Old Rules for a New Media
Gossip, lies, slander, quarrels and unrestrained speculation have always been a part of the fallen human condition, but the advent of social media like Facebook and Twitter have elevated it to a whole new level. That is why Paul’s teaching about godly speech is more relevant than ever before. Let’s read this passage together so you can see what I mean.
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
Granted the primary application of this text is aimed at Teaching Elders such as Timothy and the elders he have supervision over. However, the principals that Paul lays out have application for all believers. One of the most obvious principles that comes out of this text is that a true Christian’s speech will demonstrate righteousness and faith, while a false Christian’s speech will be characterized by unrighteousness and unbelief.
Demonstrate Righteousness and Faith
Demonstrate Righteousness and Faith
In verse 15, Paul charges Timothy and by extension all pastors to “present themselves as workmen who accurately handle the word of truth.” I think we would all agree that pastors have a special obligation to handle the word of God accurately. The problems that false teachers have caused not only the Ephesian church, but all churches throughout church history confirm the necessity of this. But wouldn’t we also agree that all believers have an obligation to accurately handle the word of God responsibly. Who was it that had a formative influence upon Timothy? It was his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois (2 Tim 1:5)?
Not only pastors and teachers, but lay people can do great harm it they do not handle the word of God correctly. Paul warns that false teaching and faith “leads to the ruin of their hearers” (2 Tim 2:14), it “spreads like gangrene” and “leads to further ungodliness” (2 Tim 2:16) “upsetting the faith of some” (2 Tim 2:18).
Paul contrasts two different ways of living and speaking this way:
Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.
Paul is speaking of the difference between a golden punch bowl and a plastic bedpan. Before we post anything on Facebook or tweet anything on Twitter, we need to ask ourselves, “That are these words fit for? Are they fit for the golden punch bowl or the plastic bedpan?” Of course the only way to answer this question is by the criteria of God’s word. Interestingly enough, the world does not like the way true godliness and righteousness smells.
For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?
As an example of this is the way people react to the ministry of the Gideons. For many it is the ministry of life, but for others it smells like death. It is amazing how violently opposed some people are to the ministry of the Gideons, but it is not the Gideons they hate, they hate God and his word.
It is easy to get caught up in the emotions of Facebook or Twitter, but we need to remember that true Christianity shows itself in live and kindness—especially of our enemies.
Show Love and Kindness
Show Love and Kindness
The last three verses of our text today are a breath of fresh air in the heated debate of our day.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
What is so amazing about these three verses is the people Paul is teaching us to be loving and kind to are not our “friends” but our “opponents”. It is the type of people we are tempted to “defriend” on Facebook. We need to see our opponents the way God sees them, they are in “the snare of the devil” and “captured by him to do his will.” Unless they repent they will perish in God’s final judgement. This is why we need to pray and work for their repentance.
The christian philosopher had some great advice about “gently correcting someone”, he wrote:
When we wish to correct with advantage, and to show another that he errs, we must notice from what side he views the matter, for on that side it is usually true, and admit that truth to him, but reveal to him the side on which it is false. He is satisfied with that, for he sees that he was not mistaken, and that he only failed to see all sides. Now, no one is offended at not seeing everything; but one does not like to be mistaken, and that perhaps arises from the fact that man naturally cannot see everything, and that naturally he cannot err in the side he looks at, since the perceptions of our senses are always true.
In other words, rather than attacking and belittling our opponent, take the time to understand them and their position. Find something true in their argument. (There is always something true their, because the Devil uses 90% truth, to deceive people with 10% lies. This is using the Devil’s own tactics against him!) Them with the Holy Spirit’s power, help them to discover the 10% truth the Devil so left out!
To do this effectively, we must seek to create peace and in our speech and behavior.
Seek Peace and Purity
Seek Peace and Purity
It is sad how often debates today end up in flame wars. Don’t you wish the politicians in Washington would read verse 23.
Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.
I think it is becoming clear to the average American that many of the controversies in Washington are based on nothing more than idle speculation. All the numbers coming from the CBO, university studies, various institutes are nothing more than intelligent guess at best and done right lies at worse. People turn to statistics and studies, because they have rejected the only objective standard of truth—God’s word!
In an earlier letter written to the Ephesian church, Paul reminds us of the goal of Christian maturity.
until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
As we grow strong in the grace of the Lord Jesus, we are able to interject peace and purity into the controversies that surround us by “speaking the truth in love.” Of course this type of maturity doesn’t just happen, as we saw last week it takes the single-minded loyalty of a soldier, the discipline of an athlete and the hard-work of a farmer (2 Tim 2:3-6). In today’s text Paul expresses it this way:
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
One of the passions of youth is a recklessness with words. It is amazing how normally mature adults can suddenly become immature middle-school students on Facebook or Twitter. In all our communication we need to ask ourselves: “Am I pursuing righteousness, faith, love and peace in what I am about to say or write?”
I find it amazing how these old rules apply so well to the new media of today. God’s word never loses its relevance. Its relevance is not just that it gives us good rules of behavior, but it gives us words of Good News. The ultimate reason we want to take care in how we speak is we want to gain a hearing for the Good News of Christ Jesus. As we see so clearly in the concluding verses of our text today, our goal is to bring others to repentance and faith in Christ. Let us pray.