“More Tactics for Life and Ministry from
A Bible Study of 2 Timothy
Be Strong - 2 Timothy 2
Having a strong grip is important. In sports you need a strong grip to swing a baseball bat, swing a golf club, hold on to a water skiing chord or if you swing from rings or the uneven balance bars in gymnastics. When you drive a car you need a firm grip on the steering wheel. Let go and you lose control. When you ride a roller coaster you better hold on tight. (Sometimes driving in a car can feel like a rollercoaster ride depending on whose driving!) A strong grip in life is important to do everything from opening a door or cabinet to climbing a set of stairs. We grip pens and markers, knives and forks, we grip a computer mouse and a remote control. Yes, having a strong grip is important.
A strong grip is also important in our walk with the Lord too. In chapter one of 2 Timothy Paul exhorted Timothy to "Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus." (1:13) It's one thing to "hold fast" to something. It's another thing to have a strong enough hold. When a pitcher throws an off speed pitch to a batter sometimes the batter is so fooled that he loses his grip on the bat and it goes flying out of his hands; sometimes dangerously into the crowd of fans. A grip that is not strong is really of little use. If our grip isn't strong enough the task we attempt falls short. Gold balls aren't hit, water skiers go splash, gymnasts fall to the floor, people are thrown from roller coasters and cars run off the road or into oncoming traffic, messages aren't written, food doesn't reach our mouth, computers aren't surfed and channels aren't changed. A grip must be strong enough for the task. That is why in chapter two of 2 Timothy Paul exhorts Timothy to, "you therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2:1).
In chapter 2 of 2 Timothy Paul is going to instruct Timothy on the best source for strength that is sufficient to hold fast to what he exhorted him to hold fast to in chapter one. Paul tells Timothy "the grace that is in Christ Jesus" is the best source of holding power.
2 Timothy 2 (NKJV)
Strong in Grace
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
When Paul begins this chapter, "You therefore," he is linking what precedes with what follows. It's as though he is saying, "I have exhorted you to 'Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me and this is how you can do it." How can Timothy and how can we actually hold fast to what we have received from our Lord? Paul's inspired answer to that question is "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."
Paul refers to Timothy as "my son." Paul sees Timothy as a spiritual son in the Lord. As a spiritual father to Timothy Paul's endearing words indicate that what he is about to share with Timothy is in his best interests and are genuinely with his best interests at heart. A father wants his son to succeed. What Paul now says to Timothy is from a father's heart.
"Be strong" (Greek endynamoo) means to be strengthened and empowered. The grammatical form of this term (Present/Middle/Imperative) conveys the thought that it is essential to constantly be strengthened and empowered. And what Paul tells Timothy is the source of his strength is "the grace that is in Christ Jesus." "Grace" (Greek charis) is favor, benefit, gift, joy, pleasure, liberality. Grace points us to God's benefits and blessings. And such grace in particular is found "in Christ Jesus."
God pours His grace upon everyone (Psalm 145:8-9). But the Bible tells us it is possible to receive God’s grace in vain and even abuse it (Romans 11:6; 2 Corinthians 6:1; Galatians 2:21; 5:3-4; Jude 4). There is a right way to respond to God’s grace. What is God’s grace? What does God give by grace and how should we respond to it?
What is grace? Grace means God loves to give. The Biblical concept of grace communicates to us that God loves to give. The Bible is filled with the giving of God. When we consider "grace" as it relates to God we need to understand that grace is entirely from God. When we look at the Bible we see that God’s grace is “great,” God’s grace is “sufficient,” God’s grace “saved,” us, and God’s grace is “exceedingly abundant”: toward us (Acts 4:33; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Romans 2:4; 5:12-20; Ephesians 1:7-8; 2:4-5; 2 Corinthians 9:8; 1 Timothy 1:12-16; 1 Peter 4:9). God’s grace is always “much more” than we expect or can ever comprehend (Romans 5:3,10,15,17,20). God gives grace upon grace (John 1:16). God loves us so much He chooses to lavish favor on us.
What does God Give? According to Romans 6:23 Gods’ gift of grace is “eternal life.” That provision is inseparably tied to Jesus (John 1:16-17; 3:16; 14:6; 1 John 5:11-12; Acts 4:12; 15:11; Romans 6:23; 1 Peter 1:13). You can’t receive the gift of eternal life apart from receiving Jesus Christ. That's why Paul speaks of grace to Timothy as the "grace that is in Christ Jesus."
God's grace provides us with a strengthening and empowering revelation to overcome our greatest enemy, death. Death, when we see it as a great dark unknown, can be enslaving. But in Christ the shackles of death can be thrown off (Heb. 2:14-15). Death is not a defeat; it is a blessed open door to new eternal spiritual life that is a gift provided by God and can be received through faith in Christ. God by grace gives us a blessed assurance of eternal life with Him (John 5:24; 10:28; 1 John 5:13). Eternal life is not something we receive only in the future. Eternal life is a quality of life we receive and begin right now. That eternal life is characterized by a new attitude to God and His grace. And the knowledge of this provision of God in Christ is tremendously encouraging and strengthening to our faith. When we understand God's provision to overcome death through faith in Christ, if gives us all the more strong of a grip on the way we live our present life.
