Pastor Mike Schumann
Over the last few weeks our church has been going through a short series on the four basic doctrines of the Bible — God’s word given to his people.
Sermon 1, we said God’s word is our authoritative, meaning what is says, goes. We don’t argue against it, we don’t turn a blind eye to it, we, God’s people, submit ourselves to the Bible, God’s word.
Sermon 2, we said God’s word is necessary, for it is the source of the gospel — the gloriously good news that Jesus Christ has suffered, died, and risen from the grave on behalf of all who’d come to call on him for salvation.
Last Sunday, sermon 3, we said God’s word is accessible, meaning, all people, young, old, educated, or non-educated, can read it, hear it, and understand it, with help from the Holy Spirit
This morning, our fourth and final sermon in this series, we will say that God’s word is sufficient, meaning, it “Contains everything we need God to tell us in order for us to remain in right relationship with Him.” (2x)
Now, quick note. Many sermons are structured according to multiple points, or ideas, for us to follow along with. This sermon will be a little bit different in that it’s not structured by points, but by stages of life. Specifically, the three stages of the life of Paul’s most trusted missionary companion and friend, Timothy.
And my prayer, is that as we go through these three stages of Timothy’s life, it will be made abundantly clear that over-and-over-and-over again the Word of God was proved sufficient.
First stage of Timothy’s life: His conversion
Timothy was born, early 1st century AD, in the city of Lystra. Though his father was a Greek, his mother, Eunice, was a Jew (Acts 16:1). And like many Jewish mothers at the time, she, along with the help of her own mother, Lois, began teaching the Jewish Scriptures to her son, Timothy, from the time he was very little.
So, for all intents and purposes, Timothy was raised in the Jewish religion. But, as we see in Acts 16, Timothy, at some point in his young life, somehow, becomes a Christian. We aren’t told how this happens, exactly, but we do know a few things. We know Paul, in Acts 14, visited Timothy’s hometown of Lystra, and shared the gospel with many of the people, and some of them became Christians and started up a church. From 2 Tim. 1:5, Paul talks to Timothy about how he was, “reminded of (his) sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in (his) grandmother and (his) mother Eunice and now, (he felt) sure, dwelt in him.” Putting that together, it seems likely that Timothy’s mom and grandma were among the group who heard Paul preach the gospel, the good news of Jesus, and after repenting o their sins, and professing faith in Jesus, they went home and told Timothy the news.
Just think how their daily lessons to Timothy would have changed! Perhaps one day Timothy has been sitting down in their home, waiting for mom and grandma to arrive and begin their lesson, but this time, instead of walking through the door like normal, this time they burst through it, saying Timothy, Timothy, boy have we got news for you! You know all our lessons we’ve taught you about the coming Messiah, the long-awaited king of David, the great and future shepherd of our people! He’s come! His name is Jesus, and though just a few years ago the Romans killed him on a cross, he did not stay dead! He’s alive, He’s Messiah, and he’s the fulfillment of everything we have ever taught you from the Scriptures.”
Maybe that’s what it looked like. All we know is that mother and grandmother heard the word, became Christians, and then went home, taught the word to Timothy — who then heard the word, was convinced by it, and too, converted to Christianity.
This is what the word of God does! This is what the word of God is sufficient, able, to do — it alters the eternal destinies of entire households, like Timothy’s. What a story, and its only just begun.
Second stage of Timothy’s life: His ministry alongside Paul:
Now, as I had said, by the time Acts 16 rolls around, we see that Timothy has become a believer, and a quite well-respected one at that. In fact, Acts 16 says that Timothy was held in such high esteem amongst the fellow believers in Lystra, that they go and recommend him Paul, “saying, hey, you gotta take this guy with you on your missionary journeys (Acts 16:2), and Paul agrees to it! So, Timothy packs his bags, and off they go — two former Jewish men, now Christian men, off to change lives with the very word which so changed their own.
And, as churches would take form and grow, so would the problems experienced in those churches. And what we see is that the unique role repeatedly given by Paul to Timothy, while on these missionary journeys, was to be sent to these needy churches to help them.
