Paul knew the persecutions that would be faced by those who lived a godly life in a godless culture. By the time he is writing to Timothy, he has been stoned, shipwrecked, snakebitten, jailed, beaten, left for dead, spat upon, cursed, jailed again, and condemned to die. Though our society isn’t as hostile to Christianity as Paul’s was, we will still face degrees of persecution as believers. Paul recognized that there was one thing that had helped him face his persecutions and would help Timothy face his: Scripture: the only unchanging truth in a changing world.
Paul contrasts his desire for Timothy to “continue” or “stay” in the unchanging truth of Scripture that is “able to make him wise” with the “going on from bad to worse” of the changing culture. He refers to these people again in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 and then again contrasts his desired response by Timothy in 4:5.
Why Study Scripture?
Here are five reasons to study the unchanging truth of Scripture from 2 Timothy 3:
- Imitate Character (v 14)
Timothy had several Christ-like role models in his life: Paul, the great missionary and evangelist (2 Timothy 3:1-11); Lois, his faithful grandmother; and Eunice, his loving mother (2 Timothy 1:5). Talk about a heritage of faith! Paul wanted Timothy to know Scripture’s truth so that he can imitate the godly character of the believers in his life. Having a godly character strengthens the reliability and credibility of our message.
- Pursue Holiness (v 15)
The Bible tells us how to be holy. This makes the Bible unique among all other books ever written. God’s fingerprints and divine plan are evident throughout the whole text. Studying Scripture allows us to know God better and how to live a holy life that pleases Him.
- Gain Salvation (v 15)
Ideas carry varying degrees of power. The impact of a particular idea is the ability it has to change people. Take TED for example. TED’s tagline is “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Each year, they bring in some of the most interesting people in the world to speak at their annual conference (which sells out in a few days at a few thousand dollars a ticket). Many of the TEDTalks videos on YouTube have hundreds of thousands of views and are well worth watching.
While there have been may important messages communicated throughout history, but only one can change the eternal trajectory of a life. Scripture alone gives us the kind of wisdom that leads a person to salvation. The truth in the pages of the Bible, combined with the work of the Holy Spirit, opens our eyes to the reality of our sinful condition, our rebellion against our righteous Creator, and shows us the way to reconciliation with God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
- Understand Inspiration (v 16)
Verse 16 contains one of the most important statements in the Bible: all of Scripture is inspired by God. Literally, Scripture is God’s own words breathed out for the benefit of His creation. While this passage has the Old Testament in mind, it is evident that it applies to the New Testament as well (see John 14:10, 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:21, 3:16).
Though God used human beings to write human words, his attention to the process of Scripture creation was such that when their minds and hands composed actual Scripture words, these words were so much God’s words that Paul says the writings themselves are God-breathed. This alone is reason to study the truth of Scripture: The Creator of the universe breathed out a book that reveals his mind, glory, and purpose. What better way to know God than to treasure, read, meditate, memorize, study, and love the Scripture he gave us?
- Get Equipped (v 16-17)
The study of Scripture’s truth equips us to live godly lives. After all, Scripture’s ultimate purpose is to make us holy. The Holy Spirit aids us by applying the doctrines of Scripture to our mind in a way that enables us to discern the things of God and do the good works God has prepared for us as believers. This equipping takes four forms: teaching (God’s truth established); reproof (our errors pointed out); correction (our life pointed in the right direction); training in righteousness (godly growth occurs). A careful study of the Bible allows the Holy Spirit to do all four of these things to us and enables other believers in our lives to sharpen us like iron.
Paul could attest to the way that Scripture’s unchanging truth had transformed his life and sustained him through many highs and lows in life. He encouraged Timothy, and encourages us, to make progress in our Christian walks. True progress in knowledge of the Scripture builds on the foundation of the gospel without leaving it behind. How do we make progress in the truth? By studying Scripture.