In 2 Tim 2:24-26 we are studying the seemingly unusual phrase, “those that oppose themselves.” When you read that phrase, it sounds like they are against themselves.
However, to oppose means several things. In 2 Tim 2:25, to oppose means to set against; to put in opposition with a view to countervail (to exert force against), and thus, to hinder, defeat, or prevent effect; as to oppose one argument to another.
So, to “oppose themselves,” in 2 Tim 2:25, doesn’t mean that they are opposed to themselves. It means that they have set themselves against, or put themselves in opposition to, something or someone. In this passage, they have set themselves against God.
Look at some cross references. In Acts 18:6, the Jews in Corinth “opposed themselves” to Paul when he testified that Jesus was Christ [Acts 18:5]. In Job 30:21, Job complained to the Lord and said, “thou opposest thyself against me.” In 2 Thes 2:4, the antichrist “opposeth (himself) and exalteth himself above… God.”
In 2 Tim 2:24-26, therefore, we are dealing with those who have set themselves against God, who have put themselves in opposition to God.
Notice several things from this passage. Because these folks have set themselves against the Lord, therefore:
They are ensnared by the devil – “the snare of the devil.” When you oppose yourself to God, you set yourself up to be ensnared by the devil. Notice that the devil can even ensnare a bishop under certain circumstances [1 Tim 3:7]. Look what happened to Judas. He lifted up his heel against Jesus [Jn 13:18] and Satan entered into him [Lk 22:3]. When Saul disobeyed the word of the Lord, Samuel said that his rebellion was as the sin of witchcraft [1 Sam 15:23]. Those that oppose themselves are powerless to keep the devil from ensnaring them, if he wants them. They “are taken captive by him at his will.”
God is under no obligation to give them repentance – “if God peradventure will give them repentance.” When Pharaoh opposed himself to God in Ex 5:2, the Lord was completely justified to harden Pharaoh’s heart and to do whatever he wanted with Pharaoh as king until he had accomplished his will. Look at Rom 9:17-18. When a person decides to set himself against God, he can no longer expect mercy from God. He might get it, and we often do, but he cannot expect it. God will be merciful to whom he will be merciful and he will harden whom he will.
The servant of the Lord is not to strive with them – “the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men.” You can get mad about their opposition to God and you can say all kinds of things to win an argument against them. You are wasting your time and you are disobeying God. Notice the fruit of the Spirit that is required in the servant of the Lord to deal with someone who has opposed the Lord. He needs gentleness, patience, and meekness.
They must be instructed and taught – “apt to teach… instructing.” If they are not teachable, they are not reachable. If they oppose the instruction, like a scorner, then you have to leave them alone [Prov 9:7-9]. Otherwise they will hate you or hurt you.
They must acknowledge the truth – “to the acknowledging of the truth.” When a person has opposed himself to God, he must acknowledge the truth. He must agree that God is right and he is wrong. He must believe the truth [1 Thes 2:13; Jn 8:32, 36]. If he is not willing to believe and respond to the truth, then he’s still opposed to God and God won’t help him.
Conclusion: Not only must we follow these instructions when dealing with those who have opposed themselves to God, but we must guard our own relationship with the Lord. Be sure that you do not oppose yourself to God, or that you have not already opposed yourself to God, by doing something against his will or his word. If you have opposed yourself to God, and you have been instructed, then acknowledge the truth and repent.