Purchase the CD of this sermon.
Just as a doctor fears disease, and just as a police officer fears criminality, and a judge fears injustice, so the minister of the Gospel fears error. Both false teaching and false doctrine. The Christian life is built upon and constructed around the truth about God, manifested in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, which we find in the biblical revelation of the 66 books of the Bible. You and I should be concerned that anything that diminishes that truth, anything that diminishes or distorts that vision, we must oppose, and we must fight. Paul acknowledges the danger of error and the need to preserve and pursue and protect truth. Error has been, and always will be, a threat to every Christian in every church in every age. You guard the truth by: stirring the saints, studying the Scriptures, and shunning the subversives. The best way to preserve truth is to promote truth. The Gospel workman, the good workman, is God-centered. He ministers out of a glorious vision of God.
More From This Series
Philip De Courcy (00:00):
Well, let’s take our Bibles and turn to 2 Timothy. We’ve been studying 2 Timothy together. We’ll continue to do that throughout 2017. I mean, this is a book for us, because it describes the culture, because in chapter three Paul tells us that, “In the last days perilous times will come, for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying the power.” This is a book that speaks to our day. It describes our culture, and it describes the contemporary church, because in chapter four Paul tells us, “Preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering, for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires they will heap to themselves teachers having itching ears.”
That’s our day. The church is compromised, it’s weak. Theologically, the culture is marked by sin and wickedness. In this letter, Paul calls Timothy to live a life without apology, and we want to learn how to do that, and so we come to chapter two, verses 14 to 19. A message I’ve entitled straight talk. Straight talk. Let’s read it together, verses 14 to 19. Follow along.
“Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, but shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness and their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort who have strayed concerning the truth. Saying that the resurrection is already past, and they have overthrown the faith of some. Nevertheless the foundation of God stands having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from inequity.'”
A few weeks back, I enjoyed a day with my friend and mentor, Dr. John MacArthur. We enjoyed several hours on a golf course in Valencia, and then afterward I got to interview him at the offices of Grace To You, and I got to interview him for our own radio ministry. During that day I asked him, “John, you’re nigh 77. What continues to drive you? What continues to define you? You’re the pastor of a large church, you’re the host of a national radio ministry, you’re the president of a liberal arts university and a seminary. 77, what’s driving you? What’s defining you?” Here’s what John MacArthur said to me that day. He said, “Two things have and do. Here are the two things, the fear of God, and the danger of error.”
That’s what drives and defines John MacArthur, the fear of God, and the danger of error. I think what he is saying by that is that his life is marked by desire to keep a big and glorious view of God, and not to allow that biblical revelation of God to be diminished by false teachers and false teaching. That’s what he desires for himself. A big view of God, and a view of God that’s not indeed in any way sullied or corrupted by error. What he desires for himself, he desires for his people, his radio listeners, and the students of both a master’s university and the Master’s seminary. In that answer, my friend John MacArthur reminds you and me that just as a doctor fears disease, and just as a police officer fears criminality, and a judge fears injustice, so the minister of the Gospel fears error. False teaching, false doctrine.
Look, the Christian life is built upon and constructed around the truth about God, manifest in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, which we find in the biblical revelation of the 66 books of the Bible. You and I should be concerned that anything that diminishes that truth, anything that diminishes or distorts that vision, we must oppose, and we must fight. You and I need to realize as a body of man, that theological error is a clear and present danger to all of us. It’s a danger to every Christian in every church in every age. That’s why I want to come to the passage before us, because Paul acknowledges the danger of error and the need to preserve and pursue and protect truth. Error has been, and always will be, a threat to every Christian in every church in every age. That’s true if you’re serious about the person, nature and work of Satan, because he’s a liar.
According to John 8:44, he’s always seeking to subvert the truth. To cloud a clear vision of God, to undermine confidence in the word of God, to oppose the progress of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to do that he will even turn himself into an angel of light. Deception is his game. Error is a danger if you take the person, nature and work of Satan seriously. Error is a danger if you take the warnings of Christ and His apostles seriously, because in Matthew 24:24, Jesus said that false christs will arise. False prophets will come. Be warned. Be on the alert. Peter repeats that in 2 Peter 2:1-2, where he warns about those who will rise up from within the church and deny the very Lord that bought them. You and I need to be serious about error.
