2 Timothy 2

1 Having reminded Timothy of his ordination, his own example, and the example of Onesiphorus, Paul encourages him to seek empowerment through the grace that God has granted us in Christ.
2 Paul's main commission to Timothy is to disciple others. Paul had taught all the truths of Christianity publicly to all kinds of people: Gentiles (both religious and not), Jews, and Christians. Timothy is to continue using these same teachings to minister to others. The primary purpose, of course, is to allow people the opportunity to accept Jesus as their personal saviors. Beyond that, it is also important that they truly understand how to nurture their relationships with God and other people. Timothy is to specifically look for those people who have proven themselves faithful to Christ, and train them how to teach others in the same way.This is often referred to as the "ministry of multiplication." If one Christian can disciple two people to be ministers, and then each of them disciple two more, etc., then potentially everyone on the planet could be discipled in a relatively short period of time. It would seem that in our present time there are relatively few faithful people carrying out this type of ministry. The current popular model of "one shepherd and many sheep" probably does a great deal to keep Christianity confined to church buildings. Without new Christians and new ministers to facilitate their growth, the number of people to join God in heaven will be limited.
3 All Christians can expect hardship: persecution from the world, combating personal sinful natures, and sacrificial giving for others are all things we may frequently encounter. Ministers carry the extra burden of nurturing the spiritual wellbeing of other believers. Deacons attend to people's physical needs. Evangelists often take on the difficulties of proclaiming the Gospel on the frontlines. In addition to the active work, there is training and preparation. Prayer, study, planning, and practice make up this regimen. Of course, all Christians take on all these responsibilities to various degrees, but leaders deal with them on a magnified scale.Paul likens the Christian life to that of a soldier. Much of soldiering is about preparation, and the training can often be grueling. However, once the soldier is in combat, he relies heavily on what he has learned. Understanding of his mission and the use of his developed skills are the most important things for both himself and his team to accomplish the assigned task, be it taking new ground or holding what has already been attained.
4 When a man or woman enters the military, he or she gives up working in the private sector. They are often separated to live on a military base, and their entire lives center on the wishes of their commanders. For Christian leaders, this seems to be a call to them to be dedicated to their ministries full time, relying on the church body for their support. However, he is unlikely to be establishing this as an absolute rule since he himself worked frequently as a tentmaker and tried his best not to rely on donations to his ministry unless necessary.What does this mean to the common Christian? We could probably liken life to that of the National Guard in the United States. These people keep their civilian positions and train one weekend a month for military duties. When called, they leave their civilian jobs and serve as long as needed for the specific task they have been assigned. In a similar way, we should make the time to be trained, and when we are needed, whether in a chance witnessing encounter, ministry opportunity, or extended mission trip, we can be fully prepared to do what God wants us to.
5 In another way, a Christian is like an athlete. Beyond skill development, abiding by the "rules of the game" is important. How one goes about sharing the Gospel is almost as import as the Gospel itself. Those who minister with hidden agendas, for self-serving purposes, or by unscrupulous or destructive means should not expect to be honored for their efforts. An athlete who breaks the rules will be disqualified from wearing the victor's crown, even if he dominated his opponents. A Christian who violates the Gospel given to him will not hear "well done, good and faithful servant" no matter how many converts they may win through their ministry (Mat 25).
6 Paul uses farmers as another metaphor for Christian workers. The situation Paul is illustrating here is one of a farmer who works for a landowner. After the harvest, the landowner gives a share of the crops in payment to the farmers who worked for him. The landowners would know who worked hard, and who hardly worked. It would be proper to pay the diligent farmers first, and possibly give them bonuses.It is clear that all Christians are awarded with eternal life, but it is indicated frequently that those who work harder will receive special honor and rewards. Nowhere is it stated exactly what these would entail, nor should that be important for the Christian who is truly seeking to do what God wants. Paul simply seems to allude to the reward here to encourage Timothy.
7 Timothy was to consider these metaphors and rely on God to give him understanding of what they mean and how to apply them to his life.
8 As the ultimate example of leadership, Paul instructs Timothy to think about Jesus. He was a leader by birth, being the royal descendant of King David, but unlike David, who died and passed his rule to his descendents, Jesus rose from the dead and became the eternal leader of not only Israel, but for all who would believe in Him. Paul had relayed not only the work of saving people that Jesus accomplished, but also His activity on earth so that we can likewise follow His perfect example.
9 Paul reminds Timothy that it is for the sake of Jesus and His Gospel that he is now imprisoned. He was treated as a criminal, not because he had done anything illegal, but because many people were offended at the message of the Gospel. However, while those in power could confine the messenger, they could not confine the message. Paul still had the ability to write and speak, but he is indicating of the much wider influence of new believers who, in turn, continue to spread the Truth of God's Word.
10 The hardships of being a Christian leader are worth the price because the labor gives people the opportunity to respond to the Gospel, and thus be saved from certain destruction, which is the punishment for sin.
The word for "elect" or "chosen" is used here in a way that might add to the case against the Calvinistic view of predestination. We know that Christ died for all and that salvation is available to all, which would imply that "all" are "elect." Some commentators feel that Paul is specifically referring to the Gentiles as the "elect" beyond the favor that had already been bestowed on the Jews, simply indicating that they complete the "all." To the point, the implication is quite clear that if there were no leaders to evangelize the elect, they would not attain salvation. Obviously, the all-knowing God knows who will be saved, but there is no indication He specifically made an immutable list of people at the beginning of time who would be the only ones entitled to receive salvation.
11 These next three verses may have been part of an early hymn. Paul gives his approval to these words, indicating that they are founded on good doctrine. The first phrase indicates that a Christian "dies" in Christ. This does not only refer to physical death and resurrection, but dieing to the ungodly principles of this world through identifying spiritually with Jesus' crucifixion. The selfish and self-centered ways of the world may seem like "life" to most people, but they ultimately lead to a death beyond physical death, specifically, the permanent separation from God who is the source of life and love. When a Christian makes God and His ways the focal point of his life, he begins living the "real" life that God wants us to. The resurrection of the Christian is the ultimate culmination of this process, where the sin-stained and mortal body is replaced with one capable of living forever in the direct presence of God in His eternal Kingdom.
12 While on earth, Christians suffer many things, some common to all people, some suffered because we love God. However, if we keep hold of our faith in Jesus, regardless of what happens, we will be rewarded with a place by His side in heaven.

