Summary: The apostle Paul tells Timothy the value of the Word of God and its importance in his spiritual development.
THE MOST PRECIOUS THING THIS WORLD AFFORDS
Children can be embarrassingly frank. I read of a minister who was visiting one of his members. The lady of the house was trying to impress him about how devout she was by pointing out the large Bible on the bookshelf and talking in a very reverential way of it as "the Word of God". Her young son interrupted the conversation, "Well, if that’s God’s book we better send it back to him because we never read it!"
Most of the apostle Paul’s writings which have survived to be included in the Scriptures are written to churches, but there are just a few personal letters to individuals, where he focuses to a single person and gives him the benefit of his long experience. This is the case when he writes to Timothy whom he regards as his son in the faith - and what a warm letter he sent. What an encouragement it must have been to the young man. When did we last send a letter or speak a word of encouragement to someone starting out in God’s service or any Christian under pressure? Think if the enormous blessing a postcard of John Bunyan’s church meant to Terry Waite kept hostage in Lebanon for several years.
Paul was nearing the end of his life, but before he died, he wanted to make sure that the message that had been revealed to him by the risen Christ would be continued in a new generation. News came to Paul of heresy in the church, of the entry of erroneous doctrine peddled by false teachers whom the evil one used, perhaps unknowingly to them, to deceive sincere believers in Jesus.
Paul was in a Roman prison, chained to a soldier, so what could he do? There’s a saying that "the pen is mightier that the sword" – but here we have "the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God". Paul took up his pen and wrote to his dear, young friend Timothy reminding him of the blessing which was his in coming into God’s family while young in life; how he had learned the truths of Scripture and the responsibility that he now had to carry the message forward. We have this in Paul’s second letter, 3: 14 - 17.
These verses, although originally meant for Timothy, contain a vital message for us too, as the apostle urged his friend to "Continue in the truth you have been taught". We see first of all the need to:
LEARN THE WORD THOROUGHLY
Paul had been warning Timothy of the effects of a godless society, the breakdown of relationships, the infiltration of error in the church and the persecution this would bring to a faithful servant of Christ. He then addresses Timothy personally: "But as for you" - you, he says, must be different from this; you must "continue in what you have learned". Let’s take the words as a personal call from the Lord.
Timothy is challenged to remain constant to the Christian teaching he had received from Paul, whatever false experts might teach. It’s as if a captain of a ship has issued a command to his navigating officer on the bridge; there must be no deviation from the course the captain has set or disaster will hit the ship. Timothy has begun well - he had learned the truth but he still had to persevere, to continue with no compromise.
People come to the truth of God from different pathways. Some come from having been misled in their search for God and have to discard their false ideas. Others, like Timothy, have been blessed in having been taught the truth of Christianity from childhood. What a blessing that is! Paul’s letter has a delightful reference to Timothy’s mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois, devout believers who ensured that he had been taught the Scriptures when he was a young lad.
Thank God for Christian mothers! It’s been said, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world". An exaggeration perhaps, but undoubtedly Timothy had received the best foundation for life. There’s a proverb which encourages Christian parents and teachers in their patient work: "Teach a child how he should live, and he will remember it all his life" (22:6).
It’s easy to be dislodged from the truth. There can be the distraction of red herrings laid by unbelieving teachers, seeking to undermine the simplicity of the Gospel, the reliability of the Bible and its relevance for the 21st century. We must pray for our young people that they might be kept from error and drifting away from the central message of the Scriptures. It’s important that they, and we, should think through our faith, because it’s the shallow thinkers who can so easily be swayed by the fast-talking impostors of the Gospel, the unsound extremists who claim they have discovered a "new thing" not backed by Scripture.