Sermon Manuscript . . .
The Necessity to Depend on God’s Word
The hope for God’s people to completely rely on God’s truth in an age of error
2 Timothy 3:16-17
Interviewing pastoral candidates, occasionally we meet a man who knows God’s Word. Take the seminary student itching to preach, who was asked some candidating questions. The leadership asked him, “What’s your favorite New Testament parable? He said, “The Good Samaritan.” So they asked him to recite it and this is what the young man said.
“Once there was this man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho and he fell among thorns. And the thorns sprung up and choked him. And as he went on, he didn’t have any money, but he met the queen of Sheba and she gave him a 1,000 talons of gold. And they got into a chariot and he was driving furiously. But as he was driving under a big juniper tree, his hair got caught on a limb.
“And he hung there many days, but the ravens brought him food to eat and water to drink. And he ate 500 loaves of bread and two fish. Finally one night, he was hanging there asleep and his wife Delilah came along and she cut off his hair and he fell on stony ground. Yet when he got up, it began to rain and it rained forty days and forty nights.
“And he hid himself in a cave and lived on locust and wild honey. When he left, he met a servant who said, “Come take supper at my house.” He made an excuse and said, “I won’t–I married a wife and I can’t eat with you.” But the servant went out in the highways and the hedges and compelled him to come in.
“Then, after supper he continued to travel. He came on down to Jericho and after he got there, he looked out and saw old Queen Jezebel was sitting way up high in the windows and she laughed at him. And he said, ‘Throw her down!’ And they threw her down and he said, ‘Throw her down again!’ And they threw her down seventy times seven.
“And of the fragments that remained, they picked up twelve baskets full, besides the women and children. And then they said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’ Now whose wife do you think she will be at the judgment day? The End.”
It is really important for those who preach to know God’s Word. But how many of you are desperate to know God’s Word accurately? What is the Bible to you? How many of you have successfully followed a map to arrive at a location? Who of you here have read the instructions in order to assemble an item? How many of you have attempted to carry on a long-distance relationship? Who of you believe you’re currently genuinely intimate with Christ? Who of you believe you know Christ better in 2018, than you did in 2017?
All those questions relate to the Word of God–the Bible. The Bible is your map, your instructions, your vehicle of intimacy, your spiritual food, your path to know God, and the only way to live in God’s will. The Bible breaks hard hearts, and heals broken hearts. The Bible is the only book that contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers.
Do you understand what this book is–1,189 chapters in the Bible, 929 in the Old Testament and 260 in the New Testament? The Bible is the book which declares the Kingdom of God and rule of Christ overall. The Bible is the special revelation of God. You know what that means? Revelation is God revealing Himself.
REVELATION God’s disclosure of Himself to mankind
Revelation means to uncover or unveil–to display something that was unknown. God’s revelation is done generally through nature and history, which is available to all people, leaving sinners without an excuse, resulting in condemnation. But God also gave us special revelation which is found in Christ and the Bible, available to God’s elect, leaving them with a remedy, resulting in salvation.
God loves us so much, He has not left us in a dark room to grope our way to God, but God turned on the light to reveal Himself to humankind through His Son and His Word. Second Peter 1:20 and 21, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
INSPIRATION The Holy Spirit wrote through the biblical writers, using their own languages, culture and individual personalities, resulting in God’s Word without error in the original
God reveals himself in the Bible. God accomplished this through inspiration. God’s Word is God’s words–that’s our passage today. Second Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God.” Inspired means God-breathed.
God didn’t dictate to the writers. God didn’t merely inspire doctrinal truth, then skip historical facts. God didn’t merely inspire general thoughts or concepts—no. Inspiration applies to every letter of every word and all parts of Scripture. Matthew 5:17 to 20, “Not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.” There are 774,746 words in the Bible, each one of them are God-breathed, inspired–God’s Word. This results in an inerrant Bible. The Scriptures are totally without error in the original.
