The following is excerpted from the Way of Life Commentary Series, Pastoral Epistles, www.wayoflife.org:
“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” (Titus 2:23-26).
Helping the Deceived (2 Timothy 2:23-26)
This passage concludes Paul’s teaching about separation. He instructs Timothy about how to help those who are deceived. They are in the snare of the devil, so this is no easy task.
“Foolish and unlearned questions avoid” (2 Ti. 2:23).
- Foolish questions are questions that are not asked sincerely in order to know the truth but are intended to create doubt and strife. For example, a Jehovah’s Witness will ask questions about the Trinity and the deity of Christ and death and hell to try to confuse people. He doesn’t want to know the truth; he only wants to teach his false doctrine, and he uses foolish questions as a tool toward that end. He will say such things as, “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 to such questions, see the Advanced Bible Study Course Defense of the Faith and the book Things Hard to Be Understood, available from Way of Life Literature.)
- If a person asks a sincere question, it should be answered. I’m glad that the man who led me to Christ was willing to answer my questions, because I sincerely wanted to know what the Bible said about some things. Had he not answered my questions (as is advised in some soul winning courses), and had he persisted in only teaching me a “Roman’s Road plan of salvation,” I wouldn’t have continued to listen to him, because I knew the simple plan of salvation from childhood. I had sincere questions about reincarnation, the uniqueness of Christ, the condition of people who have never heard the gospel, the bodily resurrection, and other things.
“the servant of the Lord must not strive” (2 Ti. 2:24).
- We must distinguish between carnal debating and biblical disputing. Biblical preaching and evangelism is described as reasoning, proving, disputing, convincing, refuting, and persuading. There are five Greek words that are used in this sense in Scripture. Dialegomai (“reasoned with them out of the scriptures,” Ac. 17:2; 18:4, 19; 24:25; “disputing and persuading,” Ac. 19:8, 9; 17:17). Diakoneo (“he mightily convinced the Jews ... showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ,” Ac. 18:28). Elegcho (“he is convinced of all,” 1 Co. 14:24; “to convince the gainsayers,” Tit. 1:9; “to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds,” Jude 1:15). Peitho (“we persuade men,” 2 Co. 5:11). Sumbibazo (“proving that this is very Christ,” Ac. 9:22). The difference between carnal debating and biblical disputation has to do with the objective and the demeanor. The objective of debating is to win an argument. It is intellectual rather than spiritual. It tends to be prideful and selfish. The debater tends to enjoy strife for strife’s sake. Typically, the debater is not concerned for the welfare of his opponent. The objective of biblical disputation, on the other hand, is not to win an argument; it is to win the heart of someone to Christ and truth. It is done in love and humility and patience and spiritual wisdom. The objective is the glory of God.
- Efforts to deal with true heretics should be short lived (Tit. 3:10-11). The heretic only wants to promote his false teaching. He wants to proselytize, so he is dangerous to the flock. He doesn’t listen to sound teaching from Scripture. It is not possible to convince him of the truth because he is “subverted.” He has made a willful choice for error. If an individual is committed to error, he should be left alone and warned to stay away.
Be “gentle, patient, meek” (2 Ti. 2:24-25).
- It is difficult to deal with people who are in the snare of the devil and who are opposing the truth. They oftentimes mock the truth and are overbearing and proud. They are convinced that they know more than the Bible believer. It is tempting to imitate their attitude and to become harsh and impatient in dealing with them, but God instructs His people to be gentle, patient, meek. If we deal with them in a like manner as they deal with us, we only stir them up to anger. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Pr. 15:1).
“Apt to teach ... instructing” (2 Ti. 2:24-25).
- Gentleness and patience are not enough to win people to the truth. They must be taught the Word of God.
- The Word of God is living and powerful (Heb. 4:12); it can break the hard heart (Jer. 23:29); it is the source of faith (Ro. 10:17). The man who led me to Christ followed a very simple plan as he dealt with me over a period of about four days. When I met him near Hollywood, Florida, I was a member of the Hindu Self-Realization Fellowship Society and prided myself as a seeker of truth, but I was as spiritually blind as a man can be. We drove together from south Florida to Mexico and back to Daytona Beach, Florida. I spouted my philosophical opinions, and for the most part, he merely answered by quoting and reading Scripture. He bought me a Bible so I could read it for myself and a Strong’s Concordance. He repeated some Scriptures so often that I had them memorized by the time I got saved at the end of the trip. These were Pr. 14:12; Jer. 17:9; Joh. 7:17; 8:31-32; Acts 17:11; 1 Th. 5:21; and 2 Ti. 3:16-17. At one point while we were driving down the road, having become frustrated with his dogmatism, I said to him, “Why don’t you throw that Bible out of the window and we will have a good conversation; you don’t seem to have any thoughts of your own.” His reply was that his thoughts are not important, that the Bible is God’s Word and it is the only thing that can bring a man to the light of truth. Even though I didn’t believe what he was quoting from the Bible at the time, it had a mighty impact on me and converted me.
Trust God to give deliverance (2 Ti. 2:25-26).
- In dealing with those who are opposed to the truth, the ambassador of Christ must not trust his gentle character or patience or teaching ability or debating skills. Only God can deliver someone who is in the condition described in this passage. The individual who has rejected the truth has been captured by the devil and is in the devil’s snare. Observe that he is “taken captive by him at his will.” The devil can capture anyone who rejects God and God’s truth. Compare 2 Co. 4:4, “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not...” 1 Pe. 5:8 warns that the devil ‘walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” This refers to those who are careless and disobedient.
- No matter how impossible the situation might appear, God is able to give repentance. No person is beyond His help.
- Repentance is both a gift from God and the responsibility of the sinner. 2 Ti. 2:25 speaks of God giving repentance. Compare Ac. 17:30, which says “God ... now commandeth all men every where to repent.”
- True repentance always has evidence. Here the evidence is “the acknowledging of the truth.” If someone who holds to a false religion or false philosophy or false Bible teaching repents, he will renounce his error and acknowledge the truth.
- We cannot demand that God deliver a rebellious person, and we cannot be sure that He will (“if God peradventure...”), but as long as there is life there is hope.
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