If you’ve been prophesying to and admonishing the brethren in your Christian life for any time to help present them complete (perfectly mature) in Christ (Col. 1.28), you’ll quickly observe another carnal phenomenon. Is the truth and power of God’s word again being perverted by His children?
You must be the judge.
OK, here’s how it goes:
1) you proclaim (not “share”) a truth as you see it from the Holy Spirit.
2) This proclaimed truth can be originated by you or in response to some half-truth or blatant error.
3) You loving heart is concerned or gripped by the fact that God’s flock is straying or is strayed from His truth and even eternal destinies are in the balance.
4) Your truth is rejected, or maligned, or despised, or all three, without any searching together in God’s Word to confirm your truth, or prove their rejection of your proclamation.
5) You’re surprised and disappointed that these professed believers are so quick to reject and dishonor your love, for they frequently quote the 1 Cor. 13 “love” passage but seem to not apply it to themselves here.
6) Your audience, if they’ve been a believer for some time and read the Word, then sees you as troublemaker when you refuse to give up your Holy Spirit inspired opinion. They are unable and now unwilling to faithfully answer your truth proclamation.
7) Then, in a final “this-discussion-is-over” coup, they accuse you of “wrangling about words,” a thinly veiled attempt to move you to silence. Sometimes this is done somewhat casually in sarcasm, or can disintegrate to a full on elevated voice blow off. In any case, the other party never says, “You know, I honor you and desire to hear you out to see what the Spirit has for me. I love you too much to disrespect you here.”
So, then, are they right, you might wonder. Your confidence in the Spirit’s leading may be shaken. And in your heart of heart’s you feel your truth has even been despised. You may even worry about their often secondary accusation that you’re “not kind.”
What does it mean to “wrangle” in the situation that our brother Paul wrote to Timothy?
In pleasing Bible interpretation to our Father, there’s a few basic ground rules. Alas, almost all the churches I attend never teach these basics. And they get what we now have: years long believers who spout Bible passages and their personal interpretation or parrot back what they’ve heard from some western teacher.
In our world here, Rule 1 of good Bible interpretation is proper Bible exegesis (x-ah-g-sis) simply meaning: what did the writer have in mind when he wrote the passage in the “then-and-there” mid-east high-context culture thousands of years ago years ago in a strange land?
There’s a few other sub-rules to Rule 1 above, but for the sake of this simpler example of “wrangle” we’ll dispense with those at this time.
Ok, so what did Paul have in mind for Timothy? What was going on at the time that caused Paul to write that proclamation? What was the error going on?
Can you or I tell anyone with absolute clarity right now what that error was without a little research? Probably not. Sometimes the text will inform us in the book itself. In the case of “they crucified Him,” we must always rely on the excellent help of 3rd party sources for no description exists in the Word about crucifixion since the writer in the mid-east high context society assumed his readers knew all about that heinous act. Most likely, he’s not concerned about 21st century life in the least.
So, on to Paul and our passage. Here it lies:
2 Timothy 2:14-17 (NASB)
Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.
We get a clue of Paul’s teaching from 1 Tim 1.4 where he tells his key church planter (not “pastor”) to not pay any attention to myths and endless genealogies that were so prevalent in Timothy’s circles.
The “wrangling” was very simply these people’s attempt to ensnare others like Timothy into the misuse of genealogies. If they got sucked in, it was wrangling about words that were fruitless.
Now then. This begs the question why the genealogies were so important to these misguided folk.
It was all about control over the people of God. Some things never change, like ‘lording’ authority over people. How so, you might ask?
The Jewish false teachers that plagued Paul his entire ministry were zealous for authority over God’s flock in order to turn them into faithful robots to their cause. So therefore, they insisted upon “proof” which proved or disproved ethnic purity. Why? They falsely proclaimed that this was essential to serve in an “official” capacity in the New Testament church. Sounds a bit like a “church membership” letter, now that I think about it. We are the body.
