4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and [through the] comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
Commenting on the quotation of Psalm 69:9 from the previous verse, Paul here made a statement about the importance of Scripture for Christian living. This shows why he could appeal to Scripture in the way he did. The example of Christ giving Himself for others gives us hope.
The word “whatever” is comprehensive. All of Scripture was written for us, not just some things.
were written before
What was “written before” is the Old Testament and part of the New Testament. The emphasis is on what was written. Writing has a permanence to it.
“Whatever” refers to the totality of Scripture. Paul wrote primarily to Gentile Christians in Rome. These converts were to view the Old Testament to be as much as Scripture as the New Testament. All Scripture is permanent and binding on our souls. Psalm 69, while directly referring to Christ, was written for us, that we might grow by it. Scriptures were deliberately designed for our edification.
were written for our learning [instruction],
The two “were written” phrases are passive; that is, God is the Writer of Scripture. God produced a product that will build our souls. He thought of us and our needs centuries ago. The Word of God has permanent and abiding value for us today.
The word “for” in “for our learning” shows the pertinence for the believer today. To fail to bring biblical resolution to our problems is to allow spiritual defeat in our lives.
The purpose of all Scripture is for our learning. “Learning” is instruction. The reason the Word of God conveys distinctive ideas is because it was written by God, not men.
2 Timothy 3:16, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
The Old Testament was not about man probing after God. It was about God revealing Himself to man. Beyond that, it is a revelation to people of Paul’s and our day. Someone may ask, “Why did God write Psalm 69 for me?” The answer is that we might acquire patience and comfort from Scripture even though we live thousands of years later.
that we through the patience [endurance] and [through the] comfort [encouragement] of the Scriptures
In the Greek the word “through” occurs before the word “patience” and then before the word “comfort.” This means that Paul separated endurance from encouragement, thereby making “of the Scripture” refer to “comfort” only and not to “patience. It is only through encouragement that we have hope. This conveys the idea that we do not endure the study of Scripture but that it is thorough our personal enduring as well as encouragement from Scripture that we have hope.
Scripture gives tenacity (patience); encouragement (comfort) offers the person who studies Scripture “hope.”
“Patience” carries the concept of fortitude during times of pressure. Those steeped in Scripture have fortitude in life. “Patience” comes from two Greek words, under (hupo) and remain (mones). A person with patience has the capacity to endure, to remain under pressure. The believer who endures can do so because he is confident about the future.
If we do not have tenacity of soul but attempt to justify surrendering to a situation, then we hold to a false notion of responsibility: “I can’t go on; I can’t take it any longer—I am in a dilemma and I cannot get out.” All this denies the principle that God tailor-makes trials to fit His design for us. Those who endure trial demonstrate a living proof of God’s presence in their lives. It is in believing in what God has for us that we realize this kind of blessing. It is not found in self, in grubbing subjectively in our problems. We do not get a sense of peace from self. We need to think less of what we cannot do and more of what Christ did.
Christians also need encouragement (“comfort”) from the Word of God. We can learn both patience and comfort by precepts and examples of the Old Testament. Both connect to hope. Endurance in suffering is worth it if it leads to a bright future. Encouragement provides that exact assurance.
The propriety of appealing to Scripture is a well-established principle.
Both the Old and New Testament were written for the believer of our day. The mature Christian does not allow the distance between what is in the Bible and what is in his life become too great. If we are tenacious about learning the Word of God, it will move us toward maturity.
When Christ warned people of His day, He reached all the way back to Genesis to remember Lot’s wife (Lu 17:32). He referenced Noah’s life (Mt 24:37-39), the situation with Jonah (Mt 12:39-40). He applied a prophecy of Daniel to Himself (Mt 24:15,16). If Jesus trusted the Old Testament, then we can.