Thursday, June 29, 2023

2023.06.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Timothy 2:23–26

Read  2 Timothy 2:23–26

Questions from the Scripture text: What is Timothy to avoid (2 Timothy 2:23)? What do such disputes generate? Whose slave is Timothy (2 Timothy 2:24)? What mustn’t someone in his station do? How, instead, should he relate to others? What has he been put in place as one qualified to do? What character trait does such teaching require? What manner must accompany his correcting (2 Timothy 2:25)? Of whom? In Whom is he hoping? That He would give what to whom? For what is this repentance a prerequisite? When they come to know the truth, what will happen to them (2 Timothy 2:26)? When they come to their senses, by whom will they realize that they have been ensnared? What else will the devil have done to them? Captive to do what? 

When mustn’t a minister or Christian argue, and why mustn’t he be argumentative when he does? 2 Timothy 2:23–26 looks forward to the second serial reading of in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that a minister is a slave, put in place to teach opponents who are willing to hear it, in hope that God will grant them the repentance necessary to know and escape the Satanic danger that they are in.

There are times when a minister or Christian shouldn’t argue at all. 2 Timothy 2:23 refers to “foolish and ignorant disputes.” There is a sort of person, a sort of arguing, that is nothing but battling. When a fool or ignoramus cannot even consider what you say, but only comes back with the same arguments or attacks, then the only thing that arguing with him can do is produce strife. But producing strife is neither the minister’s duty nor hope. Proverbs (Proverbs 26:4) and the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 7:6) also warn all Christians generally, not just ministers, about this. For the rest of this devotional, if you substituted the word “Christian” for “minister,” you would be making a fine application of the passage in light of these other texts.

Even when a minister does argue, he is not to be argumentative. Our passage forbids quarreling. It commands being gentle, not just when it is easy but especially when it is not: “be gentle to all.” It commands patience. It commands humility, even and especially in the midst of correction. And there are three reasons why: the station of the minister, the hope of the minister, and the task of the minister.

The station of the minister is that of a slave. This is a more literal translation of his identity at the beginning of 2 Timothy 2:24 and makes quite plain why he would not be quarrelsome, impatient, or proud. 

The mustn’t be quarrelsome because it is above his station, above his paygrade. The Lord Jesus will have His own quarrel with His enemies and defeat them at the last day. But He has sent out not Lords but slaves as those whom He currently employs in the retrieval of sinners. 

The minister mustn’t be impatient, because he is on assignment. The Lord has put particular people under his charge and into his way to teach them the truth about God, man, sin, Christ, salvation, etc. What else is he going to do? Whether or not the task is difficult and long, it is his task.

The minister mustn’t be proud, because his station is lowly. He is a slave of the Lord, inviting captives of the devil to come to a new Master. For a minister to act proudly would be completely inconsistent with what he himself is, and what is inviting others to be.

The hope of the minister is the mercy and power of God. “If God perhaps will grant them repentance.” Ministers do not “win” theological arguments because they have so excellently proven their point, because the thing that the opponent needs in order to “know the truth” is not that they would hear new arguments but that they would have a new heart. And so it depends upon the mercy of God, Who loves to give repentance. And it depends upon the power of God, Who is able to give even repentance. Why would a minister speak or act as if his superiority of knowledge or force of zeal can bring about the desired result? The result rests entirely upon the mercy and power of the God Who has appointed him a task and may be pleased to employ the minister in this exercise of God’s mercy and God’s power.

The task of the minister is releasing ensnared people from captivity. This is not something that is done rashly or by force. The opponent is ensnared in a trap, and force of movement is simply an effective way of making things worse. They need to realize the truth, come to their senses, see their captivity. The real opponent is not the sinner in the snare, but the devil whose snare it is! Even when they lash out from within their ensnared captivity, it is really the devil’s will that they are doing. Apologetics/evangelism/discipleship is a rescue mission. It ought to be done with sympathy rather than spite, and carefulness rather than brashness. This, too, is the task of Christians when they address one another. The goal of Matthew 18:15 and following is to gain the brother. The goal of Galatians 6:1 is to help a man whose trespass has captured him. Clear sight to remove the speck from a brothers eye (Matthew 7:5) is obtained by the humility of developing that skill on oneself in the first place (Matthew 7:3–4). May the Lord makes us better slaves in His service, that we might be more useful as He employs us in granting repentance to others!

What are some foolish and ignorant disputes that you have had? Whom have you been trying to help, with whom you could use more of this humility? Who should be an example to you of what that looks like?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we are so thankful that You are merciful and powerful to grant repentance to many who oppose You! And we thank You that, in that work, You even employ us as Your slaves. Forgive us for how often we have forgotten that everything good that we have is by grace. Forgive us for when we have been quarrelsome, harsh, impatient, and proud. Forgive us for when we have failed to care for those who are ensnared by the devil. Remove our guilt, kill our remaining sin, conform us to Christ, and make us useful in His service, we ask, in Christ’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or TPH466 “My Faith Looks Up to Thee”

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