II Timothy 3. Our Main Resource Is the Bible.
Key Notes: Lists of evil-doers. Inspiration of Scripture. Marcion vs. Jesus' view of the OT. How we got our Bible. What the Bible says about itself. The mystery of the Faith.
Paul is nearing the conclusion of his final letter. In this chapter, he compares counterfeit faith with real faith, and gives us one of our key texts on the authority and usefulness of Scripture.
3:1–5 Paul starts with a list of 22 evil-doers, those who are
lovers of self, lovers of money,
proud, arrogant, abusive,
disobedient to their parents, ungrateful,
unholy, inhuman (lacking in even family affection), implacable,
slanderers, profligates (shamelessly immoral),
fierce, haters of good, treacherous,
reckless, swollen with conceit,
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
holding the form of godliness but denying the power of it.
Obviously these are bad people, but the last phrase says they have a form of godliness; that is, they are religious people. These people are in churches. What is Timothy to do about it? "Avoid them." (3:5). He is not to try to solve the problem, but walk away from it. He is to concentrate on those who are God's children and build them up. Even so, the list is disturbing. We would like to believe that such people are in brothels and gambling dens and not in the churches. Further, we do not like to read lists like this. Why does Paul write such lists?
This is not the only one. Seven other lists of bad behaviors are found--all in the New Testament:
When they are so frequent, we may suppose that they are important. What purpose do they serve?
a. they remind us of what we Christians were, who we are and what we are becoming, in detail.
b. they give us a complex statement about what "humanity" is. These lists are part of anthropology, a description of our psychology. It was Freud who called humans "homo lupus": Man the Wolf.
3:6–9 Then Paul gives two unusual illustrations of counterfeit religion. In the first, it is the deceived who lose; in the second, it is the deceivers who lose.
Some women were susceptible to seduction by religious crooks. They were eager for new ideas, but did not come to the Truth. Ireneus told the story of a heretic named Marcus who deceived wealthy women into thinking they could prophesy. He flattered and thrilled them. Marcus then collected their money and sexual favors, leaving them poorer but not wiser. They were deceived and they were lost. (The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon. W.Barclay; Westminster;’75, p.192).
Two magicians, named Jannes and Jambres in Jewish oral tradition, were the opponents of Moses appearing before Pharaoh. In Exodus, Aaron's rod turned into a serpent; the magicians of Egypt duplicated that move, but Aaron's serpent ate the others, proving the power of God. (Ex.7:8–13). Paul says that such men do not get very far, because their bogus activities are obvious. They were deceivers and they were lost.
3:10–13 Paul in contrast, has led a life that Timothy, as his disciple, has followed closely. He observed Paul's
•teaching, conduct, aim in life: the basic direction of his life.
•faith, patience, love and steadfastness: his spiritual attributes.
•persecution and suffering: his painful experiences.
Is Paul bragging? Timothy knows what befell Paul in three cities.
In Antioch, he was roughed up and hustled out of town. Acts.13:50
In the next town, Lyconium, he was first treated as a god, and then threatened with stoning. Acts.14:8–18
In the third town, Lystra, Paul was actually stoned and dragged out of the city as dead. Acts.14:19–20
Amazingly, in spite of this crescendo of violence, Paul went back to these towns. Acts 14:21 with a big bruise on his head, as if nothing had happened.
Timothy came from Derbe / Lystra (Acts 16:1–3) and was already a believer, so he may have witnessed the stoning at first hand. For Paul, persecution went with the job, knowing that deceived and deceivers would continue their evil work.
Is Paul bragging? Hardly. His track-record bears him out. Timothy must imitate him.
3:14–15 Timothy has the advantage of childhood training from a godly mother and grandmother. IITIm.1:5
3:16–17 But most importantly, he has access to Scripture.
*"All Scripture" was a typical Jewish expression for the OT. We are wary of mistranslations such as "Every inspired Scripture has its use." (NEB). That translation offers the reader the opportunity to decide whether a passage of Scripture is or is not inspired.
*"Inspired of God" is really "God-breathed". It describes how the Scripture comes from God rather than how the human instrument is moved. Inspired writing implies something in the writer: Shakespeare was "inspired". God-breathed implies a supernatural source independent of the writer.
*It is profitable for teaching truth and refuting error.
*It is profitable for reforming behavior and discipline in right living.
*The goal is a man of God who is well-outfitted and ready to work.
Two passages from Peter’s writing amplify IITim.3:16.
"The prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired about this salvation; they inquired what person or time was indicated by the Spirit of Christ within them when predicting the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you...." (IPet.1:10–12)
This passage teaches us that the Holy Spirit was communicating with the writer not only words written about Christ, but also information about the relevance of the words to the writers.
