Be Careful about Words

Use them to edify, not to divide. 2 Timothy 2.14-19

The Pastoral Epistles: 2 Timothy 2 (4)

Pray Psalm 126.6.

He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.

Read and meditate on 2 Timothy 2.14-19.

Reflect.

1. What kind of words does Paul warn against in these verses?

2. What is the touchstone for right words, and for using words rightly? 

Meditate.
It’s surprising how much the Bible has to say about the words we speak. Paul’s teaching on the right use of our words shows up repeatedly in his epistles (cf. Eph. 4.29; Col. 4.6; 1 Thess. 4.18, etc.). A superficial reading of our passage for today might lead us to think that words don’t matter, and arguing about doctrine is an unfruitful pastime.

But that would be to misread Paul’s intention. He does not want us to use our words to strive with one another (v. 14), but to edify and encourageone another. Such words are profitable, and beneficial to those who hear them; while words that attack and provoke arguments only drive wedges between us.

Timothy must set the example for the words and lives of his flock by his careful and diligent handling of the Word of truth (v. 15). He must “present” himself at all times as one who is submitted to the Scriptures, and who, by careful reading, meditation, and study, is able to discern their true meaning and applications – which will always be in the direction of love (Matt. 22.34-40; 1 Tim. 1.5). Thus the pastor provides the model for others for how the Word of God must come to expression in our words and deeds.

We waste our time by arguing about “profane and idle babblings” – arguments that demean the Name of God by their trivialness, frivolity, and merely speculative or provocative content, and which aim at no constructive ends. The more we engage in such conversation and debate, the more ungodliness increases among us, and the more others will think such matters worth passing along to others (vv. 16, 17). Paul cites two examples of where such wrong use of our words can lead (vv. 17, 18). 

The “solid foundation of God” is the prophets and apostles on whose teaching He is building His Church (Eph. 2.19-22). We must attend carefully to that Word, and to the Lord Jesus Whom that Word reveals. Thus we will prove ourselves to be His true people by turning away from all iniquity, and not just that which comes from the wrong use of our words (v. 19).

Reflect.
1. What opportunities for using their words do believers have in a typical day? Should all those words be seasoned with grace and aimed at edification? Explain.

2. How do words edify? What does someone look like who is being edified by words? How can we become more effective in aiming our words for edification?

3. The Word of God – Scripture and our Lord Jesus Christ – is the foundation and touchstone for all our use of words. How would you explain this to a new believer?

But it is God’s work to dwell invisibly by his spirit and by the Spirit of Christ in those whom he judges it right to dwell. Whereas it is our task, since we try to confirm faith by arguments and treatises, to do all in our power that we may be called “workmen who need not to be ashamed, handling rightly the word of truth.” Origen (185-254), Against Celsus 5.1

Help me to keep focused on You, Lord Jesus, and to hide Your Word in my heart, so that my words today will…

Pray Psalm 126.6.

Think ahead to the words you will sow today. Will they be for edification?

Sing Psalm 126.6
Psalm 126.6 (Truro: Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns!)
They who in tears of sorrow sow and cast their seed on every hand, 
with joy shall reach their heav’nly home, and bring the harvest of their land.

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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