Watchdogs of Doctrine – 3 Ways (Part 2/3)

I apologize for the length of this post, but I didn’t feel I could break it up.  I hope it impacts you the way the passage did me.

14  Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.

The first way to be a Watchdog of Doctrine is to Eliminate Word Fights, they destroy!.  The key to understanding this verse is to look at the word for “do not wrangle about words”. The Greek word for that phrase is logomachia. John MacArthur defines it, “to wage war with words”. R. Kent Hughes’ definition is “word fights”.  Both of these are good, but I think it is important to note that the emphasis in all definitions is on the fights, the war or the battle.  Paul is commanding Timothy in this passage to stop the fighting, but what fighting is he telling him to stop?

The fights are about words.  Paul is surprisingly quiet here in the description.  He is talking about the fights and about the result of the fight, but he leaves out a discussion of what the words are that they’re fighting about.  I believe this is because the fights are so prominent that the audience doesn’t need to have it restated.  Unfortunately for us, we don’t know the details of those fights.  But what we do know is that Paul is pleading with them to STOP FIGHTING!!!

Paul expands his emphasis here by telling them why: Because it’s useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.  The imagery here is of Sodom and Gomorrah.  You remember, fire reigning down from heaven and wiping out an entire city.  Yeah, that’s what Paul means by “ruin of the hearers”.  Fighting does no good and when people hear you, they will be destroyed.

So you know what?  By God’s grace let’s not to join in arguments, Because Word Fights Destroy.  And we as a church are to eliminate word fights!

Before I move on I want to talk a little bit about why I came to this passage for my study.  I was discussing with someone the importance of understanding the doctrines of grace (a post for another day).  I was pleading with this person to make an understanding of this important.  Their response was to tell me that, “it’s not important, because God tells us not to argue about the Bible.”  I was taken aback and asked for a reference.  This is the verse I was quoted…2 Timothy 2:14.

I want to eliminate any confusion here today.  THAT IS NOT!!!!  WHAT THIS VERSE IS TALKING ABOUT!!!

Paul would never charge us in the presence of a Holy and Blameless God to not take His Word seriously.  Paul is charging the exact opposite.  Paul is saying, “these people are arguing about words and the Word is sitting right there.”  Paul wants them to open it, read it, be affected by it.  It is clear and if we spend time in THE WORD we will be changed by it and it is inarguable.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

15  Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

The second way to be a Watchdog of Doctrine is to Gain God’s Approval with Scripture Study.

Reading this passage, it is easy to define the passage, and I have for most of my life, as the workman in Scripture passage.  However, that is not the emphasis here.  Paul says, be approved by God.  He contrasts ruining those around him with a way to be approved by God.

My dad was an Industrial Engineer.  So as a 5 year old I said, I want to be an Industrial Engineer.  I kept that as my goal.  I went to ASU, got my Industrial Engineering degree.  It took me like 8 years, but at the end of the day, I had my degree.  I followed in my father’s footsteps and worked at Intel.  I was relatively successful and met with dad regularly to get advice on my projects.  I wanted so badly to blow him away with my IE talent, but frankly I wasn’t a great IE.  Over time I started to learn my trade and contributed to some major projects.  Then about 6 or 7 years into my Intel career I had a project that if implemented would save Intel in the neighborhood of half a billion dollars.  I had done it.  I showed the concept to dad and he said that it was a great project.  He told me that I had turned into a better IE than he was.  I had gained the professional approval from my father and it felt amazing.  I had essentially worked my whole life to gain that and I was there.

Man, I love God.  I want to serve and honor Him.  I want to be the man of God described here.  But what I really want is my Father’s approval.  I mean, wrap your head around that.  We’re talking the Lord of the Universe, the Creator of All things, Giver of All things.  Looking at your life and saying, “Yes…that’s exactly what I want from that guy…exactly.”

