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2 Timothy 2:20-26 Study Guide: Loving Difficult People in God's House

Community Group Study Guide — Loving Difficult People in God’s House 
2 Timothy 2:20-26

Study Information:
Over the last few study guides we have learned about how Paul instructed Timothy to pass on what he had learned to faithful men who would teach others too. In that process there were some in the church community who were teaching false things about Jesus and others who were elevating controversies and debates and developing a hyper focus on those things. Timothy was to be a “good worker” who rightly handled the word of God. “Handle” is the greek word meaning  “to cut straight” and that was contrasted with those who “swerved” from the truth. The question is do we allow sound doctrine to guide and shape our lives or do we try and shape the Word of God to fit our lives as they currently exist? This passage continues to instruct us on how to correct people who are getting caught up in false teaching and immature desires, likewise it calls us to a gentle word and hopeful attitude that God can grant people repentance. We do this as we pursue what is honorable and love people who are difficult in God’s family.

Pursue What is Honorable  
2 Timothy 2:20-23
Paul introduced another metaphor in our text, the metaphor of honorable and dishonorable vessels in a house. This metaphor described Christians who were pursuing holiness verses Christians who were giving into quarreling and sin. When you think of your house, are there certain vessels that you use for everyday activities that are honorable and others for activities that are necessary but dishonorable? Imagine bowls you eat from or a favorite glass to drink from; maybe you have some vessels that you use for special occasions like a vase for flowers. We also have vessels we use for dishonorable things like a garage can or a bucket for cleaning water that gets dirty. We’d never think to pour our morning coffee into the garbage can and then take a big drink, even if we had meticulously cleaned it beforehand because that is not it’s purpose. As Christians we should desire to be honorable vessels in God’s house. The thought here is to remember that we are made new in Christ through faith and to think deeply about how we are using our lives and our bodies for honorable vs. dishonorable purposes. The promise here is that it is not too late to change. Because of Jesus, we can turn from what is dishonorable and be set apart and useful to God for what is honorable. 

How do we cleanse ourselves so we can be honorable vessels for God’s service? 
First we have to note that if you are a follower of Jesus, you have been made new by Christ and are a new creation. However, we can still struggle with sin and give our lives over to unrighteous behavior that needs to be cut off from our lives. Paul gives us two actions steps in verses 22-23. 

The first action step is to flee youthful passion as we pursue righteousness. The word “passion” is the Greek word Epithumia, often translated as “desire.” Youthful desire is less about age and more about maturity as a Christian. There are often immature desires we give into early on in our Christian faith and that can lead us towards sin. The context of this passage (going back to 2 Tim 2:14-19) is using the Word of God in such a way to justify bad teaching and unholy living. It takes a lot of Christian maturity to say no to our worldly desires to quarrel or justify our own sin. As we say no to those desires we get to say yes to pursuing following Christ with a pure heart, which means pursuing righteousness, faith, love and peace. 

The second action we are given is to not get caught up in foolish and ignorant controversies (2 Timothy 2:23). There are many things that we ought to defend as Christians, especially pertaining to gospel issues and sound doctrine. But there is also a tendency to need to weigh in on or get pulled into modern day controversies. This is not a new thing, because here we have Paul writing about it 2,000 years ago. There are times when the truth of the gospel is at stake but there are many times when immature Christians just want to be argumentative and Paul calls these argumentative controversies as foolish and ignorant, which means uninformed. When it comes down to it there are just some people who like to argue about anything and everything. It is mark of immaturity to make small things into big things and to create controversy around it which can upset the faith of others (2 Timothy 2:18). 

Loving Difficult People in God’s House
2 Timothy 2:24-26
How do we love people in God’s house who are “difficult” or “dishonorable?” There are certainly times where we need to overlook offense and let love cover a multitude of sins. However, there are times when it is unloving to ignore quarrelsome behavior, controversies and sinful immaturity. Paul addressed our motives and attitude when we confront difficult believers (2 Timothy 2:24-26). The word difficult being used here does not imply needy or quirky, but rather people who have given into that kind of argumentative and quarrelsome behavior. So these are Christians who are hard to love because they can be bullies or make small things into big things, which Paul thought of as a mark of spiritual immaturity.  

How should someone respond to difficult Christians? Notice that rather than returning evil with evil the servant of the Lord MUST NOT be quarrelsome. We are not to get into a verbal wrestling match with yelling, name calling, straw-manning or twisting their words against them. The term “Lord’s Servant” highlights that it is a mark of spirit maturity among Christian leaders to respond with a gentle word. This goes against almost every impulse we see in our culture. A well thought out, patiently developed and kind response gets drowned out in a sea of “hot takes” and callous caricaturization of opponents. Should Christian leaders be different than the culture? YES. The tone of godly correction is spelled out for us in these verses. Notice that the Lord’s Servant is to be kind to everyone and not just to those who agree with them or who they like. Also, they are to teach and patiently endure evil. This requires an endurance mindset and a commitment to instruct someone else for their good. Finally, the goal is redemptive…, they want God to grant repentance and for this person to escape the snare of the devil. This does not mean that this person is unsaved but rather that they were caught up in works of the flesh and given to temptation and needed to come to their senses. 

A gentle word from a heart of love is more powerful than callous debate or returning arguing with arguing. 

We see this most powerfully as we look at Jesus who was able to give a corrective, even harsh, word when needed but would more often than not deal gently with the hurting. Jesus would also expose the emptiness of controversies through a kind word. For example in his conversation with the Woman at the Well in John 4. She was offered living water from Jesus but she abruptly changed the conversation towards a controversy of their time around worship. She asked “should we worship at the temple or on this mountain top in Samaria?” Jesus’s answer to her was “there is coming a day when you will worship in neither place but God is looking for people who will worship him in Spirit and Truth.” He did not get sucked into the controversies and arguments but directed her to a deeper need she had in worshipping God whole-heartedly. It is no wonder that Jesus was described as gentle and lowly (Matthew 11:29 and 2 Corinthians 10:1). We can only grow in being truly gentle and patient as we grow in our relationship with Christ and become more and more like him in our heart and actions. 

Are you living as an honorable vessel in God’s house? If so it will be seen not only in your righteous actions but also your humble and gentle attitude towards difficult Christians. 

At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read 2 Timothy 2:20-26

What is the difference between an honorable and dishonorable vessel in God’s house?

Why are we instructed to not only flee youthful passions but to also pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace?

What marks someone as being quarrelsome?

Can you think of a time when you were corrected gently? What was that like and how do you think it would have gone differently if you were approached in a more quarrelsome way?