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The Trustworthy Word

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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February 13, 2024 3:00 am

The Trustworthy Word

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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February 13, 2024 3:00 am

Many Christian books encourage us with Scripture or help us understand and apply the Bible’s teachings. But if you long to hear God speak, you must read His Word! Join us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg to find out why no other book will suffice.


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There are many excellent Christian books that encourage us with scripture, help us understand or apply the teaching of the Bible, but if you long to hear God Himself speak, you have to read His Word.

Today on Truth for Life, we'll find out why no other book will suffice. Alistair Begg is teaching from 2 Timothy chapter 3 verses 16 and 17. I'm told that the late Howard Hendricks, who was a beloved professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, had a sign either on his wall or on his desk, I'm not sure, which he would see on a daily basis when he walked out of his study and into the classroom where he was about to teach. And the sign said, What are you doing with these people? In his case, his students, whom he had responsibility for. In the case of Timothy, the people who are under his care as he pastors the church here in Ephesus, and in my case and in the case of my colleagues, the congregation that is under our direction as we open the Scriptures routinely and consistently together.

What are you doing with these people? The better question might be, What is God doing with these people? And the secondary question, And how is God doing what He's doing with these people? God is at work by the Holy Spirit through His Word. And the way in which God does that is both mysterious and it is marvelous.

It is unmistakable, and yet it is almost incomprehensible. But if we think about it, it's not too hard to grasp why this should be. After all, each of us, to one degree or another, has been sustaining ourselves through the week that has passed as a result of the intake of water and of food. Without water and without food, then we are malnourished. In the same way, the spiritual life of the believer is maintained by the food of God's Word. And the absence of the food of God's Word leads as surely to malnutrition in the spiritual dimension as the absence of physical food leads to the same in the physical realm. Jesus, when he refuted the accusations and intimidations and temptations of the devil in the wilderness recorded in Matthew 4, in each instance he responded to the devil by quoting from the book of Deuteronomy.

The reality was that he used the Word of God in order to drive back these accusations. And then he says to the devil, Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. How does a person live their spiritual life?

Through the Word that comes from the mouth of God. Eating disorders are painful, and they are ultimately harmful. We teach our children, even the little ones that are fairly orderly, how to chew their food. Don't play with your food, we say.

Don't fiddle with it. Chew it. And then when they're chewing and chewing and chewing, we say, Why don't you swallow this stuff? We don't have all day for breakfast, something along those lines. And our children are often bemused and confused by our honest and genuine desires and designs to make sure that they eat properly. The same frustration you find in the role of pastoral ministry. You're saying to your congregation, Chew the jolly stuff, would you? And then, after a while, would you please swallow it, and let's get on?

How long do we have to spend on this? And the congregation may be as confused and bemused as our tiny children are. Because actually, some parts of the Bible are harder to understand and chew than others, aren't they? Now, we recognize, too, that the things that are plain are plain, and the things that aren't plain are not plain.

Some of the things are inscrutable. That's why it's important for the congregation to understand, and the teachers of the congregation to understand, that it is not the role of the Bible teacher to explain the unexplainable, the unexplainable. The secret things—remember, Deuteronomy 29, 29—the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, not in order to answer our curiosity but in order that we may follow all the words of this law—the same law that Jesus quoted to the devil in the temptation.

Jesus was actually doing this. The Bible doesn't tell us everything about everything, but it does tell us everything that we need to know in order to know him and in order to know how to live as he desires. In other words, what Paul is saying to Timothy here in these concluding verses, starting around verse 14 in our version, he's essentially saying, Timothy, here's the normal Christian life, and here's the key to the normal Christian life. Here is the complete handbook that is required in order to know what it is to know God and to know what it is to live for God. It's the complete guide, if you like, to Christian living and godliness. And so it follows that Timothy is then being urged to teach the Bible as faithfully as he can in order that the confidence of God's people may be in God's Word.