Now, Paul’s choice to send Timothy was certainly an interesting one. After all, if you were to send someone, on your own behalf, to go and help a struggling church, who would you choose? Someone strong and persevering? Someone wise and well-spoken? Someone dominant and unswerving? Paul sends Timothy. And what we know of Timothy is that he was young (1 Tim. 4:12), meek, prone to fear (2 Tim. 1:7-8), and frequently sick to his stomach (1 Tim. 5:23). Yet, Paul sends him — why? Well, consider what, specifically, Paul sent Timothy to do. After all,
If Paul had sent Timothy with bow and arrow, sword and shield, to guard the people, Timothy would have lost. If Paul had sent Timothy to demonstrate feats of strength, good looks, or intelligence and confidence, to impress the people, Timothy would have lost. If Paul had sent Timothy to shout loud, authoritative, heavy commands, to dominate over the people, Timothy would have lost.
What did Paul send timothy to do? Preach the word! Paul could send Timothy, because he knew the ability to protect, guide, and sustain the church was not to be found in the strength of the messenger, but in the strength of the message. Not Timothy, nor Paul, nor any mere human being has the ability to protect, guide, and sustain the church — God has designed it so that only his word would be sufficient for such a task.
So, all that was needed was someone willing to speak it — Paul looks at Timothy and says, “you’re the man for the job.”
And a great example of this is captured in the book of 1 Timothy (our sermon text for today, which we’ll get to shortly, is from 2 Timothy, but before we get there, we got to look at 1 Timothy).
The setting in 1 Timothy is that Timothy’s been sent to the church at Ephesus, is called to guard the church against false teachers who were not teaching the words of God — but the words of man.
And Paul exhorts:
Timothy, “Remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine. (1 Timothy 1:3-4).
Timothy, “Teach and urge these things. If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit” (1 Tim: 6:2-4).
Timothy, “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13).
Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching” (1 Tim. 4:16).
“O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith” (1 Tim. 6:20-21).
Timothy, go into Ephesus, thee major port-city of western Asia, home of the Temple of Artemis, mass fascination with magic and the occult, where professional orators, with elegant speech, commanding presence, top-notch education are waxing poetically with ear-itching messages and man-centered philosophies …Go there, and preach the Bible.
Can you imagine what kind of confidence Paul and Timothy would’ve had to have regarding the word of God in order to do such a thing? I mean, shouldn’t they clean the word up a bit, make it just a bit less offensive, a bit less heavy, a bit less authoritative? Shouldn’t they spice the message up a little bit, add in a few exciting visions or “new revelations” from God? I mean, how in the world is this word of God even going to be relevant to the city of Ephesus?
Paul says, “Timothy, the church is struggling, the church is needy, and a plethora of false messages are being strew through their minds. Timothy, their is one, and only one, message sufficient to keep this church faithful to its God — and that’s the word of God. Go there and preach it”
Was that foolish? Not in the way we’d think of it. Check out what Paul had written earlier in 1 Corinthians 1, “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…(So) Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For…it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. 1:20-24)
The word of God is sufficient, “Contains everything we need, everything Timothy needs, everything Ephesus needs in order for them to remain in right relationship with their God.” Do you see it?
So that’s the repeated call on Timothy’s life — that is, until tragedy strikes — which leads us into the third stage of Timothy’s life
Third stage of Timothy’s life: His ministry following the death of Paul
We’re now looking at 2 Timothy. Timothy’s still in Ephesus at this time, still facing false teachers,. To make matters words, Roman persecution, led by Nero, against then church, has begun. But nothing, nothing, nothing could have prepared Timothy for the worst news of all: Paul, having been arrested for the second time in Rome, writes to him, saying: “Timothy, the time of my departure has come” (2 Tim. 4:6). Paul survived his first Roman imprisonment, he will not survive this one — Rome will have his head.
And you got to think, How is weak, timid, sickly Timothy going to continue without Paul? From where will he get his guidance, direction, his auhtority? Paul gives him the answer, it’s our sermon text for today, 2 Timothy 3:14-17. “But as for you (Timothy), continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed,
“Persecutions will come, “But as for you (Timothy), continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed. False teachers will come, “But as for you (Timothy), continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed.
Lovers of self, lovers of money, lovers of pleasure — the proud, the heartless, the ruthless, the slanderous — all of these will come, “But as for you (Timothy), continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed.
Timothy need not go anywhere else for guidance, direction, authority — he need only continue in the word.
And really, that’s true of any Christian, no matter when or where in the world. I mean really, when you really boil it all down, get to the very core and nature of Christian life, what is it other than, continued, unrelenting trust in, and submission to, God Word. That’s the Christian life. Continued, unrelenting trust in, and submission to, God’s Word.
Which means, at no point does a Christian outgrow their need for God’s Word. At no point is a Christian done with being shaped and sharpened by God’s word. In no situation should a Christian choose his or her perspective or preferences over God’s word.
