The Best Training?

Opening speech held at the synod meeting of 14 April 2012 at Hasselt and published in De Bazuin of 9 May 2012.

2 Tim. 3:12-17 (NKJV)
12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing
from whom you have learned them,
15 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.
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for
correction, for instruction in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.


Especially in its Training for the Ministry, the Church is in the antithesis.

It is the antithesis, the differences, in which the powers of the Kingdom of God clash with Satan’s empire. The Church of Christ with the Word of Christ and the Training for the Ministry of that Word finds itself in that play for power and field of tension.

That is indicated in the entire Bible: the preservation, upholding, proclamation and conveying of God’s Word is exposed to trickery and deception. In this, the Truth stands in opposition to falsehood. The Wisdom from Above over against the foolishness of people.

These antitheses are not merely theoretical, but have far-reaching practical consequences. People are namely misled and grow worse and worse (verse 13): they become detached from the Truth and so from Christ, but also lead others away from the Truth.
How clearly we see this taking shape in our days, in the secularization and decline in the churches in the Netherlands! Through the recent Liberation the church is not even 1 % of what were faithful churches in the past, but in which trickery and deception becomes more and more apparent.

This mentioned antithesis between Truth and falsehood also has consequences for those who want to follow the Truth and counteract the lies. They will have hard times in this world. Paul posits, over against evil men and imposters, that all those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus: they will suffer persecution (verse 12). The church that desires to hold fast to the Truth will be oppressed.

Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures

In that field of tension the call of verse 14 comes to Timothy. Note the word ‘but’, which indicates the antithesis:
But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.
What is the purpose of the training Timothy received? The knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. Why is that knowledge so important?
To make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Paul points out to Timothy the enormous importance of knowledge of Scripture. When faith is given, Christ brings to salvation him and all those who desire to live godly lives especially through the means of knowledge of Scripture. Salvation is the eternal glory. Knowledge of Scripture and this salvation are connected to each other through faith, that therefore also can be called a saving faith.

As servant of the divine Word, Timothy must clearly discern which place knowledge of the Holy Scripture has in relation to the knowledge of human ideas, which do not stem from Scripture. The truth of Scripture must therefore be known. Christ brings this Truth so that faith in Christ can be worked. Faith that leads to salvation.

Timothy must also pay attention to who gives him this knowledge. It must be from trustworthy people that are known to be reliable by their fruits. Also in this he will have to use his discernment. Not just accepting anything from others who proved to be unreliable.

In this way Paul shows how wonderful the knowledge of Scripture is, and what a striking contrast it is to all heresy and human inventions that have been written. Inventions that perhaps still point to Scripture, but are not reliable and therefore misleading, yes, are extremely dangerous because they lead away from salvation.

Being equipped

In the verses 16 and 17, Paul explains for Timothy ? and therefore for the church ? how Scripture must be used. But first he points out where the usefulness of Scripture come from: namely, from God Himself. He inspired the Scriptures in its entirety. Thereby, Scripture itself is the divine Word. And that applies to every Scripture passage.
It is God Who now through His Word, equips everyone who wants to stand in His service, every ‘man of God’. Man of God is servant of God, and concerns first of all those with a special office, but also those who have the office of all believers.
They receive the necessary instruction through the God-inspired words of Scripture, in order to be able to fulfil the complete task that belongs to their office: thoroughly equipped for every good work.

In this way, Timothy is presented the usefulness of Scripture for his daily work as servant of the divine Word. With this knowledge of these Scriptures, he has to preach the Word on behalf of God, and to persevere in this, in season and out of season (2 Tim. 4:1,2).
Thus he has to ‘convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching’, using the knowledge of Scriptures. This belongs to the calling of every minister, and so, on behalf of God, bring everyone under the authority and in the crisis of the Word.


What does this all mean for the Training for the Ministry and for the associated library?

Firstly: that the Word of God also in the Training has to be defended continually over and against all kinds of trickery and deceit. In this, also doctrinal errors in literature have to be studied, but in such a way that the differences with the pure Word of God are properly discerned. The Word of God has to judge all human ideas. This must lead to unmasking and counteracting doctrinal errors.

The reliability of literature depends on the author, but always the Word of God itself has to be the measure of judgment. This also applies to literature of those authors considered to be reliable. The light of God’s Word must always stay shining in all subjects of the Training; in both the treatment of theological concepts, as well as the practical application of God’s Word in all walks of life.

Secondly: for this purpose receiving factual knowledge and developing insight into God’s Word must become more central and receive more attention, than is the case in many current theological training schools.
How can you become servant of the Word without having sufficient knowledge of the Scripture? How can you then comprehend God’s will for all walks of life? Without sufficient knowledge, how can you explain God’s Word in the correct manner? Indeed, also in explaining God’s Word the Holy Scripture explains itself, is its own exegete, and therefore Scripture must be known.

Finally, only with sufficient knowledge of God’s Word can doctrinal errors be unmasked and rejected.

We live in an age in which gradually an unbelievably large number of theological books have been written about Scripture, or about subjects associated with Scripture. A lot of this is unreliable and therefore misleading. Thankfully, there is still much from the past that is reliable. In order to be able to discern in this, again a lot of knowledge of Scripture is necessary. In the meantime, the large number of books should never replace the use of the one Book, the Bible.

In short, everything in the Training starts with Scripture and a faithful use of Scripture. For this, alongside study and study materials, much prayer is needed for wisdom and lightening of our minds.

The Best

Thirdly: Scripture urges a very thorough training. All shallowness must be avoided. All of Scripture is inspired by God, and is therefore profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for upbringing in righteousness.
The divine authority of Scripture not only demands formal recognition, but also actual and respectful application. Theology should not posit itself above, but under Scripture. In all subjects it must focus on the rich content of Scripture.
Scripture is therefore an extremely rich divine gift for the Training, but at the same time a divine task to use it very carefully and thoroughly.

This imposes requirements on the Training itself. Therefore, it is ? according to the late Prof. dr. S. Greijdanus ? in the name of God, a calling for the churches to ensure the ‘best Training’ with regard to the ministry of the Word (S. Greijdanus: Het meerderheidsrapport van het Curatorium inzake het doctoraat aan de Theol. School te Kampen besproken, Kok Kampen, 1929).

However, can we in our situation still speak of the ‘best Training’? This seems very presumptuous, when you think of how few teachers and students the current Training has. It even seems laughable if one compares it with existing theological institutions.
Yet we as churches must strive for the best Training. That is also our calling. The best Training, the one to the measure of God’s Word and with the possibilities which the Lord has left to us as churches. That will in any case, be a Training that is provided by the churches themselves, where Gods Word has a central place and where doctrinal errors are rejected.
Such a Training, therefore, cannot simply make use of theological trainings in which Holy Scripture is no longer abided by, and the pure doctrine is no longer defended against heresy and doctrinal errors (Art. 18 CO).
Such a Training ? wherever possible ? gladly wants to make use of, and provide the opportunity to do studies that lay bare the treasures of Scripture.
Such a Training would also like to have access to the literature, to enable such studies, even if the availability of other sources would decrease or disappear in the future.
Such a Training will ask a lot of effort with few employable tutors.
Such a Training therefore requires continual support and prayer from the churches.