The Power of the Scripture

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:10-17, ESV)

More than once in this collection of devotions, I’ve encouraged you to remember those who discipled you, taught you the Bible, and encouraged your growth in Christ. Let’s do this one more time: Think about who had the deepest impact on your spiritual growth as they discipled you. What were they like? How did they relate to you and to others? What were their life goals? What was their faith like? How did they express their love for you? How did they bear up when faced with challenges in their lives? No one is perfect, and we don’t want to put someone on a pedestal, but it is good to remember the type of people God used for our own growth. A few come to mind from my college days, and I am eternally grateful for their loving ministry with me. They powerfully demonstrate the importance of who we are as Bible study leaders, not just the soundness of the content we teach.

Paul writes from prison to Timothy, knowing there will be teachers who will attempt to deceive the church in Ephesus. These false teachers are self-deceived, and if Timothy and others in the church are not careful, these teachers will undermine the gospel message and lead the church astray. Paul urges Timothy to remain true to what he learned and has believed, offering a two-fold reason. As I read this again recently, I realized that too often I skip over the first reason Paul gives and move straight to the second. It’s easy to do, but in doing so, we miss something important.

Let’s start with the second reason, which is the nature and power of the Scriptures for our instruction and salvation. This is a much-loved passage, and I’ve repeatedly read and heard others quote it as foundational for our Bible study ministries. These “sacred writings” are able to lead us to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Their source is God (“breathed out”), and they show us where are wrong in our understanding or behavior, show us what we need to know and do, guide us in learning to live in greater obedience to God, and help us grow to maturity in our walk with God, equipped for the good works God has prepared ahead of time for us to accomplish (Ephesians 2:10). Paul encourages Timothy to put his confidence in the Scriptures and use them as a foundation, both for his own teaching and for evaluating others’ teaching. Our own confidence still remains in the Scriptures today, which is why we study the Bible together.

But, back to Paul’s first reason—much more personal. He urges Timothy to continue in what he has learned and firmly believed, because he “knows” who he learned it from. This “knowing” Paul describes is not mere surface knowledge of who Paul is, but a deep knowledge of the kind of person Paul has become by the grace of God. Timothy knows not only what Paul has taught, but in spending time with Paul, knows the integrity of his conduct with others and his life aim of obedience to God in witnessing to the Gentiles. He knows Paul’s history—faith in Christ that came after God’s gracious intervention while Paul was an enemy of the gospel. He has seen Paul’s patience, love, and steadfastness, even when he suffered persecution for the sake of proclaiming the gospel. And Timothy knows how God rescued Paul, time and time again, from persecution, and how God guided Paul in his missionary journeys. Paul’s life adds credibility to his teaching and is not to be lightly set aside when some new teacher comes in with a different message than what Paul taught.

Ultimately, the truthfulness of our teaching rests on how well we understand and respond to God’s Word. Using the reference point of Scripture, we evaluate what any Bible teacher or preacher says. “Sola Scriptura” has been foundational to guiding ministry from the beginning. But our lives also impact those we teach. We can add credibility to our message because of God’s transforming work in our own lives, or we can undermine our message because of our misconduct or hypocrisy. Because Timothy knew Paul well, Paul could encourage him to remember the kind of person he was and how God had worked in his life. Paul demonstrated integrity and consistency between his message and his life, thus adding credibility to his teaching.

How about you? Have you shared God’s work of transformation in your own life? Have you patiently loved those you have led in Bible study so that they can see consistency between your message and your life? Are your lifestyle and relationships with others a testimony to the truthfulness of what you teach? None of us are perfect in this regard, but we must be able to show a good measure of God’s transforming work in our lives to add credibility to our ministries. Without the credibility created by “walking our talk”, it is too easy for others to dismiss what we say. May God help you see any areas where you need His help to live out your faith more consistently, for your own sake and for those you lead.

Father, I am grateful for your transforming work in my own life. Thank you for your grace in accepting me in Christ, and your grace that works within me to grow me more into His likeness and character. May your work within me be a testimony to the truthfulness of what your Scripture teaches. Thank you for the power of your Word to correct me, teach me, and train me toward Christlikeness. Help me to teach your Word well, both in what I say and how I live. Amen.

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