“But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Timothy 2:23-26).
Avoid foolish questions (2 Timothy 2:23).
Foolish questions are questions that are not asked sincerely in order to know the truth but are asked with the objective of hiding and confusing the truth; they are questions that are asked to create doubt and strife.
A trained Jehovah’s Witness will typically ask such questions. He doesn’t want to know the truth; he only wants to teach his false doctrine. His foolish questions include these: How can God be one and yet three? How can Jesus be God when he prayed to God? How can punishment in hell be eternal when the Bible says God will burn the sinners up? How can death be a journey when the Bible says it is a sleep? (For the answers, see our book Things Hard to Be Understood: A Handbook of Biblical Difficulties.)
If a person only wants to argue, it is a waste of time to deal with them. There are scorners and there are the willing listeners (Acts 17:32).
We must deal with scorners wisely (Prov. 26:4-5). We must not imitate the way of the fool by getting involved in endless arguments; but we must briefly answer the fool’s arguments so he will not think there are no answers and thus be wise in his own conceits.
Efforts to deal with willful heretics should be short lived (Titus 3:10-11).
On the other hand, if a person asks a sincere question, it should be answered from the Bible. The man who led me to Christ took the time to answer questions that came from pagan books I had been reading, such as the Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ and Autobiography of a Yogi and Siddhartha, and from my dabbling in a Hindu meditation society and Christian Science. He patiently answered my questions with simple Bible doctrine, but he didn’t debate with me on a philosophical level.
Be gentle, patient, humble (2 Timothy 2:24, 25).
It is difficult to deal with people who are in the snare of the Devil. They oftentimes mock the truth and are overbearing and proud toward those who preach it, and we are tempted to respond in kind. But if we deal with them in a like manner as they deal with us, we only stir them up to more anger. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Prov. 15:1).
It is important to understand that meekness doesn’t mean weakness and cowardliness. Moses was the meekest man, but he was bold when dealing with error, such as when Israel worshipped the golden calf. Jesus is meek and lowly in heart, but He was firm and sometimes even severe in His dealings with the Pharisees (Matthew 23).
Teach and instruct with God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:24, 25).
Gentleness and patience are not enough to win people to the truth. There is no “lifestyle evangelism” in the Bible. We must proclaim God’s Word. It alone has the power to convert those who are in Satan’s snare.
Trust in God (2 Timothy 2:25-26).
Only God can deliver someone who is in the snare of the Devil. I must not trust my debating skills or my knowledge or my teaching ability or my patience and humility; I must trust only in the Lord and His Word and Spirit to bring deliverance.
We must understand that we are fighting a spiritual battle against a spiritual enemy (v. 26).
No matter how impossible the situation might appear, God is able to give repentance.
Repentance is both a gift from God and the responsibility of the sinner. Compare 2 Timothy 2 verse 25 with 26. See also Acts 17:30.
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