Sermon Manuscript . . .
A Special Care for the Lost and Confused 2 Timothy 2:25-26
Becoming useful to your Savior–growing into a vessel of honor
2 Timothy 2:20-26, part 4
Do you know about phobias? A phobia is an intense, crippling fear. Acrophobia is the fear of high places, claustrophobia is the fear of closed places, and arachnophobia is the fear of South American spiders. Two and one half million Americans suffer from a phobia called agoraphobia, the fear of open places and unfamiliar situations. These are men and women who are deathly afraid of leaving the four walls of their house–they stay inside. Two and one half million Americans are so afraid of leaving the front door of their house, they’ll stay inside for days, weeks, months–some even years. Often they’ve been raised to think that the outside world is so dangerous they remain inside.
Today, I’m convinced most Christians suffer from the same fear. I’ve often wondered why so many Christians, when they look closely at their own lives, come up with the same complaint–there is something missing in my Christian life. I’m bored–the fire keeps going out. I think I’m catching a vision of why. I think we’ve forgotten what we were intended to be. I believe we’ve forgotten what Jesus Christ Himself created us to do. I believe we have chosen to play it safe. We’ve built nice, familiar, boxes around ourselves–boxes that are safe and comfortable, but boxes that are boring.
David Broin, in his excellent book, In the Gap, mentions some of these boxes. There is the box called “convert Christianity”, when life in Christ gets so big that it’s simply making it safely into the kingdom. There’s “character Christianity”, when life in Christ is no bigger than simply keeping my own spiritual act together. Some of us are caught in the box called “closer Christianity”, where life in Christ is nothing more than the nice, warm fellowship I have every week with my Christian brothers and sisters.
Or there is “consumption Christianity”, when life in Christ is no bigger than getting my own needs met and no one else’s. Some of us are caught in the box called “career Christianity”, which boxes up life in Christ into simply getting the good paying job, a family and that’s it. Maybe a lot of us are growing up in the box called “church Christianity”, when life in Christ is nothing more than what happens on Sunday. Many of us here are in a box. We’re secure, we’re comfortable, we may even feel spiritual–but we’re bored, unfulfilled, and not experiencing a truly abundant life.
Yet if Jesus Christ is living in us and through us and we genuinely dedicate our lives to live for His glory, your life will not be boring, but in fact will be full, abundant, and a reflection of Christ’s heart. What is the heart of Christ? It’s a lifestyle that seeks to save that which is lost. It’s a heart that doesn’t want anyone to perish. It’s a willingness to sacrifice yourself to rescue those in trouble with God. A normal Christian life involves personal evangelism.
“But Chris, just the thought of evangelism strikes terror in me! It awakens unwanted feelings of fear, pressure, and guilt in me.” Why is that? Maybe you grew up under teachers who overemphasized personal evangelism and established unrealistic expectations. Or you’re an introvert, who has been repeatedly intimidated by extroverts who can’t understand why witnessing on street corners is such a “stretch” for you.
Still others of you hate to admit that every attempt you’ve made to tell strangers about Christ has been an outright disaster. I have no intention of loading another burden on your back this morning. Authentic evangelism is never motivated by guilt. True evangelism brings joy, enthusiasm, anticipation and confidence to your life. It blasts boring into blessing. It turns tedious into terrific. But evangelism as a way of life, only comes from seeing God’s heart for reaching the lost.
Not only does Jesus say, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men,” but Paul tells Timothy a useful tool in God’s service has a heart for reaching unbelievers with the Gospel–not only the receptive ones, but the ones who are fighting Christ, His Word and you. Turn in your Bibles to 2 Timothy 2 and follow along in your outline. Paul is about to die in a Roman prison as he writes Timothy, who he calls his son in the faith, to pursue those qualities which will make him effective and useful for God’s purposes.
Verse 20 starts with a word picture. “Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.” The honorable vessels represent believers who are faithful and useful to the Lord. They are the good soldiers (verses 3 to 4), the competitive athletes (verse 5), the hard-working farmers (verse 6). By contrast, the dishonorable vessels are the cowardly, entangled soldiers, the cheating unfocused athlete, and the lazy farmer–defiled people fit only for the most menial, undistinguished purposes.
