The Bible

  • Text: II Timothy 3:13-17
  • Series: We Believe, Pt. 2
  • Date: Sunday, July 15, 2018 – PM
  • Venue: Trinity Baptist Church – Seminole, Oklahoma
  • Speaker: Jared Byrns
  • Audio: mp3

Last Sunday night I gave you the introduction to our series on the Baptist Faith and Message, where we’re going to spend the next several weeks looking over some of the most fundamental doctrines that unite our church. We looked at some of the reasons why churches and groups of churches adopt doctrinal statements—including the desire to explain their beliefs and the desire to correct misconceptions about the Christian faith. The doctrinal statement that our church has adopted is the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, which was drafted by the Southern Baptist Convention.

Tonight, as we begin our study of Baptist doctrine, we’re going to look at II Timothy chapter 3, because the Baptist Faith and Messagetarts out by discussing the Scriptures.

Even though God existed before the Bible did, we start there because our understanding of God has to begin with the Bible. God has revealed His existence through nature; Romans 1:20 says, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” Nature shows us His existence, but there’s a wide gap between knowing He exists and really knowing Him. He is so far beyond our understanding that we can only know Him from what He tells us. If we want to know Him, He tells us Who He is in the Bible.

So, because the Bible is where we find understanding of God and knowledge of His truth, it’s at the very root of our beliefs. Tonight we’re going to consider how the Bible informs our understanding of everything around us. If you haven’t already turned there, turn with me to II Timothy 3:13-17. It says:

But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. 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.

Paul was writing to Timothy, a young pastor in Ephesus, and reminding him of the importance of the Scriptures. We know that Timothy grew up learning the Scriptures because verse 15 says that he knew them “from a child,” and II Timothy 1:5 discusses his mother and grandmother, who raised him in the faith. He was taught the Old Testament Scriptures, especially as they apply to Jesus Christ.

Paul was writing to this young man because of the world he lived in, which wasn’t too different from ours. Anyone who tries to follow Jesus Christ faces an uphill battle because the way of the world is rebellion against God. The world will lead us astray from Him. In verse 13, Paul warned about this when he wrote, “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” The city of Ephesus was built on idolatry—specifically the moon goddess, Diana. Christianity undermined the cult of Diana, so many were openly hostile to the church there. Those who profited from the cult of Diana wanted to keep the people ensnared in idolatry and to weaken the church’s faith in Christ. The world’s hostility toward the Gospel isn’t new now, and it wasn’t new in Timothy’s day. The world has been in rebellion against God since the Garden of Eden. Knowing that these false teachers and pagan influences would trouble Timothy and his church, Paul offered a solution. It was the same solution Jesus used when He was tempted in the wilderness: we should flee to the Word of God for refuge.

In verse 14, Paul wrote, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.” What were the things Timothy had learned? Verse 15 tells us that Paul was referring to the Scriptures. Paul was reminding Timothy that when things are uncertain and out of control, when the world seems gripped by chaos, when everyone around us seems to have rejected God, we can turn to the Word of God for refuge.

And Paul reassured Timothy that in the Scriptures he would find salvation. Verse 15 says, “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.” We can find refuge in the Scriptures, because God’s Word will always point us to truth and salvation. How do they do that? They point to Jesus Christ. No matter how chaotic the world is, or how the truth gets twisted or distorted in the culture, we can use the Bible as our compass to find our way. Just like the needle of a compass always points north, the Scriptures will always point to the True North of Jesus Christ. So Paul told Timothy to take refuge in the Scriptures. That command in verse 14 is central to our whole understanding of why we have the Bible. Our faith doesn’t change just because the culture changes; it doesn’t change just because the world has grown up; it doesn’t change just because people don’t want the truth to remain true. When it comes to the truth of the Scriptures, Paul said, “continue.”

There’s an old hymn that says: “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word.” I think that’s absolutely right. God’s Word is our foundation, and the main point of a foundation is that it stays put. I grew up in Tornado Alley, and I’ve seen more than my fair share of houses demolished. I’ve never seen a firm foundation moved unless it was broken up, but I’ve seen plenty of houses moved off their foundations. When a house no longer continues on its foundation, it’s destroyed. It’s usually a total loss. We’re the same way. We’re called to continue in God’s Word just like Timothy was; make it your foundation and continue in it.

We shouldn’t try to change God’s Word with the times because that’s more comfortable for us. God’s Word is true whether we’re comfortable with it or not, and I feel sorry for churches that have bought into the philosophy that God’s truth changes. When we decide no longer to continue on our foundation of God’s Word, we’ll discover sooner or later that the house cannot stand.

As Paul told Timothy to continue, he explained why. Not only do the Scriptures point to Jesus and the salvation He offers, but Paul said God’s Word is entirely trustworthy. It’s trustworthy because it was inspired by God. Look at verse 16. It says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” People get confused about what inspiration means. Great art is called inspired. I love van Gogh’s paintings, and it’s easy to think of him being inspired by a field of sunflowers or the night sky. He was inspired in the sense that he saw a flash of an idea beyond what his eyes saw at the moment, and then he ran with it. But that’s not what inspiration means in the Bible.

