(Vs. 20) It grieves every believer to see those who have made a profession of faith in Christ, who put on a show of piety and zeal, who even preached and taught the Word to fall away from grace, the gospel, and the fellowship of the saints, However, Paul's object is to show that we ought not be amazed, unduly disturbed, nor think it strange that tares are mixed with wheat, dead branches are on every tree, and hypocrites are present in the church.
In a palace there are pieces of furniture and articles which serve noble purposes and others which serve baser and sordid purposes. There are vessels of beauty, and there are vessels of clay and wood which have no beauty. In the church there are men and women in whom the beauty and glory of Christ are seen. There are also some who do not reflect the grace of Christ but rather bring shame and reproach upon Him and the church.
(Vs. 21) If a man stays away from the company, the heresies, the errors, and the influences of these dishonorable vessels, he can be an honorable and useful vessel, set apart by God, filled with the spirit of grace, truth, and love, useful to the Master for witnessing, teaching, and helping others in the household of faith. But evil communication and companions corrupt good manners. Association and fellowship with unregenerate, murmuring, indifferent, troublemakers in the church have a corrupting influence (Rom. 16-17, 18).
(Vs. 22) "Flee youthful lusts." It is true that Timothy and all young people must and will avoid the lusts of uncleanness, lasciviousness, and worldliness; but staying with the subject and context, this is not Paul's meaning. He is speaking of such lusts as are apt to entice young ministers and leaders; such as vain glory, popular applause, seeking and having pre-eminence, and becoming involved in disputes, debates, and divisions. If some debate arises, problem is presented, or contention appears, young men more quickly grow heated, are more easily irritated, and blunder through lack of experience; they are given to rashness. Flee this!
Follow after conformity to the will of God and exhibit faith, love, and peace with all of the believers who call on the name of the Lord in sincerity and truth. There are enough disturbers of the church from outside without having strife and division from within!
(Vs. 23) Foolish and ignorant controversies over matters that do not edify the church and are not clearly resolved by the Word of God are to be avoided. These speculations and arguments over secret mysteries, silly trifles, and unprofitable traditions only serve to foster strife and breed quarrels.
(Vs. 24) The servant of the Lord, especially the minister of the Word, ought not to strive and contend about words to no profit! He ought to strive for the faith of the gospel. To be quarrelsome and contentious over mere words, customs, and doctrines to show his intelligence, mastery, and piety is to defeat the very purpose of his office. He is to be kind, mild-tempered, and gentle to all men, preserving the bond of peace. He must be a skilled and suitable teacher, patient, and willing to bear reproach (II Cor. 2:15-17; 3:5-7).
(Vs. 25) Let the minister learn to correct with courtesy and gentleness those who oppose the Word of God, and in turn oppose "themselves;" for any man who opposes truth does so to his own ruin and unhappiness. We must be firm in the truth, yet tender in the spirit with our opponents in the hope that God will grant to them repentance and an understanding of the Word. Don't build a wall so high between you and an opponent that he is prevented from repenting and returning without embarrassment and humiliation. It is only by God's grace that we stand.
(Vs. 26) Our desire and objective in ministering the truth is that men might "come to themselves" as the prodigal, that they might "awake out of the sleep of death" and be restored to "their right mind." Rebels are like drunken men, intoxicated with error and taken captive by Satan to do his will. Only the Son can make us free. Let us pray for those who will not pray themselves (Rom. 10:1).