For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2001 James Melough

2:1.  “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

“... be strong” is connected with the idea of ongoing activity, that is, Timothy was being exhorted to keep on daily strengthening or empowering himself by availing himself of the grace that was his through his union with the Lord Jesus Christ.  In the present context the grace would be that of the strength and courage available to him from God through the Holy Spirit.  There is the same need for us also to obey Paul’s injunction.

2:2.  “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”

The things he had heard from Paul were the teaching he had been given by the apostle; and the words “among many witnesses” are literally “in the presence of.”  In other words, the witnesses were all those who had been under the sound of Paul’s teaching, but Timothy, it seems, was the only one the apostle felt he could trust to pass those truths on to others; and his describing those others as “faithful” implies that he considered Timothy also to be faithful.

Their being “able to teach others also” doesn’t necessarily imply that these men would have the gift of teaching, but that they would be capable of passing on to others the truths Paul was commanding Timothy to pass on to them.  It is to be realized that the gift of teaching endows the recipient with the special ability to explain the meaning of Scripture, and there is nothing in this verse to indicate that that ability would be needed in connection with the present commission.

2:3.  “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

“Hardness” is literally hardship or suffering.  Timothy was being exhorted to be willing to endure hardship and suffering, because he was engaged in a warfare against the forces of evil, and was therefore a soldier fighting for the cause of Christ, and a soldier just by the very nature of his work, can’t escape suffering and hardship. 

2:4.  “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”

Continuing to use the military metaphor, Paul goes on to remind Timothy that a soldier doesn’t become involved in such things as a job, a business, or the ordinary affairs of life: his sole business is to carry out the orders of the one in whose army he serves.  And so is it in relation to the Lord’s warfare against the forces of darkness.  Every believer is given the privilege of being a soldier in Christ’s army, and as such is not to involve himself in the affairs of this world.  It is our business as His soldiers, to carry out the Lord’s orders, and many of us forget that one of His most specific commands is, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” Mk 16:15.

This doesn’t mean that a Christian is not to hold a job, own a business, have a family, etc.  It does mean that all of these things are to be secondary in his life.  The Lord and His business must come first.

It is to be remembered also that our warfare is lifelong.  The fruits of victory won’t be fully enjoyed until we are home in heaven.

2:5.  “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.”

He next employs the figure of a contesting athlete to illustrate the truth he is imparting to Timothy, and the emphasis is upon the need of the contestants to abide by the rules.  The lesson being taught is that God’s work must be done according to the rules laid down in His Word; and he who simply busies himself in religious activity, which he mistakes for Spirit directed service, will discover that such “service” brings no reward at the Bema.

Again, we must note that the crown isn’t obtained until the race has ended, and we’re home in heaven.

2:6.  “The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.”

The struggle which true Christian service involves is next illustrated under the figure of a farmer, tilling the ground, planting the seed, weeding and watering, and finally when the crop is ripe, being the first to eat of it.  The period between planting and eating is a time of toil, which is repaid with the ripened harvest gathered safely into the barn.  So is it in  Christian service: the day of reward is at the Bema, and the reward will be proportionate to the faithfulness of the service rendered.

2:7.  “Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.”

There is need not only to read, but also to meditate upon what is written in Scripture.  The exhortation to understand and obey the instructions given in the three illustrations, is accompanied by the promise that God will give Timothy the needed help, not only in understanding, but in obeying, and by abundantly rewarding that obedience at the Bema. 

2:8.  “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:”

“Remember” is literally to keep remembering continually.  It may at first seem strange that Paul should have changed from exhorting Timothy relative to faithfulness in service, to reminding him of the resurrection of “Jesus Christ of the seed of David,” but there is no break in the continuity of the teaching.  The point being emphasized is that the reward is not to be looked for here on earth, but in resurrection in heaven when the service has been completed.  The Lord Himself, as Man (as to His humanity, descended literally from David), is the great Example to every believer.  It was as a Man that He rendered His perfect service, and it is as a resurrected Man that He has entered into the enjoyment of His reward; and the encouragement to us is to remember the spirit in which He served: it was in view of the reward, as it is written, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God,” Heb 12:2.

