November 15, 2011

Wednesday after the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 9, 2 Kings 9:1-16, 2 Tim. 2:14-26
Evening - Ps. 13, 14, Eccles. 8:12-9:1, Mt. 23:1-12

Commentary
2 Timothy 2:14-26

Both of Paul's letters to Timothy are about Timothy's charge as a minister and bishop in the Church of Christ. Timothy is charged to do two things. First, he is to keep himself pure in faith and life. Second, he is to preach and teach the pure faith and life to others. This means he will commit this charge to the ministers, who will then commit it to the churches. It also means he will carry this charge directly to the churches in his capacity as their bishop.

We see both aspects of this in our reading for today. Verse 14 continues the charge Timothy is to give to the ministers and laity over whom the Lord had made him a shepherd and an overseer. Look back at 2:2, and you will see that our reading is a continuation of Paul's instruction to commit the Apostle's teachings to the ministers and churches. Part of this ministry is to instruct them to walk together in peace. Verse 14 requires them to refrain from striving about words that do not profit. The key words here are, "strive not," which means don't fight about things that are unimportant. Such babblings are profane and vain, increasing ungodliness in the people and the church like canker (2:17). Instead of fighting over trivialities, Christians must pursue and actively work for faith, charity, and peace with one another (2:22). Timothy himself is charged to be a man of peace.

He is to study the Scriptures (2:15). Again Paul emphasises that learning comes before teaching. The implication is that divisive babblings come from those who are either immature in the faith and the ways of Christ, or are complete strangers to them. Hymenaeus and Philetus are examples of this (2:17). Wanting to become teachers before they have been learners, they have spread error and dissent throughout the Church in Ephesus. By contrast, Timothy, who has studied with Paul and has been ordained and sent to Ephesus to teach, is not to be aggressive and divisive as Hymenaeus and Philetus are. He is to be gentle and meek (2:24-25). This does not mean he cannot take a firm stand for truth. He has been encouraged to do so throughout this epistle. It means his methods must be as kind and helpful as his motives. The goal and hope is always that people may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil (2:26). Paul intertwines his charge to Timothy, with the charge Timothy is to give to the clergy and the charge the clergy are to give to the Church. This is because the same things apply to all. The same faith, the same faithfulness, the same pursuit of peace, the same abhorrence of strife, the same meek and cooperative attitude, the same teachable attitude, and the same character traits are for both clergy and laity. Our functions in the Church may differ, but our calling to holiness of life is the same; "Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity" (2:19).

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