Author: Ron Graham
The Things You Have Learned
—2Timothy 3:14 to 4:4
Sometimes we struggle so hard to understand the truth, and hear so much disagreement, we wonder if anyone can really "know the truth" as Jesus promised (John 8:32).
Three principles from 2Timothy 3:14 to 4:4 can help to clear the doubt and disillusionment.
1 The past: You were well taught by godly people.
Timothy was very fortunate as a child in having been grounded in the truth by his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2Timothy 1:5, 3:15)., and later by Paul his mentor.
Not everyone has benefited from these past blessings. But those of us who have been blessed like Timothy, brought up in a Christian home and having as mentors mature and sound men and women of God —surely we should grow in what we have received, and bear fruit for those who planted good seed in us.
Now, what if Timothy had said, "I'm going to mistrust, even forget, everything I have been taught, and go back to scratch; I'm going to search it all out for myself". This might sound very noble, but it is actually very foolish.
If we were taught rubbish when we were young, or (God forbid) taught wickedness, then of course we must repudiate that teaching. But those of us who were taught accurately and faithfully the word of Christ, should continue in those things and be good stewards of the blessed legacy passed down to us by a previous generation of faithful saints.
Certainly go back over what you have been taught; study it again; convince yourself again of its value and truth. But don't repudiate it, thinking that because it is old it has lost its value in this modern age.
If you've had good teachers to guide you, "esteem them very highly in love" (1Thessalonians 5:12-13 Hebrews 13:7), and "Continue in the things you have learned, and become convinced of, knowing from whom you learned them" (2Tim 3:14).
2 The present: The scriptures can make you wise.
"From childhood you have known the holy scriptures which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus... All scripture is inspired of God... that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2Timothy 3:15-17).
Here's a blessing many of us share with Timothy: we have the scriptures, inspired of God, to teach and guide us. We have learned to read and write. We have a mind able to think. We have a Bible of our own to examine and study.
Not everyone has this blessing. But if we do, Paul would say to us, "I commend you to God and to the word of his grace which is able to build you up and give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32).
We have the writings of Moses; of the prophets and poets of old; the records of Jesus’s life and teaching; the letters of the apostles; and a record of visions —all this preserved for us and diligently translated into our own languages.
Now, what if Timothy had said, "I don't think anybody has all the answers; things are not all that straightforward and clearcut; it's not possible to have so many documents from so long ago and so well copied that we can trust them"? Timothy would be wrong.
Someone does have all the answers, and he, Jesus, has not failed to pass them on to us. We can be wise unto salvation and the scriptures will light our way to eternal life.
Of course there are some statements in the Bible that seem quite arcane. I've never understood what is meant by "the sons of God saw the daughters of men" (Genesis 6:1), however I hardly think I need to know who those sons of God were to become a son of God myself!
People who study the Bible seriously never claim to have all the answers to every Bible question that could possibly be asked. But they can find the answers to all the questions that matter.
If your car broke down, and you called the Royal Automobile Club for roadside service, would you expect the mechanic who came to your rescue to know the answer to every conceivable question about cars, and understand everything in the manuals? No, you'd want, him to fix your car and get you on the road again. Who cares what he doesn't know, if he knows how to do that?
3 The future: False teachers will come.
"For the time will come when people will not endure sound teaching, but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will gather teachers for themselves as they desire, and they will turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned aside to fables..." (2Timothy 4:1-4).
We can be so blessed, and so confident in our blessedness, that we forget that there are also likely to be problems down the track. We can get so warm and comfortable in our blessings that we are not watchful and prepared for the problems.
So Paul includes, in his encouragement to Timothy, a stern warning not to allow his blessings past and present to make him complacent about problems in the future. Sooner or later doctrinal errors will arise.
Now, what if Timothy took a soft approach when new strange doctrines arose? What if he said, "Well I think it's only fair to accommodate every point of view, and let every one put his or her case." This might sound very fair and grown up. But it's assuming an environment full of love for the truth.
In such an environment it is safe and even gainful to allow this open approach. However, when there are liars, hypocrites and deceivers doing the talking, how foolish to let yourself and others be indoctrinated and seduced by them?
Although we call them "new doctrines" false doctrines only seem to be new. In most cases they are old doctrines dressed up in new clothes. They have been examined already, and found to be false. So before they turn up again, we should have prepared ourselves and others to recognize and to answer them, to show their error, and to get rid of them before they lead the unwary astray.
We must protect each new generation from future error, by laying again a strong foundation, supplied by the sound doctrine taught us in the past, and from the ever present and unchanging scriptures with their saving truth and light.