Commentary on 2 Tim 3:10-17
Today Paul continues to urge Timothy to make Paul’s teaching and behaviour the model of Timothy’s own life.
Paul had very clear shortcomings, of which he was well aware, but he knew also that in his devotion to the following of Jesus he was second to none. In fact, it is because of his weaknesses that the power of Jesus shines so strongly through him. “For whenever I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). And he was passionately bound by his love for Jesus: “I live, no it is not I, but Christ lives in me.”
So now Timothy is invited to remember Paul’s fidelity and patience and spirit of endurance as he passed through so many persecutions and sufferings. Paul mentions the three Galatian towns of Antioch, Iconium and Lystra. Paul had visited them on his first and second missionary journeys and, as Timothy was from Lystra, he would have first-hand knowledge of Paul’s sufferings in that region. Yet, God had delivered Paul from all the threats and hardships he had encountered there.
Paul then enunciates a principle which occurs regularly in the New Testament and which has been a fact of life in the Church at all times: “Anyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus can expect to be persecuted.” We find similar warnings in the Gospel (“You will be hated by all because of my Name” – Matt 10:22). It was precisely in the places mentioned above that Paul had encouraged the Christians there: “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), put it slightly differently when he said he hoped that his men would always experience some persecution. It was a sure sign they were doing their job. We should not be surprised, then, at attacks or ridicule on our Christian churches.
For there will always be, as Paul says, “evil people and charlatans” for whom the message of the Gospel is anathema and a threat. They will do what they can to destroy it and its messengers. But as long as the Gospel of Truth and Love is proclaimed it cannot fail no matter what is thrown against it.
And Timothy is urged to remain faithful to all that he learned and believed from his teachers, who include Paul as well as Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois (whose names are given at the beginning of the letter). They had taught him the word of God from his earliest years. A Jewish boy formally began to study the Scriptures when he was five years old. (Timothy, we know, was born of a Gentile father and a Jewish mother and would have been seen by Jews as one of them. Because of that, Paul had had him circumcised to make him more acceptable to fellow-Jews.)
Those Scriptures, that word of God, is, as Paul remarks, “the source of the wisdom which through faith in Jesus Christ leads to salvation”. Wisdom is not knowledge or information; it is a deep insight into the realities of our world and an ability to see how all things relate to each other. The particular wisdom here is that which comes through our commitment to the vision of life that Jesus and the Gospel give.
“All scripture is inspired.” Paul affirms God’s active involvement in the writing of Scripture, an involvement so powerful and pervasive that what is written is the infallible and authoritative word of God. At this time, the primary reference here must be to what we call the Old Testament as some of the New Testament books had not yet even been written. However, by the time of the later books e.g. 1 Timothy and 2 Peter, some of the New Testament books and other written material which later would become part of the canon were being considered as being on the same level as the Old Testament books. (At the same time, one feels that Paul would be very surprised to know that some of the letters he wrote, apparently in some haste at times, would be seen as God’s revealed word to us!)
An understanding of the Scriptures then is an essential source for “teaching, refutation, correction and training in right living”. Armed with this understanding, all those who “belong to God” will be competent and ready and able for every good work. For it is through the word of God in Scripture that we become “fully competent and equipped for every good work”.
The Scripture contains a wisdom which should guide all our Christian lives and it is regrettable that so many Catholics (as opposed to many Protestants) are far less familiar than they should be with the God’s Word in both Old and New Testaments. It was St Jerome who said that ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.
It is amazing at times to hear people, who hardly ever open a Bible, pontificate about Jesus and the nature of Christianity. If we are among those who have to admit that much of the Bible is a closed book to us, let us resolve today to make ourselves more familiar with it.
We will find there an inexhaustible source of inspiration for our lives. Those with experience will tell you that, no matter how many times they read Bible passages, there is still more insight to be gained. It is not like an Agatha Christie novel that can be tossed aside once it is finished. “Oh, I read that.” It is more like a great piece of classical music that can be listened to again and again and which is ever open to new interpretations while remaining faithful to the original.