Lessons from II Timothy: Lesson 5 – The Work of a Pastor and Lesson 6 – The Coming Times

This series by Rev. Henry Vander Kam, pastor of Grace Christian Reformed Church, Kalamazoo, Michigan, is intended for church societies, study groups, and all others interested. Two lessons appear each month.


The Work of a Pastor

II Timothy 2:20–26

The work of a pastor is, of course, determined to a great extent by the calling of his Lord to preach the Word. Yet, the work is not the same for every pastor. His work will also be determined by the character of the people to whom he must minister and by times and conditions.

Although the needs of people are quite similar in every age, local conditions may demand specialized qualifications. Every minister realizes that we are still in the militant church and that perfection has not yet been attained.

Difficulties – Paul calls Timothy’s attention to some of the difficulties he will encounter and tells him how he is to deal with them. By a figure he makes clear to Timothy that there will be many different kinds of people in the church to which he will minister.

Paul likens the church to a large house. In such a house there will be, of necessity, many different articles so that the household will run smoothly. The articles of furniture to be found in the parlor will be far different from those found in the kitchen. This is only normal. Some articles will be made of precious metal while others will be made of much cheaper material.

So it is also in the church. There are those who have advanced far in sanctification. Those are of silver. Again there are others who are struggling. These are of cheaper material. But, there are also some unto dishonor. There are also hypocrites in the church, those who do not belong there. Some things in a house too are ready to be discarded. Jesus spoke of both wheat and tares in His kingdom. This is the kind of church in which the ministry of Timothy will take place.

Conduct required – How must Timothy now conduct himself in the ministry to such a church? He must not fall into the errors of those who bring dishonor to the church. He must purge himself from these and from their sins. There is always the danger that these people will influence others for evil.

Timothy must keep himself pure. Paul is not afraid of such statements. Many would say today that no one can purge himself—that is God’s work. Of course, the Apostle does not teach here that a man is able to work his own salvation or that he is able to add anything to it. He simply emphasizes Timothy’s own responsibility. If he keeps himself clean from the influence of evil men, he will be a vessel of honor, meet for the Master‘s use, and prepared to every good work.

Although Paul uses many illustrations in bis writings, he never allows the illustration to bind him in any way. So here too; he goes far beyond the illustration he has used. No vessel in a household is able to change from one material to another but that is possible in the house of God. The reality rises far above the figure employed. No illustration can adequately picture the riches of the ways of God!

To be able to do the work of a pastor properly the minister must not only consider the work which has been assigned him but must also look closely at his own life. Paul warns his spiritual son concerning youthful lusts. We would almost conclude that Timothy was not susceptible to such things. He is pictured as timid, not forward, and possessed of a deep spirituality. Yet, the Apostle warns him.

The lusts referred to include the whole series of sins which may characterize youth. There are temptations which are stronger in youthful lusts are so dangerous because of immaturity. Mature years will often serve to blunt the force of temptation. Timothy must know his weaknesses and run away from the youthful lusts. Fleeing these lusts he must pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace. These positive virtues which he must seek give us an indication of the nature of the youthful lusts by revealing their opposites. Timothy must live with the people of God on a high moral plane so that his own life will never be a barrier to the reception of the gospel.

Wrong teachers – Once more the Apostle refers to the foolish and ignorant questionings of some so-called teachers, of which he has spoken again and again. Those who engage in that type of teaching are splitting hairs. The Pharisees had done this for years. Jesus had warned the people of His day against such teachers because they made the burdens of life heavy for the people and they themselves did not even try to keep the numerous precepts they taught.

That kind of teaching is foolish. It also betrays ignorance of the important things. Those teachings only bring strife and dissension. They are not based on objective truth and everyone of these teachers is his own authority—hence, strifes. Timothy must refuse such things; he must not bother himself about them because there is no standard for refutation, i.e., there is no common ground on which you can meet.

Gentleness vs. strife – The fact that such teachings gender strifes is sufficient reason to refuse them because the servants of the Lord must not strive, says Paul. This is a rather unexpected statement coming from a man who had been in the thick of strifes his whole life. Never did he back away from the battles for the gospel. He was not only the defender of the faith but he also attacked unbelief in every form. This “soldier” of Jesus Christ now tells Timothy that the Lord‘s servant must not strive. Isn’t this the very opposite of the way in which he has always conducted himself? Or is he simply accommodating himself to the fact that Timothy is useless for such a warfare?

It is true that Paul was always ready to do battle for the sake of the gospel against anyone who would oppose it. However, this was also the man who ministered to the church of Corinth in all meekness! If necessary—be ready to fight to the death! If it is not absolutely necessary—His servants must not strive but be gentle, etc. The teaching and influence of the heretics to which Paul had referred are not worthy of the striving of Christ’s servants. Each must weigh the evidence carefully to determine when strife is necessary and when it is forbidden.

