Serving Faithfully Despite Hardship, 1-13

2:1 So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

In this section, the focus is first on what Timothy must do (vv1-7), then on Paul’s example (vv8-10), and finally on the implications for all believers (vv11-13).

You then– has the force of ‘as for you’.  ‘The first chapter ended with Paul’s sorrowful reference to the widespread defection among Christians in the Roman province of Asia (2 Tim 1:15). Onesiphorus and his household seem to have been the outstanding exception.  Now Paul urges Timothy that he too, in the midst of the general landslide, must stand his ground.’ (Stott)

Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus – That is, ‘in the sphere of grace’ in which the Christian life is lived.  Cf. Eph 6:10.  ‘Grace here has its simplest theological meaning, as the divine help, the unmerited gift of assistance that comes from God.’ (White)

Some (ASV, ESV, Hendriksen, Stott) treat this as a simple passive – ‘be strengthened’, or something similar.  Most, however, (NASB, RSV, NRSV, AV, NKJV, ISV, NLT, ) agree with the NIV in viewing it as an active verb – ‘be strong’.  The difference is not great; but the latter is to be preferred, in the light of the various appeals which it sums up – ‘Don’t be ashamed, 2 Tim 1:8’; ‘Take your share of suffering’, 2 Tim 1:8; 2:3; ‘Guard the deposit’, 2 Tim 1:14.  The thought, then, is of standing firm in the face of widespread defection.  Moreover, the double emphasis on our part on God’s (‘be strong in Christ’s grace’ matches the combination of human effort and divine enablement that is found both in v7 and v10.

In any case, the mere command to ‘be strong’ would have been futile.  ‘He might as well have told a snail to be quick or a horse to fly as command a man as timid as Timothy to be strong. But Paul’s call to fortitude is Christian not stoical. It is not a summons to Timothy to be strong in himself—to set his jaw and grit his teeth—but to ‘be inwardly strengthened’ by means of ‘the grace that is in Christ Jesus’.’ (Stott)

2:2 And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well.
Pass it on

  1. Truth – as taught by the apostle in the presence of many witnesses.
  2. Trusteeship – entrust these things to others.
  3. Trustworthiness – make sure the trustees of the truth are reliable.

Timothy needs to entrust the message to reliable men because he himself is being asked to leave Ephesus in order to join Paul in Rome (2 Tim 4:9,21).

Note the emphasis (as in the previous chapter) on faithfully guarding the gospel.

What you have heard me say is nothing other than the gospel.

In the presence of many witnesses – If the lit. meaning is taken – ‘through many witnesses’ – then the sense is that many could attest to Paul’s teaching, ‘a needed emphasis in the light of the many defections in Ephesus.’ (Fee)

For those who take the PEs to be late, pseudonymous, compositions, this verse is a key to their understanding.  It betrays, so it is claimed, a post-Pauline concern with preserving the gospel tradition through a formally ordained ministry.  But, says, Fee, ‘the singularity of this verse in these letters must not be over-looked.’

‘In case there was any dispute about whether Timothy’s teaching came from Paul or from himself, Paul banishes all doubt by pointing out that he had not spoken secretly in a corner, but many people were alive who could testify that everything Timothy was teaching they had themselves heard from Paul. In this way Timothy’s teaching would be above suspicion, since he had so many fellow disciples who could bear witness to it.’ (Calvin)

Entrust what you heard me say…to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well – NIV: Entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

‘Reliable’ = lit. ‘faithful’.  In chapter 1, Timothy was to faithfully guard what had been entrusted to him.  Now, he is to entrust it to others who will, in turn, pass it on.

‘People’ = ‘anthropoi‘.

Kevin Giles (What the Bible Actually Teaches on Women) asserts (on the authority of Philip Payne) that in using this word Paul includes women as well as men.   This is in opposition to the view of the Kostenbergers (in God’s Design for Man and Woman), which he dismisses as ‘simply not true’:

‘Their appeal to 2 Tim 2:2 is special pleading. This text does not speak of “faithful men,” but of faithful men and women.299 Paul uses the generic anthropoi that is inclusive of men and women (it is used explicitly of women in 1 Pet 3:4!). The New Revised Standard Version, which I have chosen as my translation for this book, rightly translates this verse as what you have heard from me (Paul) “entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others.”’

