This statement occurred in Paul’s last writing not long before his execution (2 Timothy 4:6-11). There are more questions to be asked about the statement than there are affirmations made in it. Yet, we tend to base much of a theological position on the verse. Remember, the statement is an encouragement from one preacher to another.
The immediate context of the verse is nestled sandwich-style between two statements: (1) Do not wrangle about words because such wrangling uselessly ruins hearers, and (2) Avoid empty chatter because it will produce ungodliness. The direction is from an older preacher who is about to die as a result of his preaching to a younger (but experienced) preacher who risks discouragement through the execution of his close mentor.
Printing had not been invented. The only access to scriptures seemed to be in synagogues. Very few individuals could afford a hand-copied book of what they understood to be scripture. All indications suggest that the scriptures of the early church is what we, today, would call the Old Testament (Hebrews 1:1, 2).
The burning issues of the first century: (1) Was Jesus the Christ that God promised the Jewish people [consider the sermon in Acts 2:14-36]? This was of basic interest to a Jewish audience. (2) Was there a resurrection from the dead [see Acts 17:16-32]? This was of basic interest to most of idolatrous background. In (1), preachers often appealed to the Old Testament to prove Jesus was the Christ. In (2), preachers often discussed the nature of God. Those are hardly the burning issues of today!
It was easy to get so focused on words, myths, and legends that one lost sight of the questions! Paul said, “Timothy, do not do that! Found your discussions on the word of truth!” The foundation of the discussion commonly determines the conclusion. Paul urged Timothy to discuss the word of truth, and not to discuss things that would produce more hurt than understanding.
Beware of making scripture to say things it does not say. Beware of thinking human opinion is scripture. Beware of defending today’s church instead of the Bible’s God.
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