The word of God is so important in our lives, not only important, but powerful, and life changing. We see that in our own lives, as the Gospel has shaped us and changed us sometimes instantly, but always over time. For this reason, we must be aware weary of the power of the words and how we use them. Paul is telling Timothy here of that exact warning. This passage is a both a warning, and words of great assurance that we can look out for as we go through. You see, there are two halves talked about, the good teacher, who shares the truth, and has no need to be ashamed. And the bad teacher who leads people away. These words are important for us to hear as we live trying to truthfully proclaim the Gospel to those around us.
As we read this, we must not be fooled into thinking this only applies to ‘teachers’ in the sense of those who preach, but that all who proclaim the word of God has a calling and purpose within these verses. (Give examples – home group leader or SRE teacher; youth ministry or…) We will see a couple of different illustrations of this as we go through the passage.
In application for whole sermon – I guess listeners need to contemplate 1) where they are teaching; but also 2) where they are being taught.
Point 1: Teach clear truth; Consume Clear Truth
Read: 2 Tim 2:14-19
In these first verses, we right away see both the good and bad teacher painted clearly. The good teacher, or worker in Vs15, is approved by God and has no reason to be ashamed as they correctly handle the truth. There is a great confidence they can have in this.
The second, is the bad teacher, who is not just negative, but in fact leading people away, as they become ‘more and more ungodly’ (v16). There is a great danger here as Timothy is warned that as they have departed from the true teaching, they have taken people with them how have lost their faith.
There is strong imagery in these words, see V17 ‘Their teaching will spread like gangrene’ This bad teaching is an infection, it spreads. Quite like COVID, this sickness does not just stop, but spreads throughout the community, this false teaching is a danger to all who hear it.
The wording here is strong, Paul is clear these false teacher’s words only damage, V14 he says it ruins those that listen, V16 says those who indulge it become more ungodly. And V18 is clear that it destroys faith. There is no middle ground in this, it’s very clear. This is why Paul warns of this, there is no good to come from the false teaching.
In fact, we can see in contrast that these false teachers should be ashamed of what they are doing as they do not handle the word correctly. They are using it for their own gain. We can see it is not just a matter of teaching, but it all relates back to then heart of the person.
Illustration (kind of)
Vs15 speaks of the good teacher being approved by God, they are subject to the teaching and not doing it out of selfish gain. There is clear teaching, enabling others to follow and understand the truth, the word of God is the focus and so all relates back to it. It is like a worker, who is building a new road, they make it straight, it is a simple road, nothing fancy, all this the focus of the destination and being easy for the drivers to follow.
Whereas, the false teacher is the opposite. There is no mention of doing it for God, they have departed from the truth, they are doing it for themselves, and taking others with them. It is as if they have built an unnecessarily windy road, but maybe made it look fancier, so people get lost along the way, but are in awe of the workmanship when they should be in awe of the destination they never reach.
Explain a false teaching and the damage it has done to those who listen- Homosexuality??? How about some early church history examples? Arius; Nestorius or Gnosticism (maybe to controversial…) – look at how the teaching might ‘seem good’ and ‘help’ but realising the amount of people that have been hurt and turned away from the truth because of it. Don’t go into too much detail – but give background and damage it caused.
Amongst this warning there is great comfort from within these words. Look with me at Vs 19.
God foundation stands firm, we can be confident in him, even when there is false teaching, we can know God is at work and saving those who truly belong to him.
But there are two parts to this, and both are essential. The first is the invisible, that God alone truly knows his people, for it is not the outward that has the answer, but the heart, which only God can see. Although, there is also a visible sign in turning from wickedness, that our outward actions and words should be reflect our heart. (What is the solid foundation? Is it Jesus Christ – humanity & divinity OR is it gospel truth – salvation by grace OR is the actual Scriptures? Although it may be hard to know for sure – I think you can begin to point to 2 Tim.3:16-17. See vs.18 – departed from the truth… What truth?
See, this relates to everyone of us. Do your actions reflect what you believe in your heart? Or are you living a double life, where you sometimes act as a Christian where you say the right things, while other times being ungodly, thinking that no one will notice, when the truth is God sees that.
Point 2: We are God’s holy instruments to declare his word.
In these verses, Paul moves away from the idea of a worker and teacher to the metaphor of a household appliance if you will. It is the idea of being tools for the master, God, that he will use the good teacher to be his tool. To be instruments, declaring God’s word.
It’s worth noting that is it not as simple as everyone is the same instrument. There are different people with different purposes. But as believers, we have a special purpose, to act in service of God, as it says in Vs21 ‘useful to the master’. Just as different household items have different purposes for the people that live there. God does work in different ways, he uses all people to grow his kingdom and spread the good news.
