The passage which we will this time consider contains instructions from Paul to Timothy in regard to what must be constantly held before the attention of the church in order that she may truly walk in godliness, steadfast in the truth in Christ Jesus. The church must be built and established in Christ and walk in all good works of faith and gratitude. The saints in Christ must walk in the good works which have been before prepared for her that she should walk in them.
Such is the general thrust of this passage. But shall the church walk in all godliness then she must be under the nurture of good and sound doctrine; she must be under inspired Scriptures, which are profitable for instruction, reproof, correction, in the entire pedagogy to righteousness in order that the man of God be thoroughly equipped unto every good work.
The church needs the proper equipment to walk as saints in the light. She must be fed on the truth as it is in Jesus, the gospel of our salvation. She may be fed on nothing less Woe to any preacher who does it otherwise. Hence, the warning is in order, given in II Timothy 2:14, “Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them in the sight of the Lord, that they strive not about words to no profit, to the subverting of them that hear them.”
We should observe that Paul is really very positive in the text. He tells Paul that he must put the believers in constant remembrance of “these things.” We ask: what things? The answer is found in the context, the verses 8-13, where Paul cites briefly the entire gospel of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as this was promised before by God through prophets in Holy Scriptures and in the fullness of times was fulfilled in Christ, His Son! Furthermore, the apostle cites the meaning that this has in his own suffering for the gospel’s sake, which he endures, that the elect with him may obtain salvation with eternal glory. For all who suffer with Christ shall surely be glorified together with Him. The unbreakable connection must be pointed out to the church not simply between suffering in general and some happy “beautiful isle of somewhere,” but between the cross of Jesus and His crown, for all who suffer with Christ. That “faithful word”‘ of God concerning cross and crown must constantly be held before the believing eyes of the hearers. That was the word which inspired men and women to die for the faith, that caused them to rejoice greatly when they suffered for righteousness’ sake, knowing that their reward is great in the kingdom of glory. The sufferings to come upon Christ is theirs but also the glory to follow.
Of “these things” Timothy must put the congregations in remembrance.
In view of this battle they must be instructed unto godliness. In the hope of the final resurrection they must press on. But then they will need to have the living hope in their hearts, that after the battle has been won the crown of glory shall be ours. That and that only gives heart in the battle. Thus Abraham, Isaac and Jacob pressed forward, seeking a better land, that is, an heavenly country. And Timothy must be strong, rather, he must be strengthened in the grace in Christ. He must instruct others to preach, men who are of such natural and spiritual caliber that they are able to instruct others.
But always and again “these things” must be held before the church. Says Calvin on this verse: “It means that the summary of the gospel which he gave, and the exhortations which he added to it, are of so great importance that a good minister ought never to be weary of exhibiting them; for they are things that deserve to be constantly handled, and that cannot too frequently be repeated. ‘They are things (he says) which I wish you not only to teach once, but to take great pains to express on the hearts of men by frequent repetition.’ A good teacher ought to look at nothing else than edification, and to give his whole attention to that alone . . .” And in a sermon on this passage Calvin writes: “When any person comes to the sermon, let it not be to something that tickles the ear, or that gives pleasure; but let it be to make progress in the fear of God, and in humility, and to excite to prayer, and to confirm him in patience. If we have heard an exhortation today, and if tomorrow it is repeated to us, let us not think that this is superfluous, let us not be annoyed at it; for every person who carefully examines this subject will find it to be highly necessary for him to be reminded of the lesson which he had learned, that he may practice it well. If, therefore, God refreshes our memory with it, he has conferred on us a great favor. That is what we have to remark on this passage when Paul says remind them of these things.’ For undoubtedly he intended to prevent what we frequently meet with, when it is said, ‘We have heard this before. Is not that a very common remark? Where is the little child that does not know it?’ Such things are said by those who would be fed with useless questions. But here the Holy Spirit desires that what is useful should be brought forward every day, because we have not sufficiently understood it, and because it must be put in practice.”
Hence, always and again the minister must hold before the Church the glorious truth of the reality that Jesus Christ is in the completed state of having been raised from the dead. He is the first fruits of them that have fallen asleep. That Christ is now no longer in the grave but that he has ascended on high is the central truth of the glorious good tidings. This is the truth of the Gospel of which angels sang in Bethlehem Ephratha. and it is what Christ Himself explained to the travelers to Emmaus, when he pointed out to them that the Christ, the Messiah, ought to have suffered all these things, to be raised from the dead the third day and thus enter into His glory. And beginning from Moses and all the prophets he explained unto them the things written concerning Himself. Such was the preaching of Paul in Antioch of Pisidia (read Acts 13 ) and such was Paul’s labors everywhere. Read of Paul’s labors in Thessalonica in Acts 17. It is through this resurrection of Christ that we have been born anew unto a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto the inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away. I Peter 1:3. In view of this hope, of which they must always be ready to give an account, Paul must “put them in remembrance of these things.”
