2 Timothy 2:24-26
24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient,
25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,
26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
When I first came across this passage this morning, I had thought it was only about the repentance of unbelievers. That is, after all, what I have been writing about lately. But upon further reflection I can now see something else, something a bit more personal for believers. You see, even though I thought I knew what this passage was about, God was gentle to me, able to teach me, extraordinarily patient with me, and He humbly corrected me when my mind was in opposition to Him. In short, God granted me repentance–literally a change of mind–so that I could know the truth, and so I could escape the snare of the devil that had led me to believe something wrong about God’s Word.
We like to think that God’s Word is ours now, that He has given it to us as our possession, but such is not the case. The Bible belongs to God, and as such, it should be treated with reverent respect. As I found out today, holy Scripture is subject only to God’s understanding, not ours. He will lead us to the truth–if we let Him. And therein lies the problem: we are stubborn creatures, prone to our own stiff-necked interpretations of Scripture, prone to cherry-picking verses as “promises,” prone to legalism and quarreling, prone to reading between the lines where there is no need to do so. We abuse God’s Bible so much, we are lucky that He doesn’t take it back!
In his instructions to Timothy, Paul is telling his protege to be like our Teacher, Jesus: patient, gentle, allowing God to work in men’s hearts. After all, all of this work we do for the kingdom of God is not about us, it’s about God. When our worship, our prayer, our religion becomes about us, then we are putting ourselves first. And we all know where that leads, don’t we?
“And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
So, our task as teachers and leaders, our commission as evangelists and believers, is simply to preach the gospel and let GOD do the work. God will bring people to repentance. God will show people the truth. It is not our place to put man-made constraints on repentance or salvation. God certainly doesn’t! God will call, and God will await an answer. God will choose whomever He wills, and His mercy shall fall where it may.
It is God who grants us repentance, and that is perhaps the hardest lesson for believers to learn. We keep thinking, “If only I can convince so-and-so to repent of his sins, he’ll be alright.” But it is not up to us to convince. If we look at the Bible, we see that when people came to repentance, it was through a movement of the Holy Spirit, and most often it was after they heard the Word of God spoken by a prophet or an apostle. That is our role model, to speak the Word of God and then let God do the rest. And, just as importantly, we are to listen to the Word of God daily and let Him move US to repentance, too.
We must humble ourselves, get out of the way of the Word we speak, and allow it to be proclaimed with integrity and power without any “coloring” from us. We must correct where necessary, teach humbly, avoid quarreling, and allow God to work repentance.
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Have you ever handled a sharp, two-edged sword? I have, and I can tell you that you must be wary of how you handle it, lest you get cut. It takes patience and constant training to properly handle a sword, and to truly wield that sword right, we need instruction from someone who already handles a sword well. Always remember that the sword we use–the Word of God–is a discerner of OUR thoughts and intents just as much as it is for those with whom we share it. In other words, the Bible will reveal what WE need to repent even while we are presenting the Word to others.
As Paul makes clear in today’s verses, repentance opens our eyes to the truth. Changing our mind, re-thinking our world and our ways, is what removes the blinders and helps us know the reality of God’s kingdom. So long as we pursue the things of men, then we will be caught in the snares of the devil, subservient to Satan’s will. But when God grants us repentance, we break free of our preconceived notions of righteousness, and our hearts are opened to God’s way, God’s truth, God’s life.
Today, each of us will probably have an opportunity to present some truth we have learned from Scripture. And we may even have a chance to speak the gospel to an unbeliever. God encourages us to speak boldly in His name, but even as we do, let us be humble, patient, and calm, teaching with gentleness and simplicity. Let us remember that we, too, need to repent and be taught just as much as anyone else, so that we, too, can know the truth and be set free.
Almighty God, to be honest, I am a worm. I am a lowly sinner, and yet You have glorified me through Your Son. It is only by Your grace that I am able to repent and be saved. Thank You, gracious Lord God, for Your mercy. Teach me, Father, how to know Your will. Even as I share Your Word so that others may find repentance, please guide me to my own repentance, too. Amen.