INERRANCY is God’s superintendence of the human authors, so that using their own individual personalities they composed and recorded, without error, His revelation to man in the words of the original autographs.
The Bible claims to be inerrant–it is perfect. And the character of God claims inerrancy, as God cannot lie. You know what the Bible says, Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man that He should lie.” Malachi 3:6, “For I the Lord do not change.” John 10:34 to 36, “The Scripture cannot be broken.” And John 17:17, “Thy word is truth.”
God’s Spirit was the superintendent of the inscripturation of the Bible, resulting in a Bible without error. There are 3,566,480 letters in the Bible–each one of them inerrant in the original. But how do we know what belongs in the Bible–what should be a part of the biblical canon?
CANONICITY God saw fit to use specific men to record His Scripture–in the Old Testament, His prophets, and in the New Testament, His apostles.
The Early Church accepted the 66 books. The Early Church Fathers embraced the 66 books. In each book, the subject matter harmonized with the Scripture as a whole and the 66 books were impactful in the lives of genuine believers. But the main reason we know a book belongs in our Bible was its authorship.
For the New Testament, just ask–was it written by an apostle or under the authority of an apostle? Matthew was an apostle, Mark was associated with Paul then Peter, Luke was associated with Paul, John was an apostle, Paul was an apostle, Peter was an apostle, Jude was a half-brother of Christ, James was a half-brother of Christ.
The Scriptures were “… built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 2:20). Jesus promised His men in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” Jesus promised the future superintendence of His human authors.
The apostles themselves knew when they were writing Scripture. Peter even says this of the apostle Paul, “Just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15 and 16).
Peter calls Paul’s writings Scripture. And now, as declared by Jude and many other New Testament writers, the canon is closed. There are no more apostles and no more revelation is being given. Jude 3, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”
AUTHORITY God is the absolute and final authority in regard to all things, so the Bible is the revelation of His will to His children.
The Bible being closed to more revelation doesn’t minimize the power of God’s Word. In fact, the Bible has become the authority of the genuine Christian’s life. The Word of God is fully and totally authoritative for determining the beliefs and practices of all people, meaning this. The Scriptures were not given for our information, but for our transformation.
ILLUMINATION The operation of the Holy Spirit whereby He makes known to regenerate men the spiritual content, significance, application, and truth of the Bible.
God actually supernaturally causes His children to be able to understand the Scripture. First Corinthians 2:14 to 15, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man.”
The unsaved don’t get it–but through study, biblical teaching, and the unique work of the Holy Spirit in you, a genuine Christian can make the connection between the text of Scripture and their life. The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible. You must learn this book–read it, memorize it, meditate on it. As A W Tozer put it, “Whatever keeps me from my Bible is my enemy, however harmless it may appear to me.”
Songs don’t save you, feelings don’t save you, experiences don’t save you. But God’s Word alone, empowered by the Holy Spirit, can give you salvation. Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” And only the Bible can feed you, mature you, guide you, transform you to become more like Christ as a Christian. John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”
And in addition to the Word being the only path to come to Christ and become like Christ, Paul has been teaching Timothy that the Bible is our only hope for clarity. In an age of fuzziness–for truth in an age of error and for solidity in an age of uncertainty. The only way to survive in an age of error is to completely depend on God’s Word.
This is what Paul declares to Timothy in this familiar passage, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16 and 17). Paul is in a dark prison cell in Rome, awaiting sentencing and certain execution.
In this final letter to Timothy, who is ministering to intellectual Ephesus, he is helping Timothy to grow in courage in the midst of external persecution, which has just begun under Nero. And to grow in confidence in the midst of internal pressure from false teachers and make-believers in their midst. The false in Ephesus are teaching and embracing two errant gospels.