John McArthur’s right. We need to be concerned about the danger of error. In fact, if you read the New Testament, you’ll see that it’s polemical in nature. Almost every letter written by an apostle, whether Peter, James, John, or Paul, addresses some disorder in the church, or some theological compromise that’s creeping into the body-life of that church. In the New Testament, the apostles are always correcting the church doctrinally. The work of Satan, the warnings of Christ and His apostles, the polemical nature of the New Testament, would remind us of the clear and present danger of error that every Christian in every church in every age ought to be aware of. That’s not to mention Christian cults. I mean, Paul says to the church at Ephesus, in Acts 20:29-31, after he has left, wolves in sheep’s clothing will come in and ravish the church. Men will arise from within the church to draw disciples after themselves.
Jude 3 and 4 tells us about those who creep into the church unawares. Mormonism, Christian science, Jehovah Witnesses, to name but a few, are Christian cults. Spinoffs. False representations of Christianity in some form or measure. Guys, it’s potent, it’s perennial, the subversion of truth, and therefore, as we come to this passage, Paul is giving a straight talk about truth and error. Here in verses 14 to 19 of the second chapter of 2 Timothy. Now this is a theme he has talked about in his first letter. In fact, he talks about Hymenaeus in the first letter and how they had to discipline him because of his heresy. He talks about doctrines of demons in chapter four of the first letter. He talks about fighting the good fight of faith in chapter six of the first letter, and so it’s coming back to this theme. If you get behind the second letter and the first letter you have, what I referred to a moment ago, his words to the elders at Ephesus in Acts 20, because this is written to Timothy in the city of Ephesus, where he’s pastoring.
When Paul left that church, he warned them about the theological wolves in sheep’s clothing who would enter the church and wreak havoc among the body. Let’s come and look at this straight talk on the danger of error, and the need to cut the text of Scripture straight. Let’s dig a little deeper. There’s three things I want us to see. You guard the truth by one, stirring the saints, two, studying the Scriptures, three, shunning the subversives. Let’s look at our text, verse 14, “Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.” The first thing we can do as Paul gives us this straight talk on the danger of error and the promotion of truth, is to stir the saints. To enlist the wider church by reminding them of the truth itself and, secondly, solemnly charging them to shun and avoid ruinous debates with men who oppose the truth.
Now there’s a solemnity to this, guys. This is serious business. You can’t check out this morning with regards to this passage, because you’ll notice that as Paul addresses Timothy and he calls him to remind them, he does it with this, invoke God as a witness. Charge them before the Lord. This is something he actually laid before Timothy in calling him to preach the word in chapter four in verse one, “I charge you, therefore, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom. Preach the word.” He’s laying it on. This is serious stuff. There’s to be no trifling when it comes to truth and error. Now there’s two things here as Timothy is called to stir the saints. Number one, he is to call them to remember, and he is to call them to reject.
They’re to remember the truth, and they’re to reject those who oppose it. Let’s look at what they are to remember. Notice how this verse begins, “Remind them of these things.” Present tense, imperative. This is the dominant duty of Timothy. This is the bulk of his ministry. You say, “What is it, then? What’s the bulk of his ministry?” By implication this would be a pattern from every pastor, elder and church leader. The bulk of Timothy’s ministry is to inform the congregation and remind them of what they already know about the Gospel. The person of Christ, and the glory of God in the Gospel. This is something he’s to keep on doing. Remind them continually of these things. What are these things?
Well, you could argue, in the widest understanding of that, all the instruction that has gone on before, or even the book itself, the letter itself. What has already been written and what is to come. If you were to narrow it down, which I think is probably more likely, we’re dealing with what has previously been taught in chapter two. The importance of leadership development, the need for to compete and contend fully for the Lord in life, like an athlete competes and like a soldier fights, and like a farmer works. Also, he’s to remind them of their commitment to the doctrine of Jesus’ physical resurrection. In verse eight, you have this pivotal statement, “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead,” and we saw the last time we were together how important the doctrine of the physical resurrection of Jesus is, according to 1 Corinthians 15.
