Bible Study
The Second Letter of Paul to Timothy
(3) A Workman Approved of God
II Tim. 2:8-21


Last week we studied how Paul warned and encouraged Timothy, his son in the faith. He told him he must keep and guard the sound teaching he had received. He must teach others who could in turn teach others so that the good news and sound doctrines would be passed to later generations. He must be strong and endure hardship. Paul used the examples of a soldier, an athlete and a farmer to illustrate the kind of endurance that Timothy and we need to have in order to finish the race and bear good fruit. Paul warned Timothy that some had deserted the faith and him, a prisoner for the Lord's sake. He goes on now to clarify the fact that we can only serve the Lord rightly if we are good workmen, knowing God's Word and interpreting it correctly.

Read II Tim. 2:8-21

1. The gospel according to Paul

A. Maybe when Timothy read what Paul had written about enduring hardness, being like a soldier, an athlete and a hard-working farmer, it seemed to be too difficult a task for him. Paul encourages him to remember Jesus Christ. That would help him to know that what he is being asked to do is not unreasonable, since Christ has already done it and so has Paul. Who is Christ? He is the One who has risen from the dead. And He is the One descended from David. The Jews had been looking for David's descendant who would be the Messiah. He had come, had died for our sins, and had risen from the dead. Paul writes: "This is my gospel". It is the gospel or good news in a nutshell. I Cor. 15:1-4 Paul had been preaching this and because of his preaching he is suffering - being chained like a criminal. But even the Caesar of the Roman Empire could not chain God's Word. Paul was willing to endure everything to reach his goal - that those who believe may obtain the salvation that is in Christ.

B. How does Paul summarize this whole teaching? There are promises of blessing to those who are faithful and cursing to those who are not. Paul gives Timothy and us ways to measure ourselves and determine where we stand with Christ. "If we died with Him, we will also live with Him." Dying with Him means brokenness and repentance. This is how we are saved and this is how we must live the Christian life. If we live this way, we have the promise that as He died and rose again, so we will rise to a new life here and eternal life there. Rom. 6:11 The second measure we can use is this: "If we endure, we will also reign with Him." Paul has called us to endure with his 3 illustrations. Now we see the finish line of the race, the winning of the battle, and the crop to be reaped. Our reward for enduring to the end is that we will reign with Him. Rom. 8:17; I Pet. 4:13

C. Another measure we can use is more serious. "If we disown Him, He will disown us." Matt. 10:32-33 This means that we who own Him now as our Lord may decide to disown Him later as Judas did. This is very serious because it seems to say that a Christian can be lost. He will not own us as His loved ones if we disown Him as our loved One. It is like a son who disobeyed and dishonored his father, telling him that he did not consider him a father. Later when the father died, the son was surprised to find that he had left all his money and property to others as if he had no son. Whether we own or disown Christ, it does not affect who He is. "If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself." However, it affects our eternal destiny. If Jesus disowns us before the Father as we have disowned Him in this life, we will have no place in His home.

2. Things to remember and things to avoid
A. Timothy was to keep reminding them of the things he had been taught by Paul. Sometimes we get tired of hearing the same truths again and again, but every good teacher knows that words often repeated will be best remembered. Paul had to be careful to "keep the pattern of sound teaching" (1:13) and to "guard the good deposit entrusted to him". (1:14) This is what he was to pass on to others. These verses make it clear that the sound teaching of God's Word must be central in every true ministry. It is the only thing that can protect us from falling into foolish quarreling, godless chatter, and false teaching that cause people to wander from the truth. Quarreling about words is a useless exercise which ruins those who do it and those who listen to it. Quarreling is of no value. (2:23)

B. What should we be doing when people oppose us? We must train ourselves to be workmen - serious students - who do not need to be ashamed before the opposition because we are correctly handling the Word of Truth. There is a lot of mishandling of the truth - distorting and misusing it. If we are correctly handling God's truth we will not need to be ashamed before Him and others. Many people read the Bible but do not interpret it correctly. Sometimes they pull out 1 or 2 verses to teach what they have already decided. We can only handle God's Word correctly if we study and teach it in context - seeing how each verse fits with other verses and with the whole chapter and book in which it appears. We must take time to correctly handle God's Word. Then we can present ourselves to God and men as those approved.

