Summary: Learning how to become strong for the off-road times of life from 1 Timothy.
August 17& 18, 2002
Rust Proofing the Fellowship
The devil has many tactics. He may seek to destroy the truth by patronizing Christianity and Christians. He may try to do so by popularity -- by diverting the attention of Christians away from why they are sent into the world. He has destroyed many a Christian witness that way. He may, as we have been seeing in this letter, bring about sharp persecution; he may try to paralyze us by fear, and by societal rejection; or he may bring about a polarization, an attempt to divide the body. So says my friend Ray, but I have seen the same occur everywhere I have ever served. The Devil wil use whatever means at his disposal to destroy fellowship.
That is what we find introduced in this section, where the apostle is dealing with the two-front war that these Ephesian Christians are facing -- persecution from outside, and polarization from within the body.
Second Timothy 2:14: 2 Timothy 2:14-19
Small Print-P. 842; Large Print-P. 1854
14 Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows who are his,” and “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.
I came from relatively poor beginnings. The old expression, “Poor people have poor ways” is definitely true. Many of my friends in my early years were surprised that we had gravy at every meal. One of the uses of the gravy, regardless of what else we had on the table was to break slices of bread into little pieces and spread gravy all over it. I had grown up with that side dish and didn’t realize that this was mom’s way of making sure we had something that would fill us up. There was one other staple at our family meals and that was butter bread. I still love butter bread with my meals. You just take a slice of bread and smooth a thin coating of butter on it and you get (Eat it) butter bread. Voice from in back: Parkay. Me: No this is butter. Voice: Parkay. No, this is…(Look at tub) alright, this is…Parkay. Voice: Butter.
You all remember that advertising ploy don’t you? Madison Avenue realized a long time ago that you could garner a lot of attention by a word argument. They followed it up with the “Tastes great…Less Filling” advertisement. They have had ferrets, frogs and lizards fighting for dominance with “bud… Weis… er”. They go on and on. Well what Madison Avenue knows they got from their CEO the Devil. Words cause problems. We quarrel over words, we get others involved, everyone chooses up sides and then it’s Katie bar the door, the ruin of relationship and fellowship are just around the corner.
Those are very sharp and effective metaphors which the apostle employs to describe what was going on in the church at Ephesus. They were disputing about words; there were church squabbles breaking out, and they were dividing into factions over what the apostle literally calls, word battles. That is the meaning of the term translated here, "disputing about words." Many churches fall into that trap today. The words in question, of course, represented doctrinal viewpoints. The church has often struggled with trying to define doctrine in words. The words themselves are all right, but what is wrong is the battles that are waged over the words.
One of the outstanding examples in church history in this regard occurred during the days of the Reformation. Toward the end of his life, Martin Luther became engaged in a controversy with the Swiss Christians over the meaning of the Lord’s words, "This is my body," when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. Those words became the subject of a great controversy that split the force of the Reformation. Under Martin Luther’s teaching, the Lutherans maintained that those words were to be taken literally (that the bread really becomes, or is, the body of Christ), while the Swiss Christians maintained that the words were a figurative expression (that the words meant, "this represents my body"). Both sides argued at great length, and the Reformation was almost brought to a halt by the controversy.