If Jesus isn’t risen, our faith is futile, we’re still in our sin, our suffering has no hope attached to it, and we will not be raised in a future day. In fact, we are to be pitied, because we are following a fantasy. Here we have this call by Paul to Timothy to spend time reinforcing what they already know, and reeducating them on what they already been taught. Guys, I just think that’s an interesting thought, that one of the primary ministers of a New Testament pastor, and a biblical expositor, is to have a ministry of reminding. To lay down the foundation, and then go back over it, and it’s surprising how often you’ll find this theme of reminding the people of God what they already know.
There’s nothing original in the teaching of a biblical pastor. He’s teaching what has taught by the apostles, and he’s going back over that doctrine again and again. Listen to Acts 20:31, “Therefore watch and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn every one of you night and day with tears.” Paul just reminded them again and again of the danger of false teachers. Similar language in Romans 15:15, where we read these words, “Nevertheless brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points as reminding you because of the grace given to me by God.” Listen to Philippians 3:1, I just want to get this across, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious.” It’s like I’ve talked about this before, I’m talking about it again, but I’m not bored, and I hope you’re not bored, because my ministry as an apostle is to remind you of fundamental, foundational truths.
I give you one other example, over in 2 Peter 1:12, I believe it is, we read, “For this reason, I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth.” See, this is the calling of the pastor. He’s not called to be novel with the text. He’s not called to be creative with the truth. He’s not to be marked by originality. He’s to be marked by familiarity and faithfulness to the Gospel, not which has already been given the faith once delivered to the saints. In fact, we read it, didn’t we, in chapter one of this letter, verse 13, “Hold fast the pattern of sound doctrine.”
The word pattern there is an architectural term. It means the sketching out, or the blueprint of a building or a structure. Paul is saying to Timothy, I want you to work within the lines of sound doctrine. Don’t go outside the boundaries of what’s biblical. Color between the lines that I have taught you. Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me in faith and love, which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you. What’s Timothy to do, according to chapter two in verse two? He’s to pass on to others what he heard from Paul, faithfully and fully. Faithfulness to the text. Familiar theology is that which marks the faithful pastor.
In the light of Paul’s words to Timothy here, the teaching elder is not to be known for novel ideas. He’s not to be a prisoner of all things contemporary. He ought to be heard quoting dead theologians and ancient writings. I remember when I was in this church early on, someone challenged me with that very thought. They said to me, to my face, “Why do you quote all these dead guys?” “Well, because it’s my job to remind you of that which the church has been taught for centuries. I’m not a prisoner to the contemporary. Plus, the dead guys are better than the living guys, for the most part.” That’s what I said also, by the way. No, we’re not to be marked by originality. Only in the sense that we want to be fresh in our presentation of old truths.
In fact, I got this email, not that I was looking for it, sent to me by ministry Hatchery LA, Spencer Burke. In it, he’s commending the writings of Brian McLaren, who is at the forefront of the emergent movement, which was not healthy for the church, but I was struck by the way he had reduced the books that he was offering. Listen to these words, “Over the past 15 years, Brian McLaren has been the pillar of fire leading church innovators through the wilderness towards the promise of a new kind of church for a new kind of Christian.” Does that appeal to you? It doesn’t appeal to me. I’m not interested in a new church, or a new kind of Christian. I’m to remind the church of what it has always been, and ought to be. Scary stuff, but that’s where we’re at in the contemporary church.
In fact, on the flight back from New Zealand, I’ve been reading the All-Round Ministry by Spurgeon. These were messages Spurgeon gave to the students of the college he had established in London for preachers. Listen to these words, “Many run after novelties, charmed with every new thing. Learn to judge between truth and its counterfeits, and you will not be led astray. Others adhere to old teachings like limpets stick to the rock, and yet these may only be ancient errors, wherefore prove all things and hold fast to that which is good. The use of the sieve and the winnowing fan is much to be commended.” Even in his day there were brothers running after novelties, charmed by every new thing. That ought not to be true of the faithful pastor. In fact, the faithful pastor is, according to chapter one and verse 14, a trustee of the Gospel. Again, to quote Spurgeon, regarding what a steward or a trustee is, “In executing a trust there is little scope for originality. We are bound to carry out the trust with literal exactness.”
