Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.II. FAITH’S CONFLICT AND THE BELIEVER’S PATH
1. The apostle’s charge (2Timothy 2:1-2) 2. As soldier and husbandman (2Timothy 2:3-7) 3. Identification with Christ (2Timothy 2:8-13) 4. Exhortation and warning (2Timothy 2:14-18) 5. The great House (2Timothy 2:19-22) 6. The believer’s path (2Timothy 2:23-26)
2. As soldier and husbandman (2Timothy 2:3-7)
3. Identification with Christ (2Timothy 2:8-13)
4. Exhortation and warning (2Timothy 2:14-18)
5. The great House (2Timothy 2:19-22)
6. The believer’s path (2Timothy 2:23-26)
First we find a charge of the apostle to his spiritual son Timothy. The blessed servant of the Lord knew that he was soon to depart, and therefore he charges Timothy to commit the great truths concerning the Gospel, which he had heard from the lips of the apostle in the presence of many witnesses, to faithful men, who are able to teach others. To the apostle it had been given to complete the Word of God (Colossians 1:25). No new revelation is promised through Timothy, but he is charged to communicate the revealed truth to others, who would be chosen by the Lord, as His gifts to the Church, to propagate His truth. This is the only true apostolic succession, not through the church as an organization, nor through certain men who claim ecclesiastical authority, but through those who hold the form of sound words and who minister it to others in the energy of the Spirit of God. Timothy needed for this the strength of the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And so does every servant of Christ.
Here the qualities that Timothy ought to possess in order to carry on the work are given by the apostle. As a good soldier of Jesus Christ, warring a spiritual warfare, he must suffer hardships and many privations. He must beware not to be entangled with the affairs of this life. The soldier’s calling is to please him who has called him, and all else, comforts and self-indulgence must be sacrificed. The soldier does this to obtain a corruptible crown, how much more then should the soldier of Jesus Christ do this to gain an incorruptible crown!
The Christian is also a laborer, a husbandman. He must labor first in order to enjoy fully the fruit of his labor. And that requires patience. He urges Timothy to consider what he tells him, with the assurance that the Lord would give him understanding in all things. These are the practical conditions for all who are engaging in service--enduring hardship, self-denial, unentangled, separated from the world and its ways, fighting lawfully and laboring first to be partaker of the fruits.
In connection with this he was to remember “that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from among the dead” according to the gospel, which he calls “my gospel”--”wherein I suffer as an evildoer, even unto bonds; but the Word of God is not bound.” Christ suffered, and though He is of the seed of David and has the promises of David’s throne, yet it is not yet His; He waits patiently for it upon the Father’s throne. In the meantime He, raised from among the dead (the seal upon His blessed work), has given His gospel of grace and glory to be preached. And suffering is connected with this (Philippians 3:10; Colossians 1:24).
“The afflictions found in the path of service in the gospel assume here a high and peculiar character in the mind of the suffering and blessed apostle. It is participation in the sufferings of Christ, and, in the case of Paul, to a very remarkable degree. The expressions he uses are such as might be employed in speaking of Christ Himself as regards His love. As to the propitiation, naturally no other could take part in that: but in devotedness, and in suffering for love and for righteousness, we have the privilege of suffering with Him. And here what part had the apostle with these sufferings? ‘I endure,’ He says, ‘all things for the elect’s sake.’ This is truly what the Lord did. The apostle trod closely on His footsteps, and with the same purpose of love--’that they might obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory,’ Here of course the apostle has to add, ‘which is in Christ Jesus’; still, the language is marvellous in the lips of any other person than the Lord Himself For it is what Christ did.”
The servant is identified with his Lord and called upon to go in the same path. “It is a faithful saying, for if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.” While this is true positionally of all believers, all have died in Christ and live in Him, the meaning here is the practical manifestation of it in self-denial and suffering with Him. If we suffer and endure we shall also reign with Him. And if any deny Him He will also deny them before His judgment seat (Matthew 10:33). These are solemn words little heeded in our days of laxity and declension. “If we are unfaithful, yet He abideth faithful; He cannot deny Himself,” that is, His own nature. “The One we serve must of necessity be served according to the reality of what He is. The Righteous One must be served in righteousness; the Holy One, in holiness; the One who is not of the world, by those who seek no place in the world. We cannot make Christ other than He is, and we cannot make the world other than it is” (Numerical Bible).