"For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ but we were eyewitness of His majesty." (IPet.1:16)
Peter also reminds us that he was an eye-witness of the Mount of Transfiguration and a custodian of special revelation.
"...no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." (II Pet.I: 20–21).
He explains a little of the mode of inspiration--being borne along by the Holy Spirit. Thus, interpretation of Scripture is, or should be, uniform, since the Holy Spirit moves not only the writer, but the reader as well.
•Inspiration is verbal. The Holy Spirit guided the selection of the words. Paul makes a point in Gal.3:16 of writing "seed" rather than "seeds".
•It is plenary inspiration. The Holy Spirit guided in the writing of all parts of Scripture.
•Inspiration is not dictation. The writing styles and vocabulary of the writers are different--Paul from Luke, John unique in style and vocabulary. Solomon's Song is different from Hosea. Nevertheless,"the Lord said" or its equivalent occurs more than 3800 times in the OT. Ezekiel's writing sounds like he was writing what was dictated to him.
•Inspiration does not imply that all Scripture is of equal importance. We memorize the 23rd Psalm; we neglect the genealogies of I ,II Chronicles.
•Inspiration does not mean that God approves of everything said and done. Abraham lied about his wife and God had to rescue her. Jacob stole his brother's birth-right. Judas committed suicide. Thomas doubted Jesus' resurrection.
•Inspiration does not mean the writers were infallible in everything they wrote. Paul wrote letters which never made it into Scripture.
When Paul says "all Scripture" he is referring to the OT. Jesus' Scripture was the OT, and He confirms that the Old Testament is valid. He said,
"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle shall pass from the Law till all is accomplished." (Matt.5:18)
"The Scripture cannot be broken." (Jn.10:35)
"Search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me." (Jn.5:39)
"Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." (Lk.24:25)
Marcion, ~150AD, taught that the OT was bad and should be abandoned. The OT God is a God of judgment, war and wrath. The NT God gives us mercy, peace and love.
He did not read Jesus' words carefully, for example, Matthew 23–25. The judgment and wrath in Jesus' teaching is no different from that of the OT prophets. We learn from the OT because it was Jesus' Bible. Marcion was a heretic and we will follow Jesus.
Then what of the New Testament? How do we know it is valid?
Jesus said "Heaven and earth will pass away but My words will not pass away." (Lk.21:33).
He said "My teaching is not Mine but His who sent Me." (Jn.7:16)
Jesus puts His words on the plane of divine revelation.
Paul said "We impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit." (ICor.2:13). He puts his work on the level of revelation.
Peter added "So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him....There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures." (IIPet.3:15–16)
Peter includes Paul with "the other Scriptures," validating the inclusion of his work with the rest. And Peter claims his eye-witness status. (IIPet.1:16).
In conclusion, the OT is "the Scripture" of the NT apostles. Jesus' teaching, Peter and Paul's writings are included with the OT as "Scripture."
The Bible is unlike any book ever written. It is composed of 66 books written over 1500 years, by some 37 authors. It contains history, law, poetry, wisdom, prophecy, letters and apocalyptic revelation. It contains the core of two religions, one ecclipsing the other. Yet it shows evidence of a single Mind behind it, with a continuously developing theme. It starts at the dawn of creation and ends in the eternal future.
How did we get our Bible?
The OT Canon was collected by Ezra, according to Josephus, around 400BC. Later, ~150BC, seventy Hebrew scholars translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek--the Septuagint. They realized that to get the Bible into the universal language would aid in its usefulness to their world. The Septuagint was the Bible which NT writers almost always quoted. They embraced this Greek translation and made it the foundation of NT reference.
In 382AD Jerome was commissioned to translate the Bible into Latin (The Vulgate), and this became the Bible of the Church for a thousand years. Jewish scholars (called Masoretes) labored from 500–1000AD to make the Hebrew OT uniform and dependable. With the coming of the Reformation, the Bible was translated into the common languages of the people, often despite severe persecution.
The Hebrew scholars who collected the Canon of the OT omitted a group of books that they called "Apocrypha"--hidden--because they lacked spiritual authority and were mainly of historical interest. The translators of the Septuagint, however, included the Apocrypha, and it remained in the Bible until the Reformation when it was again left out, hidden. Catholic Bibles contain the Apocrypha; Protestant Bibles do not.
The oldest complete OT manuscripts date from 9000–1000AD. Smaller portions are very important. The book of Isaiah found with the Dead Sea Scrolls dates from about 180BC and supports the accuracy of copies of Isaiah written a thousand years later.
