Reflections is an occasional series of short articles produced by members of the Shaw & Royton Circuit.
By Norman Unsworth — Local Preacher on Trial
The second letter to Timothy offers a picture of Paul at the end of his ministry, just before his death. Certain personal details in the letter reveal a man settling his accounts and preparing for the inevitable. At the close of the letter, Paul mentioned a significant number of people--some who had wronged him and others who had served faithfully alongside him (2 Timothy 4:9-21). It is as if Paul were giving Timothy a "state of the church" address, updating Timothy on the current state of their acquaintances and friends so that the young pastor could carry on after Paul's departure.
Paul understood that the ministry would only become more difficult for Timothy with the apostle's impending death. (Indeed, at some point after this letter from Paul, Timothy was imprisoned for his faith Hebrews 13:23). Paul knew that Timothy's task of keeping the church within the bounds of sound doctrine while encouraging believers to live their lives well for the sake of Christ would be an often thankless and difficult task. Though hardship would come, Paul wanted Timothy to continue in those things he had learned, drawing on the rich heritage of faith that had been passed down to the young pastor, not just from Paul but also from his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5-6;3:14-15).
The most striking feature of Paul's encouragement comes when the aging apostle used a phrase that showed up prominently in his letter to Timothy four years prior. In that earlier letter, Paul exhorted Timothy to "fight the good fight" (1 Timothy 1:18;6:12). But in this letter, Paul turned that phrase on himself, writing that he had "fought the good fight . . . finished the course . . . and kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7). What a great encouragement it must have been to the young pastor of the church at Ephesus to know that his mentor boldly modelled his perseverance in the faith, even to the point of death
Have you ever noticed how, when reading Scripture, we so often we see it with fresh eyes on each occasion? The Bible will speak to individuals in different ways and at different times, in other words what I understand or get from a reading, someone else will receive a different understanding. Not only that, but when you go back to the same reading later, the message you perceive may be different. There is a vast difference between reading a novel where the story is fixed or a non-fiction book in which the content remains constant. So, let us consider the passage from 2 Timothy as we reflect upon what is happening.
2 Timothy is believed to be one of the last letters to be written by Paul, who was held captive in Rome, at the Mamertine prison prior to his execution. it has been called a Pastoral Epistle along with Timothy 1 and Titus. due to it being addressed to individuals and principally dealing with church administration and the threat of growing heresies within the developing church. It exhorts Timothy to fulfil his duties faithfully and install in his congregation traditional beliefs, he encourages Timothy to "guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit"
Timothy at this time had spent four years in the Church at Ephesus carrying on the work that Paul had started. If you read this epistle you can almost feel the anxiety within Paul, he knows his time is short and is desperate that the message is not watered down or brough into heresy.
Nicky Gumbel speaks of the apostle Paul describes all scripture as "God breathed" (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible is not just inspired in the way artists, poets, composers, and musical performers can be said to be inspired. It has God's breath, his Spirit, in it. Through the Bible, God speaks to you (Quote from the Bible in one year by Nicky and Pipa Gumbel)
The Bible says in Timothy 2 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (ESV version)
There are differing views on what the beginning of this verse means.
John W Rittenberg states that at the time Paul wrote this, "all scripture is inspired of God, and is profitable" referred to the Old Testament. Paul probably did not know that what he was writing would become Scripture. (Norman — please put the reference for this statement)
John Gill writes that Paul mean all holy Scripture... not only the books of the Old Testament, but of the New, the greatest part of which was now written; for this second Epistle to Timothy is by some thought to be the last of Paul's epistles. (Norman — please put a reference for this statement)
Whichever view is right, does not deter from the fact that the Bible we read today in its many English translations has at its core a message for all people. The essential message remains constant, even when slightly different words are used, and even though individual understanding of verses or structure may differ.
Either way, the importance of this verse cannot be understated, if we accept the first proposition that the Bible is inspired by God. Anyone who reads and applies the principles will certainly profit from the wisdom to be found in the words. There is the reproof and correction which we all need at some time, we all need to be brought back to the right path. The proposition leads us to acknowledge that the answers to life's questions are found in the book inspired by God.
If we look at the situation of Paul facing imminent death, he writes the second letter to Timothy as a reminder of the time spent with him, the immense importance that the message should be held onto, encouraging Timothy in a sense to carry on Paul's legacy. This is also true for us today, if not more so, with the multitude of distractions and dare I say watered down version of the message. We who are saved must hold onto and build our faith and share our it with others in word and action.
We have a great debt to pay to the writers who risked all to translate the Bible into English. The first to translate the Bible into English was John Wycliffe and his associates. They took over 20 years to produce their translation around 1382, but this was from Latin to English. The Bible had previously been translated from the original Hebrew and Greek into Latin. What does this mean in reality? I believe that these translators who risked everything to bring God's word to the people were inspired or driven by God for the benefit of others, and the writers today are led by the Holy Spirit to interpret God's word to bring better understanding to God's people, so that all people can be saved, obviously today the Bible is translated in numerous languages, all for the betterment of people who desire to read God's word for themselves.
We need to remember that, prior to the English translations being available, only priest could read Latin. So, the only exposure people had to scriptures was through the priests who would expound their own or their Churches view to the people.
We now have the great privilege, that we can access the scriptures in our own language and can meet with God through his word and the Holy Spirit. That is why I believe the Bible is inspired by God. Even with differences that may appear in translations, the key message will always come through. I believe that God guides us, through the Holy Spirit, as we read the Bible. We have a debt of gratitude to those who interpreted the word from Hebrew to Latin and then to English. God led these people to do this for the benefit of all people, so enabling us to read and interpret the text, discus, and develop a deep personal relationship with God.