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Third Millennium Study Bible
Notes on 2 Timothy 2:14-19

Quarreling about words - 2 Timothy 2:14

This note may be better entitled, "Mutters of minutiae." One of the characteristics of false teachers is bickering over minutiae (2 Tim. 2:16, 23; 1 Tim. 1:4; 6:4; Tit. 3:9). Paul was referring to the quarrels arising from investigations into "endless myths and genealogies" (1 Tim. 1:3, 4), "profane and old-womanish myths" (1 Tim. 4:7), the kind of drivel that was exposed earlier (see on 1 Tim. 1:3-7; 4:7; 6:3-10)" - Hendriksen. See WLC 113; BC 7. Hughes remarks:

Timothy was charged to "keep reminding" the Ephesians of the faithful saying, he was also to "Warn them before God against quarreling about words" (2 Tim. 2:14b) - literally, "word fights." Word fights seem so intellectual. Such arguing can be so nuanced and ego-puffing with its tangled subtleties. It can foster a kind of "theological discussion which is in the end purely verbal, having nothing to do with the realities of the Christian religion" (Kelly). Word fights are the feast of dilettantes.

Paul adds, "It ["quarreling about words"] is of no value, and only ruins those who listen" (2 Tim. 2:14c). Paul had described the ruin that comes from quarreling over words earlier, in his first letter to Timothy, when he said that the one who teaches false doctrine "has an unhealthy interest in controversies and arguments [same word "word fights"] that result in envy, quarreling, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind" (1 Timothy 6:4, 5). Hassle follows hassle, producing perpetual ruinous conflict.

Later, when advising Titus about similar people, Paul ordered, "Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned" (Titus 3:10, 11). Notice in the present text that Timothy is told to "Warn them before God" (2 Tim. 2:14a). Quarreling over words is a very grave matter. God himself will call such "word-warriors" into account.

Remember this when you encounter people like this in the church or at your door.

Present yourself to God as one approved - 2 Timothy 2:15-19

Timothy (and others) were to present themselves "to God." They are to be good workman. This is an ongoing discipline. It takes time, dedication, focus, patience, endurance, etc.

Timothy (and others) were to correctly handle "the word of truth" - the gospel (2 Tim. 2:8-9; 4:2). See WLC 159; HC 2). They must approach their task faithfully and uprightly. To know the law is not to know mere words, but to know the law is the power in the words. And that is the character of a sound mind. This includes, but is not limited to (1) believing the Scriptures, (2) interpreting and using the Scriptures correctly, (3) having one's mind renewed continuously by the truth and living the truth (living in purity), and (4) applying them faithfully and fearlessly to real life situations for the lasting benefit of the hearers (Milne).

While Philetus is not anywhere else mentioned in Scripture, Hymenaeus is mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:20 as one who had "shipwrecked" his faith (1 Tim. 1:19). These men had asserted "the resurrection has already taken place," thus removing any hope of the coming resurrection, the coming of Christ. These denied that the bodily resurrection would take place on the coming day of final judgment, affirming instead a spiritual resurrection at conversion (1 Cor. 15:12-14). Their teaching destroyed "the faith of some." Those who followed this teaching were headed toward full apostasy, which would indicate they were never of the faith in the first place (1 John 2:19). Timothy was to warn the church against these false teachers (2 Tim. 2:14). See BC 29. Some assert this verse refutes hyper-preterism. For a clearer understanding of the issue please see 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17.

Paul used the metaphor of a building's foundation to represent the church. Though these false teachers existed in Ephesus, "God's solid foundation stands firm" (2 Tim. 2:19). "The Lord knows those who are his" (cf. John 10:11, 14, 27; cf. Psa. 1:6; Isa. 40:11; 53:11; Nahum 1:7). Paul described the New Testament church in terms that derived from Numbers 16:5 in the Septuagint (the LXX, the Greek translation of the Old Testament). Thus he stressed the continuity between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church. See "The Old/New Testament Church" below. In the Old Testament context, these words indicated that God distinguished within the nation of Israel those who were true believers and those who were not (cf. Rom. 2:28-29). This inscription indicates that God continues to distinguish between believers and unbelievers in the New Testament church (cf. 2 Tim. 2:20; see "The Church: Visible and Invisible: Is Everyone in the Church Saved?" below.).

God has called his church to holiness ("Everyone ... must turn away from wickedness") - cf. 2 Timothy 2:21. Just as in Old Testament Israel, true believers must distinguish themselves from others in the visible church by turning away from sin. Those whom God knows in a saving way will distinguish themselves by persevering in the faith. See "The Perseverance and Preservation of Believers: Can I Lose My Salvation?" See WCF 3.4; WLC 79, 172; BC 27, 29.

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