2 Timothy 2:26


1. Negatively. "The servant of the Lord must not strive." This does not mean that

(1) he is not to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 1:4); but

(2) that he is not to fight about trifles, nor to argue with acerbity of temper, nor for mere victory. The "bond of peace" must be maintained in controversy.

2. Positively.

(1) "But be gentle unto all men;" cultivating a spirit of habitual conciliation, while using arguments of the greatest cogency.

(2) "Apt to teach;" showing capacity and disposition to instruct the ignorant and the obstinate.

(3) "Patient;" bearing with the infirmities of weak brethren, with the irritating oppositions of adversaries, and with the reproaches of evil men generally.

(4) "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves" to the truth as it is in Jesus, thwarting or perverting the gospel. The minister must be ready to instruct such persons in a meek and humble spirit, because they may be ignorant, or ill-informed, or deeply prejudiced from the circumstances of their early training.

II. THE BENEFITS THAT WILL ACCRUE FROM SUCH METHODS OF INSTRUCTION. "If God peradventure will give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by the Lord's servant unto the will of God."

1. A meek and gentle address may bring such errorists to repent of their sin and accept the true doctrine of faith. It is possible to repel them by our harsh reproaches. We ought rather to show them the truth without passion, and enforce it with all the kindly urgency of true affection. The necessity of repentance in such a case marks the essentially sinful character of opposition to the truth.

2. The servant of the Lord may be the means of recovering out of error as well as sin.

(1) Error is the devil's snare as well as sin, for it leads downwards to sin. It acts like a stupefying drink.

(2) Some errorists awake out of their intellectual intoxication, if they are wisely dealt with, and open their eyes to the blessed truth of the gospel.

(3) The will of God once established in such hearts, as the guiding principle of life, completes the recovery from error. - T.C.

And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will
The devil is a fowler, beholds the world like a great and spacious forest full of all kinds of beasts and birds, and setteth snares and gins in every corner to catch them.

1. In a snare there is subtlety, so in Satan's temptations.(1) He never propounds a temptation in his own name. No, should he do so, his plot would be discerned prevented. How cunningly crept he into the serpent and seduced the woman? He conveyed himself into such things as we are least suspicious of. Who would have thought that any snare had been in the words of the apostle, Master pity thyself? Yet doth not Christ reply, "Get thee behind Me, Satan"?(2) He can lay a snare in the very Scriptures. Though they be milk for babes, strong meat for grown men, he can poison all. Let Christ answer him by Scripture, straight he replies, tempting him by a place of Scripture. "Cast thyself down; for it is written, God shall give His angels charge over Thee that thou dash not Thy foot against a stone."(3) He can convey a temptation in the frame of a man's spirit. He conceives that some are apt to pride, malice, coveteousness, melancholy, mirth, silence, liberalness of speech, and according to our natural inclination he sets his gins for us. Thus he provides a wanton object in the time of idleness, a beautiful woman washing herself, and so the good king is caught in his net. What way the tree leans he thrusts it, and where the fence is weakest he seeks to enter. So subtley will he here lay a snare that we will hardly be brought to believe it is a temptation of Satan, but think rather it proceeds solely from our natural disposition.

2. In a snare there is cruelty; so here. He is called Abaddon, Apollion, a murderer, a destroyer.

3. In a snare is strength, and is it not to be found in Satan's temptations?

4. You shall find in Satan's temptations, as in snares, pleasures and suddenness. Were it not thus they were not snares properly. Was not the tree, in the eye of Eve, good for meat, pleasant, and to be desired to get knowledge (Genesis 3:6)? Were not the daughters of men fair (Genesis 6:2)? And in these was not a bait to catch the beholders? Have not fowlers a lure and call, as if they were birds themselves, to allure and deceive? Will they not scatter corn and all to seduce and bring within danger the little-suspicious birds? Do they not creep on their hands and knees, stand in close and secret places, and when the fowl is within reach how suddenly is the net pulled! Per adventure, when she is singing, playing, suspecting nothing, she is wound in. When Satan assaults, how eagerly, busily, and suddenly will he follow the prey? He sets a man's affections on fire, kindles such a heat within him that for the present the object of temptation seems wonderful fair, delightful, honourable; though when he is ensnared he perceives no such thing, but the direct contrary.

