Expository preaching from 2 Timothy 3:14-17, delivered July 30th, 2017
2 Timothy 3
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Many of us have been very blessed to have had access to so much teaching from the Bible. We can go to church, read good biblical books, listen to sermons, talk with friends who know and understand the Word, have family discussions about the Bible, listen to and sing good, solid, gospel-teaching songs, go to seminars, and on and on. In all of the existence of mankind, we have access to more good teaching, more truth from God than any other people have.
Now just because we have access to all of this doesn’t really mean a whole lot. We have access to good fresh vegetables too, but we don’t all take advantage of that daily. Access is good, but it is no substitute for pursuing, in this case, God’s truth.
For my entire life, I have had access to a lot of biblical truth. I grew up going to church. My family kept theological books in our home. I knew a lot of Christians who would have known a lot more than I did about biblical truth. But for many years, with so much available to me, I was just not very interested. Not interested unless I was in some kind of trouble or something. Maybe you can relate to that.
Well, Paul’s friend Timothy did not have all the resources in his first-century society that we have, but God had provided him with resources for his spiritual understanding and growth. And Paul thought it necessary to urge Timothy to remember what he had been taught, what he had learned. He had learned from other people and from reading, but Timothy needed encouragement to continue in what he had learned. Why do you think Paul took the time to remind Timothy of this – of what he had learned – and felt the need to urge him to continue in it?
Why? Because we are all, including Timothy, we are all capable and maybe even prone to wander away from truth. It is a sad thing really. And if we are thinking clearly it is even sort of shameful that we would know God, know God’s ways, His truth, and just lay it aside for a time, ignoring it.
Considering that it is God’s truth, when we ignore it for a time our excuses are really very lame. We say things like, “Well I have been really busy, I have been disorganized, I have been distracted,” or even, “I need a break from that,” or, “I have found this other thing that is more interesting.” We may put God’s Word aside as if it is an optional book, a novel or a biography. We may treat God’s Word as if it is just another book on the shelf, one of many to choose from. And so Paul, being wise and knowing Timothy’s tendency and ours too, he urges him to continue in what he has learned.
He says in verse 14, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned.” The phrase “as for you” is contrasting his desire for Timothy with those who have lost all desire for the things of God. In verse 13 Paul had said “evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” Paul doesn’t want Timothy to end up there. He does not want someone writing ten years down the road to include Timothy with those who are evil and imposters who have gone from bad to worse. God forbid that Timothy would end up there and God forbid that any of us will end up there.
But the truth is that ten, twenty years from now there will be some who are with us now who may turn from this faith, turn from God. That is a sobering thought. Who will it be? Paul doesn’t want Timothy there, I don’t want you there and I don’t want to be there either. So we can embrace Paul’s words, his urging and encouragement to continue in what we know to be true. It is important that we take this personally.
In verse 14 he urges Timothy in three ways. First is to continue in “what you have learned,” so the content of truth. Second is “what you have believed,” this is what you have embraced or firmly received as truth. And lastly even ”from whom you have learned it.”
Each of these are important. The first is content. Paul is speaking of sacred truth. The content of what we learn is important. Here is where we need to be careful and cautious, where we need to test all things to be sure they are consistent with or even better are rooted in God’s Word. It is content that comes from God’s Word.
As you know, and as Paul has been showing us in this book, there are many who really know little about God’s Word. Many who claim to speak for God who don’t even know God. You may think that is not a nice thing to say or even that I sound arrogant saying that. But it is not arrogant, it is a simple matter of hearing what is said and seeing if it is in line with the Word or if it is not. We need to be good students. We don’t test things by whether they sound good, or if they are presented eloquently, or any of that. The test is, is it from God’s Word or is it not? Content is very important.
Next though Paul says to continue in “what you have believed.” What is this? Well, no doubt Timothy heard a lot of junk, a lot of junk from false teachers that were even in his church. Timothy, like us, would have to test those things, he would have had to embrace what was taught or not. But after testing to see if it is God’s Word then he could embrace it or believe it. Paul is saying, “Continue to believe what you have tested and found to be true.” This is an important statement of believing truth. We must discern truth and then believe truth.
The next one is interesting. It is interesting that Paul would include this encouragement to remember from whom you have learned truth. “Whom” translates from a plural pronoun indicating that Timothy had been taught by several people. In verse 15 we see that it was from Timothy’s childhood that he had known sacred truth. Some taught and some possibly read. We know from chapter 1 verse 5 that he learned important truth from his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. Timothy is now a grown man, and yet Paul reaches all the way back to Timothy’s childhood to tell of the benefits he received from his family regarding learning of truth. Childhood here is actually translated from a word that means infancy.
If you are a mother or father with young children, never underestimate the importance of teaching your young children about God, Jesus, and other truths from the Bible. Those stories that are so common for you as a parent are new and fascinating and important for your children to hear. At an early age, teach them who God is and about His creation and His work in sustaining all things, and of His power and His might and His faithfulness to His people. Teach them about the ugliness of sin and the importance of Christ. Tell them there is a heaven and there is a hell. Be open with them regarding God’s sovereignty. Let them know that you believe these things and that it is important that they do as well. Sometimes we think that theology is for a bunch of old people to sit around and debate, when in reality it is for every age, can be taught on any level, even to a small child.
