We hear this advice given from an experienced leader in the church to a young man he is handing responsibility off to. We hear how Scripture and Preaching help us and prepare us for the works God would have us do. Preached in the North Peace over Zoom, December 6 2020.
2 Timothy 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures,
This passage is some last words of advice from a master to an apprentice as the master prepares to end his working days. Paul begins by pointing Timothy to the inheritance he has received from his mother and grandmother-Eunice and Lois-who shared the Holy Scriptures with him, raising him as a devote Jew.
(cont) 15The Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Scripture shapes us, makes us, it is engaged in doing something to who we are. It makes us wise for salvation through Christ, it points us to the narrow gate, teaches us the fear of God, and shapes us as a potter shapes clay. We read the bible that we may become wise. Wisdom isn’t the same as knowledge, its not stuff we know, its not being smart, its deeper than that, its more practical than that. Wisdom is knowing the way, its muscle memory, its character, its restraint, its fearing the right things, its freedom from anxiety about all things. We read scripture to shape our hearts.
What were the scriptures that Paul is talking about? The New Testament at this point was certainly not compiled, parts of it are composed but we don’t know if they’re being used in the context of worship yet. Most likely Paul is referring to the Law, the Prophets and the Writings the sacred scriptures of ancient Israel that he and Timothy both grew up studying intensely.
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
Scripture is God breathed. What happens when God breathes? Life and death are at play right. God breathes into nostrils of clay and Adam, the man, comes to life. God breathes and lives whither away. Jesus breathes and the apostles are given authority to bind and loose in the upper room. The Holy Spirit breathes and the Church is born. All scriptures are breathed by God, they slay, and they give life. Its interesting here and in the preaching portion Paul uses two words for the same thing, rebuking and correcting. Well they’re not quite the same thing- one is turning away from the wrong thing, one is turning towards the right one. We are being made new as we grow as disciples, as we read scripture we are turning away from behaviours, attitudes, prejudices, certainties we are turning into awe and love and generosity and perseverance. You see the Christian life isn’t about only reading scripture, its about reading scripture so that we will be knocked down, raised up, and made like God so that we can share in the renewing work of God. Paul puts it this way:
17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Good works proceed from the renewal of our minds and hearts and souls. We are on a mission, to share in God’s judgment and renewal of the world and this is done in the good works we do in our lives, in our relationships with out neighbours, in our cultivation of the earth, in the renewing of our relationships by the selfless love of Jesus pouring through you.
4:1 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: 2 Preach the word;
Paul sees fit to charge Timothy anew and the charge is this, go and preach the word. Sermons are supposed to be, by God’s power and not ours, part of Jesus’s mission, part of the renewing of the world, the setting forth of scripture, the proclamation of the person of Jesus but more than that. Preach the Word paul says, the Logos, the word that creates, the word that was there in the beginning. I do not believe that preaching in the hearts of the faithful is just sound, it is the bread of life, it is spiritual food, it works in us and shapes us-the preacher as well as those assembled.
be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage
Be a man for all seasons, preach the gospel in season and out of season. For there are times when preaching doesn’t feel profitable, where seeds are cast and cast and cast and seem to go nowhere and do nothing, and you see the community getting smaller and smaller, more discouraged and distracted. What do you do then? You preach the word. And there are times when congregations are growing, and good work is being done to help the poor and the needy, and everyone is excited and filled with passion for their faith. What do you do then? You preach the word. This is Paul’s charge to Timothy, and through Timothy to churches everywhere which is why when you pray for me, or any other pastor a good prayer is this: that we may by our lives and doctrine set forth the true and living word of God.
You’ll notice the double formulation again, correct and rebuke, set on the right path, set off the wrong path. Do in your preaching the work that scripture does in us when we read it. Let scripture do what scripture does by your tongue, set it forth and the one who is revealed and working in it forth, place Jesus before the faithful. And encourage. We all need encouragement and God knows this and offers it to us, offers us his love, his hand on our shoulder, our tears on his.
—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people 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. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
A reason you need to preach the word, in season and out of season, Paul says, is because people don’t want to hear the truth, we prefer our own truths, our own desires, our own agendas. We want a domestic God, to put him in a box and use him as convenient or as comfortable. And so we shape our understanding of him to meet our needs. But the thing is that God will not be put in our box. He is no idol. So be patient says Paul, be careful Paul says as Timothy is no different from the rest of us, set forth sound doctrine, the word of God, life-breathed scripture.
5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
Here Paul lists some parts about being the church and about leading in the church that are important and also difficult. Paul calls Timothy to not be anxious. One of the biggest gifts we can provide to eachother and to the health of our community is non-anxiety, to respond to difficulties and setbacks with a mindset of endurance rather than reactive panic. Paul calls Timothy to do the work of an evangelist, to share the gospel with those that have not heard and received it. Finally Paul tells timothy to be diligent in fulfilling all of the duties of his ministry. All important reminders and good rebuking and encouragement for us.
6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing
Its because of these verses, among others, that some interpret this text as coming from near Paul’s execution in Rome. As Paul faces his own death and the end of his work he shares his hope, our Christian hope, that in death we will receive righteousness as a crown from Jesus who we long to return. Its interesting the use of the word crown, stephanos rather than diadem here, a crown. Did Paul remember as he said that the man Stephanos, Stephen, who he stoned to death for preaching Christ? Is he longing be joined together with him and with that same Jesus who turned his zeal upside down and backwards that it may be handed down to a new generation for the glory of God?