Giles’ curt dismissal of the Kostenbergers’ interpretation is unwarranted.  It is true that some other scholars think that Paul’s use of the word here is inclusive of women.  Spencer, for example, writes:

‘Some commentators want to limit humans, anthrōpos, to men only in 2:2 because they presuppose that the teaching offices are restricted to men only. However, 1 and 2 Timothy have plenty of references where anthrōpos is clearly generic: prayer for all humans, God desires all humans to be saved, one mediator between God and humans, God is Savior of all humans, sins of some people, people of corrupt mind, rich people, no human can see God, people will love themselves, evil people. Definitive lexicons define anthrōpos as a generic term in the singular and plural. The assumption is that God’s revelation cannot rise above the androcentrism of its culture. However, if Jesus could rise above the androcentrism of his Jewish culture, why cannot his disciples rise above the androcentrism of their cultures? In addition, the culture of antiquity was not one culture but many cultures, some of which allowed women to take leadership.’

I do not find this very convincing, partly because I am suspicious about the writer’s claim to discern other scholar’s motives (they ‘want to limit…because the presuppose…’).

But the point is, to say the least, debateable, and cannot be resolved by mere polemical force.

Mounce (WBC) agrees that

‘ἄνθρωπος, “man,” is often used in a generic sense of “humankind,” and there is no question that women played a vital role in Jesus’ ministry and the spread of the gospel.’

But, explains Mounce:

‘in light of the Ephesian problem and the limitation that Paul places on the Ephesian women (1 Tim 2:9–15) and widows (1 Tim 5:3–16), it seems unlikely that Paul is telling Timothy to entrust the gospel to men and women alike. It is more likely that Paul is thinking of male elders, who were repeatedly required to be able to teach (1 Tim 3:2; 5:17; cf. the use of ἄνθρωπος in, e.g., 1 Cor 7:1; Eph 5:31; 2 Tim 3:8; BAGD 68 [2bα]) and who had to be able “to exhort with healthy doctrine and to rebuke those who oppose [it]” (Titus 1:9).’

Fee agrees that:

‘the genuine [male] elders of 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and 5:17–18 are probably in view.’

So also Marshall (ICC):

‘Although ἄνθρωποι could be inclusive, probably only males are in mind.’

Although there is no thought of ‘ordination’, as subsequently conceived in the church, here, nevertheless it is clear that Christian teachers cannot be self-appointed.  They must be suitably gifted and trained, and their ministry must be recognised and authorised by the church.

‘The passage…gives no support for the Roman Catholic claim of a deposit of truth infallibly handed down.’ (Guthrie)

‘This is the true apostolic succession of the ministry: not an uninterrupted line of hands laid on which extends back to the apostles themselves so that all ordinations which are not in that line are null and void; but a succession of true apostolic doctrine, the deposit of what we still hear from Paul in his writings, this held by us in faithful hearts with competency to teach others these same things.  The apostle did not evidently expect the future teachers of the church to produce new or different teaching.  The gospel is changeless in all ages.’ (Lenski)

We notice here the importance of person-to-person transmission of the gospel.  Although some embrace the gospel because of a book that they have read, more come to faith because of the influence of Christian friends who have spoken the word of God to them.

2:3 Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

Here is the main reason why Timothy needs to ‘be strong’ (v1).

Endure hardship with us – the expression is exactly the same as that used in 2 Tim 1:8, and the meaning here, as there, is, ‘join with me (or ‘us’) in suffering’.  Or, perhaps even better, ‘take your share of suffering’, in which case it is a reminder that every Christian worker can expect some measure of hardship or ill-treatment, just as every soldier can.  Heb 13:23 hints that at some point Timothy himself suffered imprisonment.

Paul would not have needed to urge Timothy to ‘be strong’ (v1) if there was no expectation of hardship and opposition.

Like a good soldier – Paul may have in the back of his mind the struggle against opponents of the gospel, cf. 1 Tim 1:18.  But at the forefront is the fact that suffering is part and parcel of the soldier’s occupation.

‘We see, every day, so many people who once showed such courage but now laying down their arms in abject defeat. Why is this? It is because they can never become used to the cross. They are so feeble that they shrink from engaging in war, and the only way they know of fighting is to struggle fiercely against their enemies. They know nothing about patiently enduring evil.’ (Calvin)

2:4 No one in military service gets entangled in matters of everyday life; otherwise he will not please the one who recruited him.

