“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.” (2 Timothy 2:8–18, ESV)
Paul gives Timothy wise counsel when he instructs him to remember Jesus. It was not that he thought Timothy would have a mental lapse and forget the basic tenets of the gospel, rather it was the reminder to hold fast to the truth of the gospel no matter what. Treated with contempt as a criminal and bound in chains, this faithful servant tells the young minister that Christ should be first in our thoughts. Paul also makes a point to tell Timothy that even though he is bound in chains, the word of God cannot be bound and contained. It was going forth in power and freedom. Paul endures whatever he must so that much will be made of Jesus Christ. He longs to see sinners converted and salvation attained for the eternal glory of Jesus. He offers another one of the sayings that he presents as trustworthy and points to the great truth that the believer is united with Christ. Our union with Christ is the result of the glorious exchange which Paul speaks of when he says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV).
The warning against disputing about mere words does not mean that we do not contend for the faith or hold to essential doctrines. These false teachers in Ephesus speculated about God with theories until they reduced it to some kind of meaningless, vague philosophy that reduced the gospel to sentimental mysticism. The workman will be approved by the correct handling of the word of truth. He mentions two heretics that forfeited God's approval and upset the faith of some. It was devastating, disruptive, and destroying some like poison. It seems that the church was suffering because some leaders did not handle God's word correctly. Scripture informs one of the truth contained within the gospel and this truth is to be taught, remembered, and defended.