This is the fifth article in a ten part series about why the UMC split over the issue of homosexual practice is a Bible engagement crisis.  In the first article, I defined Bible engagement, and the steps of a process to determine if a situation comprises a Bible engagement crisis.  In the second article, I explained why the Bible mandates that a Christian practice Bible engagement that satisfies the biblical standard.  In the third article, I examined 2 Timothy 2:15 to develop a foundation to define the biblical standard for Bible engagement.

In the fourth article, I examined verses 14 and 16 of 2 Timothy 2 that define two contrasting actions to “rightly handling the word of truth.”  The result was to identify two actions that are not the result of biblical Bible engagement.     

In this fifth article, I analyze verses 17 and 18 of 2 Timothy that define two more contrasting actions to “rightly handling the word of truth.”   The result of this analysis is to identify two more actions that are not the result of biblical Bible engagement.     

The Third Contrast

2 Timothy 2:17 (ESV) reads:

17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus,

The third contrast is the “talk”, which is the “irreverent babble” of verse 16, that spreads “like gangrene” (v. 17).  

The ESV translates the Greek noun logos [Strong’s 3056] as “talk”.   One lexicon defines logos to mean “… a communication whereby the mind finds expression, word  … of utterance, chiefly oral”  See Arndt, W.,
Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 599). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.  In this passage, logos has the sense of the substantive content (or message) of a communication.  See Logos 8, Exegetical Guide.

The ESV translates the Greek noun nomē and the verb echō as “will spread.”  See Exegetical Guide, Logos 8.  One lexicon defines nomē as “(a figurative extension of meaning of νομήa ‘pasture,’ 1.98) extension of an area—‘extension, extend, spread, increase.’.”  See Louw et al. at 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 720).  One well-respected language expert writes:

Thayer defines the word, “growth, increase.” It refers to the spread of something, for instance, nomē puros (νομη πυρος) “a spreading of fire”; a sore is said nomē poieō (νομη ποιεω), “to spread.”

Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 8, p. 137). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans

The ESV translates the Greek noun gangraina as “gangrene” and it has the sense of the localized death
of living cells such as from infection or the interruption of blood supply and if not treated will continue to eat away at tissue until the eventual death of the patient.  See Exegetical Guide, Logos 8.

One commentator describes the awful process of spiritual decay:

But these false teachers and their philosophies were not pitiful little people to be ignored. They were causing great harm to those whom they influenced: Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Just as the teaching they followed was rotten, so its foul and corrupt nature infected more aid more people. In contrast, truth is always life producing, creating wholeness and health.

Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, pp. 286–287). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

According to the third contrast, biblical Bible engagement does not result in an interpretation that generates meaningless profane talk that spreads from spiritually unhealthy people to infect spiritually healthy people who then become heresy-infected spiritually sick people who disrespect God.   

The Fourth Contrast

2 Timothy 2:18 (ESV) records the fourth contrast, which reads:

18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.

The fourth contrast is speech from people who “have swerved from the truth” that upsets the faith
of some people (v. 18).  The specific heresy is a teaching that Jesus’ second coming has already taken place.  Yet, this contrast has application to other heresies.

The ESV translates the Greek verb astucheō as “have swerved.”  It means “to go astray as the result of
departing from the truth—‘to abandon the truth, to lose one’s way.’”  See  Louw et al. at 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 373.  Here, missing the mark does not necessarily mean the person missed their intended goal, but that what they did fell short of biblical truth. 

One commentator adds some gloss to the circumstances of those who had swerved from the truth:

Yet, they wandered away. This describes a slow drifting from the truth. These men did not make a dramatic break from the Christian faith and run after strange philosophies. They slowly shifted their thinking, toyed with new ideas, held to what they liked and discarded what was unappealing. After a time, they had denied the faith.

Lea, T. D., & Griffin, H. P. (1992). 1, 2 Timothy, Titus (Vol. 34, p. 217). Nashville: Broadman & Holman

The ESV translates the Greek verb anatrepō as “they are upsetting.”  It means “(a figurative extension of meaning of ἀνατρέπωa ‘to overturn,’ 16.18) to cause serious difficulty or trouble with regard to someone’s belief—‘to upset belief.’”  See Louw et al. at 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 374.  It is an action that is continuing with no indication of cessation. 

The ESV translates the Greek noun pistis as “faith” and it means beliefs, doctrine or trust in the
gospel of Jesus Christ.  

According to the fourth contrast, biblical Bible engagement will not produce an interpretation that causes people to continually speak a message that comprises serious spiritual error.  The error is so severe that it overturns the Christian faith in the minds of some of those who hear this speech.

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