Vol. VIII — No. 30 July 30, 1967
2 Timothy 3:l4-l7
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
In Christ Jesus, who would have us continue in His Word so that we become and remain wise unto salvation, Fellow Redeemed:
Why did some of you leave your former congregations and found Holy Trinity Congregation? Why are others of you contemplating leaving the congregations in which your membership is listed and becoming affiliated with this congregation? There certainly is no lack of churches in this community. As I become more and better acquainted with the area, I find that there is also no lack of Lutheran churches. Why did it become necessary to start a new one?
There is an answer in our text and its context. If you begin reading at the beginning of the chapter from which our text is taken, you find that St. Paul is writing of conditions as they shall exist “in the last days.” We’re living in those days, so we should pay special attention to Paul’s description of them. He says that people will have “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” He must be talking about “church people,” for others wouldn’t be too concerned about having a “form of godliness.” Isn’t this very situation present in the churches today? The form of godliness is there yet, but the power in many instances has been lost. Services are still conducted. Sunday School continues. Literature is multiplied. The liturgical service is read and sung and prayed week after week. A sermon is preached. But discerning people notice that something is different. It’s not like it used to be. The form remains, but the power has slipped away. There is another word of Paul that gives us a clue to the cause. He speaks of people who are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” We live in the era in which the so-called scientific method has been and is applied to the study of the Scripture. One of the features of the scientific method is uncertainty. What is true today may not be true tomorrow. All truth is accordingly relative; all conclusions are tentative, for tomorrow may bring new findings that make today’s knowledge obsolete. When the Bible is studied in this way, men keep on learning, writing new books about the Bible, issuing new courses of study and new manuals for teachers, but they never are able to come to the knowledge of the truth. The form remains and appears to be so godly, but the content, the power, has been lost. Didn’t many of you and aren’t many of you noticing this very development in many churches today?
What is to be done? St. Paul told Timothy what to do to avoid the development of such a situation and what is to be done to combat it when the situation does arise. He urged, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.” Timothy was to hold on to the kernel of God’s unchanging and everlasting truth, for therein lies the power. The Word of God creates godliness in men. When that Word is lost, the form may remain, but the power is gone.
This congregation was founded for the purpose of becoming a power unto godliness in the lives of its members, both old and young. If it is to achieve that goal, it must continue in the Word of God—in the things which by the grace of God many of us learned from the cradle on. We must continue to teach and preach, accept and believe THE BIBLE. The words of Paul, written to Timothy so long ago, give us answer in our days as to
St. Paul urged Timothy to continue in the things that he had learned. Paul wasn’t urging Timothy to hold on to the old, just because it was old. Sometimes the new is better than the old. Then it is folly to cling to the old. In this case the old had the power of God. Paul reassured Timothy, “From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” From a child—on the knees of his grandmother Lois and at the feet of his mother Eunice—Timothy had learned the holy scriptures—the Bible. Those writings had made him wise unto salvation. The path of such wisdom remains ever the same, in the Old Testament times and in the New—through faith in Christ Jesus.
Printing is big business today. The production of books continues endlessly. One type of book especially is on the increase—the manual which gives specific instructions concerning some task or function in our complex society. The government specializes in producing such manuals to help citizens become wise in this or that area of human life. But there remains only one book that can make its readers wise unto salvation. True it is that the production of religious books, coming from church owned publishing houses, has also increased. But whenever and in as far as these books depart from the Bible, they fail to make their readers wise unto salvation. Whenever man tinkers with the message of the Bible, he inevitably and unfailingly comes up with a variation of Satan’s theme of death: Work out your own salvation. The pitch may be some moral code, old or new, some exhortations to civic righteousness, some new effort to achieve social justice, some old slogan as “Do one good deed every day,” but it’s always Satan’s old lie: “Do good, be good, and you are good, and God will be happy to receive you.” Millions fall for that lie and lose both body and soul eternally. The Bible gives a different answer—the only answer which makes wise unto salvation. The Bible reveals that God came to the rescue of man. God’s Son entered the stream of human life as mankind’s Substitute. God’s Son, our Lord Jesus, fulfilled all righteousness and suffered and died to remove all guilt. Your salvation and mine has been finished and is complete in Christ. The Gospel, God’s own Good News, proclaims this salvation and works acceptance and faith in our hearts. So it is that the way and the only way to become wise unto salvation is through faith in Christ Jesus. That way is both universal and exclusive. It’s open for all, but no man will ever become wise unto salvation a different way. Why then should we continue in the Bible? Because we ourselves want to be made wise unto salvation, and we want our children to be so taught that they also shall be made wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
There is a second reason why it is important for us to continue in the Bible and have a church that will continue in that Bible,
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Here is one of those brief, simple statements that serves as a spiritual X-ray, revealing the thoughts and intents of the heart. Do you believe that the Bible was God-breathed or don’t you? Certainly we know that many holy books of pagan religions both in other parts of the world and in our own country make fantastic claims about their origins. We know also that many people believe those claims. Satan also has his congregation of believers—which incidentally is larger than the Church of Christ. But we’re not concerned now with the claims of the Koran or the Vedas or the Book of Mormon. We’re concerned with the testimony of the Bible concerning itself and its own origin. Paul said, “All scripture—not certain parts that man selects, but all scripture—is given by inspiration of God.” All Scripture is God-breathed, as the word literally means. All Scripture is the result of the activity of the Spirit of God, who is spirit or breath. The more one explores or seeks to explore this statement, the more one realizes that we are here confronted with a miracle which is beyond analysis by man. But the fact is clear; the testimony unequivocable. We are told that the Bible was God-breathed, by which we understand that unique divine act by which God breathed His word into the holy writers. The result of this divine activity is that the words of the prophets and apostles written in the book we call the Bible is the WORD OF GOD. There is no other book in the world like the Bible, for when you read or hear that book read, God is speaking to you. So the Bible testifies of itself.
