter 1. Right off the bat in this epistle, Paul is saying about the same exact thing that our text in 2 Timothy is saying, but with some firm examples.
1 Timothy 1:3
As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,
As a pastor of the church in Ephesus, Timothy was to be aware of the sorts of teaching that were circulating through the church. When he got wind of those things that were not orthodox, he was supposed to stop it. In verse 4, we have some examples, ...
1 Timothy 1:4
nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.
"Myths" here aren’t referring to Aesop’s fables or ancient Roman mythology. We are talking here about Jewish traditions (Titus 1:14), which leave the Biblical text and launch into the unknown, filled with assumptions and guesses. Paying attention to these myths is a waste of time and is ultimately not a help to our souls. "Endless genealogies" refer to the study of the genealogies in the Scripture, trying to find some special meaning in them. The genealogies of the Bible are good and helpful to us, because they ground the Scripture in history. They tell us of real people, who lived in real places, which makes the Bible as different than much ancient religious material. But, the genealogies aren’t very helpful when it comes to growing in our faith.
And there have been those who have paid attention to the endless genealogies, and they have been led astray. In some regard, a modern-day example of this is Harold Camping, founder of Family Radio, and self-proclaimed Bible expert. If you know anything about him, you know that he is big on numerology, taking the numbers of the Bible and assigning meaning to them. He often takes the Bible and looks at it like an engineering book, rather than a piece of literature. Anyway, in studying dates and times in the Scripture, with some intricate calculations, he came up with May 21, 2011 as the day when Christ would bring judgment upon the world.
Much of Family Radio’s air time was spent talking about the May 21, 2011. Family Radio’s web site was practically devoted to announcing this to the world. His followers spent much time and money propagating the end of the world message. But, in the end, his study did nothing to "further the administration of God which is by faith." Instead, he became the laughing stock of the world. His followers wasted much money and time propagating his message. Little was done regarding building the people of God. Verses 5, 6, and 7 describe his situation exactly, ...
1 Timothy 1:5-7
But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.
Harold Camping is a self-appointed "teacher of the Law," even though he clearly doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. In the days leading up to May 21, 2011, he had many, many hours, I’m sure of "fruitless discussion." He made many, many "confident assertions." He has proved himself to be a false teacher. Verse 5 is a great barometer on all teaching in the church.
2 Timothy 1:5
But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
If our instruction doesn’t end in "a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith," then we missed the mark in our teaching. Lots of words have flown off the mouth. But, the target has been missed. This isn’t anything new for Timothy. In 1 Timothy 6, Paul wrote, ...
1 Timothy 6:3-4
If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth
These sorts of things were going on when Paul wrote his first letter. They were going on when Paul wrote his second letter.
Lest you think that this is a small issue, think again. Turn back to 2 Timothy, look once again at verse 14: "Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words." Paul could hardly have made these words more emphatic. He could hardly have brought more attention to the seriousness of these things, "solemnly charging [Timothy] in the presence of God." These words echo the charge in chapter 4, verses 1 and 2 (words that many of us are familiar with), ...
2 Timothy 4:1-2
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
Not only does the man of God need to preach the word, he also needs to silence those who are heading in the ways of fruitless discussion. There are plenty of people out there who are just interested in fruitless discussion. They do so for sport.
They are like Talkative, in Pilgrim’s Progress, who said, "I will talk of things heavenly or things earthly; things in life or things in the gospel; things sacred or things worldly; things past or things to come; things foreign or things at home; things necessary or things accidental, provided that all be done to our profit." But, when Christian began to talk about Talkative’s own heart, Talkative wilted. He wasn’t interested in the work of God in His own soul. He was merely interested in talking about the work of God in general. We need to be aware of these people. We need to deal with them appropriately.
Erik Raymond, a church planter in Omaha, wrote in his blog www.ordinarypastor.com, ...
So I ask you, "Who is the most dangerous guy at your church?"
Here I am not so much aiming at an individual as I am looking at a type of person.
- Sure, we all can spot the unbeliever who doesn’t fluently speak the language of Zion,
- we can identify the person from doctrinally anemic backgrounds because they keep cutting themselves with the sharp knives in the theology drawer,
- and of course any Calvinist can sniff out an Arminian within 20 seconds.
But I submit that these types of people are not the most dangerous people that attend your church. At least, they are not in my experience.
Instead, the most dangerous person at your church is the apparently smart guy who is unteachable.
When I say ‘unteachable’ I mean that he has it all figured out.
He is the classic, "Don’t confuse me with the facts, I know what I believe" guy.
