Teaching

2 Timothy 3.2-5 – The Human Condition

Straight after the sad but true news that people are difficult, Paul goes on to detail the human condition.

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

The list is so long that breaking it down characteristic by characteristic would simply take too long. The easiest and simplest thing to say is that all of these things centre on self. “I” and “Me” become the most important words and ideas in life, and conduct and character are totally detached from anything other than how you feel about yourself.

People will be lovers of self is a fitting way to start this section, loving yourself unconditionally at the expense of anything and anyone else leads to everything else we read in this list, and Paul’s advice to Timothy (and in principle to us) is to avoid such people.  

This is, if we are honest, the condition that comes with our human nature. Left to our own devices and choices, we know that we will become the type of person detailed here. If we don’t think we will, we are more swollen with conceit than we even realise. 

What is the remedy to this? What do we do with this sad but true state of affairs?

We turn to the Word of God. As a good friend wrote in his book titled ‘Contented‘,

After all these years of reading the Bible, I am amazed at its ability to continually reveal who I am while at the same time transforming me into a more holy person. The more submissive I am to the Word of God, the more I understand His perfect will for my life.

Jeff Gipe

Today then, be an unconditional lover of the Word before yourself, put His will above your own, put others before yourself, and let us see ourselves for what we are – sinners in need of the life-changing, life-transforming, life-saving, life-giving grace of God. 

2 Timothy 3.1 – People Are Difficult

Someone once told me that the ‘best and worst thing about pastoring a church will be the people’. From what he writes here, it would seem that Paul agrees.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.

Paul will go on to say that these times of difficulty will come from people (v.2), but for the new minister Timothy this is what he needed to know first;

that as time progresses the times will get progressively more difficult.

This should not be a surprise to us, that as time goes on time gets tougher. Time of difficulty carries the meaning of stressful times, times of trial, times of tribulation…think of trying to swim in a sea that is wild, windy, and wavy. No matter which way Timothy turns, there will be difficult people to minister to.

It seems like Paul wanted to communicate this to Timothy so that he was going forward in his task with his eyes open, so to speak, knowing that people are difficult.

People are difficult, people are broken, and people are in desperate need of the saving grace of God.

If we are honest, so are we.

We are difficult to love, we are broken past the point of self-repair, and we are in desperate need of the saving grace of God.

Pastor, these are your people; difficult, broken, in need of grace.

Friends, this is all of us; difficult, broken, in need of grace.

The answer for both is the same – the free gift of grace available to us through faith in Jesus. Paul will go on to remind Timothy that the Word of God makes us wise for salvation (v.15), and it is on this solid foundation that we must stand as we seek to navigate these times of difficulty. People are broken, you are broken, and without the Word of God to stand on and soak in, this will never change.

Turn to the Word today!

Living In The Tension

Yesterday at Saar Fellowship our text was Hebrews 11.32-40, and we saw those who had victory over circumstance, and those who had victory in circumstance. This can leave us living in tension in between the already and the not yet, between feeling like things ought to be taken care of and done, always, in the here and now. We know we are saved by faith in Jesus, so why are things so tough?

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Despite some of their earthly circumstances being defeated, none of these people here experienced the constant and unbroken fellowship and communion with the Father, they did not receive what was promised.

None of these people here experienced the spiritual awakening and enriching and blessings that come from the finished work of Jesus. None of them. They did not receive what was promised.

But do you know what? You can. 

God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.


For us, seeing and enjoying the completed work of Jesus on the cross gives us much more reason to hold on to faith despite what may be going on in our lives.


Maybe that is what God is saying to you today – look, it doesn’t matter what is going on around you, whether things look like they ought to be fixed and changed, because you have something so much better to look to, to hold on to, to turn to, the finished work of Jesus on the cross, look what I have provided for you.

If you feel like you are caught in between the already saved and not yet sanctified, the already called but not yet delivered, that is ok, you are! But just look at what God has provided for you, look at how you can live in the here and now and in the tension between now and eternity.

So how do we live in this tension? How do we live between the already and not yet?

It is in the finished work of Jesus on the cross that you can live in the tension.

