April 16 – A Tender Response

A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all.

2 Timothy 2:24


A Christian is to explain his faith “with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15). This indicates a tender and gracious spirit in speaking. The kind of fear we ought to have is a healthy devotion to God, a healthy regard for the truth, and a healthy respect for the person we’re talking to. That’s why you can’t be quarrelsome when defending your faith.

A Christian who can’t carefully, thoughtfully, reasonably, and biblically give a clear explanation for his faith will be insecure when faced with hostility and might be inclined to doubt his salvation. The enemy’s blows will devastate those who haven’t put on “the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:8).[1]

A Gentle Manner

And the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, (2:24)

Doulos (bond-servant) is a description Paul frequently used of himself. In several epistles he refers to his being a bond-servant of the Lord—ranking himself with all other believers—before declaring his divine call as an apostle (See Rom. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Titus 1:1). Here he uses the description the Lord’s bond-servant to refer to Timothy and to other preachers of divine truth.

Every bond-servant of the Lord’s is to take care not [to] be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged. Similarly, in his first letter he points out that pastors “must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money” (1 Tim. 3:2–3). The apostle gives an expanded list of qualifications in his letter to Titus: “The overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:7–9).

Leaders in the church, are not [to] be quarrelsome, but… kind to all. Those qualities characterized Jesus in His incarnation. He said of Himself, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29). In recording Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Matthew quotes Zechariah: “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden’ ” (Matt. 21:5). In his second letter to them, Paul reminded Corinthian believers of “the meekness and gentleness of Christ” and of his own meekness as an apostle, “I who am meek when face to face with you” (2 Cor. 10:1).

As much as we are to speak boldly for the Lord without compromise, we are to do so with the attitude of meekness, gentleness, and humility. We are never to be harsh, abusive, overbearing, unkind, thoughtless, or pugnacious. There is to be a softness in the authority of a Christian leader, just as there was in Paul’s and in the Lord’s when He was on earth. “We proved to be gentle among you,” Paul reminded believers in Thessalonica, “as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children” (1 Thess. 2:7).

The responsible and godly preacher must also be able to teach. That phrase translates the single Greek adjective didaktikos, which carries the idea of being highly skilled in teaching. The only other time it is used in the New Testament is in Paul’s first letter to Timothy, where it is also applied to elders (1 Tim. 3:2). The term does not refer so much to possessing vast knowledge or understanding as to having notable ability to communicate effectively whatever knowledge and understanding one may have—in this case, knowledge and understanding of God’s Word.

The godly leader who is an honorable vessel must be patient when wronged, which is perhaps the hardest qualification mentioned here. If the old self is not firmly resisted, we are likely to become more offended when we ourselves are wronged than when our Lord and His truth are attacked. When we are faithfully witnessing and living for the Lord, it is not easy to graciously accept unjust criticism. But again Jesus is our example. “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,” Peter reminds us. He “committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21–23). In addition to being our example, Jesus is also our resource for being patient. Patience is a fruit of Christ’s own Holy Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:22), who will provide the strength we need for bearing His fruit.

The effective bond-servant of the Lord is not concerned about justifying or vindicating himself but about serving the Lord without bitterness, vengeance, or anger, and with graciousness, kindness, and patience.[2]

2:24 The servant of the Lord here is literally the Lord’s bondservant. It is fitting that this title should be used in a verse where gentleness and patience are encouraged.

Although the Lord’s servant must contend for the truth, yet he must not be contentious or argumentative. Rather, he must be gentle to all and approach men with the purpose of instructing them rather than of winning an argument. He must be patient with those who are slow to understand and even with those who do not seem disposed to accept the truth of God’s word.[3]

24 As “the Lord’s servant” (v. 24; cf. 1 Ti 4:6), Timothy must not get entangled in fruitless disputes (cf. Isa 42:2) but rather be “kind [ē pios, GK 2473; cf. 1 Th 2:7] to everyone” (NIV; better NASB, “to all”), be “able to teach” (didaktikos, GK 1434; cf. 1 Ti 3:2), and “not [be] resentful” (anexikakos, GK 452; cf. Wis 2:19; Josephus, J.W. 1.501, 624; 4.166). He must “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15; cf. Mt 11:29).[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 121). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (pp. 97–98). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2119). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Köstenberger, A. (2006). 2 Timothy. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 584). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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