What should our attitude toward God be in light of His grace? Since God’s grace is not of us, not dependent upon any work of ours, then we should simply receive and expect it. Having a solid grip on grace has an incredible impact on our relationship with God and how we relate to Him. In his inspired letter to the church in Rome Paul explains this saying, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32). When we understand the concept of God's grace never again will our relationship with Him be reduced to trying to earn His favor. Instead we will simply look took God in faith with great expectations.
Chuck Smith who is the founding pastor of the Calvary Chapel movement that grew from a church of around two dozen people to be a family of churches that covers the globe defined grace in the following way: "Grace is God acting freely according to His own nature of love. Pastor Chuck Smith had a firm hold and deep understanding of God's grace. He learned and lived and taught that grace originates wholly in God, not in us. Nothing in us activates God’s grace. That's the empowering truth about God's grace.
This concept of God's grace as God's undeserved unearned favor confuses us because we question why God is gracious toward those who we feel are worse than us. We don’t understand why God would bless those who are dirty rotten sinful scoundrels. We have a hard time accepting God’s grace gracefully. We think we earn God’s grace. But that is works and not grace. Grace is sovereign; there is no human cause for God's grace; God acts graciously upon whom He chooses to act graciously. Works or human effort short-circuit grace. We can’t “earn” God’s grace. When we try to earn God's grace, grace ceases to be grace. Grace therefore humbles us because we know we do not deserve God's grace.
In light of God’s grace, what should our attitude toward God’s grace be?
First, believe you are going to be blessed. We need to consent to graciously loved and blessed by God. We should EXPECT to be blessed by God though we do not deserve in any way to be blessed by God. No one deserves God' grace. But everyone can expect God's grace (Ps. 56:9; 84:11-12; 103:9-10; Romans 8:31-32).
Second, understand grace is God working in you for His pleasure, not you working to gain God's treasure. (Zechariah 12:10; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13). We simply need to surrender and receive God’s grace in our lives and hearts.
Third, understand trials are not God's judgment, but God's gracious loving means to build godly character and spiritual maturity in His followers (Romans 5:3-5; 8:28-29; Hebrews 12:3-11).
Fourth, understand your "hope" to be better is a failure to see yourself as complete in Christ (Romans 6:14; Colossians 2:10; Philippians 1:6; 2:13; 2 Peter 3:18). To be disappointed in myself means I am trusting in myself, my flesh, not God.
Fifth, understand discouragement is the product of unbelief (Num. 13 and 14; Acts 18:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). Discouragement is based on a failure to believe God will fulfill His word and promise.
Sixth, understand that to be proud is to be spiritually blind(Proverbs 16:18; 1 Peter 5:5-6). The proud think they are the reason for their blessing and that is spiritual blindness. But all good things come from God (James 1:17). Any and all increase in ministry is from God and often times in spite of us not because of us (cf. 1 Cor. 3:7-9). His patient goodness and grace toward us is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
Seventh, the lack of blessing comes from unbelief rather than the lack of devotion (Joshua 1; Romans 4). We are wrong to think that God blesses based on our faithfulness in devotion. God's blessing is based on who He is; a gracious God.
Eighth, to teach devotion brings God's blessing is to reverse the proper order. Devotion does not produce God’s blessings. God’s blessings produce our devotion (Romans 2:4;3:24; 4:4; 11:6). As God blesses us we are moved to gratitude and thankfulness (e.g. Psalm 103).
Ninth, true praise rises spontaneously from my recognition of God's grace in my life (Romans 11:34-35). When we realize God’s grace in our lives we can’t help but praise the Lord (Hebrews 13:15).
Tenth, the proper response to God's grace is loving appreciation. Any effort or work we do for God should be motivated purely by a loving appreciation for His gracious provisions (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Romans 5:5; 12:1-2; 1 John 3 and 4)
God’s grace is something we need to receive and it is something we need to share (Ephesians 4:29). We need to be agents of God’s grace (Colossians 4:1-6).  When we understand God's grace in Christ it strengthens us and helps us to pass on the message of God's grace in word and deed. Now do you see why Paul points Timothy to God's grace in Christ as the source of his strength?
A Strong Strategy for Strong Churches - Discipleship
2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
The Great Commission given by Jesus was a call to proclaim the gospel and disciple those who were saved so that they too could proclaim the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20). Paul is pointing Timothy to continue this process. Paul had discipled Timothy. Timothy must do the same. and the end product would be the perpetuation of strong church bodies.
This process begins with identifying those who should be selected for this task. The prime qualification for those to whom Timothy should consider for this task is that they be "faithful." "Faithful" (Greek pistos) means trustworthy, those who are trustworthy in business, who execute commands faithfully, who faithfully discharge their duties; those who through tests and tasks have proven they can be relied upon. The Great Commission is perpetuated through a network of those trustworthy to be entrusted with the message of the Gospel and the word of God. Are you trustworthy? Have you proven faithful to do the small things entrusted to you? Have you proven yourself to be humble enough to complete menial tasks and therefore trustworthy to be considered for more responsibility and greater tasks?