But here, as the gracious Father that He is, he tells us how to gain that approval.  Work hard in the Scriptures.  Prove yourself as someone that knows and understands so well who He is that you can look at His words, know what He means and shut down word fights with the Word.

There is an emphasis on details here too.  Let’s not only get a broad stroke of Scripture.  When we are “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” we are taking a sharp knife to it and slicing off the tiniest sliver of truth and are affected by the sliver. There is fruit in the details of Scripture and Paul is telling Timothy that God approves of the one that knows the details.

There is one more point that I want to quickly review in this section.  The emphasis of the passage isn’t the workman, but the workman is there.  We need to work hard at this.  We need to work so hard, that we aren’t ashamed of the effort that we’re putting forth.  We need to carve out time in our weeks for extended, deep, fruitful time to work in Scripture.  God promises clarity, but he doesn’t promise simplicity.

We need to be in the Word, with the idea that the Father is watching, the Father is critiquing and the Father will give us His approval when we rightly divide it.

What is God looking for in our study of Scripture? Kistemaker says this well; pay close attention, because this is it!

The man who handles the word of the truth properly does not change, he does not pervert, he does not mutilate, or he does not distort it; neither does he use it with a wrong purpose in mind.  On the contrary, he prayerfully interprets Scripture in the light of Scripture.  He courageously, yet lovingly, applies its glorious meaning to concrete conditions and circumstances, doing this for the glory of God, the conversion of sinners, and the edification of believers.

Did you read that quote twice?  I think you should read it twice.

OK, not this passage is just getting good…

16But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, 17and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.

The third and final way that Paul counsels us to become Watchdogs of Doctrine by telling us to Stop Ungodly Discussions; They Foster Ungodliness.

16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness,

Paul spends the most amount of time on empty chatter. This is an interesting one. Let’s think about this a little bit. Worldly or empty chatter leads to further ungodliness. There is something intrinsically obvious about this. Worldly or empty discussions are discussions that have no basis in God. They are in essence the opposite of Scriptural, deep discussions. So of course, if your discussions are godless than the outcome will be godlessness.

Paul brings up, what seems to be the ringleader of the dissension-creating-faction-builders – Hymeneaous. Paul warned Timothy about this guy. Actually, Hymenaeus was, “handed over to Satan” in 1 Timothy. Meaning that he had already been disciplined out of the church and yet his influence still affects the church. Or most likely he’s still in communication with the church and Paul is saying, it is of the utmost importance to get these guys out of there! Save your flock from them. They’re spreading false doctrine and this has to stop. I find it interesting that Paul explicitly states what this doctrine is. He leaves point one ambiguous, because he wants to emphasize the fight and here he gives us the example, because he wants to emphasize the details. Look at verse 18 again:

men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.

Paul is disgusted here…he has such an emotional response to someone that would call himself a Christian and yet not recognize the eternal glory and joy that we will receive in heaven. Paul is sick of this mishandling of theology and misunderstanding of philosophy. Paul is done with these guys and wants to use strong speech and strong imagery to get rid of them and purge their words from the church. That is why he used the illustration of Gangrene in verse 17.

So let’s talk about that a little, Gangrene is the death of tissue in part of the body. It happens when a body part loses its blood supply. If treatment is delayed, the gangrene spreads quickly and the patient will likely die (even in today’s medical world).  I read a lot more and looked at photos and let’s just say…I don’t want God to use gangrene as an analogy for anything I do or am a part of. Gangrene is nasty stuff and if my words or debates have that affect on people…I can’t imagine it. So let’s keep our discussions centered on Scripture. Let’s not talk about God; better yet, let’s not talk, without the Bible in our hand or on our lips.

We HAVE to be Watchdogs of Doctrine and we HAVE to Eliminate Word Fights, Gain God’s Approval with Scripture Study and put a Stop to Ungodly Discussions.

How? You’ll know my answer…tomorrow.

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  1. October 11th, 2010

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