Sunday, February 19, 2012

BE FAITHFUL IN MINISTRY
2 TIMOTHY 2:14-18

Paul gave Timothy commands or instructions on how to conduct himself faithfully. First, he dealt with faithfulness in ministry.

Paul knew the Apostles were passing from the scene. He would soon die. Peter would also die soon. He wanted to prepare Timothy for the time when the Apostles were not present to guide the church. We live in the time Paul worried about. So his guidance shows us how to live for Christ without the personal presence of either Christ or his Apostles.

First, Paul told Timothy to remind his congregation of “these things”. What are “these things”? They are the things Paul just instructed on, including the catechism of verses 11-13 and his explanation of the gospel in chapter 1. Basically, Paul wanted Timothy to continually remind his congregation of the gospel.

You might think that, once you become a believer, you do not need to hear the gospel again. Paul, on the other hand, wanted Timothy to continually remind them of the gospel. Believers should not see their conversion simply as one and done. They should continually live their life in light of the gospel. It should affect and influence every area of life.

Paul said the gospel was of first importance. (1 Corinthians 15:1-9)

American evangelism has been guilty of moving away from the gospel to center on either financial prosperity or counseling for emotional needs with psychology. But you cannot center your life on anything other than the gospel and live as God intended. The gospel message is the most important, most revolutionary and most astounding word off all time. When you know this, you live your life in the proper proportion. Christ is paramount, most important. You can bear loss, suffering, difficulty and need in light of eternal life. In contrast, if you are not focused on the great gift of God for eternal life, the concerns of the day will overwhelm you.

Paul lived that way. He said ‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21) That is one of the most astounding statements in history. If Paul lived, he lived for Christ. He suffered for Christ, he preached for Christ, he worked for Christ, he did everything for Christ. If he died, it was to his gain, for he would be with Christ. He said “my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:23)

How do you handle getting older in a culture that worships youth? You do it by knowing you honor Christ by growing in grace as you grow in age. You do it by longing for heaven rather than clinging to earth.

How do you handle being poor in a society that worships wealth? You do it by knowing you are rich in grace and have the greatest gift of all: eternal life. You set your mind on heavenly things and not earthly things.

How do you handle being rich and needing to give away a lot of your money for the poor and for the ministry of the church? You do it be denying yourself and honoring Christ with your money.

But you cannot do any of these things unless the gospel is constantly before you.

Second, Paul told Timothy to instruct his congregation not to quarrel about words. The NASB uses the word “wrangle” which seems like a good Texas word. He is talking about “nitpickers” who live to argue. He said it does no good and ruins the hearers. (14)

It is important that we defend the gospel. No one will argue with you harder than I when it comes to defining and defending the gospel. But we should not get off into speculations about things not revealed to us, or get into fights over secondary issues, or secret meanings. We should not devote our time to discussions that do not lead us to Godliness.

The church has split into many, many divisions. This does not honor the Lord who claimed to have one body. Some of the splits had to occur because of doctrinal error. Others came over small issues of disagreement. I will stand against you if you deny the deity of Christ or the existence of the Trinity. I will not throw you out of church for being premillenial.

And always we must strive for a gentle and respectful demeanor. The meanness of our disagreements has driven many from us.

Third, Paul told Timothy to strive to handle the word rightly in order to be a worker approved by God and not ashamed. Erasmus interpreted this to read a workman that “does not blush”. Paul directed Timothy to think about the end, when he will stand before God to give an account of his ministry.

I think all the time about Jesus’ words in the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. To the servant who invested and multiplied the talents entrusted to him, Jesus said “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:23)

It is essential that the preacher and teacher handle the word rightly or correctly. The word picture hear is of a tentmaker who cuts a straight line through his material rather than a slanted one.

Our world is saturated with teaching that abuses the word of God. These people will be ashamed when they stand before God. Some do it through ignorance. Some do it for manipulation. Both are bad.

Here is an example. I heard a man on the radio preaching about the story of the widow who gave the two mites, or copper coins. He read from the Cambridge Edition of the King James Version, which says she gave out of her “want”. In the language of that time, “want” mean poverty or deprivation. The later editions of the KJV uses “penury”, meaning poverty. Newer versions usually use “poverty”. So, this preacher said this mean she gave because she wanted something from God, so we should give to God to get from God. I do not know if he was ignorant of the meaning or manipulating the meaning, but he incorrectly used the text. You have heard many sermons on this passage that use it to promote giving. That is also a bit of a manipulation of the text. In context, this story is about the burdens the Pharisees put on others, including poor widows, so they could take away their property.

You must not only teach what the words say, but what they mean in the context. It is the word of God. You do not have the right to pervert it, even for good reasons. God will call us to account and we will be ashamed if we do it improperly.