It should be mentioned too that in addition to faithfulness those who will pass on the Great Commission torch are "able to teach others also." "Able" (Greek hikanos) means competent, having come of season, fit for, able, sufficiently able to "teach" (Greek didasko) which means able to discourse with others about, able to instruct, able to deliver didactic discourses, conduct oneself as a teacher, to instruct and explain. Those chosen to pass on the gospel and word of God need to know the gospel and word of God sufficiently enough to pass it on to others. They need the spiritual gift of teaching (cf. Romans 12;1 Corinthians 12 and 14; and Ephesians 4:11-12).
Paul instructs Timothy that when he finds a faithful man who is able to teach that he follow Paul in that he "commit" to them what Paul has committed to Timothy. "Commit" (Greek paratithemi) means to place alongside, present to them, lay out before them like a meal, entrust to, deposit with them. Paul tells Timothy to feed such men so that they too can feed others the word of God and message of the gospel.
3 Tactical Means to Personal Strength and Perpetuating a Strong Church
Paul has pointed Timothy to the grace that is in Christ Jesus as the prime Source of personal strength necessary to hold fast what Paul has taught him. Paul has also instructed Timothy to perpetuate a strong church by entrusting the gospel and word of God he has received from Paul to faithful men who are also able to teach it to others. Paul now will provide Timothy with tactical means that will help assure that he successfully and victoriously completes his mission. Paul does this with three tactics communicated through three life examples.
Tactical Means to Personal Strength and Perpetuating a Strong Church #1 - Be willing to Endure Hardship as a Good Soldier
3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
We have entitled our studies in 1 and 2 Timothy with militaristic imagery. Here we see Paul using the same imagery when speaking to Timothy. Paul, in prison and under Roman guard, speaks from experience picturing life and ministry as a war. Life and ministry are filled with difficulties, attacks, hardships, and sometimes we are captured and put in a very vulnerable position. When that happens, as it had happened to Paul, we must "endure hardship" (Greek kakopatheo) or be afflicted, undergo hardship, suffer trouble, put up with difficulties, endure afflictions, suffer, "like a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
A soldier endures sleepless nights, uncomfortable environments, the pressures and anxieties of being targeted by the enemy, the courage to fight on even when the odds are against them. A soldier follows orders from their Commander. A "good" (Greek kalos) or noble, valuable, distinguished, a soldier who is what he is expected to be as a soldier, is a soldier prepared for and who understands there might not be food and water or heat or air conditioning in the battle field.
4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.
Paul speaks to Timothy as "one engaged in warfare" (Greek strateuomai) serving as a soldier, executing the arduous duties of a soldier, contending with the realities of war, "entangles"(Greek empleko) or intertwines, gets caught up in, gets involved with, gets tripped up with, "the affairs of this life." A good solider has a set of priorities that helps him keep the main thing the main thing. Being a good soldier requires sacrifice, discipline, loyalty, obedience and courage.
This doesn't mean that a good solider totally discards any amenities connected to the world. It simply means he has disciplined himself to keep all things in their proper priority. There is a time for furlough and refreshing and there is a time to put your armor on, keep your powder dry and ready and engage in the battle. A good solider has his life arranged accordingly.
A good solider is alert to the enemy, he isn't fiddling around with his phone seeing if he has any messages. A good soldier in the midst of the battle isn't checking the scores of his favorite team or even the stock market. He knows that to take his eye off the approaching enemy is to expose themselves to a fatal kill shot. The good soldier is focused on the battle at hand and not distracted by anything else. Do you understand you are in a battle? Are you alert to the enemy before you? Or are you living with your focus on the conventional and not your combat? Are you living as though there isn't a war when there is a war all around you?
Why should being a good soldier living with proper battlefield priorities matter to us? Paul says, "that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier." Our incentive to want to be a good soldier is to "may please" (Greek aresko) or strive to please, to please "him who enlisted him as a soldier" (Greek stratologeo) or who recruited them, selected him to be a warrior, choose to be a soldier, enlisted them in the army. A good soldier wants to please the one who chose them and enlisted them in the army. A good solider wants his commanders to be proud of him. That includes wanting your ministry mentor but more importantly our Commander above Jesus (e.g. Joshua 5).
Are you fighting in this war of life and ministry in a way that is aimed to please the one who enlisted you and your High Commander Jesus? Are you AWOL or in the war? If your mentor or Master Jesus should call you to a surprise inspection, would they be pleased with your readiness and condition for battle? Are you ready to take hold of the parachute and jump into battle or are you clinging to your seat on the plane fearful of the fray, or worse, caught up in the distracting disabling superficialities of the secular?
