17/3/02 10.30 a.m. 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
In his book "Actions speak louder than verbs", Herb Miller tells about a trial that was beginning many years ago at the courthouse in a small town in the United States. When officials prepared to swear in the first witness, they could not find the old Bible they had used for years. A quick search of the courthouse revealed nothing. Finally, the judge called the bailiff forward and whispered in his ear. "Go down to the county clerk's office and get Ed," he said.
Ed had been an elder in a local church longer than anyone could remember. He was a shining example of what the Christian faith is all about. In a few minutes, the bailiff approached the bench with Ed in tow. The judge said, "Ed, you have communicated more of the Bible to more people than most of the Bibles in this town. You will make a good substitute for the one we can't find." And so the first witness placed his hand on Ed's head, swore the oath, and the trial began.
Four weeks ago we started a sermon series looking at the Bible. We looked at Jeremiah's Burning Words and the response to the law during Nehemiah's time. Today is the last in this series and we read some of Paul's second letter to Timothy, a young and, perhaps timid, preacher.
In today's reading Paul encourages Timothy to keep a firm grip on his Bible and it's teachings. As we read his words, we learn FOUR TRUTHS about the Word of God.
I. It is FOUNDATIONAL. Verse 14-15
A. It is foundational to life.
Ed had the Bible as his foundation. So had Timothy, 3:15 from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures. A Jewish boy formally began to study the OT when he was five years old. It seems Timothy may have been taught at home by his mother and grandmother, perhaps even before he reached this age (1. 5 I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.)
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 illustrates how the Jews taught God's Word to children.
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
These six verses (4-9) may well be the most quoted portion in the entire Bible. Known as the Shema, they are recited every morning and every evening by orthodox Jews, and have been for centuries. They graphically emphasize the importance of God's laws to the Israelites.
That is one way in which Timothy "learned" the Holy Scriptures from early childhood. "Learned" in the Greek comes from the word disciple. It is the instruction of interaction, of teaching given shared experiences. It is not formal education, but teaching where all of life becomes the classroom. So, perhaps Lois and Eunice would reflect on the things that young Timothy did in the light of Scripture, which was principally the Old Testament as we know it.
This early training led to a conviction that the Bible was the Word of God and the guide of his life. The word convinced means to be made sure. Two things contributed to the process of Timothy becoming convinced. The character of those who taught him. The character of the Scriptures from which he was taught.
14 "those from whom you learned it." Perhaps a reference to Paul as well as to Timothy's mother and grandmother (1:5). In teaching others, both the character of the teacher and the subject they are teaching must agree. Many times, it is not the message which causes rejection, but the messenger. If we hope to impact the lives of our family and other people with the Word of God, they must first see how it has changed us.
I am so grateful that I was taken to church until I was a teenager because, when I became a Christian a few years later, this gave me the foundation my faith was built upon. This is why we, as a Church, must encourage parents enquiring about baptism to realise the importance of their promise to bring up their children as Christians within the church. We should also support them by providing a 'Children's Church', and making them feel welcome, rather than glowering at them when their children misbehave !
B. ( It is foundational to life and ) foundational to salvation.
It is the Scriptures which made Timothy "wise unto salvation".
The Old Testament law, which Timothy would have been familiar with, reveals our sin. We never love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength. We do not always love other people as we love ourselves.
The Old Testament contains a sacrificial system where animals were offered again and again to pay the price of people's sin. But this also points forward to the one who would, once and for all, offer himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Of course, today, we have more 'Scripture' in the New Testament, some of which was just becoming treated as authoritative by the early church at this time.
It is not a head knowledge of Scripture that saves us, but the Saviour to whom it points us. Salvation is "through faith in Christ Jesus ", v15. It can be found in no other way. The Bible reveals to us who Christ is, and what He has done so we may trust Him to give us eternal life and take us to heaven.
It is FOUNDATIONAL and...
2. It is INFALLIBLE.
A. " All Scripture is God-breathed" v16.
"All" speaks of the Bible as a unit, that our Bible as a whole, every book and chapter, is inspired by God.
"Scripture" (literally, the writings) refers to the words. The very words we read originated with God. He chose to communicate His message to us in words. They are
"God-breathed". A person must breathe in order to speak, so this means that it is as though every word proceeded directly from the mouth of God. In Hebrew the word for breath, Ruah, is also the word for Spirit. God's Spirit inspired the Bible and also lives within every Christian. Therefore, we have the key to the Bible within us, and God the Holy Spirit will help us to learn and apply the Scriptures to our lives today.
God's active involvement in the writing of Scripture is so powerful that what is written is the infallible and authoritative word of God.
B. An inspired Bible is an INFALLIBLE Bible.
The Bible is the inspired Word of God given to us through men. Apparent mistakes or contradictions may be found, but they can be corrected and/or explained. The Bible, as it was originally written and received, is totally and completely free from error.
For example, critics once denied that the Hittites existed, because the only evidence was 46 or so references in Scripture. In 1906 Hugo Winckler began digging in Central Turkey and discovered the capital city of the Hittite Empire! Some Bible difficulties are simply waiting for more information to be discovered!
