Sun, 5 January 2020
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16a)
And profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16b).
That the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:17).
There's a towering figure in the history of Christianity whose name you need to know. His name is Martin Luther. I want to tell you a little bit about his story. Martin Luther was born back in the 1400s, more than 500 years ago, and he was a very devout young man. He loved the Lord, and as a result, he eventually became a monk, a priest, even a professor of theology. As those callings demand, he was a student of the scripture. He loved the word of God and he voraciously and ardently studied it. In the course of studying the Bible, the scripture, he became concerned about the discrepancy, or the chasm, that existed between what the scriptures taught and what the dominant church of that age was doing. He saw errors, he believed, and he saw abuses. I'll mention one. There was the practice back in those days of selling indulgences. Let me explain this. An indulgence was a forgiveness of sins. You've done something wrong and you want to be forgiven. Well, the church taught at that time that they had the power to forgive sin, and if you would give an offering, you could, by means of that offering, purchase an indulgence. There was a guy who was traveling around Europe selling these indulgences. His name was Tetzel, and he had a little song that he sang, and it roughly went like this: “When the coin into the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.”
In other words, if you’ll give an offering big enough, your mother who’s suffering in purgatory can get out. Luther was troubled, to put it lightly, by these things because you don't see any of that in the Bible. It’s like, “Where do you get this, and why are you teaching that?” He viewed it as abusing the people. He said if the pope wants to build a new building in Rome, why doesn't he just do it out of his own treasury? He's fabulously wealthy. Why is he doing it on the backs of the peasants? So, Luther was upset.
I will say, Luther loved the church, and Luther wasn't looking to be a rebel or to rebel or to get out of the church. He wanted to reform it. He wanted a renewal. He wanted to take the church back to its origins, to its roots in scripture. So, he set about one day to write down some of his concerns. He did them, and when they were numbered, they were 95 in number. They are known to history by this phrase, “The 95 Theses.” You know what a thesis is, like a thesis statement in your term paper, or you write a thesis for your master's degree. The plural form of thesis is “theses.” 95 theses. There were 95 points of concern, and he took those 95 theses that he'd written out and he nailed to the door of the church where he was like the parish priest. I know that sounds like he was defacing the property; he was not. In those days, the church door functioned like a bulletin board, and if you wanted to announce something, you could tack it to the church door and it would be seen by all. So, he tacked to the door of the church his points of concern. He sent out an invitation. He said, “If you want to discuss these things, then I want to invite you to a dialogue. Let’s talk about these things, and if there needs to be change, let's make the changes.
Well, it caused a furor all across Europe because the church was in league with the Holy Roman Emperor. And they held the reins of power and wealth, and Luther was like a bee in the bonnet. It caused a furor. Word got all the way to Rome about what Luther had done, and so the pope initiated a church council, called together leaders from across the empire, and the emperor himself sat presiding over this gathering. They were going to discuss the points of concern that Luther had raised, and Luther had raised many significant theological points of concern. At stake was Luther's life. You know, in our culture today, it’s hard to appreciate this because in our day if we have different viewpoints, it's no big deal. It's no skin off your nose. You believe one thing, I believe another; we just live in peace with one another. We have religious liberty. It wasn't so in those days. If you took issue with the church, you would face the wrath of the empire, and Luther’s life was at stake; certainly his career and livelihood. So he was on trial, and as the trial grew to its climax, Luther was asked if he would recant what he had written. To recant means you do an about-face. You say, “I was wrong. I take back what I said.” So they said, “Luther, here's your choice. You're going to be condemned, or you can recant. Which will you do?”
Luther felt these things very deeply, and he said, “Would you give me an evening to pray about what I’ll say. They said, “Yes, you may have an evening.” So, Luther went back to his room. Luther played earnestly, “God what should I do”? And through that evening of prayer and counsel with friends, he came back the next day and he stood before... now, put yourself in his shoes. Could you do this? He stood before the emperor and the might of the empire, and he was asked once again, “Luther, will you recant?” I want you to hear his response:
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. May God help me. Amen.
When Luther said this, the fury of the empire came down upon him. He was excommunicated from the church. He was branded a heretic, and it was decreed that anyone who would take Luther's life would not be held liable for doing so. Fortunately for Luther, he had a confidant who was one of the princes of Germany, and he stole Luther away and hid him in a castle in a place called Wartburg. There, hidden away in the castle in Wartburg, Luther furiously, not angrily, but busily, set about translating the Bible into the common language of the people. The first German Bible was then published, and from it courage arose in Europe, and the first English translation by a man named Tyndale was published, and it set about a great renewal in the church, what’s known to history as the Great Reformation.