Tactical Means to Personal Strength and Perpetuating a Strong Church #2 - Be willing to Compete According to the Rules
5 And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
Paul inserts another image, one of a competing athlete. "Competes"(Greek athleo) means to contend in a contest, to compete, to make the sacrifices necessary to compete successfully or strive for mastery. Paul speaks of competing "according to the rules." There are rules and regulations in place to assure a competition is fare. In our day most sports have restrictions prohibiting the use of Physically Enhancing Drugs. Athletes are regularly and randomly tested to assure they are not cheating or using means that would give them any unfair advantage over their competition. If an athlete caught with PEDs in their system they are suspended from competition. If they repeat as offenders they could be suspended for life and no longer be able to compete.
In Paul's day the Olympic Games were popular across the Roman Empire. Athletes that competed within the rules and excelled were seen as national heroes. Athletes caught cheating were exposed to public disgrace. For the minister and Christian the rules of competing are the parameters of the word of God. The word of God is our exercise instruction book to prepare us for the competition. And God's word marks out the parameters within which we are to compete. Our competition isn't with each other. Our competition is against a devilish enemy. The goal is to cross the finish line bringing as many others with us as possible. Satan is always trying to break the rules, make up his own rules and or manipulate by misinterpretation an advantage from the rules. By the grace of God in Christ and the power and instruction of the Holy Spirit we expose the devil's lying deviations and hold him to the revealed rules of God's word. When we do that, our victory is assured (e.g. Romans 8:37-39; 16:20).
Tactical Means to Personal Strength and Perpetuating a Strong Church #3 - Be willing to Partake First of the Crops or Practice What You Preach
6 The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops.
The third illustration Paul uses to instruct Timothy in tactics to compete his mission is that of a farmer. Paul presents the picture of a "hardworking" (Greek kopiao) farmer is one who works hard, toils, to the point of fatigue and weariness, works to exhaustion. Life and ministry involves hard work. God's grace is not an excuse to not give our best effort. Quite the contrary, by God's grace we labor with all we have in us. We do our best and trust God with the rest; but we do work.
Farming is hard work. A farmer clears the land, removes the weeds and then plants. A farmer then plants, cultivates, waters, weeds and waits for the crop to grow. He plants the seed with expectations that God his Creator will follow through on His built in natural course of planting growth. Jesus used the imagery of farming in His most basic parabolic teaching. The farmer sows the seed of God's word (Mark 4:14) into the dirt of the hearts of people. Some heart-dirt is rock hard and rejects the seed. Some heart-dirt is shallow and prevents growing seed from taking root. Some heart-dirt is cluttered and uncleared of the entanglements of the weeds of this world and the seed is choked. But some seed falls on good heart-dirt where the seed take root, grows and produces a harvest of souls (cf. Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8). To the churches of Galatia Paul commented, "And let us not grow weary while dong good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lost heart" (Galatians 6:9).
The difficulty of a farmer's labor involves trusting in God to produce. Jesus taught: "26 And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, 27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. 28 For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29). Increase from our seed of the word planting is a work that God does in the hearts of those to which we sow the seed. A person can reject such seed, only take it in shallow way or take it in as just another of many cluttered things in their life. But some take in the seed of God's word and allow God to grow it in them. In all of this Jesus says, " the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how." That's the hard part; trusting God for the increase. Some plant. Some water. But the increase comes from God (1 Cor. 3:7-9). It's the waiting and trusting in faith that makes tests the faith of the spiritual farmer.
But in order to do this hard labor of the farmer "must be first to partake of the crops." A farmer can't labor long without eating. A farmer needs to consume some of his own produce in order to have the energy to harvest his crops and present them to others to purchase. In other words, if Timothy is going to have personal strength and perpetuate a strong church he must himself take in and feed off of the gospel and message of God's word. This would involve Timothy practicing what he is preaching to others. He has to take it in God's word personally in his devotional life and apply it practically in his way of life. Timothy can't be someone who tries to pass on the message with the words "Do as I say not as I do." No, Timothy must own the gospel message of the grace of God in Christ and the teaching of God's word. Timothy must experience God's grace in Christ personally before he can pass it on to others. You can't teach beyond your own experience.
Strong to Endure
Paul now points Timothy to further soul strengthening considerations.
7 Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.
If the illustrations of a good soldier, an athlete competing according to the rules and a farmer partaking of his own crops doesn't drive home the point, then Paul points Timothy directly to the Lord who gives "understanding in all things." "Understanding" (Greek synesis) means to mentally put things together. The Lord will help Timothy put all of this together in a useful practical way so he can apply it to life and ministry. If we ever encounter something or a situation in life that we just don't understand, the Lord is there for us to reach out to for understanding; to put the pieces of puzzling life situations together so we can understand.
8 Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel,
We may look at our life circumstances and think they are filled with uncertainties and impossibilities, but there was a time when the death of Jesus was seen as an uncertain and impossible situation and yet it was made a certain victory available to all.
Whenever we are down or questioning we should look to Jesus. That's what Paul instructs Timothy to do. "Remember" (Greek mnemoneuo) rehearse and think over and over about or look to Jesus. If we keep our eyes on Jesus He will bring us through.
