Equipping Saints for the Works of the Ministry Part 4 of 7: Studying the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
In our previous times together we considered the role of prayer in the life of our Lord and then in our own. In Jesus’ life prayer was pervasive. He was frequently found in prayer (Luke 5:16) and longed to be alone with the Father praying for what was needed (Mark 1:35; Matthew 14:23; Luke 6:12; 9:28). When asked about how to pray (Luke 11:1) Jesus offered a pattern (Luke 11:1-4) and parables that showed two things. First, in a parable He made it plain that we are to be persistent (Luke 11:5-10). Second, in light of the great graciousness of the Father, in a parable He showed that we should have the right priorities (Luke 11:11-13). If I am truly a Jesus follower, the conclusion is inescapable:
To effectively follow Jesus, prayer must become a prominent feature in my life. The ministry results of Jesus cannot be achieved apart from His commitment to continuously calling out for help.
Another thing about the Lord’s life that stands out is Scripture. He was always teaching the meaning of the Scriptures (Mark 9:13; Luke 19:47), using it in His discussions, making life decisions based on the Scriptures (Matthew 4:4,7,10), and leveraging them to deal with and defeat His enemies (Matthew 22:23-33; 22:41-46; Mark 7:6; Luke 20:24). One only has to consider a few passages to see that the Scriptures are prominently featured in the Lord’s ministry and have first place in His life.
Dealing with the Devil (Matthew 4:1-11)
Immediately after receiving the Holy Spirit the Lord Jesus is declared to be the beloved Son of God and the One in whom the Father is well pleased (Matthew 3:17). We are then shown why. That is, in the passage that follows we are made to see that Jesus is in fact unlike anyone else in His character and that Scripture is His guide. Consider for just a moment what is revealed in His temptation in the wilderness:
- He is Satisfied in the Father’s Will (Matthew 4:1-4; John 4:34; Deuteronomy 8:3) — Jesus was led into a situation that we are to avoid if we can (Luke 11:4). He was driven into the wilderness (Mark 1:12) to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1). Fasting for forty days was not something that Jesus took upon Himself; He was in His Father’s will and thereby supernaturally sustained (John 4:34). The enemy of God came against the Jesus with the suggestion that, since He is the Son of God, He should use His power to provide for His own needs. Jesus refuses based on Deuteronomy 8:3; the Son of God had learned the lesson mentioned in the passage He quoted. Notice his knowledge of Scripture!
- He is Satisfied in the Father’s Ways (Matthew 4:5-7; Deuteronomy 6:16) — The second temptation sees the devil doing something different; he uses Scripture too (Matthew 5:6). Satan tries to entice Jesus to endanger Himself in an attempt to prove that He is the Son of God. This would be a novel way to grow the ministry: become a spiritual sensation by putting yourself in seriously dangerous situations so that everyone can see you supernaturally saved. Or, count on God to come and bail you out when things get bad because you are doing something your way. Jesus is better with the sword and parries with (Deuteronomy 6:16). Do not miss that Jesus again quotes from Deuteronomy. He will not put himself in peril and then count on God’s promises to make things right. The Father’s way of winning the world involved the painstaking work of mentoring men and then dying on the cross. Jesus is satisfied in His Father’s ways.
- He is Satisfied in the Father’s Worship (Matthew 4:8-11) — With no success in previous attempts trying to lead our Lord to sin, the devil gets down to the point. He has always wanted what was not His – worship (Isaiah 14:12-15). And Jesus, humbled by His humanity, is being tempted to take back His glory (John 17:5; Philippians 2:5-8) and reign through compromise (Matthew 4:8-9). But the Son of Man has been pushed too far and now pushes back with animosity. Scripture, again, is the means by which He deals with temptation; He quotes from Deuteronomy 6:13 and dismisses the devil.
Do not miss the facts: (1) Jesus did not and would not disobey His Father, (2) His obedience was based on knowing the truths of Scripture, (3) Jesus quotes the Scriptures from memory, (4) Jesus recognizes when someone is misusing Scripture in an attempt to manipulate Him (this goes back to point 1), and (5) although He had the information, prayer and fasting were part of His preparation for confrontation. We do well, in this light, to look at the place of Scripture in our lives. Let us consider a passage from Paul.
Scripture in My Life (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Before we begin our study of this passage and what it says about Scripture in our lives, let us take an aside. We thought, because this is about equipping you for the work of the ministry, time should be taken to explain how these passages are being studied. Although there are a myriad of tools that can be used, our study begins with prayer and a reference Bible. What is a reference Bible? I am glad that you asked. In Figure 1 I am showing you a page from a reference Bible.
