A hot story in the news recently are the words of a former Christian megachurch Pastor, Rob Bell. He and his wife recently appeared on Oprah Winfrey on her “Super Soul Sunday” program, where he suggested the Bible is irrelevant to today’s culture. He said,
“We’re moments away. I think the culture is already there. And the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense,” he told Winfrey when asked about the Church embracing gay marriage.
Rob Bell is still popular among many Christians. However, this thinking is precisely what the Apostle Paul warned Timothy about. Bell argues that we should take our authority from the culture and the courts and not the Word of God.
This morning we will look at Paul’s rebuttal to such thinking. Paul is going to show us that the Word of God is timeless because it comes from the Lord Himself. This is the same Lord who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has told us what is true. He has not asked us to discuss and come to our own conclusions. And this is why the church has lost its relevance. And this is why we must be people of the Book. Listen again to our text for this morning.
14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
Timothy was blessed to have had a mother and grandmother who taught him the Word of God. The Old Testament Law taught the Jews to teach their children the law of God at every opportunity. I suspect Timothy was introduced to the Old Testament and later to the writings of the followers of Christ. When Paul came to town they made sure their son could meet him. We follow in the footsteps of Lois and Eunice when we,
- Make it a practice of referencing the Bible for the decisions being made at home.
- Begin reading children Bible-geared children’s books early.
- Bring children to Sunday School and worship and model that behavior by being involved yourself.
- Make the effort to have children involved in solid youth programs that teach the Word of God.
- Encourage children to develop a daily time reading the Bible and praying and learning to give to the Lord from the income they receive (this is not about the church getting more money, it is about teaching our children to honor God with the very thing the world around us sets up as an idol.)
- Watch Christian media and discuss the values of secular shows and how they compare to the values of the Bible. In other words, parents teach their children to think Biblically.
These are all important and good things. However, the prerequisite is that the parents themselves must be students of the Bible and devoted to growing spiritually. The example of parents is more powerful than their words. Timothy knew the Word of God was trustworthy because it was from God and also because he saw the effect of the Word in his parents and in his mentor, the Apostle Paul.
Paul reminded Timothy that we must continue to read, study, assimilate and apply the Bible because it has some very practical value.
It Gives Us Wisdom for Salvation
15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.
It is easy to forget that the entire Bible points to Jesus. From the very beginning God decided to redeem His people. The sacrificial system pointed to a future and final sacrifice. That final sacrifice is Jesus. By knowing the Scripture it was easy for Timothy to see that Jesus was the One the Bible had been pointing to. You will better read the Old Testament if you recognize that God is pointing us in the direction of Christ.
The Bible teaches us how to be right with God. It shows us our sinful nature by giving us hundreds of laws that we disobey and disregard. The Bible shows that God is holy and will never compromise with sin. In other words, we have a BIG problem. The Bible shows us that there is no grading curve when it comes to God.
Once we see the dilemma, we will understand why we need a Savior. We need someone to rescue us from ourselves. If we have studied the Bible, we see that Jesus is that someone. He is a descendent of David (as promised). He is the Lamb without blemish (sinless) that we read about throughout the Bible but especially in Isaiah. He was born of a virgin, in Bethlehem, and was raised for a while in Egypt. All things the Bible told us would happen. The Bible cannot save you but it will lead you to the only One who CAN save you.
It is Inspired by God
We are told the Bible is not your ordinary book.
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
That phrase “inspired by God” means “God-breathed”. The Bible is a book that is a direct communication (revelation) from God to us. God used human authors with their unique vocabularies and styles to speak to us. The Lord did not dictate the words but He guided the authors to write what He wanted them to write.
Here is how Peter explains it,
20 Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, 21 or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:20-21)
The theological word for the trustworthiness of the Bible is: inerrant. It means the Bible as it was originally written is the infallible Word of God. Some people say this is a moot point because after all the various translations Scripture has been corrupted. The evidence however, does not bear this out. The Bible has many many ancient manuscripts (far more than any of the accepted works of antiquity). Every time they find an older manuscript the one thing they discover is that it varies little from the manuscripts we have today. The conclusion is that the Bible we have today is just as reliable as the original letters written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter and Paul.