Fourth, Paul told Timothy to avoid irreverent babble (ESV) or godless chatter (NIV). The reason is that the babble will lead people into ungodliness and spread like gangrene. Gangrene is a condition where the blood supply to tissue is cut off or restricted so that the tissue dies. Sometimes it is caused by an infection. If it is not treated, the area of dead tissue grows and gets bigger. If an infection is involved, the person gets septic and dies.

This is what happens when people come up with ideas that are not in the Bible and spread them as truth. They become ungodly because they are not bound by the truth. They infect others. Eventually, part of or even all of the body dies.

Paul gave an example. He named two men: Hymenaeus and Philectus. (17) Their irreverent babble was their theory that the resurrection had already happened. (18) This upset many, for they believed they had been left behind and so were not saved. Paul dealt with the same issue in Thessalonika. Paul gave specific instruction about this in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-11. There are still some who hold to this concept today.

An example in our time might be Clark Pinnock who taught at New Orleans Baptist Seminary. He embraced open theism, the idea that God does not determine or even know the future. He also did not believe that Jesus was the only way to get to heaven.

Jesus said it would be better for you to be cast into the sea with a stone tied around your neck than to lead someone into sin. (Luke 17:2) He also said teachers would be accountable for their teaching. James 3:1 says “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

The teaching of the two men Paul mentioned shook the faith of some. But Paul says the foundation of our faith is firm. (19). The gospel tells us God knows those who are his. Jesus said “I know my own and my own know me”. (John 10:14) Since he knows us, he will not leave us behind.

A person who gets sidetracked by strange teaching often ends up in moral trouble. In fact, many non-biblical ideas have the goal of avoiding Christian morality or responsibility. One who is focused on the gospel will live to imitate Christ and please the Father. Paul said “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity”. (19) By putting away sin and embracing holiness, we reflect God’s nature and become useful to him. (20) We must act like those who are set apart because we are set apart.


BE FAITHFUL IN PERSONAL LIFE
2 TIMOTHY 2:19-21

After dealing with questions of theology, Paul dealt with questions of conduct. It is important that the minister of the gospel deal with the Word correctly. It is also important that he or she live a faithful and Godly life to demonstrate the power of the gospel.

First, Paul told Timothy to flee youthful passions. (22) Our society tells us to indulge youthful passions. There are whole industries that cater to and encourage your youthful passions. Marketing is directed at the flesh not the spirit.

Instead, Paul said Timothy and all who call upon the Lord from a pure heart (hopefully all believers) should pursue several traits that mirror those of God. They are righteousness, faith, love and peace.

Righteousness stands in opposition to youthful passion. When we seek righteousness, we deny our passions and take on the qualities of Christ. The Beatitudes of Jesus reflect this. Jesus specifically said “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”. (Matthew 5:6) Romans 8:5-8 says:

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

So this is clear. No matter what this culture tells you, the Bible says you cannot live in a way that pleases God and a way that caters to your flesh at the same time.

We are also to pursue faith. (22) We should constantly grow in faith, both in knowledge of our faith and in actual trust. Constantly examine yourself and see what areas of life need to be submitted, turned over, to Christ. Where do you fail to trust him? Repent of that and step out into faith. To believe is to change from dependence on self to dependence on Christ.

We are to pursue love. We know this is a fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22) That should be obvious also because God is love. The Bible tells us to love each other. It also tells us to love our enemies. Maybe if we love our enemies, we will win them to Christ.

We are to pursue peace. Peace is also a fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22) The person who has the Holy Spirit should be a person of peace. Jesus said the peacemakers are blessed. (Matthew 5:9) Deacons are charged to maintain the unity of the congregation. In my experience, the people of peace are revealed when change occurs. Many react to any change with hostility and anger. These are not the traits of Godliness.

In verse 23, Paul warned Timothy to avoid foolish or ignorant controversies, just as he was to instruct his congregation. It breeds quarrels. Paul went on to say the Lord’s servant himself should not be quarrelsome. (24) Maybe we should send this up to be read at the convention. I have heard horrible things said at both the state and national conventions, as well as private meetings of leaders.

Instead, the Lord’s servant should be kind to everyone. (24). That includes people who disagree with him or her. He should be able to teach. That is, he should be able to take the Bible and demonstrate the truth of his position.

It even means to endure evil. (24) This is very hard. When you are reviled, you want to strike back. Yet our model is Jesus, who was reviled but did not retaliate.

So, we correct our opponents with gentleness (25). That is because the goal is not to win the argument. But as verse 25-26 says, the goal is to proclaim the truth in a loving way in hopes that God will grant them repentance that leads to them knowing the truth and escaping the devil. In other words, the goal is to win souls not arguments.

I do not claim perfection in this area. I am better than I was a few years ago. I have been reviled by non-believers and believers alike. I pray that God will continue to work on me and in me so that I approach each of these situations in way that glorifies him and reflects Christ.

I pray also that you would live for the gospel: learn it, know it, defend it, proclaim it, and rejoice in it. It is precious. And it is entrusted to us.
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