(J. Barlow, D. D.)

These words are the concluding portion of a solemn address to Timothy, in reference to the instruction of the ungodly, and is the end pointed out as resulting from that instruction — "And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil." They present to the thoughtful mind a sad picture, bringing before us on the one hand the devil, in the character of fowler; and on the other hand his victims, as deluded, taken alive, under a hard bondage.




I. They are spoken of as those who are ensnared by Satan, and "taken captive by him at his will."

1. We must notice who is the captor. It is the devil, the murderer and liar, the destroyer of souls; represented here under the character of a snarer or fowler. It is very important to notice Satan in his character, because it manifests his subtlety. The fowler must be subtle in hiding his net, or otherwise he would miss his prey. It is plain from Scripture that sin was introduced through Satan's subtlety.

2. In the next place, see the awful force of the language. The expression, "taken captive," is rendered in the margin "taken alive"; it is an idea derived from fowling, in which the prey is taken alive in snares: so the devil takes men's souls alive by his subtlety: nay, more, unless they be recovered out of his snares, they must be alive for ever under his sway: lost, yet alive; hopeless, yet alive; tormented, yet alive; ever desiring to die, but never able. The other expression, "at his will," may bear a double interpretation. It may mean that they have been ensnared by Satan's arts unto his will; i.e., they were so influenced by him that they complied with his will. It is most important to notice this, because it at once brings out the humiliating truth, that the ungodly comply with Satan's will: The man who lives in drunkenness, who is a sensualist; or to pass on to sins which are thought little of in the world, the man who is untruthful, a backbiter, a slanderer or deceitful, is complying with Satan's will. The man who is a neglecter of salvation, who never prays, who is putting off the thought of eternity to a convenient season, is complying with Satan's will. Again, the expression "at his will," may have reference to the devil's will concerning his victims — viz., their destruction. Hence those who are taken alive by Satan at his will are taken alive by him for their destruction, he is leading them on, step by step, with the one end and the one object of dragging them alive into that pit of darkness and agony prepared for himself and his angels. Our look upon this other picture — while Satan wills your destruction, God wills your salvation. "He would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

3. In the next place, notice the bondage itself. It is worse than Egyptian bondage. A sinner, taken captive by Satan, has his immortal soul in captivity, bound in fetters which none can break but the Lord of glory. But we may see the fearfulness of this bondage by looking at it in a threefold point of view.(1) The master whom the captive serves. Dread thought! it is not Jesus, the sinner's great Deliverer, but it is the devil, the sinner's great destroyer. Ah! and what a master! one' who hates him; one who watches closely to prevent his victim's escape, binding around him every day tighter and tighter the cords of his destruction. Look again —(2) At the state of the captive. It is one of misery and wretchedness. "The way of transgressors is hard." It is utterly impossible to experience true peace and happiness while walking in the pathway of the devil. Christ's yoke in opposition to Satan's; the one is perfect liberty while the other is the most galling bondage. Look again —(3) At the end of this bondage. Now, Satan does not make his bondage felt, for fear of alarming the victim, and leading him to seek deliverance from it: but in eternity, when all hope of deliverance is past, he will make his bondage felt in all its overwhelming force.

II. THE MEANS BY WHICH SATAN KEEPS SINNERS CAPTIVE. He does so by his snares. We must look at some of those principle snares by which he deludes and holds captive the unwary.

1. The first snare of Satan which I shall mention is, his making sin pleasant, and hiding its awful consequences. He makes the sinner believe the command not to sin, to be a restriction of his liberty, and, therefore, one which he has no right to listen to. It is the present, and the present only, which the devil seeks to force on the captive's mind; the present and its gain; but the awfully mysterious future he puts out of sight, veiling from the sinner's mind his dread connection with it.