When someone loses faith in Him, it is often revealed through the words they speak. When someone feels that God can't or won't help him, it is about as low as one can go spiritually, except for denying His existence. In reply, Jesus will "deny" the doubter. This is not an indication that the person will lose their place in heaven, since the next verse indicates that He will remain faithful. However, a doubter may be denied in other ways. For instance, James 1:6-7 indicates that those who pray while harboring doubt should not expect to receive a positive answer.

13 There is a split among commentators as to the meaning of this verse. The majority believes that even when a Christian does not follow the call of Christ completely, Jesus remains faithful to His promise to save them. Others, however, feel that the intension is to say that Jesus will surely punish those who sin, even to the extent of preventing them from entering heaven: essentially that Christians can lose their salvation. The former belief seems more consistent with the message of the Gospel.

One can point out that there is no indication of what constitutes "faithlessness" here. Does it consist only of "small," temporary infractions, persistent sin in one's life, or the complete denial of the Faith? If it is only the last, then we might presume that such people were never really saved in the first place, in accordance with 1 John 2:19. If it were the first, then it would be very tenuous to propose that the punishment is eternal damnation since no person, even after receiving Christ, becomes perfect. As for the middle condition, it has been revealed in the Bible that Peter had deep-seated prejudices well into his ministry, and even Paul's harsh, unforgiving spirit alienated others in the ministry (Gal 2:12-21, Acts 15:37-39).

