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Why Bother with the Bible? (Part 5 of 6)

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

Why Bother with the Bible? (Part 5 of 6)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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February 3, 2024 3:00 am

Salvation sometimes happens in an instant, but spiritual maturity—or sanctification—always takes time and effort. Find out why it’s important to tap into the power of Scripture, and learn how to do so. That’s our focus on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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Salvation happens in an instant. But maturing spiritually, or sanctification, that takes time and effort. Today on Truth for Life Weekend, Alistair Begg teaches us how and why we need to tap into the power of scripture.

Amen. I invite you to turn again to the portion of Scripture that was read some moments ago in 2 Timothy chapter 3. We are looking together at this section of the Bible for a third and final time. We noted last time in our consideration of the question, why bother with the Bible, that the Bible is able to make men and women wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? The Bible itself does not save, but it points to the Lord Jesus Christ, who by his atoning death is the Savior of all who believe. We sought to summarize that last time by pointing out that in the Bible we have essentially a handbook for salvation.

And there were two questions which we said were inevitably before us. One was, if the Bible is a handbook for salvation, has it then brought me to saving faith in Jesus? And if it has, then how is it teaching and training me to live as someone who has been brought to saving faith? It is to the second of those questions that we come now reminding one another of what we've said with frequency in the last years, that salvation has three tenses to it, or we may helpfully reference these three aspects of what it means to be saved.

And if you're not familiar with this little trilogy, you may want to make a note of it. I think you'll find this very helpful in discovering just where you are if you are on the journey of faith. In the Lord Jesus Christ, the believer is able to say, I have been saved, past tense, from sin's penalty. I have been saved from sin's penalty. Also, I will be saved from sin's presence. I'm going to go to heaven, and in heaven there will be no sin, no temptation to sin. But I am presently being saved from sin's power. Have been saved from its penalty. Will be saved from its presence.

Presently being saved from its power. And the way in which that saving impact of God upon the life of his child takes place is in part described for us here in these verses that we've been considering. The Scripture is God breathed. Verse 16, it's useful. And then you will notice these four verbs—for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.

The New English Bible summarizes it. The Scripture has its use, and they give us two couplets. For teaching the truth and refuting error.

For reformation of manners and discipline in right living. In other words, the Bible is sufficient for our creed and for our conduct. It is to the Bible that we look when asking the question, What am I supposed to believe? And it is again to the Bible that we turn when we're asking the question, How am I supposed to be behaving?

Dick Lucas has said that in verse 16 what we have is not a verse that is there to tell us that the Bible is inspired, although it does that, but it is here to tell us that no child of God will be equipped for their work unless they are thoroughly soaked in the Scriptures. It's a quite wonderful metaphor, isn't it? The idea of being completely soaked as opposed to having just a little rainfall on you or a little water on your head.

You know what it is at times? To be thoroughly soaked. And the emphasis of the Bible is that it is calling the child of God to be thoroughly soaked in it. And the sense of the passage, as you will have determined by now, the sense of the passage is that the Scripture has been given to enable the child of God to meet the demands that God places upon them. Some months ago now I pointed out to you the importance of what is referred to in theological terms as the means of grace. In other words, God brings us to faith and conforms us to the image of his Son, not in a vacuum.

But he uses certain aspects of life in order to achieve his objective. And we noted them. In reverse order, they were suffering, recognizing that God uses suffering in the lives of his children to accomplish purposes that are not accomplished when everything is going swimmingly well. Fellowship—the fellowship of God's people, a reminder to us that none of us is flying solo to heaven. Prayer—that in prayer we commune with God and we hear his voice and we align our wills with his.

The sacraments—the importance of celebrating the Lord's Supper together and the importance of baptism. And then, of course, the Scriptures themselves. I want to remind you this morning that the supreme instrument that God uses for renewing his people after the image of the Lord Jesus Christ is his Word.

The supreme instrument that he uses to make you and to make me increasingly like his Son Jesus is the Bible. And that's why it is important for us to be paying attention to what God is saying to us. We said in our first study that what God is saying to us is more important than what we are saying to him.

In other words, we've been given two years and one tongue that we might hear more and say less. And in that listening, God is working within. That's why it's important to listen to the Bible when it is expounded here in the pulpit and from the front of this particular room. We're doing this because the Bible is the supreme instrument for making the people of God like his Son, and that no local congregation will ever live above the level of its exposition.

You will never find that a congregation rises above the level of the teaching it receives. There may be one or two individuals that chase on ahead, but the general tenor of a congregation will be marked by the level of instruction that it receives. Therefore, it is vital that we are in this context, in this big room. It is equally vital that we are also under the instruction of the Bible in the classroom or in the smaller rooms, because there, in the ability to interact and to tease out the Scriptures and to converse with one another, we are reinforcing its truth in our lives. And it's equally important that the Bible is central in our family rooms, so that in our homes the Bible is not a closed but rather an open book, that it is the point of reference for father and mother to turn to and with their children in the questions of life and in the journey of faith, and that the Bible is equally at work in our bedrooms or in the private rooms of our lives, because the Bible is the supreme instrument for the renewing of his people. Charles Hodge, in an old book called The Way of Life, has a wonderful paragraph on this.