C. Next Paul warns about godless chatter. That is any kind of idle talk that does not have God, His biblical principles and His Word at the center. I have no doubt that it includes gossip, the primary sin of Christians. I think it must also include humanistic reasoning, vain philosophies, and the theories that arise from the idle minds of those who are not good workmen. It is not our place to be making up or listening to new theories and new "revelations". It is our responsibility to carefully and correctly handle the truth that has already been revealed by God in His Word. This kind of godless chatter leads people to become more and more ungodly. It does not lead us closer to God because we are trying to take God's place instead of honoring Him by giving Him His rightful place as Lord. You can hear this kind of godless chatter and false teaching every day on the TV. What did Paul say? "Avoid godless chatter". In other words, turn it off!

3. Wanderers from the truth and destroyers of the faith
A. This kind of godless teaching spreads like gangrene. Gangrene is very dangerous. When toes and feet become infected and are not cared for properly, the tissue dies. Gangrene is the dying of the tissue. If nothing is done, it spreads up the foot and leg. This is the cause of amputations of feet and legs. If the gangrene moves far enough it causes death to the whole body. Among those who were spreading such teaching were Hymenaeus and Philetus. They had wandered away from the truth and were now gangrene or death to the body of Christ. No wonder Paul named them and warned Timothy about them. You have to cut off the gangrenous part in order to save the whole body

B. One of the false teachings of these 2 men was that the resurrection had already taken place. The Gnostics evidently spiritualized the resurrection, teaching that we rise again when we have come to the knowledge of the true God. They did not believe in the future resurrection which is clearly taught in God's Word. The church of Corinth was evidently struggling with this false teaching as well. That's why Paul wrote I Cor.15. (see I Cor. 15:12) Paul had excommunicated Hymenaeus and Alexander earlier in hopes that they would repent. I Cor. 5:5, I Tim. 1:18-20 Evidently they didn't repent because here Paul is naming them again. Meanwhile, this false teaching, like gangrene, had destroyed the faith of some. All of this came from carelessness in handling the truth, and resorting to quarreling, godless chatter, and foolish and stupid arguments. (2:23) These all come from putting man's wisdom before God's.

C. Even though some were teaching false things and their teaching was spreading like gangrene and destroying the faith of some, God's solid foundation was still intact. God's solid foundation is the truth of the gospel as presented in His Word and by His Son, both of which are Truth! The written Word and the Living Word are like a solid rock foundation. They stand as a test of all who claim to belong to Christ. If our building is not built on that foundation, and built to match the foundation, it is spurious, faulty and will not stand. It is like the house built on the sand. Matt. 7:26-27 The foundation has an inscription (writing) on it, like many did in those days. It is a double inscription. One part refers to the Lord and the other to us. "The Lord knows those who are His."  Don't try to fool Him. He knows exactly whether you are building on His foundation or not. The second part is: "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness." This is a test for those who claim to be followers of Christ, and an indicator of the validity of their claim. Have they turned away from wickedness? You cannot embrace Christ and wickedness at the same time. II Cor. 6:14-15

4. Are we gold, silver or plastic articles?
A. In Paul's day any large house had articles such as plates, cups, vases, jars, platters, bowls, pots made of different materials. Some were made of gold and silver - very beautiful and expensive. They were used for important guests and wealthy people. They were used for noble purposes because the people who ate and drank from them were noble. Or they were used to decorate the house and make it look beautiful. Today we would use fine china and crystal. But there were vessels for ignoble purposes as well. They were made of wood and clay. Today they would probably be plastic. They were used to hold garbage, trash and other smelly things.

B. Paul is calling us to strive to be instruments or vessels that are holy and can therefore be useful to the Master. Would a king eat out of a pot used for garbage? Would we serve food to someone in a plate which has not been washed? How can we become vessels of gold and silver? We must be willing to cleanse ourselves - to turn away from wickedness and cut off the gangrenous foot. We seem to have 2 choices. We either turn away from wickedness (v. 19) and filth to become royal vessels for the Master's use, or we turn or wander away from the truth (v. 18) to allow garbage to fill our vessels and make them useless to the Master. We either deliver good food and drink to others, or we are full of putrid, stinking stuff that smells bad, offends and even destroys.


I'm sure that you feel as I do. I don't want to be a trash bucket or a garbage container. I want to be a lovely vessel of gold or silver in God's House that will bring Him joy and be useful to Him. Jesus has shed His blood so that we can be purified and cleansed. I John 1:9; Titus 2:13-14 But in this passage Paul writes that we must cleanse ourselves by turning away from wickedness. God will not do that for us. We must do it. II Cor. 7:1 As we draw closer to the end and await the coming of our Lord, we must be more diligent in purifying ourselves from the unclean things of this world. I John 3:3; James 4:8

(c) 2003 Juanita Simpson

<Previous HOME Next>