24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24–26, NKJV)
We noted in yesterday’s Sword Tips (#1799) that gospel preaching gets personal by making personal applications that convict and convert. This by no means sanctions personal, verbal abuse while doing so. “Defending the truth” is not a cloak behind which envy and strife may hide (1 Cor. 3:3-4). Identifying a false teacher is not a personal attack when it is supported by Scriptural evidence of error being taught, endorsed, and promoted. Publicly identifying opponents of the truth is entirely Scriptural when it is aimed at (1) Saving the lost, and (2) Protecting the saved (see Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Tim. 1:19-20; 2 Tim. 2:16-18; 4:14-15; 3 John 9-10). This is very different from being quarrelsome and malicious toward those same people (which today’s passage forbids). Gentleness (not weakness) – when combined with the ability to teach, endurance, and humility – produces a powerful faith that equips the servant of the Lord to correct those who oppose truth (25) so they may repent and escape the devil’s clutches (25-26). The servant of the Lord does this by remembering the “good fight of faith” is not about him, it is about laying hold of eternal life – and about helping others do the same (1 Tim. 6:12).
3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, (1 Timothy 6:3–4, NKJV)
Are you obsessed with disputes? Some see to hanker for an argument. (Note, we did not ask whether you are willing to contend earnestly for the faith, Jude 3. There is a huge difference.) Let your eyes gaze upon the contrasting words in today’s passage. On the one hand, there are the wholesome (sound) words of our Lord Jesus Christ – the “doctrine that accords with godliness” (v. 3). On the other hand, there are words of dispute that arise out of pride and ignorance that foment obsession with words (teachings) of men (v. 4). These words tear down faith as they elevate self and generate conflict that gives way to envy, quarrels, slander and evil suspicions. So, before you speak, be sure your words agree with the godliness that is produced by the sound doctrine of Christ, not words of strife that expose pride and a failure to understand the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember, “It is honorable for a man to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3).
It is honorable for a man to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel. (Proverbs 20:3, NKJV)
Why do we start quarrels? I suspect, if the truth be told, we usually think someone else started the quarrel that exists – “it wasn’t us who started it!” Rarely do we take credit for being the fool who started the argument. Yet, that is the problem, isn’t it? When we are unwilling to admit our part in a quarrel we are not inclined to end it speedily. Instead, we feel justified in “defending ourselves” or otherwise “not giving in” (after all, “we aren’t the one with the problem!”). Quarrels exist where the things of the flesh prevail over the things of the Spirit (Jas. 4:1-4; Rom. 8:5). Fools start quarrels, and sometimes, that fool is the person looking back at us in the mirror. Better that we admit our part in the quarrel, repent of our sin, seek forgiveness and correct the damage we have done, rather than foolheartedly continue sinful strife. Honor comes from ending quarrels, not beginning them.
24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24–26)
One ought not engage in raucous quarrels when attempting to teach the truth. Angry agitation is sinful and consequently, it does not produce a righteous outcome (Col. 3:8; Jas. 1:19-20). But, gentleness does not mean weakness. Nor does it mean one cannot “reprove” and “rebuke” as well as “exhort” when trying to persuade the lost (2 Tim. 4:2). The truth of the gospel corrects error, but only if we will use it to point out sin and its remedy. Repentance is needed where there is error, for error opposes the truth of God. Teaching the truth to those who are lost is not an “either, or” proposition; either be gentle and do not confront their error, or expose their error and thereby fail to be gentle. Without quarreling, the Lord’s servant must teach the truth plainly so that lost souls can “know the truth…come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil”.