You should always be on the alert to make sure, Pastor, teach the Bible. We want to say to you what was said to Ezra. Bring out the book. Bring out the book. And we want to hold you to that book so that we, as students of this book, will be able to make sure that you are holding the line to the book, as opposed to trying to impress us with your ideas about the book.

There's a vast difference, you see. There's a way to respond to the Bible that's almost entirely sentimental, or with an intense practicality that's just looking for seven little principles to run away with, but they may never actually be deep down into your soul to change you. Now, there has been a repetitive element to what we're doing, and purposefully so, because we want to be clear, as Paul makes it clear to Timothy, that it is by means of this Bible that salvation comes. Salvation belongs to the Lord.

The Bible tells us that we need to be saved, that we can't save ourselves by trying to be good or trying to be religious. It tells us that only God saves because he sent Jesus to die in our place, that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the punishment that sin deserves has been borne in him, the position, the penalty has been assumed by him. And having paid that penalty and borne that punishment, he then invites repentant sinners into a relationship with himself.

That's what the whole book is about. It's about saying, do you know that the God who made you and from whom you are alienated as a result of sin, this God is seeking to have a relationship with you. The Creator of the entire universe pursues you in the person of his Son and has made provision for your alienation in the cross and seeks to draw you to himself.

Remember, we quote Calvin all the time on this. All that Christ has done for us is of no value to us so long as we remain outside of Christ. And so the real pressing issue, the threshold of it all is, have I turned in believing faith and in childlike trust to the Lord Jesus Christ, asking him to be the very Savior that I have personally admitted I need.

Your mom can't do it for you, your grandpa won't do it for you, your schoolteacher can't do it for you, and the fact that you are serving in ministry in Parkside, that will not do it for you either. Until the Spirit of God brings us to the dawning realization that, A, I am a great sinner, as Newton put it, and, two, in Jesus I have discovered a great Savior, then we remain outside of the realm into which the Spirit of God seeks to bring us. Now, he goes on to say that this is the work that brings salvation, and once God has brought us into a relationship with himself, he continues his work to conform us to the image of his Son.

Remember C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, where he talks about when God comes to a life as he had come to Lewis's life—Lewis was agnostic, at least, or atheistic, at worse—and he finally acknowledged who Jesus was and why he came. And then as he writes in Mere Christianity, he says, Imagine yourself living in a house, and God comes in to rebuild that house. At first perhaps you can understand what he's doing—just some basic repairs. But then he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and doesn't make sense.

Why is this? You thought that you were going to be made into a decent little cottage, but he is building a palace, a palace in which he has come to live himself. You don't live in dirty palaces. He's not making rundown dwellings. And how is he achieving this objective? How does he conform the child of God to the image of the Son of God?

Well, the answer is here. He uses the Bible. He uses it not only to save but also to teach.

To teach. We don't need to belabor that point. But the fact of the matter is, it's not simply a matter of information, it's a matter of transformation. In chapter 2, remember, he had gone on a bit of a run, and he says to Timothy, Think about what I'm saying, and the Lord will give you insight into all of this. In other words, the part of the listener is to reflect, and the part of God is to illuminate.

So, the teaching role is to make sure that those under the care of Timothy understand what is—what is true and what is right. The negative part of that comes in the verb, or the noun here as it is, for reproof. For reproof.

What is this reproof? Well, the teacher has to be prepared not only to say, This is what it is, but also, This is what it isn't. Not only to point out what is true, but also to expose error when it is present. And the error that was present in Ephesus was fairly clear to see, and so he had a responsibility to do that. And everyone who's going to teach the Bible must do that.

I don't think we should establish hobby horses and just jump off into things, but as we come to things in the Bible, as we're tackling them, we want to say, This is what the Bible says. For example, marriage is. And therefore, this isn't marriage. This is what the Bible says about human life as a gift of God, and therefore, this is the very desecration of human life. So it is to say what is and to say what isn't.

