The Word of the Lord
7/16 – Continue in What You Learned (2 Timothy 3)
Introduction — Here Paul urges Timothy to realize that difficult times will come. And in those difficult times of the last days, people will be out of control. They will have a selfish, coveting love. They will boast. They will be arrogant and blasphemous. They will disobey parents. They will be ungrateful, unholy, unloving. They will not forgive. They will spread evil gossip. They will hate good. They will be brutal, reckless, conceited folks, who love pleasure rather than love God. They will hold to a form of godliness, while denying its power. Paul wants Timothy to avoid people who look like that now. Paul reminds Timothy that he followed Paul’s teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings. Paul also reminds Timothy of the inevitability of persecution. Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. Here, Paul comes to the crux of his charge to Timothy: You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. Paul calls for steady resolve in the tumult of life. Paul calls Timothy keep on keeping on in the faith. Paul directs this young pastor to continue in the things he’s learned, holding on to the wondrous word of God. How about us? Do we hold firm to the word of God? Do we continue strong in the faith? Do we remain steadfast during fierce opposition? Do we continue on in what we have learned and firmly believe about God and His word?
Difficult times will come. Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Evil people will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. Why? You know the people who taught you, and you know the word of God they taught you.
You know the nature of the word of God. (14-16)
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, 15 and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness,
Comment: Paul directs Timothy to remain steadfast in the faith. In regards to faith in Christ, then, Timothy must continue on in what he has learned and firmly believed. Paul reminds this young pastor to remember his godly heritage and to remember the word of God. Timothy knows who taught him the word of God. Timothy knows the characteristics of the word of God. The word of God—these writings, this Scripture—is sacred, holy. The word of God is powerful. It’s useful. It’s able to accomplish all the purposes of God for the glory of God. The word of God is inspired, God-breathed. It’s a living, active word. There is nothing else like the word of God. Question: Do you see the beauty, the breath-taking wonder of God’s word? Do you see its unique qualities? Do you realize that there truly is no other book like this book? Application: Spend time this week considering the nature of God’s word. Think about the power of God’s word. Contemplate the practical, helpful usefulness of God’s word. Dwell on the sacredness of God’s word. Begin with this passage in 2 Timothy as you meditate on the wonder of God’s word.
You know the usefulness for the word of God. (16)
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness,
Comment: Paul here reminds Timothy of the direct link between the word of God and life transformation. The word of God is useful in many respects; though in this case, Paul lists four specific ways the word of God is helpful for a follower of Christ. The word of God is useful for teaching. The word of God is useful for reproof. The word of God is useful for correction. The word of God is useful for training in righteousness. In regards to teaching doctrine, Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, Jr. note, “Because of the prominence of heresy among his readers, Paul emphasized the importance of sound teaching. In commending the Scriptures as a source for teaching, Paul was actually commending the Old Testament as a source of doctrine. Such doctrines as creation (Gen 1–2), the fall of man (Gen 3), and the nature of the atonement (Isa 53) have a foundational statement in the Old Testament.” (1, 2 Timothy, Titus (Vol. 34, pp. 234–238). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.) Question: Do we see the scope of God’s word in helping us know God and follow God? Do we look to God’s word as the foundation for our doctrine? Do we go to the word of God to stay on course? Do we go to the word of God when we get off course? Do we come to the word of God with a sense of purposeful discipline? Do we utilize God’s word for training in righteousness? Application: Prayerfully and frequently spend time in God’s word. Think about the way God’s word shapes you. Approach God’s word with joyful discipline. Ask yourself, “What do I need to learn from this word? Where do I need to change because of this word? How do I need to become like Christ in this word?”
You know the result from the word of God. (15, 17)
15 and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus . . . 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Comment: Paul tells Timothy to remember two amazing results that flow from the word of God—that God’s word (1) is able to give him wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, and (2) that God’s word is useful to completely equip him for every good work. The link between faith in Christ and works for Christ is clear. The Scriptures point to Jesus Christ. There Timothy sees salvation by faith alone through Christ alone and righteous works done for the glory of God alone. Question: Do you see these two amazing results flowing from the word of God? Do you realize that the word of God is able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus? Do you grasp that God’s word helps completely equip the man of God for every good work? Application: As you spend time in God’s word this week, give thanks to God for the word of God. Stand amazed at God’s amazing word. Thank God for salvation through faith in Christ. Thank God for godly leaders who seek to do good works for Christ. See how God’s word changes them. See how God’s word changes you. Remain steadfast in the word of God. Marvel at the uniqueness of God’s word. Be grateful for the usefulness of God’s word. Thrill to the upshot of God’s word. Continue on.
