Welcome back to the blog Bible study! If you missed last week’s introduction, you can catch up here.
Here’s a quick review of last week’s main points:
- Paul praises Timothy for his sincere, wholehearted faith.
- Paul explains our calling and the Spirit God has equipped us with, so that we need not be ashamed.
- Paul emphasizes the crucial importance of having sound doctrine.
Today we’ll be going through 2 Timothy 2. Take a moment to read it before you continue.
Here are the main themes I gathered from this chapter.
1. The word of God goes forth through teaching
After continuing to encourage Timothy in the call to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (v.1), Paul instructs Timothy to commit the teachings of the faith to “faithful men,” so they could in turn teach others (v.2). How did you learn about God? Someone had to teach you, obviously. But did you know that you don’t have to wait to be an adult or a Bible college graduate to teach others about God? You can start teaching what you’ve learned to others right now. Start a conversation about what you’ve been learning from God’s word recently with a friend or two. Host a Bible study of your own. Be a student of God’s word so you can answer questions others have (more on that later).
I also want to point out verse 9, where Paul makes a powerful statement. He says that although he is in bonds, “the word of God is not bound.” Despite the great leader of the Christian faith spending his days locked up, the word of God continues to go forth. God will accomplish His purposes, no matter what kind of circumstances seem to be in the way.
2. How the truth impacts the Christian’s life
Paul uses some vivid illustrations to portray the need for holiness in the Christian’s life. In verses 3 and 4, he describes a soldier enduring hardness and not letting himself get caught up in trivialities of life. As the solider has a single-minded focus, Paul implies, so we should keep our focus on God and push away distractions that don’t have eternal value.
In verse 5, Paul talks about an athlete who must follow the rules in order to claim his prize. We cannot live as we wish and still expect God to be pleased at the end of the day. God takes holiness seriously.
In verse 6, Paul concludes by mentioning a farmer who receives the fruits (literally) of his labor. Paul reminds Timothy that living God’s way brings treasures in heaven.
Later on in the chapter, verses 20-22 offer another illustration, this time of a house containing many vessels. If you get rid of the evil, dishonoring vessels, you will be “a vessel of honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (v.21). Verse 22 continues this theme, as Paul instructs Timothy to “flee youthful lusts” and instead pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace—but not alone! Paul emphasizes that Timothy should take on this quest “with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
How does the truth of God’s word impact your life in visible, practical ways? Who are you joining with to pursue righteousness?
3. How to properly handle the truth
(or, a primer in Christian debate and apologetics)
This theme is one of my favorites in this letter. If you’ve hung around my blog for a while, you’ve probably noticed by now that apologetics and reasoning are topics I’m particularly interested in. Well, in this chapter, Paul has several things to say about arguments, debate, and defense of the truth.
First, let’s cover his warnings. Verses 14, 16, and 23 all contain warnings about arguments. Paul tells Timothy to make sure his church members “strive not about words to no profit” (v.14), “shun profane and vain babblings” (v.16), and avoid “foolish and unlearned questions” (v.23). Clearly, some people were having trouble recognizing when to stop arguing! But let’s take a closer look at why Paul gives these warnings. The reason he gives for shunning vain babblings is that “they will increase unto more ungodliness,” and the reason to avoid foolish and unlearned questions is because they cause strife and division—not good things to have, especially in a church.
If we’d only read these verses, I think we’d be pretty well scared off from having any kind of verbal conflict. But that’s definitely not what Paul’s goal is here. He’s simply instructing us to avoid unprofitable and divisive squabbles.
Verse 15 tells us how we should handle the truth and the spreading of it.
Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
We learn a few things from this verse. First of all, we need to put effort into the truth. The word “study” here does not only means actual studying; more literally it means “be zealous for.” We are not to have a halfhearted commitment to the truth—it’s the truth! It’s the foundation of all we think, believe, and are! Surely that merits our passion.
Secondly, if we study the truth, we will understand it and be able to explain it correctly. And if we explain it correctly, we will not need to be ashamed. In verses 17 and 18, Paul mentions two men who were apparently spreading false teachings. He says “concerning the truth [they] have erred” (v.18), and then mentions the devastating effects of this error: the faith of some has been overthrown.
These verses serve as both an encouragement and a sobering warning of the disastrous consequences of mixing the truth with error.
Lastly, in verses 24 and 25, Paul describes the characteristics of those who would teach the truth:
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.
Did you catch that at the end? We are to share the truth with others who oppose us patiently, with meekness, so that they may acknowledge the truth and repent. Our goal isn’t to “win,” to be right, and to make ourselves look good. It’s to urge people towards repentance, towards restoration with God.
Whew! That’s a lot we covered. To summarize, we must be careful to avoid pointless arguments, we must study the truth passionately, and we must keep a proper heart motive for sharing the truth with others. How are you making studying the truth a priority in your life? Are you being careful to keep your confrontations tempered with patience, gentleness, and meekness?
- Despite obstacles or opposition, the word of God will continue to go forth through faithful teachers. Who are you teaching about God? What could you do to create or make use of opportunities to share the truth you’ve learned with others?
- Truth isn’t just relegated to philosophy—it dramatically impacts our lives. How is your life different after exposure to God’s truth? Who are you partnering with on your journey to righteousness?
- There’s a right and a wrong way to handle the truth. Are you careful to avoid useless arguments? Are you constantly studying the truth?
Share your answers to these questions and what you learn from 2 Timothy 2 in the comments below!