Music playing. It is surprisingly easy to become lax about reading or even teaching the Bible. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg explores some important warnings and reminders from the Apostle Paul. He explains how to get the most out of our time in God's Word. We're looking at 2 Timothy chapter 3, focusing on verses 16 and 17. Now, from the very beginning of this letter, Paul has been encouraging and exhorting Timothy to be a faithful and useful minister of the gospel. In chapter 2, he says that some, like Hymenaeus and Philetus, they've actually swerved from the truth. In chapter 3, he identifies those who are men of corrupt mind, who are disqualified as far as the faith is concerned, and the bad part about it or the worst part about it is that these individuals are leading other people astray. He's going to reach, if you like, the high point of his letter in the beginning of chapter 4, and as Timothy anticipates ministering in an environment where people are going to, says Paul, turn away from the truth and wander into myths. Timothy must be absolutely clear in his heart and mind that if he is going to navigate these stormy waters and ensure that he doesn't run aground, as it were, on the sandbars of confusion or wreck the vessel of his life and ministry on the rocks of compromise, then he is going to have to pay very careful attention to the words that Paul has provided for him, the commitments that he is asking Timothy to make.
Can I just remind you of them? And I hope many of you will say, got it, got it, got it. Some of you may have to look again to reinforce it for you. But from the very beginning, he says to Timothy, I want you to make sure that you fan into flame the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of hands. In other words, you have been called to this ministry. You didn't volunteer for it.
It wasn't a bright idea that you had some Tuesday afternoon, and you said, Oh, I think I'd like to be one of those. No, you were given a gift, and you were set apart. And that gift is a privilege, but it is also a responsibility.
And your giftedness needs to be exercised, needs to be worked on, needs to be quickened and enabled. That's the first thing he says. Then he immediately says in verse 8 of chapter 1, And I don't want you to be ashamed of the gospel. I don't want you to be ashamed of Jesus.
And I don't want you to be ashamed of me. That's why he then goes on—and we're still not out of chapter 1—to say, Keep the pattern of sound words. You're not responsible for making it up, Timothy. You don't have to become a smart aleck.
You don't have to become peculiarly creative. Just stick with the program. And then he changes the method, and he says, And guard the good deposit. Guard the good deposit. And he says, And look after yourself. Look after yourself.
Because not only is it possible, Timothy, that you could go and shipwreck doctrinally in terms of your grasp of biblical truth, but you could also go south morally. And while you're at it, make sure that you work hard at these things. Present yourself to God as a workman who doesn't need to be ashamed. And in the midst of all of that, it is imperative that you take the truth that I'm entrusting to you, and you make sure that it gets safely into the hands of faithful men, who in turn will then get it into the hands of others who will be in the process of teaching.
Well, it's a long list, and that's not even all of it. Timothy might be discouraged, were it not for the fact that he never gives to him his responsibilities without reminding him of his resources. And that's why he begins, chapter 2, strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. In one sense, this is up to you, Timothy. You're supposed to do the work. You're supposed to guard against temptation.
You're supposed to make sure that the baton is being passed safely into the hands of others. But remember, when you do this, that you are strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Now, what he wants him to do, as we'll see in chapter 4, is he wants him to preach the Word. That's the big charge that he's leading up to. I think it's the sort of crescendo, if you like, in the symphony of truth. He's about to say to him in verse 2 of chapter 4, Preach the Word.
Be ready in season, out of season. Then he goes on and tells him the characteristics of his preaching. Now, if he's going to do this, Paul recognizes that it is of fundamental importance that Timothy is clear about the origin of the Scripture that he teaches, and the power of the Scripture that he teaches, and the result that flows from teaching that Scripture. He needs to understand that all of Scripture is breathed out by God. In verse 15, we noted that his emphasis is on the sacred writings. We take that to be the Old Testament primarily. And then in verse 16, it is expanded to include some of the material that is already being regarded as the New Testament writings. If you go back two pages into 1 Timothy chapter 5, to explain what I'm saying about verse 16.
In 1 Timothy 5, Paul gives instruction to the elders who rule well—they're responsible for the congregation— they should be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. And then he says—and let me tell you why—"for the Scripture says." So he's quoting Scripture.
Now, what do you have there? You have two quotes. One is a quote from Deuteronomy chapter 25, You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain. And the second one is a quote from Luke chapter 10 in the words of Jesus himself. So what Paul is actually pointing out is that the sayings of Jesus are now regarded as Scripture in the same way as the sayings of the Old Testament are regarded as Scripture. The other reference would be in 2 Peter, wherein 2 Peter—Peter is encouraging his readers in relationship to diligence in the Christian life— and in verse 15 he says, And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him. Remember what we said, that the Scriptures, as men spoke from God, as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit? As the wisdom given him, verse 16, as he does in all his letters, when he speaks in them of these matters, there are some things in them that are hard to understand, which is encouraging to know that Peter felt that way, which the ignorant and unstable, which we don't want to be, twist to their own destruction as they do the other Scriptures.
