2Timothy 2:13-15 “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot disown Himself. Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarrelling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth”.
This passage of Scripture tells us that even if we are faithless our Lord Jesus remains faithful. We ought not to deny Jesus and we must keep our allegiance to Him. Yet if one does fall away, it does not change who God is, He remains faithful. We should know that it is a terrible thing when people who name the name of Jesus show themselves unfaithful. Indeed, many have been turned off from Jesus because of the hypocrisy of those who take His name. But all the faithlessness of men and women does not disprove the faithfulness of God.
Our faithlessness cannot in any way detract from the Son of God and His glory. Being all-sufficient in Himself He has no need of our confession. It is as if He had said that let all who will desert Christ know that they deprive Him of nothing; when they perish, He remains unchanged. However, the true believer can stand faithful as God empowers him or her. Even if one has been wavering, he or she still has time as the Spirit of God calls to him or her even now, to turn back to the faithful God. We can be like the prodigal son, who came to his senses, saw his faithlessness, and came home to his father who had been faithful to him the whole time.
We should keep focused and not be distracted by unprofitable things. Timothy is told to remind believers of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. As such, after reminding Timothy of the essential points of the gospel, Paul added that Timothy must always remind his hearers of these things. Timothy’s job as a pastor was to keep his congregation always focused on the gospel. In our days as it was at that time, the church is constantly tempted to get its focus off of the message that really matters, and is tempted to become an entertainment centre, a social service agency, a mutual admiration society, or any number of other things. But this temptation must be resisted, and the church should constantly remember these things as the apostle Paul would say. There are things of which 2 Timothy 2:8 states: “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel“. There are things of which 2 Timothy 2:11-13 says: “For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we deny Him, He will also deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful, He cannot deny Himself“. Thus, in view of the stated essentials of the gospel of Christ, we need not strive about words that have no profit. For sure, there were things that Timothy was not to focus on. Therefore, whereas the church must stand for the truth, it must not become a debating society. We should know that we can get distracted by endless discussion or strife over things that do not have central importance. Indeed, words, not things, have been a most destructive source of contention in the Christian world. Among religious people, the principle cause of animosity has arisen from the different manner of apprehending the same term, while, in essence, both meant the same thing.
Therefore, let us notice first that teaching is rightly condemned on the sole ground that it does no good. God’s purpose is not to pander to our inquisitiveness but to give us profitable instruction in the Word of God. We should do away with all speculations that produce no edification. These bring about the ruin of the hearers. Beloved, this shows that it is a serious matter and there is much to lose. If we take the focus off the message of God and put the focus on human opinions and endless debates, it will result in the ruin of the hearers.
The Bible says, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). Yet if people do not hear the word of God, then ruin comes by hearing the opinions and speculations and mere entertainment of men.
We are, therefore, told to keep focused, pay attention to our own lives and ministries. We must be diligent to present ourselves approved to God, workers who do not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. By telling Timothy to be diligent: Paul often had to exhort Timothy to embrace courage and take action. Earlier in the chapter in 2 Timothy 2:3-5, Paul encouraged him to work hard and develop endurance for the service of the Lord.
Now he tells him to present himself approved to God. Timothy’s goal was not to present himself approved to people, but to God. He was not to regard the job of being a pastor as a popularity contest but instead as a call to faithfulness to God. By presenting himself approved to God, Timothy was not to worry so much about presenting other people approved to God (though there was a place for this in his pastoral ministry). His first concern had to be to present himself approved to God. He was to be a worker who does not need to be ashamed. Beloved, it is embarrassing to do a job poorly and then to have your work examined. The Bible warns us that the work of each Christian will be examined at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). Therefore, we have another motivation to work diligently for the Lord so that we will not be ashamed when our work is examined.