No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – The emphasis here is on the singlemindedness of the soldier.  His sole aim is to satisfy the officer who enlisted him.

‘Soldiers were not even allowed to marry during their term of service (although some had unofficial concubines while they were stationed somewhere) and were to be strictly devoted to their service for over twenty years; only about half survived to retire.’ (IVP Bible Background Commentary)

‘This involves for the soldier a sinking of his own desires in a total effort to please his chief.  No more admirable figure of speech could be found the illustrate the extent of Christ’s claims upon his ministers.’ (Guthrie)

Fee remarks that we should resist the temptation to stretch metaphors beyond the original intention of the author.  In this case, the context determines that the principle thought is that of suffering, and of singleminded service.  ‘Thus it is not a proscription against marriage or a call for separation from worldliness, as it has often been treated by Roman Catholics or Protestant Fundamentalists.’

Fee adds that ‘the analogy does not negate “civilian affairs”; rather, it disallows “looking back” (cf. Lk 9:61f) or hankering for an easier path (in this case defecting, as have so many others).’

We might well ask what it is that hinders us from fulfilling our own calling as Christians.  Is it that we are too easily distracted, or too readily discouraged?  See Lk 9:62.

2:5 Also, if anyone competes as an athlete, he will not be crowned as the winner unless he competes according to the rules.

The imagery here is of an athlete competing in the Greek games.  As Stott remarks, no sport is simply a random display of strength or even skill.  Every event has its rules which must be kept, lest the competitor be disqualified.

The victor’s crown is a wreath.  In the context of suffering, we do well to fix our eyes on the finishing line.

Contrary to the opinion of many who hold the the theory of pseudonymous authorship, neither here, nor with the farmer metaphor, is the thought connected with the remuneration of the minister.

Competes according to the rules is lit. ‘striving lawfully.’  This could mean the rules of training (a Greek athlete had to train for 10 months) or to the rules of the competition itself itself (or both).  Fee thinks that the emphasis is on the latter, since the context is less to do with self-discipline as such and more to do with suffering.  Willing to endure suffering is, for Paul, one of the ‘rules’ of Christian service.

‘The Greek is athlein nomimos. In fact that is the Greek phrase which was used by the later writers to describe a professional as opposed to an amateur athlete. The man who strove nomimos was the man who concentrated everything on his struggle. His struggle was not just a spare-time thing, as it might be for an amateur; it was a whole-time dedication of his life to excellence in the contest which he had chosen.’ (DSB)

‘The athlete is a man under discipline and self-denial. He must keep to his schedule of training and let nothing interfere with it. There will be days when he would like to drop his training and relax his discipline; but he must not do so. There will be pleasures and indulgences he would like to allow himself; but he must refuse them. The athlete who would excel knows that he must let nothing interfere with that standard of physical fitness which he has set himself. There must be discipline in the Christian life. There are times when the easy way is very attractive; there are times when the right thing is the hard thing; there are times when we are tempted to relax our standards. The Christian must train himself never to relax in the life-long attempt to make his soul pure and strong.’ (DSB)

‘Athletic images conjure up a number of stimulating associations, including rigorous training or exercise (1 Cor 9:25; 1 Tim 4:7–8), singleness of purpose (1 Cor 9:26), delayed gratification (1 Cor 9:25), streamlining for maximum performance (Heb 12:1), self-control (1 Cor 9:27), perseverance (Heb 12:2) and endurance (1 Tim 4:8). Athletic endeavor also involves intense competition with lofty objectives (1 Cor 9:24) and high stakes (Eph 6:12), and it requires faithful adherence to a prescribed set of rules to avoid disqualification (2 Tim 2:5; 1 Cor 9:27). In spite of all the hard work, the end result is transitory fame. But for the Christian the crown to be won is imperishable (1 Tim 4:8; 1 Cor 9:25).’ (DBI)

Any athlete who breaks the rules is in danger of disqualification.  Sadly, many illustrations could be cited from modern sport, including football, cricket, running, and cycling.

What are ‘the rules’ of the Christian life?  They are, first of all, the law of God which, although it cannot save us, does provide us with a guide to godly living.  Secondly, they are that complex of attributes and qualities that includes faithfulness, self-discipline, and perseverance through suffering.  The minister of the word must preach and teach only the the truth, and do so in love.

