Escape from the Trap
2 Timothy 2:20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. 22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (NIV)
The literal translation of the Greek for verse twenty is “In a great, But house not is there only vessels golden and silver, but also wooden and earthen; and some to honor, and some to dishonor.” The proper translation is to begin the verse with the first “But”, which also means “therefore”. The NIV translation omits this word. It is important because it links this verse with the previous verse, and passage. The previous verse ends with a call to “turn away from wickedness”. It is a reference to turn away from the teachings of the false teachers in the churches of Asia, particularly in the church at Ephesus, where Timothy is serving.
Paul gives an analogy regarding this turning away from the teachings of false teachers. In the affluent homes of the day, “gold and silver” utensils were used for meals, and other “noble purposes”, while the inexpensive utensils, “wood and clay”, were used for garbage, or “ignoble purposes” (v. 20). The analogy is that he who “cleanses himself” of “ignoble purposes”, false teaching, will become an instrument for “noble purposes“, “made Holy”, and will be “useful to the Master” (v. 21). Paul then gives responsibilities for the one made Holy, who is useful to the Master. These responsibilities apply to all Christians.
First of all, Timothy, and all Christians, should “flee” and “pursue” (v. 22). We should flee “evil desires of youth” (v. 22a). The Greek word translated “evil desires” is the word “epithymia”, which means “desire, longing, coveting, craving, and lusting”. It includes sexual sins, but not to the exclusion of some other sins. Sexual sins most often are sins “of youth”, but not necessarily. Just as Joseph ran from Potiphar’s wife when she tried to seduce him, Christians should run from every sin, every temptation. Timothy should “pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace”, as should all of God’s people (v. 22b).
We pursue peace by not getting caught up in “foolish and stupid arguments”, which lead to “quarrels” (v. 23). The Greek word translated “stupid” is the word “apaideutos” which also means “uneducated”. False teachers are uneducated in the Bible. The false teachers were guilty of this sin then, and still are today. Their interest lies not in becoming educated, learning the truth of the Bible, but in twisting the Bible to suit their own personal agendas. This activity always results in arguments and quarrels.
In contrast to the false teachers, the literal Greek says we should instead be “gentle toward all, apt to teach, forbearing, in meekness teaching the ones opposing” (v. 24). We should exhibit the fruit of the spirit (gentleness, patience, and kindness) as we teach those who oppose the true Gospel. We “gently instruct” the uneducated in the hope that the Holy Spirit will convict them of their sin, turn them from it, and turn them to the truth, the Gospel of Jesus Christ (v. 25).
In this way, the false teachers and those influenced by them, “will come to their senses” and “escape from the trap of the Devil” (v. 26a). False teachers, and their followers, are captives of Satan, doing his will, not the Lord’s (v. 26b). False teachers, and their followers, are doing the work of Satan.
In America today, just as in Paul’s time, false teachers exist within the church. They have always existed, and always will, until the return of Christ. The false teaching most in the news in our culture today is the teaching that homosexuality is not sin. The Bible teaches that it is sin, and one must repent, turning from that sin, before one can serve, or join, the church.
In this passage, Paul has given us the formula for dealing with the false teachers of today. We are to gently instruct them, educating them on the Bible. In order to do that, we, ourselves, must be educated in the Bible. That is the purpose of this ministry.
We are to help those who are captives of Satan to escape their chains, their bondage to sin. They must “escape” from the influence of false teaching, the “trap of the devil”. They are doing the work of Satan, not Christ. They must “escape from the trap” of false teaching.
Online Bible Commentary