As Paul pens his second, his last, letter to Timothy he is anxious to emphasise the need of continuance in the service of the Lord. The aged apostle had fought a good fight, had finished his course, and had kept the faith (4.7). He would leave an example that others should follow. With this before him he urges Timothy, the man of God, to "stir up the gift of God" which was in him (1.6), not to be ashamed "of the testimony of our Lord (1.8), and to continue in the things that he has been taught (3.14).
But he must also emphasise to Timothy that it was necessary to be a competent servant, and therefore he asserts that the man of God must aim to be "perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (3.17). The words "throughly (thoroughly) furnished" mean to be fully fitted out, as a ship requires to be before it can take to the sea, or a vehicle must be before it can take to the road. A ship, on the day of its launch, is not fit for service. The engines may have yet to be installed, the cabins may still be unfurnished, the paintwork may still have to be carried out. It is in the sea, but not yet able to engage in the work for which it has been built.
So it was on the day of salvation. That day was not the end, but rather the beginning of our spiritual education, one of the purposes of which is to make us spiritually intelligent servants of the Lord, fit to serve Him in a manner which is pleasing to Him.
But how is this work of being fitted to serve carried out? The answer is found in the preceding verses. It is based on the reading of the Scriptures and the application to our lives of the truth that we find therein. It is necessary to read the Word of God seriously, with the intention of putting it into practice, knowing that it will mean adjustments to our attitudes and behaviour. We are, therefore, faced with the question, "Do we read the Word of God daily, and, if so, do we read it with the objective of following its teaching, no matter the cost?".
Often, the excuses for not doing so are: "I am not a reader"; "I am not a student"; or, from brethren, "I am not a public man". Such excuses are invalid. The Scriptures were not written for the "student" alone, but for all the saints. They are not an optional extra to the Christian. The reading of them is vital, and without this no one can develop the gift or gifts with which they have been blessed. They cannot realise their potential in the service of the Lord. But, no matter what gifts one has, the first aim in the reading of the Book is to adjust ones own life to its teaching. Those who are gifted as teachers will not be able to teach effectively if they treat the Word of God merely as a source of preaching material. No matter the truth of the facts they present, without lives moulded by what they have read the teaching will lack power and "grip".
When there is departure from the truth in an assembly, part of the reason is ignorance of the Scriptures, both on the part of those who lead and of those who follow. These "reformers" are either ignorant or rebellious. Yes, there is great concern when assemblies are seen to abandon truth, but equally great concern when the daily conduct of believers in business, work, or home falls short of how a Christian should live.
Assemblies in the past were known for the knowledge of the Word of God that was to be found among them. Sadly, much of that has been lost. The pressures of modern life may be blamed, but the cause lies in our hearts. Let us determine to read the Word of God with the ambition of seeking to please Him and living "godly in Christ Jesus" (3.12). Only then can we put Scripture into practice and be "fully fitted out".