You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:10-17 ESV).
2 Timothy 3:10-17
Timothy has committed himself to Paul’s way of life, including persecutions (10-13). He needs to continue his commitment, leaning on the salvation-producing and work-equipping Scripture (14-17).
Verses 10-13 are a statement of fact about Timothy’s past commitment. Verses 14-17 are an exhortation for Timothy’s present commitment.
I will focus on what this passage teaches about the authority and necessity of the Old Testament for the faith and practice of 21st-century Christians. We see that in verses 15-17, where Paul talks about “the sacred writings,” and “all Scripture.” Remember, when Paul is writing this, there is no New Testament. It is still being written! So “the sacred writings” and “all Scripture” is describing the Old Testament.
Of course, we can apply these verses to the New Testament, which is also “breathed out by God,” and also necessary for our Christian lives. But we should first see how the Old Testament is necessary for us for two reasons: 1) that is the meaning in the original context, and 2) it is less obvious how the Old Testament applies to us, specifically with its laws written to the nation of Israel.
In verses 14-15, Paul urges Timothy to hold fast to his commitment to the gospel, because he learned it from genuine believers, and because he knows its source in the Scriptures. Then, in verses 16-17, Paul expounds further on the nature of the Scriptures.
The entirety of the Old Testament is the very Word of God. Therefore, it is profitable in four areas: teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. And that profitability has a purpose: the complete maturity of the believer for every God-pleasing action.
What does this mean for how the local church worships together? If we want to know what the Bible teaches about congregational worship, we must read what God commanded Israel in the OT. If we want to know how not to worship God, we must read what God commanded Israel in the OT. If we want to know how to fix our congregational worship, we must read what God commanded Israel in the OT. If we want to know how to grow in worshipping God in a way that pleases him, we must read what God commanded Israel in the OT.
And I hope no-one says, “Israel?! But that was the Old Covenant!” Yes, that was; but haven’t you read Romans 15:1-6, 1 Corinthians 9:3-14 and 10:1-13? These commands were written for us; warnings against Israel’s breaking the Law are warnings for us.
So if we read and grow in following God’s laws in the OT regarding congregational worship, we will become completely mature and pleasing to God as we worship him.
(In another study on worship, I briefly described and applied three NT passages: Romans 15:1-6, 1 Corinthians 9:3-14, and 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. I also studied Hebrews 12:18-29 on the necessity of worshipping God with reverence and awe. And in an examination of Matthew 15:1-9, I showed that Jesus would condemn our own passion for any elements of worship that are not directly commanded by God in his Word.)