2 Timothy (7) “Continue in what you have learned”
2 Timothy 3:10-17
I still remember many of my Primary School & High School teachers. One or two were a little scary but others inspired me. My maths teacher was so good almost all my class got distinctions in our external exams – even I managed to get one, which was amazing! I remember it was our woodwork teacher who coached us in rugby. He got me to play scrum half (halfback), the position I grew to love. In my Christian life too there are those who taught me & encouraged me. I had wonderful pastors & of course no one made a bigger impact upon my life than my Mum & Dad. Today we are going to look at some of those who influenced young Timothy in his Christian life & see what he learnt from them.
First of all:
1. What did Timothy learn from Paul? (vrs 10-13)
Last week we looked at what Paul said about the “terrible times in the last days” (3:1) when evil will be rampant. One of the characteristics of those times will be people “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (v.5) – in other words there will be “religious hypocrites”. There will also be false teachers deceiving people & opposing the truth.
By contrast Paul says to Timothy, “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance,” (v.10) Paul was totally different to those hypocrites & those false teachers. He had been Timothy’s mentor, coach, example, & senior worker. Timothy had been Paul’s disciple, learning on the job. He had seen Paul in all kinds of situations – in good times & in tough times.
Timothy knew all about Paul’s teaching. We know from the sermons recorded in the book of Acts & from Paul’s letters in the New Testament that he was a great theologian & an effective apologist for the Christian faith –explaining the Gospel to religious Jews & also pagan Greeks, to ordinary people, philosophers, governors & to kings. Paul always focussed on Jesus Christ & the Good News. In 1 Corinthians 2:2 he says, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ & Him crucified.”
I had the great privilege of studying full-time for 3 years in an excellent Bible College. Some of my lecturers were well-known evangelical scholars. I loved my time at College & learnt so much! However, just imagine the incredible training Timothy had studying under the Apostle Paul. No Bible College or Seminary training could compare with that!
V.10 continues, “…my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance.” Timothy must have had an intimate knowledge of Paul’s way of life. He knew that Paul’s teaching & his way of life went together. If we are followers of the Lord Jesus these two things should go together for us too. What we say we believe we must live out in our everyday lives.
Something else Timothy knew about Paul was that he had purpose. Paul knew what he was aiming for. Like someone playing soccer – it may be fun to simply kick the ball around but if you are serious, the aim must always be to score goals. As a church we too need to ask ourselves ‘what are we aiming for?’ ‘What is the purpose of all the things we do, all the activities we have?’ If church is simply a place where we gather on a Sunday to socialise or to organize fun activities for our kids – then church is no more than a club. A church may be buzzing with activity & may be crowded with people but this does not mean it is a church with a clear purpose. Church needs to be a place where people meet God, where the Gospel is proclaimed & lives are changed.
Are we, as individuals, living with purpose? Paul’s purpose was to be & to do all that God had called him to be & do. Timothy had seen Paul’s passion to do God’s will & to share the Gospel with those who had never heard. He knew Paul wanted to win the prize. At the end of his life, Paul wanted to hear from the Lord Jesus: “Well done, good & faithful servant!”
Timothy also saw Paul’s faith – his trust in the Lord regardless of the circumstances. Timothy saw Paul’s faith in action. I too have seen faith in action in many of you. I have seen brothers & sisters come through very tough circumstances, not doubting or complaining but holding on to God’s promises & trusting in His faithfulness.
Paul also demonstrated “patience” especially in dealing with people. Some people, of course, are easy to get along with but others can be rather difficult. Paul needed patience for the difficult ones. We all need patience – with our kids, with colleagues at work, or with family, neighbours & friends.