2:9.  “Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.”

It was because of his faithful preaching of the gospel that Paul suffered trouble (hardship, affliction), was treated as a criminal, and was chained in prison.  The Word of God warns that trouble, hardship, and affliction will be the lot of all who are faithful in that same good work, reminding us that if we are not partakers of that same hardship it is very likely to be because of our delinquency in also preaching the good news.  God hasn’t promised us freedom from trouble, but He has promised to be with us in it.  More glory was brought to God, and to Daniel’s three friends, by their being cast into the furnace and preserved in it, than if they had been delivered from having to enter it.  The trouble permitted or ordained by God is to test and strengthen our faith.

The fact that the word of God is not bound (chained or shackled in prison) reminds us that while Paul might be bound in prison and his ministry virtually stopped, God had other servants to take his place, Timothy being one of them.  We should remember that whether by reason of literal imprisonment, etc., or by our refusal to preach the gospel, God has others to take our place, and if our failure makes it necessary for Him to commit that good work to another, that believer will inherit the crown that might have been ours but for our disobedience.  It may seem a small matter today here amid all the distractions and allurements of an evil world, but it will be very different when all that pertains to this world is gone, and we stand at the Bema - ashamed!

2:10.  “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”

That the elect are not a special group predestinated to be saved is obvious from the fact that Scripture is crystal clear in its teaching that the gift of eternal life is received by a man’s freewill choice of Christ as Savior, and not by God’s predestination, e.g., “The Lord ... is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” 2 Pe 3:9; “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life,” Jn 5:40.

The mystery is removed from the subject of election by what is written in 1 Pe 1:2, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father....”  The elect are those foreknown by God as those who would trust in Christ as Savior by an act of their own free will - not by His having predestinated them to make that choice.  God’s foreknowledge, unfortunately, is very often confused with predestination.  They are two completely different things!  Foreknowledge is related to His omniscience; predestination, to His omnipotence.

“... that they may also obtain the salvation,” refers to those not yet saved, but foreknown by God as those who will trust in Christ, and who by that free willed choice will “obtain the salvation,” i.e., be saved, that salvation being in and through the Lord Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.  The end result of that free willed choice will be that they will enjoy eternal glory.

2:11.  “It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:”

“Faithful saying” means true, reliable, trustworthy; and our being dead with Him refers to the fact that those who have trusted in Christ as Savior are counted as having died when He died, God graciously imputing Christ’s death to them.  But, as is emphasized in verse 8, Christ has been raised from among the dead, and the same grace which imputes His death to the believer, imputes also His resurrection, so that as He is eternally alive, so are we.  See Ga 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

2:12.  “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:”

“Suffer” as used here is literally “to endure,” that is, go on enduring hardship for His sake right to the end of life’s journey, that willingness to endure hardship for His sake being an evidence that we have been born again, and will therefore reign with Him eternally.  By the same token, our denial of Him as our Lord and Savior is evidence that we have not been born again, the end result of which will be that in a soon coming day He will deny knowing us as those who belong to Him, the result of that denial being that we will be cast first into hell, and then into the eternal torment of the lake of fire.  See Mt 7:23, “Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

The denial here is not in the same category as that of Peter in the high priest’s palace.  There it was a momentary denial prompted by fear; here it is the consistent denial of unbelief, as is emphasized in the next verse.

2:13.  “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.”

This is the solemn warning that nothing can change the principle which governs the Lord in everything He does.  If we will not trust Him as Savior, then He has no option but to deny us entry to heaven, for it is an unchangeable divine principle that there is no other way for men to escape hell and enter heaven, than through faith in Christ as Savior.  For Him to deviate from that principle would be to make Himself a liar, and therefore to cease being God, a thing impossible for it is impossible for God to lie, as it is written, “.... Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec,” Heb 6:17-20.

