This year’s theme for the National Disciple Making Forum in Indianapolis, Indiana (April 26-27) is “THE WORD: Using Scripture in Discipling Relationships.” Which, would naturally raise the question, “Why is it so important to use Scripture when making disciples of Jesus?”
2 Timothy 3:16 is a verse familiar to all of us who hold to the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
However, because we often use this passage as a proof text to defend inerrancy and inspiration, we tend to focus on “All Scripture is God-breathed,” and overlook the last half of the passage. Moreover, when we do look at the last half of the passage, we have a tendency to focus on “teaching, rebuking, and correcting,” and we can easily overlook the “training in righteousness” piece.
We are generally comfortable using Scripture to teach, and while most of us could use some coaching on properly using Scripture to rebuke or correct, we understand the concepts. But what about “training in righteousness?” What is that?
Interestingly, this is at least the second time Paul has instructed Timothy to “train.” In 1 Timothy 4:7, Paul commands Timothy to, “train yourself to be godly.” (If you ever want to do an interesting Bible study, look at the parallels between 1 Timothy 4 and 2 Timothy 3). Paul uses two different Greek words for “righteousness” and “godly,” but the idea is the same; being conformed to the goodness of God.
However, my point is this: notice Paul doesn’t instruct Timothy to passively become righteous or godly, he tells him to actively train to become righteous and godly. So how is he supposed to do that? How are we supposed to do that?
Jesus taught his disciples, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40) The obvious connection then is that a disciple of Jesus is to train to be righteous and godly like Jesus; and this is what Paul is commanding Timothy to do. Moreover, Paul specifically tells Timothy to use Scripture to train to be like Jesus. Again, this is an active process Timothy is to purposefully take part in; not a passive process which just happens to him.
At this point someone might think, “But you can’t change yourself, God has to change you through the power of the Holy Spirit!” And I agree. Paul clearly wrote, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)
Paul also wrote, “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-13) Yes, God works in us to will, AND TO ACT in order to fulfill his good purpose. Again, we are to “work out our salvation,” through which God wills us “to act.” Being conformed to the righteousness and godliness of Jesus is not a passive process, but one in which we take part as we train to be like Him with Scripture as our training manual.
Jesus taught concerning the Holy Spirit, “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. “…you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. […] Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. […] the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:15-25)
Notice that God sending the Holy Spirit to live within us in order to help and guide us (and thereby change us) is intertwined with our commitment to keep the teachings and commands of Jesus. And where would we find the teachings and commands of Jesus? In Scripture of course!
Let me state at this point that we cannot reduce Scripture down to just the teachings and commands which Jesus gave in the Gospels. At least twice, Jesus taught His disciples that they needed to know the Old Testament. (Matthew 5:17-20, 13:52) Therefore, to keep the teachings and commands of Jesus as His disciples, we must also teach the Old Testament as inspired and relevant.
Additionally, notice in John 16:12-15, Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit would come and teach the Apostles things which Jesus had not yet taught them, which they would then teach as His teachings; “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
This is why the teachings of the Apostles in the New Testament are also to be considered the teachings of Jesus. We see this in Acts 2:42, where the teachings of the Apostles were considered as authoritative as the teachings of Jesus. Additionally, Paul wrote that he received what he taught directly from Jesus. (1 Corinthians 11:23, Galatians 1:12)
The teachings and commands of Jesus as found in the Gospels are a great place to start when making disciples, but a mature disciple of Jesus will need to have knowledge of both the Old and New Testaments to be fully trained like their teacher. This is why Scripture is essential to being and making disciples of Jesus in relational environments.
This article is drawn from Recreated to be Like God: Making Disciples in the Image of Jesus. You can download our free eBook primer here, or order the full book here. Please join us for the 2023 National Disciple Making Forum in Indianapolis, Indiana (April 26-27) for more on “Using Scripture in Discipling Relationships.” Register here.