• Chris Steele

Don’t Strive About Words to No Profit

Chris' Corner -- November 7, 2021


Before the apostle Paul was executed, he wrote to Timothy a second time. In that letter he told the young preacher, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

This verse is familiar to us. We hear it all the time. Some have no problem quoting it. However, with the emphasis on crucial verses like this, we may overlook the context.

On either side of 2 Timothy 2:15 are verses deserving our attention. “Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers” (14) and “But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness, and their message will spread like cancer...” (16, 17).

As we dig deeper into other translations, we can add another layer to the seriousness of the command. The ESV says, “not to quarrel about words,” and “avoid irreverent babble.” The NASB has “not to wrangle about words” and “avoid worldly and empty chatter.” Both of these translations have, “and their talk will spread like gangrene...” (17).

When we think about it, this admonition from an older preacher, inspired by God and ready to die, is speaking to the younger, yet experienced, Timothy to avoid discouragement when facing certain teaching situations.

Paul had to face the stubborn Jews, many of whom remained unbelievers, and fought against him every chance they could get. Timothy would be following in his mentor’s footsteps. To read and study the scriptures, people had to go to the synagogues. Who knows how many confrontations Timothy had with the Jews who were there.

For us, we study and learn to truth either at home with our Bible in hand, or we attend Bible study and worship at our local congregation. Most of the time, we have an agreeable, friendly learning process with those like-minded (1 Corinthians 1:10).

However, things can get out of hand when there’s a disagreement. Paul’s admonition instructs us to ensure which words are essential and must be defended, and those we should let go. As Timothy was told, “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” In doing this, we will avoid offending people and harming their faith. We will learn what is profitable for spiritual growth for ourselves and the rest of our brethren.

We also have opportunities to speak with people of the denominational world. Furthermore, we can easily get caught up in disagreements over scripture. Paul’s admonition comes into play here as well. Stick with the truth. Defend it, without inserting human opinions. It’s easy to get so focused on words and lose sight of the questions. Do not discuss things that lead down the rabbit hole. Be clear and concise in our presentation of the Word of God.

The next time we hear 2 Timothy 2:15, remember the surrounding verses. Study. Defend the truth, not opinions.

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