1 The false, liberal gospel of “just accept Christ and live anyway you like under grace”
2 The false, legalistic gospel of “to embrace Christ, you must keep all the Old Testament laws”
Paul just taught Timothy how to identify the character and conduct of the false teachers in verses 1 to 9, then how to correct the false teachers in verses 10 to 15. And today, what to count upon during this age of error—rest upon the inspired Word of God. Be certain of it.
Allow me to highlight some observations from the Greek text, to help you see the main focus of Paul in these two verses. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable [useful/helpful for teaching], for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that [purpose] the man of God may be adequate [fit, equipped] for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16 and 17).
There is one verb and one participle here, both found in verse 17. The main verb is may be or might be—“that the man of God may be adequate.” Paul is expressing hope that Timothy, all of God’s men, and all of God’s people might actively become fit, “equipped for every good work.” God hopes for you to rely on His Word so you can do His work His way–so that you’re equipped for His good labors. The hope is you might be adequate to accomplish God’s work using God’s Word.
The unique participle is “equipped”–calling us to be fully equipped, to be ready for anything. Most Christians today think they know the Bible better than they really do. Paul just told Timothy in verses 13 to 15 to learn the Word, develop convictions about the Word, and live the Word out in every aspect of his life.
So the only way to survive in an age of error is to completely rely on God’s Word. In verses 16 and 17, there are five uses of the word “for”–a preposition which generally means toward, telling us how the Scripture is useful. The Bible is helpful toward teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness and toward every true good work. It’s only God’s Word which will enable you to sail the truth on an ocean of lies.
The Bible is rich with truth. What will it take for you to daily drink from God’s Word? For John Bunyan, it took jail. He said, “I never knew all there was in the Bible until I spent those years in jail. I was constantly finding new treasures.” To accomplish anything for God, it must be according to His Word. Anything we do not do according to God’s Word is not empowered by God’s Spirit, and therefore worthless. So Paul charges Timothy to grow dependent upon God’s Word–for three reasons.
#1 The NATURE of the Word demands dependence
Read verse 16a, “All Scripture is inspired by God.” The unique nature of the Bible demands you depend upon it–the Bible is God-breathed! “All Scripture” here means both Old and New Testaments. We know that, because verse 15 uses the phrase, “the sacred writings”–which is a direct description of the Old Testament.
And the word “scripture” (“all scripture”) was used in the Early Church not only for the Old Testament, but also of God’s newly revealed Word, in what came to be called the New Testament. Remember Peter called Paul’s writings scripture in 2 Peter 3:15 to 16. So both Old Testament and New Testament—“all scripture is inspired by God.”
Inspiration did not come from the men who were divinely chosen to record the Scripture–inspiration comes only from God. Verse 16, “Inspired by God.” When those apostles were speaking or writing apart from God’s revelation, their thoughts, wisdom, and understanding were human and fallible. They were not inspired men, as if they had extraordinary artistic, literary, or musical genius.
Nor were they inspired men in the sense of being personal repositories of divine truth, which they could somehow dispense at will. Many human authors of Scripture penned other documents, but none of those writings exist today. And even if they were discovered, they would not carry the weight of Scripture. From 1 Corinthians 5:9 and 2 Corinthians 2:4, we know Paul wrote at least two other letters to the church at Corinth, but no copies of those letters exist.
Those letters were certainly godly and insightful; but they were not Scripture. Scripture, first of all and above all, is from God and about God. Verse 16, “by God”–it’s His self-revelation to fallen mankind. Again, the Holy Spirit wrote through the biblical writers using their own languages, culture and individual personalities, resulting in God’s Word without error in the original.
From Genesis through Revelation, God reveals His truth, His character, His attributes, and His divine plan to establish Himself as King over the earth and to accomplish redemption for His elect. The Bible is not a collection of man’s wisdom, man’s lofty ideas–not the prophets’ preferences or the apostles’ appraisals.