Paul is pointing about again the issue of our hearts to see what is key here. Vs 21 mentions the cleansing of yourselves, it is a cleansing from the ‘common uses’ or worldly things. It is pointing out that we must live lives set apart. It is being cleansed for a noble purpose.
This is an important, it is a condition set out by the master to dictate, how his household must be. WE are these good items, the Gold and Silver, set apart for a special purpose.
I can’t say this from experience, but I know people who have very fancy dining sets, often given to them when they got married. These sets don’t just come out on any occasion, but only for special events, and when they do, you can see how clean and pristine they are. There are no marks, sign of wear, they are in perfect condition and are something that brings pride to the owner.
This is exactly what we are to the master, God. We are his prized possessions. But as his possessions, unlike any other master, he gives us a choice. He waits for us to come to him, rather than throwing us into the sink and cleaning us, it is us who come to believe and then we are cleaned, noble and fit to be used by the master. I think we need cleansing again and again. Do you think Paul is talking about a justification issue or a sanctification issue? I lean towards the latter because of the word “made holy” v.21. I think a person may be saved by faith in Jesus (ie justified), and yet still remain somewhat useless in God’s kingdom because “they do not cleanse” themselves of ignoble things. I think this is the case of many people who would call themselves Christians. But you’ll need to think – are we only useless if unjustified OR also useless if unsanctified?
Where do you stand with this? Are you confident in your faith and have given your life to Jesus so that he can use you? Or are you on the fence, or never even considered what that means. Perhaps still consumed by the priorities of the world or desires of the flesh. Perhaps with secret, unconfessed sin in your life – making you a hypocrite if you do teach OR even too ashamed to attempt to teach/lead. According to these words, you need to think about this, because if you aren’t right with God, you are unclean to him, and something that isn’t clean and can’t be cleaned is useless, you won’t be used for the kingdom, in the end you will never see the joys of heaven because you would be discarded like other items that cannot serve their purpose. Again is Paul addressing a justification/salvation issue or a sanctification/holiness issue?
There is no middle ground in this, someone can either be clean or unclean, no one has half a shower and can say ‘Oh I’m now kind of clean’, you are still dirty, in need of a complete shower. For the same reason we see the importance of VS22. Flee Evil desire, pursue righteousness. (Notice again – this is spoken to Timothy who is already a born again believer. He is cleansed from his guilt by faith in Jesus. Yet he is being told to get serious about his own sanctification) There is no middle ground, we are to flee sin, that is actively get away from it, and purse righteousness, that is actively go towards it. They cannot work together.
For this reason, as believers, when we recognise sin, we must run from it, there is no negotiating with it, or come to terms with it, we must run to righteousness, and find shelter with God. Ie repent and keep repenting. So long as we harbor sin in our heart or evil in our lives (even as born again Christians) our effectiveness will be compromised. I still think you need to work out if this is a A) justification issue or B) a sanctification issue.
But we are not alone in this, we have God, but we also have ‘those who call on the lord’ we have the family of believers who help us with this, because this is a battle we all face. But this is good point church family helps us – accountability etc..
Maybe you are wondering how a clean gold or silver instrument relates to fleeing from sin. And how false teaching finds its place in there, but it is all connected to living a holy life. Paul is calling Timothy to be weary (wary or aware) of false teachers and know the truth and not be ashamed in the truth. Paul is calling Timothy to live an upright and holy life, he is calling Timothy, and us, to be cleansed, live in purity, fleeing evil desires, with his people. When we live with these things/sins it dulls the sharpness of our lives. We are like surgical instruments for God – but not as sharp as we should be when we let ourselves be blunted by sin or corroded by carnal desires. Yes, yes
We too need to follow this example closely, as believers we ought to flee from sinful desires like sexual immorality, self-indulgence, arrogance, self-ambition, and pursue righteousness, to live in faith, love and peace, following God and support our brothers and sisters in Christ, being prepared to do any good works God has planned for us. Yes, yes. Your application is more sanctification —
Point 3: The truth brings people to Christ.
