Q. I was studying II Timothy 2 for encouragement, and got a little hung up on verses 20-21. I think Paul is saying that we can expect to find non-believers dwelling in our churches and attending our congregational meetings. Verse 21 says, “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” Is Paul advising us to have absolutely nothing to do (purge himself) with non-believers? Or is this more of a warning to avoid their influence? Can you clarify the intended meaning?
A. Remember Paul was writing to a young pastor. Beginning in 2 Tim 2:14 the passage is about being a workman approved of God and deals specifically with quarreling about words. (I guess even then they disagreed over interpretations.) He said it’s of no value and only ruins those who are listening.
In verses 20-21 Paul was not talking about believers and non-believers. He was talking about the way we occupy our time. He said some things we do are for noble purposes (honoring to God) but some are for ignoble purposes (not honoring to Him). If we cleanse ourselves from the things of ignoble purposes we’ll be made an instrument for noble purposes. In verses 22-24 he explained what he meant by things of ignoble purposes.
Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.