That is the reproving element. If, however, the pastor just wants to be liked by everybody and knows some people in the congregation feel that he's a little over the top on something, and thereby being afraid of them, he dulls his tone, then he'll eventually amount to nothing of any consequence at all. I know that, because Margaret Thatcher told me.

Not personally, but this is what she writes. If you just set out to be liked, you'll be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and thereby achieve nothing. If you set out to be liked, everybody has to like you. And we as pastors are a bunch of insecure individuals. If your insecurity drives you to the point where you've got to be affirmed by everybody, then eventually they'll amount to nothing, and you'll give no leadership to the church at all. You see how important it is for Timothy?

As things are going from bad to worse, as impostors are present, as the pressing crush of the Ephesian culture moves in on him, and as people from within the leadership of the church that Paul had established there begin to crumble, Timothy, remember, this book is for teaching, positive, and reproof. Now, it's not an invitation to become a reproving individual. Some people love that word, reproof.

Oh, nothing I like better than a nice reproof. If you find a tendency in yourself that way, you need to ask somebody to help you with it. Because now, you know, you're no longer Miss Piggy.

You've become Waldorf or Statler, the two old boys up on the balcony, who just, all they ever do is heckle the people down on the main event. They're just harumphing and pumping all the time. And there is an element within the framework of evangelical Christianity that seems to really, really like that.

It's not a nice thing. Who does the teaching? The Bible does the teaching.

How is the reproving? The Bible does the reproving. Thirdly, it provides correction. Well, reproven corrects sound like the same word. They sound like synonyms, don't they? Well, they are, in one sense, synonyms, except that the first two refer to belief, and the second two refer to behavior. When he comes here to correction, he's talking ethically, not just intellectually, so that the outworking, the behavioral aspects of what it means to be conformed to the image of Jesus are then being addressed by the Word of God.

So the Word of God positively teaches us, negatively reproves us, and then corrects us when we are out of line. The word that is used here, actually, epanorthosis. Epanorthosis. Now, say that three times quickly. Epanorthosis.

If you just stick with orthosis, you're going to be close to it, especially if you can think orthopedics or orthodontist. Because that is actually where we get that word. It is present in the Septuagint. It is not present anywhere else in the entire New Testament.

Paul uses it only once, and it's only once found there. And what it essentially means is the realignment of things, bringing things into straight, bringing things that are out of line back onto line. And the work of the Spirit of God is that Invisalign work. So he takes that which is crooked and bent and out of alignment and brings it into line.

And he does it in such a way as to give us a lovely smile, so that our smile may not simply draw attention to ourselves, but our smile might be a means of people saying, Why do you have that smile? Why don't you do the crooked things? Why are you ethically engaged in this way in business? Why is it that you always return your telephone calls?

Why is it that you polish your shoes and you polish the heels as well as the toes? Why are you the way you are? He said, Well, it's the correcting work of the Spirit of God through the Word of God in my life. George Herbert, the religious poet, in a paraphrase of the 23rd Psalm, has these lines, Or if I stray, God doth convert and bring my mind in frame, and all this not for my desert, but for his holy name. So it is also there to train—to train in righteousness, in right living. That's essentially what it means, remember, when Jesus was baptized. And John the Baptist said to him, Well, you shouldn't—this is the wrong way around—you should be baptizing me. Jesus says, Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting to fulfill all righteousness. There's more in it than I'm going to mention, but there is this in it for sure. Jesus says, This is the right thing to do.

I'm going to do this, because this is right to do. And the work of the Word of God in the child of God is just that very same thing. It brings us to an understanding of where we're out of line and corrects, and then it trains us in righteousness itself—our belief and our behavior brought under the jurisdiction of God's Word. So that the local church has an ER, emergency room, in British terminology, accident and emergency, A and E. People come in as accidents, and they are cared for. There is long-term care.

