Tonight we are gathering to discuss 2 Timothy 3. In the first part of the reading, Paul writes about the godlessness in these last days. In the second half of the reading, Paul gives to Timothy and to us the antidote to this godlessness. First, Paul implores Timothy to be an imitator of Paul. To be in Christ, Paul gives up his very identity as a Hebrews of Hebrews (Phil. 3:1-11) and suffers numerous hardships and physical perils (2 Cor 11:24-28). Paul says observe me, see what I have forsaken, see what I have suffered, and most importantly, see what I have gained.
The second part of Paul’s argument is to stay in the Scriptures. “For all Scripture is breathed by God, and is useful for teaching, for rebuke, for improvement, and for training in righteousness…” (v.16). At the time of the writing of this letter, there was no “New Testament.” The four Gospels were not written until years after Paul’s death. For Paul, the Scriptures meant the Old Testament. (As an aside, there is a debate as to whether Paul is referring to the Hebrew version or the Greek version of the Old Testament. The primary difference being the Greek version contains what we call the Apocrypha.) For Paul, the Scriptures aren’t merely God’s dictation to the respective author or editor, but are alive with truly inspired – being filled with the very spirit and breath of God that we first meet hovering over the waters at Creation (Gen 1:2).
The way Paul, a first-century Hellenistic Jew, understood the Scriptures differs from how a twenty-first-century Westerner reads and understands the Scriptures. In the modern world, we have a tendency to read the Bible as we might a history or science textbook as a mere compendium of objective facts. Rather, Paul sees the Scriptures and the stories told therein as allegories or typologies which point towards Jesus. Paul understands the story of Sarah and Hagar in Genesis 16-21 as being written down to show the difference between being a descendant of the promise and descendant of the body. Gal. 4:21-31. Paul sees Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea (Ex. 14:22) as a baptism, and the manna from heaven (Ex. 16:15) and the water from the Rock in the desert (Ex. 17:6) as coming directly from Christ himself. 1 Cor. 10:1-15. For Paul, it’s not the letter of the Scriptures where the Life is found, but in their Spirit-filled meaning. 2 Cor. 3:6. If you have time today, I would commit to articles on Paul’s reading of the Scriptures to you – one from Fr. Stephen Freeman and one from Dr. David Bentley Hart.
For tonight, think about your favorite Old Testament story and its Spirit-filled meaning. Think about how that story can be used for teaching, rebuke, improvement, and training in righteousness. Abraham is more than the story of a wandering Aramean. David and Goliath is not simply a story of a bronze-aged peasant boy’s victory over the large champion of a superior military force. Think of how your favorite story presently speaks to who we are in Christ.
Dinner is at 6. The menu is seafood pasta salad. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.Hebrews 4:12