2 Timothy 2:17
and the talk of such men will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus,
GangreneA. Plummer, D. D.2 Timothy 2:17
Justification by FaithW.G. Magee.2 Timothy 2:17
Unsound OpintionsJ. Barlow, D. D.2 Timothy 2:17
Conduct in View of Heresy Appearing in the ChurchR. Finlayson 2 Timothy 2:14-26
A Warning Against Vain BabblingsT. Croskery 2 Timothy 2:16-18
But shun profane babblings.

I. THE DUTY OF THE MINISTER TOWARD SUCH BABBLINGS. He is to shun them, because they are profitless - a mere sound of words, without solid meaning; great swelling words of vanity, not only unprofitable, but contrary to the doctrine that is according to godliness. The minister must shun, discourage, and repudiate them in the interests of truth and piety.

II. THE TENDENCY OF SUCH BABBLINGS. "They will proceed further in ungodliness." The allusion is not to the babblings, but to the false teachers.

1. There is a close connection between lax doctrine and a loose life. The error of the false teachers had not yet appeared in its fully developed form, but its true moral tendency was clearly foreseen from the first.

2. There is a tendency in false teachers to carry their principles to their last logical results. They have thrown off the checks of authority and conscience; they have been emboldened, perhaps, by a temporary success; and so they insist on wresting the whole Scripture to their own destruction as well as that of others.

III. THE EFFECTS OF SUCH FALSE TEACHING. "And their word will eat as doth a gangrene."

1. It will spread further and further.

(1) Through the subtlety of seducers;

(2) through the unwary simplicity of Christian professors;

(3) and as a judicial infliction upon such as, possessing no love of the truth, receive delusion to believe a lie.

2. It will have corrupting and destroying effects. The strong figure of the apostle sets the matter in an impressive light.

IV. THE RING LEADERS OF HERESY. "Of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; men who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some."

1. The leading apostles of error.

(1) It is a solemn thought that the Spirit of inspiration has given an immortality of infamy to these two names. If they were ambitious of notoriety, they have gained it far beyond the extent of their expectations.

(2) Hymenaeus is evidently the person referred to already (1 Timothy 1:25), whom the apostle had "delivered unto Satan;" but he seems to have profited in no way in the interval by the severe discipline applied to him. Of Philetus nothing is known. It is a Greek name, but it occurs in Roman inscriptions.

2. The nature of their error. Their principal error, which is mentioned, was a denial of the resurrection in its true sense.

(1) They probably perverted the words of the apostle himself when he spoke of a spiritual resurrection (Romans 6:4, etc.; Colossians 2:12), of which they could say truly enough that "it was past already;" but they denied a resurrection of the body, which was just as expressly taught by the same apostle.

(2) The error had its origin in the Greek philosophy, which regarded matter as essentially evil, and as therefore unworthy to share in the ultimate glorification of the redeemed.

3. The injurious effects of their error. "And overthrow the faith of some."

(1) The doctrine of the resurrection is founded on the resurrection of Christ, which is the foundation doctrine of Christianity. Those errorists seem to have touched with unholy hands this cornerstone of Christian hope.

(2) The influence of the errorists, evil as it was, was only partial. It only affected "some;" but even this thought was a sad one to the apostle. - T.C.

Their word will eat as doth a canker.
The substitution of "gangrene" for "cancer" is an improvement, as giving the exact word used in the original, which expresses the meaning more forcibly than "cancer." Cancer is sometimes very slow in its ravages, and may go on for years without causing serious harm. Gangrene poisons the whole frame, and quickly becomes fatal. The apostle foresees that doctrines, which really ate out the very heart of Christianity, were likely to become very popular in Ephesus, and would do incalculable mischief. The nature of these doctrines we gather from what follows.

(A. Plummer, D. D.)


II. UNSOUND OPINIONS ARE OF A SPREADING NATURE. And this is true of all sin, original and actual.

1. For doth not corruption, like a disease, disperse itself, and pollute every power of the soul and member of the body? What part is not infected with that leprous contagion? Hath it not spread also, by natural propagation, to all Adam's posterity?

2. Will not all actual sin spread also? For unbelief, hath it not run into atheism? fear, into despair? anger, into fury? and that, to revenge? Foolish mirth will become madness; temporary faith, high presumption; and speculative lust, actual whoredom. Were not images, in the beginning, for civil use, to put men in mind of deceased friends; and are they not at this day, by the Romanists, religiously adored?

3. Shall we not see one error beget another?

4. Moreover, unsound opinions spread from person to person.


(J. Barlow, D. D.)