So what does he say? Well, he's confirming the fact that the writings of Paul are already at this point in the developing church regarded by him and by others as Scripture. So, when we reinforce this by reminding ourselves that Scripture, according to Paul here, is not the product of human invention, but it is ours by way of divine inspiration, that it was not in existence and then had power breathed into it, but it was brought into existence by the breath or the Spirit of God. Breath and the Spirit of God. Spirit equals breath.
It's a synonym. Now, I want to illustrate this in a number of ways, and I indulge your patience in doing so. Turn with me to the book of Genesis and to the beginning of the Bible and to the Garden of Eden. The opening chapters of the Bible are no more a scientific textbook than any of the rest of the Bible is.
But they are a historic record of these events that unfolded in the real time of the real lives of the real individuals, namely Adam and Eve. In verse 16 of chapter 2, after the Lord God had taken the man and put him in the garden to work it and to keep it, verse 16 of chapter 2 says, The Lord God commanded the man, saying, You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat. For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. Okay, that's pretty clear. There's a wonderful place here.
You can enjoy all of it except for this. Chapter 3 and verse 1, Now the serpent, the devil comes as a serpent, was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden? It's calling in question God's word, right?
And the woman sorts him out, as we would expect. And the woman said to the serpent, No, we may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden. But God said, You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.
And here we go. But the serpent said to the woman, You won't die. The serpent still says to people, You're not going to die. Hinduism is built on the whole notion that you're not going to die. Reincarnation screams, You're not going to die.
But every person that lives in the world knows they are going to die. But it doesn't stop them from being a liar and the father of all who tell lies. Now the reason I start here is because that is where we must start in the ongoing battle that runs through the entire Scriptures and through the entirety of humanity throughout all of church history to this day.
And here we find ourselves in the 21st century in the Western world, and what do we discover? We discover that the antagonism of the evil one is directed supremely to the person of Christ, not to religion in general, and expressly to those who would seek to affirm that the Bible is not a human invention, but it is a divine gift, it is a gift of revelation, that it is unerring in all that it teaches, and that it is to be believed and it is to be obeyed, and it is a book about salvation, and salvation belongs only to this God who has written this book, and therefore there is no one else to whom we can go who has the words of eternal life. And the devil comes from every angle and in every way and says, No, you don't have to believe that. That isn't true.
You shouldn't believe that stuff. Sometimes as a result of emotional attacks, sometimes as a result of moral attacks, often in terms of intellectual attacks. Every institution that I know of, Christian institution, that has sought for intellectual acceptance with those who oppose the Bible vociferously has ended up the Greek, because the Bible may be substantiated, may be affirmed. We do not need to remove our brains in order to come to these convictions.
It is entirely rational, as we've said in the past, but the fact of the matter is that the quest for intellectual acceptance in the academy, in a world that is starting from the point of unbelief, inevitably leads institutions to a bad place. Who else would we go to? The disciples said to Jesus, when he said to them, Would you like to go away? They said, Well, where would we go? You have the words of eternal life. Where are the words of eternal life?
In the Scriptures. Give up on the Scriptures, and you're finished. Your institution is finished. Your seminary is finished.
Your church is finished. Well, it may take a hundred years before it all becomes apparent, but I guarantee it will happen. This is a consuming passion that we will not allow either one of us, any one of us, to succumb to the temptation to give up on that which is represented in historical, orthodox, biblical Christianity. And all you need to do is stay awake, and you will discover that the challenge is being fought as I speak to you today, not as a result of the inroads of a liberalism that has come from 19th century Germany, but as a result of a liberalism which is incipient in the contemporary evangelical world, where they seek to dismantle the very Scriptures which provide the foundation upon which we take our stand. That's why when Paul says to Timothy, Timothy, all Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable, its profitability is directly tied to its origin.
Now, profitable for what? Well, profitable because it teaches us what to believe. It also teaches us what not to believe.
It reproves us. It teaches us how to live and how not to live. So in other words, it involves both our belief and our behavior. The Scriptures moderate the two. We're not supposed to become big sort of eggheads, divorced from the living of life. We're not supposed to be engaged in, well, we're involved in the living of life, but we're not really into that doctrinal stuff.
No, no. It's profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness in order that our lives might be lived out on the strength of the belief that we affirm. The Bible is profitable for teaching, okay? That means you can learn from it. That means you're supposed to learn from it.
That means that when you read the Bible, you're not reading the Bible to get a funny feeling in your tummy or to get some kind of divine afflatus that makes you go, Whoo! You're actually—this is teaching. This is where you learn things, you think, you make deductions. You say, Well, this is so, therefore this follows.
This cannot be so, therefore I can't hold that position, and so on. And when we read the Bible, Paul tells us in Romans 15 that everything that was written in the past was written for our instruction so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope. So that all of the Old Testament stuff that some of us have been reading at the moment is part of the Maury McShane readings is profitable for teaching. Now, when I grew up in Scotland, and in England for that matter, I had Scripture Union notes.
I think I usually got them from school. And you put them in your Bible, and you read the Scripture passage for the day, and it all had a little layout. It said, No, you start, you pray, make the book lift me, O Lord, show me yourself within your word.
