I read this morning from 2 Timothy 3. Listen to Paul’s description of the end times.
1You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. 2 For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. -2 Timothy 3:1–5a
Distressing times? Lovers of selves? Money? Disobedient to parents? Ungrateful? Does all of that sound familiar to you? Paul just described our world today.
But that’s not new. Before we start constructing end-of-the-world bunkers, we have to realize that it would have sounded familiar to Timothy, too. In fact, verse 5 makes it clear that Paul wrote to Timothy about their own time period. It ends with the words, “Avoid them!”
So Timothy was living in the last days? Yes, he was. And we are, too. That means Paul’s advice to Timothy on how to thrive in the last days applies to us as well. Here’s what Paul says to do, in light of the wickedness of the world around us.
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:14–17
This is a beautiful scripture about scripture itself. While I do believe it applies to all of scripture, Paul has something more specific in mind. Now, I’m not going to speculate whether or not Paul knew that his writings would soon be considered authoritative scripture. But he is clearly talking here about the Old Testament and not his letters. “From childhood, you have known that sacred writings,” Paul writes to Timothy.
This isn’t really a surprising fact. I don’t know any Christian who would say the Old Testament is not scripture. At least they wouldn’t say it out loud. But Paul doesn’t just say that the Old Testament is scripture, or that it is God-breathed, or that it is useful. He says the Old Testament, when read with faith, makes Timothy and us wise in salvation.
Again, everything Paul says here about the Old Testament is true of the New Testament as well. My goal here is not to demote the Gospels and Epistles. Rather, I think we should promote the Old Testament in our Christian churches, homes, and minds.
My challenge to you today is to read the Old Testament. Don’t read it as only as a Christian history book. Don’t read it only to better understand the New Testament. Read it because it is God-breathed. Read it because it is useful for teaching, reproof, correction and training. Read it because it makes us wise. Read it because it equips us to reach a wicked world with the Gospel.
Read it, and read it with faith.