There is also the argument that it is not clear what Jesus is being faithful to. However, the verses go back and fourth with the idea of "we do something, Jesus does something for us." The very last phrase breaks the cycle indicating that these things happen because He is an absolute, and cannot break His promises to us. In regard to His being faithful to us, He says "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Mat 28:20).

Obviously, it would be presumptuous to take this interpretation as a license to sin. The overall tone is to encourage obedience, but there is comfort in the fact that when we do sin, we are not doomed. There are consequences to sin, but once we are saved, the eternal and permanent consequences are taken care of by Jesus' death on the cross.

14 These teachings were not only for Timothy, but also for those he was to teach.

Paul's next teaching was of grave importance, so much so that it was to be taught with the full awareness of God's oversight. Christians are not to have arguments about words (a favorite tactic of false teachers). Even today when we read the Scriptures in modern times with different problems, and even different languages, the majority of God's teachings are easily understood. Yet, with the desire to have everything our own way or to justify any behavior, people will bend the meaning of words and twist the intention of verses. The serpent in the Garden of Eden twisted God's command to open the door for Eve to doubt God's sincerity about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. At best, nit-picky arguments about words are a useless waste of time. At worse, they can lead to spiritual ruin. People may think they have found loopholes in the Gospel, but God is not fooled by our lawyer-like attempts to make a clearly guilty person seem innocent. The only "technicality" that can clear a person's name before God is that Jesus died for his sins. Beyond that, there is no sense in trying to use God's word to attempt to justify a sinful activity.

15 All Christians must handle God's word accurately, which includes how one studies and interprets the Bible, applies it to his life, and presents it to others. The world may try to make the Christian feel ashamed because of his beliefs, but if he is working diligently in accordance with the truth of God's word, he will gain approval from God - which is far more important and eternal.
16 Timothy was to avoid those teachings and arguments that would either directly or indirectly encourage people to behave in ways that displease God. Worldly philosophies would include those teachings that overemphasize the physical things of life. Examples include the "health and wealth" ministries. While the Bible indicates that God will provide the basic necessities of life to His children and comfort them in times of suffering, these ministries teach that the best Christians will be favored with great wealth and no problems. On the other hand, they teach that those with sickness have either sinned or lack faith in God. The result is that the followers pursue money rather than God, mistaking the presence of one for faith in the other. They perpetuate superstitions against the poor and sick instead of encouraging support and aid. Ironically, the authors of the Bible spend much time debunking these myths, but the Christian leaders that deliver such messages refuse to see their subversion of the Scriptures or how much harm such thinking does to their congregations.
An example of empty chatter would include abstract speculations that are eventually mistaken for truth. One example would be the system of "saints" set up in some religions. The idea is that when good Christians die, the living can pray to them and ask them to intercede to God on their behalf. This is reminiscent of the ancestor worship practiced by some pagan religions, or even worse, polytheistic religions where every aspect of life has a different deity that needs to be appeased. The result of this teaching is that the followers essentially practice necromancy rather than praying to God, violating both a minor an major teaching in the Bible. How sad a true saint would be if, after the resurrection, they were to find out that people had put their trust in them rather than God.
17 Teachings that either focus on one's physical existence to the neglect of spiritual well-being or one baseless assumptions and desires can cause one to become spiritually ill. So diseased, in fact, that Paul likens it to gangrene - where the flesh literally rots on the body. If the diseased part is not amputated, the entire body will eventually succumb and die. The analogy, of course, is that if a false teaching is believed and allowed to spread in a congregation, it may become completely useless in advancing God's kingdom.
18 Paul singles out two men, Hymenaeus and Philetus, as examples of those who indulged in empty chatter and became a danger to Christians. In 1 Tim 1:19-20, Paul described Hymenaeus as a blasphemer who has shipwrecked his faith. By this time, he had teamed up with a different person and gone beyond his own spiritual corruption to begin ruining the faith of others. As the clich\ues, "one rotten apple spoils the barrel."
We have very little idea about their teachings, but Paul points out that their central tenant is that the Resurrection had already taken place. Theologically, it is hard to understand how they convinced others this was true, and how they fit this in with the other Christian teachings on end times. Nonetheless, people were becoming convinced that this unfounded and contradictory teaching was true, and they were casting aside other important, although unspecified, tenants to accommodate it. Paul wanted this destructive message stopped before it paralyzed the church, preventing its members from effectively sharing the true Gospel with others.
19 Paul pauses for a moment to reassure Timothy that God's work will continue despite the efforts of these false teachers. Those who know Him are spiritually sealed, and will keep themselves from following the evil example of those who would contradict His word.
20 Paul changes his train of thought here, and compares the people of the church to the containers that one would likely find in a rich person's home. Some vessels are made with rich materials and are used on important occasions. Others are made out of common materials, especially if they are used for mundane purposes. Containers made out of less durable materials were (and still are) thrown away after they are used or broken, whereas something made out of valuable materials is more likely to be cleaned and repaired where any damage were to occur. When considering the containers and utensils used in the Temple, they were all made of metals and distinguished in importance depending on how valuable the material was.
21 Unlike material containers, though, humans can change their thoughts and actions by turning away from the things listed in the following verses, and become useful to Jesus and His purposes.
22 Most adults can remember some of the silly things that they had earnestly desired when they were young. Few grownups would imagine throwing a temper tantrum over not getting a small candy or toy that someone else had the way they may have done when they were children. Similarly, in the spiritual realm, there are stages of maturity.

