Conduct in View of Heresy Appearing in the Church
2 Timothy 2:14-26
Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit…

I. METHOD OF THE HERETICS. "Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them in the sight of the Lord, that they strive not about words, to no profit, to the subverting of them that hear." The method of the heretics called for solemn warning from Timothy. Its essential character was word fighting. It dealt with the form, and not with the reality; and so it came to be controversial. The word is not unimportant, but it has no importance apart from its being the vehicle of the truth. The moral defect of the method was its want of regard to edification. The disputants only used it for dialectic display. There was, therefore, no good result to be laid to their account. The only result to be expected was the subversion of any who, by hearing, placed themselves within their influence.

II. THE TRUE METHOD. "Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the Word of truth." The heretics sought to be approved unto them that heard them, for their skill in word fighting. Timothy was to follow another course, and to display his zeal in quitting himself so as to be approved unto God. The way in which he was to do this was by answering to the idea of a workman. He was not to amuse himself with profitless disputation, but he was to give profitable work. He was to work with such rigorous regard to the Divine rule that, whether he met with approval or disapproval from men, he did not need to be ashamed. Especially was he to show the better way of dealing with the Word. He was to cut rightly, or cut straight, the Word of truth. Whatever the metaphor is, there can be no doubt that the idea is that, instead of trifling with the Word, he was to go right into and lay open the Divine truth it contained.

III. WHY THE METHOD OF THE HERETICS WAS TO BE AVOIDED. "But shun profane babblings: for they will proceed further in ungodliness, and their word will eat as doth a gangrene." The method of the heretics is characterized in keeping with what has been already said. It was using empty speech, or speech without reference to reality. That, applied to Divine things, was necessarily profane. Its natural association was God-dishonouring representations, operating against devout feelings and corresponding practice. This ungodly tendency had not taken its worst form. The heretics would yet say worse things. Their word was of the nature of a gangrene, that eats into the life, and, always in an aggravated form, spreads over the spiritual body.

IV. TWO HERETICS NAMED. "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." The way in which these men were heretics, or darted aside from the truth as the mark, was by applying the method described to the doctrine of the resurrection. Under the influence of an incipient Gnosticism, in which the body was regarded as evil, they got rid of the reference of the resurrection to the body by quibbling about the word. The word was simply "rising again," and its meaning was sufficiently met by what had already taken place in a Christian believer, viz. the rising of the soul to newness of life. With their verbal skill, they were succeeding in the case of some. But what was success to these dialecticians was to those with whom they succeeded nothing less than the subversion of their faith, so essential is the resurrection of the body to Christianity.

V. THE STABILITY OF THE CHURCH. "Howbeit the firm foundation of God standeth." Though the faith of some is overturned, the Church standeth. The Church is not thought of as a completed structure, which it will not be till ages still have passed. But it is thought of as a substructure in a satisfactory state, as having, indeed, been laid by God. It had that firmness which is essential for the commencement of a building. As firm, it was standing, notwithstanding the strain to which it had been subjected. As firm, it promised to stand a long time, and the promise has not been belied. For upon the foundation part of the building much has been laid since, and we have no reason to fear its overthrow, but rather increased reason to anticipate its completion. The Church is a structure in connection with which there is solemn engagement. "Having this seal." The seal on the substructure has two sides.

1. The obverse, or Divine side. "The Lord knoweth them that are his." The language from this point to the close of the twenty-first verse seems to have been suggested by a memorable passage in Jewish history, recorded in the sixteenth of Numbers, viz. the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. These men charged Moses and Aaron with taking too much upon them in acting, the one as prophet by pre-eminence and the other as priest by pre-eminence. The reply of Moses, as given in the Septuagint, was that God knew them that were his, i.e. would maintain their cause against opposers, as he did signally in that case, in causing the earth to open and swallow up these men and their company.

2. The reverse, or human side. "And, Let every one that nameth the Name of the Lord depart from unnghteousness. The Jewish congregation was composed of them that named the Name of God, i.e. that professed to worship him as the Most Holy One, and to obey his commands. In the case referred to, the Divine call to the whole congregation was, "Depart from the tents of those wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins." The application is the following: Let Timothy be comforted by the thought that the Lord would judge between him and such opposers as Hyraenaeus and Philetus, who would not be able to move the substructure that had been laid. On the other hand, let Christian congregations be warned. They are composed of those who name the Name of the Lord, i.e. profess faith in Christ as their Saviour, and promise obedience to his laws. In the Christian religion, even more than in the Jewish religion, unrighteousness appears as receiving terrible condemnation. Let not, then, a Christian have anything to do with departure from the truth and fellowship with ungodliness.

VI. MIXED SOCIETY. "Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some unto honour, and some unto dishonour." In the Jewish Church (which is called the house of God) there were faithful and unfaithful, with degrees of faithfulness and degrees of unfaithfulness, compared here, the one class to vessels of gold and of silver, and the other class to vessels of wood and of earth - vessels put to honourable uses and vessels put to dishonourable uses. In the former class were Moses and Aaron, and in the latter class Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, as shown in the day of trial. The Christian Church is also a great house, presided over, as we are told, not by a servant, but a Son. "And Moses indeed was faithful in all God's house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were afterward to be spoken; but Christ as a Son, over God's house; whose house are we, if we hold fast our boldness and the glorying of our hope firm unto the end." The Church is meant to be a pure society, but it is impossible under present conditions to have this realized to the fullest extent. In the apostolic circle around Christ there were vessels of gold and. vessels of silver - of superior use and of inferior use in the service of the Master; but there was also shown to be a vessel of more than ordinary baseness of material put to the most dishonourable use. In the Church as it was forming there were men and women with gold and silver in their natures, "who having lands or houses sold them and laid the prices down at the apostles' feet;" but there were also Ananias and Sapphira, whose earthliness moved them to keep back part of the price. So while Paul was of gold use, we may say, at that period of the Church's history, and Timothy comparatively of silver use, Hymenaeus and Philetus belonged to the other category, having nothing better than wood in them, and put to no honourable use.

