I have my conviction of the doctrine of perseverance of the saints, yet, this passage seems to indicate that Hymenaeus & Philetus were never saved due to the contrast Paul gives about “God’s solid foundation that stands”. How are we to interpret this? If we say Hymenaeus & Philetus we’re once saved, then how is God’s foundation “solid”?

A good analogy would be this: Two groups went to a party. Group A had a ticket, but Group B never had a ticket. When both groups arrived at the party, Group A gets access because they have a “solid foundation” namely the ticket. Group B, on the other hand gets ejected from the party because they don’t belong to the party, of course they had no ticket.

We then read:

“And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”” ‭‭II Timothy‬ ‭2:17-19

Q:How do we interpret Paul here? It sounds like Paul is saying that “Hymenaeus and Philetus” since straying from the truth are not part of God’s solid foundation, for if they had been part of God’s solid foundation, they would not have strayed from the truth. Yet, if they were at one time part of God’s solid foundation, then they damned themselves by making “shipwreck of the faith” , how then is God’s foundation solid to begin with?. This seems contradictory. Paul also makes a distinction that “The Lord knows those who are His”. Paul seems to suggest that Hymenaeus and Philetus are not His(God) {Romans 8:9}. Q: Again, How do we interpret this?.

3 Answers 3


The word “canker” (2 Timothy 2:17) describes an infection like gangrene or a cancer. The Amplified Bible translated this as “And their teaching [will devour; it] will eat its way like cancer or spread like gangrene.”

Cancer or gangrene must be cured, or it will kill. That’s the way it is with “profane and vain babblings” (see preceding verses). It is so deadly that if the cancer or infection cannot be cured, it is better to cut off the part of the body that is infected than to have the whole body poisoned by it.

It is the same with the body of Christ. It is always preferable to see people repent from false doctrine and be restored to fellowship with their fellow believers. In extreme cases, there may have to be a severing of that individual or individuals from the rest of the body to keep the error from spreading (Matthew 18:17).

This is the only mention of Philetus in Scripture. Paul’s association of Philetus with Hymenaeus might suggest that Philetus became subject to the same punishment as Hymenaeus as Paul mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:20.

1 TIM 1:20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

This same Greek word, “ASTOCHEO,” that was translated “erred” here was translated “swerved” in 1 Timothy 1:6.

Hymenaeus and Philetus said that the physical resurrection had already taken place. This could mean they acknowledged the resurrection of Jesus but didn’t believe that anyone else would experience a physical resurrection, or possibly they believed as the Gnostics (a first-century sect) that there is only a spiritual resurrection and not a physical resurrection.

Sincere believers were led astray by the false teachings of Hymenaeus and Philetus. If this could happen to people who were sitting under the anointed teachings of Paul and Timothy, then we can be assured that it can also happen today.

This verse (v20 NKJ) begins with the word “but,” and the previous verse began with the word “nevertheless.” Both these words tie each verse with the preceding verses. This means all these verses and the thoughts they are expressing are connected.

Beginning in 2 Timothy 2:18, Paul made a statement that the faith of some people had been overthrown because of the false teachings of Hymenaeus and Philetus. He then reminded Timothy that this hasn’t shaken God’s kingdom, because it is built on the sure foundation of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:19). The seal to which Paul alluded implies that those whose faith was overthrown might not have been true believers (2 Timothy 2:19). This verse is continuing that thought.

The vessels of gold and silver that are honorable are comparable to sincere believers who glorify the Lord. The vessels of earth and wood that bring dishonor are unbelievers who masquerade as Christians. He was saying there are both of these in the church just as every house has these different types of vessels.

The next verse continues this allegory and strengthens this interpretation, because it speaks of godly people separating themselves from these vessels of dishonor (2 Timothy 2:21).

  • Good insight/answer +1. (Very contextual)
    – Cork88
    Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 21:25

In [2 Timothy 2:18], Paul interestingly rejects certain followers of Jesus the Nazarene : "who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some" (2:18 οἵτινες περὶ τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἠστόχησαν λέγοντες τὴν ἀνάστασιν ἤδη γεγονέναι καὶ ἀνατρέπουσιν τήν τινων πίστιν)

  • Why does Paul reject the concept : "the Resurrection is already past"? > Did Paul not read/hear the gospel passage in [Matthew 27:52-53]?

Past Resurrection of the Saints : [Matthew 27:52] "and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;" (27:52 καὶ τὰ μνημεῖα ἀνεῴχθησαν καὶ πολλὰ σώματα τῶν κεκοιμημένων ἁγίων ἠγέρθη,) > [Matthew 27:53] "and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many." (27:53 καὶ ἐξελθόντες ἐκ τῶν μνημείων μετὰ τὴν ἔγερσιν αὐτοῦ εἰσῆλθον εἰς τὴν ἁγίαν πόλιν καὶ ἐνεφανίσθησαν πολλοῖς)

  • The past resurrection of saints from gospel of [Matthew] is not the type of resurrection Paul wants to teach.

Also In [2 Timothy 2:8], Paul believes an adopted child is a direct biological descendant "Seed" (σπέρματος) of David: "Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel," (2:8 Μνημόνευε Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐγηγερμένον ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐκ σπέρματος Δαβίδ, κατὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιόν μου) -- Yet in the gospels of Matthew 1:1/Luke 3:23-31, Jesus of Nazareth was adopted (not a direct seed of David).

