Vol. IX — No. 46 November 17, 1968
2 Timothy 3:15-17
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, whose word is a Lamp unto our feet and a Light unto our path, Fellow Redeemed:
You surely have noticed that we are using the same text today that we used last Sunday. The battleground for the church of today is the Bible. Last week we emphasized the authority of God in His Word. That authority is to be found in the Bible, for all Scripture is God-breathed, that is, given by inspiration. It is God’s authority in His Word that alone can make man sure and certain of his salvation.
This morning we are going to consider another characteristic of the Bible that is also emphasized in this text, namely, the perspicuity or the clarity of the Word. Paul wrote Timothy, “From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures.” At the knee of his grandmother, Lois, and on the lap of his mother, Eunice, young Timothy had learned the holy scriptures, specifically the Old Testament scriptures. They were simple enough and clear enough for young Timothy to hear and read and learn. They were able to make him wise unto salvation. They were also able to equip him fully as a mature man of God.
One of Satan’s devices is to make people think that the Bible is a dark and obscure book that the average person cannot read and understand. That simply isn’t true. The psalmist testifies, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Ps.119:105. Lamps and lights are to illumine, to dispel darkness and give light. If we are trying to read late in the afternoon when the sun is going down, we put onthe light to be able to see. The Bible is called a light because it enables us to see and know what we are to believe. It’s not a light only for the college or university graduate or student, but it is a light “making wise the simple.” Ps. 19:7. The average student, the educationally deprived person, the retarded person can hear and learn, read and understand the Word of God. It makes the simple wise—wise unto salvation.
Now let us be sure that we understand what we are saying. When we testify that the Bible is clear and can be understood, we are not claiming that there are no difficult passages in the Bible. The Bible has this amazing quality that it is simple enough for a child to understand and yet so difficult that the most learned man can spend a lifetime studying its pages without exhausting its riches. The perspicuity or clarity of the Scriptures consists in this that it presents in clear and simple language all that children and men must know to be saved.
Since the beginning of time man has imagined that he must shed light upon the Bible, whereas the Bible claims that its function and purpose is to give light to man. At the time of Luther the Church of Rome was developing the doctrine that it has the right and the duty to interpret Scripture for the laymen. The Bible was presumed to be obscure. The Church had to shed light upon it. This teaching of Rome reached its fullest development in the doctrine of papal infallibility, that is, that the Pope of Rome is the final interpreter and aribter or judge of the Bible. Protestantism has rejected this position and has replaced it with sowething no less wrong. It has made the individual the final judge over Scripture. The scientist may use the alleged findings of science, the intellectual his reason and the enthusiast his “inner light” as a rule or a criterion or a measuring stick with which to sit in judgment over the Scriptures because it is believed that the Scriptures are in themselves not clear enough to tell man what he is to believe and what he is to reject. Thus man is always trying to make the Bible clear to himself and to others, whereas the Bible testified of itself that it has the ability to make itself clear to the mind of man. This is precisely the claim of our text. The Holy Scriptures had made the child, Timothy, wise unto salvation and man, Timothy, fully fitted for every good work. Let us examine this matter a bit more carefully:
“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.” How bad Timothy become wise unto salvation? How are people today to become wise unto salvation? Just what is the wisdom of salvation? How is everyone, that is saved, saved? The answer of this text is clear and simple: “through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” But is this what most people who call themselves “Christian” believe? Unfortunately not. If you probe around among your relatives and friends and vauaintances who belong to churches of the established Christian denominations, you will find that so many believe that they will be saved because they go to church, or lead a decent life, or keep the Ten Commandments, or tithe or don’t smoke or drink. Even those who believe that faith in Christ is necessary seem to feel that some kind of works is necessary to make salvation sure and certain.
Why is it that people are so reluctant to trust the Lord Jesus for their salvation? Why do people so easily fall back upon themselves—upon what they do or leave undone? This is the effect of sin upon the mind of man. It is natural for man to distrust God and look to himself for help. That was the first sin—distrusting the Word of the Lord and trusting the word of Satan, man looking away from God and to himself for the solution of his problems. So it is that man judges God by himself. Since good is generally rewarded and evil punished, man imagines that God will reward him for his good deeds and punish him for his failure to perform the right deeds or deeds in sufficient numbers.
