Theme: Don’t Miss the Target
In this week’s lessons, Paul reminds Timothy of those things he is to avoid, as well as those that he must practice, in order to please the Lord in his life and service.
Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:14-15
What does a bad workman do, spiritually speaking? Paul mentions two men who have wandered away from the truth. When we think of wandering away, it sounds similar to what he talked about in verse 15 with handling the truth in a correct and straight way. Certainly, that is a very valid idea, but Paul uses another image that carries with it an interesting element of meaning. The strength of the image is seen in the Greek word he uses here. It’s a word that has the idea of missing a target, which makes us think of archery.
Paul is saying to Timothy that a bad workman shoots at the target but he misses it. It goes off to the left side or it goes off to the right side. If you have ever gone target shooting you probably know this from experience unless you happen to be a very good shot. Most of us don’t hit the target all the time. Or to use another illustration for people who like to golf more than shoot. Golfers know what it’s like to approach the tee, take a good swing at the ball, only to see it hook one way or slice another. That’s what a bad workman does, and Paul does not want Timothy to be like these two men he mentions.
I’m afraid that too much preaching is like that, and it’s unfortunate if it’s true. I think one of the most difficult things that young preachers have to learn is to preach what is in the text. I think there are times for digressions as long as we realize that we are doing it and point out that we are doing it, hopefully with a good reason for it. There are even times to introduce personal opinions that may or may not be a direct implication of what’s taught there as long as we introduce them as personal opinions. But there is a great danger in digressing and that’s often what happens in the case of young preachers. It is more difficult than it might sound for the preacher to simply study the text and see what the text really says, and then in clear language communicate that meaning to the people who are listening, using appropriate illustrations and making thoughtful applications.
A bad workman errs precisely along those lines. This is why your view of Scripture is so important. I just had the opportunity this past week to review the new book written by J. I. Packer, which is still in galley form, titled Beyond the Battle for the Bible. Now if you know anything about the battle over Scripture that is going on, you know that other titles have preceded this one by Packer. A title like this might suggest either that the battle is not important or that it is time to move past the ideas that have caused the battle. However, this not what Packer is doing. Packer is talking about going beyond the battle in another sense.
The doctrine of inerrancy is the essence of the cause of the battle, but as Packer stresses, undergirding inerrancy is the more basic doctrine of biblical authority. Our view of the Bible is critical because unless you regard this book as the revelation from God, and therefore inerrant and utterly trustworthy in all it states, such a person will inevitably sit in judgment upon the Bible. As a result, the Bible will not accomplish its purposes in that individual. A person will read something there that he doesn’t like and conclude that this is probably a part of the Bible that is in error. He then decides that he will disregard that part and go on to something else.
Instead of that kind of wrong approach, what’s necessary is to begin with a commitment to Scripture as the inerrant Word of God, which we do not judge but which sits in judgment upon us; and then on that basis allow the Bible to do the very thing that God intends it to do, namely, to lead us into an obedient and responsive relationship to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what Packer means when he is proposing the need to get beyond the battle for the Bible, which for some people is concerned chiefly about inerrancy.
Now secondly, in verses 20 and 21 Paul turns to the image of a clean vessel in a large house. He says there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay. Some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. The man who cleanses himself from the ignoble purposes will be an instrument for noble purposes, and therefore made holy and useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. I think you have two distinctions in that verse. In order to understand it you have to keep it clear. First, there is the distinction between vessels for a noble use and an ignoble use. Then secondly, there is the distinction between vessels that are clean and vessels that are dirty.
How does Paul describe a spiritually bad workman?
Why is it important to have a right belief about Scripture in order to be good workmen?
What is the second image Paul uses in his instruction to Timothy? What two distinctions are given?
Reflection: How do you see biblical teaching being ignored, altered, or diluted today by professing Christians? Over what subjects is this happening, and why do you think it is occurring?