The man of God must be gentle, i.e., tolerant. The people must be able to approach him. They must be able to come to him with their problems. In this way he will be able to teach. There will be good rapport. He must be patient. His teaching will not always have the desired effect at once. This must not discourage him. He must be meek and that meekness will often be put to the test. Yet, this is the only way those who are teaching those foolish and ignorant things can ever be corrected. Striving with them will do no good. Instead, correct them with the positive teachings of the gospel. Our own attitude must not stand in the way.

The goal – This is not only the most sensible way of dealing with such people, but the goal too may not be lost from sight. That goal is their repentance, or, rather, conversion.

One must not write off such people as difficult individuals to deal with for whom there is no hope. The grace of God is able to do all things. His servants must, therefore, use the approved means in dealing with such people so that no stumbling block will be placed before them. If God is pleased to convert them there will be a complete turnabout. Paul himself is a good example of what the grace of God is able to accomplish. Through conversion they will turn from the foolish and ignorant to the knowledge of the truth. His servants are simply the instruments God employs to effect this transformation.

Through the proper instruction and the hoped for conversion, such people will return to soberness—they will come to their senses. Sin is irrational and the unconverted is “beside himself.” Only the truth sets free completely. Only by coming to the true faith only by true conversion will men free themselves from the snares of the devil. The devil lured them there while they thought they were their own masters. No, the devil has them captive and imposes his will on them. There is no power on earth or under the control of man which is able to deliver them. Besides, they dont realize themselves that deliverance is necessary. It is only the power of God which is able to set them free. This He accomplishes through conversion!

Although no man can ever boast that he has converted someone, God is pleased to use His servants, as instruments in His hand, equipped with the Word of God to accomplish this miracle. What a task! What a responsibility! Dont let any personality weakness of yours or sins of your youth stand in the way of the work of God, Timothy! Deny self and be filled with all the virtues of the true man of God so that His church may be built! The work of a pastor has been given an important place by God Himself in the accomplishment of His purposes.

Questions for discussion:

1. Illustrations arc useful tools for a speaker or writer to make a matter plain. Can they also be dangerous? Explain. 2. Can an overemphasis on election make men careless? How can we maintain the proper balance? 3. Is it difficult to know when we ought to do battle and when we should be meek? A Luther and Calvin were faced with this problem; are we ever placed in that position? 4. What is the difference between regeneration and conversion? Is it important to maintain this distinction?      


The coming times

II Timothy 3:1–9

Man has an insatiable curiosity concerning the future. What will life and the world be like tomorrow, ten years from now? Usually an optimistic view is presented because, if we have come so far in the past, the future should be even better.

The Bible does not present such an optimistic view concerning the life of the people of God in their relation to their fellowmen. Grievous, i.e., difficult times are to be expected.

The last days” The term “last days” is used in different senses in the New Testament. Sometimes it means the days just before the Second Coming of our Lord. It is also used ti me and again to mean simply the “future.” Joel also speaks of Pentecost as the last days. Paul considers himself to be living in the “end of the ages.” Only the context of a passage can give us the meaning of the term whenever it is used.

Here the writer warns Timothy about these “last days.” In other words, Timothy will experience them and should be on his guard. Here the term is, therefore. not restricted to the end of time.

Lawlessness – The characterization which Paul gives of the thinking and attitude of people in the “last days” is the direct opposite of the teaching of the law of God. Therefore he has placed so much emphasis on correct teaching or doctrine because the right teaching will lead to the proper life and false teaching leads to lawlessness.

The law of God demands that men shall love God above all and the neighbor as self. The people of the “last days” will he lovers of self, of money, and of pleasure. Hereby is their whole philosophy of life clearly shown. All the other things said about them follow logically. Once a person has turned his back to God‘s law, lawlessness, or the law of the jungle is followed. The men become boastful and haughty and railers. They become disobedient to parents—a totally unnatural attitude. They are thankful for nothing because they consider all things to be theirs as a matter of right. Their attitude is unholy—it is blasphemous.

“Without natural affection” – The people of that day will be without natural affection. Indeed there is a natural affection in this world. The relation of parent to child or the relation of husband and wife. However, those who are disobedient to their parents show that they have lost all natural affection. What is left to the individual when he has so broken with the law of God? He becomes implacable, i.e., irreconcilable, he begins to slander others, he is undisciplined, no self-control, he becomes fierce untamed, like a wild animal. Of course they do not love the good nor do they love God, the highest Good! They become traitors, headstrong, and they believe that they are in the right. They live for themselves and have lost sight of the purpose of life.

The Apostle does not say that these things mentioned above might occur in the “last days,” but that they will occur. The law of God has been given to prevent man’s destruction of himself. The measure in which men disobey the law of God is the measure in which they lose their humanity! It is the moral law for the moral creature. Man cannot live without it. The “antichrist” or “the man of sin” is also called “the lawless one.” Complete disobedience to the law of God is diabolical, devilish. It is therefore of such great importance that Timothy, and all who follow him, proclaim true doctrine and hold the law before the people constantly! Anyone who claims that the law was only for a former time and is not relevant for us today has never understood the Scriptures and is walking a very dangerous path.