This is the guy who seems to have a lot of biblical knowledge.
He can drop the 30 lb. words and effectively argue his point.
Very often he is quite involved and appears to have things together.
However, he is dangerous because of the reason you would not think, he is unteachable.
Let me give you some reasons why and how he is dangerous:
(1) He is Gospel-Eclipsing: The great commission has learning embedded in it (Matthew 28.18-20). This means that being a disciple is one who is always learning. Therefore, to have it all figured out is to deny who you are. As Christians we have to be people who are learning, this includes everyone from pastors to children.
(2) He is Critical: If this guy is not being moved by the ministry of the word he is likely gathering bullets to shoot at leaders. He sits quietly during the sermons and teachings only to pick apart everything like a Monday morning quarterback. ...
(3) He is Divisive: This is dangerous for the church in that it invariably brings division (Titus 3.10). This type of boiling pot eventually spills over and when he does he hurts unity and people.
In my experience, division in the church usually is a result of somebody being unteachable. ...
(4) He is Joy-Robbing: A church that is teachable brings its leaders joy.
A church or church member who is not robs them of joy.
It’s that simple (Hebrews 13.7, 10).
I can attest to the fact that this is very true.
(5) He is a Time-Waster: Let me be careful how I say this.
I don’t mean that labor in the ministry is a waste of time.
But what I do mean is that unteachable guy is one who continues to take up pastoral leadership’s time with arguments.
He just keeps resetting the same issue over and over again.
He can find anything to nitpick and be critical about.
So in this sense he is a waste of time.
Or, as Paul might say, the labor is in vain (Philippians 2.16; 2 Thessalonians 3.5).
So, what do you do with him?
- Pray for him:
- Minimize his influence
- Watch him and the sheep:
- Lovingly aim to teach him:
- Confront where necessary:
This type of thing weighs heavy upon pastors and church members alike. Therefore, even the consideration of such things should cause us to pause, evaluate our own hearts, and pray for receptivity of the word of Christ (James 1.20ff; Colossians 3.15). 
I have faced these sorts of people at Rock Valley Bible Church. I remember one man who came for a couple Sundays to Rock Valley Bible Church. The first question out of his mouth was this: "When are you going to teach the book of Revelation? People need to hear about the end times today." And this just launched him down a bad path of all of his spurious theology. After a bit of listening to him, I warned him that we are not going to tolerate such talk at Rock Valley Bible Church. I told him that if he was teachable, we would welcome him at Rock Valley Bible Church, but if not he is going to find it a difficult road. When he saw that we were not going to tolerate his shenanigans, he never returned. There have been others who have come to Rock Valley Bible Church, who I have prayed would never come back, because I knew that a confrontation would be in order. God has protected us over the years.
The picture here in chapter 2, verse 14 is the picture of a sword fight. However, rather than using swords, you use words. Literally, the word is "word fighting." There are plenty of people out there who just want to fight with their words. They enjoy verbal sparring.
Now, that’s not to say that there shouldn’t be any theological arguments in the church, even when it comes to the interpretation of single words. Jesus, Himself, argued that "not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished" (Matt. 5:18). Jesus is arguing for every dot on every "i" in the Bible. Jesus is arguing for every cross on every "t" in the Bible.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus would debate with people, arguing down to even the tense of a verb. When the Sadducees, who doubted the resurrection, came to Jesus, trying to "trap Him in what He said," by concocting a story about a woman, who had 7 husbands (Matt. 22:15, 23-28). "In the resurrection" they concluded, "whose wife of the seven will she be?" (Matt. 22:28). Jesus said, "Have you not read what was spoken to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living" (Matt. 22:31-32). In other words, Jesus was arguing that the verbs are in the present tense. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are alive and well. And God is the God of them all -- right now! Thus, the resurrection is a reality.
At one point, Paul, Himself, based an argument in the book of Galatians upon the fact that the word was plural, not singular. Galatians 3:16, "Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ." Paul is arguing that the Abrahamic promise (in Genesis 12) has specific reference to Jesus, because the word "seed" is in the singular.
Throughout church history, there have been some pretty wide-spread, important debates, even hinging upon a single letter. The classic example of this took place in the fourth century B. C. The church had gathered together to discuss the person of Christ. The huge question on the table is this: Was Jesus, Himself, God? Or, was Jesus, Himself, like God? Was Jesus "homoousios" with the Father, meaning "one" with the Father? Or was Jesus "homoiousios" with the Father, meaning, "like" the Father? The church was quite divided on this issue. The debate raged on, over one letter. I’m glad it did, because it settled once and for all the deity of Jesus Christ.