Beloved, it is better that we be found to have been workmen and women who have no cause for shame when our work is divinely inspected. Rightly dividing the word of truth was to be a focus of Timothy’s hard work. He was to work hard so that he could rightly divide the Word of God. We should know that the apostle Paul instructed Timothy, as a faithful pastor, to be rightly dividing God’s Word. That is, he had to know what it said and what it did not say, and how it was to be understood and how it was not to be understood. It was not enough for Timothy to know some Bible stories and verses and sprinkle them through his sermons as illustrations. His teaching was to be a “right dividing” of the Word of God, correctly teaching his congregation.
A pastor should rightly handle the Word of God, as one would rightly handle a sword. He should plough straight with the Word of God, properly presenting the essential doctrines. He should properly dissect and arrange the Word of God, as a priest would dissect and arrange and animal for sacrifice. He should allot to each their portion, as someone distributing food at a table. Again, rightly dividing also means there is such a thing as wrongly dividing. Not everyone cuts it straight. We must understand that Biblical truth is not just an issue left up to everyone’s interpretation. There is a right way and a wrong way to understand the Bible, and a pastor especially must work hard to master the right interpretation. For example, many people love to say when the Bible is quoted, “Well, that is just your interpretation”. Their idea is: “You interpret the Bible your way, I interpret it my way, and another person interprets it their way. We can never really know what it means, so don’t judge me with your Bible verse”. When someone tells me, “That is just your interpretation”. We should be to respond to him or that: “It true that it is my interpretation, but it is not just my interpretation, if the Holy Spirit is giving me a revelation of it, it is the correct interpretation, and we need to pay attention to what the Bible says correctly interpreted by the help of the Holy Spirit. This is an important point because the Bible does not mean just what anyone wants it to mean. There may be many people trying to twist the Scriptures to their own ends, but they are wrongly dividing the word of truth. We cannot just pick the interpretation that seems most comfortable to us and claim it as true, beloved, it must be rightly dividing the word of truth, and it must be consistent with what the Bible says in the specific passage and with the entire message of the Scriptures.
Verse 13 says: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot disown Himself“. Beloved, we base our faith on the veracity of the Word of God. If God were a liar, and He is not,, then our faith would be founded on a very flimsy foundation. However, one of God’s characteristics is truth, and the Lord Jesus Himself, reinstated one very important fact: “I am the Way. I am the Truth. I am the Life. No man comes to the Father, but by Me”. Therefore, one of the foundational facts upon which our faith is anchored, is that we died with Christ and our life is now hidden with Christ in God. When writing to the born-again believers in Rome, Paul reminded them: “We died with Christ,” and goes on to tell them that because of this fact, we are to reckon ourselves to be dead to the principle of sin, and alive to God, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Even if we, who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ are faithless, we have an assurance that God remains faithful. He cannot deny Himself for He cannot go back on His Word because God is Truth and His Word is true.His truth gives us hope and, indeed, God can hold us, even if we fail. He holds those who are saved (2 Timothy 2:11) and those who endure will reign with the Lord (2 Timothy 2:12). Those who reject Him will be rejected by Him. Those believers who struggle, or are “faithless,” are still held by God. He remains faithful, even when His people are not. This theme is consistent with God’s faithfulness to His people Israel in the Old Testament. Though they often rejected Him, He continued to keep His promises to them.
We should notice that the final phrase says “for He cannot deny Himself”. This reveals that the audience in mind in this last verse involves believers. We are clothed in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:1–5) and cannot be separated from His love. The apostle Paul says: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Verse 14 says: “Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen”.
Amazing things happen to the one who is saved by faith in the Person and work of Christ. The moment we are born of the Spirit, we are positioned in Christ and baptized into His body. We are transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son Jesus Christ and declared righteous by God because we are identified with Christ’s death and resurrection. We become heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ and have an inheritance that is kept for us in heaven. We are spiritually sealed by the Spirit of God, unto the day of Christ. There are many such functional ministries that occur the moment a man believes. More often than not we are unaware of the changes that take place at the point of regeneration. Only as we move forward in our Christian life, do we learn of the glories that are ours in Him. One such non-experiential ministry is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in the body of each believer.