This is a most striking and accurate description of the nature of heresy — it never remains inactive — it is sure to spread; an error in any essential point is sure, eventually, to corrupt the whole body of truth, just as a gangrene in the human body appearing, at first, as a small spot, gradually spreads, eating into the sound parts near it, and they, in their turn, infecting the rest, until the whole body is destroyed. The reason for this is very simple. The truths of religion are not a set of independent and unconnected notions bound up together in a creed, as men bind loose sticks into a bundle; they are closely connected parts of a great whole, arising one out of the other, so that you cannot deny one without denying or perverting a great many others; for once you admit a truth, you admit all its consequences; once you deny a truth, you must be prepared to deny, in like manner, all its consequences. God declares that false doctrine eats into the faith of the Church like a canker. Sacramental justification does this — therefore it is false. In order to show the injurious results of this false doctrine, we will take, for our example, that Church which most strongly holds it. The Church of Rome gives us the most awful instance of its effects. The Church of Rome holds that, at his baptism, every one is made perfectly holy; that if he remain in this state of grace, or if, after falling from it, he is restored to it again, so that he be in it at his death, then he is saved. Now let us suppose a church, as yet sound upon all other points, adopting this opinion. We shall see how it eats its way. And firstly, it must lead to the perversion of the doctrine of original sin. But further; every one knows that he is constantly committing little faults. "In many things we offend all." But Rome affirms that some sins are venial, while others are mortal. But the law of God commands as welt as forbids, and they must, by their good works, continue to deserve God's favour! Now, in such a system, every work must have its own proper value, it must be just so much merit towards justification: a man who works because he has been justified, does not stop to reckon or to price his good works; he works from love — he cannot do too much; but he who works that he may be justified, must keep count of his good deeds, and try to ascertain their value, that he may be sure he has really done enough to secure his justification. But this is not all. In such a system of external observances, it is clear that the man most remarkable for his lastings and his many prayers is the holiest man. But we may trace it further still. These holy men, who dwell apart from the common crowd, have clearly attained a degree of holiness greater than is necessary for their own salvation. May they not, then, bestow some of it on others? So far we have been tracing the effects of this false doctrine on those who believe that they are still in a state of justification because they have retained their baptismal purity. We have now to see its effects upon those who have reason to fear that they have lost their justification. Even when men have raised their own righteousness to the utmost, and lowered God's law to the lowest, still the uneasy doubt will intrude itself — What if, after all, I have not done enough? what if I have fallen into mortal sin? Now, in such a case, of whom would the anxious sinner seek advice and consolation? who shall decide for him each nice case of conscience, and say what is venial and what is mortal sin? what are good works and what are not? Who but his pastor, God's minister, whose province it is to study such matters? He wilt naturally ask him to decide for him what his state may be; but if so, he must confess all his sins to him: this spiritual physician must know all the symptoms of his case before he can give his opinion upon it; and, accordingly, the penitent will soon acquire the habit of auricular confession of all his sins to his priest. But what if this adviser, when consulted, shall decide that he has fallen from grace and is even in mortal sin? The priest cannot re-baptize him; how shall he regain his justification? This confessor has a right to declare God's forgiveness; he preaches remission of sins; what if he have a right to give it? it is but a step from saying "You are forgiven," to "I forgive you." The fears of the penitent, the ambition of the priest, soon take it; the inquisitor becomes a judge, the ambassador assumes the authority of the king, the minister of Christ attempts to give the sinner the peace he needs, by usurping the office of his Lord and Master, who alone tins power on earth to forgive sins. The canker eats its way! There may, however, be cases where time is too short for the performance of penance — death may be imminent. For such a state another provision must be made — it is ready. There is a scriptural and primitive custom, that the elders of the Church should pray over a sick man, "anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord." All that is necessary is, to make of this rite, a sacrament conveying to the insensible, sick man remission of sins, as baptism was supposed to have given it to the insensible infant; and then his salvation is secured. Mark, now, how the true doctrine of justification preserves from all this error. Being justified by faith "I have peace"; what need have I then to confess to man? I may come boldly into the holy of holies, through the new and living way; I need no man to tell me how great my sins may be; I can ask God to "pardon my iniquity, for it is great!" If I address myself to my fellow man, it is for counsel and consolation, not for pardon. I have no need of extreme unction, I have "an unction from the Holy One"; I have no need of purgatorial fire, for "the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin." "Being justified by faith I have peace with God."

(W.G. Magee.)

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