Do’s & Don’ts in Ministry

Posted: December 29, 2008 in 2 Timothy

2 Timothy 2:14-26, “Do’s & Don’ts in Ministry”

Timothy’s been in Ephesus & has had to deal with false teaching since his arrival there… So Paul (his mentor & spiritual father) has been giving him some “do’s & don’ts” in teaching & ministry… DO teach the truth – DO live holy & honorable – DO teach in gentleness

2 Timothy 2:14-26 (NKJV)
14 Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.

A. Remind who? Everyone! The word “them” is added by the translators (italics). Part of Timothy’s responsibilities as a pastor/overseer was to remind the entire church of the basics of the gospel & God’s faithfulness, which Paul sang about in vs. 11-13…
__a. Can we ever hear too much about the gospel? I hope not! 🙂 We (hopefully) all know very well that Christ died for our sins, rose again to life, and offers new life to all who call upon Him in repentance and faith. But it’s something we need to be reminded of constantly. Why? We didn’t get ourselves saved; why would we think we can do any better in daily life? We are saved by the grace of God, walk with Christ by the grace of God, and look forward to eternal life by the grace of God.

B. What does it mean to quarrel/strive over words? Got a great example of this in 1998 when President Clinton told a grand jury, “It depends what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” This happens in Christianity all the time! Instead of exhorting the church to the simple truth of the gospel & to walk with the Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, we get caught up in all sorts of debates splitting hairs between people who would otherwise call one another brothers & sisters in the Lord. (When is the exact moment regeneration takes place in a believer? What’s the difference between filling & baptism of the Spirit? Etc.) (Augustine) “In essentials – unity; in non-essentials – liberty; in all things – charity.”
__a. That doesn’t mean we’re not to contend for the truth & pure doctrine. Paul’s made that extremely clear. But at the same time, we need to beware & be careful of striving (fighting) over words.

C. What is the inevitable result of useless quarreling? “Ruin” = literally καταστροφή! Too strong of a word? No – not when we consider that Jesus’ primary prayer for the church was for unity within the church. (John 17:20-21) … Instead of unity, useless quarreling leads to ruin through disunity. [Martin Luther & Ulrich Zwingli]

15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

A. DO be “diligent” in studying… Not talking about mindlessly reading – Greek implies active, eager studying & labor over the Scriptures. Pastors aren’t to run from study; they’re to run to it – actively seeking the truth behind God’s inspired word.

B. What comes of diligence? The pastor does not need to be ashamed because he’s “rightly dividing the word of truth”… Gk for “dividing” is the only time it’s used in the NT & a rare word in ancient Greek overall. Compound word meaning “straight cutting”…some translate it “dissecting” – others liken it to plowing a straight line in a field. We need to be careful not to put our own spin on the English word – to some older dispensationalists, to ‘rightly divide’ the truth means to accurately determine the various dispensational ages. To some in other theological traditions, it means to ‘rightly divide’ between law & grace. Neither is the context here. Paul’s whole subject is one of teaching…to ‘rightly divide’ the truth is to rightly teach the truth…
__a. The word of God is the “word of truth”. Jesus affirmed the same thing (John 17:17)… Paul will get into this more in Ch 3 – but the word of God is the very truth of God. We can trust every single jot & tittle in the Scripture.
__b. It IS possible to wrongly divide it… What happens when teachers do so? They’ll be held to a stricter judgment (James 3:1). Does that absolve us of any responsibility? No – we’ve got to be Bereans. (Acts 17)

16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.

A. DON’T promote profane teaching…it’s empty babbling – just mindless noise. Wrote the same thing in 1 Tim 6:20…and it was still a danger for the church. To allow it to continue (or worse, to embrace it) would lead to ungodliness & spiritual disease…

17 And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18 who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.

A. Example of profane & idle babblings: Hymenaeus & Philetus. We don’t know anything about Philetus (except that his name is ironic: “amiable”), but Paul’s addressed Hymenaeus before (1 Tim 1:20). Apparently Hymenaeus didn’t learn anything in his discipline & continued to cause problems in the church. We don’t know the exact heresy they taught…simply that they believed the resurrection had already come. (Similar heresy exists in hyper/full-preterism…) Whatever the case, it was profane babbling & wrongly dividing the word of truth.
__a. FYI, the resurrection has not yet come (in case you hadn’t noticed).  We ARE to expect a physical resurrection! 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 (20) But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (21) For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. (22) For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. (23) But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. [] According to the NT, the question isn’t whether or not there is a physical resurrection to come (that is assured – proved by THE Resurrection); the question is how you’re going to take part in it. Are you Christ’s?