So how do you become the useful tool for God’s glory and your good?
#1 A Useful Tool will have a CLEANSED Life
Verse 21a, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor”
#2 A Fruitful Tool will desire a SANCTIFIED Heart
Verse 21b, “sanctified”
#3 An Effective Tool will pursue becoming USEFUL to God
Verse 21c, “useful to the Master”
#4 An Impactful Tool will choose to do WORKS for God
Verse 21d, “prepared for every good work”
#5 A Useable Tool will develop a PURE Heart
Verse 22, “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”
#6 An Efficient Tool will discern how to AVOID Arguments
Verse 23, “But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.”
#7 A Competent Tool of Christ will pursue a GRACIOUS Manner
Verse 24, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged.”
On the heels of commanding Timothy to reject foolish speculations and expecting God’s servant to not argue but be kind, able to teach, and be patient when wronged–Paul wraps up this chapter with his focus on Tim becoming an effective servant, even in Ephesus, even with false teachers and deceived sheep internally and persecution externally.
As he wraps up this focus, Paul lists two more qualities for Timothy to pursue–one about humility and another about evangelism in verses 25 and 26. Read aloud, “With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” Do you want to mirror God’s heart in dealing with people who are in opposition to the Gospel, even those who might embrace errant doctrine in the church? Here it is.
#8 A Useful Servant will nurture a HUMBLE Spirit
Verse 25a, “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition.” This is the opposite of what the media touts as influential. To be influential in fantasy land, you’re to be the tough, quiet, independent loner. But our Lord says you’re to be gentle–actually more than gentle. Gentle is meek. In the ancient Greek world, the word gentleness was used of horses that were broken for riding.
So the picture the word gentle paints shows a particular kind of training, where special care was given to bring the animal’s will into submission to the rider, without breaking its energetic and lively spirit. Gentleness, or meekness, is a strong quality. In today’s vocabulary, meekness carries the idea of wimpiness. But this biblical term has no relation to weakness, but denotes power under willing control. Like a nurse dealing with difficult children, or a teacher dealing with rebellious student–the useful Christian is meek but strong–gentle yet firm.
This exact usage of gentleness is used only here and in 1 Thessalonians 2:7, which gives you a picture of what gentleness does. “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.” The useful servant of the Lord will be affable, easy to speak to, approachable in his demeanor–not irritable, intolerant, or scornful, not even toward those who err. This meekness is a massive strength of character under control.
Verse 25, “with gentleness” means in order to impact others, you need to show humility, mildness, even-temperedness, and consideration. Of course our Lord is the supreme example. Christ, the perfect God-man is meek. In Matthew 11:29 Jesus says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew himself quotes a prophecy of Christ in 21:5, “Behold your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey.”
Although Jesus was God incarnate, and at any moment could have destroyed His enemies with a word–or as Matthew 26:53 states, Christ had at His disposal “more than twelve legions of angels.” Rather, Christ chose to submit to every indignity, because that was His Father’s will for Him in His incarnation.
Isaiah 42:3 says of God’s perfect Servant that, “a bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish.” A bruised reed represents something that was very delicate–reminding us the Lord Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy because He dealt gently with everyone. Think of how kind Christ was to the woman at the well, to Martha and Mary, to His disciples, and to Pilate. The servant of the Lord must cultivate this kind of gentleness–he must not be harsh.
At the same time, the Lord never let His enemies get away with their terrible attitudes and scandalous accusations. They were often malicious, and Christ rebuked their insolence–but He did so calmly and rationally. He never ridiculed them or reviled them. He answered their loaded questions honestly and fearlessly. He boldly taught them truth, but He was always self-controlled and polite. The useful servant should seek to do the same–truth and grace.