Days before Christ’s crucifixion and during His post-resurrection ministry, He promised His Holy Spirit would not only be with His disciples, as their Comforter, but would dwell inside them. The indwelling Spirit in New Testament believers, is a ministry unique to Church age believers and is permanent. Before the Cross, the Spirit came upon a few selected individuals, for a specific reason and often, for a limited time.In this verse, Paul changes from a focus on speaking to Timothy, to those Timothy led in Ephesus. “These things” is a reference to the lessons Paul has brought out in this chapter. Timothy is also meant to specifically teach others to avoid bickering. Paul had addressed this issue in 1 Timothy and again reminds him of the same issue here. He, therefore, then gives two reasons why arguing over words is unhelpful. First, there is no benefit to be gained by arguing over irrelevant details of Scripture (1 Timothy 1:3-4). By this, Paul does not suggest taking a shallow view of the Bible. Rather, he means to avoid conflict over doubtful issues (Romans 14:1). Paul specifically had in mind the false teachers mentioned in 1 Timothy. These men would attempt to re-interpret the Scriptures, seeking to make Christians obey Jewish laws. Second, Paul said arguing about words “only ruins the hearers”. Those who listened to the false teachers in Ephesus were “ruined” by such talk. The Greek word here is “katastrophē”, including the idea of destruction, or being overthrown. False teachers arguing over interpretative issues caused many problems among the Christians Timothy led in Ephesus.
Verse 15 says: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth”. Beloved, it is to God, not to man, that we are to diligently study in order to show ourselves approved. What is man that we should be mindful of what man thinks of us? Too often the gospel truth to which we hold fast, is foolishness to the world of men and can also be distorted by the finite thinking of many theologians. It is the Word of God that is to be the focus of our study and not mere theologies or the wise philosophies or limited scope of mortal man’s understanding. What we need is the God-breathed Scripture, which is His inerrant Word of Truth. Through the study of His Word, we should make every effort to discover the beautiful gems of wisdom that are found within its pages. Indeed, it is the Spirit of Truth that has been sent to guide us into all truth and that truth is to be discovered within the pages of the wonderful revelation of God’s plans and purposes that has been given to man by divine decree.
But what does it mean to rightly divide this Word of truth? What does it mean to rightly divide the Scriptures of God? Well, we are to accurately handle the content of the Bible. We are to correctly learn and teach all that has been revealed to man in God’s Word, to correctly interpret the Scriptures. We are to rightly divide the Word of truth. After commenting about false teachers in the previous verse, Paul urges Timothy to view himself as a worker seeking to please God. Any worker or servant should desire to satisfy the expectations of his or her boss. Timothy was to view his work for God in the same way. He was not serving to please other people, but to please the Lord. Paul knew well the many ways the world can distract a Christian’s focus. These worldly forces would seek to draw Timothy’s attention to making people happy, rather than viewing the Lord as the one to please.
Timothy’s challenge was not only to be approved, but to be a worker who would have no need to be ashamed. Paul had already spoken of not being ashamed on three occasions in the previous chapter (2 Timothy 1:8, 2 Timothy 1: 12 and 2 Timothy 1:16). During times of suffering, Paul felt the need to emphasize boldness in faith to those tempted to avoid hardship and persecution. His boldness also involved “rightly handling the word of truth”. In contrast with the false teachers who argued over words, Timothy had learned the Scriptures from his youth and was to handle it accurately. The distinction presented here is important. In the prior verse, Paul condemned pointless bickering. Here, he commends deeper study.
Putting these two ideas together gives us an accurate picture of what Christian discernment is meant to look like. There are some issues which involve the “soundness” of the gospel message, and others which do not. We need to study diligently, not only to defend the faith, but to know the difference between something worth battling over, and something which is just a distracting argument. Amen.