2:14.  “Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.” 

The things of which he was to remind them are those mentioned in the preceding verses; and in connection with reminding them, the thought is of reminding them continually, for we all tend to forget.

The prohibition against striving about words relates to that pernicious habit of some to be for ever wrangling or hair-splitting about obscure irrelevant meanings of words, so that the assembly Bible study time degenerates into an hour of divisive debate instead of instruction and edification of God’s people.

Subverting is related to the idea of ruining, upsetting, unsettling people’s minds, and is exactly what results from just such argumentative wrangling as has been discussed above.

The fact that the instruction was to be given “before God” declares the truth that as He heard Timothy pass on Paul’s instruction, so would He hold accountable those who ignored it.

2:15.  “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Study is not used here in the usual sense of learning, but rather in relation to the need of making strenuous effort, of exerting one’s self to be worthy of God’s approval; but the context leaves no doubt that the study of Scripture is involved, for he who neglects such study is disobedient, and is of necessity a poor workman.  It need scarcely be said that the study of Scripture does require strenuous effort on the part of him who would be an approved workman, and it requires obedience, for where the Holy Spirit is quenched or grieved His ministry of enlightenment is cut off.

“Rightly dividing” is literally to handle skillfully, to accurately deliver the right meaning, something which is impossible apart from diligent, Spirit-directed study.

The word “workman” ought to remind us that all of us have the privilege of doing God’s work.  There is no one who can say that there is nothing he can do for God.  Any believer can give a tract to some unsaved person.

2:16.  “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.”

This warning is against becoming involved in worldly, idle, frivolous talk or discussion, and obviously applies to every believer.  Once one engages in this kind of empty talking the more the tendency develops, and it simply leads towards the world and away from God.  The kind of talk or discussion mentioned goes beyond what is simply empty, silly chatter: it appears to relate to what is positively godless and therefore evil.  Those who engage in this kind of talk or discussion are to be treated with disdain, as unworthy even of our notice.  We are to have nothing to do with them.

2:17.  “And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;”

2:18.  “Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.”

The evil words of such men will act on the minds of those who listen to them, as cancer or gangrene acts on the body.  It will destroy what is good.

This is the only scriptural mention of Philetus; and the only other reference to Hymenaeus is in 1 Tim 1:20 where we noted that his sin may have been in the same category as that of the fornicator mentioned in 1 Cor 5, i.e., it may have been the sin of a believer, and his being delivered over to Satan was with a view to his restoration.  From these two verses it is still difficult to determine whether these two men were genuine believers, for not every believer is clear as to the truth concerning resurrection.

An important practical lesson, however, is to be learned here.  It is imperative that sound doctrine be taught in the assemblies so that the believers will not fall victim to wrong teaching, for he who is well taught will be able to recognize error when it presents itself.

“... erred” meaning “to miss the mark,” or “deviate,” affords little help in deciding whether the two were genuine believers,“ and “overthrow” meaning “ upsetting, destroying, undermining, wreaking havoc with,”  also sheds no light on the problem.

The error relative to resurrection is generally believed to have been the teaching that there is no literal resurrection, the term applying only to the spiritual resurrection which occurs at conversion when the believer is raised up out of spiritual death.

Such error robs believers of all hope, and it is difficult to believe that even the least taught believer could be induced to accept such teaching.

Dr C. Sumner Wemp’s remarks on this verse in The Liberty Bible Commentary are particularly appropriate.  He quotes 1 Cor 14:38 “If any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant,” and adds the comment, “There are some things and some people you just don’t debate.”

2:19.  “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.  And, Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

This verse seems to imply that Paul himself was uncertain as to the true spiritual state of Hymenaeus and Philetus, and was leaving that judgment with God, an example we would do well to follow, rather than engage in worthless speculation.  One of the marks of a true believer is that he will have nothing to do with sin in any form, but will seek to live righteously.