So, they wanted people to have the “proof” ready. That way, the Jews were able to control positions of eldership and leadership among themselves, and completely blocking Gentiles. It was another brilliant strategy by Satan himself at more and more disunity.
By conjuring up this false rule of ethnic purity, they could eliminate any former pagans now converted to the faith. Another tradition of man that flew in the face of the traditions of God that Jesus died to proclaim and protect.
Next time someone pulls this on you, ask them something like this, “Oh, why did Paul write that to stop the ethnic purity of the genealogies?” If that doesn’t stop them in their tracks to ask what you mean, just give it up.
For goodness sakes, I mean, just look at all the passages where people interacted with “words.” That was not “wrangling.” It was holy dialogue.
For a very brief example, there’s Acts 28 and Paul’s dialogue:
”When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe.”
What about the “sharp contention” in Hebrews 10.24?
“…and let us consider how to stimulate (sharp contention) one another to love and good deeds…”
There’s so many examples in the New Covenant record alone, it’s almost ridiculous! But to those not open to your truth, one verse is one verse too many.
Did Jesus “wrangle about words” in His many dialogues, teachings, and arguments with all those who sought to dismiss His eternal truths? Hardly! His whole life was characterized by His mostly futile attempts to get His created humans to see the eternal truths for a fruitful life. And to honor the other created humans made in His image – the image of the Holy One. Goodness, how frustrated He was and is as His people called by His name continue to stonewall each other. How sad – and angry – He must be many times.
Well, that’s quite a turnabout from “wrangling” to sharp contention?! No?
What did we expect when Paul warned one of his first church plants:
1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 (NASB)
Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.
Oops…quench the very Spirit we say we serve?
Finally, where are you in all this? Are you a mainly a truth bearer and open to working through honorable disagreement? Or are you mostly telling people who disagree with your cherished Biblical positions, and when you refuse to search together with them, to stop “wrangling about words?” It’s our experience almost all the folks in our churches are in the “wrangling” category. Pretty lame.
Might they be so sure of themselves, that it borders on (or in full force) of extreme foolish pride? Do we then refuse to cast pearls before swine, and give what is holy to the dogs? Ouch! To encourage you, we offer this piece if you struggle with being “nice” to those practicing the refusal of you and your truth-opinions.
If you’re one of the very many who are misapplying God’s sacred scriptures here (as I have done too), let’s stop right this day doing this to others. It’s sin. There’s probably a fair chance you are, so again please stop it now. Repent. Apologize and seek forgiveness to those who are trying their level best to be heard by you.
In other words, stop wrangling about the wrangling!
These people in your life, indeed, may be sent by the Almightly Himself in is great merciful love to get you to see a blind, deceived, and even prideful arrogance in your dangerous thoughts. Did you ever consider that?
No? Yes? Might there be a speck in that eye of yours? Still no? It affects you, your children, grandchildren, your brethren in all your life. God is holding you directly responsible for every word. Every one. I don’t know about you, but that really scares me into more fear of the Lord.
Honor them. Listen thoroughly and play back in your oral words their truth-opinion to them until they tell you that you now understand them completely. You don’t have to give up your opinion. Don’t give it up unless you’re persuaded. But for His sake, and your eternal rewards (and maybe eternal destiny), stop rolling over your brethren.
If you think they’re totally deceived, then practice your definition of 1 Cor. 13 and be so very patient spending all the time needed so their eyes may be opened to God’s truth. You may be delightfully surprised what happens to them (and you) in the interim. What a novel idea!
If we seek to love others to the truth, we all are reminded of this very sober, very challenging promise from God:
James 3:1 (NASB)
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment
Please comment on this post right below. Feel free to write and proclaim your leadings in the Spirit in an honorable fashion.
Your friend and brother in fighting the good fight,
Saints, we’re one day closer to Home, and Him! Love Him wholeheartedly!
You may view our Archives here: RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD – ARCHIVES; Complete Archives; feel free to write and proclaim your leadings in the Spirit in an honorable fashion. May our Father richly bless you with His grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in order to walk worthy of His name.