Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the October 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)
“Don’t Get Sloppy” by David Faust (Lesson Application)
Lesson Aim: Discern how to deal with people as you serve Christ.
By Mark Scott
The “purpose” of the Bible is larger than just functioning as a “how-to” manual for getting along with folks. But one “fruit” of the story of God to redeem the universe through Christ is learning how to deal with people. One person said, “The more I see of people, the more I love my dog.” Jesus called us to love people, but people can drive you crazy. Paul gave Timothy some profound advice about how to stay true to the gospel and still deal with people.
Gently Instruct Them
2 Timothy 2:14-26
Every minister needs to remember Paul’s admonition to gently instruct opponents (those who are ill-disposed). Ministers should strive to never snap or “lose it” . . . to “keep their cool” and not “blow their stack.” Here is the rub—ministers often encounter opponents within the church. This section of the text deals with God’s people (from the “elect” of 2 Timothy 2:10). Yes, sometimes even false teachers are “in” the church. The section that follows—2 Timothy 3:1-9—deals with the outsiders.
Timothy’s main weapons against his opponents were to continue to teach God’s Word and sound warnings about false interpretations of Scripture, avoid getting derailed by ridiculous and unedifying word games, stay correct with doctrine, live a holy life, kill his enemies with kindness, and lead people away from the devil’s schemes.
There is little substitute for continuing to remind and “warn” people. Timothy must call his people back to the gospel and prepare them for anything that would distract from it. One of the enemy’s greatest tricks is to get us to argue about theology. Timothy was warned against quarreling at least three times in this section (vv. 14, 16, 23). Even though Patrick Henry said Alexander Campbell was an outstanding debater, Campbell questioned how much debates accomplished. They tend to be of no value, ruin those who listen, cause people to become more and more ungodly, and produce quarrels.
However, there are occasions to enter debate, but mostly just when the very heart of the gospel is threatened. Paul called out two people, Hymenaeus and Philetus, for their spiritualizing of the resurrection. While conversion to Christ is a type of resurrection (John 5:24), our bodily resurrection has not happened yet (1 Corinthians 15:35-58). To believe otherwise is to shipwreck faith (1 Timothy 1:19-20) and destroy it. God knows the real leaders from the counterfeit ones (Numbers 16:5; Nahum 1:7; Isaiah 26:13).
In contrast to his opponents, Timothy was to think of himself as a noble (honorable) vessel—something on the order of gold and silver. Instead of being trapped in word games, Timothy was to be useful and prepared for good works. Fleeing his youthful passions and pursuing (as in hunting down) Christian virtues, he was to be kind, capable of teaching others, and gently lead people to the privilege of repentance (Acts 5:31; 11:18).
Walk Away from Them
2 Timothy 3:1-9
It takes the wisdom of Solomon to know when not to get trapped into arguments and when to stand toe-to-toe with an opponent. But it is not cowardice at times to avoid certain people (Proverbs 26:4; Matthew 7:6; Acts 13:51). Some people, including Christians, are gifted at draining others. Having marked out Timothy’s opponents in the church in the previous section, Paul turned to opponents outside of the church in this section.
Since Pentecost, believers have been living in the last days (Acts 2:16-17). These days, which lead up to the return of Christ, are filled with terrible times. How bad are these terrible times? They are bad to the 18th power. Paul’s vice list contains 18 words, and half of those words begin with the first letter in the Greek alphabet, “alpha” (which when attached to the front of the word makes it negative). The devil always deals in the negative. Maybe the keys to this vice catalog are the first and last items—lovers of themselves and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. When people are consumed with those, Hell shows up on earth. People who give themselves to these things are to be avoided (turned away from or shunned).
If they are not avoided, they can worm their way (gain entrance) into the most gullible (foolish or immature). In this case some of the women in Ephesus were the targets. These women, for whatever reason, were weighed down with sins and evil desires. They were not successful in arriving at the truth. They were being influenced by teachers who were similar to the fake magicians of Moses’ day (Jannes and Jambres, Exodus 7:11; 9:11). Time would prove them for what they were. As harsh as it sounds to a Christian, sometimes it is best to just walk away.
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.