There also is the opportunity for preventative medicine, and so the metaphor could just catch us up and swallow us. But there is to be a gymnasium element about the church, because notice that the effect or the result, perhaps even the objective of all of this, verse 17, is that the man of God may be competent and equipped for every good work. Thoroughly competent. How are you going to, as a man of God, Timothy, be able to handle this? Well, I'm telling you how. He says, just stick with your Bible. How is the Christian leader supposed to do this? The same way. How is the believer to do this? The same way. And the word that is used here for equipped is the word that you find in the Gospels for the disciples who are, after one of their fishing trips, on the shoreline, and Jesus comes upon them. And he sees James, the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were in their boat, and they were mending their nets, mending their nets, repairing them, cleaning them, preparing them.

That's the word that is used here. How do you get cleaned? How do you get repaired?

How do you get prepared? Answer, by the means of the Word of God. That's why in Ephesians 4, where it says that the ascended Christ is given gifts to the church, part of that gifting is pastors and teachers who then, in turn, are to edify the saints so that they might do the works of ministry. So that the work of the Word is to cleanse, to repair, to prepare, to mend, and to fit us for usefulness.

Now, you see what trust this demands? Because if you think about it, that kind of impact is not usually immediately apparent. It's like raising your kids. The benefits are usually not obvious early, and some of us are hoping that some of those benefits are still about to be revealed, you know.

And justifiably so. The impact of this kind of ministry is usually not dramatic either. And so, if the man of God, if the servant of God, if the church leader, if the child of God, is consumed with immediate gratification, immediate impact, dramatic results, then the temptation will be to go to all the latest fads, to the newest ideas, to the hot buttons, to whatever else it is, just to try and make sure that something is happening. You see, you've got to have great confidence in the Bible. So week after week, read your Bible every day. Sunday by Sunday, teach the Bible.

Teach the Bible. Why would you keep doing this? Are you stupid? Have you got no decent ideas? Have you not read a book?

What's the problem with you? No. No, no, no. I have read a few books. No, but this is the book. This is the book. This is the book that introduces us to Jesus.

This is the book that corrects our faulty thinking, that teaches us how to think properly, that brings us into line, that keeps us in the fairway. Are you encouraged by that? I hope you are. Because you see, here we are this morning, broken. Broken. Well, not totally broken, but chipped. Bashed. I am. I'm chipped, bashed. How can I be fixed?

Repaired? Here. Dirty. Selfish thoughts. Bad acts. Impure thinking.

How can I be made clean? Here. I am misshapen.

How can I be brought into line? Here. Now, you see, when a congregation believes this, it may take a while. But when the truth dawns, it'll be good. Really good. And right now, it's quite good.

So we're hoping for really good. And we look to God alone. You're listening to Truth for Life. That is Alistair Begg with the message he's titled, The Trustworthy Word. Today's teaching wraps up our series titled, The Work of the Word. If you've enjoyed this study, if you'd like to re-listen to the messages or share them with your pastor or with a friend, the complete series can be listened to or downloaded and shared for free from our website at

And if you have young children in your home or young children you know who you'd like to talk with about God and his word, we have a great recommendation for you. Kids love hearing stories about other people. And today we're recommending a book that is a short biography. It's titled Helen Roseveare, The Doctor Who Kept Going No Matter What. It's an inspiring true story of a young woman who was trained as a doctor in England, then journeyed to the heart of Africa in the middle of the 20th century to serve as a medical missionary.

Her life was marked by many challenges. In fact, as you read this story with your children, they'll discover how Helen learned to rely on God to do the work he had called her to do. This book is beautifully illustrated. It's a hardcover book written for kids ages four to seven. And to help children interact with the story and think of ways they can follow God, you can go online to slash Helen. There you can download free printable activity sheets that go right along with the book. Ask about getting your copy of the book about Helen Roseveare today when you donate to Truth for Life. Go to slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. Have you ever wondered what exactly it is that compels Christians to share the gospel even with those who will try to shame them for their faith? Tomorrow we'll hear the answer. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-13 08:05:21 / 2024-02-13 08:14:15 / 9

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