Brit Hadashah Reflections 41
Hebraic understanding of the Apostolic letters
2 Timothy 3 : 1 to 4 : 22
Paul wrote this second letter to Timothy from Rome shortly after his first letter. It seemed that Paul was concerned to encourage the young Timothy to be strong in his faith as the onerous task of leading the “ekklesia” in Ephesus took some toll on the young man’s resolve! Some had already deserted Paul (other than their names we have no other detail) but Paul calls on his own testimony of faithfulness to his ministry to bolster up this young man whom he described as his ‘son in the faith’.
The previous chapter ended with Paul exhorting Timothy to avoid ‘foolish and ignorant disputes’. To remain calm, gentle and composed, patient in his dealing with opposition. But in humility of spirit, to be firm in his correction of those who opposed him. Our reading today continues that wise counsel with the warning of the certain ‘perilous times’ ahead. Paul was right then and he is right today. Just look at the list of ‘perils’ he outlined for the young Timothy. “For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money (from which comes a root of all kinds of evil), boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” Did Paul miss anything out? It is a list worthy of our close attention. Note these descriptors, so easily recognizable in our own society today. Why note them? Because these are the signs Paul said would be evident ‘in the last days’. We cannot be sure of the prevalence of these things in Timothy’s time in Ephesus, but they were there, all of them. What we can be sure of is the evidence of our own eyes as we look at today’s society. It may sound overly strong to us today, but Paul’s language is unequivocal, “from such people turn away”. And very often we don’t!!
Jannes and Jambres present another difficulty for some because there is no Scriptural record of them other than here. They are considered to be the magicians (sorcerers), who appear in extra-biblical texts, and of whom the scholarly Paul evidently had knowledge. These are the persons to whom Paul likens those who resist the truth of the Scriptures themselves. Indeed as they obviously resisted Moses! To that extent then, we can say that there are plenty of Jannes’ and Jambres’ alive and well today can’t we? Different names, but the same type of people. Get a picture here of the timeless universality of the Scriptures. Written millennia ago, but as relevant now as they were then. And if they are not, then all we read is just an interesting story book!
So Paul further encouraged Timothy to stand fast in his faith. “Continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.” Do you have, as Timothy did (and as I did) an older, dedicated, trustworthy, unwavering, reliable, Christian teacher. An example to emulate, who can lead you into paths of righteousness? If not, find one! And this is the promise of God in Paul’s words “from childhood (literally in Timothy’s case, but also as a new believer for many) you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Yeshua Ha’Mashiach (Jesus Christ).” Did it ever occur to you that the ONLY Scriptures Paul knew and to which he was referring here is what we know as the Old Testament? And there is more, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” It is important to understand that our God, who does not change (Malachi 3:6) provided for Timothy “instructions for righteous living” in the Hebrew Scriptures, and in order to ‘seek out and save the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ sent His own Son Yeshua, so that one day He will make with those who are His ‘a new covenant’ signed and sealed (guaranteed) in the blood of Yeshua Ha’Mashiach.
As we try to embrace the Hebraic understanding of Pauls writing here, take note of the charge he gave to Timothy to preach the word, convince, rebuke, exhort, with sound doctrine, as he ended this letter of encouragement. How can anyone not see the perilous state of many of our denominational church structures today in Paul’s warning to Timothy. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” When did you last hear a call to repentance from the pulpit? When Paul gave Timothy the charge to ‘preach the word’ it was “before God and the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom”. He will re-appear as the righteous Judge. He will rule with a ‘rod of iron’. There will be no unrighteousness in His kingdom. And those who teach to ‘tickle the ears’ of their hearers will endure harsher judgement (James 3:1)
Paul himself said “I am already being poured out as a drink offering”. A reference to the wine libation which accompanied sacrifices made at the altar in the Temple. Now the sacrifice is Yeshua, and Paul saw himself in a servant appendage role to that sacrifice. I believe he was encouraging Timothy to see his own service in that light. If I correctly interpret the Hebraic understanding, then as indeed should we.