Those Who Oppose Themselves
2 Timothy 2:24-26
(Scanned from GOSPEL TRUTHS, Jan. 1997)
As Paul directed Timothy in his teaching work, he emphasized meekness as a quality for him to cultivate within himself in dealing with those who "oppose themselves."
"And the Lord's servant must not strive, but be gentle towards all, apt to teach, forbearing, in meekness correcting them that oppose themselves; if peradventure God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him unto his will" (II Timothy 2:24-26).
The assumption of the passage is that there are very many people who, through different types of thinking or behavior, place themselves in the unenviable position of being in a state of self-contradiction. They do not need an opponent, for they are their own worst enemy!
The challenge in the work of the apostle Paul, and to Timothy his apprentice, was to see to it that he succeeded in forcing upon the minds of those who were so encumbered the true picture of their circumstance. He must get them to acknowledge this inconsistency in themselves, whether in their thinking or in their life, and remedy their predicament.
This was not only the challenge of Paul and Timothy then, but it is the challenge which we all face today. This is so because people persist in our age in living a life of self-opposition. Thus, it is our challenge as it was theirs.
Those "who oppose themselves" do so in a variety of ways. We must be careful not to be caught in the trap of self-opposition. Therefore, it is those different ways in which we may be found in opposition to ourselves that we would like to notice in this article:
1. Those Who Hold To Theories Which Contradict Scripture Oppose Themselves. Many such theories exist in our religious world. Any person who espouses such views is asking for trouble, for he will instantly be seen by objective observers as opposing the foundational documents of the Christian religion. For example, the theistic evolutionist attempts to correlate modern theories of origins, championed by many scientists, with the creation narrative of Genesis. It does not take a very intelligent reader to see through such miserable biblical interpretation. The Genesis account does not leave room for billions of years. "Day-Age" theories are transparent attempts at forcing evolutionary theory into the Bible. Evolution is bad science. When it is believed by those who embrace most aspects of Christianity, then it leads to bad biblical interpretation also.
Those in the Baptist church who teach "once saved, always saved" find themselves facing a similar conundrum. They are convinced of this Calvinistic theory that once we are in grace we can never fall from grace. Yet, they are faced with a whole host of passages in the New Testament which refute the notion (see Hebrews 6:4-8; 10:26-31; 2 Pet. 2:20-22; James 5:19-20; etc.). There are many views which illustrate this same point: those who hold to theories which contradict the Scriptures "oppose themselves" by their views.
2. Those Who Hold To Religious Doctrines Which Are Self-Contradictory Oppose Themselves. It is amazing sometimes how those who are wedded to a false doctrine can embrace ideas which are juxtaposed to one another. A case in point: the Jehovah's Witnesses, who ought to receive some sort of award for their self-abnegating postures, believe that Jesus is to be identified with the archangel Michael. The book of Hebrews expends almost the entire first chapter attempting to convince us that Jesus in not an angel, that he is far above all the angels, that he is "the effulgence of the glory of God, and the very image of God's substance," yet they claim that he is a mere angel! They are forced to reinterpret and assign new meanings to every passage in the New Testament which proclaims the divinity of Christ-and they are many-and so at every turn they "oppose themselves" by such conspicuous dogmatic chicanery.
3. Those Who Say One Thing And Do Something Else Oppose Themselves. A Christian cannot be a liar and go to heaven. Jesus said, "But let your speech be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: and whatsoever is more than these is of the evil one" (Matthew 5:37). The Lord warned against oaths, as did James (5:12), because the Christian's word ought to be trustworthy regardless of circumstances. The Bible says, ". - .all liars shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death" (Revelation 2 1:8). If a Christian's word is untrustworthy, then he opposes himself by such impropriety.
4. Those Who "Say And Do Not" Oppose Themselves. Jesus condemned this trait of the Pharisees in the most forceful language possible. He warned the people that they ought not to follow their example in this self-contradiction: "All things therefore whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe: but do not ye after their works; for they say, and do not. Yea, they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger" (Matthew 23:3.4). If a Christian does not "practice what he preaches" then he will not be respected by those around him. Those who "say and do not" oppose themselves by their failure to live what they profess.
5. Those Who Live Sinfully When They Know Better Oppose Themselves. There are many "character faults," as we are sometimes want to put it, which destroy our influence among our friends and neighbors. Such things are no less than the acceptance of the practice of sin in our lives. For example, many people give vent to unbridled rage, or "fits of temper." They shout and scream, fuss and fume, when they know a Christian ought not act that way. They feel bad afterward, but they do not repent of the sin and put the practice of this sin behind them. "2.. but now do ye also put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking out of your mouth: lie not one to another; seeing that ye have put off the old man with his doings, and have put on the new man, that is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Colossians 3:8-10). A Christian cannot permit such sinful ways into his life, for he thus "opposes himself."
6. Those Who Let Worldliness Invade Their Lives Oppose Themselves. The way that we dress and talk, the places we go, the recreations which we involve ourselves in-all these things are expressive to those around us of what we hold as precious. If we behave inappropriately, dress in unseemly apparel, speak unbecomingly, and attend those places and functions where Christianity seems completely "out of place," then we are opening ourselves up to fitting criticism. Worldly ways are unsuitable to the life of the child of God: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (I John 2:15). Those who let worldliness come into their lives "oppose themselves" by so doing.
By Daniel H. King Sr.
From Expository Files 5.3; March 1998