A lady in the supermarket was following a grandfather & his badly behaved 3-year-old grandson. She could see the grandfather had his hands full with his grandson screaming for this or that, whatever he saw & wanted. The lady heard the grandfather saying in a controlled voice, “Take it easy, William, we won’t be long, easy, boy.” After another outburst from the little boy she heard the old man calmly say, “It’s okay, William, just a couple more minutes & we’ll be out of here. Hang in there, boy.” At the checkout, the little boy was still being naughty. Again the lady heard the old man say, “William, William, relax buddy, don’t get upset. We’ll be home soon; stay cool, William.” Very impressed, the lady said to the elderly gentleman, “You are amazing. I don’t know how you keep so calm & patient. Little William is very lucky to have you as his grandpa.” “Thanks,” said the grandfather, “but I’m William. The little brat’s name is Kevin.” If I was the grandfather I hope I would have been as patient as he was, but I may have given little Kevin a spank on his bottom. Being patient with our kids (or grandkids) does not mean we never discipline them. In fact discipline can teach patience!
How interesting that the very next thing Paul mentions is love. Paul loved his fellow Jews & he also loved the Gentiles. It was the love of Christ that motivated him. Love overlooks the faults of others & seeks the very best for them. God loves us & forgives us & filled with His love we can love & forgive others too.
The last 3 things Paul mentions are his “endurance,
persecutions, & sufferings”. These 3 often go together. Paul sure had his fair share of all of them. He endured incredible persecutions & all kinds of hardships. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 he lists some of the things he had been through. He had been flogged, thrown in prison, stoned, shipwrecked, faced danger & robbery, gone without food & sleep, been left cold & naked – & more was to come. Here in this letter Paul reminds Timothy of the things that happened to him on his first missionary journey “...in Antioch, Iconium & Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.” In Lystra, Timothy’s home town, Paul had been stoned & left for dead.
Paul reminds Timothy that we should not be surprised when we face opposition. He writes, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers & impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving & being deceived.” (vrs 12 & 13) When you put your faith in Christ, when you seek to live a holy life & do what is right, you may face criticism. People may laugh at you & make fun of you. Of course, in some nations & some societies, as we know, Christians face far worse.
In New Zealand we are truly blessed with religious freedom, but still dear friends the truth is, if you stand up for what is right you too may get ostracised & criticised by some. Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16) I am sure Timothy learnt from Paul that he too need never be ashamed of the Gospel. I hope each one of us can say the same.
2. What did Timothy learn as a child? (vrs 14 & 15)
Timothy not only learnt many things from the apostle Paul. He also learnt a lot from his upbringing in a godly home. Paul writes, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned & have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, & how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” In 1:5 we saw that Timothy shared the faith of his grandmother Lois & his mother Eunice. They taught him the Holy Scriptures. He had a rich spiritual heritage.
Christian parents, I urge you to be like Lois & Eunice – teach your children the Holy Scriptures. What they learn in church or Sunday School is not enough. Teach them at home. God can use you to bring up a new generation that knows the truths of the Bible & that knows the Lord. This is the most important training they will ever receive. It will help prepare them to stand strong & tall in our increasingly secular & morally bankrupt society.
Sadly the truths & values taught in the Bible, upon which western society was built, are being disregarded & even rejected by many in society today. It is no wonder that western society has lost its way. It would not be politically correct of course for politicians & others to admit that many of society’s problems stem from the fact we have chosen to ignore God’s Word. But it is true!
Solid foundations were laid in Timothy’s life through the teaching & example of his godly mother & grandmother. So I come back to my plea to parents – teach your children about the Lord & teach them about the Bible. And of course, as you teach your children, you yourself must read the Bible & seek to live by it in your daily life.
