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Scripture: Inspired by God (2 Timothy)

This is post 3 of 4 on the pastoral letters: letters that are addressed to Timothy, a pastor in Ephesus, and Titus, a pastor in Crete. The word 'pastor' is a Latin word meaning shepherd. In ancient Israel, girls and women were often shepherds, and women and men were co-workers, teachers, and leaders hosting church congregations. I have provided an overview of 1 Timothy here and examined in detail 1 Timothy 2 here. Here is where I look at the letter to Titus.


Paul's Main Ideas in 2 Timothy:

  • commend Timothy for his faithfulness

  • the Spirit makes us bold

  • avoid false teaching and hold to truth

  • endure suffering, with God's help

  • asks Timothy to visit, give personal greetings

Paul affirms women and men as co-workers in 2 Timothy.


woman reading book
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2 Timothy 1

The letter opens by saying it was written by Paul. Some theologians indicate Paul wrote it near the end of his life while he is in prison in Rome. However, as discussed in my first post on 1 Timothy, scholars debate whether it was written by Paul in the AD late 60's or by a follower of Paul.


Paul longs to see Timothy, his son in the faith and reminisces about Timothy and his faithfulness. Paul commends Timothy's mother Eunice and grandmother Lois for teaching Timothy the foundations of faith.


Paul reminds Timothy of his call to ministry, saying that the Spirit of God gives us power and boldness. Likewise today, the Spirit of God makes us bold.

God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible. 2 Timothy 1:7 MSG

Paul compares the way he poured teaching into Timothy as a deposit, entrusted for Timothy to guard and take forward. Paul mourns that most of his followers have deserted him, and credits those who have not been ashamed to visit Paul in prison.


2 Timothy 2

Paul tells Timothy to entrust the deposit of Paul's teaching with reliable people who will be qualified to teach others. Paul says he endures his suffering for the sake of the body of Christ. Paul gives comfort in quoting a well-known song:

"If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful" (2 Timothy 2:11-13)

Paul warns Timothy against quarrelling and disputes. Godless chatter will lead to ungodliness. He exhorts Timothy to correctly handle the word of truth. Run away from foolish arguments, which produce quarrels. Be kind to everyone, not quarrelsome. Gently instruct those who teach false doctrine, and let them learn. Pray that God will lead them to know the truth.


2 Timothy 3

Paul warns about terrible times to come. There will be persecution from unbelievers as well as spiritual attacks that lead people to ungodliness. This may be displayed as people love money, boast, are proud, abusive, ungrateful, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, and without self-control. Run from such people. Paul warns against the false teachers who are targetting women and leading women astray. This concern is consistent with Paul's concern in 1 Timothy 2 about letting women learn to protect women from being victims vulnerable to false teachings.


Paul reminds Timothy of the persecutions Paul has endured, yet the Lord rescued Paul. Paul says everyone who lives a godly life will be persecuted, and targetted by deceivers. Paul notes that Timothy has learned correct teaching from Paul (2 Timothy 3:10), from his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 3:14-15), and from the Hebrew Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15). Paul commends Timothy for his knowledge of the Scriptures, which give us an understanding of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul tells Timothy he can rely on the Scriptures to be thoroughly equipped for good works, teaching, rebuking, correcting, and admonishing one another. Similarly, Paul writes to women and men in Colossae to teach spiritual things and admonish and train one another with all wisdom (Colossians 3:16).

"All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]" 2 Timothy 3:16 Amplified Bible

A high view of Scripture

There are several major schools of thought based on this one verse: Scripture is inspired, infallible, inerrant, or literal. None of these views say the Scripture is inaccurate. None of these ways of viewing Scripture is higher than the other. They each seek to understand God's word.


When the infallibility or inerrancy of the Bible is foundational to your faith, your faith can be destroyed by a skeptic who finds any evidence of God being cruel, any error or inconsistency or item that cannot be proven as true. Many adults have questions that cannot be adequately answered by saying 'the Bible says'. Thinking people want to look at why the biblical writer wrote something, and what they actually said. When the life, death and resurrection are foundational to your faith, you have a firm foundation that is almost impossible for a skeptic to attack.


The Scriptures that existed at the time of writing are the Hebrew Scriptures, which today Christians call the Old Testament. Paul says these Scriptures remain relevant, even after Jesus brought the New Covenant. This verse does not refer to Paul's own letters as Scripture. This verse does not call the New Testament 'God-breathed'.