The fruitful, influential servant of Jesus, who has great strength of conviction, who may have leadership authority in the church, willingly expresses his convictions, even exercises his authority, in a spirit of gentleness. The truly meek person is submissive as a matter of choice, because he wants to obey his Master and grow to become like Him.
John MacArthur says, “Jesus never defended Himself, but when they desecrated His Father’s Temple, He made a whip and beat them. Meekness says, ‘I’ll never defend myself, but I’ll die defending God.’ Twice Jesus cleansed the Temple. He blasted the hypocrites. He condemned false leaders of Israel. He fearlessly uttered divine judgment upon people. And yet the Bible says He was meek. For the Christian, therefore, meekness is power used only in the defense of God.”
This gentleness is translated in the New Testament meekness, consideration and humility. In order for the Lord’s servant to be influential for Christ’s purposes, gentleness allows him to be qualified to teach, to impart counsel and give instruction. This kind of gentleness reflects a spirit of humility that does not focus on self, but on the Lord and on others.
It has nothing to do with impotence or shyness or weakness or cowardice. It is power supplied by, and willingly put under the control of, the Holy Spirit, in faithful submission to the Word of God. When one is truly meek, he does not talk about himself but he talks of Christ. But gentleness will not always be reciprocated or even appreciated. Your teaching will at times meet with ridicule, meekness with insult, and consideration paid back with injury. Still, gentleness allows God’s servant to hold up under evil.
That’s where it gets difficult. Who are you being gentle and meek for here? For the opposition, those who teach error, and friends, who are embracing error? Yet where meekness becomes motivational is why you’re gentle–to share the Gospel and possibly see even a few rebels respond to the truth. The reality of Christ, the power of Christ, the Gospel of Christ are shown in gentle meekness.
And gentleness will allow you to be (verse 25) “correcting those who are in opposition.” Correcting is a colorful Greek word–it refers to shaping a child through teaching and discipline with knowledge, skill, morals and social behavior so they become a well-rounded citizen. The word correcting means to train, instruct, and raise a child. The correcting here is like a parent with a small child, requiring firm consistency and patient gentleness.
Now who are you seeking to influence? Those who are in opposition–literally they are against you, opposed, setting themselves firmly against you continually. These are the false teachers and those they’ve influenced. Be gentle–even to them. But why, what is your goal? They are doing harm to the church, influencing others with error, insulting the Savior with their heresy. Well, God has a great goal.
#9 A Useful Servant will seek the SALVATION of Others
Verse 25b, “if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” An honorable vessel of the Lord will have a compassionate heart towards those who don’t know Christ. Paul here focuses on the expression of compassion when correcting those who are in opposition.
When correcting others, the godly Christian has only one goal for the non-Christian and one goal for the Christian–for the non-Christian to come to Christ and for the Christian to become like Christ. When dealing with false teaching and bad doctrine, it is the ultimate test of your character. Can you be gentle, verse 24, in talking to others who are in opposition, verse 25?
And verse 25 contains the hope, “if perhaps God may grant them repentance.” Literally, “God may possibly give repentance.” Look at the first two words of verse 25. John Calvin interprets the expression, “if perhaps,” as Paul highlighting the difficulty of the situation. If perhaps means the circumstances are nearly desperate or close to beyond hope.
So Paul is telling Timothy and you, in order to be a useful tool in God’s hands means you are to exercise meekness even to the most unworthy and most difficult people–those who embrace error. Even if it seems hopeless, you’re to make a gentle attempt. But this is not a last resort, hoping we can persuade them to repent before God. No, repentance is never by human effort, never by your own power, not by your choice.
Paul says it in verse 25 clearly, that “God might grant them repentance.” Paul is not saying he hopes they’ll repent, just in case God fails to give repentance. No, God must grant repentance for them to respond. Repentance doesn’t mean they feel sorry for what they’ve done. Repentance signifies a genuine change of mind, change of heart, and change of direction.