When it says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God,” the Greek word that’s translated as inspiration is θεοπνευστος; θεός means God, and πνέω means to breathe or to blow. Inspiration means that God breathed out the Scriptures. The Bible doesn’t just contain God’s Word or point to God’s Word; it isGod’s Word. Just as I’m breathing out every word that I’m saying to you tonight, God breathed out the words that are found in Scripture. Now, God used the personalities, styles, and skills of the writers in the process, so the individuality of the human writers shines through, but He is the author of every word.

And because it’s God’s Word, it’s trustworthy and it’s good for us. Paul told Timothy that it’s profitable. Verse 16 says that Scripture “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Then verse 17 adds, “That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” Profitable means it’s good for us, and Paul explained the ways it benefits us.

When he called it profitable for doctrine, doctrine means teaching. It covers all the areas of teaching that we’re going to examine in this series on the Baptist Faith and Message. Doctrine means our understanding of God and His truth. So Paul was telling Timothy that the Scriptures are excellent for helping us to understand God and His truth. If you want to know more about God, don’t just listen to your feelings or what you think God might be like. Don’t listen to what popular culture tells you God should be like. Go to the Bible and see for yourself Who God is. The Scriptures are profitable for doctrine.

They’re also profitable for reproof. Reproof means pointing out where our beliefs are wrong. Sometimes we need somebody to tell us when we’re wrong. Is it just me, or have any of you other men had an idea, only to have your wife tell you 56 reasons why it’s a bad idea? I can say from experience, it’s annoying at the moment, but Charla saves me from catastrophe on a weekly basis when I’m building or fixing something, and I haven’t thought it through. She reproves me. Reproof tells us when our thinking is wrong. When our thinking about God or His will is out in left field, the Bible can bring us back to reality.

Paul said the Scriptures are profitable for correction. That means God’s Word confronts us when we sin. Many of you have had children. I’m sure you corrected them a lot. When we do wrong, we need to be corrected. When my children get out of line, I correct them. You see, discipline isn’t just about punishment; it’s also about the opportunity to point out what’s wrong and correct the behavior. God’s Word does this with us. It corrects us. It points out how our words, actions, thoughts, or attitudes can be disobedient to God and calls it out for the sin that it is.

They’re profitable for instruction in righteousness, as well. That means teaching us the right way to live as Christians in order to glorify our Father. We need to be shown the right way. As a parent, it’s not enough for me to deal with my kids from a reactive position where I wait for them to mess up and then correct them. It’s not enough just to tell them what sins to avoid. I also have to tell them what they should do. Scripture does that for us, too. It doesn’t just show us where we’re wrong; it tells us what the right way is. If you belong to Jesus and you want to follow Him, the Bible tells you how.

That brings us around to Paul’s last point in this passage. The Scriptures are profitable for leading us to spiritual maturity. Paul wrote in verse 17 that God gave us the Scriptures “that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” The word perfect in the Bible rarely means sinless or without mistakes, like we would mean it when we say, “Nobody’s perfect.” Usually, it means complete. It means we don’t lack anything. What it’s describing here is spiritual maturity. If we want to pursue spiritual maturity, to grow to be more like Jesus, or to be equipped for the works that God has given us to do, it’s vital that we turn to the Bible. As the Holy Spirit of God works in us to bring us to maturity, He uses the Scriptures to teach us. They’re profitable for our spiritual growth.

The ideas that Paul expressed in these five verses are echoed in the Baptist Faith and Message. When we read our doctrinal statement, it points to the place the Scriptures occupy in our spiritual development. I’ve given you booklets with the Baptist Faith and Message so that you can familiarize yourself with it if you’ve never read for yourself what our church believes. Tuck that away in your Bible and keep it there, so you can refer back to it as we go through this series. Tonight, let’s look together at Section 1, which talks about the Scriptures. You’ll find it on page 7. It says:

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.

When we break this section down, we see how it lines up with what Paul told Timothy. It says, “The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction.” We believe that God’s Word is inspired, exactly like Paul said. The Scriptures were breathed out by God. He used men to write everything down, but these were His words. He was revealing Himself to us so that we could know Him. If you want to know Him, there’s no better way than to go to the Scriptures.

Then it says, “It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.” We believe God’s Word is inerrant. People sometimes shy away from that word because it has been controversial, but inerrancy is misunderstood. I don’t know of anyone who thinks all the Bible versions we have today are exactly the same. I don’t know anyone who thinks that all the ancient Greek and Hebrew manuscripts we get our translations from are exactly alike. There are a lot of variants among all these ancient copies: misspellings, omitted words, things like that. Any time you have human beings copying a huge text, they’re going to make some mistakes. But the original manuscripts, written by men who were inspired by God, those manuscripts were entirely without error. But you might wonder how we know what those said. You take all the ancient manuscripts, put them together, sort through them, and take out the obvious spelling errors and things of that nature. You’ll find then that they’re so often in agreement that there’s very little doubt what the originals said. Ron Rhodes teaches apologetics at Dallas Theological Seminary, and I like what he has said about this. He wrote, “Ultimately, only 50 variants have any real significance—and even then, no doctrine of the Christian faith or any moral commandment is affected by them.”[1]Here’s the bottom line: anything God said about spiritual or doctrinal matters is true. Anything God said about historical or scientific matters is true. And our Bibles reliably transmit what He said. God authored the Bible so that we could know Him and find salvation in Jesus Christ.

