In this world and life, all mankind at some time in their lives seek some sort of approval. Seeking approval has driven many, many sportsmen and women to the edge physical limits so that they might receive the accolades of what they define as relevant. Whether it is the approval of those around us (our parents, our spouses, our bosses, etc.) or more importantly our Lord. For some of us we may say that we don’t care what other people think, but when it comes down to it, all of us at least care about our Lord’s approval. So what does it mean to receive God’s approval? For some of us we would say that we receive God’s approval when we receive salvation within our lives. For others, God’s approval can only be attained if we embrace a holy and sanctified life. For others, God’s approval upon their souls is not anything we can define but only can be defined by our Lord. If we look over the history of mankind we see that our definition of God’s approval of our lives, has changed over the centuries. From those who defined who completely separated themselves from mankind entirely devoted to God, to those who would beat themselves physically holding to scripture in 1 Corinthians 9:27; to today where our approval of God is just a belief in a higher being. These are just some examples of mankind’s endeavor to seek the approval of our Lord and creator. So this morning we need to ask ourselves, are we approved by the God of all creation? How do we know that we are approved by our Lord? Is it just something that we believe or is there scriptural guidance for what it means to be approved by God? And if there is, does our life align with what scripture calls us to within the context of being approved by our Lord and Savior?
Scripture – 2 Timothy 2:14-26 (ESV)
A Worker Approved by God
14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”
20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
Engaging the Word
Remembering our Purpose
We begin today in verse 14 where we see as Paul writes to Timothy one whom he has been called to disciple. It seems that Paul has some concerns about Timothy’s walk in our Lord and for those Timothy is guiding within his ministry. So to that end Paul begins this portion of this chapter by pointing back to the previous portion of chapter 2. Within verse 14 Paul tells Timothy to “remind the people of these things”. So what are these things? So what are these things that Paul has spoken about? If we look back at the first 13 verses of chapter 2 we see that there are two key concepts that he is calling Timothy to remember. The first is found in verse 8 where Paul reminds Timothy that “Jesus Christ is risen from the dead”. The second reminder is found in verses 10-13 where Paul tells Timothy that salvation is found in the eternal glory of our Lord Jesus Christ and that “if we have died with him we will also live with him”. That “if we endure we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will deny us and that we are faithless, he remains faithful.” These are the truths that Paul is reminding Timothy, the church and by extension us today.
Unfortunately, the church is constantly tempted to get its focus off of the message that really matters, and is tempted to become an entertainment center, a social service agency, a mutual admiration society, or any number of other things. But this temptation must be resisted, and the church should constantly remember these things. So today, and in the days to come as we define our walk as a church and as the people of God to lead the church we are called to remind ourselves of what matters. It is not entertainment programs, or the social service programs and anything else that we would like to see our church that will define our approval. It is only the these clear callings as the people of God.
What is the Truth?
So knowing that these are our callings as the people of God how do we as the people of God clearly define our purpose within these truths? Paul begins by pointing this out in verses 14 and 15, where he begins by pointing to those who through their words bring about division amongst the body with their quarrelling words, not correctly handling the Word of Truth. So what does it mean to not correctly handle the word of truth? Does it mean that we just read the Word of God on a daily basis and then say that we can divide the truth? Does it mean that we use our minds to divide the truth? How do we “correctly or rightly” divide or handle the Word of Truth. To understand this instruction we have understand what the Word of Truth’s purpose is? For that we have to understand Hebrews 4:12.
“For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
In order for us to rightly handle the Word of Truth, we have to embrace the Word of Truth’s purpose in our lives. It requires that we embrace the sharper two edged sword as that which we love and desire after the division of our soul. Unfortunately, we in our twisted natures too often take God’s Word and try to form it to our wills and desires. It is for this reason Paul uses the illustration of Hymenaeus and Philetus here is this passage. It is for this reason that mankind has twisted the word throughout history to form theologies that are far from the heart of God. As Charles Spurgeon put it “Swords are meant to cut and hack, and wound, and kill with, and the word of truth is for pricking men in the heart and killing their sins. The word of God is not committed to God’s ministers to amuse men with its glitter, nor to charm them with the jewels in its hilt, but to conquer their souls for Jesus.” (Spurgeon)
So how do we correctly handle the Word of God? Well correctly handling the Word of God requires that
- Rightly handle the Word of God, as one would rightly handle a sword. The Word of God is not to be played with. It is not a book of quaint stories. It is both real life and real truth revealed through the heart of God. It is historically dependent. It is relevant for yesterday, today and forever.