If you’re a trustee, it’s not your job to monkey around with whatever you have been given to take care of. It’s your job to fulfill the writings, or the laws, or the creed that governs that trust, and to be faithful to it. They are to remember. Secondly, they are to reject. Now, I’m not going to spend a lot of time in this, because we’ll come back to it in verse 16, but as Paul encourages Timothy to stir the saints, remind them and encourage them to avoid discussions with those who oppose the truth, Paul not only calls them to remember, he calls them to reject. Since we’re going to come back to this in verse 16, I’m going to limit and curtail my remarks, but listen to this, since truth is a settled matter, there is a faith, a body of truth, once delivered to the saints, which must be faithfully delivered to each succeeding generation. Debate with those who profoundly oppose it is unwise, counterproductive and dangerous.
Now, I have read several commentaries this past week or two on this passage, and some believe that what Paul is talking about here is Christians getting involved in secondary matters. Getting off onto the edges of theology, and fighting over things Christians have disagreed on. Maybe the nature of spiritual gifts, the role of women in the church, the timing of the rapture. I don’t think that’s what Paul is driving at here, because if you go back to 1 Timothy 4:6-7 and 1 Timothy 6:3-5, similar language is used of false teachers. In fact, we’ll do that just for a moment. Go back to chapter four and verses six and seven of the first letter, “If you instruct their brethren in these things, you’ll be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed, but reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself to godliness.”
You go to chapter six, verses three to four, “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, obsessed with disputes, and argument over words from which come envy, strife, reveling and evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth.” This isn’t Christians squabbling over secondary matters in doctrine. This is false teachers, and what are we to do, according to Paul, when it comes to false teachers who openly profane the gospel and oppose the glory of our glorious Lord Jesus? We are to avoid them, because any engagement with them is unwise. You’re casting pearls before swine.
Matthew 7:6, it’s counterproductive. It will undermine what God calls you to, which is to rightly divide the word of truth, to cut the text straight. Why put yourself in the way of that which opposes what God is trying to produce in you? It’s counterproductive, and it’s dangerous because we read in verse 14 that to engage these people in word battles, there’s no profit to that. In fact, listen, “It comes to the ruin of the hearers.” The ruin of the hearers. Now, if my memory serves me right, John MacArthur points out in his study Bible that this word, ruin, is to be found in 2 Peter 2:6. It’s the only other place you’ll find it in the New Testament, and interestingly enough, it is used to describe God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s a strong word, and it’s the dangerous. You’re inviting judgment. You’re putting yourself in the way of peril.
Now, I don’t think this text is saying not to engage unsaved people, or those who hold to a different ideology and philosophy in life, if there’s an openness, if there’s a context where maybe profitable conversation can take place, but when someone is entrenched, when someone has a track record of profaning the Gospel, Paul says don’t engage them, because it’s unwise, it’s counterproductive, and it’s actually dangerous. I think he’s saying this, avoid wasteful and rancorous theological debate. I would take another thought, avoid an academic approach to theology that engages people like this.
For a time, I was under a theological training system that I felt spent far too much time engaging German theologians and what they thought about the text of Scripture. I remember one class in which the lecturers spent the whole class talking about the thesis that there may have been two authors to the prophecy of Isaiah. I was a simple enough believer. I opened my Scofield Bible which I had at the time, and Scofield had a note where he showed that Jesus quoted from the beginning of the prophecy of Isaiah, in one part of the Gospel, and from later on in the prophet of Isaiah, another part of the Gospel, making the case that the Lord Jesus, who was the Word incarnate and truth embodied, believed that it was one prophecy with one unitary author.
I’m sitting there going, “Why are we engaging this idle babbling of some German theologian who hates the Bible anyway?” Avoid wasteful, rancorous theological debate. Avoid an academic approach to theological training. Avoid engagement with those who disdain Scripture. I like what DL Moody said, “Men will wrangle for religion, write for it, fight for it, die for it, anything but live for it.” Paul tells us, hey, stay away from people like that.
Okay, let’s move on. Not only was Timothy called to stir the saints, in verse 14, he was called to study the Scriptures, verse 15. Holding the text in mind, we see that Timothy was told to tell the Ephesians to avoid theological word battles with false teachers, and then Timothy was encouraged to focus on handling the text of Scripture truthfully, so that his teaching and his preaching, I would guess, would be profitable to this congregation. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Here’s what I take from that. The best way to preserve truth is to promote truth. To preach it accurately, with clarity and conviction. I think Paul is arguing here in verse 15, in the light of verse 14, that a true knowledge of Scripture is the best antidote to error spreading like cancer.
