COC #43: Perfecting of the Saints

As already presented, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is a favored passage that proponents of “Bible-only” Christianity present as proof-text support for their Rule of Faith; and as such, the passage becomes instrumental for establishing the vehicle for attaining “spiritual completeness” (Pollard’s indicative assertion; see previous two posts). This concept of “spiritual completeness” is the perfecting that your groups strive for (or claim to have already obtained, depending on ecclesial sub-sect or individual belief).

So it makes sense, again, to consider St. Paul’s Letter once more as it pertains to your understanding of the “perfecting of the saints”—of how “spiritual completeness” is obtained—of what, exactly, makes up the vehicle(s) that the Bible presents as catechetical conduits for any such perfecting. Put differently, if St. Paul’s Letter in fact establishes not only your Rule of Faith, but also supports your understanding of the “perfecting of the saints”, then what we should notice is St. Paul’s lack of reference to any authoritative non-written tradition; but what we see is a letter that in fact references authoritative oral tradition three times. The first of which is:

Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us (1:13-14).

The similarity between this passage and your initial proof (3:16-17) is obvious if the full context is observed; St. Paul emphasizes the sound words that were taught and entrusted to St. Timothy. St. Paul then illustrates how the truth is perpetually transmitted.

 And what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2:2).

St. Paul’s third mention of non-written authority is the portion of the passage your apologists normally omit from their presentation of their most utilized isolated proof-text for “Bible-only” Christianity (3:16-17 only).

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it (3:14).

If 2 Timothy is used as a “biblical proof” for any perfecting, then should St. Paul’s similar passage from Ephesians 4:11-15 not communicate the same means of any perfecting of the saints? In other words, should we not expect St. Paul to be consistent in teaching that the “Bible only” is the source of any perfecting? Consider: 

And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ; until we all attain the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by the craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ . . . (4:11-15).

If 2 Timothy 3 proves the Scriptures alone are sufficient for “spiritual completeness”, then Ephesians 4 should likewise provide proof for whatever vehicle(s) perfect the saints. However, St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians reveals that something other than Scripture—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers—the Church—equips the saints for building up the body of Christ. His Letter teaches us that by something other than Scripture Christians attain the stature of the fullness of Christ. St. Paul also makes clear that it is the Church (not private interpretation of the Bible only: your Rule of Faith) that guards against doctrinal confusion.

It is important to know St. Paul did not teach that Scripture is the ingredient that perfects the saints in Ephesians 4, but its absence does not mean Scripture cannot aid Christians in their goal. If 2 Timothy 3 provides your proof of what perfects the saints, then your denial of Ephesians 4 violates your own Rule; you demand that only Scripture is what provides spiritual completeness, yet you deny the input and elaboration that Ephesians provides. Or, you can concede that both passages (2 Timothy 3 and Ephesians 4) together reveal what God intends: that both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition act together in a way for all Christians to attain the stature of the fullness of Christ; you can concede that the Church of Christ is Catholic.