I Saw an Angel in the Marble - 2 Timothy chapter 2 verses 14 to 18 - J Stewart Gillespie
The repetition of Divine truth is the last bastion of defence against error. Where truth from the past remains unstated in the present it is forgotten in the future; 'put them in remembrance' (2 Timothy chapter 2 verse 14). It is likely that they already knew these things but we all need reminded. In the absence of Divine truth repeated and re-emphasised we could perhaps become confused by men like Hymenaeus and Philetus.
Before Timothy reminds anyone else of Divine truth he must first remind himself, through 'study' of the Word of God. Time and effort, sacrifice and preparation are all needed in the service of Christ. We ought indeed to be Spirit led and Spirit filled and we require also to be bible saturated! In these studies God is the ultimate judge of our ministry and of the fruit of our labours and not those we seek to serve! At times ministry and bible teaching once ignored or rejected can in time have proven itself to have been incredibly apt and relevant!
One of the keys of bible study given to Timothy lies in the challenge to 'rightly dividing the word of truth'! Is Timothy to dismantle the Word of Truth? Is Timothy to dissect the Word of Truth? Is this about the distinctions in the Word of Truth? Is this about the distinctions of:
- Law and grace?
- Israel and church?
- Salvation and sanctification?
- Salvation and baptism?
Could we be guilty of being better at taking the Bible to bits than putting it back together again at times? There is some help here with the translation of "rightly divide" in the Greek useage of this same word in the LXX:
- Proverbs 3:6 'rightly direct'
- Proverbs 11:5 'direct his ways'
The sense of 'rightly directing' or of finding a path through the Word of God seems to be quite relevant here, hence the more contemporary translations will render the text slightly differently from the Authorised Version:
'rightly handling the word of truth' (ESV)
'correctly handles the word of truth' (NIV)
'giving the true word in the right way' (BBE)
The Lord directs our path, from delivery, through death, to destiny, charting our life through the whole of its experience with purpose and meaning. Similarly we ought to see this in God himself:
The same God whose hand and guidance we see in our lives we are called to acknowledge in the patterns and order of His revealed Word. We are to discern the hand of God in paths through the scripture and to 'rightly discern' the Word of God; to see the truths consistent from beginning to end in the scripture, truths called doctrines:
- Doctrines of God – His existence, nature and work
- Doctrines of man – his origin, nature, his fall, his redemption
- Doctrines of Christ – His Deity, humanity, infallibility, saving power, virgin birth, his Vicarious death, His victorious resurrection.
- Doctrine of the church
To connect the people and characters in the Word of God:
To see pictures of Christ in:
- The bride of Isaac led out by the unnamed servant, brought from a far country, neither Jew nor Gentile.
- The offering of Isaac on mount Moriah
- Joseph as a son, a shepherd, a sacrifice, a slave and a sovereign.
- Moses the sovereign who became the shepherd by way of the sacrifice
- David as the shepherd and sovereign by way of the slaughter
To follow through the threads of truth, the scarlet cords of the scriptures:
- The doctrine of the lamb
- The doctrine of the branch
- The doctrine of the oak tree
- The bread from heaven
- The types of the tabernacle
To rightly discern the Word of God!
To see these paths, consistent and clear in the scriptures.
Truth is consistent with the scriptures in their entirety! Here is a defining feature of truth – it is consistent with the rest of scripture. One of the features of a great teacher of the Word of God rather than a good teacher is to be able to discern these paths through scripture, to work a little like Michaelangelo who famously replied to the question as to how he turned a slab of stone into a artistic masterpiece, replied:
"I saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set him free"
Carving and finding a path, rightly discerning so that everyone else can also see an angel in the marble, this is the challenge and the joy of the bible teacher, preacher and student of God's Word!
The doctrine of the resurrection is one of about 7 key doctrines specifically highlighted in the NT for special attention amidst the plethora of heretical errors. The rejection of these 7 key faith defining doctrines are singled out as acts of apostasy. That is in denying these truths we destroy the foundations of the gospel and without such it is not possible to be saved:
- Deity of Jesus Christ (1 John 4:15; 5:5)
- Humanity of Jesus Christ (1 John 4:2-6)
- Substitutionary atoning death of Jesus Christ (1 Co 15:2-3; 1:18ff)
- Resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Co 15:4-9; 15:17)
- Resurrection of believers (2 Tim 2:18)
- Justification by faith in Jesus Christ (1 Tim 1:5ff; Gal 1:6ff; 2:16; 3:14)
- Sanctification (1 Jo 1:6; 2:4)
Error generally therefore rarely comes in isolation. One single erroneous doctrine is more noticeable than Adonizedek's missing thumbs! Generally false teachers will package their error within a system that props them up. So an isolated false doctrine has a whole series of knock on problems! Generally false doctrine needs a cult system to protect and preserve it.
From bible teaching given on 2 Timothy chapter 2, as part of our systematic study series on 2 Timothy.
A message preached by Dr J Stewart Gillespie at the Bridgend Gospel Hall, New Cumnock, Ayrshire.
Yours by God's Grace in Christ