It is not enough to start a marathon by blasting one’s way to the front.  The important think is not how we start, but how we finish.

‘From the human point of view, Paul was a loser. There was nobody in the grandstands cheering him, for “all they which are in Asia” had turned away from him (2 Tim. 1:15). He was in prison, suffering as an evildoer. Yet, Paul was a winner! He had kept the rules laid down in the Word of God, and one day he would get his reward from Jesus Christ.’ (Wiersbe)

‘Applied to the Christian ministry, this second metaphor stresses the absolute necessity for self-discipline…The apostle is here exhorting Timothy to keep strictly to the “rules” fixed by the life and teaching of Christ.’ (Guthrie)

2:6 The farmer who works hard ought to have the first share of the crops.

The hardworking farmer – Left to itself, a field will grow mainly weeds.  In fact, the more work he puts in, the greater the harvest will be.  It is just so with the ministry of God’s word: neither speaker nor hearers can expect to get much benefit out of it if they have not put some hard work into it.

As with v5, the emphasis is on the eschatological reward.  Being ‘the first to receive a share of the crops’ is not to do with being paid for gospel ministry (this is alien to the context), but with the final reward for hard work.

In fact, in each of the three metaphors the thought of final reward is not for away.  ‘Beyond warfare is victory, beyond athletic effort a prize, and beyond agricultural labour a crop.’ (Barrett)

2:7 Think about what I am saying and the Lord will give you understanding of all this.

Here is a good example of ‘Bible logic’, where two extremes are needed to give us the whole truth. Only God can give the insight, but Timothy has to do the reflecting. Cf. Col 1:29.

Reflect on what I am saying – i.e. ‘work out what I am getting at.’ On its own, this kind of activity leads to all the perils of secular academic theology.

The Lord which give you insight – On its own, reliance on this leads to irrationality and mysticism.

The Christian worker who accepts both these principles will work as if everything depended on him, and pray as if everything depended on God.

‘No one was a better teacher than Paul, but to ensure that his teaching was beneficial, he prays that God may enlighten his pupil’s mind.’ (Calvin)

2:8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David;

Remember – Timothy has been urged to ‘remember’ a number of things: the faith of his forbears, 2 Tim 1:5, his own call and empowerment, (2 Tim 1:6f), and of Paul’s modelling of ‘sound teaching (2 Tim 1:13). (Fee)

Raised from the dead– or, better, ‘risen from the dead’ (Fee).  The relevance of this is obvious in the light of the eschatological rewards just mentioned.  It also anticipates what Paul is about to say with reference to Hymenaeus and Philetus, v17.

Descended from David – and therefore the fulfilment of God’s promises and his people’s expectations (Fee).  The expression also underline the humanity of Christ, and therefore the physical nature of his death and resurrection.  This expression is found only here and in Rom 1:3.

In view of the continued emphasis on suffering, it may be that Paul has Christ’s sufferings in his mind, and is wanting us to ‘remember’, not simply that as a man Christ suffered, but that he was vindicated both in his person (as son of David, Messiah) and his work (risen from the dead).

This should be seen ‘as a call to follow the path marked out by the Saviour who suffered the agonies of the cross before he was crowned with glory and honour.’ (Wilson)

‘Remember it for thine encouragement; that Christ, for a reward of his sufferings, was both raised and exalted, Phil 2:9.’ (Trapp)

such is my gospel, 2:9 for which I suffer hardship to the point of imprisonment as a criminal, but God’s message is not imprisoned! 2:10 So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God, that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory.

My gospel – ‘not invented by me, but entrusted to me’ (Lock).

Here Timothy (and all God’s people, v10) may be assured ‘that they belong to something that God has been doing in history, culminating in Christ, and that they are the heirs of final eschatologcail salvation, also through Christ.  Thus, “Be steadfast.”‘ (Fee)

What is implied in this verse (that just as Christ suffered and yet was victorious, so will we) is made explicit in v 11f.

Like a criminal – the word is a strong one, used for those ‘who commit gross misdeeds and serious crimes’ (BAGD).  The only other place in the NT where the word is used is in Lk 23:32,39, where it describes the two who were crucified alongside Jesus.

As Calvin says, Paul is anticipating an objection here, according to which the gospel appears discredited if one of its chief ministers is locked up as if he were a common criminal.