- Correctly handling the word of God requires that we plow straight with the Word of God, properly presenting the essential doctrines given by our Lord and Savior. “Love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself”. This is not a doctrine to study God and give food and stuff to those in need. This is a calling a lay our souls down for the sake of the cross so that we might not only embrace the hope of Christ in our lives, but give the hope of Christ for those in need.
- Correctly handling the Word of God also requires both the Meat and the Milk. Although the Milk of the Word is critical for the early foundation of our souls to which all our salvation is built we are required as believers to also eat of the Meat to which our souls can experience the full purpose of God.
Before any of us can realize the approval of our Lord’s stamp upon our lives, these truths revealed through the Word of God are critical to embrace. It is in embracing these truth that we can experience the approval beyond all approvals. It is in this that we can fully realize the rest of this passage within our lives.
Approved within God’s Foundation
So now knowing that we need to correctly handle the Word of Truth in our life correctly to reveal the approval stamp of our Lord what does an approved child of God reveal. In verse 19 we see the bearing of our Lord’s seal upon his children where Paul provides two critical elements.
“The Lord knows those who are his.”
“Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”
The Lord knows
The Lord knows those who are his, is an outside perspective seeks to be a very general understanding. However if we look at Romans 8:16-17 we see the “the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God and if children then heirs, hears of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we might be glorified with him.” In other words, I cannot tell you whether you are approved by God. Those you love cannot tell you that you are approved by God. Only the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit reveals that we are children of God. It is only when we suffer with our Lord that we can be assured that we will be glorified with our Lord. This is not a suffering within the trials and tribulations of this life, but rather it is when we suffer with him. In other words, it is when we suffer with our Lord as those around us live in sin. It is when we suffer with our Lord when we or those around us do not reveal the promise He desires to give us. It is when we suffer with our Lord when the promise and instruction of His Word is not revealed within our lives. It is then that His Spirit bears witness with our spirit. It is then we experience what it means to be a child of God.
Departing from Iniquity
The second aspect of this verse reveals that we are called to call upon his name and depart from the iniquity of our sin. Our Lord revealed this truth when said to his disciples in Luke 9:62, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” The approval stamp of our Lord upon our lives is revealed in a heart that does not turn back to that which he has walked away from. Too often we play with our sin, allowing Satan to continue to hold us to the sin that binds us. Paul then provides us in verse 22 the sins that too often draw us back from that glory and victory our Lord desires to reveal in our lives. In verse 22, rather than spelling out all of the sins that too often draw us away from the presence of our Lord Paul illustrates this sin by speaking of our youthful passions. What are these youthful passions? If any of us were to think of our youthful passions we could probably all place it within the context of selfishness. Whether it was the sexual desires, the manipulation of those around us for our own selfish purposes, or our opinionated perspectives that thought our thoughts were more important than anything else in this world. Within the youthful passions lies so many sins that are revealed through the hearts of men and women on a daily basis. Unfortunately these youthful passions unless removed by the hand of God will continue to draw us back into the sin that binds us.
In this passage of scripture we have discovered what is the true calling of this church. It is not to be an entertainment center, a social service agency, a mutual admiration society, or any number of other things. It is to be a people who experience salvation through our risen Savior, dying with our Lord so that we might live with him in all things. We discovered where the truth of our approval before God lies. It does not lie within the things that we do or say. Rather it lies within the way we rightly handle the Word of Truth. That to rightly handle the Word of God, we are called to handle it like a sword. That the Word of God is not be played with nor is it to be limited to the time period in which the events occurred but that it is relevant to every aspect of our hearts today. That to correctly handle the word of God requires that we plow straight with the Word of God not interpreting how we desire to see it but how our Lord desires to reveal it. That correctly handling the Word calls us to eat and drink both the meat and milk of the Word, which means that we are called to embrace those truths that are both easy and hard to digest. Lastly we discovered today what it means to bear the stamp of our Lord. That experiencing the stamp of our Lord is revealed when His Spirit speaks to our Spirit, both in those things that our Lord loves and those things that cause suffering. That our stamp of approval is revealed when we depart the iniquity of our youthful passions with reckless abandon earnestly seeking after his heart for lives. This is what it means to be approved by our Lord. This is what it means to know and be known by the God of all creation.