15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread likegangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.”
I’m excited to study today’s passage more than usual. Verse 15 is what I have coined our “family verse” as it was my grandfather’s favorite verse which was then instilled in my father and is now embedded in my own heart. It is funny, however, that I don’t think I really understood what Paul was saying until today, looking at the context in which Paul was speaking.
I’ve always found it odd that Paul mentions being a good workman who is approved by God. Paul’s constant exhortation of understanding grace and that salvation cannot be earned seems to contradict verse 15 when it stands alone. What Paul has been talking about, though, is how to be a follower of Christ and a leader for others to do the same. Here, Paul is using an analogy as someone who is a common worker that can be trusted and relied upon for quality work. If someone always strives for excellence in woodworking, baking, house framing, accounting, etc., then he will not only be the best at what he does, but people will rely on him for the highest quality work. Likewise, Paul is encouraging Timothy to do likewise with his teaching and leadership in the ways of Christ. But what is he saying in the follow on verses?
The original text indicates the word “worldly” to mean profane. Paul warns not to indulge in discussions of no meaning and distaste. Nothing good comes of it, so what is the point? It’s quite easy to get pulled into conversations like that, isn’t it? Even if we don’t enjoy them, we at least go along with it so as not to break the flow of conversation or create awkwardness. Paul then mentions two people as an example (just as he did in the first letter to Timothy) and how they continue to spread untruth. I think it is easy for us to look at people that differ from our own beliefs in a judgmental light. This took me aback in Paul’s letter, but as we continue on, we see that he wasn’t being judgmental, but merely giving an example of what he meant.
Paul reminds Timothy (and us) that in the end it doesn’t matter what people say because it doesn’t change God’s plan. There will always be someone who disagrees with us; there will always be someone who challenges what we believe and mocks us for it. The core truth that we know in our hearts is that God’s chosen people are God’s chosen people and there is nothing you or I can do about it. So why do we stress over it? Paul’s second statement in verse 19 is not as a command, but rather a statement that it is evident who truly names Jesus as Lord. James would say this is activated faith, since faith without works is dead. Are you activating your faith by striving to be a workman who is approved unto God?