God’s word is not chained – ‘They may stop the messenger, but they cannot stop the message.’ (Fee)

God word is not chained, whether its ministers are laid aside by imprisonment or are indisposed in any other way.

This verse picks up the original emphasis, which was on sharing in suffering, and the emphasis introduced in the three metaphors of the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer, which was on the eschatological prize.

The elect – God’s chosen people.  Fee may be right when he warns us against undue theologising of this term, as when we scratch our heads wondering about whether Paul is referring to those who are already saved or those who are as yet unsaved.  Here, says Fee, ‘Paul has appropriated OT language for God’s people and applied it to Christian believers.  Furthermore…the emphasis here falls on their continuity with the past, not their theological status.’

‘The doctrine of election does not dispense with the necessity of preaching. On the contrary, it makes it essential. For Paul preaches and suffers for it (literally) “in order that” the “may obtain the salvation in Christ Jesus with its eternal glory.” (2 Tim 2:10) The elect obtain salvation in Christ not apart from the preaching of Christ but by means of it.’ (Stott, Authentic Christianity, 334)

That they too may obtain…salvation – Not, of course, that Paul’s sufferings were salvific, as Christ’s were, but he trusts that his imprisonment will somehow ‘help on the work of the gospel.’ (Barrett)

2:11 This saying is trustworthy:
If we died with him, we will also live with him.
2:12 If we endure, we will also reign with him.
If we deny him, he will also deny us.
2:13 If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself.

Trustworthy saying – the 5th and last in the PEs.  The saying extends to the end of v13.

Fee thinks is likely that the four lines of the saying progress from conversion, through to perseverance and its eschatological prize, to a warning about apostasy, and finally a work of hope.  He adds that the saying is probably Pauline: ‘There is no reason to think that the man who wrote 1 Cor 13 and Rom 8:28-39 could not also have written this marvellous piece.’

The connection with the preceding context, then, is that it celebrates the prospect of future glory which will offset present suffering (NBC).

Of the two pairs of epigrams, ‘the first pair relates to those who remain true and endure, the second pair to those who become false and faithless.’ (Stott)

Hendriksen says that the meaning can be summarised as: ‘Loyalty to Christ, stedfastness even amid persecution, is rewarded, and disloyalty is punished.’.

If we died with him – Cf. 2 Cor 4:10.  Paul may be thinking of the moment of baptism, in which the believer is identified with Christ in his dying (and rising).

If we disown him, he will also disown us – Cf. Mt 10:33; Mk 10:33; the connection is so close that some think that the hymn quoted by Paul has taken up the very words of Christ.

The previous lines have been in a ‘if we…then he’ format.  This line, however, is different.  Its form is, ‘Even if we…nevertheless he…’. 

He cannot disown himself – The Puritans used to say that there are three things which God cannot do: he cannot die, he cannot lie, and he cannot deny himself.

Dealing with False Teachers, 14-26

2:14 Remind people of these things and solemnly charge them before the Lord not to wrangle over words. This is of no benefit; it just brings ruin on those who listen.
2:15 Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately.

Do your best – What follows by way of practical advice to Timothy will require enthusiastic effort.

AV: ‘Study to show thyself approved unto God’ – Translated thus, this verse has often been used to teach that a minister needs to give himself to much reading and brain-work. Although this may well be true, this is not the meaning of this passage, as NIV makes clear: ‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved’. The word translated ‘study’ (AV) means to make an effort, to be prompt and earnest. ‘The word ‘study’ (2 Tim 2:15) has nothing to do with books and teachers. It means “to be diligent, be zealous.” It is translated in this way in 2 Tim 4:9,21, and also in Tit 3:12. The emphasis in this paragraph is that the workman needs to be diligent in his labors so that he will not be ashamed when his work is inspected.’ (Wiersbe)

How to be an approved workman

‘V15 is a gem of positive advice to the person of God. The aim is to produce an approved workman (i.e. approved by God). This requires effort – yet no-one can do more than his or her best. There are two requirements – an unashamed approach and a right handling of the word of truth. The latter will reinforce the former. The Greek verb translated correctly handles really means cutting a straight road and suggests straightforward exegesis. This must be the aim of all true teachers of the word. ‘Reading into’ the text what is clearly not there is of help to nobody but is depressingly common.’ (NBC)

A workman who does not need to be ashamed – This is closely connected with the next clause: Timothy will not need to be ashamed if he correctly handles the word of truth.

