The Expository Files



Good Workers & Bad

2 Timothy 2:14-19


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.” – 2 Tim. 2:14-19


Often, in Paul’s writings to Timothy and Titus, this word stands out: “Remind.” As these young men worked among Christians, they were charged to remind the brethren of truth previously heard and accepted. After the “trustworthy” saying in verses 11-13, and before another call to action and warning, the apostle says to Timothy: “Remind them of these things.” Forgetting is a spiritual hazard. 


“…and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.” Not all controversy is bad. Not all attention to words is bad, obviously. But there was a certain tedious and dogmatic debate that not only contained no good for the hearer, the result would be ruin.


Rather than that engagement, Timothy needs to do his best “to present” himself “to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” To present yourself to God is to give your life to Him for His keeping and to be under His authority. The goal is, to be “approved” and that will involve work or activity that is honorable, zealously in pursuit of a faithful use of God’s Word. Verse 15 is the positive imperative, followed by the negative: “avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness.”


Talk that is disrespectful, irreverent, and that doesn’t lead people to God, is to be carefully avoided. Do not be the speaker or hearer when the content is irreverent babble. This kind of dialogue is like a lethal cancer, spreading “like gangrene.”


Hymenaeus and Philetus were two examples of men who had “swerved from the truth.” Paul exposes their specific error: “…saying that the resurrection has already happened.”


This section is of great value in telling us the difference between good workers and evil workers.


1. Good workers do not strive about words to no profit.


2. Good workers are diligent.


3. Good workers present themselves approved to God.


4. Good workers rightly divide the word of truth.


5. Good workers shun profane and idle babblings.


Here on earth, there are good workers and bad workers. But here is a blessed certainty: “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’.”   


If, in your experiences, you are discouraged by the likes of Hymenaeus and Philetus, take comfort in this promise, the Lord knows those who are his.


If you experience difficulty discerning who people really are – good workers or evil, take the same promise as your comfort: the Lord knows those who are his!





Ferrell Jenkins


Numerous warnings about apostasy may be found in the New Testament. Brethren are warned against (1) being bewitched, Galatians 3:1; (2) swerving from the truth, 2 Timothy 2:18; (3) making shipwreck of their faith, 1 Timothy 1:19; (4) falling from grace, Galatians 5:4; and (5) falling away from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1). Paul warned the Ephesian elders that from among them men would arise “speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29–30). The danger of apostasy is expressed beautifully by G. C. Berkouwer: “As long as there is a way to be walked and people to walk it, there is the danger of straying from it. As long as there are heights of love to be ascended, there is a chance of falling back (cf. Rom. 11:11; 1 Cor. 10:12; Rev. 2:5). As long as there is light, there is the possibility of receding into the darkness (John 3:19)” (The Return of Christ, p. 283).[1] 


[1] Jenkins, F. (1991). The Mystery of Lawlessness. In B. Lewis (Ed.), Christianity Magazine: July 1991, Volume 8, Number 7 (B. Lewis, Ed.) (17). Jacksonville, FL: Christianity Magazine.



  By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 22.8; August 2015