It isn’t hard to understand that the millions and billions of heathen would reject this testimony of the Bible concerning its origin. But what is difficult to understand is that Christian churches and churchmen have rejected this testimony of the Bible. That rejection has long ago penetrated the so-called liberal churches, but it is now finding its way into conservative churches that have heretofore stood as bulwarks against all attacks upon the Bible as the verbally inspired Word of God. The literature that was foisted upon you people openly and frankly rejects the Bible as the word of God. Some of you have told me privately that your children came home saying that their Sunday School teachers “proved” that the Bible was wrong in this or that point. In discussions that some of you carried on with leaders in the church you found that some of those people rejected the testimony of the Bible concerning itself or refused to rebuke those that did. The question is simple; the issue demands a response from everyone who calls himself a follower of Jesus Christ. Do you believe what the Bible testifies of itself or don’t you? The Bible testifies of itself that it came into existence through the special activity of God the Holy Spirit who breathed the Word of God into the human writers, so making their written words the word of God. So I believe and teach. So this congregation confesses. We welcome any and all to join us in this confession!
Why is it so important that we continue in the Bible? Paul gives us a third reason,
You recognize that I have given a more literal translation of Paul’s words. The Bible is so extremely practical. Paul said that all Scripture is profitable for doctrine or teaching. He will begin our Vacation Bible School tomorrow evening. What doctrines shall we teach? Perhaps a social theory reinforced by a Bible passage or two? Or some other doctrine fabricated by men? No, we intend to teach the doctrine of the Ten Commandments, as we find that doctrine recorded in the Bible.
But what if someone challenges some doctrine of the Bible, as men continually do? Shall we panic? Shall we turn to some human authority for a solution and settlement of the controversy? Ho, we turn to the Bible, for Paul said long ago that all scripture is profitable also for “reproof,” or for the refutation of falsehood. Earlier in this sermon I spoke of the common error of mankind in the question of salvation—Satan’s big lie that man can save himself by his own doing what he thinks best, or what some church thinks best, or what society thinks best. How can this falsehood be refuted? Scripture provides the refutation when it says: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law,” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
It does happen that children of God are overtaken in a fault, stumble and fall into sin and shame. What then? The Bible is there for correction or for the restoration of a fallen sinner to an upright position. David fell into sin—murder and adultery and hypocrisy. The Lord sent Nathan to bring him to repentance and faith in the forgiving mercy of God in Christ. Peter fell; the Lord looked on him to remind him of his sin and later appeared to him personally after the resurrection to assure him of forgiveness. You and I fall. Sometimes we may not even be aware of it. God’s law is there to reveal our sin to us, to convict us. The Good News of forgiveness in Christ is there to raise us up again, to relieve us of all guilt, to turn aside the wrath of God, to assure us of sonship.
Then we will want to walk in the paths of righteousness, but what are those paths and in which direction do they lead? All scripture is profitable also for instruction or education in righteousness. So many people make up their own code of morals, setting up standards of right and wrong for themselves and others, and then judging—either condemning or approving—others according to those private standards. No, that is not the way. Love toward God and love toward your neighbor as taught in the Ten Commandments is the way to go and to live. The Scripture is always a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. That is why we would continue in it and have a church that will teach us to continue in it. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.