In Galatians, we see Paul passionately standing up for the gospel of grace as he boldly confronted the false teachers who opposed the fullness of the gospel of grace and who taught obedience to the law was required for righteousness.
Concerning these false teachers, Paul emphatically states:
“If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you embraced, let him be under a curse!” (Galatians 1:9)
However in 2 Timothy, Paul gave Timothy the following instructions about responding to those who have a partial knowledge of the truth about Jesus but who oppose the full teaching of the gospel of grace (all that God has done for us in Christ to fully reconcile us to himself, forgive us for all our sins, and to freely provide righteousness for us as a gift, which we receive by faith in Jesus).
“The Lord's servant must not quarrel, but be gentle towards all, able to teach, patient, in gentleness correcting those who oppose him: perhaps God may give them repentance leading to a full knowledge of the truth, and they may escape out of the devil's snare, having been taken captive by him to his will.” (24-26)
Notice the words Paul uses to teach Timothy how to communicate with those who resist the fullness of the gospel of grace and want to argue about it: gentle, patient, gentleness, not argumentative
This manner of communication is much different than what we see in Galatians 1:9 when Paul said, “Let them be cursed!”
So what is the difference between the Paul we see in Galatians and the one we see writing a letter to Timothy?
Grace is the difference.
Let me explain.
Paul wrote Galatians around 48 AD.
He wrote 2 Timothy around 68 AD.
This is a 20 year difference.
The reason we see such a dramatic change in Paul’s approach to correcting those in opposition to the full message of God’s grace is because Paul grew in grace during this 20 year period.
In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul explained what the Spirit-filled life (enjoying a love-relationship with God as Abba, Father rather than living by the law's requirements) produces:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Notice some of the fruit the Spirit produces: patience and gentleness.
During this 20 year span, the Spirit of Jesus in Paul produced gentleness and patience within his heart, which became how Paul communicated with those who opposed the fullness of grace and what he taught Timothy about how to communicate with those who opposed the fullness of grace.
How did this change occur?
We know it was done as the Spirit filled Paul with patience and gentleness.
How did the Spirit fill Paul with patience and gentleness?
Galatians 4:4-6 says,
“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent out his Son, born to a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of children. And because you are children, God sent out the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying,'Abba, Father!' So you are no longer a bond-servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
The Spirit-filled life is when a person walks in a love relationship with God as Abba, Father because of grace (Jesus redeeming people from the law through his death on the cross and him living in our hearts, whereby we call God “Abba, Father ” - meaning, my loving Dad, Papa...Father).
When living the Spirit-filled life, we do not live according to the requirements of the law, or any religious mandate, but we live in a love relationship with God as Father...a Father who is full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and gentleness toward us as his sons and daughters.
As Paul grew in his love relationship with God as Abba, Father, as Paul experienced Abba, Father’s patience and gentleness for himself, he began to grow in love and express to others the same love the Father expressed to him, even to those who opposed him.
This was accomplished by the grace of God as Paul no longer lived according to the law but lived in a love relationship with the Father through the Spirit of Jesus living in him.
For many years, Paul lived under the law, which produced no change in his heart.
He became more angry and violent under the law.
Yet the longer he lived under grace...the longer he lived in the fullness of what Jesus did for him...the longer he experienced the Father’s gentleness and patience, the Spirit of Jesus changed Paul from one who said to those who opposed him, “Let them be cursed” to one who told Timothy to be gentle, patience, and non-argumentative to those who opposed him.
With this love response, with this grace response, Paul’s hope was those who opposed him would come to a full knowledge of the gospel of grace (righteousness is by faith alone in Jesus alone) and repent of teaching that righteousness was gained by obedience to the law.
Then, through this repentance, they would escape the trap of the devil who had taken them captive to preach a false gospel that righteousness is earned by obedience to the law.
Not only is Paul’s instruction good for Timothy, but it is good for us.
As we share the fullness of God’s grace with others and are opposed by some, we can’t be graceless.
That would be a contradiction to what we believe and what we are teaching.
That would be using a law approach, rather than a love approach, when responding to those opposing the fullness of God's grace.
Rather we need to be full of grace (patience, gentleness, non-argumentative) to those who oppose us.
This grace is produced by the Spirit of Jesus in us as we walk in a love-based relationship with the Father and begin responding to others with the very same love we receive from him as his sons and daughters.
By the way...Paul died in 68 AD.
This means God gives us a lifetime to grow in grace.