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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

2 Timothy 3

Verse 1

2 Timothy 3:1

Christian Use of the Old Testament.

We stop at the last epistle of Paul to Timothy with something of the same interest with which one pauses at the last hamlet of the cultivated valley when there is nothing but moor beyond. It is the end, or all but the end, of our real knowledge of primitive Christianity; there we take our last distinct look around; further, the mist hangs thick, and few and distorted are the objects that we can discern in the midst of it.

I. But this last distinct view is overcast with gloom. "In the last days perilous times shall come." Then there follows a picture of what men would be, who in word and form were Christians, but indeed led the lives of the worst heathens. But the Apostle relies that Timothy would in his own generation struggle against this evil, because he had from a child been familiar with that revelation of God which is profitable for the teaching of truth and for the removing of error, for correcting all that was amiss, and fostering every seed of good in us, for the perfecting of God's servants in all good works. This is St. Paul's testimony to the importance of the Scriptures of the Old Testament, when as yet the truths of Christ's Gospel were known more by the hearing of the Apostle's teaching than by the teaching of their written words.

II. The predominant characteristic of the Old Testament is awe. In it we see one thing above all others insisted on, the worship of God and the keeping of His law. God is everywhere exalted; whilst the wisdom, the glory, the power, and the pretended righteousness of man, are all humbled in the dust together. Is not this the very impression which we need, in order to go with true and wholesome feelings to the cross of Christ? The Old Testament makes us understand that as the law of faith exalts most highly the law of works, so the law of works, on the other hand, is no less the highest and only true exaltation of the law of faith in Christ Jesus.

T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 245.

References: 2 Timothy 3:1-16 . Expositor, 1st series, vol. x., p. 365. 2 Timothy 3:4 . G. Johnson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 36. 2 Timothy 3:4-17 . H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. i., p. 154; Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 193. 2 Timothy 3:5 . Homilist, vol. v., p. 131; J. S. Pearsall, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 193; J. H. Hitchens, Ibid., vol. xxvi., p. 284; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 28; vol. iii., p. 11. 2 Timothy 3:10-17 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 148. 2 Timothy 3:13 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 103. 2 Timothy 3:14 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 80. 2 Timothy 3:14 , 2 Timothy 3:15 . Ibid., vol. ii., p. 1.

Verses 14-17

2 Timothy 3:14-17

There can be no reasonable doubt what is meant by the sacred writings with which Timothy had been familiar from his infancy. His mother, Eunice, was "a Jewess which believed," and the first care of a devout Jewish mother would be to instruct her child in the knowledge of those "oracles of God," the charge of which was one of the chief glories of her nation, and to fulfil the Divine precept: "These words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently to thy children." The term "sacred writings" which St. Paul employs here is a peculiar one. It is found nowhere else in the New Testament. It designates the Old Testament scriptures as a collection of writings clearly defined and separated by an acknowledged line of demarcation from ordinary secular books, a collection round which the tradition of the Jewish Church had, so to speak, erected a fence, enclosing them like the hallowed precinct of a consecrated building.

I. The Old Testament is a trustworthy historical record. This is repeatedly implied, though not directly asserted, in the discourses of our Lord. He stamps with His own authority the essential truth contained in the account of man's creation in the book of Genesis, when He appeals to the primeval order as the basis of the sanctity of the marriage bond, and quotes as the ordinance of the Creator Himself words which we read there as the historian's comment upon the facts which He records.

II. No less full is the Lord's own testimony to the prophetic and typical character of the Old Testament scriptures. He blames the Jews who searched them, because they failed to learn the lesson which they were intended to convey. They thought that eternal life lay in the letter, not in Him of whom the letter testified. A true insight would have made them recognise in Jesus the Messiah for whom they waited. But while they boasted of their trust in Moses, they failed to believe his writings, and missed the sight of the Prophet of whom he wrote. Our Lord teaches that the Old Testament is full of types. Actions and events, and ordinances therein recorded, held concealed within them a deep significance of spiritual or prophetic meaning.

III. Our Lord deduces from the Scriptures authoritative rules of conduct and far-reaching moral principles. "The two commandments, on which hang all the law and the prophets," form an epitome of religion and morality, which is of universal application, and they are the sum and substance of the Old Testament teaching. The Old Testament supplies a principle of conduct, yet withal it is not in every respect a perfect director. For IV. Its rules require expansion. The law was the lesson given for man's childhood, and childhood requires clear and definite rules for its guidance. But now, in the full age of the new kingdom, the principles which underlay and animated the old rules must take their place. The more we study the New Testament, the more we are convinced that the Old Testament is a part and parcel of the same Divine revelation, and that the two cannot be divorced or sundered. In the words of St. Jerome, "Those who banish the doctrine of the Old Testament from the commonwealth of God, while they reject the Old Testament do not follow the New, for the New is confirmed by the testimonies of the Old.

