2 Timothy 2: ‘Warn them before God against quarrelling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.’
In this chapter of The New Testament Timothy is told to oppose those who ‘depart from the truth’ (v18)
Read 2 Timothy 2 online or look it up in your Bible.
Before you start your daily reading, say a prayer asking God to guide your thinking as you read, and then read the Bible with the aim of learning something new.
After the reading, consider how it may affect your life and relationship with your heavenly Father and allow your increased knowledge of the Scriptures to shape your character and strengthen your trust in God.
Discussion notes on 2 Timothy 2
- v3-7, first the 'soldier', then the 'athlete', and then the 'farmer'...what lessons do you think Paul is trying to teach Timothy here? What are the lessons for us from these sayings?
- v18, Paul condemns those who claim that the resurrection had already taken place. What can we learn from this? How might this verse help substantiate the belief in a future Rapture of the church?
More on 2 Timothy 2
The three illustrations Paul uses to encourage Timothy in Christian service – the soldier, the athlete and the agricultural labourer – each carries a wealth of significance. While focusing upon the first we should note that the others are also examples of single-minded purpose. For instance, one commentator cites instances of athletes being required to swear an oath that they had fulfilled ten months’ training before being eligible to enter a contest. In this way high standards of performance were ensured. Similarly, the hardworking farmer knew that slackness resulted in a poor harvest.
Paul was fond of military metaphors, probably because his own experience proved that Christian discipleship involved unremitting conflict. We recognize that warfare, which has never been glorious, was not then the indiscriminate horror it has now become.
Whether we find the metaphor ‘soldier of Christ’ congenial or not, we certainly cannot afford to forget we are engaged in real spiritual combat, and that this requires self-discipline and sacrifice.
In v. 9 Paul portrays a graphic contrast. An elderly apostle, still burning to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, shut up behind bars: and on the other hand the conquering word of God which no man can imprison.
First consider the apostle. In the previous passage he had exhorted Timothy to endure hardness. He can now cite himself as an example. He is imprisoned as a common ‘criminal’, the only other time in which this word is used in the New Testament is to describe the ‘malefactors’ crucified with Jesus. Far too many exhortations to sacrifice have come from the lips of comfortable place speakers. Paul was not guilty of this inconsistency.
Cruelly cramped in his environment, Paul was utterly confident that the Word of God was unfettered. In the Bible the phrase ‘Word of God’ does not mean the Scriptures but, in the Old Testament, the living prophetic word; and, in the New Testament, Jesus Christ Himself either in His Incarnation or in the preaching of His church.
Advising Timothy on how to deal with false teaching, Paul gives top priority to positive proclamation of the truth, always more effective than merely denouncing error and so entrenching people more deeply in their own positions. Like a skilful craftsman who competently handles his tools, Timothy is urged to show similar expertise in ‘rightly dividing the word of truth’. E. F. Scott suggest, however, that if a definite craft is indicated it is more likely to be that of a mason who hews stones and fits them together. ‘So the teacher must fashion his message into a structure that will stand foursquare.’
We can easily translate this advice to a Christian teacher into everyday living. The gospel has never relied solely on verbal communication. Word and deed are equally essential.
During our reading of Paul’s first letter to Timothy we saw that abstract speculation, so fashionable at that time, was a real danger to the Church. The apostle’s warning is equally valid today, yet how shall we distinguish ‘foolish and ignorant speculation’ from the legitimate and sometimes controversial, search for new ways of communicating ancient truth? Timid thinkers are always ready to pin the label of ‘foolish speculation’ on any unconventional thinking which abandons their own timeworn clichés and flabby formulas.
‘Foolish speculation’ for the Christian invariably betrays two characteristics. It does not centre in Christ or further illuminate His significance: indeed, it tends to suggest that the Incarnation was unnecessary. Furthermore, it does not lead to action. The energy which should be used in Christlike service is dissipated in controversy. H. E. Fosdick gave a fair warning when he wrote to a younger man: ‘As I think on your inward tussle with the problems of religious faith, I do not want it to exhaust itself in speculation, without the clarifying, vitalizing influence of action’.
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