VII. PURGATION. "If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, meet for the Master's use, prepared unto every good work." There was a purgation of the congregation of Israel in connection with the rebellion that has been referred to. Every Israelite was to get up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; that was the condition of his being classed among the pure - of his being, according to the language formerly used, a vessel unto honour. We may think of the censers used by the two hundred and fifty of Korah's company; their sacredness was recognized by their being taken out of the fire, and put to another sacred use. "The censers of those sinners against their own souls, let them make them broad plates for a covering of the altar." The same thing has to take place in the Christian Church. A member of a Christian congregation is not to have fellowship with such subverters as Hymenaeus and Phitetus were, or with those, whether subverted or not as to creed, who engage in ungodly practices. He is not even to throw himself into the society of the merely indifferent. Thus only can he be a vessel unto honour. Three things are said about him who is a vessel unto honour. They turn upon the idea of usefulness; for that is essential to a vessel. The first has reference to an act of consecration. The second has reference to a use the Master has for the vessel. The third has reference to a course of preparation for the use. Christians are set apart to holy uses. This is partly their own act, in the dedication of themselves to God; and partly the Divine act in the sprinkling of the blood of Christ and anointing of the Holy Ghost. There is a use the Master has forevery Christian. This use may be said to be (distributively) every good work. A Christian can be turned to more uses than a particular kind of vessel. It rather needs all kinds of sacred vessels to express his usefulness. His preparation, then, is no simple matter; it cannot be carried through in a day or a year. In and through experience, embracing our own exercise of soul and the Divine blessing, we acquire habitudes for various kinds of service, which are not always in actual requisition, but may at any time be in requisition. Let us, then, be in such a state of preparation that the Master of the house can, as it were, take us up, and use us for whatever work he has to be done.

VIII. PURE FELLOWSHIP. "But flee youthful lusts, and follow after righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." In this punctuation peace is not specially connected with what follows. The idea is certainly, even from the context, pure fellowship. Timothy was to act his part well in the Christian society with which he was connected. He had yet youth on his side, and, while that had its large possibilities of service, it had also its risks. It had fiery impulses, from which even a youthful minister was not exempt, and by giving way to which the Christian society would be seriously injured. Let him flee to a distance from his peculiar temptations; on the other hand, let him be in close pursuit of the virtues on which pure fellowship depends. There is that universal virtue, righteousness, which may be thought of as the observance of the Divine rules, Then there is faith, or reliance on promised strength. Then there is love, or proper regard for the common or individual good. There is, lastly, peace, or the keeping up of cordial intercourse and cooperation with brethren. The society by which he has to do his duty is regarded as composed of "them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." All the more that some called on the Lord without the pure heart must he be faithful to the terms of communion with all who, in good faith, were servants of the Lord.


1. Avoidance of controversy with them. "But foolish and ignorant questionings refuse, knowing that they gender strifes." The apostle does not say all questionings; for some might arise from honest difficulties, and these deserved to be met. But he says such questionings as were foolish, i.e. betrayed no honest struggle after the truth, and such as were ignorant, i.e. betrayed ignorance of the position questioned. Such questionings as, arising from egoism, did not deserve to be met, and the proper course was to have nothing to do with them. For they could not gender conviction, but petty strifes, in which the contest is not for the truth, but for personal or party victory.

2. The arts of gentleness with them. "And the Lord's servants must not strive, but be gentle towards all, apt to teach, forbearing, in meekness correcting them that oppose themselves." The Lord's servant, such as Timothy was in a special sense, was not to strive. For how in that way could he be the servant of him who did not strive, nor cry, nor let his voice be heard in the streets? What became the Lord's servant was to practise the arts of gentleness towards all. His part was, not to fight but to teach, not to be fiery under opposition, but to be patient. In accordance with his being a teacher and not a mere disputant, he was to communicate knowledge of the truth, by way of correcting false impressions to those who opposed themselves; and, in doing so, he might expect provocation, but in the character of the Lord's servant he was to exhibit meekness.

3. Object aimed at. "If peradventure God may 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 wilt of God." The interpretation which is introduced into the Revised Translation in the concluding words is not likely to find acceptance. There is a strong characterization of the opposers. They are in the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him at the will of that person whose will, it is hinted, is decided enough for evil. The grammatical objection holds no more in Greek than in English; the thought is the badness of their case, for whom notwithstanding he asks efforts to be made. In connection with these efforts it was not impossible for God to grant them repentance, that change of moral disposition which was necessary to the right appreciation of the truth, and thus to recover them as from a state of spiritual intoxication, and to bring them out of the devil's snare. The Lord's servant is not soon to give up, but is to hope on, even with those who seem to be the devil's willing tools. - R.F.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.

WEB: Remind them of these things, charging them in the sight of the Lord, that they don't argue about words, to no profit, to the subverting of those who hear.

Cavilling and Disputation
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