Canker

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

“And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus” (2 Timothy 2:17 KJV).

Exactly what is a “canker” anyway?

Today’s Scripture confirms that our King James Bible abounds with various and sundry unique terms. We rarely use the word “canker,” but we see in it “cancer” (“canker” is related to the Latin, cancer). As some interesting side-notes, that Greek word is only used once in our King James, and it is gaggraina (from a Greek word meaning “to gnaw”). When pronounced, you can almost hear “gangrene,” and that is exactly what a “canker” is. Medically, “gangrene” is the death of a large amount of living tissue, due to obstructed circulation or a bacterial infection. But the Bible is using “canker” figuratively in today’s Scripture, not literally.

The “canker” of today’s Scripture is, “a malign and corrupting influence that is difficult to eradicate.” As a canker attacks healthy physical tissue, so false doctrine will eat away at a Christian’s soul. The person once alive with Jesus Christ’s life (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:21; Colossians 3:4) is now shriveling spiritually; they are still saved and on their way to heaven, but they have been distracted from the grace doctrines that describe the Christian life. They, having lost sight of their identity in Christ, are now operating in the flesh, on their own, on human viewpoint, cut off from the life-giving words of God.

Just prior to today’s Scripture, the Holy Ghost through Paul wrote, “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness” (verse 16). Notice how the canker not only spreads, but it also consumes more and more. Once a little false teaching creeps in, the whole lump will eventually be leavened, corrupted (Galatians 5:9)—damage difficult to undo. Immediately before Paul wrote 2 Timothy 2:16, he wrote, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (verse 15).

Verse 18 says that Hymenaeus and Philetus were not using the Scriptures dispensationally, and they were misleading Christians regarding the timing of the Rapture (sound familiar?). Yea, “rightly dividing the word of truth” is a matter of life or death, for it keeps out a life-threatening canker!

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Were there people ‘in Christ’ before Paul?