B. Their message kills (like cancer & overthrows faith). “cancer” = γάγγραινα ‘gangrene’ – it decays and spreads quickly & incessantly. The only real solution is to cut it out or amputate it. Likewise with heretical teaching, the enemy uses it to overthrow faith. As in the parable of the sower, the birds come & snatch away the good word sown in their heart (Matt 13:19)…heresy is a dangerous thing. The church is supposed to be the “pillar & ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15) – we ought to guard against profane teaching & guard the truth of the word of God.
__a. Does false teaching affect everyone the same way? No – it “overthrows the faith of some.” But that doesn’t mean it’s not still to be avoided. How many times do we want to play Russian Roulette? Eventually, we’re going to get killed. Likewise with false teaching, if we engage it long enough & imbibe enough bad doctrine, it’s bound to affect us somehow…

19 Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

A. False teachers & teaching will come & go, but God’s truth will stand! What’s the solid foundation? Christ (1 Cor 3:11)? The Gospel (Luke 6:48-49)? The Church (Eph 2:20, 1 Tim 3:15)? Yes.  The immediate context is that of the church (speaking of those people sealed by God) – but the church is only the church because of the grace offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

B. Gives a couple of loose quotes from the OT. 1st quote: Rebellion of Korah – Numbers 16:4-5 (4) So when Moses heard it, he fell on his face; (5) and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him. That one whom He chooses He will cause to come near to Him. [] 2nd quote is a little more uncertain – could be a reference to Num 16:26 or Isa 52:11…both speak of departing from uncleanness/iniquity, though neither is an exact match. But the metaphor of Korah is inescapable. Those like Hymenaeus & Philetus were attempting to usurp the church of God through their heresy – and those who followed them would be swallowed up with them.

C. The point? The Lord protects His people. If you’re abiding in the truth, nothing is going to take you away from Him…He’s sealed you. He knows exactly whom He has called, and He’s going to keep you as His own. We don’t need to fear false teachers; we just need to avoid them. At the same time, if you’re not abiding in Christ & departing from iniquity, you have good reason to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith! (2 Cor 13:5)

20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.

A. Paul’s continuing to refer to the Church (the great house) – but keep in mind there is both the visible & invisible Church. The visible are all those who claim the name of Christ; the invisible are all those who truly belong to Him & have been born again. (Jesus says much the same with the wheat/tares & sheep/goats…) WE may not know which is which, but God does (He’s sealed them & knows His own). But although we cannot necessarily know others (apart from their fruit), we CAN know ourselves. And we ought to want to be vessels of honor!

B. How are we made vessels of honor? By cleansing ourselves of dishonor? Staying away from dishonorable false Christians? Both! Paul’s going to write about personal behavior in the next verse, but he’s still wrapping up the thought of amputating the gangrene (he has a tendency to mix metaphors!)… When we discover that a teacher is promoting a heretical version of an essential doctrine (like the resurrection) – the responsibility falls to us to either bring correction or pull away from it. [‘Bishop’ Carlton Pearson??]

C. What happens if we are vessels of honor? We’re “sanctified & useful” for our Master: We’re set apart for God & His purposes. He uses His word to equip us for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17), so it follows that as He prepares us through His true teaching, we would cleanse ourselves from false teaching. We want to be ready to be used by God when He needs to use us…

22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

A. How should we cleanse ourselves? The same way that Paul exhorted Timothy in his earlier letter – 1 Timothy 6:11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. [] Good advice doesn’t change.  Specifically here: flee “youthful lusts.” Keep in mind Timothy was a relatively young minister – somewhere in his 30’s. He was still a prime target for youthful temptations (not that temptations stop at certain ages, but the kinds of temptations typically change). We tend to immediately equate “lust” with “sex” because of our culture – but the context is a lot broader. Hymenaeus & Philetus were apparently lusting after power & fame in the church… Lust can take on a lot of forms. The specific Greek word refers to a deep longing or desire – something that someone would set a fierce passion upon. Ultimately, it’s a reference to covetousness…be it another person who’s not your spouse – or the desire to be ‘right’ no matter what the cost – or calculating a way to be a person of great influence. It’s wanting what we don’t have, and doing whatever it takes until we get it. Those who desire to live godly & be honorable vessels for our Master ought to flee those things!
__a. ‘Is fleeing from temptation really a good option?’ Yes – it’s biblical! [Joseph & Potiphar’s wife – Gen 39] Especially in the area of sexual immorality – the NT tells us to flee from it (1 Cor 6:18).

