Believe and Speak Truth

2 Timothy 2
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.”

We have already looked at the first couple verses, but by way of review: we all speak and we all stumble in our speech. We can be so quickly pulled into arguments of every kind. Some of us even enjoy to argue, to debate, to use the skill of words and language to defeat an opponent with a view other than ours. It is sometimes like a game, a challenge, that is to use words to defeat another. Everyone uses words, whether spoken, or signed, or written. We cannot communicate well without words. By design we must use them, and God even uses them to communicate with us. Words and language are important. But like everything else that God has created, our words can be used for good or for evil.

At least four times in this passage Paul writes about speech, about words, and describes their use.

  • “charge them before God not to quarrel about words”
  • “But avoid irreverent babble”
  • “their talk will spread like gangrene”
  • “swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened”

And for each of these phrases Paul gives a consequence:

  • “does no good, but only ruins the hearers”
  • “it will lead people into more and more ungodliness”
  • “will spread like gangrene”
  • “They are upsetting the faith of some”

Words are powerful, they can encourage and they can tear down. We all know this by experience because we have all been hurt by words. Sometimes the hurt is minimal and passes quickly, but what Paul talks about in this paragraph is very serious. He is talking about words that are used to persuade unbelief, words that are used to bring lasting damage to those who hear and believe them. Serious stuff.

This paragraph, of course, is not just about words themselves, but beliefs and philosophies behind the words. That is always the case when we speak or when we listen. Words are just a conduit, really, to communicate beliefs. It is the belief that destroys and words communicate belief.

This morning we look at verses 16-19. I’ll read those again:

2 Timothy 2
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.”

A danger that Paul brings up is that irreverent babble or chatter will lead to ungodliness. Some translations read “avoid worldly and empty chatter.”

The Bible tells us so much about speech and useless speech.

Titus 3
9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless

What is this, what is irreverent babble? It is the speaking of destructive heresy. Paul calls this irreverent babble. Irreverent in that it is opposed to God and babble in that it is useless, empty words. The danger is that we be corrupted by the influence of those who speak this way. We, none of us, are immune from the influences of anti-God ideas. And so there is this caution.

You may know someone who seemed very solid in their understandings of the Bible for a time, but one way or another got mixed up with others who had such influence that they have turned from sound teaching. This happens often. There is considerable pressure in the world to draw us away from God’s truths. Many are dazzled by worldly philosophies and take them in. A kid goes off to school and hears day after day about the superiority of anti-God rhetoric and begins to embrace it. Someone begins to delve into the occult and is carried away by such mystery. In the workplace, Christians beliefs are ridiculed and sin is glamorized, so the once Bible-believer becomes a God-hater. We live in a time where sin is praised and righteousness is foolish.

1 Corinthians 15
33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

We live in a day where to stand for God is to stand counter to our society in many ways. And so it should not be surprising to see some turn to irreverent babble.

2 Peter 2
1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.

Our challenge is that we don’t fall into thinking that we cannot buy into false, anti-God teaching. In fact, all of us in some way or another will believe anti-biblical things – all of us. I mean to some degree or another. So what do we do? We stay in the Word, we study the Word, we pray through the Word, we hang around other believers who will help us. Bad company does corrupt good morals, but the opposite is true as well.

Proverbs 27
17 Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another.

Ecclesiastes 4
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

We need to be sharpened by the influence of strong believers and we need others who will lift us up in our weaknesses. We are all vulnurable, this is why we need Christ and the church, people He has put into our lives to help us in our quest for Christlikeness.

And so when we read, “But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,” it is not just for some other people, it is for us too, it is a warning for us too.

Paul goes on to say, “and their talk will spread like gangrene.” Paul is talking of irreverent babble like an infection that spreads rapidly. It is like a cancer. Gangrene and cancer can spread rapidly, and the more it spreads the deadlier it becomes. With cancer, when someone is diagnosed with cancer it is usually better news if it is found to be isolated. But if it is not isolated, if it has spread throughout the body, well, that is usually not good.

My mother had a type of blood cancer. It was horrible. Being in her blood, it was circulating all over her body and it was disrupting her body in many ways. It was not isolated, it was spreading to other places. This type of cancer then is very hard to treat, it was not like it could be surgically removed, nor even contained. It was out of anyone’s control.

The more false teaching spreads and is embraced, the more difficult it is to stop its effects. Think about this in two ways. First, just think about an individual person. The more we believe someone, the more strongly we believe someone, an idea or philosophy, the more it affects what we do. It is almost like it becomes a part of who we are.