The Greek NT was complete somewhere between 70–90AD. The oldest and largest NT manuscripts date from 300–400AD. There are many minor manuscripts that add to the small collection of complete texts, one of the oldest from 95 AD. Although there are errors in the existing manuscripts, 95% of them are trivial, and none touch essential doctrine. The errors are eliminated by careful study and comparison of different copies.
In short, we do not have the originals, the autographed copies of any of our Bible books. How then can we be confident of today's Bible? Textual criticism is the pains-taking work of finding the best rendering, the text closest to the original.
What does the Bible say about itself?
The NT says that God and Scripture and the human writers are interchangeable for the purposes of communication. It is an amazing concept.
"The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, 'In thee shall all the nations be blessed.'" Gal.3:8 quotes Gen.12:1–3. Scripture is God speaking, indeed preaching.
"The Scripture says to Pharaoh, 'For this very purpose I raised you up....'" Rom.9:17 quotes Ex.9:16. Scripture is God speaking.
"Wherefore, as the Holy Spirit says, 'Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts....'" Heb.3:7 quotes Psa. 95:7. The psalmist is the Holy Spirit speaking.
"Sovereign Lord...who by the mouth of our father David, your servant, did say by the Holy Spirit 'Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things....'" Acts4:24–5 quotes David in Psa.2:1. God speaks through David by the Holy Spirit.
"He (God) raised him up from the dead, no more to return to corruption, spoke in this way, 'I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David'" Acts13:34 quotes Isa.55:3. God speaks through Isaiah.
"And again, when He (God) brings the first-born into the world, He says 'Let all God's angels worship Him.'" Heb.1:6 quotes Deut.32:43 "Rejoice, ye heavens, with Him and let all the angels of God worship Him." (LXX). God speaks through Moses.
"...and of the angels He (God) says, 'Who makes His angels winds, and His servants flames of fire." Heb.1:7 quotes Psa.104:4--an unknown author--God speaking through him.
"For He (God) has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way, 'And God rested on the seventh day from all His works.'" Heb.4:4 quotes Gen.2:2 where the narrator, presumably Moses, is writing God's words.
The process of divine revelation is not limited to inspiration but is a series of God's actions.
1. God ordained human history and the plan of salvation.
2. God revealed Himself to humans in many different ways--dreams, visions, angels, works of power and miracles.
3. God inspired a written record through His prophets and apostles.
4. God submitted the Church to the Canon. The Church does not make the Bible. The Bible makes the Church.
5. God preserved the Scripture in transcription over three millennia and in translation of a thousand languages.
6. God illuminates the heart in every age to perceive the truth and accept its authority.
The inspiration of Scripture is imbedded in the process of God's special revelation. God is at work at all stages of the process of communication. This enables the Apostle Paul, St. Augustine, a pygmy from South Africa and a Native American to say together "Jesus Christ is Lord".
I TIMOTHY 3:15–16. CODA
Paul concludes the chapter with the declaration that the household of God, the church of the Living God, is the pillar and bulwark of the truth. Jesus is the chief cornerstone of the Church (Eph.2:20) and the Head of the Church. (Col.1:18). We are to be in Christ the bulwark, the bedrock of truth, and the pillar--higher than the Eiffel Tower--proclaiming the truth to the world.
Paul then quotes what appears to be a First Century hymn, or creed, conveying something of the mystery of the Faith:
•"He was manifest in the flesh,"
"And the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth." (Jn.1:14). This is the mystery of the incarnation, and one of the paradoxes of Christianity.
•"Vindicated in the Spirit,"
visited upon by the Holy Spirit descending as a dove. Matt.3:16
casting out demons by the Holy Spirit. Matt.12:28
"declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of Holiness by His resurrection from the dead" (KJV) .Rom.1:4
•"Seen by angels,"
at his birth. Lk.2:9
at the end of the temptation. Matt.4:11
in Gethsemane. Lk.22:43
at the tomb. Matt.28:2
at the Ascension. Acts.1:10
•"Preached among the nations,"
By the end of the first century (70 years), the Gospel had reached into Europe, Asia (India) and Africa.
•"Believed on in the world,"
That the Crucified One, dying like a criminal, could turn the world upside down and produce martyrs willing to die for Him was a mystery to the Roman mind, as it is to many minds today.
•"Received up in glory."
The Ascension witnessed by the disciples left them standing with open mouths. (Acts 1:11). They had seen Jesus doing mighty miracles, but this was beyond all imagination. Jesus ascended to be with the Father.
This is the mystery of our Faith.