B. Don’t just flee from something; flee to something else. Pursue godliness. Specifically:
__a. Righteousness: As Christians, we are given the righteousness of Christ (1 Cor 5:21) – it’s imputed to us by God as we have none of our own (Rom 3:10). But just because God gives us righteousness doesn’t mean we stop pursuing it. We ought to seek after holiness – living as men & women who really have been born again by the Spirit of God.
__b. Faith: Like righteousness, faith is not something that begins & ends the moment we repent & place our trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. It definitely begins there, but it ought never end. The apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith (Luke 17:5) – as the early church in Asia grew, they were strengthened in the faith (Acts 16:5). Every day we breathe and walk with the Lord Jesus is another day that we can grow in our faith, understand what it means to trust Him, & rejoice in the gospel.
__c. Love: Speaking of agape (selfless – Christ centered) love. Of all the spiritual gifts and things we could pursue, there’s none greater than love…it’s better than tongues, prophecy, and miraculous faith combined (1 Cor 13). The contrast is striking, isn’t it? We’re to flee lusts, but pursue love. Lust is consumed with self; love seeks for others. Love fulfills the law (Rom 13:10) & is at the heart of the gospel (John 3:16)…Christians ought to pursue love!
__d. Peace with other believers: Simply because we’re brothers and sisters in the Lord doesn’t mean we won’t hurt one another. Part of what comes with loving one another as Christ loved us is to bear with one another when the other person isn’t very bearable (1 Cor 13:7). Does it come naturally? No – but that’s why it’s something that ought to be pursued.

23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.

A. One way of seeking peace with one another? Don’t needlessly argue – takes us back to vs. 14 & a constant theme in the letter. There are always people who want to wrangle over every word & debate issues that are only speculation…and it’s easy to get caught up within it! (What exact processes caused the earth to flood… How many other children Adam & Eve had… Etc.) Arguments come easily enough for us without Christians actively seeking them out.

– DO be a servant…
24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,

A. As opposed to quarreling & striving with one another, the person who desires to be a servant (doulos) of God needs to be “gentle.” Talking about meekness; not weakness. Specifically for a pastor/teacher, he’s got to be patient & humble in his teaching – knowing that although he’s teaching the truth of God, he himself is not beyond error & is no better than anyone else. (Pastors aren’t celebrities…)

B. But bring correction! It must be done in gentleness, but we shouldn’t buy into the idea that gentleness turns a blind eye to false teaching. The most loving thing we could do with someone who’s bought into heresy is to share the truth with them. But we’ve got to know the truth if we’re going to share the truth…
__a. Specifically for pastors, they’ve got to have the skill to “be able to teach.” It’s not much good to someone else if we know the truth, but can’t share it with them…

C. What do we hope to gain by godly correction? Repentance & restoration! This is always the goal of discipline/correction within the church. Never is someone corrected out of spite; they’re always handed over to the Lord in order that the Lord would bring them to repentance.
__a. Can we talk someone into repentance? No. But we can share the truth with them. We can share Scriptures, and the gospel, and continue to love them enough in Christ to teach them the truth. But repentance isn’t a work of man; it’s a gift of God, available for the asking.

26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

A. Ultimately, those who are in opposition, teaching false doctrine, and quarreling over words are losing a spiritual battle (which they may not even be aware of). They’re ensnared by the devil.

B. But the good news is that Jesus has come to set the captives free! (Isa 61:1, Luke 4:18) Have you been set free? Then rejoice! Or have you realized that you’ve been lulled to sleep & trapped by the devil? Then repent, and let Jesus free you!

It’s easy to imagine the relief Timothy must have felt when reading this letter from his friend & mentor, Paul. Timothy had likely struggled with some of these false teachings in Ephesus since the day he arrived, and must have wondered along the way whether or not he was doing the right thing. And then one day he gets a letter basically telling him to keep it up.

1. DO teach the truth. Don’t compromise on it; don’t entertain false ideas; don’t let heresies infect the church. But do study with diligence as a laborer to his trade & ensure that the church is feeding on the milk & meat of the word of God.
2. DO be a clean & useable vessel for the Master. He’s going to sort out the dishonorable vessels in His time. But our responsibility is to keep ourselves clean through the enabling of the Holy Spirit. Whether it’s avoiding sinful teaching or sinful practices – we’re to be a holy people of God.
3. DO teach in gentleness. Timothy didn’t need to ramrod the truth; simply to proclaim it. God’s word is alive & powerful & sharper than any 2-edged sword (Heb 4:12). Our responsibility is merely to proclaim in truth in the love in which it was given to us.

Are these only instructions for pastors? No – they’re instructions for the church…all of us who have been sealed by God. Christian, be wary of giving up the truth of God’s word for anything. Not only do we need to be taught it, but it’s God’s word that cleanses us (Eph 5:26), and it’s by God’s word that we bring gentle correction in hopes of restoration & repentance (Gal 6:1). It’s good to equip us for every good work!

Do you know the truth? Jesus said that He IS the truth (John 14:6) – have you received Him as your Savior & Lord? Whether you know it or not, if you haven’t trusted Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, you are ensnared by the devil & are an enemy of God through your sin (lies, lusting, hating, coveting, etc). But God loves you & offers you forgiveness & new life!

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