A "thinking Christian" can, and should, begin with the assumption that the Bible is without error. Careful study will resolve many difficulties. Judgement should be reserved in other cases until there is a sufficient basis for understanding. In the meantime we can be assured of having a book that is trustworthy.
Whatever Scripture says about itself, God, man, Satan, heaven, hell, life, death, and every other subject is true, without any error. This means that the Bible is infallible; it cannot mislead, deceive, disappoint nor fail those who trust its teachings.
It has been said, "Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, but because it contradicts them."
1. It is FOUNDATIONAL 2. It is INFALLIBLE. ...
3. It is PROFITABLE.
God gave us His Word to benefit us. People profit when they adhere to God's Word and it suffer when they do not. Paul specifically mentions four areas in which the Bible is profitable.
A. For teaching sound doctrine, cf 4:3.
Doctrine is a principle of belief. We all have it, even though we may be unaware of this. Everyone has doctrine and lives their life according to it. That doctrine may come from what they see on the television, or hear in music, or what they observe people doing at work, home, or locally. As Christians where do we get our doctrine ? TV ? local culture ? the Bible ? Do we really live up to what we say we believe in ?
Sound doctrine is essential, the basis for all we believe and do. It is truth, unchanging and unchangeable.
Correct doctrine is in keeping with that of the apostles. The teaching is called "sound" not only because it builds up in the faith, but because it protects against the corrupting influence of false teachers. Paul refers to these from 4: 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. Just as people will want to scratch an itching ear, so people will want to hear what is pleasing and easy, rather than the truth which may be difficult and uncomfortable. Soundness of doctrine, faith and speech is a basic concern in all the Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus. In them the word "sound" occurs eight times but is found nowhere else in Paul's writings.
( 3. It is PROFITABLE. )
B. For rebuking.
There is a camera aboard the Tiros XII satellite that takes pictures of ships drilling for oil in the North Atlantic. If the ships move more than 10 feet from their pre-programmed positions, the satellite will send a signal to warn the ship it has moved.
A rebuke is a warning that someone is off course, in the wrong place. The Bible not only tells us what is true and beneficial, but what is false and harmful.
C. For correcting.
The signal sent by the Tiros 12 goes to a computer that automatically activates the ship's propellers to correct the drift and keep the ship over the oil-drilling hole. So it not only warns that it has drifted away, but helps to put it back where ut should be.
The Bible not only tells us when we are wrong, but it shows us the way to make things right. It is not essentially a book of condemnation, but of restoration. God shows us our sin in order to deliver us from it.
D. For Instruction in Righteousness.
The Bible is a practical book. Like an owners manual, it provides detailed instructions on how to live righteously, that is to say, to follow God's perfect will. It contains all the information we need to make wise choices for a godly lifestyle.
Some people think that life is a lot different today to, say, 2000 years ago. It is in many ways. We can now cook a meal and wash the dishes at the push of a button ! Yet, as we read the Bible we see that the nature of people has changed little, even in the sins they commit. And God has not changed either. He still calls people to repent of their sins, to receive forgiveness through Jesus, and to live a new, resurrection life in the power of His Spirit.
It is FOUNDATIONAL 2. It is INFALLIBLE. 3. It is PROFITABLE. ...
4. It is ESSENTIAL.
A. The Word of God produces maturity.
17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. The word "thoroughly equipped", literally translated "perfect" means complete, mature, prepared for use. Apart from a knowledge of, and obedience to, the Bible, a Christian will never reach maturity: yielded to God's work and conformed to His will. What are we to become mature for ? Certainly not to sit back and do nothing !
B. The Word of God equips us for "every good work".
The ultimate purpose of Scripture is to equip us to meet every circumstance of life. It provides the wisdom we need for everything we are required to undertake, as individuals and as a church.
The Bible is essential to a full life. It is true, and needs to be understood and obeyed. We may feel guilty that we do not know enough about the Bible, or that we have never read all of it. We should not forget that the Bible teaches that God loves us and forgives us for our failures. Yet, at the same time, he calls us to repent and put him first.
Can I invite everyone here this morning to consider reading the Bible every day ? Before you do, think of a good time to do this when you are alert and will not be disturbed. Start off by praying that God will help you to understand. Have a paper and pencil to write down anything you don't understand or are unsure of, so you can ask a mature Christian what it means later. Start off by reading for, say, five minutes a day, then increase to ten, fifteen, and twenty minutes when you feel ready. Don't begin by reading the Bible from the start, the book of Genesis. Instead, try one of the gospels, or, if you are a keen reader, try reading all of the New Testament.
George Muller, who was known for his strong faith, confided. "The first 3 years after conversion, I neglected the Word of God. Since I began to search it diligently, the blessing has been wonderful. I have read the Bible through one hundred times and always with increasing delight!" John Bunyan, who wrote Pilgrim's Progress, testified, "Read the Bible, and read it again, and do not despair of help to understand something of the will and mind of God, though you think they are fast locked up from you. Neither trouble yourself, though you may not have commentaries and expositions; pray and read, and read and pray; for a little from God is better than a great deal from man."