9 for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained.
Paul was practicing what he preached to Timothy about being a good soldier, athlete and farmer, he was loyal to His Commander Jesus, he was competing and staying true to God's word, and he was partaking himself from the harvest of Christ's holy presence in his life. Paul was suffering and being accused of being an "evildoer" (Greek kakourgos) or common criminal, doer of evil and he had been put in chains. Great injustice had come upon Paul for he was anything but an evildoer.
But the glorious truth that Paul was able to pass on to Timothy is that "but the word of God is not chained." In other words, not even in the darkness of the Mamertine prison was the word of God hindered. Paul was likely sharing the gospel with his guards and anyone else brought his way by God's divine appointment. Paul kept firing for effect the missiles of God's holy word and they were taking effect.
Christians can be chained, imprisoned and persecuted but God's word is not chained. God's word is not chained or removed from us. Even though we may be isolated and chained up, we still have the powerful word of God within us. (This is all the more reason to commit God's word to memory so that we can always access it even if our material Bibles or devices that we have the Bible on are removed from us.) And this also means that even though we might be chained we can still serve the Lord and His word will continue to prove effective and life changing to those we share it with.
10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
Why was Paul willing to endure being falsely accused of being an evildoer and to be imprisoned? He was willing to do it "for the sake of the elect" or all those who "may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." As long as one more person might hear the gospel and receive Jesus as their Savior, Paul was willing to "endure all things" (Greek hypomeno) stay under, to undergo, persevere and patiently suffer.
11 This is a faithful saying:
For if we died with Him,
We shall also live with Him.
12 If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him,
He also will deny us.
13 If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.
Here Paul recites what may have been the words of an early hymn. One way the word of God is unchained to us is by memorizing it. Paul who is in prison and dictating these last words to Timothy simply inserts a scriptural hymn that he, like the farmer he mentions above, had been partaking of.
Paul introduces the hymn by stating "This is a faithful saying" (Greek "faithful" - pistos) a trustworthy, faith full, saying. This is something that is rooted in "the faith" and is faith facilitating; faith building; faith sustaining.
"For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him." This may refer to the imagery of baptism where the person coming to Christ dies to themselves as they are plunged beneath the water and then are raised with Him to live for him as they come up out of the water. This speaks of dying to self and identifying with Jesus (Gal. 2:20). It speaks of the hope of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15).
"If we endure, we shall also reign with Him." This speaks of the future delegation of authority from Jesus to us during His Millennial reign on earth. To "endure" (Greek hupomeno) means to stay under, remain, remain behind, to undergo trials, persevere, take patiently, endure under trials or misfortunes, endure bravely and calmly. Paul was a living example of this at the time of the writing of this letter.
The origins word hupomeno that is translated "endure" is very interesting. It is a compound word made by combining the prefix hupo which means under and the root word meno which means stay, hence to stay under. The word was created to refer to a slave who rowed in the bowels of a galley ship. These ships were usually long. The oars of the ship were sometimes 30 feet long and rowed by three men chained next to each other (e.g. Think Charlton Hesston in Ben Hur). There could be as many as 150 oars in such a ship. This word is of particular value in referring to ministry. Paul likely chose it because of the images it would conjure up in the mind of the reader.
Such a position was usually for life. They were chained in place under the main deck. They were usually chained to other slaves in the same position. Similarly one who enters ministry is in it for life. We may be literally chained at times like Paul was, but it is the love of Christ that constrains us to endure in this calling.
A galley slave rowed according to the captain's beat. A large drum was usually beat in order to keep a rhythm. Similarly one in ministry ministers according to the beat or instructions of their Master Jesus. Are you in step with Jesus' beat?
An under rowing slave had to learn to work as a team as they leaned their body weight into the oar to push it and then lean back with their body weight to pull it back and this in coordination with the other under rowing slaves beside them.
An under rowing slave was chained in place. They had to trust their captain especially in stormy weather. They had no idea where they were or of any obstacles in front of them. They labored in total trust of the one steering the ship. They could not question the captain. They simply had to trust and obey. In ministry we don't really know what lays ahead or what obstacles may be before us. We therefore have to simply trust Jesus our Captain.
The under rower put up with inconveniences. Their work place was dark and damp and smelly. They sat on hard benches and even if their bones and body were weary they still had to row on. They rarely saw the sun shine. They rarely got a breath of fresh air. If they got sick they received little attention and had to labor on. If the ship was sinking due to a storm or to battle damage the slave would likely go down with the ship, chained in its belly. In ministry there are many inconveniences and sometimes a minister is called upon to go down with the ship.
Lastly, an under rowing slave received no honor. They were worked and worked hard and maybe they'd receive an extra piece of bread. There life was a thankless one. While the captain of under rowers could be harsh and cruel and didn't place much value on these slaves. Our Captain in ministry puts the utmost value on His slaves. Captain Jesus went so far as to give His life to save His slaves. And when He calls them to ministry and that ministry involves hardship, He doesn't merely beat a drum and yell harsh commands to the slaves, He gets into the chains with them and rows side by side with them. Captain Jesus is rowing with us.