The Baptist Faith and Message says, “Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy.” God’s Word is reliable. Because God said it, you know it’s true. And today’s Bibles are reliable presentations of what the writers put on paper. We have a mountain of manuscript evidence going back to within a generation of the original writings, so we know that God’s Word hasn’t been tampered with over time. Folks, if God’s Word says it, we can trust it.

Then it says, “It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union.” God’s Word is sufficient. We don’t need another book of Scripture to tell us anything about God. Are there things that we would like to know that the Bible doesn’t tell us? Absolutely! But everything we need to know for salvation and godly living—everything that God thought was essential—we know from the Bible. The Bible tells us what God’s standards are, and the Bible is the entire basis of our Christian faith. We don’t need any other book.

Then it says the Scriptures are “the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.” God’s word is authoritative. That means when the Bible speaks, it speaks with God’s authority. God is speaking, and we need to listen. When it mentions human conduct, if I’m doing something wrong, the Scriptures are profitable for correction. The Bible explains to us how God defines sin—and none of us get a vote in the definition. When it talks about creeds and religious opinions, it means the Bible is the standard that we use to judge our beliefs. If our beliefs—individually or corporately—conflict with the Bible, our beliefs are wrong and we have to discard them. To persist in disagreement with the Bible is to refuse to accept what God has said. It’s God’s Word, and it sets the standard for what we believe.

Then it says, “All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.” God’s Word points us to Jesus. If you really want to understand the Bible, start looking for Jesus. He’s there throughout, because it was designed to point people to Him. Take the Old Testament sacrifices, for example. It used to confuse me, why sacrifices were needed in the first place since they couldn’t actually save anybody. If they can’t save anybody, animal sacrifice seems like a crazy thing to do. But, in the midst of that confusion, start looking for Jesus in the text. Then you’ll realize the sacrifices were supposed to point people to Jesus. They were intended to condition the people to understand that the innocent die to pay for the sins of the guilty. They were there to give the Jewish people a frame of reference in order to realize that Jesus didn’t die on the cross as punishment for His actions, but for ours. If we look at them in context, the Scriptures point us to Jesus repeatedly.

As Baptists, we believe that the Bible should be at the center of everything, not because there’s something magical about the physical book or the words printed on the page. We don’t worship the Bible. We worship the God Who speaks through the Bible. And we emphasize the Bible because it’s His Word and He speaks to us on every page.

So what does this have to do with you? I’d like to issue two challenges tonight as we prepare to close.

First of all, as individuals, you need to be into this book every day. I know that it’s a cliché for the pastor to tell you to read your Bible. But I’m not telling you to read your Bible because it’s some spiritual exercise that we have to check off of our list so we can say we’re good Christians. I’m telling you to read your Bible because I want you to hear from God. God has things to tell us, but week after week Christians leave their Bibles closed and wonder why God doesn’t speak to them. In those 66 books, you have a wealth of information from God where He has spoken truth that applies to every situation you face in life. Get into your Bible and persevere in studying, if you want to know God and His will. You’ll never run out of things to discover. You can look at a passage 30 times, and on the 30thtime find something you’ve never seen before—not a new interpretation, necessarily, but a new way to apply its truth to your own circumstances. If you’re not already reading your Bible, my challenge to you is to read your Bible on your own, every day. Start today. Start with even five minutes. I guarantee that as you come in contact with what God has said, you’ll soon be hungry for more. Whatever you do, don’t just sit there with God’s Word closed and gathering dust on your shelf and wonder why He’s not speaking to you. He has already spoken, and you have His Word right in front of you.

My second challenge is to the church as a whole. We need to treat the Bible, in reality, the way we say we do in our doctrinal statement. We need to make sure the Bible is being proclaimed and that it’s front and center in our ministry. If any pastor or preacher in this church—whether it’s me or someone who comes after me—starts preaching something other than God’s Word, remove him. If personal opinions, popular culture, or political correctness are being preached instead of the Bible, put a stop to it and don’t wait.

The Word of God that points people to Jesus Christ needs to have center stage in this pulpit now and as long as God keeps this church around. The Word of God should be at the center of our preaching, our classes and small groups, our activities, and our ministries—everything we do. Our beliefs should be consistent with the Word of God. The stands that we take should be consistent with the Word of God. The things that we value and the way we treat others should be consistent with the Word of God. If they’re not, we have to change. If our church wants to be a clear voice for the truth, it has to remain committed to the Word of God at all costs.

[1]Ron Rhodes and Marian Bodine, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Mormons (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1995), 164-165.

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The above text is a rush transcript of the message and may contain errors.

© 2018, Jared Byrns. All rights reserved.