Now, down through history, there have been a good number of arguments over words that, quite frankly, shouldn’t even need to be discussed. Churches are notorious for arguing for trivial things like the color of the carpet or the size of the spaces in the parking lot, or at what age should children be involved in youth group events. Useless discussions. Foolish arguments. I have been guilty of such arguing. I have hurt people in the process, not handling the word accurately.
I remember the early days of our church, experiencing some wrangling about words. We were planting a church! We were going to plant it right! And if there is anything that we were serious about, we were serious about doctrine. We were serious about getting that right, which meant that there was no room for anything, even slightly deviant from the truth.
I remember a guy at church who would often visit me, coming into my office to show me where I was missing it in my sermons, and where my theology was astray. I remember having a discussion with a guy who was concerned with the way that I was using one particular word in a document that I put out to the church. When he asked me about it, I told him how I was using the word, giving examples of how I use the word in my everyday speech. So, there was no doubt about what I meant, but that wasn’t acceptable for this man. He wasn’t willing to accept the way that I was using the word. No, it had to be defined in his particular way. That’s wrangling about words.
I remember discussions with a guy about a particular word in a particular song that we occasionally sang, how he thought it to be unscriptural. I disagreed with him. But, he pressed on, He wrote an email to me regarding this song. To be above reproach on the matters, I took it to the elders of Kishwaukee Bible Church and read the email to them, seeking counsel from them, all about one word. We were wrangling about words. I think that we (as a church) have come a long way since then.
Now, it’s not that we aren’t interested in maintaining purity of doctrine. That’s not it at all. Nor is it that we are interested only in Christian unity, at the expense of truth. You all know that. Nor is it that we aren’t interested in reforming and refining our ways. We need to constantly be looking at ourselves and refining ourselves. It’s just that we have a different spirit at Rock Valley Bible Church in these days. It’s not a critical spirit, critical of everything said and done. For this, I am thankful.
In many ways, I believe it’s because of our focus, we have intentionally focused our hearts upon remembering the basics. Last week, we looked at verses 8-13, in which Paul told Timothy to remember the basics. Remember, ...
1. The Heart of the Gospel (verse 8). Remember Jesus Christ, risen from
2. The Power of the Word (verses 9-10). It cannot be bound, but will accomplish its purpose.
3. The Promise of God (verses 11-13). Our faithful God will reward our loyalty.
We work hard to remember these things, singing often of them, preaching often about them, praying often in light of them.
Notice at the beginning of verse 14 that not only was Timothy to remember these things, ... He was also to remind his hearers of these things, constantly going back to the main thing. We so want to be approved workmen before God. It’s just that we aren’t arguing about minor points to get there. Because, "the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Timothy 1:5). So, let’s keep the target in mind. If we don’t, it’s bad for all of us.
Look at what wrangling about words leads to. Verse 14 says that, "wrangling about words is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers." Not only is such talk useless, it also "leads to the ruin of the hearers." Do you want to ruin people? Just spend your time wrangling about words. Just spend your time trying to fight each other over what they say. Oh, you may be able to win an argument, but it may be to the ruin of your hearers.
We see further ruin in verse 16, ...
2 Timothy 2:16
But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.
We’re talking words, but no substance. Worldly and empty chatter -- again, these terms are translated various different ways. The NIV says, "godless chatter." The ESV says, "irreverent babble." The NKJV says, "profane and idle babblings." These sorts of words will lead to further ungodliness, which will lead to further ungodliness, which will lead to further ungodliness. Proverbs 26:4 says, "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him."
This is Paul’s advice, "avoid worldly and empty chatter." It will spread like gangrene. Gangrene is a nasty disease. It is death that eats up life. It’s usually caused by an injury or an infection. Portions of your body begin to die. They begin to cause everything else around it to die. Often, the only way to cure flesh infected by gangrene is to amputate the affected area, because the death will spread. Such disease, like worldly and empty chatter, should be nipped in the bud.
Jesus, Himself compared false teaching Pharisees and Sadducees to leaven, which will leaven the whole lump (Matt. 16:5-11; Gal. 5:9). Paul gives example here of two men, who have been engaged in this worldly and empty chatter.
2 Timothy 2:17-18
.... Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.
