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).
28 … And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:28–31, NKJV)
This man from Ethiopia was reading the Scriptures. He wanted to understand them, yet he recognized his need to be taught their meaning. He put his desire into action by asking Philip to join him in his chariot, upon which he identified the text he was reading and asked Philip, “of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of someone else” (Acts 8:32-34)? Philip started with that Scripture and preached Jesus to him (Acts 8:35). Our willingness to be taught the Scriptures says some important things about us. It says we want to know God’s will. It says to learn we must have the humility to ask for instruction. It says we do not have all the answers, but the Scriptures do. We learn from this encounter that the Scriptures can be understood. We learn the Scriptures are the source of information to learn about Jesus (not human wisdom, church traditions, credal confessions, etc.). And, we learn God wants us to teach His Scriptures to others. So, we must want to learn from the Scriptures. And, we must want to teach the Scriptures. Both are crucial to faith and salvation in Jesus (Acts 8:36-39).
1 I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever; With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations. 2 For I have said, “Mercy shall be built up forever; Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens.” (Psalm 89:1–2, NKJV)
God is merciful, but He will not at all clear the guilty who reject His mercy by refusing to repent and obey Him (Exodus 34:7; Nahum 1:3). A distorted view of God’s mercy lulls souls into complacency toward sin. Convincing themselves that God is too loving to see any soul be punished in hell, they willingly deceive themselves with the illusion that everyone will go to heaven. (Well, at least, most people!) Jesus often spoke of hell, and said many who call on His name will depart into everlasting fire (Matthew 25:46). God is not only merciful, He is also faithful. We can depend on Him, as surely as the heavens show His fidelity. We trust what He says is the absolute truth. Let us tell others of His ageless mercy and call them to find it for themselves in the gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 1:16).
20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: (Ephesians 4:20–21, NKJV)
Knowing Jesus Christ is not instinctive or automatic. We cannot know “what would Jesus do” unless we learn from His word what He would do. Yet, what Jesus personally did while on the earth is not necessarily what you and I must do. For example, Jesus kept the Law of Moses (its feasts, its offerings, its dietary restrictions, etc.), yet we are not obliged to do so today because that law has been removed (Colossians 2:14). We know Jesus always did the will of His Father, and that is the very thing we must also do (John 5:30; 6:38; 8:29; Matthew 7:21). The Father’s will is that we hear and follow Jesus (Matthew 17:5; John 8:31-32). The Scriptures teach us about Christ. We hear Jesus by hearing the words of those He sent into the world to preach His gospel (Hebrews 1:2; Luke 10:16). Jesus told His apostles to teach the disciples “to observe all things” He had commanded them (Matthew 28:20). The apostles fulfilled their mission by teaching the truth that is in Jesus. Learning Christ from them illuminates our path toward God, it does not turn us back to the spiritual blindness of lewdness, uncleanness and greediness we lived in before we were saved in Christ (Ephesians 4:17-19).
9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?” (John 3:9–10, NKJV)
Nicodemus should have understood what Jesus said about being born again of water and the Spirit (John 3:1-8). After all, he was a teacher of Israel. Teachers who do not understand what they teach are poor educators. Uninformed and misinformed teachers harm their students and themselves. Therefore, teachers must be willing to accept instruction (2 Timothy 2:2; Romans 2:21). Scripture warns of those who stray and turn aside to idle talk, “desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm” (1 Timothy 1:7). Such “teachers of Israel” make confident assertions without comprehending what they say. These “teachers of Israel” make confident assertions without comprehending what they say. This sort of teacher accommodates his teaching to his audience (2 Timothy 4:3-4). This sort of teacher becomes the false teacher who brings in destructive heresies (2 Peter 2:1). Teachers of God’s word are commanded to take heed to themselves and to what they teach (1 Timothy 4:15-16). Teachers have the responsibility to teach the truth, and are held accountable by God for what they teach (James 3:1).
5 Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, 6 from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. (1 Timothy 1:5–7, NKJV)
To faithfully teach the gospel one must first be willing to be taught (see 2 Timothy 2:2). Commitment to the commands of God produce love from a pure heart, a good conscience and sincere faith. Love for God, for truth, and for others compels us to learn God’s word before trying to teach it. Desire to teach the gospel without having a knowledge of it may well result in leading a person astray from the very truth he desires to teach. Like zeal without knowledge, desire to teach that is not fettered to knowing the truth produces vain, yet confidently asserted babbling, instead of “godly edification which is in faith” (1 Timothy 1:4). Take time to study and learn God’s word. Examine your motive for desiring to be a teacher of the word. Is it “love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith?” And remember, faithful teachers never stop studying to learn and know the truth they teach.
Then He arose from there and came to the region of Judea by the other side of the Jordan. And multitudes gathered to Him again, and as He was accustomed, He taught them again. (Mark 10:1, NKJV)
There is value in repetition. In elementary school, my classmates and I memorized and repeated the alphabet, the multiplication table, the U. S. states and their capitals, and many more such things. Good teachers do not teach something only one time. They teach, they review what has been taught, and they test their students on the lesson. Whenever the multitudes gathered around Jesus, His habit was to teach them “again.” He repeatedly taught His apostles of His approaching death and resurrection (Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; 9:31-32). We should not be yearning for some “new thing” when it comes to gospel teaching, because its message is the same today as it was in the first century. What we yearn for is to hear the same message again and again. Repeatedly teaching the truth of the gospel is for our spiritual safety (Philippians 3:1). By its repetition, we remain strengthened and resolute in the face of life’s trials and temptations (2 Peter 1:12-15). You may have heard the gospel over and over. But remember, someone is hearing it for the first time. May we never grow weary of hearing God’s word taught again, and again, and again.