Word Study for 2 Timothy 3
1 realize (ginosko—know; learn; perceive; be familiar with; understand; acknowledge)
2 lovers of self (philautos—selfish love; excessive love of oneself)
2 lovers of money (philargyros—fond of silver; being fond of or loving money; avaricious; covetous)
2 arrogant (hyperrephano—proud; haughty; lifted up; showing oneself above others)
3 unloving (astorgos—hardhearted; heartless; unfeeling; without love; without natural affection)
3 haters of good (aphilagathos—without interest in the (public) good; be against what is good)
5 avoid (apotrepo—turn away from; turn back; having nothing to do with; turn away completely)
6 enter (endyno—retire within; slip in; enter secretly; worm one’s way, creep in)
10 followed (parakolutheo—to follow closely upon; to adhere to; to follow beside; investigate carefully)
12 persecuted (dioko—pursue; chase; hunt; persecute, to systematically oppress and harass)
14 continue (meno—abide; wait for, remain in a place or state, expecting something in the future; keep on)
14 learned (manthano—learn; comprehend; be taught; come to realize; understand)
16 inspired (theopneustos—inspired of God; breathed by God)
17 adequate (artios—complete; capable; proficient; qualified)
17 equipped (exartizo—finish; bring to an end; to complete; suit to a goal; be furnished)
Application for 2 Timothy 3
Let’s realize that difficult times will come.
Let’s be aware of those who life only for themselves.
Let’s avoid folks like that.
Let’s follow godly people who live godly lives.
Let’s continue in the things we have learned and become convinced of.
Let’s remember the beauty of God’s word.
Let’s remember the wisdom of God’s word that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Let’s remember that God’s word is inspired by God.
Gospel Connections for 2 Timothy 3
Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. He lived a perfect life. He was never boastful, arrogant, or blasphemous. He was never ungrateful, unholy, or unloving. He was not sneaky. He never tried to get people to follow wicked plans. He came alongside folks, teaching them, living a life of glorious purpose, patience, and love. Jesus endured sufferings and persecutions, yet He never wavered in His devotion to the Father. Jesus continued in the things He knew. Jesus pointed to the validity and trustworthiness of God’s word. He upheld the importance of God’s word. Jesus taught God’s word. Jesus obeyed God’s word. Jesus lived God’s word.
Thoughts and Quotes for 2 Timothy 3
All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible. ~ Noah Webster
People cheer the Bible, buy the Bible, give the Bible, own the Bible - they just don't actually read the Bible. ~ John Ortberg
A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t. ~ Charles H. Spurgeon
England has two books, the Bible and Shakespeare. England made Shakespeare, but the Bible made England.
~ Victor Hugo
All that I am I owe to Jesus Christ, revealed to me in His divine Book. ~ David Livingstone
Down through the years, I turned to the Bible and found in it all that I needed. ~ Ruth Bell Graham
Commentary for 2 Timothy 3
3:16 Paul’s observation about the effect of Scripture in Timothy’s life led him to make an assertion about the inspiration and usefulness of Scripture. We must not view Paul as attempting to inform Timothy of the inspiration of Scripture. Timothy had heard this truth since childhood. Paul was reminding Timothy that Scripture was profitable and “that the basis of its profitableness lies in its inspired character.” For additional discussion on the subject of the inspiration of Scripture, see Excursus 5: Inspiration, Infallibility, Inerrancy, and Authority.
Four questions confront us as we begin an exegesis of this important verse. The four questions stem from the statement “All Scripture is God-breathed.”
First, to what did Paul refer by his use of “Scripture”? The term “Scripture” (graphē) is usually a reference to the Old Testament (just as is “holy Scriptures” in the preceding verse). Paul’s reference to the “holy Scriptures” in 3:15 is clearly a statement about the Old Testament. He continued to refer to the Old Testament in 3:16.