Correctly handles – ‘”Rightly dividing” AV means “cutting straight” and can be applied to many different tasks: plowing a straight furrow, cutting a straight board, sewing a straight seam.’ (Wiersbe) ‘Theodoret explains it to mean ploughing a straight furrow. Parry argues that the metaphor is the stone mason cutting the stones straight since |temn| and |orthos| are so used. Since Paul was a tent-maker and knew how to cut straight the rough camel-hair cloth, why not let that be the metaphor? Certainly plenty of exegesis is crooked enough (crazy-quilt patterns) to call for careful cutting to set it straight.’ (RWP)

The word of truth – apparently, a reference to the (OT) scriptures, as in 2 Tim 3:15-17. Cf. Rom 15:4.

This statement carries the implication that some incorrectly handle the word of truth. This danger raises the whole issue of biblical interpretation, or hermeneutics. We also need to be clear that to handle the word of truth correctly we need to know it.

On the teaching of sound doctrine by those equipped and appointed for the task, see also 1 Tim 4:6,11,13; 5:17; 2 Tim 2:1-2; 4:1-5; Tit 1:9.

‘Our interpretations must be balanced. Paul urged Timothy to remind the believers not to argue over unimportant details (“quarreling about words”) or have foolish discussions (“godless chatter”) because such arguments are confusing, useless, and even harmful. False teachers loved to cause strife and divisions by their meaningless quibbling over unimportant details. (see 1 Tim 6:3-5) To handle the word of truth correctly, we must study what the Word of God says so we can understand what it means.’ (HBA)

We are correctly handling the word of truth when, (a) we know and understand what the word teaches; (b) we have a balanced approach, avoiding ‘godless chatter’ and meaningless discussions; (c) we practice what we preach.

2:16 But avoid profane chatter, because those occupied with it will stray further and further into ungodliness, 2:17 and their message will spread its infection like gangrene.
Hymenaeus and Philetus are in this group. 2:18 They have strayed from the truth by saying that the resurrection has already occurred, and they are undermining some people’s faith.

Wandered away from the truth – Berkouwer has lamented the common failure to distinguish between error as ‘incorrectness’ and error as sin and deception. ‘Thus we are quite far removed from the serious manner in which error is dealt with in Scripture. For there what is meant is not the result of a limited degree of knowledge, but it is a swerving from the truth and upsetting the faith…The (2 Tim 2:18) supposition that limited human knowledge and time-boundedness of any kind would cause someone to err and that Holy Scripture would no longer be the lamp for our feet unless every time-bound conception could be corrected is a denial of the significance of historical development and of searching out as the “unhappy business that God has given to the sons of men to be busy with”.’ (Ec 1:13)

‘The errorists evidently taught that creation was evil (1 Tim 4:7) since Paul defends it as good, and they may have taught that there was more than one God. (1 Tim 2:5) They denied that Jesus truly lived in the flesh (1 Tim 3:16) in his earthly life, and claimed that the general resurrection at the last day had already happened metaphorically or spiritually. (2 Tim 2:18) They must have attacked the authority and inspiration of “Scripture” (i.e., the Old Testament, see 2 Tim 3:15-16). The errorists were fascinated with “myths and genealogies” which somehow related to Judaism. (1 Tim 1:4 4:7; 2 Tim 4:4; Tit 1:14; 3:9) Some scholars see these myths and genealogies as stories and genealogies from the Old Testament (Kelly). Others maintain they are Gnostic stories about the descent of the gods (Dibelius). Further, the errorists practice asceticism of the body, forbidding marriage (1 Tim 4:2-3) and restricting certain foods, saying that they are unholy. (1 Tim 4:3-5) These restrictions evidently included wine. (1 Tim 5:23)

‘What is this teaching? The combination of denigration of creation, despising the flesh and the Old Testament, asceticism, the use of myths and belief in other gods-or perhaps emanations-sounds too much like Gnosticism to look any further. Like the Colossian heresy this Gnosticism was mixed with certain Jewish elements.’ (College Press NT Introduction)

2:19 However, God’s solid foundation remains standing, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from evil.”

