Today’s reading for study: 2 Tim 2
Simple stuff today. But often the most simple is the most profound.
…2 and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Tim 2:2
So Paul instructs Timothy to pass on the Gospel. Simple right? Of course, he must do that. But notice the simple and plain details. We must assume that the Holy Spirit phrased it this way for a reason. (Side note: the citation on passing on the Gospel to others is easy to remember it is all two’s 2 Tim 2:2)
Paul says, to pass on “what you have HEARD from ME”. Now, of course, that does not exclude passing on his letters or other writings but it goes again back to a theme we have seen throughout the Bible. Jesus gave authority to the Apostles to PREACH and TEACH. The Gospel comes from Jesus THROUGH others.
Paul says to entrust this teaching to “faithful men”. Who are these people?
Sometimes we know what something is by knowing what to avoid.
Avoid such godless chatter, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will eat its way like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth by holding that the resurrection is past already. They are upsetting the faith of some.
2 Timothy 2:16-18
Recall that Hymenaeus was kicked out of the Church in the First Letter to Timothy for heresy. Again, it’s simple, avoid heretics. But notice Paul does not just warn against full-blown heresy, he warns against ALL godless chatter. He is warning against speculation. He is warning against trying to figure it out on your own. He is warning against believing things apart from what the Apostles and their successors teach. This is apparently what Hymenaeus did and it acted like gangrene, until his faith was eaten away and he ended up denying the fullness of the resurrection and leaving the Church.
(As an aside, consider Hymenaeus’ point of view. Do you think he thought he was doing anything wrong? Do you think he decided, “I know the Church is right but I am going to teach what I want anyway.” Or do you think Hymenaeus said to himself, “I prayed about it and X seems right TO ME. I disagree with Paul and Timothy, for good reasons, like A, B, and C. I think the Holy Spirit is guiding me to truth. I’m going to start a church over here and teach what I think is right.” But to Paul, all that is irrelevant. Paul says nothing about Hymenaeus’ motives. Hymenaeus is still is out of the Church because he is not conforming his beliefs to the teachings of the Church.)
Do you think this can’t happen today? What then of the Mormons or the Jehovah Witness, both who consider themselves Christians, but do this very thing, deny the fullness of the resurrection. What “chatter” do you participate in? Paul makes no distinction. He doesn’t say that a little bit of heresy is OK. Which denomination has just the right amount of truth? Hasn’t exactly what Paul warned about happened within the last 500 years of Protestantism? Are we not being led into more and more ungodliness? Now there are Christian churches that accept abortion, that support gay marriage, etc.
Show me the passage in the Bible where Paul, or anyone else, says it is OK for you to believe some things that the Apostles teach but that you don’t have to believe others. Show me the passage in the Bible where Paul, or anyone else, says that it is OK to believe whatever you want as long as you hold to a few “essential” truths that everyone agrees on. Show me the passage in the Bible where Paul, or anyone else, says it is OK to leave the Church because you disagree with the teachings or think their interpretation is wrong.
Of course, you won’t find such a passage.
In fact, you only find the opposite. Over and over again the Scripture affirms certain truths. The Apostles and their successors speak for God. The Church is Jesus’ physical presence in the world until He returns. The Church is the pillar and bulwark of Truth. The Apostles have authority to Teach. The Church has authority to interpret scripture and settle controversies over what it means. What the Apostles bind on earth is bound in heaven and therefore cannot be an error. To be outside the Church is to be in grave danger.
Hard lessons from such simple passages today. But notice, Paul tells Timothy, these hard things come from Love.
So shun youthful passions and aim at righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with stupid, senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness.
God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
2 Timothy 2:22-26
Do you see what Paul is saying? He’s telling Timothy, “Look, try to correct these people but don’t get into a lengthy debate with them. You do what you have to do. You go forward in love. Keep teaching the truth, hope and pray that these people find their way back.”
We are all called to teach the truth in love and the truth is that there is one Church founded by Jesus Christ. That is a historical fact and a spiritual reality. Paul tells us to be apart from that Church is to be in grave danger of eternal separation from God. That is because that one Church holds within it something of infinitely greater value than any other Church – truth free from error – which is the Lord himself. It is my most sincere desire that by repeatedly showing this Truth to you that you might come to know it. That you might for one moment open your heart, and mind, and soul to this great Truth. That you might put aside your prejudices, false notions, and fears. That you might know what is true and in faith, follow it where it leads.
Tomorrow: 2 Tim 3