v. 22. Flee also, youthful lusts; but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
v. 23. but foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.
v. 24. And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
v. 25. in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth,
v. 26. and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
The conduct of Timothy as preacher and pastor the apostle had discussed at length. He here takes the opportunity of showing him how he ought to conduct himself so far as his own person was concerned: But the youthful lusts flee; rather follow after righteousness, faith, love, peace with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart. According to the standards of that day and age, Timothy, who was then some thirty years old, was still considered a youth. Paul, therefore, knew what he was doing when he included a warning concerning the sins of uncleanness which are peculiar to youth, for this desire is in need of constant taming and suppressing. Other desires and lusts which also must be watched very carefully are false ambition, officiousness, contentiousness. All these tendencies, but especially that of unchastity, can best be combated by fleeing from them, as the example of Joseph shows. But the opposite tactics must be employed where the acquisition of Christian virtues is concerned. There it is necessary to follow after, to seek earnestly, to aim at, righteousness, the proper conduct before God and men, faith in Christ and God and the confidence of faith, love that is active in all good works, peace with all those that are united with us in the fellowship of faith. He does not advocate a false peace, which might amount to a denial of God, but he does want us to confess our mutual faith in the Redeemer openly and cheerfully. Brethren in faith should not hesitate to make public declaration of that fact.
But while Timothy was using all diligence in growing in Christian virtues, he was incidentally to guard against the ways of the errorists: But futile and ignorant questions avoid, knowing that they engender strifes. Futile questions are such as are broached by people that have too much time on their hands, in the effort to kill time. And they were ignorant, arising from a misunderstanding of the matter in dispute. It seems that the people of the early days mere just as adept in discussing fruitless subjects as many a conference and many a theological paper is in our days, splitting hairs over immaterial matters and callous and indifferent with regard to the fundamentals. But discussions of this nature are sure to breed strife, since they are invariably subjective. In most cases, moreover, the personal element is brought into the situation, excluding all chances of bringing the matter under consideration to a successful conclusion.
For that reason Paul writes: But the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be placid toward all, apt to teach, enduring injury. It is in itself an honor to be called a servant of the Lord, to be in charge of the ministry which He Himself instituted. Such a man, however, must not be quarrelsome, must not indulge in quarrels, in petty contentions upon the slightest provocation. A different matter is that of defending the truth of God against vile attacks. A minister should be characterized by equanimity, kindness, benevolence toward all, not only toward his own members, but toward all with whom he comes in contact. That he must have aptness to teach, naturally, or the ability to teach, acquired, preferably both, is one of the first requirements of a teacher. But in thus giving instruction concerning the truth, it will be necessary quite often for the minister to endure injury and insult. Since natural man considers the teaching of the Gospel foolishness, he will usually object very decidedly to the idea of making a serious study of Christianity. It is an art which may be learned only in the school of the Holy Ghost, to endure insults, on the one hand, and on the other, to confess the truth in the face of all opposition.
But just this difficult part of a minister's work the apostle describes: in gentleness instructing those that oppose themselves, if possibly God will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth and a return to their senses out of the snare of the devil, captured by him to his own will. Blustering and threatening rarely convince a person of the truth of the Gospel. If a teacher of the Word, therefore, has such people before him as err from ignorance or even from malice, attempting to establish various points against the truth, then patient gentleness in explaining the Christian doctrine and in testifying to its soundness is the proper mode of procedure. The success of the teaching indeed rests with God; for it is He that must work the change of heart in man and give him the proper understanding of the truth. Repentance and conversion is a free gift of God to men, Jer_31:18; 2Co_4:6; 2Ti_1:9. Thereby his heart is changed so as to possess a full and perfect knowledge of the Savior. At the same time the person that is converted comes to his right senses. As long as he is held captive in the bonds of Satan, he is in a sort of stupor, which prevents his knowing Jesus Christ as his Redeemer and accepting the Word of God as the eternal truth. The moral condition of unbelievers is that of people that are captives of the devil, who has so thoroughly enslaved them as to use them for his willing tools in the execution of all his wicked schemes and works, Eph_2:2. Only the power of God through the Word can save people from this condition, and therefore every pastor should use all gentleness in his efforts to convince the gainsayers of the error of their ways. Evangelical kindness may give way to legal harshness only when men refuse to accept the instruction of the Word of God and blaspheme in spite of better knowledge.
The apostle admonishes Timothy to faithfulness in his ministry and to steadfastness in faith and sanctification; he urges the proper application of the Word in contrast to the confused methods of the errorists, and briefly sketches the personal behavior of the Christian pastor.