Epistles: Preach the Word! (2 Timothy 3:14-4:5)


The written word (verses 14-17)

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it.” Elsewhere, Paul tells Timothy to keep the faith because it is true — but here he tells him to persevere because he knows the people who taught him. Some of the strongest evidence for the gospel is the example set by people who taught Timothy, especially Paul. If Paul can be faithful through persecutions and problems, Timothy can be, too.

Timothy has another reason to be faithful: “from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures” — which for Timothy would be the Old Testament — “which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Paul does not say how the Old Testament informs people about Jesus, but the book of Acts and several of Paul’s letters provide more than a hundred examples of how Paul used Scripture. The Old Testament describes our need for a Savior, predicts salvation through a suffering Servant, and teaches that God is completely trustworthy.

“All Scripture is God-breathed,” Paul says. He does not say which books are in Scripture; nor does he specify how God breathed these writings. In context, Paul is talking about the Old Testament rather than the New, but the early church said the New Testament writings are inspired Scripture, just as the older writings are.

The important thing about inspiration is not the precise method used, but the purpose: It “is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Scripture is not designed to teach us grammar, geography, math or science. It has a more practical purpose: telling us about salvation through Christ, and after that, how we should live. We focus on those, rather than on speculations about the future.

A commission (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

We now reach the last chapter in Paul’s last letter. He is in prison, waiting for his last trial. He knows that he will probably lose and then be executed for preaching the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. He is ready for death, and he encourages Timothy to continue the work in the coming years.

This chapter begins with a solemn and formal declaration of duties: “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge…” Paul is reminding Timothy that his primary allegiance is to Christ, and that Christ will evaluate Timothy’s work.

His assignment is to “preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction.” That is, deliver the message, all the time, and in doing that, you will sometimes have to correct problems and rebuke heresies. You will need to teach again and again, so be patient. People’s enthusiasm will wane, so you’ll need to encourage them.

“Paul escaped immediate punishment, but his case was forwarded to another judge, who was almost certain to demand execution.”

Why? “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” Timothy should teach diligently because heresies will come — indeed, they have already come. But Paul’s logic implies that Timothy can prevent some of the heresy by teaching faithfully. Every teaching, whether good or bad, is desired by someone or another, but it must all be judged by the word of the gospel.

“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” In doctrinal controversies, Timothy needs to keep his cool and accept some discomforts. In everything, he needs to preach the gospel, and in doing so he will fulfill his assignment.

For the immediate future, Paul wants Timothy to visit him in prison (v. 9). But Paul’s commission here will provide a focus for Timothy after Paul is dead.

  • The Greeks had a word for it: θεόπνευστος

    Theopneustos is a combination of theos, meaning God, and pneō, meaning “to breathe or blow.” Ancient Greek writers used this word to describe wisdom, dreams or speech that came from the gods. In the New Testament, it is used only in 2 Timothy 3:16, where the focus is on the usefulness of the inspired writings, and not on the precise means by which God caused his message to be written.

     

Author: Michael Morrison

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