2 Timothy 3:1–17comment (0)
September 8, 2011
By Eric Mathis
Related Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:1–17
Bible Studies for Life
Instructor of Church Music and Worship Leadership, School of the Arts, Samford University
Grow in Spiritual Maturity
2 Timothy 3:1–17
Last week, we reflected on the importance of community, emphasizing that community is vital, cares for its own and leads to God’s blessing. In this week’s study, we turn our thoughts from communal growth to individual growth by considering the ways each person can grow in spiritual maturity.
Spiritual maturity is a process rather than a product. This concept may be difficult to grasp, as our culture of mass production and consumption frequently seeks maximum results with minimal efforts. We would do well to remember that spiritual maturity is acquired over a period of time. It comes as the cumulative result of practicing the Christian life with consistency and repetition.
Make Good Choices (1–9)
Second Timothy 3:1–17 reminds us of three Christian practices that will foster our spiritual maturity: exercising discernment, following good examples and studying God’s Word. This chapter’s first verses provide a list of vices (2–8) that stand in direct contrast to more respectable virtues provided in the previous chapter. By providing a list of vices, the writer described the immoral behavior Timothy should avoid. Individuals whose lives are defined by such vices will not make progress; their lives will become as foolish as Jannes and Jambres, Egyptian magicians who tried to recreate the miracles of Moses and Aaron.
This list of vices is to be compared to the list of virtues given at the end of Chapter 2 (vv. 24–26). There Paul said the Lord’s servant must be kind to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, gentle toward opponents and repentant. Such virtuous behavior imitates God’s ways and marks the life of an individual seeking to follow Christ’s ways while living in the world. Christians are to make good choices, and the first step in choosing wisely is recognizing and avoiding unwise choices and patterns of living.
Follow Good Examples (10–13)
After warning against immoral behavior, Paul began his final admonishment to Timothy and all those who suffer for the gospel. Timothy observed multiple aspects of Paul’s life: his teaching, conduct, faith, patience, love and steadfastness. These characteristics are to be followed as a resource for Christian living and remind us that learning about other Christians’ lives and stories can be a resource for spiritual maturity.
Unfortunately the example of Paul’s life reminds us that pursuing a virtuous life does not come without hardship. Just as Paul suffered in his work, so might we encounter trials and persecution when pursuing a godly life in Christ. However, Paul reminded Timothy that God rescued him from every persecution. This was sure to provide Timothy and us with an assurance that God can and will provide a way out of hardship for His people.
Study Scripture (14–17)
Beyond discernment and people, a final source for spiritual maturity is the study of Scripture. Paul reminded Timothy that he had Scripture’s guidance since his youth and it has instructed him in the ways of salvation. Paul’s primary emphasis in this passage was the utilitarian nature of Scripture, which provides all of God’s people with the resources they need to pursue His work in the world. This includes teaching, reproof, correction and training so Christians can grow in faith and respond appropriately to those who oppose Christian doctrine. Because the God who continues to live and move within us inspired Scripture, we should be prepared for increased knowledge as we read, study and proclaim His Word. Ultimately this will lead to our continued transformation as we seek to mature spiritually.
In closing this week’s lesson, we would all do well to remember last week’s lesson once more — community is vital. Though we are each in different stages of spiritual maturity and must accrue virtues of the Christian life individually, the broader Christian community can provide us with fellow travelers for accountability and encouragement. May we find ourselves maturing together and consistently growing in the God who works tirelessly to complete and equip us for every good work.