The well-rounded Christian desires to be right with God, seeks opportunities to increase their faith, deeply cares for the welfare of others, and helps people work well together in their community. These characteristics are contrasted with "youthful lusts." While Paul focuses specifically on quarrelsomeness as a trait of immaturity, this phrase encompasses much more.

New Christians often carry their familiar self-serving attitudes for some period of time, which can lead to trouble in the Church if they actively seek to seize power over others or in other ways gain personal recognition. In many people it takes time to understand why the seemingly less sensational maturity traits are far more important, and how much effort it takes to make these characteristics part of one's day-to-day life. However, once they reach maturity, they will recognize that some of the cravings they had as new believers were foolish, unhelpful, irresponsible, or even harmful.

23 Paul returns to the main topic of discussion, delivering a warning that Bible scholars, teachers, preachers, parents, and anyone in a position of leadership should take to heart. In many places the Scriptures are difficult to understand (there are places where we do not know what the original words meant, phrases and words that do not translate well into our modern languages, and situations that are unfamiliar to us because we live in a different time and culture). The spiritual realm is abstract and rarely open to systematic analysis. For these reasons, people interpret Scripture and their surroundings in many ways, sometimes to the point of absurdity. The problem is not that people use their imagination to try to understand the mysteries of God, but that they can easily cause unnecessary confusion and disputes when they form a hypothesis and then force it on others dogmatically despite the lack of factual evidence.

Specifically, here, the unfounded speculation that the Resurrection had already occurred was having a serious, negative impact on Timothy's congregation and on the individuals' personal spiritual lives. People naturally look to their leaders for guidance, and God holds leaders accountable for their actions. The good Christian leader understands that the spiritual development is for more important and long-lasting than one's physical being. Thus, these matters need to be handled with great care and discernment to avoid derailing or misdirecting a follower's spiritual journey. The leaders being discussed here were seeking power and attention, and were ignoring the profound devastation they were causing in peoples' lives.

24 Anyone who claims to be a servant of Christ must not be prone to fighting. Note that this is not an optional "should" statement! In context, of course, we are talking about people who argue frequently. Each of us probably knows someone who has one or more of these characteristics: they will contradict anything someone else says, thrive in heated debates, maintain their position no matter what, verbally (possibly physically) abuse anyone who refuses to see things their way, etc. Furthermore, we might even know Christians that have these bad behaviors (and in this context, Paul is implicating the people teaching falsehoods in the previous verses). Paul makes it clear that this in unacceptable. In general, such behaviors are unlikely to change the victims' minds, but are likely to turn people away from the arguer, other Christians, Christianity, and possibly even God.