2. A second snare of Satan's is, his insinuating doubts into the mind as to the truth of God's Word.

3. A third snare of Satan's is, his presenting God to the soul as one made up of all mercy.

4. A fourth snare of Satan's is, by persuading the soul that the work of repentance is an easy work: that it need not be thought of till laid on a bed of sickness or a bed of death: and he will suggest to the sinner's mind examples from God's Word to bear out this delusion.

5. Another snare of Satan, by which he takes souls captive, is by making himself an object of ridicule. This is one of "the depths of Satan": he knows that the Bible puts him forward as an object of dread; he takes care, therefore, to put himself forward as an object of ridicule, so as to blind the ungodly, and keep them captive at his will. Mark the consequence: all the warnings of Scripture concerning him, all the representations of him as an adversary, a murderer, fall on the ear of his captives as unmeaning titles, they cannot comprehend why he is to be dreaded. And why is this? Just because they are ignorant of the real reason why they cannot comprehend it — viz., Satan has deceived them, deceived them as to his character, deceived them as to his object, deceived them as to their danger, deceived them as to their end, and, will deceive them to that very hour when, as lost and wretched, they shall open their eyes, to learn then, but, alas I too late, that though the devil appeared to them "an angel of light," yet he was indeed a deceiver, a liar, and a murderer.

6. Another snare by which Satan takes souls captive at his will is, by making them rest in outward forms instead of true conversion.

III. THE MEANS BY WHICH SOULS MAY BE RECOVERED FROM HIS BONDAGE. "And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil." The word which is rendered "recover" is in the margin, "awake." It properly means to become sober again, as from intoxication; to awake from a deep sleep; and then to come to one's self, or to a right mind. The idea is, that while men are under the bondage of the devil, they are like men intoxicated, or in a deep slumber, unconscious of their danger. How are they to be roused to a sense of their danger? The answer is given in the previous verse, we are to set before them the "truth," the simple truth of Christ, If peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledging of it." Acknowledging, implying not merely confession of the truth, but a vital reception of it as it is in Jesus. It is the truth of Christ borne home to the heart by the Holy Ghost, which is the means of conversion. As long as Satan can spread over us the veil of darkness, so long are we his captives, but no sooner does the light of Christ's truth break in on the soul, than the darkness is dispersed, Satan is vanquished, and the sinner delivered out of darkness into light, and from the power of sin and Satan unto God. But mark you, it is God alone who can effect this transformation; it is God alone who can bear home the word to the heart, and make it a converting word.

(A. W. Snape, M. A.)

Forbidden fruit is sweet. It is sweetened by the devil. One forbidden tree in Eden seemed better than a thousand trees allowed. That terrible magician has power to concentrate our gaze upon one object — power to withdraw our eyes from the pure and wholesome fruits of many trees, and rivet them upon that one forbidden thing. He so intensifies our thought upon that one desire that it outgrows all desires, and perhaps life itself for the time seems stale and flat unless that one desire be gratified. That is one of the supernatural powers of the serpent to charm his victims. This dreadful delusion, this deadly fascination, fills common objects with dazzling beauty. The coloured lights of hell are reflected upon earthly things and make them appear heavenly. Thus the gaming-table is made to assume attractions which make money and land and houses insignificant trifles in comparison. Thus a glass of liquor grows in beauty and power that will out-dazzle the love of family, or the joys of home, or even the hopes of heaven.

(R. S. Barrett.)

Naturalists tell us that amongst birds and butterflies, the swiftest, strongest fliers approach man much nearer than those with weaker wings, feeling confident that they can dart away from any threatened danger, and this misplaced confidence brings them into the net of the collector.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

In mountain ranges there is often a loose detritus especially dangerous to mountaineers; these loose or crumbling stones being called "the devil's stones," for, owing to their treacherous character, if you step on one incautiously you may be precipitated into the depths. There are many such stones in the path of life. False maxims with sophistical colourings; license stealing the name of liberty; harmful speculations, luring as grand chances; methods of trade outlined square, yet full of betrayal; sandy doctrines simulating the rock; friendships which are flowery graves; occupations, recreations which promise rest and serve only to slip us into mire; these are the things of peril: life is full of them; and he only walks surely who walks discreetly.

(W. L. Watkinson.).

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