Again, Pauls gives warning of quarrelling, particularly here of having ‘foolish and stupid arguments. What are these I’m sure you are wondering… They are controversies that are senseless, or speculative, things that go beyond what the bible says, and creating arguments out of things there is no possible evidence for. It’s not talking about discussion over differing opinions on important biblical issues, because that is important. We need to be challenged by one other on views to help us learn and grow, but it’s important they come from a biblical place. Here it is things that can’t be proved, it’s really just someone trying to justify their actions and argument for the sake of argument. Realistically, it is not submitting to scripture as a person places their own thoughts and assumptions above the truth of the bible. (Judgmentalism, self-righteousness, lack of humility etc etc. Majoring on the minors and minoring on the majors. Christians do it all the time. Seriously…)
Here Paul tells us plainly not to do it, because we know they produce quarrels. Paul tells us right away that we must not quarrel! He goes beyond this and tells how to act, that is to be kind, not resentful which is in fact that a you must still face and bear evil, but not be resentful or angry about it, and also to be gentle. It is the opposite to quarrelling as usually someone that quarrels would be considered more aggressive and just want to win, they do not listen to the other’s opinions, it is often a very selfish experience. As servants here, we must be careful not to be selfish, because as a servant you are not thinking of yourself but doing things for your employer. Teaching is not about being right or winning arguments, it is ultimately about helping people grow in faith, hope and love.
In these verses we can see that someone who is not teaching the truth correctly is in fact not saved, as they do not submit to the authority of God’s word and living in a way that aligns with the bible. Whilst they may do so many things that seem close and as if they are a believer, if it is not fully aligned with God’s word it is not true, they have not fully submitted to their master, God.
They do not have the salvation and knowledge of truth they might thing they have. We see this in Vs25 as they are to be gently instructed, hoping God will lead them to knowledge of the truth, which is a consequence of true repentance. Then we are told they will come to their senses and escape the devil who has taken them captive. Agree – that it is now talking about a person who is not saved. The interesting thing is that with an unsaved person who is teaching error (ie a blatant false teacher) Timothy is to gently instruct them towards the truth. Not fighting. Not quarrelling. But gently leading – how?
This is a big call for Paul to make. That all who do not correctly teach are in fact not saved (not sure I agree here?! Is every false teacher, unconverted OR are there false teachers who have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord – but still teach some things that are blatantly inconsistent with the Bible? I think there are born again teachers – who teach dumb things and there are false teachers – who fail to comprehend even basics of Christianity.) and do not have the knowledge of truth they might think they have; they are deceived and captives of the devil. Lost, not knowing the truth.
(GOSPEL) The same warning goes for those who do not have their faith in Jesus. If you do not believe in Jesus and understand the importance of his teaching, death and resurrection you are lost in the same way, trapped by the devil. This is a trap you NEED to escape from. The only way to escape to call on Jesus as your Lord and saviour. Trusting that his death and resurrection has given you the opportunity to be made right with God, as Jesus defeats sin and death, we were offered salvation through God’s love and grace, so we can share in the joy and freedom that is offered. All you need to do is ask God to forgive you of your sins, pray that he will help you to live a life for him and that he might grow you in knowledge of the truth. If you pray this, you can be sure that you are saved.
And once we are saved by faith in Jesus – we need to keep testing everything we are learning against God’s Word in the Bible – ie 2 Tim.3:16-17. Even if someone is a gifted communicator and uses Jesus name a LOT – we still need to test everything we are hearing against God’s Word.
What does this all mean for us? We know that false teaching is out there, I’m sure you’ve heard it at some point. (maybe examples. I think you need some examples somewhere in the sermon of the danger) We must remember that false teaching, as appealing as it may seem, is the devil at work, trying to deceive followers of Christ. We must run from it, do not be sucked into their teaching, only finding hope and assurance is God’s word. Yes yes
His word is powerful, we must read and understand it ourselves, making sure we are able to discern what is true and false when people come and speak to us. Yes Yes.
Thankfully, we are in a church with good teaching, but that doesn’t mean you can only listen to what is said up the front. Spend time reading passages and working out what is true, ask questions if you are unsure, dig deeper so that you can have confidence and know the truth to be discerning of what people say to you. It will also help you as you go share the gospel with others, knowing you have understood the truth and can confidently and unashamedly profess the truth as one of God’s workers.
False teaching is not merely a battle of words, but it is a war over our own lives. A war that Jesus has already won, we can be sure that if we believe we will be with God in heaven. But for now, we must depend on the truth of his word, not being swayed be things that may sound good that don’t align with the truth. Only God can save, and as his people we must offer ourselves to his service to be his instruments (sharp instruments that have purified ourselves from both sin and error) to proclaim his truth, not proclaiming our own truths but God’s alone. And being weary of those who teach false truths, or just straight out disagree with the bible and what Jesus has done for them. Praying that God might deliver them from the trap they are currently in, so they too can be confident and unashamed in the truth of the Gospel and looking forward to an eternity with God in heaven. Good; good…