Summary: If we want to be used by God, we have to purify our hearts. God uses all kinds of people., but only if they are clean on the inside. If we want to purify ourselves, we have to confess our sins, repent and accept Christ as our Saviour.
The reading from Paul’s second letter to Timothy is part of the final letter Paul wrote. He wrote this letter from his prison cell in Rome, and he knew that he was about to be put to death. Both of his letters to Timothy contain instructions for both ministers and Christians.
Paul tells ministers to teach, preach and lead. Shallow sermons lead to shallow saints, and mistaken preaching leads to misguided lives. It is a serious responsibility to teach or preach the Word of God. Good, sound, biblical teaching can build people up in their faith, while bad teaching can tear people down. Bad doctrine or bad preaching destroys faith and causes people to think and live wrongly. In contrast, good doctrine or preaching that is based on a right understanding of God’s word of truth builds and strengthens faith. This can only be done when ministers handle God’s word with the same care and precision that a good carpenter does with his tools and materials.
Paul tells ministers to remind their congregations about how to resolve disputes, especially those caused by untrained or false teachers. People who follow after rumours and opinions are more than a nuisance. They are a threat to the church, and as such they must be dealt with quickly and decisively. When people try to understand God through worldly views instead of through the Holy Spirit’s discernment or through studying God’s Word, they are easily fooled by Satan’s lies. The situation is made worse by untrained ministers.
The danger in using an unapproved or untrained minister is that this person literally misses the target of God’s teaching. As a result, he or she is prone to promoting false teachings, which can destroy the faith of other believers. Any doctrine that is not in accord with the Bible’s teaching must be cut out just like a surgeon cuts out an appendix or cancerous tissue. If left untreated, it will only spread and make the body of Christ sick. The spiritual food of God’s word keeps believers and the church healthy.
There are four attitudes that can diffuse any controversial situation and allow believers to end foolish arguments without destroying opponents:
1. A gentle, tender spirit
2. A teaching spirit
3. A tolerant, patient spirit
4. A temperate, controlled spirit
This form of correction has the potential to literally awaken people so that they may escape the enemy. The word “patient” means “bearing evil without resentment.”
Some people in Paul’s time may have taken his teaching about the resurrection to the extreme, especially his rhetorical question about needing physical resurrection when we have been resurrected with Christ spiritually. Paul explains that the physical resurrection of believers is necessary for sin and death to be ultimately defeated. Christ’s own physical resurrection guarantees a Christian’s future, physical resurrection.
The visible, professing church is pictured as a temple that has God as its foundation. It is made up of Christians and those who merely profess to be Christians. These servants are either honourable or dishonourable. God knows which ones are devoted to His use. He only wants holy people doing his work, and holy people are those who are cleansed from wrong conduct and wrong doctrine. Paul says that any dishonourable servants can become honourable servants if they get rid of wrong influences and earthly priorities.
If we want to be used by God, we have to purify our hearts. God uses all kinds of people., but only if they are clean on the inside. If we want to purify ourselves, we have to confess our sins, repent and accept Christ as our Saviour.
Paul commands us as Christians to “flee youthful passions,” and these are more than sexual passions. They are the short-sighted cravings for personal pleasure or gain, rather than for personal godliness. Youthful passions include any hunger or ambition that distracts from our pursuit of true righteousness, faith, clarity and peace. If we want to be Christians, we must live for God as Jesus did. God’s love and grace doesn’t mean that we have permission to sin. They give us the strength and desire to do His will.
A well-known minister once used the example of the tools in a blacksmith’s shop as an example of the tools God uses. The minister said that there are three types of tools. There are tools on the junk pile: outdated, broken, rusty and dull. There are tools on the anvil: melted down, molten hot, moldable, changeable. There are tools that are useful: sharpened, primed, defined, mobile. The tools in the last group are ready to be used by the master.
We are all somewhere in the blacksmith’s shop. We are on one of the three piles, and some of us have been on all three piles in our lives. If we take the journey from the junk heap to the fire, and if we let God pound us on His anvil, and if we discover God’s purpose for our lives, we earn the privilege of being called “God’s chosen instruments.”