These things he was to remember. And if they are remembered they will bring deliverance from the strife about words, vain and unessential disputations in which there is no profit, which only subvert the hearers. It is through disputes about words, and speculations, that Satan brings in his most subtle deceptions. The true way is to strive diligently to show oneself approved of God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, “rightly dividing the Word of truth.” What a havoc has been wrought by a wrong dividing of the Word of truth! Law and grace have been jumbled together, Israel robbed of her promises, and the church impoverished on account of it. The Word of God and the truth of God have suffered most from the hands of such unskilled workmen, who, not dividing the Word of truth rightly, have produced confusion worse confounded. The sad division of Christendom, a carnally minded, professing church, is the fruit of it, and much else. The whole truth of God has been obscured, and unbelief fostered by it. To insist upon “rightly dividing the Word of truth” and to practice it both in teaching and living is a most essential requirement of the true workman.
Profane and vain babblings are to be avoided, for they only produce ungodliness. Hymenaeus and Philetus, who held that the resurrection had taken place already and thereby overthrew the faith of some, were examples of it. How true it is that error is like a gangrene, spreading vileness and corruption everywhere.
But in the midst of the declension and perversion of the truth of God, as it began in apostolic days, and is now more fully developed in our own times, there is the foundation of God, which stands firm and unmovable. Christ is the foundation of faith, and of His church. There is a double seal. “The Lord knoweth them that are His”--this is the divine side. This statement is given for the comfort of His own, and it is a most precious comfort, “the Lord knoweth them that are His.” But this comforting assurance must lead us into communion with Himself. If He knoweth us as His own, we also know Him and delight ourselves in His fellowship. And so we also know in the days of decline and departure from the truth, that the Lord knows and keeps those who belong to Him. But there is also another side, “Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” This is the solemn responsibility of every one who nameth that blessed Name, which is above every name. This is the true evidence that we walk in real fellowship with Him, that He knows us and we know Him.
The great house of which Paul speaks is Christendom. It contains vessels of gold and silver, and vessels of wood and earth, some to honor and some to dishonor. Here we have the two classes found in the professing church, those who are really the Lord’s, known of Him, who know Him, who walk in His fellowship and witness to it by departing from iniquity; and the other class, which merely profess His name, who have the outward form of godliness, but deny the power thereof; more fully described in chapter 3:1-5. If the true believer is to be a vessel fit for the Master’s use he must purge himself individually from such. This is demanded again by the apostle when in the above passage, describing the moral character of these vessels to dishonor, vessels of wood and earth, he writes, “from such turn away.” This is the solemn responsibility of every true believer; he is not to be in fellowship with such, and when obedient to this call the believer becomes a sanctified vessel, a vessel set apart, separated, and then as such a fit vessel for the Master’s use and prepared unto every good work.
The whole of that which calls itself “Christian” is looked at here as a great house. The Christian is of it outwardly, in spite of himself, for he calls himself a Christian, and the great house is all that calls itself Christian. But he cleanses himself personally from every vessel which is not to the Lord’s honor. This is the rule of Christian faithfulness; and thus personally cleansed from fellowship with evil, he shall be a vessel unto honor fit for the Master’s use. Whatsoever is contrary to the honor of Christ, in those who bear His Name, is that from which he is to separate himself.
By purging himself from all those who are unto dishonor, the servant of God shall be unto honor, sanctified and prepared for every good work. For this separation from evil is not merely negative; it is the effect of the realization of the word of God in the heart. I then understand what the holiness of God is, His rights over my heart, the incompatibility of His nature with evil. I feel that I dwell in Him and He in me; that Christ must be honored at all costs; that that which is like Him alone honors Him; that His nature and His rights over me are the only rule of my life. That which thus separates me unto Him, and according to what He is, separates me thereby from evil. One cannot walk with those who dishonor Him, and, at the same time, honor Him in one’s own walk (Synopsis Of the Bible).
Exhortations follow pointing out the way the servant of Christ is to walk and serve as a vessel unto honor, and fit for the Master’s use. He is to flee youthful lusts and follow righteousness, faith, love and peace, in true fellowship with all who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. His service, under the direction of the Lord, must be among those who are destitute of the truth and who are ensnared by the devil, though they profess to be religious. The servant of the Lord has a solemn responsibility towards such. How he is to act in this service is given in 2Timothy 2:24-26. And blessed are those servants who, walking in true separation, reach out for the unsaved masses of professing Christendom and labor in love in the great house.