Second, what is the meaning of the phrase “all Scripture”? Did he refer to (1) an individual passage of Scripture, (2) the entire Old Testament, or (3) all parts of Scripture? It is clear from the context that Paul was not merely referring to a single passage of Scripture. He was making either a collective reference to all of Scripture or a partitive reference to each passage of Scripture. The Greek phrase (pasa graphē) lacks the definite article, and this would normally suggest that the reading “every Scripture” is preferable (e.g., Jas 1:17, pasa dosis agathē, “every good gift”). However, the collective sense of “all” sometimes occurs even in texts without the article (e.g., Acts 2:36, “all” [pas] Israel). Kelly opts for the translation “every,” but Kaiser feels that the emphatic position of the adjective pas in the sentence requires the translation of “all.” To this writer the translation “all” seems preferable, but the meaning comes out similarly with either translation. If we affirm that each part of Scripture is inspired, we come eventually to assert that its entire content is inspired.
Third, should we read the opening phrase as “all inspired Scripture is also useful” or as “all Scripture is inspired and useful”? The NIV, Williams, KJV, and GNB take the latter option; and ASV takes the former. Since reputable translations take opposing sides in the interpretations, it is obvious that the decision is difficult. It seems preferable to take the latter translation, “Each Scripture is inspired and useful.” Kelly lists four reasons for this translation. (1) It seems natural, since the phrase does not contain a verb in the Greek, to take the two adjectives in the same way. (2) If “inspired” were to be translated before “Scripture,” it would be natural to place it here in the Greek text, but this is not the case. (3) The phrase “each inspired Scripture” contains a hint that certain passages of Scripture are not inspired, which Paul certainly did not desire to assert. (4) The construction of this phrase exactly parallels that of 1 Tim 4:4 (“everything God created is good and nothing is to be rejected”), and the translation of that passage seems suitable here. Paul was not raising the question of the inspiration of certain passages of Scripture. He affirmed the usefulness of Scripture based on its inspiration.
Fourth, what is the meaning of the adjective “God-breathed”? Is it active in meaning, suggesting that all Scripture has an inspiring effect? Is it passive in meaning, suggesting that all Scripture has its origin in God, is the product of the breath of God? The Greek word (theopneustos) contains a suffix (tos), which frequently suggests a passive meaning (e.g., agapētos, “loved [by God],” Rom 1:7). The term in our text is passive in its meaning. The idea the term presents is that God has breathed his character into Scripture so that it is inherently inspired. Paul was not asserting that the Scriptures are inspiring in that they breathe information about God into us, even though the statement is true. The Scriptures owe their origin and distinctiveness to God himself. This is the abiding character of Scripture. In affirming the inspiration of Scripture, Paul declared the fact of inspiration without discussing the process by which inspiration took place.
The affirmation of the inspiration of Scripture leads to a discussion of its usefulness. Paul described four uses to which Scripture can be put.
First, it is useful for teaching. This suggests that Scripture is a positive source of Christian doctrine. Paul used the term “teaching” (didaskalia) fifteen times in the Pastorals, and in the remainder of the New Testament it occurs only six times. (In the Pastorals, cf. 1 Tim 1:10; 4:1, 6, 13, 16; 5:17; 6:1, 3; 2 Tim 3:10, 16; 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1, 7; 2:10. In the remainder of the New Testament, cf. Matt 15:9; Mark 7:7; Rom 12:7; 15:4; Eph 4:14; Col 2:22.) Because of the prominence of heresy among his readers, Paul emphasized the importance of sound teaching. In commending the Scriptures as a source for teaching, Paul was actually commending the Old Testament as a source of doctrine. Such doctrines as creation (Gen 1–2), the fall of man (Gen 3), and the nature of the atonement (Isa 53) have a foundational statement in the Old Testament.
A second use for Scripture is for “rebuking.” The term (elegmos) may refer to a rebuke that exposes the errors of false teachers. It may also refer to the reproof in our personal lives. Whether the reproof is personal or doctrinal, Scripture can show sinners their failures, clarify the point of the mistake, and lead them to a new sense of peace and wholeness.