In [2 Timothy 2:18], Paul is simply sharing that Literal Interpretations of the gospel of [Matthew] make Jesus' followers like Hymenaeus and Philetus stray from the truth. - The question Hymenaeus and Philetus should ask Paul is : why [Matthew 27:52-53] should not be understood literally?

  • 1
    @(Hebrew Name)^^. You don’t think Paul was referring to the resurrection at the last day? (John 11:24). (1 Corinthians 15 passage?)
    – Cork88
    Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 23:27
  • @Cork88 - How would Paul have read/heard the gospel of [John] since that publication came 20-years after Paul’s martyrdom? Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 23:38
  • 1
    @חִידָה - What of Dan 12:1, 2? That describes the resurrection in the last day?
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 23:45
  • @Dottard - If Hymenaeus and Philetus had access to a scroll of [Daniel] instead of copies of [Matthew], perhaps their concept of “resurrection” (ἀνάστασιν) would be different like Paul’s resurrection concept in [1 Thessalonians 4:14-16] Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 0:39
  • @חִידָה Oh, we’ll I believe in an early dating of the gospels, especially that of Luke’s Gospel. As far as John goes I’m not sure the definite date it was written, but I’m convinced it was prior to Paul’s martyrdom.
    – Cork88
    Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 1:35

In 1610 the famous Remonstrance was drawn up (in five "points), and presented to the States-General of Holland, in which were outlined five vital points in Calvinistic theology. These were declared offensive, some at that time claiming to have found in the Calvinistic Catechism and the Belgic Confession certain points that appeared as somewhat new theology.

Point #5 of this famous document said this:

  1. That they who had once received a true faith could never lose it wholly or finally.

[Only a year or two later, the leaders of the Armenian movement drew up five "counterpoints" against the remonstrance which we will not consider here. This all came to a head in the Synod of Dort in 1618 & 1619.]

This doctrine is sometimes called, "Once Saved always saved", or, "Perseverance of the saints" (ie, the "P" in the TULIP" acronym.)

For this Calvinist position the difficulty arises over the many texts, of which 2 Tim 2:17-19 is one, which appear to disagree. Note that this a problem only for those who hold this Calvinist position. In the case of 2 Tim 2:17-19 we note the following:

  • If Calvin is correct - why did Paul say what he did? Surely, the saints would be preserved!
  • Put another way, in 1 Tim 1:19 Paul says this, "holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and thereby shipwrecked their faith." This is not possible if Calvin is correct.

See the appendix below for many more such references. Back to 2 Tim 2:17-19. Let us observe what this actually says:

  • Paul is warning others against the dangerous doctrine of Hymenaeus and Philetus (whatever that was) because it acts like a cancer or cankering rust to destroy faith. If Calvin is correct, this is not possible.
  • The doctrine of Hymenaeus and Philetus also makes people deviate from the truth - again, if this is true, Calvin was mistaken. The same doctrine also "undermines" the faith.
  • God's foundation is stands sure - the truth of God is correct no matter who believes and who does not believe. That is, the fact that the majority believe or do not believe something does not affect the facts about God and His truth.
  • Lastly, Paul warns everyone, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord must turn away from iniquity.” This is obviously true - Christian converts to the Lord's service must turn from iniquity; that is, it is not possible to be a convert unless such loyalty to God changes the heart.

APPENDIX - Perseverance of the Saints

Perseverance of the saints is controversial because of John Calvin’s claims that once saved, the saints miraculously persevere. Do the saints miraculously persevere or is this part of the Christian life to which one responds at the Holy Spirit’s prompting? Here is the Biblical evidence.

  • “… but he that endures to the end shall be saved.” Matt 10:22, 24:13, Mark 13:13.
  • “We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” Heb 3:14
  • “And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.” (Heb 3:6)
  • “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” (Col 1:22, 23)
  • “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test [= stood firm], that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)
  • “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.” (1 Cor 15:58),
  • “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day …” (2 Tim 4:7, 8),
  • “being strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Eph 6:10)
  • “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” 2 Thess 2:15
  • “To the overcomer I [Jesus] will give …” (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26, 3:5, 11, 12, 21)
  • “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:25)
  • “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal 6:9)

See also 2 Peter 1:5-7. Note the numerous keys to understanding this idea as found in Eph 6:10 – “be strong in the Lord and in His might power”. By ourselves we can do nothing (John 15:4, 5).

  • You said: “By ourselves we can do nothing (John 15:4, 5).” True. Yet, what do you make of God’s keeping power? “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:3-5‬. Certainly perseverance is synergistic, yet God enables us to keep the faith.
    – Cork88
    Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 7:53
  • @Cork88 - I fully agree - but it requires cooperation. Note my last paragraph - we stand in the power in His might and power. However, that does not mean that we cannot fall or are prevented from turning away from the faith - how else do you explain Paul's frequent injunctions as per the appendix above?
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 10:36
  • As I said to you before in different threads, I believe it is summed up in this statement: “By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come.” The Spirit, in other words uses the threatenings/warnings of God in Scripture to keep the saints persevering.
    – Cork88
    Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 16:43
  • To put it scripturally: God grants us faith(Phil 1:29), God keeps us by His power through Faith for salvation(1 Pet 1:5), God works in us that which is pleasing in His sight(Heb 13:20-21), which might entail divine discipline(Heb 12:3-11), being convinced we fear Him enough not to fall way(Jer 32:40), heeding the warnings because we are not those who draw back to destruction: "Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Heb 10:38-39)
    – Cork88
    Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 17:13

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