Yes, of these things put them in remembrance! These are the words that are health-affording to the believers, to the “hearers.” Only where the hope of seeing God is kept in mind is there a walk of godliness. Says John “and everyone that has this hope upon Him purifies himself as He is pure. Notice: not the subjunctive: let him purify, but the indicative: he purifies! In view of this healthy state and well-being of faith and hope we must constantly be put in memory of the central truth of the gospel, the resurrection of Christ and all its future glories. That only tends to godliness. Despair breeds wickedness even as the law is the power of sin, but hope gives birth each day anew to godliness through the grace of Jesus Christ. And so the “faithful saying” concerning the cross and crown, the suffering, with Christ and the being glorified with Christ must constantly be brought to the attention of the “hearers.”
In this hope of the gospel we ought to walk! Through exhortations God causes us to walk in the good works of faith and love and hope; God confers grace through exhortation to the elect, bringing them through patience unto the eternal day, and causing us to walk in that way of sanctification through which we shall see the Lord. For this “putting us in remembrance of these things” is the Media Gratiae, the means of grace, by which the Holy Spirit reproves, corrects, places us in the pedagogy of righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped unto good works.
But shall we be thus thoroughly furnished (equipped, fitted out) unto every good work, then we must have as part of our equipment the healthy concern that we do not engage in word battles, that is, striving about words. Since the truth of the gospel is written in words, holy words (iera grammata, II Tim. 3:15). Paul cannot mean that we should not diligently seek to attain the meaning of the words of Scripture. These words are the vehicle through which the fulfilled promise of God in Christ’s death and resurrection is announced to us, and the hope of glory. We have our Lexica in Greek, Hebrew and Latin etc. And no one will dispute the fact that it.is necessary to consult a good dictionary to determine the derivation, the current usage of a word or term. Fact is, that no one, worthy of the name of a preacher, should make a sermon on any text if he has not studied the terms. Any man who seeks diligently to be a workman, approved of God, and that has no cause to be ashamed of his work in the ministry of the gospel, will surely busy himself with a “word-study” of Scripture. For such is the requisite of all right handling of the word along straight paths, (“Langs zuivere banen”). It is a remarkable thing that in the mere study of “words” the church has never had any battles. In this sense Paul could, evidently, not have meant the “striving about words to no good use.” Words have a definite meaning in a given context in the Scriptures and they serve as means to teach us, the gospel of our salvation. In this sense we need not be to fearful for any battle about words.
The battle about words is never the earmark of those who wish to live under the blessed gospel of Jesus Christ, which is able to make us wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. It is the earmark of those who depart from the faith in Jesus Christ, from the sound words of doctrine and their profitableness of hope and godliness.
This is evident, first of all, from the fact that Paul’s injunction to Timothy that he charge the church before the Lord, that they do not engage in battle over words, is subjoined to the admonition that he “put in remembrance of these things.” The remembrance of these things is incongruous with strife about words, which are to no profit, that subvert, are a “catastrophe” to the hearers. These strifes simply bewilder the hearers no end and cause them to stampede like frightened cattle. It does not fit in with the logical service of God, so that we approve what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.
Secondly, we may be certain, that such “striving about words” is characterized by Paul as being “profane babblings” of men who will not stay in the truth unto godliness, but what will proceed to further ungodliness! This is a sure fruit of all who walk in this profane babbling! Solid study is gone. One might better listen to the prattlings of children. At least that is no catastrophe in the hearers. Such who strive about “words” and care not for the body of the truth in Jesus, we must shun.
Thirdly, the motive of such striving about words is never a godly one! It does not belong to one who strives to present himself acceptable before God; to one who teaches the truth in Jesus in all meekness arid gentleness, bearing in longsuffering and patience with those who resist themselves. It is characteristic of the man, who does not know, that in the games only those receive the crown, who strive lawfully! To this class belongs Hymaneus and Philetus, men who concerning the truth have erred. They wrested the Scriptures, in their battle about words, to their own destruction. They philosophized until they had no future resurrection to look forward to, and no cleansing of themselves because of this hope of the fathers.
Of these men we must beware!
Where such men subvert the hearers they will to give their own meaning to words. Their souls are not aflame with the joy of the Holy Spirit in the truth of the gospel. They are very selfish men. They cannot deny themselves, take up Jesus’ cross and follow Him for the truth of the gospel’s sake. They grow weary of being reminded of “these things.” They must hear something “new.”
No, they did not intentionally bring a “catastrophe” in the Church of Christ. Paul employs a term in the Greek which shows that this subverting of the hearers is the result. It is: epi katastrophee toon akouontoon, that is, so that the hearers are overthrown. They no more hear the central truth of the glorious gospel. In the righteous judgment of God they fell into the snare of the devil. And where this devil’s work of striving for words is seen; there is the teaching of a different doctrine, (heterodidaskalei) which cannot be health-affording in hope and faith, but is a sickly doting about questions, a morbid concern about words, which have nothing to do with the pedagogy to salvation in Christ Jesus, but in the judgment of God subvert the hearers. Where you have subverted hearers you have to deal with men, who are filled with suspicion, strife, railings, blasphemy, wranglings, men of corrupted minds bereft of the truth! I Tim. 6:4, 5.
Wherefore I charge you before the presence of God and of Jesus, who shall judge the living and the dead: preach the word!