This is the fifth study in the series about Decisions: Seeking God’s Guidance:
2 Timothy 3:10-4:8
Purpose: To learn to distinguish between good and bad advice.
It is said that “advice is cheap,” which is probably due to the fact that there are more people selling it than buying it. The book of Proverbs, however, encourages us to value advice when it teaches, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise” (Proverbs 19:20).
What is the best and worst advice you have been given? What happened when you followed each?
How do you normally react to people who give you advice: (a) appreciative? (b) resentful? (c) indifferent? (d) skeptical? What does this tell you about yourself?
Second Timothy is a letter the apostle Paul wrote to a young pastor he had trained. In it, he encourages Timothy to stand strong in a world full of godlessness, false teaching and bad advice. Read 2 Timothy 3:10-4:8.
1. What information does Paul give about his character and suffering?
2. Why is it important to consider the character of those we seek advice from?
John Stott suggests: No, Paul is not boasting. He has reasons quite other than exhibitionism for drawing attention to himself. He mentions his teaching first, and then goes on to supply two objective evidences of the genuineness of his teaching, namely the life he lived and the sufferings he endured. Indeed, these are good (though not infallible) general tests of a person’s sincerity, and even of the truth or falsehood of his system. Is he so convinced of his position that he both practices what he preaches and is prepared to suffer for it? Have his beliefs made him a better man, even in the face of opposition? Paul could answer both questions affirmatively. The false teachers lived lives of self-indulgence, and it would be quite out of character to expect them to be willing to suffer for their views; they were altogether too soft and easygoing for that. The apostle Paul, however, lived a consistent life of righteousness, self-control, faith and love, and remained steadfast to his principles through many and grievous persecution. (Guard the Gospel [Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1973], pp. 94-95)
3. According to the criteria given in 2 Timothy 3:10-11, who do you know that you might go to for advice?
4. How was Timothy to evaluate the advice he received from others, including Paul (2 Timothy 3: 14-15)?
Timothy is told to evaluate what others say based on the convictions he has built over time. Those convictions have been given to him by Scripture and by people whose character he knows and trusts namely his mother, his grandmother and Paul. A Christian must stand firm on what he knows of the truth, like a rock resists the increasing fury of the waves.
5. Why was Paul such a good mentor for Timothy?
6. Focus on 2 Timothy 3:15-17. What is the purpose of Scripture?
Paul says that Scripture will make us “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). By this he means, “the Bible is essentially a handbook of salvation. Its over-arching purpose is to teach not facts of science (e.g. the nature of moon rock) which men can discover by their own empirical investigation, but facts of salvation, which no space exploration can discover but only God can reveal” (Stott, Guard the Gospel, p. 102). Paul goes on to show that Scripture teaches us both what to believe and how to behave.
7. How can Scripture be used in helping us to make decisions?
Since Scripture teaches us how to behave, all such teaching will come to bear on our decisions. We should never make a decision that will cause us to act or believe in a way that is contrary to Scripture.
When Paul speaks of all Scripture, he is definitely referring to the complete OT, but also to those portions of the NT that were then in existence.
- In 1 Timothy 5:18, he quotes the Gospel of Luke (Luke 10:7) as Scripture.
- Peter speaks of Paul’s Epistles as Scriptures (2 Pet. 3:16).
Today we are justified in applying the verse to the entire Bible.
This is one of the most important verses in the Bible on the subject of inspiration. It teaches that the Scriptures are God-breathed. In a miraculous way, He communicated His word to men and led them to write it down for permanent preservation. What they wrote was the very word (and message) of God. While it is true that the individual literary style of the writer comes through, it is also true that the words are the same as the Holy Spirit intended. So, we read in 1 Corinthians 2:13: “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” If this verse says anything at all, it says that the inspired writers used words which the Holy Spirit taught.
The writers of the Bible did not give their own private interpretation of things, but wrote the message which was given to them by God. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).
It is false to say that God simply gave the thoughts to the individual writers and allowed them to express these thoughts in their own words. The truth insisted on in the Scriptures is that the very words originally given by God to men were God-breathed.
Because the Bible is the word of God, it is profitable. Every portion of it is profitable. Although man might wonder about some of the genealogies or obscure passages, yet the Spirit-taught mind will realize that there is spiritual nourishment in every word that has proceeded from the mouth of God.
The Bible is profitable for doctrine, or teaching. It sets forth the mind of God with regard to such themes as the Trinity, angels, man, sin, salvation, sanctification, the church, and future events. (This is the way we should live, to walk on the path).