Here at GBFC we want to help you with that. We provide Bible teaching for children. We don’t think they should be left out and we don’t think they just have to be babysat while the adults go off and learn some things. It is not our intent to take over the parents’ role, but to supplement it. In fact, you may want to consider being involved in one of the children’s classes teaching truth to children, telling them about God and Christ. Timothy’s training began as a very young boy and that training impacted his life even as a grown man. What kind of influence can you have on your children and maybe even children here in our church?
Now, we can be taught the Bible and just say we should love it and raise it high and all, but it is important to know why it is so special and why we should take such interest in it. Paul helps us here. Too many just out of some kind of blind obligation speak highly of the Word without having ever been dazzled by it.
Look at the end of verse 15 and into verses 16 and 17. Why is the Bible so important and why should we hold it in such high regard? Well here you go!
2 Timothy 3
which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
These are key words for us that help move us to a place where we can say, “Yes, this book is awesome.” This book from God to us is how we know what salvation is and how to gain salvation. This book teaches us about our problem of sin and how sin separates us from the God of all power who holds our lives in His hands. This book tells us how we can be on His side, even His child rather than His enemy. This book tells us how we can live in His care for His glory. This book tells us what life, true life is, and what eternal life can be for the child of God. Or as Paul said, it makes us wise for salvation through faith Christ Jesus. It tells us that our only hope is faith in the finished work of Christ.
If we didn’t have the Bible, the Word of God, we would be lost and would have to one day face the wrath of God. The Bible shows us the way. It is described in Philippians 2:16 as “the word of life.” It shows us what life is, it leads us to gain eternal life.
Then in verse 16 we see what the Bible really is. It is a body of truth which is “breathed out by God.” 2 Peter 1 helps us to understand this idea of the Scripture being “breathed out by God.”
2 Peter 1
20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
God used man, “but men spoke from God.” Inspiration, God-breathed means the Bible was divinely inspired by God, Scripture finds its origin in God – as if God audibly spoke it himself. This makes the Bible like no other book.
I wonder if we don’t read it at times without considering that God Himself breathed out these words? We do this, I do this all the time, I say in going through this book, “Paul said” and then quote something from the book. I don’t think this is wrong, but in saying that we must all understand that Paul said this only as God wanted him to say it, as God inspired him to say it.
Since it is God’s Word it has inherent authority over us. God created us and so He has a right to direct us, to command us, to tell us what to do and what not to do. The Bible is authoritative and is therefore “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
The Bible’s content, all of it, is profitable to us for teaching. Why? Because it is all about God. It contains what God wants us to know. We may read some of it and say, “Well, that’s not very helpful,” or, “That doesn’t apply to me.” We may all think that at times, but the reality is that it is all here for us. It all in some way points us to the Father, to Christ, to the Holy Spirit, to the gospel. This makes all of the Bible exciting and relevant. It is a book that we can and should spend our lifetime exploring, because it is all profitable. But I know how it is. Sometimes I get to certain passages to preach on and wonder how this is going to be helpful for us as a church. And yet after further study and prayer, God opens up incredible truths and shows us what He wants us to know from it.
The Bible is also profitable for reproof. We need this. Reproof carries the idea of reproving in order to convict of wrongdoing or wrong doctrine. God gave us His Word to right our thinking. I think of many instances when Jesus would challenge people’s thinking and they would be convicted of truth. I think of Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews, a scholarly man who had studied the Scriptures for all of his adult life. He encounters Jesus and Jesus tells him the way of salvation. Nicodemus is convicted by the words of Christ, he is challenged to think differently. God is gracious to give us His Word to lead us to think rightly, to put off wrong thinking and ideas and to learn what truth is.
The Scripture is also profitable for correction. Correction is the restoring of something to its original purpose. It is the positive side of reproof. Reproof shows of wrong and correction leads to what is right. God does not just show us all that is wrong, but He gives solutions, He gives truth. This is what we have in His Word.
The Scripture also trains us in righteousness. This is a lifelong training. This is building us up in the faith, it is what we are to be in the process of always. For the believer we are to be engaged in spiritual ongoing exercise. God sees to it that His Word provides this for us.
And here is the great thing, here is where all this leads:
2 Timothy 3
17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
God gives us His Word, His Word is at work in us as we read and study it, and the result is spiritually fit men and women who are complete and equipped for every good work. Complete means capable and equipped means enabled to meet the demands of the Christian life. Enabled to live as God calls us to live in His Word. This is so encouraging. It is encouraging because we can read the Bible and say, “No way I can live as God wants me to live.” And yet we see here that yes we can – as you and I embrace His Word and are submitted to Him, and give ourselves to Him with an openness to be molded by His Word as it teaches us, reproves us, corrects us, and trains us. Are we on board with these things? Are we wanting these things? Are we longing to be changed by Him, by His Word, so that we will be equipped and enabled to live as we have been called to live?
If you are not in the Word daily – and I don’t mean just reading for the sake of reading, but I mean reading it with anticipation of meeting God there – then I really want to encourage you to begin today. To know God is to be in His Word. To walk with God is to meet with Him in His Word. There are no shortcuts, this is the method, this is what He has given to us. Meet Him in His Word.
2 Timothy 3
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.