That’s what he says about error, doesn’t he, in verse 17? It spreads like a cancer. Well the best antidote to that cancer is a good infusion, an injection of biblical theology and scriptural truth, and that will come through a faithful expositor who handles the text well. That’s kind of where we’re at here. Paul wants Timothy to be a workman in the word. A worker, verse 15, who does not need to be ashamed. This is another image of the Christian leader. If you’ve been counting, he has talked about the Christian leader as a teacher, a soldier, an athlete, a farmer, and now a workman, and before we’re done in 2 Timothy 2, he’ll introduce vessel and slave. Seven pictures of the pastor. It’s like Paul is adding one brush stroke upon another brush stroke, adding dimension and definition to the effective servant of God. I love it, and I’m challenged by it.
Let’s look at this verse 15. Stirring the saints, yes. Studying the Scriptures, yes. Studying the Scriptures involves three things. Number one, a certain effort. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed. The word diligent means to do your best, to be zealous and honor God in the pursuit of truth. Here’s what Paul says to Timothy, be a Bible busy bee, be a word worker. Give yourself unstintingly to the hard work of biblical exegesis and exposition. Now, I know you think I got it easy. I know you think I only work one day a week. You guys are the workers, and I’m the loafer. Well according to this text, I’m a worker in the Word, and believe me, it can be hard work, and it ought to be hard work.
Look at 1 Timothy 5:17. Look what Paul says in his first letter, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the Word and doctrine.” That’s just a given. Now, I realize that may not be true from preacher to preacher, and I’m sure there’s room for improvement on my part, but I desire to be a hard worker in the text of God’s Word. I don’t have an option. Eternal souls hang in the balance. The glory of Jesus Christ, revealed in the Gospel, hangs in the balance. Fending off the devil and a corrupt culture with all its error and human speculation is hard work, and Paul calls young Timothy to it.
Why is it hard work? Well, there’s six things, I’m just going to list them. The burden of God’s glory and judgment. If this is His word and He’s called me to preach it accurately, I’d better not mess up, because according to James 3:1, those who teach will face double judgment, all right? You’re safer working on a factory floor than being in a pulpit, because of the burden of God’s glory and judgment, because study is labor intensive. There are words to be understood, there is cultural background to be researched. There is the labor of one’s mind and heart wrestling with the text of Scripture, seeking to understand it and apply it. That’s intense work. That’s labor according to Paul. Then, number three, bridging two worlds is exacting. Trying to understand the biblical world and then build a bridge into this world and apply the text of Scripture properly from the text of Scripture.
Clarity and cogency in presentation is not easy. I can do hours of research, I can study my lexicons, I can read theologies, I can interact with commentaries, I can spend hours and hours meditating and reflecting, and then I’ve got to take all those ingredients and make a tasty meal of it, and present it nicely, so that it seems appetizing to the congregation. It’s hard work. Error abounds, and results are not always apparent. Guys, it’s hard work being a preacher, but you know, that’s what we’re called to. There’s a certain effort here. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker that does not need to be ashamed.
I remember hearing Eric Alexander, who ministered for many years in Glasgow, in Scotland, sharing that he was in a meeting with the great Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones of Westminster Chapel, and after The Doctor, as he was affectionately known, had delivered his sermon and his soul, he sat down, exhausted, and he turned to Eric Alexander and he said this, “Preaching is the closest a man will ever come to experiencing childbirth.” He’s not wrong, because you not only deliver a sermon, you deliver your soul. That conviction that God has birthed in you from hours of study, you want to deliver that cogently and clearly.
Remember what Paul said to the Galatians, “I travail in soul until Christ has formed in you.” That word, travail, is childbirth. By the way, and I’m certainly deeply thankful to the elders of this church who protect my time, and the office staff who make time for me. That’s never been an issue at Kindred Community Church, and that’s one of the things I love about it. I would say to maybe an elder listening to this from another church, or a Christian listening to this on the radio, make sure that you free your pastor so that he can be diligent to study the Word and be approved of God, and be a worker in the text. Acts 6:4, the apostles give themselves to the Word and prayer. That’s exhausting work, and pastors shouldn’t exhaust themselves in other stuff.