I won't read it all to you, but I want you to listen very carefully to what he says. It is most unreasonable to expect to be conformed to the image of God unless the truth concerning God be made to operate often and continuously upon the mind. How can a heart that is filled with the thoughts and cares of the world, and especially one which is often moved to evil by the thoughts or sights of sin, expect that the affections which answer to the holiness, goodness, or greatness of God should gather strength within it? How can the love of Christ increase in the bosoms of those who hardly ever think of him or of his work?

This cannot be without a change in the very nature of things. And therefore, we cannot make progress in holiness unless we devote much time to the reading, hearing, and meditating upon the Word of God, which is the truth whereby we are sanctified. The more this truth is brought before the mind, the more we commune with it, entering into its import, applying it to our own case, appropriating its principles, appreciating its motives, rejoicing in its promises, trembling at its threatenings, rising by its influence from what is seen and temporal to what is unseen and eternal, the more we may expect to be transformed by the renewing of our mind so as to approve and love whatever is holy, just, and good. People, distinguished for their piety, have always been people of meditation as well as people of prayer—people accustomed to withdraw the mind from the influence of the world with its thousand joys and sorrows and to bring it under the influence of the doctrines, precepts, and promises of the Word of God. I wasn't going to read the whole paragraph, but I got reading it. It's so good I had to read it all the way to the end.

It's absolutely fantastic. And incidentally, this is not a form of legalism when I say to you that I encourage you to be done with the local newspaper on the Lord's Day. What do you need it for on a Sunday? You need to withdraw your mind from the influence of the world with its thousand joys and sorrows and bring it under the influence of the doctrines, precepts, and promises of the Bible.

How are you going to do that? Well, one practical way to do it is just not to take a Sunday paper. Do as you please. But it helps me, and you know what an aficionado I am of newspapers and how much I love newspapers and how I gather them around me as friends as I travel and cut pieces out of them and stuff them everywhere.

It is a significant commitment on my part to give up one of these five-dollar beauties. Now, do as you please. But ask yourself if there is to be any sense in which we withdraw our minds from the thousand joys and sorrows of the world to bring them under the instruction of the precepts, principles of the Bible.

Surely, of all days on the Lord's Day, there is the prime opportunity to do that. So work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. There is a reason why people in an earlier generation lived as they lived, as they sought a life of piety. They were not a bunch of weirdos. They were not strapped in straitjackets of religious formalism. They were conformed to an internal piety which had touched their hearts and changed their minds. And the instruction of the Bible is not to give us fat heads. Our minds are to be stored, but our hearts are to be touched.

And for myself, the thousand joys and sorrows which attract me and draw me out are so alluring that unless I make my own little framework of existence to work for myself, then I will be overwhelmed by it all. So, that in passing is not in the notes, but I thought I'd mention it in any case. Now, is this description the man of God in verse 17, a specific reference to Timothy as a pastor and to all like him? After all, it's only used twice in the New Testament, here and in verse 11 of chapter 6, where he says, But you, O man of God, flee from all of this nonsense. After all, it is an express title of respect for Moses and for David and for Elijah and for others in the Old Testament. Is Paul then giving express instructions to Timothy in his responsibility as a pastor-teacher to ensure that under the authority of Scripture, those who are in his care are being taught and rebuked, are being corrected and trained? Well, certainly he must be saying that. But is it legitimate for us to restrict it in that way?

I think not. Because after all, the letter written to Timothy was for the general consumption of the people of God. And the principle of watching your life and doctrine closely is not a principle just for the one who leads, but it is a principle for all who, along with the one who leads, follow the Lord Jesus Christ. That would be, if I were able to secure that as the only legitimate exposition, to take all of you immediately off the hook and to suggest that this was only instruction for those who'd been called to the task of pastoring and leading.

Surely it means more than that. I think probably verse 17 we can get at by translating it so that the person who belongs to God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Do you belong to God? That's the question, you see. Do you belong to God?

By grace through faith. Then if you belong to God, then what are you to believe? He answers. And how are you to behave? He answers. First of all, in terms of belief.

Positive and then negative. All of the Bible, all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful, first of all, for teaching. That is why Jesus came teaching—a wonderful teacher, able to explain things so powerfully and so life-changingly. That's why the apostles, when they stepped onto the stage of history after Pentecost, were proclaiming the Word of God. Barnabas sending for Paul in Acts chapter 11, because he recognized that these enthusiastic new believers needed to be taught the Bible. And so Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people, and the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. Paul doing the same thing everywhere he went. By the time he leaves, the disciples behind in Ephesus, in Acts chapter 20, he says, You know, I haven't hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.

In other words, what he said in the public discourse he reinforced in personal conversation. And he encouraged those under his care to be taught. Now, many of you are teachers. And what a noble calling to be a teacher, to have the minds and the lives of youngsters and, in some cases, university students under your tutelage. It is an immense responsibility and a high calling. And the question for any teacher—and I class myself among them, any of us as teachers—put our heads on the pillow at night, and we ask the question, Are my students learning anything? No, I know that people say, Well, you should hear his accent, or he's this or he's that. I don't care.