We, Christians, live, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year in continued, unrelenting trust in, and submitting to, the word of God. Why? Paul, here in 2 Timothy 3:14-17, is going to offer four reasons why.
“But as for you (Timothy), continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from who 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” (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
The first reason ““But as for you (Timothy), continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from who you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings” The reason one is simply the trustworthiness of the people who shared God’s word with Timothy, namely, his mother, grandmother, and Paul.
The second reason, Timothy, continue in what you have learned knowing that the Scriptures you learned “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” So, reason 2 here is ability of God’s word to work miracles — like the one worked in Timothy, namely, his salvation, his new life, through faith in Christ Jesus. That’s a miracle, and God did it through this word — so continue in it.
And the third reason, Continue in the word you have learned, for, these words, and “All Scripture, is breathed out by God.” Reason three is the source of this word, which is the very breath of God. Can we just marvel at that for a second? I mean, Yahweh, the God who gave light to the world through his breath, the God who gave life to Adam, through his breath, now breathes and gives His priceless, perfect, and penetrating words to us. I’m convinced there is just no greater gift a human could ever receive than these words direct from our God. Just think of what we are holding.
Now, I said Paul’s going to give us four reasons, and we’ve only gone through three of them. The reason I just want to pause for a second is that I want us to see something. Remember, we’ve been covering the four core doctrines of the Bible. It’s authority, necessity, accessibility, and sufficiency.
And we got to recognize those four doctrines didn’t just appear out of nowhere. It wasn’t like a bunch of professors came together and thought, “Hey, lets create four doctrines.” No, these four doctrines of the Bible come directly from passages in the Bible — like this one.
Is the Bible authoritative? Paul tells us here, verse 16, the words of the Bible are breathed out by God. You bet their authoritative.
Is the Bible necessary? Paul reminds us here, verse 15, that the words of the Bible are able to make us “Makes us wise for salvation.” So, are these words necessary? Could they be more necessary?
Is the Bible accessible? Or do we need seminary degrees, high IQ’s, and literary training? Paul reminds us here, verse 15, that even from childhood, childhood, Timothy) learn the word and be acquainted with (the word).
Is the Bible sufficient? Does it give all we need to know in order to remain in right relationship with God? What does verse 16-17 say? 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.”
Oh, the Bible is sufficient to make us complete, and fully equipped for anything and everything we will face in this life. Now, I want to take a brief look at how this word makes us complete, equipped for every good work. It does so through the fourfold process of teaching, reproving, correcting, and training in righteousness. These four actions are not mere synonyms just going on and on about the same thing. Rather, these four actions are organized as a chiasm — meaning the first action is paired to the last action, and the second action is paired with the third action.
In the first pair of actions, teaching, and training, the focus is on immersion into the ways of truth. Teaching, filling our minds, with what is good and true. Training, the practice, and regular implementation, of what is good and true — what is righteous.
The second and third pair of actions, reproof, and correction, relate to a person’s withdrawal from the ways of falsehood. Reproof conveys the heart-level conviction that what you’ve been thinking, or what you’ve been doing, is wrong. And this conviction leads us somewhere, namely, to correction, which reorients the believer away from falsehood, and sets him or her on the path toward truth.
So, pair one: immersion into the ways of truth. And pair two: withdrawal from the ways of falsehood. immersion into the ways of truth, and withdrawal from the ways of falsehood. These two rhythms, harmonizing together, is how the worshipper of God is made whole, complete, equipped for every good work.
It is my prayer that you would clearly see that this word from God, today, is addressed to you. Yes, it’s context it’s a word specifically from Paul to Timothy, but it’s a message clearly designed to be received by any Christian who would desire to be equipped for life and mission in this broken world.
So, here’s the application: Do you want to be formed, and made complete, for whatever work God would call you to in this life? Motherhood, work world, global missions, neighborhood evangelism, day-to-day disciple making? Equipped to endure difficulty, face trials, conquer doubts, kill sin, fight depression, maintain hope, steward resources, show hospitality, and worship Jesus?
Then allow yourself to be changed by this world. Allow yourself to be grown, shaped, formed by this word. Open it up, and beg God: God, make me more like you through the reading of your word, today (2x). I don’t just want to gain knowledge; I want to be formed. I want to be changed. I want to be made more like you through the reading of your word. It’s a simple prayer, one that should permeate every cavern and pocket of our souls. God, today, make me more like you through the reading of your word.