The Christian as a Servant
2 Timothy 2:24-26
In this seventh and final portrait of the Christian in 2 Timothy 2, the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul passes from the theme of “a great house” and the various “vessels” therein to that of “the servant of the Lord” and his ministry.
The Lord Jesus Christ was the Perfect Servant and the Apostle Peter reminds all believers that “… Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps” (1 Pet. 2:21). Like John Mark we are all, even at our very best imperfect servants. Yet, Mark’s life illustrates the fact that failure in our service does not necessarily mean the end of our usefulness (cf. Acts 13:5; 15:39 with Col. 4:10, 11; 2 Tim. 4:11). It was John Mark, the imperfect servant, whom the Spirit of God chose to write the Gospel of Mark which portrays the Lord Jesus as God’s Perfect Servant.
Of the five different words found in the Greek New Testament relative to ‘service’ and the ‘servant’, the word used here in 2 Timothy 2:24 is doulos meaning “enslaved,” “subservient,” “enthralled,” referring to “a person of mean condition” (cf. Acts 16:17; Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 7:22; 2 Cor. 4:5; Phil. 1:1; 2:7; etc.).
As we consider the theme of “The Christian as a servant,” we do best to continually look off unto Jesus, the Perfect Servant, and learn from His spotless example what the char-acter and quality of our own service must be if we are to realize true power and fruit in and through our lives for His eternal glory (cf. Mark 10:45 ; John 12:26; 13:14-17 ; Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 4:2; Eph. 6:6; Phil. 2:5-8).
Let it be emphasized right at the beginning of our study that one cannot serve until, first of all, he has been saved (Eph. 2:8-10). Are you saved? This is the all-important and initial issue you must settle before you can truly serve the Lord.
With these introductory things in mind we want to look now at the verses before us and prayerfully note what the Holy Spirit has to say about the servant of the Lord. Two main aspects of our subject are unfolded in this brief passage, the first being
The Manner of the Servant
It is quite true that the servants of Christ, and all of God’s people, are exhorted to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). However, contending for the faith is hardly what Paul has in mind here. Rather, as C. H. Irwin has so adequately expressed it, “The servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome in the way in which he maintains the truth.” There are all kinds and classes of people in the world who take great and special delight in opposing the Word of God, and by so doing they actually oppose themselves. Such are always looking for an argument, not because they sincerely desire to come to a knowledge of the truth but because they love an argument. They are like the Irishman who purposely lets his coat drag on the ground for someone to step on just because he loves a row. Let us ever keep in mind that arguing always results in more heat than light. Therefore, the true servant of Christ will consistently “avoid” 2:23) all such entanglement and embroilment.
This, then, must always be the manner of every servant of the Lord Jesus, he “must not strive” (cf. John 6:52; Acts 7:26; 2 Cor. 7:5). Regarding this aspect of our subject, H. C. G. Moule has aptly commented as follows:
“Timothy is to ‘decline’ taking these problems up as a mere disputant. He may be right to inform himself as to opinion, but he is not to ‘fight’ the ‘enquirers’ — in their own arena. For he, ‘the Lord’s bondservant,’ is not a philosopher but a messenger, not a theorist but an ambassador, carrying a commission holy, unalterable, divine. In his relations with alien thought he is bound therefore, most and always, to keep true in spirit to his Master. The ‘independent thinker’ is to find him invariably dependent upon a Person who is, for him, absolute Truth and absolute Authority. He is not indeed to make a virtue of ignorance, or a merit of unintelligence. He is … to take care that his holy message is delivered with all the reasonableness of one who has really learned at the feet of Christ, and who can sympathize with perplexity, and who understands something of his own limitations” (The Second Epistle to Timothy, pp. 102 - 103).
We come now to the second main aspect of our subject, and that is
The Ministry of the Servant
Four specific qualities should characterize the ministry of the servant of Jesus Christ as he deals with others, in particular with those who by their rejection of the truth oppose themselves.
Gentle to all. The word translated “gentle” also means “mild” or “kind” (cf. 1 Thess. 2:7; Gal. 5:22). As a sinner, David had experienced the gentleness of the Lord and as one virtually overwhelmed by God’s gentle dealings with him, he wrote: “And thy condescending gentleness hath made me great” (Ps. 18:35, J.N.D.).
