3:16 – The Rest of the Story – Our Response 9: 2 Timothy

A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate

  • the Human Condition
  • God’s Revelation of His Plan
  • God’s Fulfillment of His Plan
  • Our Response (Current location of study)

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” – 2 Timothy 3:16

Paul’s second letter to Timothy is the last book of Scripture written by Paul. He was in prison in Rome at the time of writing. He had been there before, but had been released and allowed to continue his travels and ministry. However, this time was his last. He would soon be put to death because of his faith and the Holy Spirit had revealed that to him He says, in the final chapter (4:6-7), “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

When preparing these studies, I sometimes like to browse through the “headings” put in my Bible by the editors before reading or studying a passage. It helps me remember the book and get an overview of what the inspired author is trying to get across to the readers. The ESV Study Bible editors chose the following headings for the book of 2 Timothy.

  • Greeting (1:1-2)
  • Guard the Deposit Entrusted to You (1:3-18)
  • A Good Soldier of Christ Jesus (2:1-13)
  • A Worker Approved by God (2:14-26)
  • Godlessness in the Last Days (3:1-9)
  • All Scripture is Breathed Out by God (3:10-17)
  • Preach the Word (4:1-8)
  • Personal Instructions (4:9-18)
  • Final Greetings (4:19-22)

Timothy was a dear friend of Paul’s. Paul had first met him in his home town of Lystra in Galatia while on one of his missionary journeys. Paul had gone through there and preached during his first missionary journey and may have met Timothy then. At any rate, it was on his second journey through there that Paul urged Timothy to join him on his trip. Timothy accompanied Paul (along with others) on his journeys and ultimately became a leader in the church in Ephesus. It was about 15 years from the time that Timothy first started working with Paul to the time that Paul wrote this letter to him from prison.

The paragraph which contains this week’s 3:16 verse begins (v. 10) with the words, “You, however, …”. Anytime you see an adverb like “however” or “therefore”, it’s a good idea to look at the previous text to see to what the author is referring. So, I’ll go back to the previous paragraph, beginning with verse 1, to lead up to the 3:16 verse.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.

The last days to which Paul refers include the entire church age. When Peter gave his initial sermon in Acts 2, he quoted the prophet Joel and said, “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.’” These were the very things that people were witnessing happening on the Day of Pentecost. Peter, therefore, linked the pouring out of the Holy Spirit as the beginning of the “last days”. However, he continued to quote the Joel passage: “‘And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” The “day of the Lord” that Peter (and Joel) refer to is the second coming of Christ, the end of the current creation, and the day of final judgment. So the early church, along with us, are living in and witnessing the “last days.” Now we’ll pick up with verse 2 and onward in 2 Timothy 3. Paul defines a list of characteristics of people. Because of how he ends the passage, I suggest that the identified people are unrepentant people who have infiltrated the church, e.g. what Jesus referred to in the Sermon on the Mount as “false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-16)”

For people will be

  • lovers of self,
  • lovers of money,
  • proud,
  • arrogant,
  • abusive,
  • disobedient to their parents,
  • ungrateful,
  • unholy,
  • heartless,
  • unappeasable,
  • slanderous,
  • without self-control,
  • brutal,
  • not loving good,
  • treacherous,
  • reckless,
  • swollen with conceit,
  • lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
  • having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.

Avoid such people.

These are examples of the bad “fruits” to which Jesus referred. They represent the consistently bad effects and behavior of false believers, rather than occasional sins of believers who repent of them. Paul continues with a few additional examples in verses 6-9.

For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.” The names Jannes and Jambres come from Jewish traditional, non-biblical sources, and refer to the magicians of Pharaoh who opposed Moses and Aaron in Exodus 7:8-13. Paul used them as examples of people who try to oppose God’s work by doing things that they claim are equivalent to God’s work but in actuality are directly opposed to God’s ways.

Paul now turns to Timothy as being a godly contrast to these false prophets. First, Paul encourages Timothy to take Paul’s life as an example. This is similar to what the writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 13:7 – “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” Paul reminds Timothy of the things he has witnessed in Paul’s life.

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.

Then, after reminding Timothy of what he has witnessed through Paul’s example, Paul turns to a reminder of what Timothy has learned from his study of the Scriptures.

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.

This brings us to this week’s 3:16 verse. Paul reminds Timothy of the trust he can have in the Scriptures because they have a divine and perfect origin.

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.

There is a good article about this verse at the Crossway website. The authors point out that the first two words Paul uses to describe the usefulness of Scripture – teaching and reproof – have to do with doctrine. Scripture is available to teach us about God, and also to reveal erroneous teachings about God. The next two words – correction and training in righteousness – have to do with conduct. We need a sound doctrine, but we also need to be diligent in correctly applying it to the way we live our lives. Correction implies a “straightening out” of our conduct and training implies the correct application of Scripture to direct and control our behavior. Paul concludes by saying that this successful application of Scripture to the development of sound doctrine and righteous behavior results in the complete equipping of a person “for every good work”.

Be faithful to studying God’s Word and applying it in your life! Next time our study will take us to Judges 3:16.

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