I ultimately don't care whether you like it, whether you're stirred by it or moved by it. I have a genuine concern that we're learning together what God has given to us in the Bible in order that we might be conformed to the image of his Son. And each of us who teaches will be judged, first, not by the effectiveness of our teaching, but we will be judged for the motives of our teaching.

You learning anything? Correcting, teaching, rebuking. Rebuking. Some people don't like the verb rebuking, do they? But rebuking is important, isn't it? See, we live in a culture where, in the teaching deal, everything is so bent towards positive reinforcement and affirmation that the notion of rebuke is regarded immediately as some intrusion into a person's life and is viewed almost immediately negatively. But in point of fact, it is vital in the teaching task to point out what is true and also to point out what is not true—to refute what is wrong and to rebuke what is wrong so that people may then, in embracing truth, turn away from error. You have it in 1 Thessalonians 1, where Paul is able to commend the church in Thessalonica, because it says, You are commended amongst the communities because you turned away from idols to serve the living God. In other words, there was the turning from, because there was the turning to. There was the positive discovery of who Jesus was.

There was the rebuking of everything that went against that. Now, this morning, in the Murray-McShane readings—and I hope many of you use the McShane readings through the year. I know that many of you do. It's just a plug, as I'm going past, since we're talking about the Bible. Some of you have read through in a year.

Some of you, like me, it takes about two years to achieve it, because of how many times I failed. But anyway, I get through in the end. And today, some of you read 1 Kings chapter 22. And you will agree with me now how the Bible ties in when our hearts and minds are open to it.

I can't go through it. It's got tons of verses, fifty or sixty verses. But the kings of Judah and Israel are coming together to decide whether they should engage in a battle. And so they bring together the prophets. And the prophets, some four hundred men, are asked the question, Shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?

The answer is, Let's go for it. Jehoshaphat says, You know, I wonder whether this is just right. He says, Is there not a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of? So we've got all these prophets telling him what to do. Isn't there a prophet of the LORD?

Interesting distinction, isn't it? Just because somebody calls themselves a prophet doesn't make them a prophet. The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him, because he never prophesies anything good about me but always bad.

He is Micaiah the son of Imlah. And you could go home and read 1 Kings 22, instead of the plain dealer. And you will discover the amazing unfolding of the story, which has to do with the necessity of rebuke. Four hundred fellows said, Yes, yes, yes.

One guy, in the most unpopular position, said, Mm-mm. And that, of course, was the task given to Micaiah, the prophet of God. Now, if it addresses what we're believing, it also addresses how we're behaving, doesn't it? And you will notice how it goes from the positive to the negative, correcting and rebuking, and then he goes from the negative to the positive.

It's not particularly important, but I thought I'd point it out. Correcting and training in righteousness. The word here for correcting, epanorthosen, is a word that is descriptive of mending or rebuilding something the way a ship would be brought into dry dock in order that it might be refitted for its journeys on the ocean.

It is ortho, which means straight, and doxa, which means opinion in view, to remind us that this is the same root which is given as orthopedics or orthodontics. Now, what Paul is saying to Timothy is this. If you want to be sound and healthy, then you will be sound and healthy as you are corrected and brought into line by the truth of God's Word.

Let me say that to you again, because it is precious important. If we would be sound and healthy in terms of our spiritual pilgrimage, the mechanism, the supreme mechanism which God employs to make us both sound and healthy is the correcting, the bringing into line by the truth of the Bible. And this, then, is how any of us ought to determine whether the counsel we are receiving from whatever source is counsel to which we should pay attention. Somebody says, Well, I think the course of action is X or Y. Are we then just to follow that out by dint of the letters after their name or the fact of their notoriety?

No. Every counsel that we receive should be brought and passed through the sieve of the Bible. And that which is truly biblical and is retainable, we may chew on and pursue.

And that which falls through should be left completely alone. You're listening to Truth for Life Weekend. Alistair Begg is continuing a series titled Why Bother with the Bible?

We'll hear more from Alistair next weekend. As we're learning in this study, it is vitally important for us to depend on Scripture. And we've selected a book that we want to recommend to you today, a biography of a woman who trusted entirely on God's truth to guide her life. It's the biography of doctor and British missionary, Helen Roseveare. You'll be excited to hear that this is a children's book.

It's one you can share with a preschooler or a young school-aged child. And together you'll learn about Helen's remarkable journey, how she dedicated her life to serving God in what used to be called the Belgian Congo. For more information about the book, Helen Roseveare, the doctor who kept going no matter what, visit our website at slash donate. By the way, did you know Alistair writes a letter each month where he shares some of the thoughts that are on his mind. It covers a wide variety of topics, sometimes shares about experiences from his recent travels. You can subscribe to this letter electronically each month. It's free, comes directly to your email inbox around the first of every month. Sign up for it by going to slash lists.

I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for setting aside part of your weekend to study the Bible with us. Next weekend we'll find out why it takes a whole Bible to make a whole Christian. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-10 08:54:30 / 2024-02-10 09:03:12 / 9

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