"If we deny Him, He also will deny us." Jesus said, "Therefore whoever confesses ME before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven" (Mat. 10:32-33). These words must have been of particular value to Paul in his prison predicament.
"If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself." Whether or not we are "faithless" or without faith does not diminish in any way the faithfulness of Jesus and the truth of His word. Even if we at times are faithless or because of weak faith succumb to temptation and sin, Jesus remains faithful to forgive the one who comes to Him and confesses such sin (1 John 1:9). No matter the dirtiness of the struggle with sin or how long of a knock down drag out fight we have in overcoming a sin in our life, Jesus remains true to His word to forgive the one who repents and confesses such sin to Him.
Strong in the Word of God
Spiritual strength is impossible without the word of God. That is why in this chapter where Paul exhorts Timothy to be strong in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ he directs Timothy to the word of God. The word of God is an incredible gift from God. God's word is foundational to our faith and spiritual growth.
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.
"Remind" (Greek hypomimnesko) means to remind quietly, or suggest. The idea is when necessary gently but firmly "charging" (Greek diamartyromai) or protesting earnestly steering people you are conversing with "before the Lord." The point you are to drive home to them is that they should "not strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers." To not "strive about words" (Greek logomacheo) means not wrangle about empty and trifling matters.
The measuring rod or determining factor in whether or not something wrangling or not is whether or not it leads "to the ruin of the hearers." "Ruin" (Greek katastrophe) means to be overturned, overthrown, apostasy. We get the English word "catastrophe" from this Greek term. The imagery is a city which is broken down. If your conversation is going to tear people down as opposed to building them up it's not worth having.
15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Instead Timothy and those seeking to be strong and facility spiritual strength in others should "be diligent" (Greek spoudazo) or do one's best, make every effort, diligent, labor, stretch for the goal to "present" (Greek paristemi) to exhibit, to exemplify, to stand beside, to present as, present for others to see "yourself approved to God" (Greek dokimos) or acceptable, the right currency, pleasing to. There was no banking system in the ancient world like we have in our day. All currency was made from metals that were heated to a liquid and then poured into a mold. When the coins were cooled their rough edges were filed and smoothed. The idea of presenting one's self to God therefore means that you were like a coin that measured up to what it needed to be in order to be worth what it was stated to be worth.
What makes a person measure up to God's expectations and requirements for life and ministry? First they should be "a worker" (Greek regates) a toiler, a laborer, a worker. They are to be a worker "who does not need to be ashamed" (Greek anepaischyntos) or one in who is nothing to be ashamed of, no reason for shame. Laziness is reason to be ashamed but the diligent efforts of a hard worker removes shame.
The focus of such an unashamed worker is one who "rightly divides the word of truth." "Rightly divides"(Greek orthometeo) means straight cutting, make a straight cut, dissect correctly, holding a straight course on straight paths. The metaphor Paul may have had in mind here is a farmer who plows straight furrows to plant the seed or an engineer who makes a straight road for people to travel on. Timothy and we aren't to weave off course but are to stay true to the word of truth. This "rightly divides" would also refer to the proper exposition and explanation of the word of God to the flock of God.
The "word of truth" refers to the Bible and in particular the truth of the gospel (cf. also Eph. 1:13 and Col. 1:5). Timothy was exhorted by Paul not to deviate from the truth of the gospel and word o f God.
16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.
"Shun" (Greek periistemi) means stay away from, keep away from, avoid, turn away from. "Profane" (Greek bebelos) is godless, worldly, common, as in a common doorway. "Idle babblings" (Greek kenophonia) is empty meaningless talk, discussions with no purpose. Paul tells Timothy to avoid the worldly purposeless conversations that people engage in because "they will increase to more ungodliness." The more you talk about worldly things the more worldly you become. It's best to steer clear of vain empty conversation that only leads to more and more godlessness. Keep focused on the Lord and His word.
17 And their message will spread like cancer.
"Cancer" (Greek gaggraina) means a gangrene like ulcer, a canker sore, a sore that if left unattended leads to amputation. That is what some the content of some conversations is like. It leads to cutting off people from the living limbs of God's word. Some conversations are diseased and unhealthy. If we stick to God's word we don't have to worry about that. God's word and godly conversations produce spiritual health. Other stuff is like cotton candy; it leads to malnutrition and cavities. Are you trying to live on cotton candy religion or the meat of God's word?
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.
Hymenaeus is also mentioned by Paul in 1 Timothy 1:20. He apparently was a prominent false teacher or one known to Paul and Timothy as a false teacher. Philetus was likely a co-conspirator or another false teacher. They had "strayed" (Greek astocheo) or missed the mark, were off course "concerning the truth."
