2 Timothy 2:14-19
To Guard the Gospel: Show Yourselves to God as a Tried and Tested Worker
In this last will and testament of Paul’s to Timothy and the church at Ephesus he is instructing them to guard the gospel. He has given some clear instruction on what to teach in order to guard the message.
Now he is going to shift from content to actually being a tried and true worker in rightly handling the word as opposed to those who poorly handle the word and those who flat out teach false doctrine.
To guard the gospel we must:
Handle The Word Well v. 15
“Do your best (imperative) to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker (laborer who works hard in farming / an artisan) who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
- An approved worker handles the word right
“Orthotomeo” means to handle skillfully or to handle right. Ortho, from where we get our words “orthopedic” or “orthodontist” meaning “strait” or “right” joint movement or teeth.
5.1 Exegeted because it’s God’s word not ours
4.1.1 What does it say? What does that mean? How does that
Often this is where the evil one will attack the one who stands for truth with whispers that sound like: “That was so foolish.” “Do you really believe that mess?”
- One who handles the word right has no need for shame
The audience is God.
Handlers of the word are handling God’s word not their own and must never play cavalierly with it.
It is a fearful and wonderful thing to teach God’s word.
James 3:1 reminds us that one should not presume to be a teacher because they incur a stricter judgment. Why, because we are to handle God’s truth not our version. It’s not our message we are tinkering with. This is why we must guard the gospel.
- One has to be a worker to handle the word right and not be ashamed
3.1 It is hard work to handle the word correctly.
- Hard working, unashamed handlers of the truth are approved (approved
after being tried and tested)
2.1 The person who keeps doing this is approved through the
continual rigors of handling rightly before God without shame,
working hard at it, the word.
2.1.1 This approval comes from God as he bears witness to his word
through those who teach it well.
- We are commanded to do our best to present ourselves to God this way!
The proclaimer/teacher of the gospel of the kingdom must give account to the Lord himself and he is the one that we must seek to please.
1.1 The right handler of truth who works and is approved does not
look to hearers for approval but to Father who will tell them “well
What are tried and tested workers commanded to do?
To guard the gospel we must:
Remind Folks Before God To Not Fight Over Words v. 14
“Remind them of these things, and charge them before God (literally “the Lord”) not to quarrel about words (“war over words), which does no good (oudeis epi chresimos – brings no good upon), but only ruins (epi katastrophe – brings ruin upon) the hearers.”
- Bring to remembrance what is true.
This is a lifetime worth of work!
- Reminding about truth is done with the Lord as witness
When we teach we do so in the presence of the Lord and the Lord is witness to what is taught.
Every time one teaches the Word the witness to the event is the Lord himself. The audience is God’s people.
The Lord knows what is taught, and as a result he holds his people to hearing and obeying.
Quite literally we could say “The Lord is witness between us that his word has been taught and I am innocent because I have delivered your word.”
- Do not let people war over words.
We guard the gospel by charging God’s people to not war over words.
The idea here is fighting over nuanced subtleties and creating division.
This is speculative theology based on such nuanced wondering.
This may be fine for the classroom but not for life in the body and it’s not intellectual. It’s ego puffing in public to make one appear more than what they are.
3.1 1 Timothy 6:3-5
“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth…”
3.2 Titus 3:9-11
“But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.”
- Warring over words brings no good.
Warring over words literally brings zero good upon those who hear or receive the residual effects of such warring.
- Warring over words brings catastrophe on the hearers.
Not only is there no good that comes, but warring over words brings ruin, literally catastrophe, on those who hear.
To guard the gospel we must:
Avoid Godless Chatter v. 16-18
“But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead (impel forward: this is a biting bit of sarcasm) people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread (nome – pasture/feed and exo – to have hold) like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened.”
- Avoid irreverent babble
- Irreverent babble leads to ungodliness
Paul uses a bit of biting sarcasm here to get the point across. The sarcasm is lost in English translations. The word “lead” is literally to impel forward.
Of course ungodliness is not forward but backward. And that is the point. You have to say it with a sarcastic tone to feel it. Paul is taking a Spirit inspired swipe at Hymenaeus, who he excommunicated from Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:20) along with his first little cohort, Alexander.
The sarcasm has to be playing on the apparent message of the one’s not rightly handling the word. They apparently were teaching that the resurrection has taken place, spiritually, and the eternal state has come upon those who have this kind of knowledge. Some scholars suppose this to be a very early brand of Gnosticism that would later grip the young church and which early church fathers would spend much time fighting off.
- Irreverent babble spreads like gangrene
Paul’s sarcasm is then followed by this ugly and gross metaphor of dead tissue poisoning the good tissue.
“Spread” is the translation of two words Paul uses “nome” meaning “pasture/feed” and “exo” meaning to “have hold”.
This bad teaching, called irreverent babble, will pasture up and feed on the host and take hold of it and poison it and kill it.
That’s what bad teaching does.
So, how will things turn out for those who mishandle the word?
How are things going to come about for those who word fight and for those propagating godless chatter?
Judgment Awaits Those Who Oppose the Truth v. 19
“But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his”, and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”
- The Lord knows his people. v. 19a
In this seemingly out of place verse, Paul references an event that happens in Numbers 16. We know this by the phrase “The Lord knows those who are his.” This exact phrase shows up in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in Numbers 16:5, of which Paul would be exceptionally familiar.
Side Note: When you are reading the NT and notice quotes from the OT that don’t quite sound like the text when you look it up it is due to a couple of factors: 1. They are quoting the interpretation of the text 2. They are applying the text 3. They are quoting from the Greek Translation of the OT)
This situation that Paul is referencing is the one where Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Levites) along with 250 others, challenge Moses as the Lord’s appointed one to lead them.
Moses issues a challenge for them all them to present themselves to the Lord the next day and the Lord would “show who is his” because the Lord knows who is his.
Long story short, the Lord causes the earth to open up and swallow them all, families, tents, animals and the 250 that follow them.
Here is the encouragement and the warning:
1.1 The Lord knows who his faithful are in spite of the fools who keep
showing up to cause problems.
1.2 John 10:14-15
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
- The Lord’s people depart from iniquity v. 19b
“Those who would take comfort in the first inscription must take responsibility for the second…There is no election (cf. v.10) apart from sanctification. It is written on our souls.”
- We must constantly be reminded of the truth
- We will not quarrel about petty and side issues
- We will rightly handle the word or we will correct
- We will persevere in rightly handling the word
- We will not be ashamed of the truth
- We will work diligently and tirelessly to be excellent teachers of the word
- We will avoid godless untruth that leads to the destruction of God’s people
- We will take comfort in knowing that the Lord knows his and his know his voice and follow him
- We will constantly seek to be a repentant people seeking to hear the Lord and obey him. “He who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock.”
- we will be a worshiping people
Psalm 147:1 “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”
 Kent Hughes, 1&2 Timothy and Titus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000), p. 213.