2 Timothy 2.16-19 – God's Firm Foundation Stands

16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal:

“The Lord knows those who are his,” and,

“Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

In contrast to the encouragement and exhortation in v.15, here Paul shows Timothy the other side of the coin and says avoid irreverent babble. Timothy was encouraged to keep the main thing as the main thing and rightly handle the Word of truth and if he does not, Paul says that it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.

Maybe here your Bible says cancer in place of gangrene, either way the message is clear; false teaching and inaccurate handling of God’s Word spreads quickly and dangerously and leads people astray into ungodliness, the very opposite of what Timothy as pastor has been called to do.

Despite what people may say that the Bible teaches, despite false and inaccurate handling of God’s Word, despite anything that man can do, God’s firm foundation stands. The Gospel still stands, the Word of God still stands, and the Lord knows who are his. Those who are His are to depart from iniquity, and this is what Timothy has been called to teach and preach (vv.11-13, 15, 3.10-17, 1 Timothy 4.6-16).

Today, let us all consider and consolidate the fact that we are His (Romans 8.16-17), and let us depart from iniquity through putting into action the knowledge that comes from right and proper handling of His Word. 

2 Timothy 2.15 – Rightly Handling

Today the pastoral advice keeps on coming for Timothy, and it’s another exhortation that we can all apply.

15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Earlier in chapter two Timothy was encouraged to have a hard-working attitude, and here today he is encouraged to do your best. The idea that the Christian life is one of passive agreement and being along for the ride is found nowhere in God’s Word. 

Being approved and having no need to be ashamed carries the idea that on the day we stand before the judgement seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5.10), what we have done for and in the name of Jesus will be laid out and evaluated. Paul writes this to the Corinthians,

…we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Simply, we are to do our best in the here and now so that when we stand before the judgement seat of Christ and our work is evaluated we have no need to be ashamed. For Timothy, his primary responsibility as pastor is to rightly handle the word of truth

To be told to rightly handle something implies there is a wrong way to handle it, and this must be the primary responsibility for Timothy, for a pastor today, and for all of us who claim to be following Jesus. There are right ways to handle, divide, and interpret the Bible, and there are wrong ways. Sadly, we don’t have to look far to find people twisting, misusing, misinterpreting, sensationalising, emotionalising, and just plain wrongly handling the Word of God.

Simply, it says what it says and it means what it means.

There is one correct, orthodox way to interpret a passage.

There is one correct, orthodox interpretation, yet many applications.

Sadly, some feel that there are many interpretations and many applications, but this cannot be. The Word of God cannot say two things in one passage that are contradictory. 

David Guzik writes on this,

This is an important point: The Bible does not mean just what anyone wants it to mean…We can’t just pick the interpretation that seems most comfortable to us and claim it as true – it must be rightly dividing the word of truth, and it must be consistent with what the Bible says in the specific passage and with the entire message of the Scriptures.

So for Timothy as pastor, this was a primary responsibility. Shouldn’t it also be so for all of us? Shouldn’t we all want to be approved by God, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, someone who rightly handles the Word of truth?


If you don’t know where to start with Bible interpretation, here are a couple of books that have been helpful for me.

  • Basic Bible Interpretation by Roy Zuck 
    • 978-0781438773
  • Living By the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible

    • 978-0802408235

1 Timothy 3.14-15 – Clarity of Scripture

Careful and proper Bible reading seems to be, sadly, not the normal way of reading the Bible for most people. There either seems to be the idea that we must sensationalize and emotionalize it so as to provoke an emotional response (a danger which D.Martin Lloyd-Jones warns against), or we need to inject ourselves into the text to be the original readers/recipients, or else that the whole thing is unknowable and therefore, you know, what’s the point? More often than not, the real people writing the text of Scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit, will make plain and simple their intention.

14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

We said that this letter was from Paul to Timothy with instructions on how to lead the church. We’ve seen the importance of prayer, the importance of right teaching, the Gospel to be proclaimed, and the character of those to be appointed to help lead. Today, Paul is as clear as can be that he hopes to visit, but, if he is delayed, this letter is for Timothy to know how people ought to behave in the household of God

Passages about the character of leaders, the interaction between men and women, the high standards for handling the Word and the teaching of the church all folds into this purpose, so people know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth

There are some deep and wonderful truths in the Word that we could talk about until the Lord returns or calls us home. There are passages that were so specific to specific peoples at specific times, but, if we read the Word carefully and properly, considering context and purpose, we will see that there is more often than not a strikingly clear purpose statement within each book of the Bible.

Today, look at passages like 1 Timothy 3.14-15, Hebrews 8.1-2, 2 Timothy 4.1-2, John 20.30-31, Luke 1.1-4, Romans 1.15, and 1 Corinthians 1.10-11, and see and marvel at the clarity of Scripture. It is as plain and as simple as we need it to be at the points we need it to be. Charles Hodge called it a ‘plain book’. It is plain and understandable when we approach it carefully and properly.

Read it today and see how it speaks to you!