I’m preparing a lesson from 2 Timothy 3, and I thought I would share a few introductory thoughts. This lesson is the first in a series entitled “Authority for Living: Culture or Scripture?” I think we can all agree that far too many self identified Christians look and act little or no different from the non-believing world around us.
Paul essentially argued the same point in 2 Timothy 3:1-9 when he listed sinful activities by people that we are to avoid. If you read the list, you would think he’s discussing 21st century America. Paul indicated that he was discussing so-called believers with two phrases: “having the appearance of godliness” and “avoid such people” (both phrases found in verse 5). In other words, hypocrisy existed in the first century church as it does today. And Paul admonishes us to avoid such hypocrites and wicked people. We know he was speaking about those “in the church” because we are not admonished scripturally to avoid sinners (as in unbelievers), but only those who willfully sin and claim to be Christians. (Incidentally, how could we avoid unbelieving sinners in general if they have no other recourse but to sin? Furthermore, we could never hope to evangelize unbelieving sinners if we avoided them all. Paul’s admonishment is to avoid those claiming to be believers but living in the willful sins mentioned in the passage).
Paul concludes his argument in this section with some foundational verses for Christian doctrine and practice, 2 Timothy 3:16-17. He wrote “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Paul argued that the Bible is foundational for Christian doctrine and living because it has been breathed out by God and carries His authority. In other words, Christians must find their directive for living, thinking, believing, acting, walking, working, etc. from Scripture and not culture.
A Christian whose life finds its authority in contemporary culture will be inconsistent with Scripture. Likewise a Christian whose life finds its authority in Scripture will be inconsistent in many ways with the surrounding culture. I’m afraid that our biblical illiteracy and/or our rebellious rejection of biblical mandates are displayed in the many Christians today whose lives reflect culture and not the distinctive of biblical holiness. In future posts, I plan to address culturally significant themes where I believe biblical truth has at times been rejected in light of cultural trends. I’ll be dealing with topics that include: “Culture or Scripture? A Woman’s Role in Ministry/Service”; “Culture or Scripture? How do we understand Homosexuality”; “Culture or Scripture? The Stereotypical Man/Father”; “Culture or Scripture? How we understand the use of Alcohol.”
I know well that these topics are controversial. Please know that I don’t think I’ve exhausted the discussion of these issues or have given the final word in my posts or in my lessons. However, I do hope that I can relate how a biblical understanding of these topics will differ greatly from that presented in our contemporary culture.