Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Good Work

The Off-Road Pastor makes this observation
What is the good work scripture is talking about [in 2 Timothy 3:17]? The work of God in and through us.
It is encouraging when someone ignores the secondary applications and gets to the point of a passage. Often, and sometimes to extremeism 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is used as justification for arguing that all scripture is inspired. Yet a clear reading of the passage in context indicates that inspiration without purpose is irrelevant. Scripture is inspired in order that the thoroughly/perfectly/adequately/competently/completely equipped man might be prepared for the good work of...
And here is where I think the Off-Road Pastor falls short. To the question What are the good works 2 Timothy 3:17 is talking about? He replies:
We cannot assume that we will become closer to God, understand His calling for us, or even do His calling for us if we are not looking into His word on a regular, daily basis for instruction and encouragement. We cannot be equipped or competent unless we go to the source of truth: God. And what better way to hear from God than through His Word which is right in front of our face.
An important statement, even foundational. However, I don't find anything which indicates, that "calling", "instruction", or "encouragement" are equivalent to the "good work" at the end of 2 Timothy 3:17. (The KJV translation of παιδεια as "instruction" not withstanding. παιδεια being better understood in English if it retains it's παιδιa "child" root, hence ESV/NIV's "training". The Bible in Basic English has "education in righteousness" which I find intriguing.) Not to belabor the issue but it is important to get a handle on what Paul means by the "good work" that he feels Timothy will be able to accomplish through the scriptures. Before we can understand calling, competence or even inspiration it must be clear what "good works" Paul is commissioning Timothy with.

What I do find is that Paul's charge to Timothy is couched in between two statements about apostasy:
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. -2 Timothy 3:12-13
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. -2 Timothy 4:3-4
In face of deceivers Paul reminds  Timothy of the truth of what he has learned. And, when Paul begins to give Timothy his core instructions about the scriptures he declares not that he is simply to "use" them towards secondary purpose or calling or for some other work, but, in no uncertain terms, he declares the scriptures themselves the "good work" you are to do. Notice that Paul follows 3:17 with this charge:
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. -2 Timothy 4:1-2
Which sounds strangely like "profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness." The scriptures which make us wise unto salvation, and which train us up into righteousness, become the God-breathed life-blood which flows in a Christian's veins and beats within his heart. They are the muscles, tendons and bones by which we walk and fight and work and stand.  In face of difficulty, persecution, godlessness and suffering what work could we possibly accomplish? What hope do we have on our own? Before a blinded and deceived world of liars and impostors our "good work" is to declare and reveal, rebuke and exhort, with the same life-giving God-breathed power of divine truth that burns like fire with in us. God calls all men to no less a task. What other work is there?

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