The first Christians understood that God alone gives repentance, when they said in Acts 11:18, “God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” All genuine repentance is the product of God’s sovereign grace, just as is every other aspect of salvation. Why? Ephesians 2:7, “In order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
No person, no matter how sincere or determined, can truly repent and change his own sinful thoughts and ideas, nor correct his own sinful behavior. Only God can work the miracle of repentance in the heart. Repentance leads disobedient believers out of their sin and falsehood into the knowledge of the truth.
Second Corinthians 7:10 to 11 describes genuine repentance, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.”
Repentance has to do with a change of mind. Regeneration has to do with a change of will. Repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are two sides of the same transaction. Acts 20:21, “solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In the New Testament, two main words are used for repentance. One means to regret. It has to do with the annoyance we feel when we’re discovered in a sinful act. We’re more concerned with the unpleasant consequences that result from being caught than we are with the need for deep remorse. It is used in connection with Judas (Matthew 27:3). It typically means worldly sorry and is not the repentance of salvation.
The other word for repentance means to change one’s mind for the better. It is a change of heart and mind that abandons former dispositions and results in a new self, new behavior and ongoing regret over former behavior and dispositions. True repentance results in forsaking sin. Since conversion to Christ is totally in the hands of God, then the type of response from those you share with is incidental.
If today they are the biggest jerk at work, the grossest perv at school, the meanest girl you know, the hardest relative to talk to, the proudest scholar, the most unreasonable parent or unteachable kid–tomorrow they can be suddenly, fully, magnificently changed by the power of God into someone new. Knowing that faith and repentance are gifts from God restores hope, encourages Gospel confidence, motivates your personal efforts to share the truth with rebels.
It is our duty to be sowing and watering, while we look to God for transformations. The useful vessel knows it is God who saves, God who transforms, God who changes others. We give the good news, God fills the pews. We share, God saves. Repentance is a complete change-over in mental and moral outlook. Repentance is a radical change of view that leads to a radical change of life.
So here Paul describes repentance as leading to “acknowledgment of [the] truth.” Paul hopes those who embrace false doctrine will be converted from their habit of majoring on the minors, and getting off the doctrinal track. Then he hopes they will recognize and openly embrace the Gospel centered in Christ. When God grants repentance, verse 25 says it will lead “to the knowledge of the truth.”
Knowledge represents more than mere factual information. It is a deep, thorough, spiritual knowledge of God’s truth, which, as with repentance, only God can supply. “Leading to the knowledge of the truth” means coming to understand the Scripture as true and valid. The Bible becomes correct and the only source of reality.
When the Holy Spirit is at work bringing a person to repentance, it will always be naturally followed by an acknowledging of the truth–again, accurate, experiential knowledge. The repentant person will obtain that kind of knowledge of the truth. They will affirm not only the truth of the Gospel, but the truth of God’s entire Word. The Spirit of truth will show them the truth.
This must happen, because without Christ every man is blinded and is a rebel to God living in opposition to His truth. Yet when you know the truth of salvation, then you also look at verse 26, “and they may come to their senses.” Only through God’s gracious provision of repentance and the knowledge of His truth that anyone, including sinning believers, may come to their spiritual senses. Come to their senses literally means to return to soberness, indicating falsehood and sin produce a kind of spiritual inebriation–a drunken stupor resulting in the loss of judgment and proper control of one’s faculties.
“Come to their senses” is a compound verb and only occurs here in the New Testament. “Come to their senses” means to curb the controlling influence of inordinate emotions and become reasonable, just like you are sobering up from the influence of alcohol. The destructive effect of false teaching and sin numbs the conscience, confuses the mind, erodes conviction, and paralyzes the will. You are drunk with error before Christ regenerates you.
And until you are born again, you are dead in error, rotting in false beliefs, and fully persuaded by the lies of the enemy broadcast in this world on CNN. It becomes hard for those who buy into error and false teaching to even listen to the truth. So if there’s going to be a change, no one less than God will have to pull it off. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to awaken His adversaries to their senses. Through His Spirit God arouses them from a dull stupor, and what He does next is amazing.
