(2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Today I want to teach you how to identify God’s explicit revelation. By “explicit” I mean it’s obvious. The author is stating it clearly and we don’t need to worry too much about understanding it if we just take the time to examine the passage we’re studying. This is the first step in every passage we encounter. We ask ourselves, “Is there an explicit revelation here?” Usually the passage will have some kind of linking verb (i.e. various forms of the verb “to be” such as is, are, was, were, etc.) stating or declaring something to be true as a matter of fact. In our passage above, the apostle Paul simple states, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful...” He is not commanding us to do anything. Of course, the previous verse does that (v.15), but we’re not studying that verse. We’re studying verses 16 and 17 only. In addition, we see another statement in verse 17, which is a purpose or result statement introduced by the conjunction “so that.” So in effect, we have two statements here: one stating a fact, and the other stating a result or purpose. But they go together, as evidenced by the structure of the passage (i.e. they are connected by a comma). Before we examine this passage further, let me remind you that if you cannot answer YES to the question “Is there an explicit revelation here?” then most likely there is NO explicit revelation in the passage. It may be implicit and we may have to do some further investigation to find it.
Now going back to our text today (2 Tim 3:16-17), here’s how to identify God’s explicit revelation. First, we need to know what the original author meant when he first wrote this. Second, we need to know what it now means in view of whatever else that God has said either in the past or after this passage was written (in other words, we try to interpret it in view of the entire Bible). Third, we need to know what God is saying to us now, or particularly, or in our own context today. These three steps must be taken one at a time. Please do not jump to the third step without going through the first two steps.
First, we need to know what the original author meant when he first wrote this. To do that, we need to find out what he is talking about, generally speaking. If we read the text carefully, we would notice that he is talking about Scripture. During his time, the apostle Paul would be referring to the Old Testament in particular, because the New Testament was still in the process of being written. Then we need to find out what he is talking about in particular. Again, if we read the text carefully, we would notice that he is talking about “Why all Scripture is beneficial to Timothy.” This is called the “Theme” and the “Topic” of the text respectively. Now if we examine it further, we can see how Paul is answering this question in the text. He is saying “All Scripture helps Timothy to become effective in his life and ministry.” This is called the “Truth” statement. How did i arrive at this statement? Looking at the context, we know that Paul is talking to Timothy. He is thinking about him in this passage. Next, everything that Paul says about Scripture can be summed up with the words “helps…to become effective in his life and ministry.” Examine the text to see if what I am saying is true. Finally, we need to find out what Paul wants Timothy to do. Obviously, the text does not say. But looking at the previous verse, we know that Paul wants Timothy to remain or continue in what he has learned from Scripture (v.15). This is called the implicit “Thrust” of the passage.
Second, we need to know what it now means in view of whatever else that God has said either in the past or after this passage was written (in other words, we try to interpret it in view of the entire Bible). Originally, Paul was simply referring to the Old Testament. But looking at what God has revealed to us either in the past or after this passage was written, we now know that this refers to the entire Bible also, because that is the meaning of the phrase “all Scripture” now that Christ has come, died and rose again. We can also restate the “Topic” of the passage by saying “Why the Bible is beneficial to everyone.” The word “everyone” will now replace the name “Timothy” because we are now looking at it broadly or universally. More importantly, we can restate the “Truth” statement of this passage by saying “All Scripture helps every believers to become effective in his or her life and ministry.” I’m sure you noticed the difference here. I’m now transforming it into a universal “Truth” statement. Finally, we can restate the “Thrust” of the passage by saying “Every believer must remain or continue studying the Bible.” This is the universal message of this text.
Third, and this is the last step, we need to know what God is saying to us now, or particularly, or in our own context today. The “Theme” will still be the Bible. The topic may now be further restated as “Why I need to study the Bible regularly.” The explicit revelation of God for me now (the new “Truth” statement) is “The Bible will help me become more effective in my life and ministry.” What God wants me to do (the new “Thrust” of the passage) is “God wants me to spend more time studying the Bible on a regular basis so that I can grow and become effective as a follower of Christ.” If I get this right, I now have an “explicit revelation” from God. God has just “spoken” to me through the word of God.