The particulars of their off course false teaching was that they taught "the resurrection had already past." These heretics were probably teaching there was no bodily resurrection. The resurrection is central to the gospel (cf. 1 Cor. 15). Maybe they were rationalists who didn't believe in the miraculous much the same as the Sadducees. Whatever they were teaching Paul says their teaching led to the "overthrow" of "the faith of some." "Overthrow" (Greek anatrepo) means to overturn, destroy, ruin. Their false teaching put the faith of some into a turmoil. There is therefore good reason for Paul to advise Timothy to avoid such false faith killing teaching.
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.”
Paul sets aside the thought of such false teachers and injects a comment on "the solid foundation of God" which "stands, having this seal." "Seal" (Greek sphragida) refers to an inscription or mark of ownership (cf. Eph. 1:13). This seal of God marks and distinguishes who a genuine Christian is. What is this seal of God composed of? Paul refers to two passages to define God's seal. He paraphrases Numbers 16:5 the context of which was Korah's rebellion. At Korah's rebellion as in all related rebellious circumstances God is able to identify and distinguish the false from the true leaders.
And secondly, just as with Korah God instructed Moses to call the people to choose whose side they were on (Numbers 16:26) Paul says similarly, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity." This statement should dispel and refute and squash any definition of grace that condones or allows for the indulgence in sin. Grace is not an excuse to sin. Grace is God's provision so we don't have to sin. The more we understand and are strengthened by God's grace in Christ the more holy and spiritual our lives should become. Whenever we interpret grace to overlook, not take seriously or indulge in sin haphazardly we need to realize we are likely caught in the snare of the devil Paul will mention in the last verse of this chapter.
It should not be missed that Paul equates Moses calling for people to side with God from this Old Testament passage to an application in his time of calling people to side with Jesus as therefore equivalent to God as well.
Jesus taught similarly that not all that name His name were known by Him. The fruit of a person's life is the evidence of whether or not they know Jesus and are known by Him (Matthew 7:22 and Luke 13:27).
Strongly Sanctified and Useful - Aiming at Repentance
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.
Jesus taught that in the church there would be "tares among the wheat" (cf. Matthew 13:24-30). A tare is a shell of wheat that is empty. On the outside it looks like any other grain of wheat. But when you open it up it is empty. In the church not everyone who looks like a Christian on the outside is actually one on the inside. To the Romans Paul said a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God in Christ (Romans 2:28-29). And in these words to Timothy Paul contrasts gold and silver vessels against wood and clay vessels, the latter dishonorable the former honorable. He says to Timothy that we ought to cleanse ourselves from the dishonorable vessels. A god vessel is one that is "sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work."
"Sanctified" (Greek hagiadzo) means purified, set apart for God's use, consecrated to God for His use. "Useful" (Greek euchrestos) means useful, profitable, easy to make use of, serviceable. "Prepared"(Greek hetoimazo) means prepare, made ready, one who has made the necessary preparations. This word comes from the custom of the Middle East to send people ahead of a king to level roads and remove debris from them and so would be those who have prepared the way for others to receive a king. To be prepared in this sense is to be prepared to introduce others to the coming King Jesus.
To be honorable in God's house is to be set aside for God's use, presenting oneself to God to serve Him and one who removes any obstacles that might hinder others from receiving Jesus as King.
22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
You can be old and still have youthful lusts. "Flee" (Greek pheugo) means to run away from, to seek safety from, to avoid and run away from something that is abhorrent. "Youthful" (Greek neoterikos) is younger, juvenile, immature. "Lusts" (Greek epithymia) refer to that which is forbidden, craving for what is forbidden. Run away from those cravings for things which God and His word forbid. Always remember that if God prohibits something it is for our own good. God loves us. He made us. He knows what is best for us. Jesus came to show us the way to enjoy and experience abundant life (John 10:10). If He tells us to go and sin no more then we should obey Him knowing that He knows best and has our best interests at heart (compare John 8:1-12).
Instead we are to "pursue" (Greek dioko) target, follow, pursue like a predator does its prey or like a persecutor does toward their persecuted. We are the flee and escape from youthful lusts but we are to pursue "righteousness" (Greek dikaiosyne) a state of being acceptable to God, to be as God desires us to be, "faith" (Greek pistis) trust, persuasion, moral conviction, convinced of the truth of something, "love" (Greek agape) Christlike love, "peace" (Greek eirene) quietness, tranquility, harmony, security, safety, "with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." "Pure" (Greek katharos) "heart" (Greek kardia) means here a heart clean and clear of sin and lusts. Righteousness, faith, love, peace and a pure heart is what we ought to pursue with all our might!
23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.
We are to "avoid"(Greek paraiteomai) to decline, avoid, refuse, reject "foolish" (Greek moros) dull or stupid, heedless blockheaded absurd things. A fool is one who fails or refuses to factor God into the life equation (cf. Psalm 14:1ff.). "Ignorant" (Greek apaideutos) is uninstructed, unlearned, rude, undiscipled. "Disputes" (Greek zetesis) are debates, controversies. Don't allow yourself to be drawn into godless debates and controversies.
The reason for this is "that they generate strife." "Generate" (Greek gennao) means procreate, beget, birth, bring forth "strife" (Greek mache) or fighting, striving, combat. When a discussion leads to spiritual striving, combat and fighting you know you shouldn't be a party to it.