This 66 book library is profound in its unity. The Bible does not contradict itself. (When someone tells you that the Bible is full of contradictions always ask them to give you a couple of those contradictions. Most of the time they are misunderstanding the text or are quoting it incorrectly. Sometimes what they will give you won’t even be something from the Bible. Other times it is looking at an event from a little different angle.) Archaeology has confirmed the Bible again and again. The Bible rightly understood does not contradict itself.
The fact that this book is a letter from God is the main reason we should view it as precious. This is God speaking to His creation. This is the Designer of life telling us how to live life to the fullest. This is God telling us how we can be part of His family forever.
It Teaches Us
Because it is inspired by God it teaches us several important things. First it teaches us what is true. The Bible is a book that teaches us what has been called “True Truth”. That means it is unchanging. It is true at all times. It is not impacted by public approval or legislative edict. This is why an appeal to the Bible (when it speaks clearly on an issue) is the final word. We are not given license to “adjust” God’s Truth.
Consequently, we hold to the creation account that is in the Bible rather than to the speculations of men. We believe God created man and woman and they walked with God in a garden. Sin and death entered the world when man choose to betray the truth of God. We hold to a literal flood with Noah on the Ark. We believe in the parting of the Red Sea, the plagues listed in Genesis, Jonah’s experience with a large fish, and all the miracles we read in the Old and New Testament. Some quickly dismiss these things today, but there is no actual evidence to do so. There is just presupposition.
Many of these great things are verified by lots of evidence but . . . we don’t believe primarily because of the evidence. We believe because it is God’s Word. If we trust God, we must also trust His Word.
The second thing the Bible shows us is: what is wrong in our lives. You can go to lots of specialists for your problems in life but only the Bible has the core definition of your problem. It is sin.
As you read the Bible it strips away our excuses. It refuses to allow you to blame others (including God) for what you do. The Bible calls us to accept responsibility for our lives. It points out when our problem is pride, rebellion, idolatry, lust, greed, and even gluttony. It is actually refreshing to find a place where we can hear the truth about ourselves. It may be painful but it is true. You cannot fix a problem until you understand the nature of the problem.
Third, the Bible teaches us how to correct things. For example,
- to take care of the sin barrier between us and God, we are told to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved”.
- When we are doing what is wrong the Bible tells us to repent (to face and admit what you did and confess it as wrong).
- When we have been wronged the Bible tells us to overlook or to forgive.
- It tells us to stand up and refuse to be squeezed into the world’s mold.
- Instead of worrying, we are told to trust.
- Instead of feeling abandoned we are told to remember that the Lord has promised to NEVER leave us or forsake us. Therefore, we know that we are never alone.
- When we see temptation the Bible counsels us to flee from the evi.
The Bible is direct. But, if we do what the Bible tells us to do we find tht the brokenness of our lives can be effectively addressed.
Fourth, the Bible shows us what the God-honoring path looks like. It trains us in right living. As you read and study God’s Word you will find that the Lord begins to change the way you think, the way you look at people, and it will change your values. The Bible warns us that His word will not return without making an impact. If you submit to His instruction you will grow in faith and begin living more like Jesus than like the people who influence you in daily life.
It Equips Us for Right Living
17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
The Bible teaches us about the character and the plan of God. It tells us that God has made us his ambassadors as if God were reaching out to others through us. The Bible shows us the effect salvation should have on people even as it provides us with all sorts of examples of what it means to be a Christ-follower.
- We see men and women trust God to do great things (think about Elijah facing off with the prophets of Baal and Moses taking on the Egyptians)
- We see people who held on to God in the greatest times of testing (think of Daniel in the lion’s den and his friends who refused to compromise even though they were threatened with the fiery furnace. Think also of Job after his life was crushed, or Paul during the shipwreck on his way to Rome, and think of Queen Esther when the entire Jewish race was threatened with extinction.)
