2 Timothy 3:14-16
As we come to the fifth and final reflection on Paul’s second letter to Timothy, let’s review what we have learned so far.
Among various points of advice and encouragement in this profound pastoral letter, we have looked at four requests Paul presents to Timothy. He is to:
- Rekindle the flame of his spiritual gift (1:6)
- Grasp the word, or the pattern of sound biblical teaching (1:13)
- Serve, play and work like a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer (2:4-6)
- Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace (2:22)
And there’s a fifth request that we will consider today:
- Continue the journey (3:14)
Five verbs. Five requests. Five challenges, each of them, I believe, understandable and applicable to us across the centuries and oceans to our situation today.
You may have noticed that Paul loves lists! There are several in 2 Timothy 3. In verses 1-5, he presents Timothy with a long list, a description of what he calls “hard times” that people will experience in the “last days.”
It’s a bleak and detailed picture of a world devoid of honesty, respect and truth. It’s a world devoid of moral anchors, tranquillity, and joy. There is knowledge to be bought and sold, but those who seek the truth find the shelves bare. Truth is hard to find. Indeed, people actively “resist the truth” (v 8) and praise falsehoods.
But this is no strange new apocalyptic phenomenon. Its seed lies in every generation. Paul invokes the sad story of Jannes and Jambres, court magicians or sorcerers mentioned in Exodus 7:10-12, who mimicked Aaron’s miracle before Pharaoh. To Moses and to Aaron, and to Paul, such men were “corrupt in mind, worthless in regard to the faith,” their dangerous foolishness clear to all (vv 8b, 9).
Timothy too has endured “hard times.” But, when facing temptation and persecution, he has faithfully followed Paul’s teaching about “conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love and endurance” (v 10). Another list!
Now Paul counsels Timothy to “continue in what [he has] learned and firmly believed” (v 14): the good Bible teaching he has received from his mother and grandmother – and presumably from other godly people (v 15; cf 1:5).
Why? Paul gives a twofold answer in verses 15-16 (and another list!):
Firstly, because knowledge of the content of Scripture gives Timothy “wisdom for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (v 15b). Only God can reveal such spiritual truth. It’s not discovered by empirical research or mysticism.
Secondly, because Scripture is uniquely inspired by God, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the one who studies and understands it “may be complete, equipped for every good work” (v 16).
Just what we need if we happen to live during “hard times” or in the “last days.”
A final word from John Stott:
Do we hope … to overcome error and grow in truth, to overcome evil and grow in holiness? Then it is to Scripture that we must primarily turn, for Scripture is ‘profitable’ [that is, useful] for these things.
Talk 781 copyright © 2022 Rod Benson. Preached at staff devotions, Moore Theological College, Australia, on 14 February 2022. Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from The Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2020).
 John Stott, The Message of 2 Timothy (Leicester: IVP, 1973), 103.
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