Propositional & Relational Communication of Truth

In 1983 I was crafting a speech for my undergraduate graduation ceremony.  I had to submit my draft to the Dean, Rev. George Barton, who wanted to keep me from blundering publicly on behalf of the school.  I was passionate to communicate that I had learned truth and truths from individuals, godly men and women who served as professors  and ‘smelled like gun smoke’ of their active ministry context.

I had written the statement, “Truth is communicated relationally.” Dean Barton urged a rewrite of that sentence lest I be accused of diminishing propositional truth.  I deferred to his better judgment and the speech was delivered.  I’ve thought about his comments and would now affirm that truth is communicated BOTH propositionally and relationally.

I thought of this once again as I read Paul’s reminder to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14-15

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Paul is urging Timothy to keep going forward.  Timothy had #1 learned the truth; #2 become convinced of the truth.  Now he is exported to #3 continue in the truth.


Timothy had been blessed with godly teachers, namely his grandmother and mother who possessed a sincere faith in God and had faithfully instructed his inquisitive childhood mind from before he could remember.  Paul too had been involved in the instructional process and Timothy for years had been enrolled in a biblical, theologically-oriented training program.  

How have you learned truth?  Through parents, Sunday School teachers, friends, youth leaders, campus fellowship co-ordinators, pastors? We all have a list of people to thank, who invested hours upon hours in preparation and presentation of truth.  We have learned and, I trust, are continuing to learn from the holy Scriptures.


I am not persuaded from Scripture in infant baptism, but I track with those who go through ‘confirmation.’ There is something essential about updating your convictions to a present-day reality.  ‘God has no grandchildren,’ someone once said. If we are sons and daughters of God, we must find our own path to assurance.  In my own ministry, I’ve found the Gospel of John and the Epistle of I John work well together.  Compare John 20:30,31 with I John 5:13, both purpose statements indicating the goals of belief and assurance, steps in a developing faith.

Timothy had become convinced.  In what areas had he struggled?  What were his tough questions which his mother, grandmother, Paul and other believers guided him in answering?  We don’t know the details, but as a maturing leader he had developed.  I’m thankful for churches and institutions like Heritage College & Theological Seminary which give themselves to provide biblically rich, transformatively powerful teaching.  The end goal is not information but transformation.


“But as for you, continue…” No genuine Christ follower ever stops learning.  In John 8, Jesus challenged those who had ‘believed in him’ to continue in His word.  So what was Paul’s strategy for Timothy? How does one ‘keep going?’ Keep reading.  Keep praying. Keep studying. Plan to study the biblical text formally and informally.  Compare notes with others.  Take notes when listening to others. Model a whole-hearted devotion to Scripture.  We are called to press on, to build our lives firmly upon God’s word, available to us with so many tools to help us dig deeper.

Why continue? Because “All Scripture is God-breathed….” But that’s a topic for a later post.

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