“The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” 2 Timothy 2:2 (NIV)
Shortly before he died, the man who mentored me in preaching and teaching God’s Word gave me some selected books from his library. Inside the front cover of a number of these books were the initials of the original owner. The initials, and the books, belonged to my grandfather, who had been a mentor to my mentor.
It is an incredible thing to think that I stand in a ever-expanding and unbroken chain of people extending back two thousand years; people who have taken seriously Paul’s instruction to teach and entrust the truth about Jesus Christ to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.
Our lives are shaped – for good or for ill – by others. The things they value, their priorities, the things they give time and attention to, become our values, our priorities, our work, our passions. I am deeply grateful for the people God has used to shape my life: for godly grandparents, parents and wider family whose life and testimony formed my introduction to faith; for Sunday School teachers and youth leaders whose patience and grace I strained; for godly men and women in my church family whose prayers and witness so impacted my life; for friends and companions on each stage of the journey, whose encouragement, rebuke and wise counsel always involved pointing me to the Bible.
Of course when we are entrusted with something, we have certain responsibilities. The torch falls from the hands of those who ran the race before us, and we catch it from them, not so that we can simply sit there and enjoy the glow: we need to run our race well and ensure that we pass the torch on to another generation.
Among the books passed on to me were the three volumes of the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, first published in 1975 and bought that year by my grandfather. Books are a great record of our teacher’s teachers. The preface acknowledges a “special debt of gratitude” to the late Professor F.F.Bruce. Among the contributors to this important series of Dictionaries was I. Howard Marshall, a student of Bruce.
Howard completed his race last year, and the torch has now fallen from his hands. John Drane has written an excellent personal tribute to Howard. John’s article gives a remarkable portrait of a man who took seriously his responsibility of being entrusted with the things of God; his life was spent entrusting the truth to reliable people who would also be qualified to teach others. As you read John’s tribute, take time to give thanks for all those who have taught, and continue to teach us the truth about God from the Bible– those we know, and those who we only know through their books. And having given thanks for those who have entrusted these things to us, ask the question: to whom can I entrust all I have learned about God that they may continue to pass on the truth about God long after my race is complete?
Head of Bible Engagement