The lesson this morning is an interesting one because it contains verses from both chapters 3 and 4 which, in this case, means it contains elements from the lives of both St. Timothy and St. Paul. Of Timothy, Paul writes, “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (3:14-15).
One of the reasons that Christ’s Kingdom has had St. Timothys in it is because Timothy was taught the things of God from an early age. We know that both Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and also his grandmother, Lois, had faith and that this faith was faithfully transmitted to Timothy. We know as well that somebody instructed Timothy so that he knew the Holy Scriptures from childhood.
Here is what I call the Great Commission Family in action! Timothy represents at least three generations of those who have loved the Lord and taught their children to do the same. If you want to read the future of the Christian church in a particular nation or church, then look to see what Christian parents are doing with their children.
As I’ve observed the Christian parents and children of 21st century America, I find that often we’re not doing our job. It used to be a common phenomenon for families to eat their meals together and to have a time for family prayer and devotions. I haven’t read any statistics on this yet, but I’m willing to wager the number of Christian parents who do this in their family is woefully low. Every year in the Christian schools, as a teacher it seemed like fewer and fewer Christian children were learning the Scriptures at home or at church.
But what more valuable inheritance could you pass on to your children than a love of the Lord and a love for His Word?! It is the Holy Scriptures that make us wise for salvation, that teaches us doctrine, that gives us wisdom to correct and reproof, and that instructs us in righteousness. Maybe it’s because our children are starved for the Bible that the majority of them think there are no moral absolutes. It is only by being instructed in the Holy Scriptures that the man of God may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work (3:17).
It’s interesting to note that Paul seems to think that it’s not just what we learn that is important to us but also who teaches us, for he says in verse 14, “knowing from whom you have learned them (the Scriptures).” Timothy learned the Scriptures from his grandmother and mother, and from St. Paul, we know, but so what? The point is that some people in our lives have a great ability to lead us and form us, and the people who have this ability to a greater degree than any other are parents. To us, Christian parents, are entrusted the immortal souls of our children and their spiritual formation. To us is entrusted the sacred task of teaching our children the Scriptures, not just memorizing them, but learning how to apply them to their lives. Children receive the instruction of their parents, generally, and if you teach your children the Scriptures they will learn them. But you must first know them yourself and be living them out.
The end result of having been faithfully taught and then, as an adult, faithfully continuing to learn and to live by the Scriptures, is St. Paul. This is Paul’s testimony concerning his own life: “For already I am being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (4:6-8).
2 Timothy was written shortly before Paul’s death, and he reflects for a moment on his life before the Lord, with whom he will shortly be. Just as it is important for Christian parents to teach their children the Scriptures and to live by them, it is important for the Christian child to grow into adulthood, having been thoroughly equipped, to fight the good fight the remainder of his life. Christian parents can thoroughly equip us with the Scriptures and by leading lives of godly examples, but then it is our turn, the rest of our lives, to hold fast to the traditions and to fight the good fight for which we were prepared.
Our entire lives, therefore, as represented by the lives of Sts. Timothy and Paul, are to be dedicated to the Lord so that whether child or adult, parent or child, apostle or layman, we labor diligently in His Kingdom. Paul had not only the beginning in mind, with the training of our children, but also the end. It is often said that you should begin with the end in mind: in other words, you need to know what you are aiming at so that you can know how to get there. Just what is the goal of Christian parenting? It’s to raise children who keep the traditions and love the Lord, who train their children to do the same and to keep God’s covenant, and who, in the end, obtain the crown of righteousness because they have persistently fought the good fight.
In this way, our entire lives, wherever we are at on the generational spectrum, are to be utterly dedicated to the Lord, as we also teach others to follow the Lord.
It all begins with what we do or do not do as Christian parents.
Prayer: Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience, and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.
Point for Meditation:
1. Is there some way you could assist Christian parents in their job of training their children in the ways of the Lord?
2. Reflect on your own life. What role did Christian parents or other adults have on your spiritual formation?
Resolution: I resolve to consider the role of the Holy Scriptures in my life. If I am a Christian parent, am I seeing to it that my children truly know them? Am I, as an adult, continuing to read and study and learn the Scriptures that I may be thoroughly equipped?
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson