12 Keys to Spiritual Maturity: In Love with Scripture

Sermon by Derek Thomas on July 30, 2001

2 Timothy 3:10-17

12
Keys to Spiritual Maturity:

In
Love with Scripture
– #6

2
T
imothy 3:10-17

There
are few greater privileges than to have the Bible in one’s own language. Over
450 years ago, Erasmus expressed a hope that some day the farmer as he followed
the plough and the weaver as he sat at the loom would cheer themselves as they
studied the message of Scripture. Equally, William Tyndale longed to give the
English-speaking people the Bible in their own language. Arguing once with a man
who disclaimed this hope he said, “If God spare my life, ere many years I will
cause a boy that drives the plough to know of the Scripture than you do.” In
accomplishing that very thing he was to give his life–burnt at the stake!

Alexander
Solzhenitsyn in his book One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich describes
how a prisoner, Ivan Denisovich, wakes in the morning to hear a fellow prisoner
recite very softly a portion of Scripture which he is reading from a little book
which he has managed to hide and be undetected, despite the many searches.

2 Timothy is a
deeply significant letter. It prepares the church for the future without the
direct guidance of apostles, the “generals” of the New Testament church.
Where would the church find equipment for service once their leaders were
gone? The answer that Paul gives is that the source of all knowledge and
guidance, indeed, everything that we ever need to know about how to glorify God
is to be found within the pages of Scripture. In this passage (2 Timothy
3:10-17), Paul He stresses the divine origin and character of Scripture.
Scripture is God-breathed. It bears the quality of having been exhaled (expiration,
rather than inspiration). The Scripture’s authority and trustworthiness
stem from this.

But Paul is not
content with merely alluding to Scripture’s divine origin; he also expresses
its four-fold usefulness. It is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting
and training in righteousness.

1.
GOD’S WORD IS THE SCRIPTURES

The
passage we are studying is possibly the most important testimony to the
Scripture’s divine origin anywhere in the Bible. It provides us with a
testimony as what the Bible thinks of itself. In quick succession, it makes
several significant statements:

i.
Scripture
is inspired by God
.
Literally, it is God-breathed. It is God’s exhalation (rather
than inhalation–which is what inspired might convey). Think of
the sight of water vapor as you exhale on a cold, frosty morning and you will
get the right idea. Consequently, what Scripture says, God says.
The Bible is God talking.

ii.
All
Scripture is inspired
.
This is what we mean when we allude to the plenary nature of inspiration. All
the books in the canon of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, is equally
inspired. Every detail, every “jot and tittle.” Pilgrim’s Progress is a
great book, but it is not inspired in this sense.

iii.
All
Scripture is infallible/inerrant
.
Because the Bible is from God and God cannot lie, Scripture must be infallible.
It is a necessary deduction. As the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it:
“The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and
obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon
God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be
received, because it is the Word of God” (1:4).

Some
find this objectionable, regarding it as bibliolatry. But this is misguided.
If we worship Jesus, we have to ask, “What view of the Bible did Jesus
have?” and conform our view to His. And the question has a simple
answer. When He was tempted by a full frontal attack of the enemy on His person
and mission, what did He do? He cited Deuteronomy, three times.
Each time, saying, “It is written…”
When folk are arguing about divorce, or about the right view of the
Sabbath, He cites the Bible. He says to His opponents, “You err, not knowing
the Scriptures”. On the road to
Emmaus when those two disciples are forlorn and the bottom has dropped out of
their lives, what does He do? He
takes them through the Scriptures, “O fools and slow of heart to believe
everything the Scriptures have spoken.” When
He hung upon the cross, He is citing Psalms. He never appeals to anything else.
There is no doubting it. Jesus
believed the Scriptures to be the infallible word of God. And we have no choice
but to believe the same. If you believe in Jesus as the Lord of your life, then
you must believe what He believes. If you call yourself a Christian, you must
love the Bible like He loved the Bible.

2. GOD’S SON IS MADE KNOWN BY GOD’S WORD
v15

The 7-mile Emmaus Road journey teaches us many things. The despair as
Cleopas and his companion (MARY — his wife?), trundle away from Jerusalem is
evident on their faces. They hear footsteps and suddenly a stranger is asking
them what appears to be a silly question as to the reason for the dejection.
Where had this man been the last few days? Certainly not in Jerusalem when Jesus
had been arrested, tried and executed. The source of all their hopes had been
eliminated and life held nothing but bitterness for them now. Hence their
dejection. But the stranger persisted: “And beginning with Moses and all the
prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.”
(Luke 24:27). And their hearts burned as they listened! (v. 32).

We
must never lose sight of this as we read Scriptures. Jesus is the focal point of
Scripture. The message of redemptive history from Genesis to Revelation is the
message of salvation through faith in God’s Son. I don’t mean that every
verse specifically refers to Jesus in the most tangible fashion; but every verse
tells of what God has been doing, or what God is doing, or what God will yet do
in the accomplishment of His great purpose to save a people for Himself. The
Bible is the story, one way or another, of what is pronounced in Genesis 3:15:
the seed of the woman will crush the head of Satan.

If
you are eager to know how you can be saved, go and read the Scriptures. If you
want to know how to please Jesus, go and read the Scriptures. What makes us
fruitful? Being like Christ. How de we become like Him?
By knowing Him better. And
Scripture is the chief instrument to do just that.

3.
GOD’S PEOPLE ARE EQUIPPED BY GOD’S WORD

By reading and studying the Scriptures, the “the man of God” may be
“thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17).
Paul’s isn’t generalizing by using the expression, “man of
God.” It is an Old Testament designation for a prophet. Paul is thinking
of Timothy in particular, suggesting that when he has left this world,
the work of the prophets goes on through Timothy’s ministry. This Bible
(actually it is the Old Testament he has in mind!) is specifically designed to
shape Timothy into a “man of God.” Timothy
may well have needed to hear that. He
was probably far too doubting of his own abilities and usefulness. Of course, in himself, he had every reason to be.
But armed with the Scriptures and the power of the Spirit, there is
stopping what he may be able to accomplish.

The
King James Version rendered the expression “thoroughly equipped” by the word
“perfect.” The Scriptures are able to make you complete. Complete!
The Scriptures are sufficient to make the man of God perfect. How far can the
Scriptures take you? They can take you to total maturity, that is to “be
thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). What lies before
us? What duties, challenges and sacrifices will we be called upon to meet?
The Bible will completely equip us for them. How may we grow and put away
childish things? How can we become mature men and women? How will we become
wise? How may we become conformed to the image of Christ? Through the
Bible – that is the divine way. The Scripture sanctifies and perfects what is
imperfect. It thoroughly enables us for the challenge of every good work in
whatever God asks us to do. Every mountain God asks us to climb, every burden
God asks us to bear, every service God asks us to give, every pressure God asks
us to endure, every sacrifice God asks us to make – the Scriptures can enable us
to do it all by comprehensively preparing us for every single good work. They
tell us how to do it, why we should do it, give us strength for the task, and
they also warn us how not to do it. The Scriptures will complete that good work
which God has begun in us. The Bible helps us to put away childish things. The
Bible saves a man from being a wimp, and delivers him from being a nerd. It
transforms him into being “the man of God … thoroughly equipped for every
good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). It is a supernatural blessing to have the Bible.

This
completeness involves reshaping four facets of Timothy’s life, all of which
are reflected by the individual terms employed:

i) Teaching, instructing — the mind and out thinking
ii) Rebuking, convincing — educate the conscience and our
willing
iii) Correcting, healing the personality and our feeling
iv) training — to transform the life-style and our living

The Bible molds us into the shape God wants us to
be. Our prayer, as we study the Scriptures ought to be: “Teach me, rebuke me,
correct and heal me; then send me forth as a trained disciple of Jesus Christ to
his bidding.”

Nothing
can help us cope with our emotional problems like the Bible can. Don’t ever put
yourself down because you seem to be failing to overcome a painful shyness, or
because of a depression that the doctors and pharmacists are helping, or because
of a worrying disposition, irrational phobias and anxieties. Don’t rubbish
yourself. God bears with people like that. God has greatly used people like
this. David Brainerd was an extraordinary evangelist, and William Cowper one of
the greatest of all hymnists. Both suffered from melancholy. B.B.Warfield’s wife
was an invalid throughout their marriage, but her husband’s care for her did not
prevent his being an eminent defender of the Christian faith. It might even have
enriched it.

The
Word of God comes in all its rich divine authority and scrutinizes our lives,
challenging them, encouraging and helping us to believe the truth and through
this finding love, joy, peace, contentment and deliverance from despair. There
is no secret to living the “Happy Christian Life.” Know the Bible. Sit
at the feet of this Wonderful Counselor and have Him speak to you, challenging
you, and then doing what he has said.

4. GOD’S CHURCH IS SUSTAINED BY GOD’S WORD
(
3:10-15)

There
is an intriguing context to this passage of Scripture. Paul tells us that the
objective reality is subjectively confirmed by experimental proof: twice ha says
to Timothy, “you know!” (v.10, 14). Timothy had seen how the Scriptures had
changed the lives of his family, the congregation, and Paul! From his parents
mixed marriage to the sufferings of the apostle Paul, Timothy witnessed at close
quarters the effect of the Bible on the lives of God’s people. He saw the word
at work. He saw what it could it
do! He saw how the church is kept
and nourished and revitalized by the Word, the Scriptures.
From infancy he had noticed the way the Bible helped Christians grow.
Timothy himself, to cite Calvin, “drank in godliness with his mother’s
milk”

Could it be true, that the reason
you we at sea, is because we are not abiding in the Word of God?
Thomas Watson, the English puritan, once put it this way: “Think
in every line you read that God is speaking to you.”

The greatest difficulty of all, is
not the Word itself, but our own appetites–or lack of appetite! We read the
opening psalm in the book of Psalms and we meet there the blessed man. We are
told that, “His delight is in the law of the Lord and in that law does he
meditate day and night”. Here is a man who really loves the Bible.
Now that is a searching test of the Christianity of any man, not only that we
have the correct revealed doctrine of Scripture, and read it diligently every
day, and sit under the best preaching that we can hear each Sunday, but more
than all those things, that we actually to love it, that we have fallen in love
with the Bible. Now, is that our relationship to Scripture? Is it not true that
sometimes our preference is for other literature, that the delight has shifted
from divine oracles to some devotional book or a biography.

One of the intriguing things is what
some people say they do for relaxation. Now when a person relaxes he does
something he loves doing. Do you say, “I study the Bible because I have to,
because it is food for my faith, it is part of my discipline, but to relax I do
something else”? Then that whole element of delight has passed away and we
have ceased turning to God’s Word for pleasure. When we want delight we go to
something else; but we go to God’s Word for duty, discipline and information.
Before we know where we are, we have ceased to delight in the law of the Lord.

I think increasingly we make some
distinction between our religion and our affections. There are people who would
never think of coming to a Christian conference for a holiday, who would never
consider the prayer meeting as a night out. We have lost this commitment to the
delights of the Word of God, the joy of our devotion. But the blessed man who is
described for us at the beginning of the book of Psalms delights in the law of
the Lord. His pleasure is religion. There is no dichotomy between his faith and
his enjoyment. His chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him. That is his
preferred occupation. When he has time you will find him reading the Bible and
meditating on it. He is reflecting on the law of God. He loves the Bible!
Sometimes when he finishes reading it he will hug it to his chest as his
greatest treasure. God’s infallible word can take his breath away. He is
intrigued by it day by day, never growing weary of it, but increasingly struck
by the evidences of its inspiration, the marvelous accuracy of every word, the
complexity of so many of its statements, its stirring concepts, even its
remarkable use of prepositions. He is moved by the details of its language and
he is quite taken up by Scripture. Here is a man loving the Bible; he is
enthused by Scripture. It is a miraculous book that we may yet handle and weigh.
It is one of those tangible proofs that God exists, that God is. It is the great
evidence for the reality of God. We worship the God who inspired this Book. So
the Christian is in love with the Word of God.

There is nothing like the power of
affection to strengthen desire. A youth may struggle to learn the language of a
foreign country in school to little avail, but if he falls in love with a girl
from that land how strong is his appetite for mastering its language. The love
of Christ is the strongest constraint to knowing the Scriptures and if we have
little desire for the Bible we should ask if we indeed know the Savior or if our
first love has been left. Let us begin here, let us be sure that we are in love
with the Word of God: ‘0 how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day’
[Psalm 119.97). Does not this create and maintain our desire to read the Bible?

O may these heav’nly pages be
My ever dear delight;
And still new beauties may I see,
And still increasing light

Anne Steel

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