“The Lord knows those who are his” – ‘The Lord knows them that are his by name, but we must know them by their character.’ (Matthew Henry)

‘God’s counsel of election is unchangeable. Once elected for ever elected. ‘I will not blot his name out of the book of life.’ Rev 3:5. The book of God’s decree has no errata in it, no blottings out. Once justified, never unjustified.’ (Thomas Watson)

‘There is a seal of the Spirit of God spoken of in Scripture, the principal thing whereof is the sanctifying world work the Holy Ghost, imprinting the draughts and lineaments of God’s image and revealed will upon a man, as a seal or signet doth leave the impression and stamp of its likeness upon the thing sealed. So it is-‘The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his; and, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.’ (2 Tim 2:19) And thus I conceive the seal to be called a witness-‘He that believeth hath the witness in himself’; (1Jo 5:10) that is, the grounds upon which an interest in Christ is to be made out and proved, are in every believer; for he has somewhat of the sanctifying work of God’s Spirit in him, which is a sure, although not always a clear and manifest witness.’ (Guthrie)

A seal with two inscriptions

‘The people of God are sealed with a double seal. Election, ‘The Lord knows who are his:’ and Sanctification, ‘Let every one depart from iniquity.” (Thomas Watson)

Hendriksen comments:-

‘The seal bears two closely related inscriptions. God’s decree and man’s responsibility receive equal recognition:

  • The first inscription deals the deathblow to Pelagianism; the second, to fatalism.
  • The first is dated in eternity; the second, in time.
  • The first is a declaration which we must believe; the second, an exhortation which we must obey.
  • The first exalts God’s predestinating mercy; the second emphasizes man’s inevitable duty.
  • The first refers to the security; the second to the purity of the church…

‘Between the two there is a very close connection. That connection is interpreted beautifully in 1 Cor. 6:19b, 20: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price (cf. the first inscription); glorify God therefore in your body” (cf. the second inscription).’

2:20 Now in a wealthy home there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also ones made of wood and of clay, and some are for honorable use, but others for ignoble use. 2:21 So if someone cleanses himself of such behavior, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart, useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.
2:22 But keep away from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faithfulness, love, and peace, in company with others who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

Keep away from youthful passions – ‘keep a strong curb … on your youthful cravings’ (Weymouth).  In context, this may not be about curbing sexual desire, but about bringing impatience, anger, and argumentativeness, under control.

‘The flee…pursue formula gives the teaching an urgent tone. Timothy’s faith and ministry depend on godliness, and the evil desires of youth pose a serious threat. In this context, Paul probably thinks first of the characteristics of youth that open one up to false teaching and prevent effective ministry, everything from impatience with old ways of thinking to love of debate and the tendency to seek human approval. But the flight from this danger cannot be accomplished simply by denial and prohibition. Genuine Christianity is a positive pursuit. A comparison with the similar instructions in 1 Tim 6:11 shows that the balanced Christian life is again in view: visible “uprightness” (niv righteousness), a genuine relationship with God (faith) and a resultant life of service to others (love).’ (IVP NT Commentary)

Hendriksen suggests that these sinful desires would include:-

  1. Pleasure, etc., the inordinate craving for the satisfaction of the physical appetites: the “lust” for food and drink, pleasure-madness, uncontrolled sexual desire (Rom. 1:24; Rev. 18:14, etc.)
  2. Power, etc., the ungoverned passion to be Number 1, the lust to “shine” or be dominant. This results in envy, quarrelsomeness, etc. This sinful tendency is included prominently in such references as Gal. 5:16, 24; 2 Peter 2:10, 18; Jude 16, 18.
  3. Possessions, etc., uncontrolled yearning for material possessions and for the “glory” that goes with them (see 1 Tim. 6:9 in its context).
2:23 But reject foolish and ignorant controversies, because you know they breed infighting. 2:24 And the Lord’s slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient, 2:25 correcting opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance and then knowledge of the truth 2:26 and they will come to their senses and escape the devil’s trap where they are held captive to do his will.

‘In this state of things I saw no remedy but faith and patience. The passage of Scripture which subdued and controlled my mind was this, “The servant of the Lord must not strive.” It was painful indeed to see the church, with the exception of the aisles, almost forsaken; but I thought that if God would only give a double blessing to the congregation that did attend, there would on the whole be as much good done as if the congregation were doubled and the blessing limited to only half the amount. This comforted me many, many times, when, without such a reflection, I should have sunk under my burden.’ (Charles Simeon)

v25 – See Lk 6:29n.