It is God’s truth inspired by God–the Bible is God’s own Word in His own words. The word “inspired” means God-breathed, and it occurs only here in the New Testament. “Inspired” indicates all Old Testament and New Testament Scripture, owes its origin and contents to the divine breath, the Spirit of God. The Bible is God’s own Word in His own words.
Paul tells Timothy to rely on the Scripture, because the nature of Scripture is divine in origin. That book in your lap is the very words of the God who made you–the God who controls every detail of your life. You must rely on the Bible to live in this world. When the Bible becomes a part of you, you’ll be less likely to come apart.
And the God-breathed Scripture demands you look only to this book for salvation. Look only to this book for sanctification. And look only to this book for glorification. And the nature of the author of this book is truth–thus it’s our only weapon against error and is the only way to remain true to God in the midst of a world of lies. But Paul also adds . . .
#2 The general BENEFITS of the Word demand dependence
Paul motivates Timothy to depend on God’s Word alone, by reminding him of the general benefits of God’s Word. In verse 16b, “and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” As Timothy faces external persecution and internal pressure from errorists, Paul reminds his disciple, God’s Word is helpful and useful–the Greek word for profitable.
“And profitable for” means useful, helpful, beneficial and advantageous. Paul says the Bible is what you need, Timothy. In the midst of external persecution, in the midst of internal attacks from false teachers and heretical doctrine–Paul says God’s Word is your answer. God’s Word is extremely valuable, powerful, beneficial.
FOR TEACHING The Bible helps you know what’s right
Teaching is referring to instruction in doctrinal truth. The Bible is the supreme source for intimate knowledge of the Triune God–you know Christ through this book. You learn of the Father’s character and decisions, the Son’s sacrifice and priorities, and the Spirit’s current ministry . . . only through God’s Word.
Teaching brings clarity and focus to our understanding of God and to our relationship with Him. The Word of God is our lens to see things clearly. And the teaching of the Word of God sharpens our focus. Like your optometrist who says, “Is it clearer here or here?” The Bible is always the clearest lens to seeing God and life clearly. “Timothy, the Bible aids through teaching.” The Bible, taught correctly, results in a sharp lens to see God and life in focus.
FOR REPROOF The Bible helps you get right
The Scripture is the source of helpful reproof. This is what Timothy desperately needed in Ephesus. Reproof is detecting and exposing all that is false. Reproof convicts all that is unholy. Reproof exposes ungodly men and exposes every religious error. Reproof is what my coaches did. “Don’t keep your head down. Don’t cut that direction. Don’t stand that way at the plate. Don’t dribble that way. Don’t expend yourself in the first round.”
My coaches exposed errors, so I could succeed in the game. The Bible is the beneficial way to correct errors so you can succeed in life. The Bible is the way to clean up error in the Church and error in your life—“for reproof.”
FOR CORRECTION The Bible helps you stay right
Correction is the idea of restoration. The Bible restores the fallen sinner to an upright position and sets the erring one again on the right path. The Bible is your map–shows you how to get back on to God’s path and remain in His will. Only the Bible can direct you to what is God’s will and always what is best. Then . . .
FOR TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS The Bible helps you live right
The Bible provides the discipline that is needed in the sphere of righteousness. The word “instruction” is literally child training. Like a child, every believer needs to be educated, trained and disciplined in righteousness so they may prosper in this world, where righteousness does not come naturally. The Bible is what matures an infant into becoming a true woman or man of God.
The Bible is the food necessary to grow strong and deep in Christ, so that you can live right–a life lived like Christ. Why? The only way to survive in an age of error is to rely completely on God’s Word. Paul teaches Timothy–his answer to his current battle with error inside the church is the Bible. Points 1 and 2 . . .
1 The NATURE of the Bible God’s own Word in His own words is powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword
2 The BENEFITS of God’s Word Will cause you to know what’s right, to get right, to stay right and live right
#3 The specific RESULTS of the Word demand dependence
Verse 17, “so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Paul gives a purpose, “so that,” describing the results of God’s Word.