In contrast, a servant of Christ is to be kind to everyone, not just the people who are agreeable, likable, receptive, etc.

Paul goes on further to imply that this kind of argumentation is not teaching. In this example, these people were cramming unfounded doctrine down people's throats, not educating their "students" with anything that would benefit them. An important part of teaching is being able to explain why things are the way they are so that the learner can independently affirm the teaching. instruction is about helping others know how to use inductive and deductive reasoning, as well as recognizing credible authority for those things one simply does not understand at the moment. Teaching is not dictating beliefs for others to blindly believe without question, reason, or evidence.

Being on the other side, a servant of Christ must be patient when they are wronged. There are, of course, many times when a believer knows what is right, but is maligned by another with different beliefs (the challenger may or may not be another believer). A Christian is not to employ argumentative and abusive tactics to defend themselves or force their beliefs on others. Instead, they are to respond with patience. This patience stems from a few different places:

  • Recognizing that the other may be missing a piece of knowledge or experience that is required to understand a particular point of faith
  • Recognizing that the other may not be able to deal with a particular doctrine at an emotional level (for example, it is human nature to automatically recoil to a defensive position when a wrongdoing is exposed)
  • Understanding that what you are teaching may go against a tradition or something they have been taught in the past
  • Knowing that there are some points of doctrine that are unclear, open to interpretation, or may have contingencies under certain circumstances
  • Remembering that you too were ignorant of, and had a hard time accepting, some points of doctrine in the past
  • Acknowledging that you do not know everything (i.e., remaining humble)
Paul is indicating with this final point that the so-called teachers would not react properly to challenges. They were probably dismissive and condemning towards anyone who would question them

In today's world, there are sadly still many examples of preachers who dogmatically teach particular beliefs (either true or untrue) and become belligerent when questioned or challenged. A clich\uying attributed to many "Bible thumpers" is, "God said it, I believe it, and that is final." The principal is not necessarily wrong, but this phrase tends to get used and abused when the preacher is attempting to force people to believe something that he himself either does not understand or holds as a personal belief that is either unfounded or unclear in the Bible.

The proper teacher (and more generally, any proper Christian) does more than simply state beliefs. They search for the reasons why they believe, try their best to communicate them to others based on where their audience is, and are willing to address questions in a calm and reasonable manner. They respect the dignity of others when they disagree, and at times are willing to stop talking about a topic when an impasse is reached. Patience and kindness are a hallmark of every good teacher, and every servant of Christ.

25 Refraining from quarrels does not mean keeping silent or simply allowing incorrect teachings to propagate. There are many times when issues must be confronted, but gentleness is the manner that marks a sound Christian leader. We are obligated to speak the truth as Christians, but the sledgehammer approach to correction is more likely to result in the opponent defending and fortifying their position. However, when they are approached with sincerity, caring, and gentleness, they may at least begin considering the counter-arguments. When they feel safe to explore alternatives from their current way of thinking, God can use the opportunity to help them understand the truth, change their mind, and leave incorrect and sinful thinking behind.
26 At this point, Paul is still referring specifically to the people teaching that the resurrection has passed, but is transitioning to a more general discussion application that he expounds on further in the next chapter.

Up to this point, Paul has not called into question the salvation status of the people preaching the falsehood (and, in more general terms, those who do not respond to gentle correction), but here he does make a serious charge: that they have been trapped by the devil, are being held captive by him, and they are doing what he wants them to do. One might argue that this verse is not a definitive judgment about their salvation, but the overall view of the next chapter gives a stronger indication that Paul believes these people to be Christian imposters, and that true believers should avoid them.

In the most general terms, the devil wants the authority and praise that rightly belongs to God alone. Short of that, he seems to work to prevent people from coming to know God, thus depriving Him of a follower. Failing that, the devil tries to bring up discord or confusion among believers to lessen both the individual Christian's and the whole Church's effectiveness in showing others how to know God. It is evident that the false teachers were causing confusion, making people doubt their faith, and if left unchecked, would make the believers ineffective.