2Ti_2:25-26. In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
THE work of the ministry is arduous in the extreme, not only on account of the labours in which a pastor has to engage, but on account of the opposition he meets with from those whose welfare he seeks. He has to call men from all which by nature they affect, and to stimulate them to much for which they have an utter distaste. But the hope of ultimately benefiting immortal souls is sufficient to carry him forward; and, if he be himself of a becoming spirit, he will persevere with patience and long-suffering, “meekly instructing those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure may give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth.”
To enter fully into the subject before us, I must set before you,
The state of unconverted men—
I am not aware that there is any other passage of Holy Writ that places this matter in a more humiliating view, than that which we have just read.
The unconverted man is altogether a slave of Satan—
[The agency of Satan is but little thought of by us, though it occupies a very prominent place in the Scriptures of truth. His influence over Judas and Ananias shews what he can effect, if God see fit to withdraw the restraints which, from love to mankind, he has imposed upon him. This malignant fiend is, in fact, “the god of this world;” and all mankind, whilst in their unconverted state, are his vassals — — — Yet it is not by force that he reigns over them, but by subtilty. He “takes them captive;” but it is by “snares” that he allures them, and draws them into his net. He knows what is suited to each, as a fowler or a fisherman does to the taste and appetite of the different creatures he would decoy: and he finds the whole human race ready enough to yield to his devices, and to surrender up themselves to him according to his will — — — To persons in early life he offers the gratifications of sense; and to those at a more advanced period the acquisition of wealth and honour. Nor is he more anxious to ensnare them, than they are to swallow the bait which he has laid for their destruction — — — In truth, if they were to form a deliberate purpose to serve Satan as far as they possibly could consistently with the preservation of a good character among men, they could not do it more effectually than they already do. Satan would not wish them to live in a more entire neglect of God and of eternity than they do: nor could he wish them more habitually to cheat themselves with a mere name and form of godliness than they do — — —]
And this is the state of all, without exception—
[Men have their different tastes: one loves gross immorality, whilst another prefers a self-complacent round of outward duties. But these are only the baits which they affect: their radical neglect of God and of his Christ is the same in both. The Apostles themselves, not excepting St. Paul in his unconverted state, were once subjects of this great usurper: “We ourselves,” says St. Paul, “were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures [Note: Tit_3:3.].” And by whose influence they were kept in this awful condition, he tells us in another place: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind [Note: Eph_2:1-3.].” Here, you perceive, they were actuated by their own lusts; yet did they most effectually accomplish the will of the great deceiver [Note: Rev_12:9.] — — — “His they were, and him they served;” and from that kingdom of darkness must all be delivered, if ever they would “be translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son [Note: Col_1:13.].”]
The directions given to Timothy, for the regulation of his conduct towards them, leads me to notice,
The efforts of ministers in their behalf—
Ministers are appointed of God to instruct the world in the things which belong to their everlasting peace.
They are to rescue men, if possible, from the power of Satan—
[They find men sleeping in security, and, like persons in a state of intoxication, unconscious of their danger [Note: Act_26:18. This seems to be implied in the term
.]: and they endeavour to awaken them. With this view they cry, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give thee light [Note: Eph_5:14.].” They call the poor unhappy victims to “repentance, and to an acknowledgment of the truth as it is in Jesus.” They set forth the claims of their God and Saviour to their allegiance, and the evil and danger of continuing in rebellion against him. They declare, that if they will submit themselves to the Lord Jesus Christ, he will forgive all their past sins, and bring them into the glorious liberty of the children of God — — — This they do, to lead the poor captives to cast off the yoke of Satan, and serve the living God — — —]
But their only hope of success is in God alone—
[They know how vain it would be for them to engage in this warfare, if God himself do not interpose to give them the victory. They know, that though “Paul should plant, and Apollos water, God alone can give the increase.” Nor are they sure that he will work by them: much less do they know for whose particular benefit they may be sent. They can only “draw their bow at a venture,” and leave it to God to direct the shaft. A mere “peradventure,” however, is quite sufficient to stimulate their exertions. If they be but the happy instrument of delivering one soul from Satan’s yoke, they will account it an ample recompence for a whole life of labour. With their ministrations to men, therefore, they unite their supplications to God; if peradventure he may “give to any a repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” Only let the gifts of repentance and faith be given to any soul, there will be an end of Satan’s power over them. Their chains and bars shall all give way before them: and, like Peter, they will come forth out of their prisons, as monuments of the Redeemer’s power, and as witnesses for him to an ungodly world — — —]
Let me offer two requests:
Acknowledge your state to be as God has described it—
[It is so, whether ye will acknowledge it or not — — — And, O submit no longer to such a degrading vassalage. Awake from your intoxication, and contemplate the issue of your present bondage — — — And may God of his mercy overcome the resistance which you have hitherto made to our ministrations, and turn you, even by our feeble efforts, “from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God [Note: Act_26:18.]!”]
2. Unite your own efforts with ours, for your deliverance—
[There must be a concurrence on your part for your ultimate deliverance. We cannot effect it: and God will not, without your own cordial co-operation. Doubtless it is he that must give you both to will and to do: but still you must “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Though you are “drawn by God, and made willing by him in the day of his power,” you are “drawn by the cords of a man,” and from thenceforth act as willingly as ever you did in the ways of sin. Arise then to the work of repentance, and to an open acknowledgment of the truth: so shall your chains be broken, and “Satan himself be bruised under your feet shortly.”]