That's where I get that little piece from. And then you're supposed to read, and then you're supposed to M-A-P. You're supposed to meditate, you're supposed to apply, and you're supposed to pray again. Well, this was very helpful to me as a kid, because I thought that what you're supposed to do when you read the Bible is, you read the Bible and wait till it hits you.
And if it doesn't hit you, then you just fold it up and don't worry about it. Then someone says, No, that's not how you read the Bible. You read the Bible, and you ask certain questions when you read the Bible.
And they gave you the questions. So they said, as you read this passage of the Bible, for example, ask yourself, Does this passage teach me anything about God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit? You read a certain passage, it doesn't.
Say, Okay, no, it doesn't. Another one says, Yes, it teaches me something about Jesus, that he died for my sins. Take a note of that.
Jesus died for my sins. I learned that today. Also, they encouraged us to say, As you read this passage of Scripture, ask yourself, Is there a command to be obeyed? Is there a promise to be trusted?
Is there a warning to be heeded? So I said to myself this week as I was recalling that, I said, Well, how does that work with that stuff in 2 Kings? Because if you've been doing 2 Kings, you're like, Whoa! 2 Kings! I mean, 1 Kings, and then now 2 Kings. So I decided, Well, I'll go back and just look at it again.
And so, let me just show you something here. 2 Kings 17 is a really low spot, and then 18, it picks up, because you have the kingly rule of Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, the king of Judah, he began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for twenty-nine years. And here's the thing we're told about him, not only who his mom was and so on, but he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord according to all that David his father had done.
What does that mean? Well, he removed the high places, all the paganism. He broke the altars. He cut down the asherah. He broke in pieces the bronze servant that Moses had made.
Why? Because the people had turned it into a shrine. But verse 5, he trusted in the Lord the God of Israel, and there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord, he didn't depart from following him, he kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses, and the Lord was with him, and wherever he went out he prospered.
It's just absolutely amazing. So you read that, and you say, Okay, is there an example to follow? Yes, the example of Hezekiah. To recognize that this is the way you follow God. You follow God wholeheartedly. This is the example of the kind of leadership that should be and so on. And then you go forward and you get through. Incidentally, there's a wonderful little section that I'll leave to you, because he takes ill in chapter 20, and he's going to die, and he asks for extra time.
But here's the issue. You get to chapter 21, after he's had his extension, he then dies, and Manasseh takes over. Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign. He reigned for fifty-five years. His dad reigned for twenty-nine, he reigned for fifty-five. You say, Well, what a wonderful dad!
What a terrific example! Goodness gracious, I can't wait to read about Manasseh's reign. He must really have… And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. According to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed. He erected the altars for Baal. He made an asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and he worshiped all the host of heaven and served them, and he built altars in the house of the Lord. He built altars for the host of heaven, and he burned his son as an offering and used fortune telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers, and he did much evil in the sight of the Lord. Somebody would have looked on the reign of Hezekiah and said, You know, hey, it's a home run.
Hezekiah's got it set up, everything's perfect, and presumably for the foreseeable future it's going to be fine. That's exactly what people said in churches that I could take you to in Scotland and England. They're going to tell you, You know the minister who used to be in here, Mr. So-and-so? What a minister he was.
Oh, true, right down the line. And someone said, Where is he now? Oh, he died. Yeah, well, who took over? Well, this other guy took over.
So what happened? Well, he didn't believe. He didn't preach. He didn't hold the line. He wasn't orthodox.
The place is empty. In order to ensure that we as a church do not go that road, do not go the road that other institutions have gone and continue to go, that does not happen by chance. And it does not happen simply because of the orthodoxy over a long period of time.
It has to be purposeful, and it has to be focused. So as you pray, and as you observe what's being said, and as you participate in the dialogue, and as you contribute along the way, remember this. Because remember, Uzziah was gloriously helped until he became strong.
But when he became strong, he grew proud to his own destruction. May God save me from that. May God save us from that.
May God save us, one and all. A message like the one we've heard today touches at the very heart of our mission here at Truth for Life. If you've listened to this program for any length of time, you're aware that like the Apostle Paul, we understand how important it is to teach the Bible so that unbelievers will be converted, believers will be established, and in turn, local churches will be strengthened. Even as we're in the early months of a new year, we are so grateful for how God is expanding the ministry of Truth for Life to reach a growing international audience. We're hearing from more people in Canada.
In fact, Canada is one of the top countries outside the U.S. where people are responding to our invitation to download free teaching from Truth for Life. Things like e-books, audio books, sermon series from Alistair, subscribing to our devotional reading plans. It's the faithful prayers and giving that comes from listeners like you that makes this daily program and all of our free resources online possible. Thank you. And if you're a listener who would like to support the work of the Gospel through Truth for Life, it's easy to do that. Go to truthforlife.org slash donate.
I'm Bob Lapine. Tomorrow we'll see why if you long to hear God speak, you have to read His Word. No other book will suffice. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
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