It is this way of thinking, conditioned by sin, that blinds the eyes of so many to the clear and simple statements of Scripture in regard to salvation. What can be clearer and simpler than the words of our text: “the holy scriptures…are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Paul knows of no formula of salvation that includes the works or efforts of man. No, Christ is the Savior, and man is saved by resting his faith upon Christ or by accepting the blessing of salvation by faith. What did our Lord Jesus say shortly before He ascended into heaven when He gave His commission to preach the gospel to every creature? The words are so very familiar: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark 16:16. Jesus doesn’t add any works of man as a condition for salvation. He adds only baptism, which is not a work of man but a means by which He gives and confirms Himself and His blessings unto believers. He doesn’t say: Believe and don’t work on Sunday, believe and don’t smoke or drink, believe and tithe, believe and love your neighbor. do, He simply said that faith saves and unbelief damns. what could be clearer? What could be simpler?
St. Paul battled this error of making works a condition or a prerequisite for salvation or a supplement to faith in Christ. He rejected the error in clear and simple language. To the Romans he wrote, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:28. He warned the Galatians: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:4. If they believed that only one work, circumcision which was commanded by God Himself in the Old Testament, was necessary to supplement or confirm salvation, tney would fall from grace. Works dare not be mixed in with faith in the question of salvation. Faith alone saves, not faith plus works. At the same time the statement of Luther is true that “Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is never alone.” It is the mother of all good works and is the evidence and proof of faith. But works dare not be injected into the question of salvation. All of these things are clearly taught in the passages cited and others. These clear passages of Scripture are to illumine the sin-darkened mind of man in regard to the question of salvation. As soon as man tries to use some imagined light of his own on the question of salvation, he cones up with some kind of work or effort on his own part and thereby plunges himself into darkness. Scripture is clear on the matter of salvation. It is able to equip us with wisdom in this vital area. It is also able to equip us for every good work. It testifies of the man of God that—
“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—that is, fitted or equipped, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
We are living in an age which almost has made education a god. And yet many highly educated people are religious illiterates. Many people who call themselves “Christian” and who are members of “Christian” churches don’t know what they believe or why they believe what they do believe. The many divisions of Protestantism have caused many to throw up their hands in despair, crying, “What is truth?” This despair, this religious illiteracy, this not knowing is unnecessary, for the Bible is clear. Man can know doctrine, for the Bible teaches what man is to believe clearly and simply. He have already illustrated that in connection with the doctrine of salvation. Think of another doctrine that we treated recently—baptism. Is baptism a means by which God gives His grace to man or is baptism a response of man to God’s grace in the form of a dedication of himself to God? Just a few clear and simple words of Peter settle the matter: “…baptism doth also now save us.” I Peter 3:21. Man is saved by the gift of God’s grace, not by the response of man’s dedication to God. If baptism saves, as Peter assures us it does, it must be a means for centering grace Upon man.
This clear Word of God equips man to refute error. When someone denies that Jesus Christ is God, I refute his error by quoting the clear and simple testimony of Paul to the Colossians: “In him (Christ) dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Colossians 2:9. I may not convince the gainsayer, but that is not because the Word of God is unclear on this matter. It is because the individual rejects in unbelief the clear testimony of Scripture.
The clear Word of God also equips the man of God for restoration unto grace if he should fall. The Word of God is good for correction or for restoring a fallen person to an upright position. We are all sinners. He daily sin much. Sometimes we may sin in ignorance, sometimes in weakness. At times we may sin in defiance. The Word of the Lord is a discerner, a knower of the thoughts and intents of the heart. It strikes at the conscience. It accuses. It condemns. It points the finger and says, “Thou art the man!” Then it comes and brings the grace of God in all simplicity in the words of absolution to the penitent sinner: “The Lord hath put away thy sin. Thou shalt not die.” So it is that the Word helps us to an upright position when we fall. So it is that we can use the Word to restore others.
And finally the clear Word of God can educate us unto all righteousness. For example, so many people never learn the joy of giving unto the Lord. Why? Because they don’t expose themselves to the clear Word of God that could and would educate them in this matter. The Word assures us that our Heavenly Father provides for us, so we have no need to fear that we shall suffer from giving. The Word reminds us that all material blessings that we have and enjoy come from our Heavenly Father. The Word assures us that life everlasting is a free gift of our God. The Word suggests that a fitting response of thanksgiving is a returning of the firstfruits that the Lord has given us. So the Lord educates in righteousness.
How precious is the Book Divine,
By inspiration giv’n!
Bright as a lamp its doctrines shine
To guide our souls to heav’n. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.