He delivers them “out of the snare of the devil”–that is, out of the trap set by the devil. Verse 26 says, “escape from the snare of the devil.” The slanderer creates a snare–a quick-reacting trap for catching birds or small animals. Sinners are the devil’s captives, and they have been snared by him. They need to be set free and this recovery hinges on God rescuing them through the Gospel.
You know who the devil is, right? Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 tell us he was the highest of all the angels, until pride was found in his heart. He fell into sin, led a third of the angels with him–then tempted Adam and Eve to sin as well. He is not all-powerful—he is a creation, but He hates God and you, and wants to destroy anything that honors God, including honorable vessels like you.
The word translated “snare” means a trap and refers to the allurements that the devil uses to catch people. The word snare means captured while still living. The participle captured alive points to an ongoing enslavement that has already happened and continues on forever until God intervenes. The devil is at work–perfect passive participle.
Hymenaeus and Philetus are prime examples of men snared by the devil, now enslaved to do the devil’s work into propagating false doctrine and thus disrupting the church and overthrowing the faith of some. Wow–God is telling you non-Christians can’t understand the truth of God’s Word. They are spiritually drunk on error and enslaved by the devil to do his bidding.
The end of verse 26 says devil—“having been held captive by him to do his will.” Unbelievers are enslaved and errant believers can enslave themselves to do Satan’s will. One commentator wrote, “Paul was at the moment emphasizing the fact of these captives being deprived of their own will, and made subservient to the will of another [Satan].”
God may give these captives repentance so that they’ll recover the knowledge of truth in order to then regain themselves out of the snare of the devil–after having been held captive by him and made subservient to his will. When the Lord shines the light of His truth upon you, He awakens you out of that deadly sleep, waking you to His truth and breaking the snares by which you are bound. Then having removed all obstacles, He’ll train you how to live in obedience to Him.
But only God can pull that off. Verse 26 ends with “held captive.” Captured alive by him, the devil–to do his will. His wishes, his desires, his plans and his wants–non-Christians are doing what the devil wants, not what God wants. But God’s provision of genuine repentance and knowledge of His truth enable a believer to escape from the snare of the devil, after having been held captive by him to do his will.
Scary isn’t it? Because of sin and errant doctrine, the devil can actually snare and hold a believer temporarily captive to do his will. The vessel of dishonor (which is an errant believer or make believer) becomes a pawn of Satan to work his evil will within the very body of Christ. Such is the terrible and tragic power of sin and error.
The vessel of honor (a believer) will seek to share the Gospel with those enslaved to sin and error. Wow–this is war! Aren’t you glad our gracious God is faithful? Paul assures us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that He “will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.”
Not only does the Lord know, 2 Peter 2:9, “how to rescue the godly from temptation.” But He even promises His unfaithful, dishonorable vessels (errant believers or make-believers) that, (1 John 1:9) “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
A Gentleness is a Christlike quality for EVERY believer–dependently pursue it
Personality is not the issue, character is. I am still striving and struggling with growing gentle–join me in this effort to be Christlike, even with enemies.
B Evangelism toward difficult people is not only to reach them, but grow YOU
God is interested in you being a faithful servant, and He is calling you and me to share with those (especially in our church) who are errant in some manner. His purpose is to possibly rescue them, but definitely to grow you. With others outside our church, catch this–the Gospel is shared mainly to those who are willing to hear it. But it is also to be shared with those who are opposed to it.
Be gentle but firm–share with them graciously as well as truthfully. Remember it is better to make the Gospel an issue and a struggle now than for the lost to learn too late that it was their only hope as they stand before Christ later.
C Pray for God to OPEN hearts to the Gospel
God must grant the lost repentance. God must help the lost understand God’s Gospel from God’s Word. God will sober the lost up from their drunkenness to error, and God will free them from being a slave of the devil to do his bidding. God alone can save your lost family and friends and He will do so by giving them the gift of repentance and faith, turning from their sin and depending in Christ alone through the Holy Spirit alone.
Maybe you are being called today–then ask God to open your heart. Pray Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Pray John 3:3, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” Let’s pray.