A. F. Kirkpatrick, Oxford Undergraduates' Journal, Jan. 31st, 1878.

References: 2 Timothy 3:14-17 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 27; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vi., p. 171. 2 Timothy 3:15 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1866; J. N. Norton, The Kings Ferry Boat, p. 81; Fletcher, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 267; H. W. Beecher, Forty-Eight Sermons, vol. i., p. 165; R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 3rd series, p. 256; Church of England Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 39; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 72; A. Saphir, Ibid., vol. xix., p. 305; W. Braden, Ibid., vol. xxxii., p. 250; R. F. Horton, Ibid., vol. xxxvi., p. 56; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 159.

Verses 15-16

2 Timothy 3:15-16

The Bible the True Guide.

What are we to say to objections that may be raised to this or that portion of the Old Testament? Are we to close our ears to these objections? The answer to this question must depend in a great measure on the condition of life in which God has been pleased to place us, and upon our own opportunities, attainments, and means of examining these objections thoroughly. The main end for which we have been sent into the world is to serve God, to promote His glory, and to save our souls and the souls of others. St. Paul tells Timothy he had great reason to bless God that from a child he had known the Holy Scriptures, which were the things that were able to make him wise unto salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus, and that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God." St. Paul therefore clearly implies that children may know the Scriptures, and be made wise unto salvation by them, through faith in Christ Jesus, without being troubled and perplexed with any of those objections to which I have referred. It is enough for them to know that Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, received the whole of the Old Testament as the Word of God.

I. If we men are to have true wisdom we also must become as little children; we must approach Divine things in a reverent spirit of love; mysteries are revealed to the meek. How many persons now approach the Bible as the Pharisees approached Jesus Christ, to entangle Him in His talk! They approach the Bible in order to criticise, cavil, and carp at it; they reverse the true order of things; they walk, shortsighted men, treating the word of God as if it were a culprit; they treat the Bible as a magistrate would treat a criminal; they forget that the day is coming when they themselves will stand as prisoners at the bar of Jesus' awful judgment-seat, and that they themselves will be tried there, and that the Bible itself will judge them at that awful day. No wonder that they are stricken with blindness; blindness is the inevitable punishment of pride and presumption; and their cavils at the Bible are the natural fruit of their boldness, which is their retribution.

II. Another requisite for readers of the Bible is patience. If we wait patiently with faith, God rewards us for our patience by explaining these hard sayings. Thus he tried Abraham by promises which seemed impossible; but Abraham believed God, and what seemed impossible thus came to pass, and Abraham thus became the father of the faithful. We ought to expect difficulties in a revelation from such a being as God with such a creature as man; therefore, we ought not to be staggered by them. These difficulties in the Old Testament are not as great as the difficulty of rejecting Jesus Christ who received the whole of the Old Testament. These difficulties are but as molehills compared with that mountain of difficulty. All these difficulties are dissolved in the crucible of faith; we even rejoice in them because they are trials of our faith in Christ; and this we know is "the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." And so these difficulties are to us like fair leaves and like beautiful flowers, of which our unfading wreath and celestial garland of angelic glory will be woven.

Bishop Wordsworth, Penny Pulpit, No. 3934.

Verse 16

2 Timothy 3:16

Unity of Plan in the Old Testament.

I. The most cursory glance will show us that the Old Testament is divided into four parts the Pentateuch, the historical books, the poetical books, the prophetical books, and I may say at once that I regard the Song of Solomon as the climax of the whole; all that precedes leads up to it, all that follows flows from it. It is a mountain summit, where you may see Jesus only in His transfiguration glory: a Pisgah height where the Moses of the law gives up the ghost, and whence, gazing down the vista of prophecy, you may see the good land which God has prepared for His people; or, varying the metaphor, I see the river of life, whose sources are in eternity, in the Pentateuch, dashing down the crags of Sinai and of the law; in the historical books, meandering through the broad plains of history; in the poetical books, rushing through the narrow rocky bed of personal religion, until it flows into this lovely little Loch Katrine of the Song of Solomon, and thence flows forth in fuller volume through the prophetical books until it loses itself at last in the ocean of eternal love. In the Pentateuch God appeals to man's conscience; in the historical books, to man's intellect; in the poetical books, to man's heart, and in the prophetical books He opens to men the future.

II. In the Pentateuch God appeals to man's conscience; in the historical books, to man's intellect; and he is bidden to survey human history, and see whether it is not always well with them who fear the Lord, and ill with those who reject Him. The historical books, for the most part, run in pairs, in which the positive and the negative side of this truth is put before us. In Joshua and Judges God is brought before us as the Deliverer, and we are asked to examine the history of the children of Israel from this point of view. In I. and II. Samuel God is regarded as the King; in I. and II. Kings we are asked to trace the history of those who revere and those who despise God's prophets; in I. and II. Chronicles the same period of history is examined, but from a different point of view namely, the reverence which different kings showed, or neglected to show, for the public worship of God.

