A Biblical Philosophy of Theological Education (4 of 7)

by | Jun 20, 2018 | Theology Matters

In the previous (third) post on a biblical philosophy of theological education we came to consider the fact that the specific responsibility for theological education resides with a specified class of men in both the Old and New Testaments.  We spent some time reviewing the necessity of this arrangement in New Testament times.  We sought to show why such an arrangement is necessary in the New Testament.  In this post we now consider the identity and specificity of these arrangements.

2. The Identity of These Arrangements

It is not at all surprising, then, to discover that in the New Testament a permanent class of men occupying an ecclesiastical office described variously as elders, overseers, and pastor-teachers are appointed who have as their distinctive responsibility the teaching of the Word of God (Eph. 4:11-13; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9-11).  Nor is it surprising that certain men in the office were to be financially supported so that they might give themselves by way of vocation to the study and teaching of this revelation (1 Cor. 9:13-14; Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17-18).

3. The Specificity of These Arrangements

There is a specific passage which addresses with particular relevance the duty of the Christian ministry with regard to theological education.  The Christian Ministry as the particular agency for the preservation and communication of Christian Truth to its future teachers is the theme of 2 Timothy 2:1-2.

The Bible reveals that the task of maintaining and promoting Christian truth in the world is not simply or generally the task of the church as a whole.  Indisputably, every Christian ought to feel a responsibility in the context of his local church, within the compass of his own gifts, and as suggested by his own complex of duties to promote the truth in the world (Matt. 12:30; 1 Cor. 10:31-11:1).  Similarly, each local church as a local manifestation of the universal church must endeavor according to the strength and gifts God has given it to be a pillar and support of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15).  Indeed, this work is essential to its very identity.

The New Testament makes clear, however, that it is the Christian ministry in particular that is charged with this responsibility.  Key here is the Apostle Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:1-2: “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”  So key is this passage to a proper understanding of theological education that a brief explanation of its importance must be given here.

 First, notice the spiritual commodity which this passage specifies.

The Apostle calls Timothy to be strong in “the grace” that is in Christ Jesus.  It has been asserted that the grace mentioned in verse one refers to the doctrines of grace.  It is true that one of the clearest and strongest statements of the sovereignty of God’s grace in Paul’s writings is found in the previous chapter at 2 Timothy 1:8-10.  The doctrines of sovereign grace are definitely involved in this grace of which Paul speaks here.  Thus, Paul, when he speaks of the grace that is in Christ Jesus, is thinking of the entire system of grace and truth contained in the Scriptures.  Grace here, then, refers partly or wholly to the system of the doctrines of grace which Paul taught.

This seems to be confirmed by verse two which immediately refers to Christian doctrine in the words, the things which you have heard from me.  These words clearly designate Christian doctrine.  Paul refers to such doctrine frequently in the surrounding context (2 Tim. 2:8-9; 1:12-14; and 1:8-11).  The spiritual commodity which forms the subject and burden of Paul in this passage is the doctrine of grace which he preached.  This was the heart of Paul’s message.  It was for this grace and in this grace that Timothy was to be strong.  Further, it seems to be clearly implied that the way—at least one way—in which he was to be strong in this grace was by communicating it to other faithful men.

An implication of the duty to communicate “the things which you have heard from me” is the careful preservation of the original deposit of truth imparted by Paul to Timothy.  It is this Christian truth whole, unimpaired, and unpolluted which must be imparted by Timothy to a new generation of Christian teachers.  This means that there must be agreement on the content of those doctrinal “things” which Paul mentions.  This means in turn that there must be an agreed upon doctrinal basis for such instruction.  Where there is no such agreed doctrinal basis, coherent theological education conducted by more than one man is not possible.  Reformed Baptists adopt the 1689 Baptist Confession as the best summary of “the things” which Timothy heard from the Apostle Paul and the best available creedal summary of Apostolic Christianity.  Confessional integrity is especially necessary in the theological education of men in the truths of Apostolic Christianity.  For Reformed Baptists such confessional integrity means that such instruction will conform in its teaching to the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.

Second, the spiritual genealogy which this passage envisions. 

 Four generations of truth are specified by Paul here in verse 2.

  • From Me in the presence of many witnesses
  • The things which you have heard
  • Entrust these to faithful men
  • Who will be able to teach others also

 

Thus, the spiritual genealogy found in this passage runs like this:

  • Paul
  • Timothy
  • Faithful Men
  • Others Also

 

To rightly estimate the importance of this spiritual genealogy for Paul we must remember the poignant circumstances in which these words of 2 Timothy 2:1-2 are written.  Paul faces his imminent martyrdom for the sake of Christ (2 Timothy 4:1-8).  One of the things most important to the Apostle Paul as he writes Timothy shortly before his death—one of the things of greatest significance to the Apostle with his death clearly on his mind—is the preservation and communication of the truths of the gospel of grace.  It is not, however, simply or generally the communication of these truths to all the members of the church which burdens his heart.  It is most especially and significantly the communication of these truths to faithful church leaders who will continue the genealogy of truth.  That is, it is the instruction of men with the ability to hand down the tradition of truth faithfully to the next generation.  Myths and false doctrines will arise and assail the truth of the gospel.  Timothy is to combat this, not only through his own ministry to the whole church, but through passing the deposit of truth down particularly to faithful men who will maintain unbroken the genealogy of truth.

Part 5

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