Not that they shouldn’t do other stuff. Every pastor should counsel, every pastor should visit the hospital, every pastor should be available where he can, but not to an exacting, exhausting manner where he’s drawn away from his primary calling. I remember a friend of mine telling me this story that the church was growing. Now, he was preaching three times on a Sunday morning and once on a Sunday night. Four sermons. Two sermons, one preached three times, one preached once. His sister got a concern that the church was going to exhaust him and kill him. In fact, she shared that with Dr. MacArthur one day, and Dr. MacArthur insightfully said, “That’s not going to kill him. It’s all the other stuff.” That’s not going to kill him. It’s all other stuff that’ll draw him away from that, or be piled on top of that exerting, exhausting work.
A certain effort, a certain estimation. This diligence, this excellence, is tied to a present and future approval of God. What’s the aim of this diligence? Why exert yourself in exegesis and exposition? Because someday you’re going to stand before God. That’s what Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:1, and that’s no mean thing, so don’t trifle with attacks. You need to work hard, come up with something that’s truthful and biblical and appetizing, historically true, theologically correct, because you’re going to stand before God, and don’t you want His will done? Don’t you want to be approved of God? In fact, this word, worker, is a word that means one who works for hire. Now, one who works for hire, he isn’t his own boss, which by implication would mean he not only works under the direction of another, but that other person can inspect his work and demand a certain standard from that work. That’s the picture here.
Before I went into the ministry, I was an aircraft engineer. Did a four year apprenticeship, and then worked in an aerospace company for several years, and I loved it. After we had completed a job, the inspectors would come. They would inspect the job. Rightly so, you don’t want that thing failing 10,000 feet up in the air when people’s lives are depended on upon it. If it wasn’t done exactly to code or the blueprints or whatever, we got a snag sheet, and we had to work through the snag sheet, fix all of those things, and then get the approval from the inspectors. That’s kind of the idea that’s going on here. There’s this fundamental sense that the preachers speak to an audience of one. Guys, I bear you in my heart, and I look out across this crowd of men and I’m getting to know as many of you as possible. [inaudible 00:37:43] I know some of you well but, fundamentally, there’s an audience of one before I get to you, because I’ve got to know that today I’ve preached a message that God will approve of.
That’s a scary thought. 1 John 2:28 talks about not being ashamed at Jesus’ coming. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 about the judgment seat of Christ. We read these words from Paul, “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,” and that’s true of the preacher more than anybody, because, James 3:1, we’ve mentioned it, he will be doubly judged. The gospel workman, the good workman, is God-centered. He ministers out of a glorious vision of God.
I was interested to learn, in the book Shadow of the Almighty, by Jim Elliott, the late martyred missionary from the jungles of Ecuador, when he was a student at Wheaton College, he wrote this in as diary, “My grades came through this week and were, as expected, lower than last semester. Just listen to that. My grades came in this week and, as expected, lower than last semester. He was rooting to fail. You go, “Why?” “However, I make no apologies, and I admit I’ve let them drag a bit for study of the Bible, in which I seek the degree of AUG, Approved Unto God.” Wow, that’s cool. A certain effort, a certain estimation, a certain exactness. The word workman is to work with his shoulder to the wheel. The word workman is to work with an eye to the sky, and the word workman is to work with his fingers on the text.
Look at this phrase, “rightly dividing the word of truth.” “Be diligent,” that’s the effort, “to present yourself approved to God,” that’s the estimation, “a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” that’s the exactness. This is set in contrast, by the way, to the false teacher who, according verse 18, has strayed concerning the truth. That’s a image of the archer who shoots at a target and misses. They’re missing the target of the truth. They’re going astray. But you, no, you’re to rightly divide the word of truth. Timothy, you’re to be a stickler for theological accuracy. You’re to run from human speculation and idle academic theological reflection. You don’t understand the travesty involved in mishandling the text of God’s word.
I’ve told you before, on the first day of my time at the Master’s Seminary, Dr. Dick Mayhue said to us that day, “The greatest blasphemy is to take an inerrant Bible about a sinless Christ and teach it erroneously.” That makes you sit up, and it puts a new spin on your homework and parsing your Greek verbs and studying your Hebrew. That can be tedious, by the way, and some of us are not that good at it, and some of us are struggling with English, let alone along Greek and Hebrew in that class. I did. I failed the English entrance test to the Master’s Seminary, and I was put into a remedial English class to learn parsing of verbs and the construction of a sentence, so that I could better understand Greek and Hebrew. But you know what? I pushed through all of that. I gritted my teeth, because you know what? Dick Mayhue’s right, if this is the class that takes me to another class, it allows me to understand the Bible better, then that will keep me from blaspheming God by preaching His word errantly.
In fact, this word is interesting. It means to cut straight. It’s the Greek word that gives us our word, orthopedics, or orthodontics. Orthodontics is when a good dentist straightens your teeth. That’s our word. In fact, it’s used in the Greek to speak of a stonemason cutting and squaring a stone. A kind of brick layer. A farmer plowing a furrow straight across the field for sowing. A building of a road across the countryside in a straight line. That’s our word. It’s a farming word, it’s an engineering word, it’s a construction worker’s word. Just as a wall needs to be both straight and a road laid correctly, so God’s word needs to be handled correctly. This is a call to let the Bible speak. This is a call for exposition, not imposition. This is a reminder that when the text makes plain sense, seek no other sense.
This is a call to good hermeneutics, because listen to me, when you come to look… and we’re not going to be able to really to do it for any length of time this morning, Hymenaeus and Philetus, their heresy that spreads like a cancer, is that they believe the resurrection is already past. They have spiritualized the doctrine of the resurrection. It’s not to be taken literally. They were involved with [inaudible 00:43:22] gnostic Greek philosophy that matter was evil, therefore there’s no way Jesus would’ve really had a physical body. It was probably an apparition, or he took it to Himself like a set of clothes. It wasn’t this wonderful hypostatic union between divinity and humanity, and He shed it, never to take it up again, at His death. Or they would maybe argue, “You know what? The resurrection spoken of in the Bible is the spiritual rising of new life in the Christian’s heart.” All of that is the fruit of bad hermeneutics, spiritualizing the text, allegorizing the text, mishandling the text, so the pastor needs to be one who is exact in his teaching.
Let me go just for a couple of more minutes. Let me just wrap this up on this thought and touch on the last thought, but I mentioned I spent some time in aerospace, and due to the kindness of our brother, Stan Swartz, I have a beautiful box mounted on my wall in my study. In it, Stan took several old tools that I had from my engineering days. A steel rule and some calipers and measuring tools. I’ve got inside and outside calipers, and Stan took them and burnished them up, and he put them on a nice black mat and boxed them, and I got them to etch, on a nice little metal plaque, the words of 2 Timothy 2:15. Cut the text straight. Those tools hang on my wall to remind me, and I took it very seriously. When I worked on the assembly line of an aircraft company, I took my job seriously. There needs to be an exactness about anything you do with an aircraft, because you want it to go up and not come down until it’s ready to land.
There was a precision about that, and now I find myself out of my overalls, and my old tools are getting rusty, but now I lift a pen and a pencil and paper, and I open my Bible, and I’m surrendered by books, but I remind myself the same exactness needs to apply to my handling of God’s word, because souls are involved. In fact, I thought about this, you know that story back in 2 Samuel 6, where they’re carrying the Ark and they put it on a new cart? That was wrong in the first place, because it was to be carried by the sons of Khora, on poles. You remember how I had bounces, and the oxen stumble, and it looks like the Arc of the Covenant’s going to fall over, and this guy Uzzah touches it, and the Lord strikes him down dead? For the mishandling of the Ark of the Covenant. It was not his to touch.
I thought to myself, my word, is the Scripture, in a sense, not the Ark of the Covenant? Do we not have the law of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the revelation of God in this book, and some of us mishandling it? Scary stuff. Okay, time’s up. What about the shunning of the subversives? Well, I’ve kind of touched on verse 16 and following, but I’ll just touch on it a little. He reintroduces the thought of verse 14 again, that there is healthy doctrine. In fact, when you read about sound doctrine in the letters of Paul to Timothy, the word sound in the Greek means healthy.
There is such a thing as healthy doctrine that promotes godliness, brings us to a better understanding of God, and draws us closer to the God who has made Himself known and wants us to know Him. But just as there is healthy doctrine, there is unhealthy doctrine, and what are we to do in the face of it? We’re to shun it. We’re to shun it. Look at verse 16, “But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.” We’re given an example of that, and we’ve touched these two men who’ve denied the past physical resurrection of Jesus, and are denying the future resurrection of the body in terms of the Christian. Interesting that Paul calls them out by name. There is a place to mark out, by name, false teachers, because the effects are catastrophic. They ruin people, they promote ungodliness, their doctrines spread like cancer and, according to verse 18, they upset the faith of some.
