Tuesday, February 02, 2010

2 Timothy 2:15-19

V15-19 – 15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are His’ [Numbers 16:5 (Septuagint)], and, ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’

Paul issues some crucial commands for Timothy to follow in this passage. “Do you best” invites Timothy to act decisively; “one approved” refers to the metallurgical testing by fire unto purification, in order to prove genuineness. “A workman” refers to diligence in Christian living and spirit-filled passion for growth “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Will you be ashamed of your efforts when you “present yourself to God?” Erasmus translated this passage as “who ought not to blush,” while Calvin translated it as “who does not blush.” Do you see the difference? “Correctly” handing God’s word literally means “cutting a straight path.” Teachers are held accountable for their instruction of Scripture, leading people from point A to point B in a straightforward manner. Calvin gives the analogy of a father cutting his child’s food into manageable portions, with the key being “manageable,” unto the edification of the body. Paul is urging Timothy to teach sound doctrine and live in accord with God’s character (Orthodoxy and orthopraxy).

Timothy can keep on the straight and narrow path, and cut it for others, by avoiding “godless chatter” (v16). Literally, “godless” refers to “worldly and empty” talk. And of course, input-output, what goes in is what comes out. If you “indulge” in the things of this world, you will become more worldly, and therefore, “more ungodly” (v16). Worldliness – and the secular humanist philosophy – is self-deceiving and “will spread like gangrene” (v17), or cancer; it is a “mortal contagion,” Calvin says. Paul counts Hymenaeus and Philetus as traitors to these commands, indulging in the godless chatter that has led them astray, missing the mark, and deeper into ungodliness. He identifies them publicly to warn the congregation. Specifically, in v18, they claim that the resurrection has already taken place. This is a view common of early forms of Gnosticism, which spoke of a spiritual resurrection at conversion and a physical resurrection at the return of Christ. Thus, there was an extreme overemphasis on the present, living in and for the moment, ala Carpe Diem (1 Corinthians 15:12-14).

Despite the influence of such false teaching, which had corrupted the faith of some, Paul says, “Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm.” What he means is that the invisible Church stands firm (on His faithfulness), rejecting apostasy (1 John 2:19), and is actually sealed by the Holy Spirit, proving His ownership and providing security. Paul quotes the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Old Testament – instead of the original Hebrew text of Numbers 16:5, which says, “the LORD will show who belongs to Him and who is holy, and He will have that person come near Him. The man He chooses He will cause to come near Him.” (See also John 10:14,27.) Paul takes the liberty of interpreting this verse in light of sovereign election and calling; none of God’s sheep, who know Jesus’ voice, will be led astray, because He keeps them by calling them to holiness and protecting them from false teaching.

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