Communication Landmines

Neal Pollard

Paul writes two letters of instruction to Timothy, the preacher at Ephesus. As his father in the faith (cf. 1 Tim. 1:18), Paul wanted the younger man endowed with the wisdom and courage to be God’s man.  Timothy would face pressures and temptations from many different directions. The apostle’s words also provide some common sense to help him do the sometimes difficult task of preaching and ministry.

In a letter full of the theme of godliness, 1 Timothy, Paul gives him some intriguing encouragement in the sixth chapter. He says, “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (6:3-5). In this brief admonition, he gives Timothy several tips to help him be a useful communicator of God’s truth. He urges Timothy to avoid:

  • Compromise. Not only here, but throughout the letter, Paul urges Timothy to teach the pure doctrine of Christ, those sound words and that godly doctrine. If we bow to pressures and change the revealed word of Christ, we become deadly communicators.
  • Conceit. Ironically, the conceited often look down upon others. Yet, Paul ties the arrogance to ignorance (“understands nothing”). When we encounter one who condescendingly communicates, we are prone to tune them out even if they are telling the truth. It is incongruous to have a pompous preacher speak of the lowly Jesus. It’s a credibility killer.
  • Controversy. We live in the age of controversy. It is splashed all over the traditional media and social media. It is often manufactured, and it is the mark of a morbid (literally, “sick”) mind. The controversialist will be found at the heart of disputes, ever seeking to dig up something, hash and rehash it, and keep it going. We can be accused of that for simply trying to communicate God’s will, especially when unpopular, but some are never far from contention. It is characteristic of them.
  • Constant friction. This is listed last among several other results of controversy, along with envy, strife, abusive language, and evil suspicions. Have you ever been around someone who keeps up an atmosphere of tension? The chip is always on the shoulder. Their communication is always confrontational. It appeals to the depraved and deprived, according to Paul.

Paul was so bold that he would die for preaching the truth (cf. 2 Tim. 4:1-8). Yet, he urged Timothy to be peaceable, kind, adept, patient, and gentle when communicating it (2 Tim. 2:24-25). Is it possible to courageously stand with the Christ but do so using the precise scalpel of Scripture (Heb. 4:12) rather than the reckless explosives of excess? Yes, and each of us must predetermine that we will do so no matter how others act and react.

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Hymenaeus Was A Low Man

Neal Pollard

Only two verses call his name, but he is as infamous a Bible character as you will fin. A school teacher once told us, “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all!” The Spirit led Paul to no such congenial approach to Hymanaeus. The figurative cup on the man’s life was so filled with wickedness that it toppled over and spilled its insidiousness all over Ephesus. He apparently was viewed by God as a godless sinner. Why would God choose to include so stained a soul, if not to teach us key lessons about forsaking Him and the price of ungodliness?

This was a man who ran with wicked companions. He was a co-worker with Alexander (2 Tim. 4:14), with whom he blasphemed god (1 Tim. 1:20). He left the faith with his cohort, Philetus (2 Tim. 2:17-18). Maybe the downfall of Hymenaeus began with his poor choice of associates. Undoubtedly, these choices impact our own morals (1 Cor. 15:33).

This was a man who had a blatant disregard for the name of God. The Bible treats this offense most seriously (2 Tim. 3:2; Mk. 3:28-29). How spiritually degenerate must one be to ridicule and slander the name for God? Paul says that this man should be handled in the same way as the infamous Corinthian Christian who had his father’s wife (cf. 1 Cor. 5:5). What would have happened to the Ephesus church if a couple of men were allowed to spread disrespect for God and falsehood without rebuke and discipline? The same devastation happens in any church that allows the rebellious to operate unchecked.

This was a man whose teaching was compared to gangrene. Consider the graphic imagery Paul uses in 2 Timothy 2:16-18. The word of Hymenaeus and Philetus, with others like them, would “spread like gangrene.” A gangrenous infection makes amputation, in the threat of death to the entire body, a necessity. Likewise, the poisonous teaching of Hymenaeus and his partner would cause great harm to the body of Christ. Their false teaching was that the resurrection had already occurred (18). The result of their doctrine was that it threatened to upset the faith of some!

In context, the only way to guard against false teaching like Hymenaeus was doing is by diligent study of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15). Like Hymenaeus, many have and will both personally err from the truth and overthrow the faith of others. Our task is to fight, like Paul did, the cancerous spread of “profane and worthless talk” (16). The result of disrespect for Bible truth is increasing ungodliness (16). How tragic! We must oppose the Hymenaeus’ of our day.

Hymenaeuses live and die, and they drag others down with them. Their influence wanes, but the damage they do has an eternal impact on those duped by their doctrines. As we keep our focus on the cross and our zeal to convert the lost, may we keep up our fight against the cankered! Let us pray that modern Hymenaeuses will turn from error and come back home to a God who waits with His mighty arms outstretched!

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Even When You’re Alone, You’re Not

Neal Pollard

If I have a favorite chapter of the Bible, it would have to be 2 Timothy 4.  Yes, I love the first eight verses, but that alone is not what cinches this chapter as dearest to me.  It’s Paul’s personal remarks starting in verse nine.  There’s his longing to see his spiritual son, Timothy.  Twice he implores Timothy to come see him (9, 21).  He’s in prison, persecuted for preaching the Prince of Peace. He longs for Christian companionship.  Then, he shares his dejection over the abandonment of certain fellow-workers (10). He wants to see cohorts with whom he has done spiritual battle (11). He has personal needs and wants (13). He warns Timothy of a spiritual troublemaker (14-15).  Then, he shares personal feelings of isolation and loneliness, a time when he needed a Christian brother by his side but had none (16).  Bold, risk-taking Paul, who would stand up to any opposition, the epitome of true manliness, was now in undoubtedly dire, dank conditions, the smell of squalor in the air.  Whatever he saw, heard, and felt as he wrote, Paul scratched out these words: “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them.  But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (16-18).  These words aren’t the end of the letter, but they are the end of the matter!

This faithful Christian was deserted by men, but he felt God’s presence and power:

  • The Lord stood with him.
  • The Lord strengthened him.
  • The Lord spoke through him.
  • The Lord saved him.
  • The Lord was steering him.

You and I cannot fathom the price Paul paid for proclaiming Jesus. But even if we were ever to face privation, punishment and pain for our faith, what was true for this apostle will be true of us.  He promised to be with us always (Mat. 28:20) and never forsake us (Heb. 13:5). Even if you ever feel physically alone, you will have the spiritual assistance Paul speaks of in 2 Timothy 4.  Through it all, you can say with Paul, “To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen!”