He has already triumphed over sin and death, but not yet come again.

He is already resurrected but not yet come again.

He is the great living example of the already and the not yet.

He is how we live in the tension between, because He is both already and not yet.

2 Timothy 2.22-26 – A Must For A Minister

Do you ever read something in the Bible and think, well, that is just not me?

22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

The instruction to the relatively young pastor continues in this passage, and if we’re honest, we all routinely fall short of this, don’t we?

Paul starts with the exhortation to flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Simply Timothy needed to, and we need to, just put as much distance between youthful passions and ourselves as possible. Youthful passions carries the idea of those things which interest us as younger people; sexual desire, fleshly lusts, earthly reward, you get the picture. We flee these things, in part, by being with those [people] who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Spending time with God’s people is a surefire way to grow in your walk with Him. Spending time with those who have more life experience than you is a way to flee youthful passions. Who can you spend time with then?

In terms of Timothy as a minister, this whole passage is a must. He must have fled from youthful passions and pursued righteousness, and in vv.24-26 we see another list of ministerial-must-haves;

  • Not quarrelsome,
  • Kind to everyone,
  • Able to teach,
  • Patiently enduring evil,
  • Correcting opponents with gentleness.

Quite a list, isn’t it, and when we read things like this we realise how far we are from the way we ought to be living. Whether we minister publicly in the church of whether we minister privately in our own homes and lives, these are qualities that we must all strive to possess. The consistent witness borne by your pastor probably comes harder than he makes it look, in the same way that your witness to your family in your private life is difficult and frought with daily battles.

In addition to the major empowerment of the indwelling Holy Spirit, one way we can encourage each other in our ministries is to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord form a pure heart. Spending time together, understanding each other, and ministering the grace of God to each other is probably the single biggest must-have for the minister, whether public or private.

Who can you minister this grace to today? 

2 Timothy 2.20-21 – You Matter

Reasonably often nowadays we see a very fatalistic attitude come to the surface when people talk about religions or faith traditions. Things like, “Well, you know, it’s out of my hands because DEITY will do this or that.”

Whilst there is an element of that in our Christian faith (God is absolutely sovereign over His creation, see Psalm 135.6, Proverbs 21.1, Ephesians 1.11, Acts 2.23 for a couple of examples) we are also encouraged to play our part, to partner with the Lord in achieving His purposes and bringing to fruition His plans. In His great love for us, He actually wants you to be involved. Today Paul makes this clear to Timothy.

20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

Paul writes that in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay. The house is the house of God, built on the firm foundation we read about yesterday. Simply, in God’s house, in the church here on earth, there are those who make themselves available for honorable use, and those who do not.

When you go to church you probably end up looking at and listening to those who have made themselves available to the Lord for honorable use and have the wonderful privilege of praying for the church, leading the church in worship through music, or preaching and teaching the Word. 

Friends, we should all make ourselves available to the Lord for honorable use, He wants you to cleanse yourself from what is dishonorable and to become a vessel for honorable use. We should all want to be more and more set apart as holy (sanctified), and to be useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work


Maybe your good work is in the job you are working, maybe it’s in the family you are raising, maybe it’s in the Bible study you lead, maybe it’s in the witness you give your friends when playing football with them, but we will be given as much opportunity for good work as we make ourselves available to the master of the house, being cleansed from what is dishonorable.


Maybe you think, wait, I am cleansed by the blood of Jesus shed for me, I am justified by my faith in Him, being sanctified day by day and conformed into His image, and I will ultimately be glorified when I am forever in His presence. That’s true, you are. What Paul is teaching Timothy, and the attitude we need to have about serving in the house of God is this,

“…there is another aspect of cleansing which God looks for us to do with the participation of our own will and effort. Not that it is our work apart from God, but it is a work that awaits our will and effort…This aspect of cleansing is mostly connected with usefulness for service, and closeness to God.”

David Guzik

So, friends, you matter. Your character matters. Your conduct matters. Your will and effort matter.

Do you want to be useful to the master of the house? Are you ready for every good work

In this process you make the decision, because you matter.

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