2:20.  “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor.”

The “great house” here may be the Church, the gold and silver vessels representing those believers who by faithful service rendered according to God’s Word, will be honored at the Bema with a corresponding great reward, while those represented by the vessels of wood and of earth (clay) are those believers who live for the things of this world rather than for what belongs to the kingdom of heaven, and who will therefore have a relatively small reward.

Another view relative to the different vessels may be that the gold and silver represent those believers called to prominent service, while the wooden and earthen vessels may represent those whose service is to be rendered in obscurity.

On the other hand, the “great house” may be Christendom, the vessels of gold and silver representing true believers; those of wood and earth, mere professors.

Since gold represents divine glory; and silver, redemption, the reference to these two metals would remind us that if we put God’s glory first, and seek to be faithful in spreading the gospel, we will be vessels unto honor.  There will be honor and reward for us at the Bema.

Wood, on the other hand, represents man as a creature of earth, the focus being on his nature, which is Adamic, as it is written in 1 Cor 15:47, “The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.  As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.”  The natural man is occupied only with the things of earth.  The earthen vessel (made of potter’s clay) represents man as constituted physically of dust, his life on earth limited to a few brief years.   In this context the vessels may represent believers or unbelievers, the one as much as the other being occupied almost entirely by what pertains to earth rather than heaven.

2:21.  “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.”

“... purge himself from these” is generally understood to mean “keep himself clean from all that is sinful (evil men and evil doctrine), and therefore displeasing to God,” and “vessel unto honor” means that he will be a vessel or instrument whom God can use for honorable purposes.

“... sanctified” means simply “set apart, consecrated, dedicated,” while “meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work,” means that as such, he will be fitted, or will have fitted himself for God’s use in connection with everything that is honorable.  God will not use an unclean vessel, as it is written, “Be clean, ye who bear the vessels of the Lord,” Isa 52:11; and again, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (living); because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy,” 1 Pe 1:15-16, the original reference being Le 11:44.

If the wooden and earthen vessels represent believers whose service is to be rendered in obscurity, the lesson God would have us learn is that every believer has opportunity to serve: some in places of prominence; others, in obscurity, and it isn’t where, but how we serve, that matters, the Lord Himself assessing the value of the service, and recompensing it according to the faithfulness with which it was rendered.  The Bema will bring many surprises, revealing that the service which was considered of little worth on earth, is valued very highly by the Lord; while that which was highly esteemed by men, will be found to have been of relatively little worth.

2:22.  “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity (love), peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

“Flee” conveys the idea of running away from anything that might encourage the gratification of sinful desires, and in this connection an obvious example is Joseph’s flight from Potiphar’s wife, see Ge 39.  But since everything connected with our lives begins with a thought, it is obvious that the control must begin in the mind, for it is written, “As he (a man) thinketh in his heart (mind), so is he,” Pr 23:7.  Wrong thoughts should not be dallied with, but should be dismissed instantly.  The idea is entertained by many that it doesn’t matter what we think: it is only our words and deeds that matter.  This is a great mistake.  God comprehends our thoughts, and His command is, “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,” Ro 12:2, and again, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus....” Php 2:6.  Instead of impure thoughts, we are commanded to think on “whatsoever things are true ... honest ... just ... pure ... lovely ... of good report ...”  Php 4:8.  Good thoughts will help to choke out bad ones.

“... youthful lusts” are not limited to the physical: they include also desire for money, fame, pleasure, etc.

“... with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart,” is the command to seek the company of those whose lives display righteousness in thought, word, and deed.  They will be a help and encouragement to us.

2:23.  “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.”

This refers to the discussions and speculations prompted by the silly questions asked by ignorant men, and which only produce strife and quarreling rather than edification.  Timothy was to have nothing to do with them, and neither are we.  Unfortunately the weekly Bible study of many an assembly is marred by just such controversial discussion.

