Speak the Truth in Love

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Sunday past I made passing mention of 2 Timothy 2:24-26 in the sermon as a text the reminds us that we have a significant, but limited, responsibility toward people in their spiritual journey.

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, . . . (2 Timothy 2:24-25)

Among the several things that the Lord's bond-servant is to be there stands out one thing we are not to be, quarrelsome. To be quarrelsome is to be prone to argue, dispute, and engage in a verbal wrestling match with other people. We are to speak the truth to be sure. It even says we are to correct those who are opposed, that is opposed to the the truth. But our correcting is to be with gentleness. This instruction to not be quarrelsome becomes more focused when the surrounding context in 2 Timothy is considered.

But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. 2 Timothy 2:23

Speculations, especially when they are rooted in folly and arise from ignorance, inevitably lead to quarrels. Although some of us may enjoy a good debate or argument, we are to refuse to rise to the occasion. This desire to argue or debate is identified in the prior verse.

Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22

The inclination to quarrel is identified as arising from “youthful lusts/desires.” To avoid quarrels we are told to flee from such desires and instead to chase after other things such as righteousness, faith, love, and peace. These things it says arise from a pure heart. The implication is that the desire to debate and quarrel is the characteristic of immaturity and an impure heart. There is a humility that walks away from an argument out of love for other people.

In order to be able to correct those who are in opposition and to know when something is speculation or not we must have a solid grasp of the truth. Without knowing the truth how can we correct error? We can't. Without knowing the truth how can we tell if something is speculation or not? We can't. So earlier in this same chapter we find instructions that we are to be diligent and careful to understand the Word of God.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

Accurately handling the word of truth is referring to careful interpretation. We are God's workmen. To do the job God has called us to do we must be diligent and work hard to understand what God has actually said. Taking verses out of context, repeating what we heard someone say, thinking we already know the truth, are all ways we bring shame on ourselves as God's workmen. Additionally, it leaves us ill-equipped to correct error or identify speculation that we are to avoid.

Significantly this verse commanding us to handle God's word accurately is sandwiched between two verses warning us not to get distracted from the truth.

. . . .solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. 2 Timothy 2:14

Be diligent . . . Handle the word of truth accurately . . .

But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, 2 Timothy 2:16

In addition to refusing to quarrel about things that are speculation (2:23) we are told to not wrangle about words and to avoid worldly and empty chatter. In other words, we are to be sharp in the truth of the Word of God and to stay away from talk that is not profitable. Speculations lead to quarrels; Wrangling about word leads to the ruin of the hearers; Empty chatter leads for further ungodliness. The bond-servant of God is to steer clear of these things . . .

. . . if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses . . . 2 Timothy 2:25,26

It is our love for God and for people that causes us to control what we talk about so that people might be saved and so God might be glorified. This love is behind the command about controlling our speech recorded in Ephesians 4.

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

Let us put a filter on our words and conversations because the truth is, people's eternal lives depend on it.

Serving with joy,

Pastor Jeff

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