Here’s where I want to finish, because Paul not only gives us the example of false teachers here and the effects of their false teaching, but he gives us an encouragement. That’s where we’ll wrap up. Verse 19. “Nevertheless…” it’s been pretty negative in the verses preceding verse 19, but, “… nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His, and that everyone who names the name of Christ depart from inequity.” I like what John [inaudible 00:48:35] says, “Although the faith of man can be upset, the foundation of God remain secure.” The image of the foundation probably speaks of the church. You say, “Where would you get that idea?” Well, in 1 Timothy 3:15, here’s how the church is described, “You want to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth.”
In fact, if you go to 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, and Ephesians 2:19-22, the church is often likened to a building, or a foundation. Now, here’s what’s interesting, as we wrap up. Paul notes that often buildings have inscriptions on them, and those inscriptions designate ownership and purpose. Go back to our text, verse 19, the foundation of God stands having this seal, having this inscription, and there’s two inscriptions. “The Lord knows those who are his.” These men, Hymenaeus and Philetus, had left the faith, strayed from the truth. They were overturning the faith of some, which means they had spurious faith. These are apostates. People who looked like they were saved, but now have been infected by false doctrine, have allowed that cancer to enter their lives, and they are turning from Christ and proving to be those who were among us, but were not from us because they were never of us.
This we know, the Lord knows those that are His. In the middle of all that’s going on, the Lord knows those who are truly committed to the truth. The Lord knows His people. He’s known them from eternity. He has set His love election on them. He has called them through the effectual calling of the Gospel and the Spirit of God. He has sealed them with the Spirit, and he is supplying them persevering faith. The Lord knows those that are His, and they’re kept by the power of God, and their inheritance is forever reserved in heaven.
There’s one inscription that points to God’s hidden knowledge of the elect, and then there’s another inscription that points to the visible knowledge of the elect. The evidence of those who are the Lord’s, is that they will depart from inequity. Regeneration brings new life, and new life produces new behavior and righteous living. That’s just a fact. For any man who’s in Christ is a new creature. You’re going to know God’s people by their fruits. They say they have faith, well, take a look at their works. Works is the evidence of saving faith. There’s where we’re finishing. False teachers are a threat, and Paul warns against it. They have the potential of damaging the church, no doubt, but they do not have the ability to destroy the church, because Christ will build it, and the church is the ground of truth and it’s unshakable.
God knows those who are His, and the remnant and the elect will persevere and depart from inequity, and reject false teaching. The eternal and sovereign and electing purposes of God will see to it, and the testimony of true believers will give voice and visibility to the fact that the church is unshakable. God saves surely, and the elect persevere victoriously, despite the threat of error and evil. That’s where Paul writes off.
Guys, Walter Winchell was a famous radio news commentator during World War II, and once, after a particularly dark week when the Port of Singapore fell to the Japanese, he closed his broadcast with these now famous words, “Singapore has fallen, but the Rock of Ages still stands.” Nevertheless, we’re sure of this, the foundation of God is sure, and sealed with these truths that God knows those that are His, and everyone that names the name of Christ will depart from an inequity. How do we combat error in this straight talk from Paul? By stirring the saints, by studying the Scriptures, by shunning the subversives. Let’s pray.
Lord, we’re very much aware of the threat posed to the integrity of our lives, the purity of the church, and the potency of the Gospel by false teachers and false teaching. Lord, I thank You for men like John MacArthur, who not only fear You, but fear what error can do to the church. Seems today the church is so embracing of positivity that we’re almost frightened to judge, to be discerning. We have few watchmen on the wall. Call us as a body of men, here at Kindred, to be watchmen on the wall. Lord, we’re out not to burn everybody at the stake who disagrees with us, that’s not the point of the text, but it is a warning that false doctrine’s like a cancer in the body of Christ, and the antidote is fearful man teaching the Bible accurately, and fearful congregations engaging that truth, and departing from inequity, and shunning man and women who teach falsely. Make us such a church, make us such men, make me such a pastor, for we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.