Wise For Salvation- 2 Timothy 3:12-15

In this passage, Paul is instructing Timothy (who is the “pastor” of a church) in how he is to conduct his ministry and of what he is to emphasize as he shepherds his people. This church was undergoing persecution, and Paul here instructs Timothy on how he is to deal with it and what his people are to do in response to it. He begins, in verse 12, by stating that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”. Several things in this statement are relevant and important to believers in the USA in the 21st century. The first is that there are no exceptions to “everyone”, and those included in everyone here are those who “desire to live a godly life”. The word godly here is eusebos, and literally means “the fear of God”. Anyone who desires to live a life in which Jesus is truly Lord, a life rooted and grounded in the truth of Scripture and led by the Holy Spirit will be (not might be) “persecuted”. The question then arises as to what is meant by persecution here? When we think of “persecution”, we normally tend to think of martyrs being burned at the stake or boiled in oil, but that is not the type of persecution Paul has in mind here, and was likely not going on in the church to which Timothy ministered at this point in time. It is, rather, a persecution very familiar to believers in Christ in the USA today, it is a “cultural” persecution. What this means is that the society as a whole will see all whose thinking is shaped by the truth of Scripture as a) not very bright, weird, crazy b) a weak person who needs the crutch of religion to make it through life or c) intolerant, bigoted and hateful. We notice here that in verse 12 Paul tells us this will happen, and in verse 13 he tells us it will keep getting worse, that “evil men” (outside the church) and “impostors” (inside the church) will get worse and worse, getting more brazen in their deceptions, attempting to draw us farther and farther away from the truth of Scripture, persuading us to believe their lies, which they have believed for so long they have now “become” true to them, for if we believe a lie long enough it in effect becomes true to us (verse 13). In verse 14, Paul gives Timothy the means for dealing with this type of persecution, and it is to “continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of”. The word continue here is referring to a lifestyle which Timothy has learned, and Paul here tells Timothy that the key to dealing with this persecution is to not depart from the way of living he had learned, to remain steadfast and rooted to the truth he had been taught. And what is that truth? It is the truth of the “Scriptures”. From his infancy in the faith, Timothy had been taught to have his thinking rooted and grounded in the Bible, that the word of God shaped his thinking and told him what is true, and it also shaped his behavior, that he became “convinced” of its truth to the point that it shaped his thinking and guided his every decision. In living this way, he “learned” that only the “holy Scriptures” (the Bible) are able to make him “wise for salvation”. Now does Paul mean here that our own wisdom can “save” us? That depends what he means by salvation here. The Greek word salvation here means simply to rescue or deliver from danger, and does not always refer to eternal salvation and whether we go to heaven or hell when we die, and that is the case here. By salvation, Paul here means that they will be rescued from the danger of falling prey to the evil men and impostors who try to get them to conform their thinking to the culture rather than to the Scripture, to think as the world does in order to avoid the “persecution” of being seen as stupid, weird, weak or intolerant. It does so by making us “wise”, not by giving us knowledge. In the Bible, there is a vast difference between wisdom and knowledge, and the Bible always calls us to be wise rather than knowledgeable. Wisdom and knowledge are not the same thing, though both have to do with information. Knowledge is having information, while wisdom is doing something with the information you have. The Scripture is not merely to be a source of biblical information, but a book which shapes the very way we think, for when it shapes our thinking it will transform our living. It is only when our thinking is shaped by the word of God (not the empty philosophies of the world) that we will become “wise for salvation”, that we will not fall captive to the cultural pressure to abandon the Bible as our primary source of truth and authority and be pulled away from living a “godly life in Christ Jesus”.

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