From Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 2:14–19, we see at least six ways as to how we handle heretics.
First, we should warn them of judgment. Paul commands, “Remind them of these things” (2 Tim 2:14a), these things being the judgment that results in reigning with Christ or being denied by Him for having first denied Him (see 2 Tim 2:11–13).
Second, we should quench their quarrels. Paul gives another command: “charge them before God not to quarrel about words” (2 Tim 2:14). Missing the substance of God’s Word, they quarreled about individual words. The results were disastrous. Such a quarrel “does no good, but only ruins the hearers” (2 Tim 2:14).
Third, we should never share their shame. Paul commands yet again, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved…rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). Were Timothy or us today not to do so, we would not be “a worker who has no need to be ashamed” (2 Tim 2:15). Instead, shame would be ours for having handled God’s Word so poorly.
Fourth, we should avoid their nonsense. Paul bluntly commands, “But avoid irreverent babble,” and again spells out the negative results: “for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene” (2 Tim 2:16–17).
Fifth, we should mark them and their teaching. Paul pointed out two men in his own day and specified their teaching: “Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened” (2 Tim 2:17–18). He again shows what happens when heretics are on the loose: “They are upsetting the faith of some” (2 Tim 2:18).
Sixth, we should withdraw from their wickedness. In the face of heretics and their heresy, those who make up the church stand firm. Paul sums these thoughts up in this way: “But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His’” (2 Tim 2:19). And, for those who are His, we are given this command: “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity” (2 Tim 2:19).
This is but one passage in Scripture that deals with how to handle heretics. But for just a few verses, we learn quite a bit from the instruction and example of Paul. May God help us as we handle the heretics of our day.
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.