Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemonby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Second Timothy 2:16 is a contrast to Paul’s word in verse 15, where he says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, an unashamed workman, cutting straight the word of the truth.” The good workman is one who cuts straight not the word of knowledge or doctrine, but the word of truth. Many Christians think that truth in such verses as 2:15 means doctrine or teaching. However, in the New Testament truth does not denote mere doctrine. Concerning Christ in His incarnation, John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us…full of grace and truth.” It certainly would be nonsensical to interpret truth here as doctrine. How could we say that the Word became flesh and was full of doctrine? In New Testament usage truth refers to the reality of God’s New Testament economy. When Christ came through incarnation, grace and reality also came. Both grace and reality are God Himself. Grace is God in the Son as our enjoyment; reality is God realized by us in the Son. Therefore, grace and reality both refer to God incarnate. When we receive grace, we also receive reality. Then we have God as our reality. This reality is the truth in 2 Timothy 2:15. As we have pointed out, this truth is the reality of the contents of God’s New Testament economy. These contents include Christ as the Head and the church as the Body. To cut straight the word of the truth is not simply to divide the Bible into various sections. Rather, it is to cut the healthy word of the reality of the contents of God’s economy.
As a contrast to verse 15, Paul goes on to say in verse 16, “But avoid profane, vain babblings, for they will advance to more ungodliness.” The word profane denotes that which touches worldliness and is touched by it; it refers to what is contrary to being holy. The profane, vain babblings Paul charged Timothy to avoid advance to more ungodliness, to a situation which is contrary to godliness, contrary to the manifestation of God in our daily life and in the church life.
In verse 17 Paul goes on to say, “And their word will spread as gangrene, of whom are Hymenaeus and Philetus.” The Greek word rendered spread may also be rendered feed or eat. Literally it means “will find pasture,” as in John 10:9. The word for pasture in Greek is the medical term for the consuming progress of a mortifying disease (Alford). Hence, its meaning in this verse is to spread.
The word gangrene denotes an eating sore, a cancer. Paul uses such a strong word to describe those who teach differently. He tells us that their word not only advances unto more ungodliness, but that it spreads as gangrene which consumes the flesh and causes part of one’s body to die. According to our observation, this has been the situation among certain dissenting ones.
Speaking of Hymenaeus and Philetus, Paul says in verse 18 that concerning the truth they “have misaimed, saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and overthrow the faith of some.” The word misaimed means to miss the mark, swerve, deviate. Paul does not say that Hymenaeus and Philetus misaimed concerning doctrine or teaching; he says that they misaimed concerning the truth, concerning the reality of the New Testament economy. They swerved from the truth by saying that the resurrection had already taken place. This is to claim that there will be no resurrection. This is a serious heresy, for it denies the divine power in life (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thes. 4:16; Rev. 20:4, 6).
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