I grew up in a home with two other brothers, and three sisters. And each of us were about 18months. We were always close in age but we were also really close in general. When we were kids our favorite pastime was dressing up like knights or Jedi and fighting with whatever we could find. I remember one time we had broken almost all of our Light Sabers so we resorted to the next best thing. Bats and long sticks. As you can imagine this didn’t go very well.
The worst time I can remember my younger brother Jeffery and I were teaming up on my older brother Joshua. During the sword fight Jeffery started running away and seeing victory in his grasp Joshua ran after him. But we had a plan. Jeffery would lure Joshua around the house, meanwhile I would be waiting around the house on this ledge. The plan was when Joshua ran around the house I would leap off the ledge and attack him from the sky.
The plan worked perfectly. As I saw Jeffery coming around the corner I got ready to jump and as soon as I saw Joshua I attacked.
I came down from the sky aiming for his bat thinking that if I hit it hard enough it would disarm him. At the last moment Joshua moved his hand and instead of my bat making contact with his bat it came down full force on his wrist. It was successful in disarming him but in the process it broke his wrist.
Now that we are older we don’t fight with light sabers or bats but instead we do “verbal jousting” we argue about religion and politics. Last election all three of us voted for different people and we all have slightly different theology so as you can imagine it gets pretty intense.
Usually it is very heated and productive but we hit a wall when we disagree on the credibility of sources. One person might have an opinion based of some statistic they found or an article they read but if we don’t all agree that the source is credible the conversation ends because we don’t have a common belief about the authority of the source.
That is why we decided to start our sermon series on systematic theology with the Bible. Whenever we talk about God, sin, salvation, or anything else in theology we have to point at the Bible. But if we don’t all agree on what we believe about the Bible we aren’t going to be able to get anywhere. One person could bring up a Bible passage but if people don’t agree that the Bible is the word of God then the verse means nothing.
Today we are going to look at 2 Timothy 3 and discuss a little more what we believe about the Bible.
To begin with lets look at some context. Paul wrote 2 Timothy while he was imprisoned for the second time in Rome, shortly before he was executed. He wrote it to Timothy one of his close friends and disciples.
The reason Paul is writing to Timothy is to give him advice and instruction when it comes to ministry. It is a pretty short letter but is just packed to the rim with insight. Today we are going to be taking a look at chapter three. It begins with a warning in verses 1-9.
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.”
Clearly the future Paul is describing does not seem very pleasant. I think the verse that best describes the nature of humanity in this passage is verse 5 “Having a form of godliness but denying its power.” In our world today we continue to see people who are searching for an answer to the problems of life. We try to reduce suffering, expand fairness and morality. Many people attempt to mimic the moral truths of Christuanity without believing Jesus or the Bible. They want a form of godliness but deny the power of God. They are looking for truth, finding false truth, and then teaching those false truths to the people around them. After Paul warns Timothy about this future he addresses Timothy directly in verses 10-13.
“But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
When it says in verse 10 that Timothy has closely “followed” the word for followed means something like observed intently. Paul is telling Timothy that those who hold true to the truth of the gospel will face persecution. Timothy shouldn’t doubt this because Paul’s very life is evidence of this. Then in verse 13 Paul says that evil men and imposters will just get worse and worse. They will continue to be deceived and to deceive others. It is almost like this gap between those who want to live for Christ and those who are living for lies and evil will grow greater and greater.
Given Paul’s warning in the beginning of the chapter and his assurance that evil people will get worse and worse, and his assurance that those who live for Christ will be persecuted why doesn’t Paul just quit? Why doesn’t Timothy just close the letter and become a merchant?
Because they have a belief and love for Jesus Christ that makes those other things look so insignificant that they are not asking “How do I avoid this future?” they are asking “how can I bring the light of truth into this darkness of deception?”
Paul tells him exactly how to do this in verses 14-15,
“But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Paul tells Timothy to continue in two things, the things that he has learned and been assured of and in the Holy Scriptures.
So what has Timothy learned and been assured of?
The Gospel of Christ. Paul also says that he knows who he learned them from. Timothy had been blessed to have many people teach him about the Gospel of Jesus. Two women, his mother and grandmother, taught Timothy from an early childhood about the Gospel. They lived out strong faith lives and wanted to pass that on to Timothy. Paul in his first letter to Timothy calls him his son in the faith, because he came along side Timothy and mentored him. He shared with him the love of Christ.
We talk a lot about the River being the kid’s church as well. Every Sunday we pray that God will bless these kids and reveal Himself to them. How amazing would it be if my children and your children could grow up and say, “I know and love Jesus because my family, because the people at the River cared about me enough to tell show me the love of Jesus every time they saw me.”
Paul tells Timothy to continue in the Gospel of Christ and the Holy Scriptures. But what is Paul referring to when he says Holy Scriptures? He means the entirety of the Old Testament. This term the Holy Scriptures at this time meant the Old Testament. Keep this in mind when we go to the next verses. Both the Old Testament and what Timothy had learned severed the same purpose to make Timothy wise for salvation in Christ Jesus.