If we decide that we will no longer eat meat, and it is not just a decision based on health, but a strong conviction that eating meat is sinful – this is just an example, I’m not saying I believe this – if this is a strong conviction, we will grocery shop accordingly, we will pick restaurants that agree with our conviction, we may stop going out with former friends who eat meat because it is offensive to us, so our social status may change, we may even begin to speak more publicly about our conviction, thereby shutting off many other friendships. It sort of takes over, and so if one day we wake up and decide, “Well this was all silly, I’m going back to my old beliefs,” then it may not be so easy. We have restructured our whole life, others may not take us back, the body may have adjusted in such a way that meat no longer agrees with us. Changing, once again, may be very hard, and maybe not possible. You see, this idea had spread to all areas of life, like a cancer that now cannot be so easily cut out.

So individually, be careful what you buy into. Is it biblical, is it godly, or is it anti-God? If so, cut it out, don’t let it grow.

Secondly though, we can think about the church. Say a person picks up some false teaching somewhere – on the radio, internet, a book, or some other way. And this person begins telling others, and those in the church or some other Christian group begin to believe it, it begins to spread from one person to the next. That is what was happening in Ephesus. That is what Timothy was dealing with, and Timothy was charged with stopping it. That is what church leaders are to do. They are not only to preach and teach the truth, but also stand against false teaching that can spread like a cancer throughout the church. The more it spreads, the more difficult it will be to ever contain it and eradicate it.

The point here is that individuals and churches must be careful not to allow what is false to be taken in so as to infect us with anti-God philosophies. What are you believing that is anti-God? If you are reading your Bible and hanging out with godly people, you will discover some of those things. You will discover that you are believing some things that are not consistent with God’s Word.

Paul calls out two people as examples of those who have believed ungodly lies, have spread them to others, and what the consequences of their behavior looks like.

2 Timothy 2
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.”

These two men swerved from the truth. This is a sad commentary on these men’s lives, from Hebrews.

Hebrews 6
4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

One of the most sobering passages in the Bible. Those who have become so entangled in false teaching that the possibility of them returning to truth is gone. They have turned from the truth. They were teaching that the resurrection of the dead had already happened.

Though we don’t know exactly, they were probably teaching that there is only a spiritual resurrection and not a physical resurrection of the body, and that the spiritual resurrection had already happened. This was a known teaching of gnosticism. The belief was that the body is evil and always will be evil, and so it can never be redeemed. This of course runs counter to truth, that is that the body will be resurrected as Jesus’ body was also resurrected from the dead. These people were mixing their own biases based on gnosticism with Christianity to really form a new religion. They would not let go of their false beliefs that they held so strongly to replace them with Christianity, but wanted to hold on to the old and embrace the new. And in so doing they really deny the new, they deny true Christianity.

We must let go of past ideas that are anti-Chirst, we can’t be half in, it is all in with God, it is following Him with all of our hearts, not half-heartedly.

2 Timothy 2
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.”

God’s truths, His firm foundations stand – always. We can be assured that He knows all that are His. Just because some speak with words saying they are His, just because someone clams to speak on behalf of God, does not mean they belong to God. Just because someone wears a cross around their neck or has a Bible verse tattooed on their arm, those things do not mean they belong to God through Christ. Just because someone publishes a book or stands behind a pulpit, that does not mean they belong to Christ.

Matthew 7
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

We need to be more discerning than to believe what anyone might say about God. We have His Word and His Word is true. Who does belong to God? All of the elect. All who have truly repented of their sins, turned to God by faith in Christ and who are walking in newness of life by faith in Him. Not perfect people, but those who have given themselves to the perfect One. God know who are His.

The second part of the foundation mentioned this: “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

Unlike the false teacher, the true believer is one who is moving forward in sanctification. One who is not moving further from truth but moving closer to the truth.

1 Peter 1
13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

We are called to depart from iniquity. Don’t live like an unbeliever who has bought into and lives by the philosophies of the world.

Here is the thing. You and I as Christians, we are called to something great. We are called to love Christ and to know Him, to know what He has said and to live our lives for Him! We are called to this, we are called to live for Him.

Galatians 2
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This means we don’t chase after other things, beliefs, lusts, we chase after Christ, knowing Him and serving Him! We get to do that! We get to do that for His glory and for our good!

Where are we living under false assumptions? As we discover the answer to that question, will we change our ways, calling upon the Lord for help, and will we live for Him in truth?

2 Timothy 2
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.”