August 25, 2013

Inspired by God for Edifying or for Restricting?

Just about anyone who has been, grown up in, or had a confrontation with literalism has been confronted with 2 Tim. 3:16 (All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;) as a proof-text that the Bible is God's inerrant and literal book of rules. But is this really what that verse means, or does it have a larger meaning when taken in a larger spiritual context?

To take "inspired by God" (in Greek, God-breathed) and use it as proof for inerrancy requires us to logically move directly from 'God' to 'perfect' and ignore the decidedly imperfect thing that lies in between: people. Also, at the time Paul wrote this to Timothy, the only Scripture he could have been referring to was the Old Testament. A Jew such as Paul would have completely believed that the Hebrew scriptures were from God, but as a new being in Christ, and considering the other things Paul wrote against law-keeping, would he really have been trying to tell Timothy that his other letters should be considered a perfect rule-book with no errors? Was Paul giving Timothy a set of restrictions, or a set of tools with which to build up himself and others?

Let's look at a bit more of the 2 Tim. passage to get some more context:

10But you, Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance.
14But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Tim. 3:10, 14-17, New Living Translation
Nothing here about rules or law-keeping. Nothing here about perfection or inerrancy. Paul is talking to Timothy about how to live. Paul reminds Timothy of the wisdom he has gained from knowing the Hebrew Scriptures (Timothy certainly couldn't have been taught the New Testament Scriptures from childhood, they hadn't been written!) Paul's main point, at the end of the chapter is being prepared and equipped to do good works.

Now let's look at something that is definitely a 'good work', the edification of others. To edify means to build up, to construct (think of the word 'edifice' as we use it for a building). In Rom. 15:1-3a Paul writes: 

 1Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. 2Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.  3For even Christ did not please Himself(NASB) 
1We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. 2We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. 3For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. (NLT)

Looking at these together, we prepare and equip (get the right tools) ourselves and others to build up others and do good works.

Are things like protesting abortion clinics edifying or a good work? When someone's tactics make a woman run inside an abortion clinic for shelter from the haranguing of a street preacher, that can hardly be called edifying, bearing the weakness of one without strength, or a good work. Is a preacher that requires his congregation to follow rules and completely agree with his doctrine pleasing himself or helping his brother to do what is right, to be built up for the good works of Christ and not the preacher? Does expelling and shunning people for simple disagreement edify or equip anyone for good works?

Jesus told us that whoever would be great in His Kingdom must become a servant to his fellow man, not a boss or an enforcer. He tells us to obey Him and love others, not to love our self-importance and force others to obey.

No comments:

Post a Comment