The Bible is profitable for reproof. As we read the Bible, it speaks to us pointedly concerning those things in our lives which are displeasing to God. Also, it is profitable for refuting error and for answering the tempter. (This tells us where got off the path).
The Bible is profitable for correction. It not only points out what is wrong but sets forth the way in which it can be made right. For instance, the Scriptures not only say, “Let him who stole steal no longer,” but add, “Rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need.” The first part of the verse might be considered as reproof, whereas the second part is correction. (This tells us how to get back on the path).
The Bible is profitable for instruction in righteousness. The grace of God teaches us to live godly lives, but the word of God traces out in detail the things which go to make up a godly life. (This tells us how to stay on the path).
8. How might Scripture be misused in decision making? How can you avoid this?
This question is not directly answered in the passage, but by understanding the purposes of Scripture, we will also come to understand what it is not intended to do. The Bible generally teaches principles of behavior that will guide us in reaching a decision. For example, if a person is considering whether or not to marry a particular person, the Bible can help the couple examine their motives and desires. The Bible cannot be expected to give a yes or no answer as if it were a crystal ball.
9. What does good advice consist of according to 2 Timothy 4:1-7
Good advice will…
- Take into account that Christ is coming back and will judge us for what we have done
- Be relevant in that it will correct, rebuke and encourage according to the needs of the one being advised
- Be patient so that it will not pressure or attempt to contrive a decision; and
- Contain careful instruction which guides a person intellectually
10. Why might some people be motivated to give bad advice?
Paul warns that people will substitute their own desires for God’s truth. They will judge teachers by their own subjective taste instead of by the authority of God’s Word. In order to be popular or to gain an audience, teachers will be tempted to say what people want to hear.
11. How can you avoid having “itchy ears” (2 Timothy 4:3) as you seek advice?
12. How will this study change the way in which you seek advice?
Pray for God’s guidance as you study Scripture and seek advice.
Now or Later
A contrast between people with “itchy ears” and people who know how to accept advice is found in Acts. Read Acts 17:1-12.
- In what ways does Paul follow the principles of good advice you discovered in 2 Timothy?
- Why did the people of Thessalonica not listen to Paul’s advice?
- How is this similar to the people with “itchy ears” in 2 Timothy?
- How is it similar to people in your community?
- What is commendable about the Berean style of evaluating advice?
- Have you been more like a Thessalonian or a Berean in accepting advice?
2 TIMOTHY 3
Perilous in 2 Timothy 3:1 means “difficult,” “hard to deal with,” or “dangerous.” It is the same Greek word used to describe the demoniac in Matthew 8:28 and translated “exceedingly fierce.” How do we live for Christ in such terrible times?
Expect them (2 Timothy 3:1–9). The person who is looking for a soon-coming paradise on earth is destined for disappointment. To expect these perilous times is to become not a pessimist but a realist. Note the emphasis on the wrong kind of love (2 Timothy 2, 4).
Follow the right examples (2 Timothy 3:10–12). We tend to emulate the people we admire, so be careful about the heroes you select. Modern-day Christian celebrities may not exemplify the life-style God wants us to have.
Stay with the Bible (2 Timothy 3:13-17). Believe God’s Word will…
- Save you (2 Timothy 3:15)
- Mature you from childhood to adulthood (2 Timothy 3:15, 17)
- Equip you to serve the Lord (2 Timothy 3:17).
Satanic deception is rampant today and has infected the church (2 Timothy 3:13), and the only weapon that defeats the deceivers is God’s inspired Word.
2 TIMOTHY 4
Christ is coming (2 Timothy 4:1)! In view of all this(that which he tells us in chapter 3), we must know our task and be faithful to do it. Review 2 Corinthians 5:9–11, and read 1 John 2:28–3:2.
Apostasy is coming (2 Timothy 4:2-5)! Indeed, it is now here. Many professed Christians have no “ear” for the Word of God. They prefer religious entertainment and sermons that will tickle their ears instead of cut their hearts.
Departure is coming (2 Timothy 4:6-8)! Paul saw his approaching death as the offering of a sacrifice to God (2 Timothy 4:6; Philippians 2:17), the ending of a difficult race (2 Timothy 4:7), and the gaining of a glorious crown (2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 2:10). This is the victor’s crown given to winners at the Greek Olympic Games.
Help is coming (2 Timothy 4:9-22)! Paul was greatly disappointed when the people he had ministered to turned away from him and were ashamed of his bonds. He asked Timothy to come as soon as possible and to bring Mark with him. But best of all, the Lord came to Paul and encouraged him! No matter what His people may do, Jesus will never leave you or forsake you (Acts 18:9–11; Hebrews 13:5–6).