2 Timothy 2:26
And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
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. THE CHARACTERS SPOKEN OF.
II. THE MEANS BY WHICH THEY ARE HELD IN BONDAGE.
III. THE MEANS BY WHICH THEY MAY BE RECOVERED FROM THAT 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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.