So often it is true, as it was in Elijah’s day, that the Lord is not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire, but is revealed and found in “a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11, 12). Might we say, in “a still gentle voice?” How much the quality of Christian gentleness is needed today in an increasingly perplexed and perilous age Yet, we must keep in mind that our gentleness, as with our love, must be in the truth. In other words, we must never sacrifice God’s truth for the sake of gentleness or love. Our Lord is the perfect example of gentleness in all His dealings with men, yet when it came to exposing the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees, His always gentle manner was firm and His always gracious speech was “seasoned with salt” (cf. Matt. 23:1-36).
Apt to teach. This phrase is actually one word in the Greek text, and the same word is used earlier by Paul in regard to the necessary qualities of bishops (1 Tim. 3:2). H. C. G. Moule translates it: “explanatory.” By conduct and conversation all true believers in Christ should seek to explain the truth to unbelievers, even to those who are adamant in their stand against the truth. Every Christian, and in particular every servant of Christ engaged in a specific task and assuming various responsibilities, should be able to explain God’s Word to unbelievers. We may not have the specific gift of a teacher, but as the servants of Christ we should be “apt to teach.” In other words, we should be ready and able to present and explain the truth to others, especially in regard to salvation (1 Pet. 3:15).
Patient. This word carries with it the idea of “forbearing” or being “patient will all.” It is a medical term and the scholar David Smith states that it signified “a sufferer who bore his malady bravely and uncomplainingly.” We must bear and forbear with those who oppose the truth. If we search long enough we shall find that there are many underlying reasons why some people take a vehement stand against the truth. Guy H. King (To My Son, p. 83) has suggested four reasons which we briefly present as follows: A virtually heathen background, a bitter experience in life, the inconsistent example of a professing Christian or Christians, and moral defeat in the life. Perhaps you can add other reasons, to the list.
Meekness. Meekness is not weakness. Rather, it may be defined as “harnessed might,” Moses being the classic example of meekness in the Old Testament (Ex. 32:32; Num. 12:3). The Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Servant-Son is the perfect example of meekness. Throughout His entire ministry in the accomplishment of our redemption, He was perfectly submissive and obedient to His Father’s will and finished the work He was given to do (John 6:38; Matt. 26:39).
Now, it is in meekness, as those under the control and direction of the Holy Spirit that we are to “correct” or “school” (see Tit. 2:12 for the same root word) those that oppose the truth, prayerfully hoping that God will cause them to repent and fully acknowledge the truth. Repentance, however, must come first (illus. of 2 Kings 5-11, 15; contrast the lack of repentance on the part of those in 2 Pet. 2:21).
Of those who truly repent and come to a clear, full acknowledgement of the truth, two things are said in 2:26: first, they escape the snare of the devil; and second, they escape for the purpose (the prep. “at” is purposive) of doing God’s will. The phrase, “recover themselves,” is best summed up and explained by a quotation from Dean Alford: “These people have, in a state of intoxication, been entrapped; and are enabled, at their awaking sober, to escape.” The same root word for “recover” is used in 1 Thessalonians 5:6 and 8 and translated “sober.” The parable of the prodigal son vividly illustrates the truth set forth here (Luke 15:17).
A problem arises in connection with the pronouns in the latter part of 2:26. There are four views regarding the “him” and “his.” Some say (very few) that both pronouns refer to the devil, some that the first refers to the servant; the second to God, some that both pronouns refer to God, some others (and this is the generally accepted view) that the first refers to Satan; the second to God.
The verb for “captive” means “to catch alive,” and significantly it is used only one other place in the New Testament (see Luke 5:10).
Three wills are involved in 2:26 (four, if view 2. is taken): God’s, the devil’s, and the individual’s As the poet has said: “Our wills are ours, to make them Thine.”
May our wills be completely given over to our Lord that He in turn may make us model servants for His eternal glory and for the blessing of those with whom we come in contact who are yet out of Christ, opposing the truth and themselves, and ensnared by the devil.