“A form of godliness” – We would almost assume that the fearful conditions which the Apostle has described in the first four verses of this chapter refer only to the unbelieving world of the “last days.” However, he tells us that these same people hold to a form of godliness! How can that be? How can people who deny the law, who make a mockery of the teaching of Scripture, still hold to a form of godliness? Yet, that will be the situation. This will make it far more difficult for Timothy and others to deal with the problem.

Such lawless people will be in the church! These are the ones who wiD tell Timothy that he must be more tolerant to the new times and circumstances. When one looks again at the long list of evils where with the Apostle charges them, it becomes very evident that they are most intolerant! Why do they seek to maintain a “form of godliness”? Superficially: for appearance’s sake; basically: to undermine the church. They cling to some form of religion, but, of course, they have denied the power of it. It has no meaning for them. It doesn’t change their lives; it doesn’t lead to repentance.

Timothy must turn away from such people. He must not be blinded by their form of godliness, but must judge them by their fruits. It will be difficult to deal with these people because they are hypocrites, i.e., actors. They will deceive many. Especially the first key of the Kingdom of heaven, the preaching of the Word, must unmask them.

“Silly women” – Not only must Timothy turn away from such as make themselves guilty of the sins the Apostle has enumerated, he must also be aware of the fact (hat they will seek to lead others astray.

The example Paul uses may not be too clear immediately. However, it was clear to Timothy. As Paul describes it, these people will come to a home when the husband is absent. The women to whom he refers arc “silly” or weak-minded. They do not have a good grasp of the truth nor do they understand the implications of the truth for their lives. They are women who have come out of heathenism and their earlier lives were “laden with sin.” The “new” teaching has a certain appeal to them because it seeks to free the conscience from guilt feelings.

So these women are always learning new things, but do not have a grasp of the truth. A grave danger exists that they will succumb to the evil teachings of these people and lead their families away from the truth. Therefore must Timothy proclaim the truth of God to unmask these false teachers and to guard the members of the church lest they too fall into the same error.

Jannes and Jambres – The Apostle now refers to the history of the Old Testament people of God to make it even clearer what the nature and purpose of these false teachings really are. He mentions Jannes and Jambres who withstood Moses. When we go to the Old Testament, however, we will not find these names. The names are found in the extra-Biblical literature in early Christian literature. Both Paul and Timothy are acquainted with this literature. According to this literature, Jannes and Jambres belonged to the wise men who were counsellors to the Pharaoh of Egypt before whom Moses did his signs. Even when Moses commanded the plagues to come on the land, they did the same thing. Not till the third plague did they confess their inability to do the same wonders as Moses. They therefore withstood Moses. They attempted to negate the message of Moses. They did marvelous things and, no doubt, there were those who could see no difference between Moses on the one side, and Janues and Jambres on the other side.

So do these lawless ones also withstand the truth. Their form of godliness must not deceive the people. In their opposition to the true doctrine they are withstanding the truth of God Himself. They arc corrupted in mind because, apparently, they believe their own teaching to be true. The mind, which is able to receive and understand the Word of God, has been so corrupted within them that they cannot distinguish the lie from the truth. Of course, such people are reprobate concerning the faith. If they arc so corrupted in mind that truth and falsehood are indistinguishable, Timothy must be able to distinguish between true and false members of the church. All that is called “church” or “faith” must be tested by Divine revelation.

Ultimate optimism – Although the Bible is not optimistic concerning the life of believers in the “last days,” it does teach the ultimate optimism. That optimism is grounded in the fact that God rules and He will never allow anyone to take that rule out of His hand; and that Christ Himself has promised that His church shall be safeguarded to the end.

Paul therefore does not only tell his own son in the faith that the coming days will be evil. The evil of the coming days must not be minimized, but it is not the final note of history. They (the lawless ones) can only proceed as far as Christ allows them to go. It will become apparent to the people that their “folly” is diametrically opposed to the truth of God.

The history to which Paul had referred made this clear too. Moses showed miracles to Pharaoh—so did his opponents. These were to be Mosescredentials that God had sent him—his opponents undermined his Divine mission. However, the third plague (dust turned to lice) left his opponents helpless. God has seven more! The folly of those who wrest the word of the truth should become evident to all men. Yet, many have often fallen victim before this evidence dawns on them. Therefore hold fast the truth and proclaim it! Hold the law of God before all men lest they destroy themselves!

Questions for discussion:

1. Man was made to be able to remember the past hut not to look into the future. Would you rather this reversed? 2. Does the Bible give us sufficient knowledge concerning the future? Does its revelation of the future bring fear or comfort? 3. Are the sins mentioned in the first five verses of this chapter quite common in our days? How should the church react? 4. Why do the evils spoken of in this section have an appeal? Can you imagine such people still being members of a church? 5. Why do many ungodly people still desire to have a minister lead the funeral service at the time of the death of a family member? 6. Do you think it is important to have knowledge of the extra-Biblical literature of former days?