2:24.  “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,”

He who would serve the Lord must not be easily provoked into quarreling with such as are described in the preceding verse, but rather is to be courteous, kind, inoffensive; skillful in teaching, and patient with those who want only to provoke argument.

2:25.  “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;”

Meekness is literally gentleness.  He who would serve the Lord effectively must do everything in his power to avoid anything that would generate strife when he is seeking to teach truth, always hoping that by God’s enlightenment, those who are in error may be led to abandon their error and accept the truth.

“... those that oppose themselves,” aren’t necessarily all unbelievers: some may be believers lacking in knowledge, in which case repentance refers to that change of mind which results in their abandoning their erroneous beliefs, and accepting the truth.  In the case of unbelievers, the repentance is that which results in abandonment of wrong beliefs, and acceptance of truth resulting in salvation.  

“... if God peradventure (perhaps) will give them repentance,” requires explanation, for the implication seems to be that God may arbitrarily decide to have some believers remain ignorant, and some unbelievers remain unsaved.  Scripture makes it clear that God never acts capriciously or arbitrarily, so it is necessary to understand something of the principles which govern Him in His dealings with men, and first we must realize that by His foreknowledge He knows who will accept, and who will reject His Word; and in His sovereignty He chooses to have His Holy Spirit strive with some foreknown unbelievers, while causing Him not to strive with others.  This is a sovereign choice which He makes without disclosing His reasons for making it.  It is to be further realized that the striving of the Holy Spirit doesn’t always result in the conversion of sinners.  Many a man has remained unsaved in spite of the Holy Spirit’s striving to lead him to repentance.  And it is the same relative to the education of believers.  The Holy Spirit will strive to have believers see that some of their beliefs are wrong, but as with the unconverted and salvation, He will not compel believers to abandon error and accept truth.  Like salvation, truth must be accepted by a free-will choice; and also like salvation, the believer may continue rejecting truth to the point where the Holy Spirit ceases striving with him, leaving him to continue in his self-chosen ignorance, as it is written, “But if any man be ingnorant, let him be ignorant,” 1 Cor 14:38.  Kelly has made the following instructive comment relative to such self-willed believers, “The refractory are best left in His hands whose words they cavil at: if His own, He knows how to break them down and make them thankful for the light, the refusal of which keeps them in ignorance.”  See also 2 Thess 3:14-15, “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.  Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”

2:26.  “And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”

“... recover themselves” is generally understood to mean that they will become sober, come to their senses, and thereby escape from Satan’s trap.

Relative to the phrase “who are taken captive by him at his will,” there are two widely divergent schools of interpretation.  One is that Satan is the one who takes men captive in order to make them do his will; the other, that it is God Who takes them captive in order to make them do His will.  Relative to the latter view that God takes them captive, Vine writes, “this rendering is in part an interpretation instead of a translation; there is no mention of the Lord’s servant in the original, which reads as follows: ‘and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil (having been taken captive by him) unto his will’; the him in the parenthetic clause refers to the devil.  Recovery from the captivity is recovery to the will of God.  The pronoun in the original used for ‘his’ clearly points back to God.  The phrase in the RV ‘by the Lord’s servant’ is inserted to make sense, but it does not represent the meaning.”

The so-called scholarship which insists on a meaning other than the plain and obvious, adds nothing except confusion, and smacks very much of that hair-splitting argumentation against which Paul warns, and which characterizes some commentaries.

Instead of debating which translation is correct it is better to focus on the plain simple truth that believers, once the captives of Satan to do his will, are saved to do God’s will, the difference being that unbelievers are compelled to do Satan’s will, but believers are free to choose whether they will do God’s will, obedience bringing corresponding eternal reward at the Bema; and disobedience, eternal loss, not of salvation, but of reward.  The Bema is for the judgment and reward of believer’s works.  No unbelievers will stand there, their judgment being a thousand years later at the great white throne.

[2 Timothy 3]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough