Online Bible Commentary
Escape from the Trap
2 Timothy 2:20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.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. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul is writing to Timothy, who is helping at the church in Ephesus. False Teaching has infiltrated the church and this letter is the second Paul has sent in an effort to remedy the situation.
Paul is writing from prison in Rome, with Luke being his amanuensis, or scribe. This letter is being written about AD late 65-early 66.
In this passage, Paul begins by writing “But” (v. 20a). This word 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.
Next, Paul gives an analogy regarding this turning away from the teachings of false teachers. He writes “in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor” (v. 20b).
In the affluent homes of the day, “gold and silver” utensils were used for meals, and to “honor”. In contrast, the inexpensive utensils, “wood and clay”, were used for garbage, or to “dishonor”.
Paul continues by writing “Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work (v. 21). The analogy is that he who “cleanses himself” of “dishonor”, false teaching, will become an instrument for “honor“. He will become a vessel for honor, sanctified, and will be useful to the Master.
Paul then gives responsibilities for the one who is sanctified, who is useful to the Master. He gives two responsibilities that apply to all Christians.
The first responsibility is to flee. Paul writes “Flee also youthful lusts; (v. 22a). Timothy, and all Christians, should flee youthful lusts.
The Greek word translated “lusts” is the word “epithymia”, which means “desire, longing, coveting, craving, and lusting”. These lusts are described as “youthful”. We should grow out of them as we mature.
This lust 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.
The second responsibility is to pursue. Paul writes “but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (v. 22b). Timothy should pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, as should all of God’s people.
In the remaining four verses of this passage, Paul writes how we can pursue these Godly traits. He begins by writing “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife” (v. 23).
The Greek word translated “ignorant” 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.
Next, Paul writes “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient” (v. 24). 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”. We should exhibit the fruit of the spirit (gentleness, patience, and kindness) as we teach those who oppose the true Gospel.
Paul continues “in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth” (v. 25). We gently correct 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.
And finally, he writes “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” (v. 26). It is hoped that the false teachers, and those influenced by them, will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the Devil.
False teachers, and their followers, are captives of Satan, doing his will, not the Lord’s. 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 correct them, educating them on the Bible. In order to do that, we, ourselves, must be educated in the Bible.
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.