COC #42: Who Is the Man of God?

Most biblical uses of the phrase “man of God” are found in the Old Testament. The only other New Testament occurrence of the phrase is found in 1 Timothy: But as for you, man of God, shun all this; aim in righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness (6:11). St. Paul, again, was writing to St. Timothy and specifically called him, not the rank-and-file believer, man of God.

Each Old Testament phrase was consistent with St. Paul’s use; or rather, St. Paul was consistent with the already-established phraseology. The Old Testament’s use of the phrase is used to describe a man with a special status or mission from God (cf. Deuteronomy 33:1; Joshua 14:6; 1 Samuel 9:6-10; 2:27; 1 Kings 13:1; 17:18-24; 2 Kings 1:9-13; 4:7,27,42; 5:8-15; 1 Chronicles 23:14; 2 Chronicles 25:7-9; 2 Chronicles 30:1; Ezra 3:2; Nehemiah 12:24,36; Psalms 40:1; Jeremiah 35:4). It is clear, then, that St. Paul was primarily referring to St. Timothy, and secondarily to other priests (other men of God) of like eminence in both 1 Timothy 6:11 and 2 Timothy 3:14-17. As such, the subject Scripture makes complete (the priests’ work), keeps a proper Christian conduit of interpretation, delivery, and function.

And now let me recap the Protestant Church of Christ’s understanding of the passage and compare it to what I have just illustrated. Pollard’s indicative understanding of the passage fairly represents your position, which is, as I previously quoted, “Scripture is God-breathed, making one spiritually complete (2 Tim. 3:16-17).” In the same article, Pollard wrote: 

The alternative [to sola Scriptura] is to suggest that Scripture alone is insufficient or inadequate, that is [sic] not the sole authority on matters of truth and right. Some would even call the idea of following only Scripture as [sic] destructive heresy. Yet, the alternative to Scripture alone is Scripture along with something else, whether a man, group, council, church, or governing body. . . . Let us accept no substitute or [sic] rival to the Bible!

The passage Pollard re-wrote, when read as it is actually presented in the New Testament and within the real context I have outlined, illustrates how the Catholic model is more faithful to the Bible. There is no “either/or” dichotomy; the single word of God is found in both Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, without rivalry, without one buried under the other, but as the single, intended voice of God. The Scriptures never claim that the word of God is the Bible only, but rather, that the word of God is found in both forms the Catholic Church recognizes. In other words, the passage Pollard chose to re-write (change) in order to prove your group’s position actually teaches the exact opposite of what he was forcing it to mean. Yes, the feared “alternative” to Pollard’s model is absolutely “Scripture . . . along with something else,” because Scripture along with Tradition is precisely what the Scripture reveals. For review:

Pollard’s indicative re-write of biblical text:

“Scripture is God-breathed, making one spiritually complete” (2 Timothy. 3:16-17, altered).

Biblical text:

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 instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

The fact that proponents of sola Scriptura must re-write the Scriptura to argue for sola Scriptura is telling. And it is clear St. Paul was in no way echoing an already established concept of sola Scriptura. (Doing so would be in violation of any such premise.) And he was in no way teaching St. Timothy to mind any new Rule of Faith that rejects Sacred Tradition—the passage’s very existence and its message is a ringing endorsement of Sacred Tradition! What the passage reveals is: 1) St. Paul wrote to a man who was worthy of the phrase man of God. 2) St. Paul, with at least a chiastic structure, if not, then by overt emphasis through literary nearness, taught that both authoritative apostolic Tradition and the Old Testament are intended by God to act as conduits of His word. 3) The sacred writings are useful/profitable for the purpose of priesthood. 4) The priestly duties St. Paul outlined make use of the Scriptures, resulting in the man of God’s every good work. 5) The text’s word, complete, has nothing to do with “spiritual completeness”, but rather, the Scriptures provide the priest with the knowledge of Christ, by means of prophecies and typologies, so that he may go out into the world and introduce mankind to the complete fulfillment of the Law (cf. Matthew 5:17), which is, of course, the entire apex of St. Paul’s literary unit: 6) the salvation of souls through faith in Christ Jesus.  

The full passage runs against your sensitivities, I know. The full passage makes clear St. Paul’s intended audience, and it reveals the sort of “completeness” that he mentions is not a status that all who read the Bible attain, but rather, is the living and active status that is constructed by both intrinsic elements acting in concert: authoritative Sacred Scripture and authoritative Sacred Tradition—the Christian, though not Protestant/Restorationist, Rule of Faith.