Inspired

 The word translated as 'god-breathed' is theopneustos' which means 'inspired'. This means that God's words were given by the Holy Spirit through humans. Believing the Bible is inspired by God means that humans with limited understanding have a vision or flash of understanding and write it down with the best words they have to describe it at the time. Readers need to carefully investigate the writings to seek out God's message and to understand the meaning intended by the original writers. The historic church understood this verse to mean that Scripture is always true and useful in its purpose of revealing God's character and God's purpose to redeem humans. Judaism never taught that the ancient Scriptures were a literal word of God. Protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther recognized and accepted inconsistencies in Scripture in areas that did not pertain to the heart of the Gospel message.


Infallible

This is the idea that what the Bible says is useful, true, and trustworthy regarding faith, salvation, Christian practices and as a guide to living. The historic position of the church is that the authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit and their writing is faithful to the truth God wanted to express for our salvation. This view limits inerrancy to theological matters and God's self-revelation while allowing for errors in other fields.


Inerrant

Inerrancy is the belief that the Bible is without error in any aspect: timelines, history, biology, sociology, psychology, science, financial planning, and family life. Scripture in its original language does not affirm anything contrary to fact. Inerrancy goes hand in hand with believing the Bible word for word. The doctrine of inerrancy is relatively recent in church doctrine.


Literal

Many literalists build their approach to Bible study on 2 Timothy 3:16, saying the exact words of Scripture were given by God to the writers and compilers of the Bible. Stating that the Bible must be taken literally, allows the debate to turn to biblical accounts instead of focussing on the authority of God.


Those who see biblical truth in the parables and metaphors of the Bible also base their approach on this verse, saying God inspired the Scripture by giving visions or insights to humans, who wrote, interpreted, and compiled the Bible. Christians may have a high view of Scripture and have different perspectives on which portions to take literally or figuratively.


All viewpoints see some passages as literal and historically accurate and others as allegory, poetry, metaphor, and parables. For example, when Jesus says he is a shepherd, we don't literally believe that he took sheep to a sheep pen. We understand it as a metaphor for a person who takes care of his followers in the same way as a shepherd takes care of his sheep. Similarly, when taking the bread at communion and quoting the Scripture where Jesus says, "take, eat, this is my body", most of us don't literally believe the bread changes into Jesus's flesh. Occasionally, taking something literally can lead to the wrong conclusion. For example, ancient believers took the prophecies of the Messiah literally, and it led to them incorrectly thinking the Messiah would be a political and military leader establishing an earthly kingdom.  Many biblical truths can only be explained or understood by a parable or allegory.


1 Timothy 4

Paul closes by charging Timothy to preach the word at all times, correct and encourage with patience and care. Train people to know and obey sound doctrine. They will be tempted to teach whatever suits their own desires, turning from truth to myths.

Paul says his life is poured out like an offering. He has fought the good faith, finished the race, and kept the faith. Paul looks forward to the crown of righteousness


Paul asks Timothy to visit as soon as possible and bring John Mark. He says only Luke remains with him. Paul mentions others who have deserted Paul and fled Rome. No one came to Paul's support at his first court appearance, but God strengthened and delivered him from that trial. Paul names false teachers for Timothy to avoid. Paul gives personal greetings to friends and co-workers in Ephesus and shares greetings from believers in Rome.


Conclusion

This letter commends women like Eunice and Lois for teaching the faith. Paul tells all believers, women and men, that the Holy Spirit gives them power and boldness. Paul tells Timothy to be kind, avoid quarrels, and gently correct those who teach false doctrine. Paul specifically shows concern for women who are vulnerable targets of false teachers. He repeats what he wrote in his first letter, to let women learn. Paul warns of coming spiritual attacks and encourages Timothy to rely on what Paul has taught him and on the Scriptures. The Hebrew Scripture is given by God's divine inspiration and is useful for instruction, correction, and training in godliness. Paul says that the Scripture equips women and men to teach, correct, and admonish one another. Paul affirms the Holy Spirit gives strength to defend against earthly persecutions as well as spiritual attacks from false teachers. This letter tells believers not to be afraid, but to rely on Scripture as a guide.



 

Elaine Ricker Kelly uses her experiences as a woman in business to inspire and empower women at home, church and society. She was an investment and insurance advisor for thirty years, has three grown daughters, and is passionate about writing to encourage girls and women in leadership. Elaine R. Kelly lives near Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, with her husband and lap dog. She and her husband have hiked the 900 km Bruce Trail and enjoy hiking, nature, tennis, music, history and culture.

Books by Elaine Ricker Kelly:

Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold - biblical fiction offering hope and healing to anyone who feels forgotten, belittled, or out of place.

The Sword: A Fun Way to Engage in Healthy Debate on What the Bible Says About a Woman's Role - provides 104 flashcards with an objective, memorable look at the rationale for diverse views on gender roles.





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