The third use of Scripture is to provide correction. The terms “correcting” and “training” show a positive use for Scripture. Negatively, the Scripture is helpful for convicting the misguided and disobedient of their errors and restoring them to the right paths. The term “correcting,” used only here in the New Testament, suggests that Scripture helps individuals to restore their doctrine or personal practice to a right state before God. Correction is one means God uses in order to restore people to spiritual positions they have forfeited. This emphasis frequently appears in the wilderness experience of Israel (see Deut 8:2–3, 5).
A final use of Scripture is to provide moral training that leads to righteous living. This positive purpose is expressed by a term (paideia) that also appears in Eph 6:4 (“training”). There it denotes a system of discipline used by a parent to develop Christian character in a child. Here it describes a system of discipline in Scripture that leads to a holy life-style.
Paul’s words here have affirmed both the inspiration and the usefulness of Scripture. The relationship between inspiration, authority, and inerrancy are much discussed in contemporary Evangelicalism. For an elaboration of the subject of inspiration and inerrancy, see the following excursus, “Inspiration, Infallibility, Inerrancy, and Authority.”
3:17 Paul outlined the result of the use of Scripture. He used “man of God” as an oblique reference to Timothy. The statement in the verse holds true of any Christian leader. The phrase “thoroughly equipped” conceals the fact that Paul used an adjective he elaborated with a participial clause. The adjective (artios) describes someone who is “in fit shape or condition.” The participial phrase described him as furnished completely to do whatever God called him to perform. The use of the Greek perfect tense for “equipped” suggests that this is an abiding condition. If Timothy would nurture his spiritual life in the Scriptures that he would use in his ministry, he would be fully qualified and prepared to undertake whatever tasks God put before him. What a tragedy for any Christian to be labeled as spiritually unprepared for a task when the means of instruction and preparation are readily at hand! With these words Paul prepared the way to give a final personal charge to Timothy in 4:1–5.
Summary. Christians can receive strength for the Christian pilgrimage from two sources. First, they can observe the lives of other believers. Paul urged Timothy to look at his life in order to learn and apply Christian truth (vv. 10–13). Timothy could observe two features from Paul’s life. He could learn that persecution was certain (v. 12). He could also be reminded of divine strength and protection (v. 11). Even though hardship was certain, divine strength was even more pervasive.
The second source of strength for the Christian pilgrimage is Scripture. Paul focused on three contributions Scripture can provide for the believer. The Scriptures contain the explanation of God’s plan of salvation (v. 15). They contain an outline of doctrine and truth that support the plan of salvation (v. 16). The Scriptures also provide warning to keep Christians from wandering afield from God’s will.
Those who obey the commands and respond to the promises of Scripture can find the strength to live a life of such arresting quality that it can encourage and enlighten others.
Paul again appealed to his own experience and exhorted Timothy to continue the work. Paul urged Timothy not to be led astray by these imposters. Instead, Timothy should continue in what he had learned and had “become convinced of.” Timothy could be convinced of the truth taught in the Scriptures because (1) it had made him “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus,” and (2) the Scripture is “God-breathed.” Paul affirmed God’s active involvement in the writing of Scripture. The Lord’s superintending work is so powerful and complete that what is written is God’s truthful and authoritative word.
He directs him to keep close to a good education, and particularly to what he had learned out of the holy scriptures (v. 14, 15): Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned. Note, It is not enough to learn that which is good, but we must continue in it, and persevere in it unto the end. Then are we Christ’s disciples indeed, Jn. 8:31. We should not be any more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, Eph. 4:14. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines; for it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace, Heb. 13:9. And for this reason we should continue in the things we have learned from the holy scriptures; not that we ought to continue in any errors and mistakes which we may have been led into, in the time of our childhood and youth (for these, upon an impartial enquiry and full conviction, we should forsake); but this makes nothing against our continuing in those things which the holy scriptures plainly assert, and which he that runs may read. If Timothy would adhere to the truth as he had been taught it, this would arm him against the snares and insinuations of seducers. Observe, Timothy must continue in the things which he had learned and had been assured of.
1. It is a great happiness to know the certainty of the things wherein we have been instructed (Lu. 1:4); not only to know what the truths are, but to know that they are of undoubted certainty. What we have learned we must labour to be more and more assured of, that, being grounded in the truth, we may be guarded against error, for certainty in religion is of great importance and advantage: Knowing, (1.) “That thou hast had good teachers. Consider of whom thou hast learned them; not of evil men and seducers, but good men, who had themselves experienced the power of the truths they taught thee, and been ready to suffer for them, and thereby would give the fullest evidence of their belief of these truths.” (2.) “Knowing especially the firm foundation upon which thou hast built, namely, that of the scripture (v. 15): That from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures.”
