In working on The Mission of God Study Bible, we asked David Hesselgrave to contribute an essay. Dr. Hesselgrave was a brilliant missiologist. He and his wife served in Japan for 12 years following World War II as missionaries. He then went on to write a number of books on the subject of God’s mission and teach for decades in universities and seminaries. He also cofounded the Evangelical Missiology Society.
As we engage in God’s mission, it is always a good reminder as to its foundation. As you read this brief essay from Dr. Hesselgrave, I hope it will encourage you to always find your anchor in the Scriptures as to how we live as believers in the world.
The Authority of Scripture and the Christian Mission
Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus constitute what is usually called the “Pastoral Epistles.” With equal validity they could be called “Missional Epistles.” Timothy and Titus were members of Paul’s “missionary team” assigned to instruct, organize, and appoint leaders in fledgling churches in Ephesus and Crete. This was to be done in contexts of persecution and the kind of struggles between true and false religion inherent to missionary work.
Timothy had a Jewish mother and a Greek father. Of the latter we know little but we are told that his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice had instructed him in the Sacred Scriptures. These writings are crucial to missionary ministry. In the text before us the Apostle Paul explains why.
The Message of Scripture. The world of the first century was well supplied with a wide variety of so-called holy books. The Scriptures to which Paul refers were writings of an entirely different genre—namely, the Torah, Psalms, and Prophets of the OT. He refers to them as “holy writings,” a rabbinic expression associated with Hellenistic Judaism and for that reason especially appropriate in that missionary context. Even though they antedated the birth of Christ, the OT writings were able to instruct Timothy concerning salvation that comes through faith in Christ because they prophesied Christ’s coming and redemptive work. The message of Christ is one of inestimable value to people of all times and places because Christ is the only way to salvation (Jn 14:6; Ac 4:12).
The Inspiration of Scripture. The books of the NT, including Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, were received as Scripture. All biblical books taken together constitute the “Canon” or “measure” by which all truth claims are to be tested. Rival books such as the Hindu Vedas, Buddhist Sutras, Kojiki of Shintoism, the Qur’an of Islam, and the Book of Mormon are of human origin. Ongoing investigation of Bible manuscripts and biblical history reveals that the Bible is completely trustworthy and true. The Apostle Peter writes, “No prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pt 1:20). The Apostle Paul says, “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2Tm 3:16). The Greek word theopneustos literally means “breathed out” by God. Because that is so, God intends Scripture to be carefully expounded, faithfully obeyed, and fervently defended.
The Dynamic of Scripture. The Bible is not only true; it is also powerful. When God breathed into Adam’s nostrils Adam became a “living being” (Gn 2:7). Similarly, as the product of the creative breath of God, Scripture has the ability to effect the salvation of sinners. Now Paul adds another dynamic. He adds that Scripture is beneficial in spiritual ministries designed to produce healthy believers and healthy churches. These ministries include: (1) teaching: teaching is the primary means of discipling believers in accordance with the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20; (2) rebuking: the Holy Spirit uses Scripture to rebuke or convict us concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment according to John 16:8; (3) correcting: the Greek word contains the root ortho indicating that God’s people are to “measure up” biblically and be “straight,” or orthodox, in doctrine and practice; and, (4) training in righteousness: in the context of Scripture, righteousness has to do not only with a right relationship with fellow human beings but also and especially with God Himself as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21. Finally, Paul adds still another dimension to the dynamic of Scripture: the Bible is profitable for the man of God because when God’s messenger employs Scripture in the foregoing ways he himself is made “complete” or “competent” and “equipped for every good work” (2Tm 3:17).