Joe Tyrpak is my dear friend. He is the assistant pastor of Tri-County Bible Church, which also makes him my pastor and co-laborer. His insights into the Scriptures are always instructive for me (you can find many of his sermons here), and what follows is no exception. I post it with his permission as part of the growing discussion on Christ in the Old Testament (see this post).
2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 is one of the more familiar passages in the Bible for Christians. It’s the classic proof text for the Scriptures’ inspiration and sufficiency and for the pastor’s primary responsibility of preaching it. However, what it teaches about the central message of the Old Testament is frequently overlooked. Read it again more closely:
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim 3:14-4:2).
Did you notice the three terms for the Old Testament? Paul commanded Timothy to “preach the word” (4:2). In the two preceding sentences he had reminded Timothy that “the sacred writings” had brought him to “faith in Christ Jesus” (3:15) and that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable” (3:16).
Although “the sacred writings,” “all Scripture,” and “the word” are interchangeable terms that refer to the same material, the Old Testament, they denote that material in ways that slightly differ from one another. The plural designation “sacred writings” focuses on the Old Testament as a collection of several documents, while the singular designation “all Scripture” focuses on the Old Testament as a single unit. “The word” further describes the unity of the Old Testament by focusing on its central message, the gospel. As Mounce explains, “‘The word’ [ton logon]…is the gospel” (Pastoral Epistles in WBC, 573). (I count more than 30 NT uses of “the word” to refer to the gospel message. See 1 Peter 1:23-25 for an example with apostolic commentary.)
So the individual books of the Old Testament are part of a single, definitive collection with a single message. What is that single message? According to Paul, the single, central message of the Old Testament is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.
What does that mean for how pastors interpret and preach of the Old Testament? I think it’s pretty clear from this text that Timothy was commanded to herald the gospel from the sacred writings, all of which are God-breathed. In other words, he was commanded to preach the overarching message of the Old Testament while preaching all of its texts—to teach the Bible as a whole even as he taught each and every one of its parts. In order for us to be obedient to Paul’s familiar command in 2 Timothy 4:2, it is always necessary for us to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ as we work through any part of the God-breathed Old Testament.