- We see men who failed miserably (Abraham with Hagar, David with Bathsheba, Peter’s denial of Christ, Jonah running from God, and even Paul who formerly killed Christians.) All of these individuals failed, were forgiven, and they were restored.
- And we see those who stood firm fearlessly. Moses stood up to Pharaoh. The prophets stood in spite of ridicule and attack. Peter spoke before the crowds on the Day of Pentecost. The disciples kept teaching at the temple even though they were told not to do so.
These accounts are all illustrations that help us to learn what it means to be a true Christ-follower.
Jesus taught us how to pray. He told us what the right attitude is when going out into the world (as a servant). He even demonstrated what true servanthood looks like.
The Bible instructs us about leaders in the church. He taught about qualification and gifts and the importance of being careful as you pick your leaders.
Everyone talks about faith. However, as you read the Bible you are able to flesh that out. You start understanding that faith is not a concept to be learned, it is a confidence in God that impacts everything that we do. We can turn this verse around. It you want to be equipped to do good work . . . you need to listen to the Scriptures so that you know how to do that work correctly.
What are we to conclude from all of this? The main lesson we draw is that the Bible is much more important than we think. This book is a treasure and it contains the very heart of God. So what is the proper response?
- We should read it. Nowadays you can find reading plans to meet the level of any reader. It is vitally important that we don’t read devotional materials IN PLACE OF the Bible. The Word of God is what penetrates and leads us to the Lord. We must keep this in a very careful balance.
- We should meditate on it. In other words, we need to do more than give the Word a casual reading to fulfill our spiritual obligation. We need to interact with the Word. Here are some ways to do that
- Read the same passage in different versions.
- Outline the passage. Emphasize the commands or the verbs calling us to action.
- Put yourself in the account. Imagine being in the crowd as Jesus taught. What would be going through your mind? Imagine being a disciple walking with Jesus. Imagine looking around. Make the text personal by visualizing.
- Paraphrase the passage; write it in your own words or try to write it in a way so a toddler could understand it.
- Draw contrasts. Think about how worldly advice (like that from non-Christian friends or the business world) contradicts the Biblical advice.
- Keep a journal. Write down your reflections, insights, and the things God seems to be saying to you. I make daily posts on Facebook as a way for me to interact with the Bible. This is a discipline that helps me greatly.
- We should proclaim it. Obviously we should do this as a church from the pulpit, in our Bible Studies and in Sunday School. However, we should also be doing this as individuals. We live at a time when people do not know (and do not care) what the Bible teaches. Our job is to introduce them to the truth. We don’t do this by merely reciting Scripture or by beating people up with verses. We must do so with creativity, gentleness, and respect. Let me give you some suggestions,
- Share the context and account of a passage. (i.e. “do you know that the Bible tells of a time when someone rebelled against God and had to face the dire consequences of their behavior? And then share the story of David, Jonah, the brothers of Joseph or even the downfall of Solomon.)
- Share the Scripture with “Do you know what Jesus said about that . . . “
- Or “There is a verse in the Bible that I have found particularly helpful, enlightening, or life-changing” and then share the verse.
- “I heard a story once about” and then recount one of the parables.
- To someone going through a hard time and is asking questions: “You know, the Bible tells the story of a guy named Job who felt just like you.”
In order to do this, you can’t just know verses, you need to know the content of the Bible. Our goal is to whet the appetite of friends, neighbors and co-workers. Once they believe the Bible might have something good to offer you can take them into the wonderful message of the gospel.
- We should apply it in our living. When all is said and done the Word of God is powerful only to the degree that we do what it says. When we live out the commands of Scripture we discover the true power and wisdom of the Word of God. The Bible is not meant to be a book that we merely study. We are to search the Scriptures and then do what it says.
We are blessed to have the Bible readily available to us in print and digitally. However, merely having a Bible will not change your life. You have to actually read it.