Summary: Yera C. 2 TIMOTHY 3:14-4:5 October 21st, 2001
Title: “Scripture helps specify the kind of behavior God likes.”
SECOND READING: 2 TIMOTHY 3:14-4:5
This passage highlights sacred scripture as a source, the source, for teaching, correcting and encouraging Christians to become all they can be, all God expects them to be. It exhorts Timothy, and all assigned to the ministry of leadership, to preach the word as the essential part of their role.
In verse fourteen, faithful to what you have learned and believed, the Christian message is not to be made up or changed to fit new generations. It is rooted in what the historical Jesus taught for all time. Its essence cannot be changed. What was passed on to Timothy is to be passed on to others, its essence unaltered by human tinkering.
Because you know from whom you learned it, the primary reference here would be Paul. However, because “whom” is plural in the Greek, Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, and mother, Eunice, along with other childhood unnamed teachers would be included as well. These would be teachers known for their example in Christian living as well as Christian thinking.
In verse fifteen, from childhood you have known the sacred writings, we read in the Mishnah tractate Pirke Aboth, meaning “Sayings of the Fathers”, from the end of the first century AD, that a Jewish child is fit to learn the scriptures, or start to learn them, at age five. Since Timothy had a Jewish mother we can presume that he learned the ABC’s of scripture from a very early age.
Able to instruct you for salvation, a person who has accepted Jesus Christ at any early age needs instruction in how to live as Christ wants. There is salvation, yes, but in the meantime between Baptism and judgment there is much to learn about living faithfully. The scriptures are the major source for that “wisdom.” By “sacred scriptures” the author certainly means at least what we call the Old Testament. It was the phrase Greek-speaking Jews used to refer to God’s written word. Whether he has in mind any Christian writings is not clear at this point. In any event his point echoes the attitude of Jesus toward the Old Testament in Luke 24: 25-27, 44-47; John 5:39, 46. Scripture’s instruction does not itself bring salvation, but points to and leads one toward it.
Through faith in Christ Jesus. Faith is the means or instrument, in the active sense of trusting in Christ as one’s Lord and Savior, which channels salvation to the individual. Scripture surrounds that trust with teaching, insight, and even power.
In verse sixteen, all scripture is inspired by God. A lot has been made of this verse. If the Greek is translated as “every scripture,” meaning every scripture verse or passage, then one can maintain that everything, every line, every word of scripture is divinely and expressly inspired by God and, therefore, every word contains some sort of revelation able to be known only in this way. Thus a fundamentalist would find in that translation the basis for such an approach. However, the text really refers to scripture as a whole and on the whole, all of scripture, not every verse as such. The author is blissfully unaware of the controversy his language would cause in later centuries. Now, there is a question, a legitimate one, whether the author is broadening his understanding of scripture by this phrase “all scripture,” to include New Testament writings- Paul’s letters, those of other apostles, and the gospels or their forerunners. We can surely say, in any event, that what the author maintains as true about the Old Testament would also be true of the New Testament. Both are “inspired by God.” The Greek has “God-breathed.” Scripture’s source is the breath, the very Spirit, of God, the result of his breathing. This is an Hebraic notion, God produces all he has brought into being by a mere breath. Also, scripture, then, contains the breath of God, is a source to receive the breath of God and to be enlivened by it. Thus, all scripture has as its source God’s breath, spirit, and God’s breath is its essential characteristic.
And is useful, “Useful” in the sense of yielding a practical benefit or profit. The author will spell out its usefulness in the next four phrases. He means to say that a study of scripture will lead one to salvation, the net result, but it will also provide one with the means to live out the implications of that salvation in everyday life according to one’s circumstances. In the case of Timothy, a Church leader, scripture will not only help with his personal living, but also be the source book for his teaching others, for refuting error, for correcting wrong behavior and for developing the discipline necessary to live in a right relationship with the Lord. Scripture is “useful” in that one can take a specific verse or story, abstract the general principle or truth it teaches or exemplifies, and apply that to the specific case or context one finds oneself in. This involves moving from the “literal sense” of scripture, the meaning the author intends to convey, to the “fuller sense,” the general meaning a truth has when removed from the context of its biblical expression, but consistent with it.