Figure 1: Page from Second Timothy in a reference Bible.
Not let us zoom in to just a single verse. In particular, let us look at 2 Timothy 3:16; that is the Scripture you are seeing highlighted in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Reference Bible content for 2 Timothy 3:16
Notice the superscript letters and number that are highlighted in Figure 2. Those little letters and number can be used to find (1) a list of verses that are somehow related to the passage and (2) translation notes. Figure 3 shows the bottom of the page in the same reference Bible. For every verse that has references there will be an entry. The references are to other passages that can help the student understand the passage before them. Sometimes references entries are in a center column. When this is the case the bible is called a Center-Column Reference Bible. In the case shown in Figure 1 and Figure 2 case the references entries are at the bottom of the page – Figure 3. The superscript a in 2 Timothy 3:16 corresponds to the entry at the bottom of the page. In this case I am directed to look at 2 Peter 1:20 for additional insight. Likewise the superscript b corresponds to the entry at the bottom of the page. In that entry I find a reference to two Bible verses that could be helpful in my efforts to understand the 2 Timothy 3:16; those verses are Romans 4:23 and Romans 15:4. Take a moment to go and look at them.
Figure 3: References for 2 Timothy 3:16
My notes are largely based on the activity of praying, looking up the references, and attempting to answer a few questions. What are the questions I am trying to answer? I am glad you asked. Here they are:
- What is the contribution of this reference to my understanding of the passage I am reading?
- Why does an understanding of this verse and the references matter to me and my attempts to live effectively in the service of Jesus? That is, what is the import of these verses to living for Jesus?
- With the goal of being able to give help to others, how can what I have learned be simplified and summarized?
The last question should not have too much focus or be attempted prematurely. An early attempt to summarize and simplify will sideline the Bible student from the primary task of understanding what God is saying. Alliteration and rhyme are helpful in making a message easier to follow; however, many a preacher has become lost in an activity that ultimately leads them away from the task of just explaining the passage.
Figure 4: My notes on 2 Timothy 3:16-17
The attempt to understand the passage cannot be separated from the background and context. I tell anyone wanting to study anything that you will get more out of the material if you get your As. What are the As?
- The Author — The author of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is a Pharisee (Acts 23:6) that formerly fought to destroy the church (Galatians 1:13). He was the leading prosecutor of the Christian faith before His conversion.
- The Audience — Timothy is a half Jew that has been led to faith by Paul, mentored by Paul, and finally stationed by the apostle in Ephesus as a pastor. Timothy is a young man (1 Timothy 4:12) with a timid temperament (2 Timothy 1:6-8) and infirmity (1 Timothy 5:23).
- The Aim — Paul aims to fan the flagging faith of Timothy and encourage him away from being so fearful.
- The Architecture — The letter is an exhortation to a young man that is divided into two parts: (Part 1 – 2 Timothy 1:1-2:26) Persevere in Present Trials and (Part 2 – 2 Timothy 3:1-4:22) Endure in Eminent Perilous Times.
- The Atmosphere — The letter is solemn. It was written in 68 AD; that is the year Paul dies. Paul, about to depart (2 Timothy 4:6), is putting together last words for his son. He is in a prison in Rome on account of his faith and knows that his end is certain.
Action Items for Us
How do you get started? It will be helpful to have a reading plan. If you need one let me know and I will personally work on developing one that suits your schedule.
- Regularly Retreat to Pray and Read — Commit to a regular time of prayer and being in the Scriptures. I may or may not know you. Whether I do or not I am praying for you and your times with God. May the Almighty be at work moving you to develop a habit that supports the pursuit of holiness, the practice of helpfulness to others, and the basis for God-honoring humility.
- Get a Reference Bible — There are a lot of tools that can help with Bible study. Among them is the simple and yet powerful aid of a reference Bible. Get a reference Bible. They can be obtained anywhere that Bibles are sold. The Open Bible, a version that comes in many translations, is a good example. (If you need one and cannot afford it, contact us; we will get you one.)
- Get the Book Basics — Get the basics of the book that you are studying. That means knowing something about the author, the audience, the aim, the architecture, and atmosphere.
- Join a Group — You are more likely to be consistent is your are part of a group that is spurring you own. This is part of the point of church fellowship (Hebrews 10:25). Find a church and plug into a small group that studies the Bible. You will have company and encouragement for developing the discipline.
If you will do these things there is going to be progress that cannot be hidden (1 Timothy 4:15).