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,
How should we be toward those who would seek to quarrel?
First, we must have a servant's heart. Paul says we must be "a servant" (Greek doulos) in bondage to, a slave of, one who gives up their will to another "of the Lord." We begin by surrendering our will to the Lord Jesus. We ask, "What is the Lord's will in all of this?"
Second, we must not quarrel. "Quarrel" (Greek machomai) means to dispute, engage in hand to hand combat. Machomai sounds a lot like macho. We can't let our pride lure us into a debate or quarrel.
Third, we must "be gentle to all." "Gentle" (Greek epios) means affable, mild, gentle, not easily provoked. Possibly the idea was to interject a bit of humor to diffuse the ticking time bomb of debate.
Fourth, we must be "able to teach." "Able to teach" (Greek didaktikos) means apt and skilled in teaching. We need to be able to respond with God's word in such situations. If we bring a combatant to the word of God hopefully they will see their argument isn't with us but with God. God's word is the great arbitrator and bench of truth.
Fifth, we must be "patient." "Patient" (Greek anexikakos) means enduring of ill, patient of ills and wrongs. We can't take things too personally but we need to keep the situation in perspective. We can't be carried away with our emotions and we need to apply grace when others get emotional.
Sixth, we must be "in humility." "Humility" (Greek pra,otes) means gentleness, humble, strength under control. We need to be controlled and not compulsively reactionary. We need to humbly ask God to take control and guide us.
Seventh, we must be "correcting those who are in opposition," "Correcting" (Greek paideuo) means to train up a child, educate, discipline (by punishment if necessary), instruct, learn, teach. We need to educate people in God's word. We can't just avoid issues that are controversial. Avoiding a controversial debate may be more cowardice than God leading. We need to be willing if led by the Spirit to educate people in what God's word says about an issue. The word of God is the bottom line in all discussions.
Eighth, we must aim at repentance. Paul says, "if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth." "Repentance" (Greek metanoia) means reversal of decision or stance, a change of mind, a change in purpose, a turn around. Notice that Paul attributes repentance as a condition "if God perhaps will grant them." Repentance is something that God "grant" them (Greek didomi) or give them, bestow on, bring forth, grant. And as something given by God it is therefore a product of His grace. We don't deserve for God to make it possible that we can repent. But God reasons with us and the Spirit convicts us of sin so that we can turn from it and ask His forgiveness through faith in Jesus (e.g. Isaiah 1:18; Acts 2:38-39). Repentance therefore not a work we do but a decision we surrender to. A willful decision to repent is no more something we can boast about than when a speeder caught dead to rights by a traffic camera passing through an intersection after a light has turned red can be proud when their parents graciously pay their fine. All we can possibility boast about is our parent. When we repent of our sins we can only boast about our heavenly Father and His Son Jesus who paid off our debt of sin.
Paul is speaking primarily about those who are heretical in their thinking. There are times when people in the body of Christ have legitimate differences on certain topics. But the context here are situations where repentance is required. Repentance is the proper first step in resolving a sin problem. Repentance is part of saving faith. A person turns from their sin to God seeking forgiveness through faith in the finished redemptive efficacious work of Jesus Christ.
Strongly Aware of the Snare of the Devil
Admitting our sin and turning from it in repentance opens the door for a person to "know the truth" or more accurately here acknowledge the truth (Greek epignosis).
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.
It's so important to understand that behind all t he arguing and divisive combat and quarrels in the church is none other than the devil. When a person acknowledges their sin and repents of it the possibility (i.e. subjunctive case of "may come to their senses" - Greek ananepho - to awake, to recover and come to one's senses) "that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil." "Snare" (Greek pagis) is a trap, trick, a trap that catches by ensnaring or trapping.
The context is a discussion about how to be strong in the grace of Jesus Christ. The problem is that false teachers and those who indulge in empty debating that only leads to spiritual sickness. Behind this negative conversation is the devil himself. Through words and useless wrangling the devil "having taken captive by him" (Greek zogreo) or takes alive as a prisoner of war, take captive, catch in a trap people who allow themselves to be overtaken in such things. The result is division in the body of Christ.
But worse is that such people are taken captive by the devil "to do his will." "Will" (Greek thelema) refers to purposes, desires, determinations, inclination and will. Just think of it, the enemy devil infiltrates the church through the empty, foolish and ignorant conversations and arguments of people in the church. Nothing will sap the strength out of a Christian more and faster than pointless worldly carnal argumentative conversation. And that is exactly what the devil seeks to trap you in. Remember that next time someone tries to pick a fight with you or you're tempted to enter a purposeless debate. Remember to resist and rely on God's grace in Christ Jesus. It's only with His help that we can flee such things and remain strong in Him.
 See Chuck Smith – WFT tape #I45133 Romans 6:23 and William R. Newell’s great commentary Romans Verse-By-Verse, Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Pub. Kregel Classics, 1994, p. 245-247