III. In the poetical books we come to personal religion; in the prophetical books the future is spread out before you, and, gazing down the avenue of the prophets, the Lord will not hide from you those things which He is about to do; but, in spite of sin, failure, and rebellion, you will see the purposes of God remaining true, until, in the last chapter of the last of the minor prophets, you see the Sun of righteousness arising with healing in His wings, and you wait on the tiptoe of expectation for the opening of the New Testament, when the dayspring will arise and the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.

E. A. Stuart, Children of God, p. 11.

Dogmatic Truth our Heritage.

By the "mystery" St. Paul here seems to mean a knowledge, Divine in its source, concealed and kept back for a time, but now imparted, or as we say, revealed. Now this Divine knowledge is chiefly summed up under two heads, according to the subject on which it treats. It treats, firstly, of God as teaching us concerning Himself; and secondly, of human nature, man as related to God.

I. The mistaken complaint of many at present is not so much that God has not given enough knowledge in revealing the mystery of godliness, but that He has given too much. They claim, that is, to set it aside wholly or in part, as involving a needless restriction on the free action of the mind, or to remould and alter it, as clashing with some conclusions of human wisdom. The forms of error are endless, and shift with the shifting phases of the human mind. But truth in its relation to them is older than them all, and stands fast through them all, and will doubtless survive them all, as it has already survived many. Thus the best, nay the only possible complete defence against error lies in active living convictions of the truth.

II. Repeatedly in Scripture is the Gospel faith spoken of as something held in common by all Christians. It is not matter of opinion, of deduction, or of induction. God's truth is given for all alike. He makes himself known in Christ, not to a priestly coterie but to mankind. Therefore the Church has educated the nation: men of the purest lives and brightest gifts have thought it their highest privilege to trim the lamp of Divine truth. And before literature was diffused, and access to comments, or indeed to Scripture itself was common, the creeds of the Church did their work in keeping alive a saving knowledge amongst the people, and yet remain as standards of doctrine, and compendiums of Scripture truth. No term of science conveys to our minds what it ought, until we draw out all that it implies: and thus when we wish to be exact in our statements we are forced to be somewhat cumbrous in our terms. Men submit to this in science, but they seem to fret against it in theology; and then they reproach it as being dogmatic, without considering that this is the necessary characteristic of truth Divine in origin, and dealing with subjects to which human experience cannot reach.

H. Hayman, Rugby Sermons, p. 8.

References: 2 Timothy 3:16 . R. Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 261; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xxviii., p. 97; F. W. Farrar, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 88; H. Wace, Ibid., vol. xxxvi., p. 241; J. Clifford, Daily Strength for Daily Living, p. 373; F. W. Farrar, Everyday Christian Life, p. 143.

Verses 16-17

2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Profitableness of Scripture.

We have here two great affirmations concerning the Scriptures. First, they are inspired of God; next, they are religiously profitable.

I. First, however, it is necessary to bear in mind the distinction between inspiration and revelation. Inspiration is an inbreathing and vital quickening of whatever may be the normal faculties of a man, whereby their natural force and religious sensibilities are augmented; such as we conceive the processes of the Holy Ghost to be in ordinary religious life, only, here, special in its forms and measures. Revelation is knowledge imparted from without: facts and truths of which we are ignorant are made known to us. If every inspiration is not a supernatural revelation, neither is supernatural revelation a mere inspiration of natural faculty. Both are to be distinctly recognised.

II. The Apostle affirms that the sacred writers are inspired of God God-breathed, the recipients of a Divine afflatus. The range and variety of the profitableness of Scripture must be noted. It is a book for human life; not for churches nor for devotions only, but for every domain and relationship of human beings. (1) It is profitable for doctrine, for teaching true ideas or principles of religious life. It makes men wise unto salvation. Men feel and act according to the thoughts and sentiments which they entertain. No wise man will undervalue correct theological notions: they are indispensable conditions of goodness. According to the Apostle the Scriptures are the distinctive source of our theological teaching. True doctrines concerning God and religion are revealed in the Bible. (2) The other great idea of the profitableness of Scripture is represented by the words "reproof," "correction." Be the book historically what it may, come whence it may, its moral and religious ministry to men cannot be denied it: and it is the most conclusive evidence of its Divine authority. As a book of moral and religious truth only will it live: as such only need we wish it to live. So long as human souls feel sin and sorrow, so long will they prize the salvation and comfort of the Scripture.

H. Allon, The Indwelling Christ, p. 123.

References: 2 Timothy 4:1 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 272. 2 Timothy 4:1 , 2 Timothy 4:2 . Church of England Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 157. 2 Timothy 4:1-22 . Expositor, 1st series, vol. x., p. 443. 2 Timothy 4:2 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 129. 2 Timothy 4:4 . Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 40; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. v., p. 287.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/2-timothy-3.html.