2. Those who would acquaint themselves with the things of God, and be assured of them, must know the holy scriptures, for these are the summary of divine revelation.
3. It is a great happiness to know the holy scriptures from our childhood; and children should betimes get the knowledge of the scriptures. The age of children is the learning age; and those who would get true learning must get it out of the scriptures.
4. The scriptures we are to know are the holy scriptures; they come from the holy God, were delivered by holy men, contain holy precepts, treat of holy things, and were designed to make us holy and to lead us in the way of holiness to happiness; being called the holy scriptures, they are by this distinguished from profane writings of all sorts, and from those that only treat morality, and common justice and honesty, but do not meddle with holiness. If we would know the holy scriptures, we must read and search them daily, as the noble Bereans did, Acts 17:11. They must not lie by us neglected, and seldom or never looked into. Now here observe,
(1.) What is the excellency of the scripture. It is given by inspiration of God (v. 16), and therefore is his word. It is a divine revelation, which we may depend upon as infallibly true. The same Spirit that breathed reason into us breathes revelation among us: For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men spoke as they were moved or carried forth by the Holy Ghost, 2 Pt. 1:21. The prophets and apostles did not speak from themselves, but what they received of the Lord that they delivered unto us. That the scripture was given by inspiration of God appears from the majesty of its style,—from the truth, purity, and sublimity, of the doctrines contained in it,—from the harmony of its several parts,—from its power and efficacy on the minds of multitudes that converse with it,—from the accomplishment of many prophecies relating to things beyond all human foresight,—and from the uncontrollable miracles that were wrought in proof of its divine original: God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will, Heb. 2:4.
(2.) What use it will be of to us. [1.] It is able to make us wise to salvation; that is, it is a sure guide in our way to eternal life. Note, Those are wise indeed who are wise to salvation. The scriptures are able to make us truly wise, wise for our souls and another world. “To make thee wise to salvation through faith.” Observe, The scriptures will make us wise to salvation, if they be mixed with faith, and not otherwise, Heb. 4:2. For, if we do not believe their truth and goodness, they will do us no good. [2.] It is profitable to us for all the purposes of the Christian life, for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. It answers all the ends of divine revelation. It instructs us in that which is true, reproves us for that which is amiss, directs us in that which is good. It is of use to all, for we all need to be instructed, corrected, and reproved: it is of special use to ministers, who are to give instruction, correction, and reproof; and whence can they fetch it better than from the scripture? [3.] That the man of God may be perfect, v. 17. The Christian, the minister, is the man of God. That which finishes a man of God in this world is the scripture. By it we are thoroughly furnished for every good work. There is that in the scripture which suits every case. Whatever duty we have to do, whatever service is required from us, we may find enough in the scriptures to furnish us for it.
(3.) On the whole we here see, [1.] That the scripture has various uses, and answers divers ends and purposes: It is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction of all errors in judgment and practice, and for instruction in righteousness. [2.] The scripture is a perfect rule of faith and practice, and was designed for the man of God, the minister as well as the Christian who is devoted to God, for it is profitable for doctrine, etc. [3.] If we consult the scripture, which was given by inspiration of God, and follow its directions, we shall be made men of God, perfect, and thoroughly furnished to every good work. [4.] There is no occasion for the writings of the philosopher, nor for rabbinical fables, nor popish legends, nor unwritten traditions, to make us perfect men of God, since the scripture answers all these ends and purposes. O that we may love our Bibles more, and keep closer to them than ever! and then shall we find the benefit and advantage designed thereby, and shall at last attain the happiness therein promised and assured to us.
 The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (2009). (2 Ti 3:14–17). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Word studies from various sources on Logos Software, including, but not limited to Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains by James A. Swanson
 Lea, T. D., & Griffin, H. P. (1992). 1, 2 Timothy, Titus (Vol. 34, pp. 234–238). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 Dockery, D. S. (1998). The Pauline Letters. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary (p. 609). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (pp. 2364–2365). Peabody: Hendrickson.