Nov 24, 2021
2 Timothy 2:17-19 NIV
“Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription…”
The preceding passage documents a first-century example of some Christian’s faith being destroyed and speaks implicitly of possibilities that can befall twenty-first century disciples. This exegesis will posit the vitality of our faith, the need for fortification, and offer hope for the realization of this goal.
In drifting from the truth, Hymenaeus and Philetus – the tag-team troublemakers – destroyed the faith of some. Their acceptance of the notion that the resurrection was past already, being incompatible with God’s utterances on the subject, weakened their conviction in the resurrection and destroyed it. Of all the things that could have been destroyed, their faith was the worst. Without our faith, we can neither gain victory over the world, please God, nor be rewarded for diligently seeking Him (Heb. 11:6; 1 John 5:4). It was Peter’s faith that Jesus prayed would not fail during his trial and would allow his ministry of strengthening his brethren after his second conversion (Luke 22:32). Therefore, Paul counsels Timothy and all Christians to avoid vain babblings that lead to this end, and instead, cherish faith and a good conscience (1 Tim. 1:19).
Given faith’s vitality, it follows logically that we should protect and fortify it. The text helps us in this effort because it reveals how the faith of some in Ephesus was destroyed. They believed a saying that was contrary to the truth of God. Hymenaeus and Philetus might have been passionate, persuasive speakers who put forth arguments in support of their position. But the only criteria for those who are serious about protecting their faith is the truth of God. Hence, fortification of our faith comes partly in knowing the true teaching of Scripture and explains why Peter in his post-conversion ministry encouraged Christians to “add knowledge to temperance” (2 Pet. 1:6 WBSSE). Our faith is also fortified when we consider the integrity of God’s utterances in Scripture. To any who were alarmed by this destruction of personal faith, Paul assured: “the foundation of God stands firm.” He also predicted perilous times were coming, but told Timothy, “… Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation…” (2 Tim. 3:14, 15 WBSSE).
But even in the error of Hymenaeus and Philetus drifting from the truth, there is hope for us fortifying our faith. The pronoun “some,” identifying those whose faith had been destroyed, implies only a part. The faith of some others was left undisturbed as ours can. Additionally, drifting from the faith indicates the reality of an identifiable body of teaching to follow. We speak of cars drifting from their lane because there are visible lines that demark courses within which motorists should drive to avoid costly accidents. Similarly, God has drawn lines that enable us to know truth from error and revelation from speculation. Vacillations have occurred among influential men on the eternality of matter, macroevolution as a theory of human origins, and on the humanity of black Africans. But through all those conflicting and confusing positions, God’s truth has always been constant and knowable – matter had a beginning, man is a special creation made in the image of God, and all nations of men, having descended from one blood, intrinsically possess the human essence (John 1:1-3; Gen. 1:26, 27; Acts 17:26).
True to the apostolic prediction, Hymenaeus and Philetus have spawned, with their offspring seemingly omni-present in our day. Their error spreads and is as fatal to our faith as gangrene is to a limb. But with healthy immune systems, strengthened by the nourishing word of Scripture, our faith can be fortified against even the deadliest mutations. Knowledge of this helps avoid instability and live our lives with the comfort and security of hope.