Commentary by Walter Albritton
God uses the Holy Scriptures to protect us from evil
and equip us for holy living and fruitful service
2 Timothy 3:1-4:8
Key Verse: But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. – 2 Timothy 4:5
Wickedness thrives in modern society. Christian values are ridiculed by people who champion abortion and homosexuality. God is mocked by secularists who laugh at the church. The institution of marriage is under attack. Evil is so invasive in our culture that many believe these are “the last days” before the return of Christ.
Today, as in Timothy’s world, evil men surround the followers of Christ. Satan prowls around us, forever tempting us to turn our backs on Christ and become lovers of pleasure ourselves. The hardships of life often push us toward cynicism and weaken our faith in the goodness of God. In our most sober moments, we realize that except for the grace of God we are evil people ourselves.
If we are
honest, we cringe as we read Paul’s long list of vices that evil people
possess. Too many of them describe how we once lived, or perhaps how we still
live. Unless Christ is Lord of our lives, and we are led daily by the Spirit,
we are “lovers of ourselves,” as well as “covetous, boasters, and proud.” The
heroes of our society are our glamorous, wealthy
Our society is entertainment crazy. We crave entertainment, and that craving causes people to expect the church to entertain them, not confront them with the call of God to holy living. Many Christians want the benefits of both worlds. They want to enjoy the world’s entertainment along with the spiritual fruit of a holy life. We do well, however, to follow Paul’s advice about evil people: “Have nothing to do with them.” Paul understood that people cannot “abide” in evil and grace at the same time. We must choose between wickedness and life in Christ!
Paul insists that Christians need not cave in to evil. He offers his own example as proof. Yes, he admits, you will be persecuted for seeking to live a godly life in Christ, “while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” In these verses, Paul offers solid encouragement to Timothy as he contends with evil. Look to God for help, Paul says. “He rescued me,” Paul declares, implying that God will rescue other believers as well, provided they “continue,” or endure, in the faith.
Since evil is so entrenched in our culture, how can Christians overcome it and live in obedience to God? Paul’s answer is clear: continue faithfully to remember, practice, and teach what you have learned from the Holy Scriptures! Too many Christians in our generation have an apathetic attitude toward the Bible. “Higher criticism” has persuaded many intellectuals to fear being labeled biblical fanatics. Accepting the so-called “flaws” of the Bible, they are less likely to view the Scriptures as divinely inspired. However, in so doing, these people part company with Paul!
One sad reality is that many Christians ignore the Old Testament and discount its value to “New Testament” Christians. Yet it was the Old Testament that Paul described as “holy” and “inspired.” For us the phrase “all Scripture” includes the entire Bible.
The word “inspired” means literally “God-breathed.” This is a powerful view of Scripture. God breathed life into men formed from the dust of the earth. God breathed life into Ezekiel’s dry bones. God breathed life into the Scriptures, making it the living Book of God. I like the idea given us by J. B. Phillips, who when paraphrasing the New Testament said it was like working with “live wires.”
Martin Luther was willing to endure suffering for convictions that sprang from his study of the Scriptures. He confessed, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God.” We should all be wise to have such regard for the Scriptures. Our appreciation for the Bible must stop short of idolatry of course; we worship God, not the Bible. Yet it blesses us to believe and celebrate that the Holy Scriptures make us “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
When I answered the call to preach, my grandmother, Neva Carmichael Johnson, gave me a Bible. In it she penned the words of Dwight L. Moody: “Sin will keep you from this Book, or this Book will keep you from sin.” When I get to heaven, I plan to thank her again, and to tell her that she was right about the Book and sin!
The Bible has not been given to us so that we can judge it. God gives it to us because we need what it can do for us. When we embrace the Scriptures as God-breathed, the Spirit uses them to help us become mature believers. They are, as Paul explains so beautifully, “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man [and woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Paul knew that Timothy’s faithfulness in evangelism, and in his larger ministry, would be possible only if he had a high and holy view of the Scriptures. Momentary hardship can be endured if we remember that in our ministry we are planting and watering seeds of the eternal Word of God. God promises that, if we will plant the seed of the gospel, He will make them grow!
Christians who take the Bible seriously find the confidence and strength to overcome evil and live holy lives that bring honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ! May God give us a high and holy view of the Holy Scriptures so that God can use them to keep us from evil, and make us fruitful servants of the King!
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