So Paul tells Timothy that despite the nature of the future despite the persecution that is to come he should continue in what he has been taught and assured of and in the Holy Scriptures because the relationship he has with Jesus Christ brings salvation and that salvation is much greater then any evil or persecution.
Than Paul talks specifically about Scripture in verses 16-17.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
When Paul talks about Scripture in this passage he outlines where Scripture comes from and what it is profitable for.
Rob talked about the inspiration of scripture last week from 2 Peter. It means that Scripture as it was originally given did not come from human logic or reason but rather it came from God. The best way I can describe this is, “God gave His message to human authors who perfectly conveyed it in their own words.”
Paul says Scripture is profitable for doctrine, meaning it informs us about who God is and how as creations of God should operate. It is profitable for reproof, meaning t provides proof or reasons for what we believe. Scripture is profitable for correction, meaning it tells us to turn away from sin and turn towards God. Scripture informs us on how to live lives that are right before God and honor Him.
The ultimate purpose of Scripture is that it points us to Jesus Christ so that we can grow to be in a more intimate with Him and become more like Him. And it equips us to glorify God with our actions.
We have to ask again what does Paul have in mind when he says Scripture? Paul is talking about the Old Testament.
So how did we get to place we are now where by Scripture we mean the Old and New Testament?
Two weeks ago Rob talked about 2 Peter 1:20-21 which says,
“knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
We believe that the New Testament is Scripture because we believe that the process of God speaking through people by the power of the Holy Spirit which we see in the Old Testament was continued in the New Testament.
The early church had some criteria when confirming the books of the New Testament.
- Could the writing be link to an apostle/eyewitness?
- Were the books widely accepted by the church?
- Did the books contradict the Old Testament the teachings of Jesus or the writing of His apostles?
All the books in the New Testament had to meet all these and more criteria but these were the three main criteria.
So why do we not accept some of the Gnostic gospels like the Gospel of Thomas or Philip? The answer is pretty simple, they do not meet the criteria. They were not widely accepted by the church, they were not written based of eyewitness accounts, and they state something that is contrary to the beliefs of Christianity.
Some people make the claim that the early church just didn’t want any books in the Bible that disagreed with what they believed. And to this I say “well duh” They early church was made up of leaders who knew Jesus, heard His teachings and followed His ministry. So if they believed Jesus why would they accept any writings that contradicted Him?
So we believe the New Testament is Scripture because we believe that God took care of this process. God guided and directed the writing and preservation of the New Testament.
We believe the Old Testament because Jesus and the founders of the Church all believed the Old Testament. Two weeks ago Rob and I had several people ask us about the Apocryphal books. Some of the additional books in the Catholic Bible. Whether these were considered the word of God, or why don’t we have them in our Bible.
And this is an important question. Some of the Apocryphal writings are very valuable; some of them are even mentioned or quoted in other parts of Scripture.
One of the main reasons we do not include them in our Bible is because the early church and even the Jews did not consider them Scripture.
They read them and studied them but they were not considered Scripture. You see in the first century and throughout Jewish history there is the idea of a hierarchy of religious writing. A Jewish theologian named David Stern described it as Heresy, Sacred Text and Canon. Heresy would be something that directly contradicts the rest of the Bible. Heretical books would be like the Gnostic Gospels or the so-called “Lost Bible” these books are written by unreliable sources and make claims that are contradictory to our belief. Sacred texts would be things like the books of Maccabees where it has some really good historical and religious value but if you disagreed with it you wouldn’t be committing heresy. This would be like if a church had everyone read a Francis Chan or John Piper book. These books could be valuable to for us to read but God does not inspire them. The books that are considered Canon would be books we believe that are inspired by God and describe perfectly the Christian life.
Both the writings of the New Testament and the Old Testament have the same common story. All of Scripture points to salvation through Jesus Christ. The entire Bible describes the Human condition as being enslaved to sin and separated from God. And points to the only way that we can be reunited with God which is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.
So that is what we believe about the Bible but how do we apply this?
I think it goes back to the warning Paul gave at the beginning of chapter 3. We are living in a world that is chasing after lies. People everywhere are being deceived and then deceiving others. So how do we survive in a world taken over by evil and deception? We follow the truth. We know that humans were created to glorify God and live in relationship with Him but that we are separated by our sin. Our own sinful nature and selfishness stops us from having the relationship with God that we were meant to have. The only way that we can be in a right relationship with God is if we are freed from our sin and in order for us to be free from our sin we need a perfect sacrifice to take the punishment of sin upon Himself. And that sacrifice was Jesus Christ. He was perfect and although He didn’t deserve the punishment He willingly took the punishment of our sin upon Himself. Then He defeated the power of sin and death by rising from the dead three days later.
The way we know this truth is because God revealed it to us through the Bible. The church can change in many ways. We can change the cloths our pastors wear, the buildings we meet in or the style of songs we sing. But if we do not hold fast to the Word of God we will loose the truth and we will be taken over by deception.
The word of God is what holds us all accountable. Rob and I are accountable to you to the district and to the elders. But more then that all of us are accountable to the word of God.
Not because the paper or binding or the ink is magic. We all are accountable to the Bible because through it God convicts us of our nature and reveals to us the good news of Jesus Christ.