This is empty babble. The resurrection has already taken place? What are you talking about? To us, this seems foolish. Of course the resurrection hasn’t taken place. Where did they get such nonsense? I believe that they got it from the apostle Paul. I believe that they got it from the book of Ephesians, which is named for this very church that Timothy is pastoring.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
This speaks, in one regard, of the resurrection of every believer in Christ. We are raised up and seated with Christ in the heavenly places. I do believe that Hymenaeus and Philetus were arguing -- from this text -- that Christians have already been raised from the dead. Their spiritual experience is all that believers have (or will) receive. Probably with that came the denying of a literal, bodily resurrection to come. Probably with that came the expectation of victorious -- perhaps sinless -- living in the here and now, especially because we have been raised from the dead. Perhaps they were the first health, wealth and prosperity teachers in the church. We have been raised! We are victorious! God wants us to have everything today!
Such doctrine was causing harm to some in the church. You can see this at the end of verse 18, "and they upset the faith of some." It’s no reason then, why they must be silenced. This was the role of Timothy as he handled the word accurately.
Well, let’s move onto my second point.
Paul’s call to Timothy was ...
2. Trust the Lord Completely (verse 19)
2 Timothy 2:19
Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness."
The counsel of verse 19 comes in the context of Timothy’s real struggles with real people in the church at Ephesus. People were coming against him. People were challenging him. People were opposing him. People were accusing him. I’m sure that it came from all sides. And yet, Paul says, "the firm foundation of God stands." "Timothy, don’t worry about what others may say or do against you. God is in control. His foundation will stand. You have one audience that you want to people, and it’s not those who are opposing you."
And then, Paul pulls two loose quotations, from the Old Testament to encourage Timothy in his work. "The Lord knows those who are His." And, "Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness." In and of themselves, these are encouraging words to Timothy. That God knows those who are His, removes all need to please man. It removes all need to justify yourself before those who oppose you.
When you know that you are serving the Lord, you don’t feel the burning desire to make sure that everyone else knows, especially including those who are opposing you in your ministry. You know that before the Lord, you will stand or fall. He is the one you are seeking to please.
And the quote here of everyone abstaining from wickedness is the call to all of us. Rather than engaging in sinful arguments against those who contradict, take the high road. Don’t stoop to their level. They may be engaged in wicked and evil schemes. You walk in purity before the Lord. Or, as Jesus said, "I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." In other words, "Understand that there are those out there who want to destroy you. Know that. Be aware of that. But, in all of your dealings with those people, walk the innocent path."
These quotes are encouraging quotes. But, it’s even more encouraging when you realize that they come from the same text -- Numbers 16. It was no accident that Phil read this morning from Numbers 16 and the story of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Here’s a story of those who were opposing God’s man, Moses. They were questioning the leadership of Moses. They were challenging the leadership of Moses. They were seeking to draw others away from following Moses.
They said, "You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?" (Numbers 16:3). There is a clear case of jealousy. Yet, Moses responded in righteousness and faith. He "fell on his face," seeking the LORD (Numbers 16:4). I love the heart of Moses. He didn’t seek to defend himself. He didn’t seek to justify his leadership role. Rather, Moses sought the LORD in humility.
I believe that the LORDspoke to him. For, Moses said, "Tomorrow morning the LORD will show who is His and who is holy, and will bring him near to Himself; even the one whom He will choose, He will bring near to Himself" (Num. 16:5). God’s going to make it clear who is on His side and who is against Him. Because God knows those who are His.
It sounds a lot like Paul’s quotation in verse 19, "the Lord knows those who are His." At that point, Moses summoned the congregation, even to Dathan and Abiram, fellow co-conspirators with Korah, to separate themselves from Korah. But, they refused, saying "We will not come up" and then, they complained further against Moses (Num. 16:12-14). Then the LORD warned the people, "Separate yourselves from among this congregation. ... Get back from around the dwellings of Korah, Dathan and Abiram" (Num. 16:21, 24).
Then Moses said, "Depart now from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing that belongs to them, or you will be swept away in all their sin" (Nu. 16:26). Again, this sounds a lot like Paul’s quotation in verse 19, "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness." I love what Moses said, ...
Moses said, "By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these deeds; for this is not my doing. If these men die the death of all men or if they suffer the fate of all men, then the LORD has not sent me. But if the LORD brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the LORD." As he finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.
See, God will vindicate His servants. There is no need for us to vindicate ourselves.
Isn’t that what Jesus did? As He hung on the cross, the people were insulting Him. They were questioning Him. They were challenging Him. And yet, Jesus entrusted Himself to Him who judges righteously (1 Pet. 2:23). And that’s the call to Timothy: "Timothy, entrust yourself to Him who judges righteously."
Or, as I have put it, Handle the Word Accurately (verses 14-18) and Trust the Lord Completely (verse 19). What good counsel this is to us all.
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on
September 25, 2011 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.