3. What can we learn from the Bible? (vrs 16 & 17)
In v.15 Paul said of Timothy, “…you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” In speaking of the Holy Scriptures Paul is primarily referring to the Old Testament. The Bible starts with God & creation but also explains the problem of sin & tells of God’s amazing plan of salvation. The Old Testament points forward to the coming of the Saviour & the New Testament is all about His birth, life, death, resurrection & ascension & about the Church & the bringing of the Gospel to all the nations before the end comes. The Scriptures point us to Christ & it is through putting our faith in Him that we can be saved. Yes, the Scriptures “…are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Paul goes on to explain more about the nature & importance of the Scriptures. He writes in vrs 16 & 17, “All Scripture is God-breathed & is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
All Scripture is God-breathed. That is, Scripture is God’s Word, coming from God’s mouth. Of course God has spoken by what He has done as well as by what He has said. John Stott says, “God’s Word (now recorded in Scripture) was closely related to His activity. God spoke to His people by deeds as well as by words.” God spoke through the history of Israel, through the prophets, but finally & most clearly He spoke through Jesus, who is called Emmanuel, which means “God with us”. God Himself sent His Son to be our Saviour.
We must also remember that in Scripture God’s words come to us through human words. God didn’t speak out of the sky or dictate to the writers. He spoke through the prophets (in the Old Testament) & through the apostles (in the New Testament). They were real people & their personalities can be clearly seen in their writings. They used their own minds, language & style to write, but they wrote what God wanted them to write. So Scripture is totally trustworthy & carries authority for it comes from our Creator God. It is His ‘love letter’ to humankind. It is truly incredible that the Bible, although written over a period of at least 1600 years by over 40 different authors, has a clear focus & message. God used human authors to write what we now have in our hands, the Word of God.
Jesus is the focus of the Bible. The Scriptures point to Him. They speak of Him & through the Bible the Lord speaks to us. Therefore the more we know & love the Bible the more we will come to know & love Jesus. The other day, we came across a box with our letters & printed-out emails from the time we were engaged to be married. I was in Hong Kong & Elizabeth was in NZ. Back then, do you think we read each other’s letters & emails in order to analyse the grammar or learn more about NZ or Hong Kong? Of course not! Because I loved Elizabeth I eagerly read everything she wrote. I wanted to know how she was, what she was doing & thinking. And she was the same. We must read God’s Word like that – getting to know & love Him better.
So, what is the Bible useful for? Paul says the Bible, “…is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteousness, so that the man or woman of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Yes, the Bible teaches us many precious & important truths. There are examples to follow. There are mistakes to avoid. There are promises to claim. There are guidelines for daily living, for building healthy relationships, & for making wise choices. The Bible also rebukes us for the Holy Spirit uses the Word to convict us, showing us when we have said or done things that are not pleasing to God. The Bible also corrects us when we make mistakes or take a wrong turn. It points out what is right & what is wrong. And the Bible trains us in righteousness. It helps us grow spiritually, to become more like Jesus, more useful to the Master. This is not surprising for the Bible points us to Jesus. The written Word of God always points us to the One who is the Living Word, Jesus Christ. As we read God’s Word we can develop a deeper intimacy with the Lord.
It is important to be part of a church where the Bible is preached & taught, & it is very helpful to be part of a fellowship group, or Life Group, where together with others we study God’s Word. However of greatest importance if we want to grow spiritually is studying the Bible ourselves at home. It is not enough to possess a Bible. We must read it, come to know it, learn to love it, & we must live it out in our lives.
Well-known pastor & author R.T.Kendall wrote recently, “I am convinced that the devil will do anything to keep people from reading their Bibles.” Kendall then asks, “Has the devil succeeded with you? How much do you read your Bible?” I think you will agree we can learn a huge amount from the Bible. So the question is, “Do you read the Bible?” “Do you read it every day?”
If you are not yet a Christian, I encourage you to read the Bible & ask God to show Himself to you as you read. You might start with one of the Gospels which are all about the life of Christ. If you are a Christian, I urge you to set aside time every day to read God’s Word & when you do to ask Him to speak to you & by His Holy Spirit to help you obey what He tells you.
I am grateful to all my teachers & especially to my parents. But all their efforts would have been wasted if I had not wanted to learn for myself. May the Lord give us that deep down desire & hunger for His Word for it is through His Word that we come to know & love Jesus better.
 Stott, John: God’s Word For Today’s World, Langham, 2015, pg 8.