Keep on Being a Diligent Worker
2 Timothy 2:14-19 – 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. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 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. 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 Diligent Worker Reminds, 2:14a
In Paul’s final epistle he keeps on reminding Timothy to keep on reminding the church. Man is a forgetful creature and needs constant reminders. The things they need to be reminded of are those which Paul has just spoken about: the need to develop teachers in the future; working and suffering before being rewarded; and remembering the salvation which comes through Jesus Christ. As Peter wrote, “I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, …to stir you up by reminding you…to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease” (2 Peter 1:12,13,15).
■ A Diligent Worker Charges, 2;14b
As Paul charges Timothy as a military commander giving orders to a subordinate, so he is to pass along the Divine orders from the headquarters in Heaven. The order is not to “strive about words.” Literally, this is a war of words. This is not a prohibition against debate. The reason for the strong command is that these debates over words does not profit anything toward the salvation of souls. Once during a discussion about modesty a brother remarked that a Christian could never wear shorts. When asked about those shorts which were as long as a modest skirt, he shot back, “No! Shorts is shorts!” This command is given “before the Lord.” An order issued while the commander is watching your response is an order which will more likely be carried out. God was a witness to the commands He had Paul give to Timothy and was watching while Timothy passed them along to the brethren.
■ A Diligent Worker Averts Catastrophe, 2:14c
From the Greek term which is translated here as “ruin” also becomes our English word “catastrophe.” Timothy can stop the war of words and avoid a great catastrophe at Ephesus. Think of the many wars and conflicts in history which could have been averted if wise men had first stopped the war of words which led to greater conflict. The term is used of the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah in 2 Peter 2:6 and of the destructive effect of false teachers in 2 Pet. 2:1; 3:15,16.
■ A Diligent Worker Is Approved, 2:15a
The King James reads, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God.” However, this passage is not specifically talking about studying the Word of God. The Greek word “spoudazo” means “to give diligence.” It is so translated later in 4:9,21 and Titus 3:12. Although a diligent worker will study God’s Word this passage is not a specific instruction for studying.
The motive of a diligent workers to not to have their efforts to be seen by men and meet their approval. Instead they are to work hard to please God. Paul had written, “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Gal 1:10). Timothy’s work needed to be tested by God and found genuine. He works for God and his work must be judged and rewarded by God.
■ A Diligent Worker is not Ashamed, 2:15b
God has had many workers who were not so diligent about showing to God their hard work. The one talent man failed to receive approval for this very reason. The Master told him, “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, …And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 25:26-28,30). Although Timothy may not make everyone happy because he does not entangle himself in the war of words, he will not have to be ashamed before God.
■ A Diligent Worker Lives the Truth, 2:15c
The Greek word for “rightly dividing” is only found here in the New Testament and in the Septuagint. It literally refers to “cutting straight.” As a tentmaker Paul knew the value of this. It is also a term which could apply to the stone mason or the road builder. The real issue is whether it refers to a correct handling of God’s Word or demonstrating a proper application of Truth in one’s daily life. If one is relying on the Greek Old Testament’s use of the term in Proverbs 3:6 and 11:5, then the later meaning would apply. Traditionally, many have used this passage to teach that one must show the correct distinction between the Old and New Testaments. Although this is necessary for all God’s workers, this passage is not specifically teaching that concept.
■ A Diligent Worker Shuns, 2:16a
Timothy is given another command to “shun” or stand separated from “profane and idle babblings.” These represent a specific time of warring words. Words that are vain, empty of any real value, a wasted discussion which is to be avoided. This type of discussion is found in far too many adult Bible classes. The teacher gives himself to ten minutes of study before class and the students come to class even less prepared. They pass each verse around from member to member in the pews to explain what they think the passage means. In the end everyone thinks they have had a great discussion but it is no more than a mutual pooling of ignorance and void of any real edification. Even good teachers can be drawn into discussions which lead to strife and wasted time and effort. Every Bible class teacher needs to heed these words of wisdom: “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Prov 10:19).
■ A Diligent Worker Stops the Spread, 2:16b
The term gangrene would be more appropriate than cancer since it is actually derived from the Greek word used in the text. The term originally meant to eat away. So gangrene sets in after the loss of circulation and eats away like cancer until it kills. Audie Murphy, the famous World War II hero, was shot in the hip and gangrene set in until nine inches of his hip had to be cut away to stop the spread. This action not only saved his life, but permitted him to return to the battlefront where he single handedly held off six German tanks and 250 infantry men. This action won him the Congregational Medal of Honor. By stopping the spread of the warring words, souls can be saved, the real battle won, and victory achieved.
■ A Diligent Worker Protects the Faith of Some, 2:17a-18
Nothing is known of Philetus but what is written here. However, Paul mentioned in his first letter to Timothy that while he was at Ephesus he delivered Hymaneaus along with Alexander “to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim 1:20). Evidently Hymaneaus was still at work using a war of words with empty discussions which were spreading like gangrene. Specifically, he and Philetus were attacking the belief in the bodily resurrection of believers in the last day. Paul already has made a defense of this to the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 15:12-58). These may have been influences by the Greek philosophers who rejected the idea of a bodily resurrection. To them the body was evil and the spirit good and therefore to reunite them in a resurrection was repulsive. Since these two men were arguing that the resurrection had already passed, they may have applied it to the spiritual resurrection which takes places at baptism (Rom. 6:1-8). Jesus has made it clear that He will resurrect the dead in the end. “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth–those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).
Apparently the faith of some had already been destroyed by this false teaching about the resurrection. If Timothy is a good worker for God he will protect the faith of others by effectively dealing with those who have strayed from the truth.
■ A Diligent Worker Has a Solid Foundation, 2:19a
The firm or solid foundation may refer to the truth or the church which is “the pillar and ground of the truth” which rest upon the foundation of Christ and His apostles (Eph. 2:20). No matter what false doctrine is spread or how many become faithless, God’s Word, the Truth will stand. False teaching and their teachers will not stand firm. They will not last as will the eternal Word.
■ A Diligent Worker is God’s, 2:19b
In ancient times a seal was a sign of ownership which protect the content of a letter or a vessel. Paul mentions that there are two such seals on the foundation. Jesus said of His flock, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28). As the truth is still the truth; so God’s children are still His despite all the warring of empty words. God knows those who are true, approved workers and Timothy is one of the them.
■ A Diligent Worker Departs from Lawlessness, 2:19c
During the rebellion of Korah, Moses warned the children of Israel, “Depart now from the tents of these wicked men! Touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins” (Num 16:26). God said through His prophet Isaiah, “Depart! Depart! Go out from there, touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her, be clean, you who bear the vessels of the Lord” (Isaiah 52:11). Scholars are divided over which passage Paul may be referencing. Nonetheless, there must be a zero tolerance for error.
– Daniel R. Vess