“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
2 Timothy 3:10-17
10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
As we view the intense assaults on Christianity in our day, we may feel that such assaults are recent phenomena. If we feel that way, it is only because now is our time to endure what has been happening ever since sin entered the world.
Throughout history Christians have been subjected to hatred, ridicule, and death for their faith in Jesus Christ. Referring to events recorded in the book of Acts (see chapters 13-16), the apostle Paul says to Timothy, “But you have carefully followed my…persecutions, afflictions which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured.” Recall also the Reformation era and the experiences of Luther.
What we face today is disconcerting but not unexpected, for Paul also wrote to Timothy: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come” (3:1), and “Yes, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (3:12). The apostle told the Ephesians that after his departure “savage wolves [false prophets and teachers] will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” Such would arise even “from among yourselves” (Acts 20:29,30). And yes, Paul writes that “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse” (3:13), seeking to mislead the believer in both faith and life!
We should not expect it to be different in these latter days!
In the Scripture verses before us, we are privileged to hear the apostle’s instructive and supportive words in his farewell letter as he equipped Timothy for his ministry in a godless world. Paul spoke first of all of his doctrine. “But you have carefully followed my doctrine…” (3:10).
It was Paul’s doctrine because he preached what had been committed to him by the Lord. As the bearer of the doctrine committed to him, he testified to eternal salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:8), and he was a stalwart testifier of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Corinthians 15).
Furthermore, Paul’s “manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance” (3:11) witnessed to the power of the gospel. He expended his life proclaiming Christ. His love was evident in his concern for his people (see Romans chapters 10 & 11). His perseverance was evident in the face of the many assaults he endured for his proclamation of the gospel. Paul’s example testified to Timothy what it meant to
“endure hardship as a good soldier of
Jesus Christ” (2:3).
Continuing in what
we have learned
As we study Holy Scripture, we see that no evil can befall us beyond what others have already endured, which by the grace of God they were able to overcome!
To the success of Timothy’s ministry as well as for his personal assurance, Paul encouraged his young co-worker to “continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them” (3:14). Timothy had been persuaded by the doctrine of Paul, and he trusted the faithful spiritual father who had nurtured him. Timothy should avoid any philosophy or flattering speech that contradicted the doctrine which he had learned and of which he had been convinced. For his ministry Timothy—and we—should hold fast to the doctrine, being steeled to persevere also by the same example of Paul!
We will be blessed as we continue in the things we have learned, “knowing from whom we have learned them.”
Some may piously object to our respect for the fathers, suggesting that we should forget them and get back to Scripture. To this Dr. Norman Madson Sr. said to the Synodical Conference (at its 75th anniversary in 1948), “But what if Scripture, to which they appeal, has something to say about those fathers who have spoken to us the Word of God…And this is what Holy Writ enjoins upon us all: ‘Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct’” (Hebrews 13:7). [Madson, Preaching to Preachers, p. 203].
Respect for our faithful spiritual fathers begets blessings in ministry and life!
What Timothy learned from Paul was no different from what Timothy had learned on the knees of his grandmother and mother (2 Timothy 1:5), for “from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (3:15). All who are wise unto salvation can endure a great deal, for when this passing life is over, then real life—eternal life—is gained because the victorious Redeemer lives.
Continue therefore in the things which you have learned from the Holy Scriptures—Scriptures which are inspired of God and thus as true and eternal as God Himself! The everlasting Word of God is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (3:16).
The Scripture is God’s Word which “takes man in hand, lays the gentle yoke of His Savior upon him, puts his reckless life in order, and makes of him a ‘man of God… complete, equipped for every good work’” (3:17) [Franzmann, Concordia Bible with Notes, p. 421].
The Word of God is spirit and it is life. It energizes the believer to service and confirms to him perfect rest from the toil and trouble of this present world.
Take our hand, O Lord, and lead us to that perfect rest. Amen!