The FOCUS of the Word is “the man of God”
The expression “the man of God” is either an official title, referring to an elder who preaches–the pastor/teacher. Or it denotes every believer viewed as belonging to God. If it is referring to everyone, it is because Paul has not been speaking about ministers in relation to the Word, but the work of the Scriptures generally. If it’s describing the preacher, it’s because Paul is talking to Timothy and his role in correcting the problems of Ephesus. But either way, the focus of the Word is to make you like Christ and to help you avoid error, by keeping you on the path of truth.
The HOPE of the Word is “may be”
“That the man of God may be”–this is Paul’s hope. The mood of the verb is subjunctive–the mood of possibility, not certainty. This is what Paul longs for Timothy. “If you depend on God’s Word, Timothy, then I anticipate you’ll be ready to deal with the external persecution and the internal pressure of heresy you’re facing in Ephesus.”
The FIT of the Word is “the man of God may be adequate”
Paul’s hope is for Timothy to grow capable, complete, and proficient–at what?
The IMPACT of the Word is to be “equipped”
“Equipped for every good work”–Timothy’s dependence on God’s Word, his depth in God’s Word, his trust in God’s Word will enable him to be capable and proficient to be “equipped”. Paul is hoping Timothy will be become furnished, finished, and complete in God’s Word, in order to accomplish . . .
The GOAL of the Word is “equipped for every good work”
The fifth “for”–the preposition pros, to accomplish “every good work.” Timothy has a big job in Ephesus. No labor or deed can be good unless it is done according to the Word of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit. As Timothy depends on the Holy Spirit, and ministers according to the Word of God, saturated in the Word, depending on the Bible, trusting in the truth of God’s Word, then he will be capable to accomplish the good works that must be done in Ephesus.
And not just some of the good works, but literally all of them–the easy ones and the hard ones. The ministry of the Word is what comforts and confronts, that restores and reproves, that establishes truth and eradicates error. “Stick with the Word, Timothy. It is God’s very words that benefit every believer and prepare you for doing the very deeds of Christ–true good works.
Depend on God’s Word, Christian. As one commentator said, “Where it is allowed to have its intended result, instruction in the Scripture will secure for every believer a continuous, growing, inward capacity and external readiness to accomplish everything that is pleasing to the Lord.” The only way to survive in an age of error is to completely depend on God’s Word.
LONG for God’s Word You don’t long for Christ unless you long for His Word. First Peter 2:2, “Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.”
LEARN God’s Word You don’t know Christ unless you know His Word. Be the Bereans of Acts 17:11, for “they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you.” The reading plan, or a chapter a day, or a paragraph per day–set your phone to audibly read the Word while you drive. Learn God’s Word.
LEAN on God’s Word You don’t trust Christ unless you depend on His Word. First Thessalonians 2:13, “We also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” With every trial and every test, find a verse and let God do the rest.
LIVE God’s Word You don’t live for Christ unless you live by His Word. John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” First John 2:4, “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” You not only need a reading plan, but an application plan. Each day, take one truth and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, seek to put that truth into practice.
Write it on a card, on your hand, make it pop up on your phone, but pursue living the Word every single day. James 1:22, “Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”
LOVE Christ through His Word You don’t love Christ unless you love His Word. John 14:23, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” You all know the plight of the national park bears, who’d become so used to people feeding them, they starved to death in winter.
Don’t do the same–learn how to feed yourself God’s Word. You all know one of the indicators of maturity for children is when they learn to feed themselves. Then a further indicator of maturity is when they learn to feed themselves healthy food. Some of you here need to return to the healthy habits of the past and feed your soul daily and feed it well.
Others of you need to begin to learn to feed yourself. Every FBC community group and every FBC ministry stands ready to help you learn how to daily feed yourself from God’s Word. The only way to survive in an age of error is to completely rely on God’s Word. Let’s pray.