Luther Stands as a colossal figure of history because of this principle, and I'm going to give it to you in two words: Sola scriptura. Sola scriptura. You see, this month, every Sunday, we're going to take a different bedrock principle of our church, and we're going to teach upon it. The first of them is this one, Sola scriptura, that is translated “only scripture.” No decree of man, no church council, no pastor can dictate anything that supersedes or takes precedence over God's revealed word. Do you want to know why Istrouma Baptist Church is a vibrant and growing church today? I'm going to tell you why. One of the primary reasons is because we stand upon this principle, sola scriptura; only God's word reigns supreme over our conscience and our faith.
I want to convince you of this same principle. That’s my goal this morning. To do so, I'm going to ask you to turn in your Bible to 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Let’s stand to our feet as a sign of our respect for God's word, and we’ll read these two verses:
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.
Please be seated.
My wife and I were on vacation last week, and we thank you for giving us some days off. We traveled to Virginia where our children and grandchildren live. We had a great time hugging all those grandkid’s necks and just being with them. I want to thank Brad who preached in my absence last week. I heard he did a great job, and I thank you, Brad, for preaching God's word faithfully. But as we were on that trip and returning, my wife saw a church sign and it said this, “Daily devotions are better than yearly resolutions.” I like that. Daily devotions are better than yearly resolutions. We're at the time of New Year's resolutions, right? Everybody's got a New Year's resolution, whatever it is; lose weight, learn to play the guitar, whatever your New Year's resolution is. Could I just challenge you to this: Have a daily devotional. Daily time in the word of God because the word of God, sola scriptura, is our daily meat. It's our food. Man shall not live on bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. I want to motivate you to this, all right? Not just to daily devotion, but to a lifetime of living out the principles of God's word. I'm going to do it in three headings. First of all, I'm going to talk to you about the production of scripture – how did it come to be? Number two, I'm going to talk to you about the practicality of scripture. And finally, I'm going to talk to you about the purpose of scripture. All right; let’s take these up.
Number one, the production of scripture. How did it happen that we've come to hold in our hands this precious book here and now? I'm going to give it to you in these two words: inspiration and then implications. Inspiration and implications. “Inspiration,” what do I mean? I mean that God has given us this book by inspiration. Now the word often translated here “inspiration” is in the Greek language a very interesting word. In fact, it's a word that only appears once in all of the Bible. One time. It doesn't even occur in secular Greek literature of that day. It's a word that Paul coined. That is, Paul created this word. It didn't exist. The reason it's so unique it is because it is describing a process that is unique. The word is this: theopneustos. Theopneustos. It’s a compound word. It's got two parts to it. The first part is theos. Theos is the Greek word for God. Some of you knew that. We get our English word “theology,” the study of God, from theos. From the word theopneustos we get the root of our English word “pneumatic,” like a tire that's filled with air; that's a pneumatic tire, it’s an air-filled tire. Or “pneumonia,” when your lungs – you don't have enough respiration. It's the whole idea of breath or wind. So theopneustos is the wind of God. The breath of God. That's what is meant when it says “inspiration.” It is literally, all scripture is theopneustos; it is breathed out by God. Folks, this is phenomenal! No wonder he coined the term. There’s no other book like this book.
You know, sometimes we use the word “inspired” very casually. Like you hear a beautiful song and you're like, “Oh man, that was inspired.” Handel's “Messiah” – people will say, “That was inspired.” Or maybe you read a book; let’s say Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love,” and you’re like, “Oh man, that book’s inspired!” Could I just say to you? There is no other book, there is no other song, there is no other sermon. You say “Pastor Jeff, what a sermon, he was inspired today.” Not like this. I depend upon God and I ask him to help me and fill me, but the words that I say are not perfect. God's word is perfect. I seek to be faithful to it, but I can be mistaken. Church councils can be mistaken. Popes can be mistaken. But this book, never mistaken. Why? Because it’s breathed out by God. Here's what the Bible says of the Lord in Numbers 23:19: “God is not man, that he should lie…” We all lie. God doesn’t lie.
In Titus 1:2, God is described as the one who never lies. God can’t lie.
Hebrews 6:18 says, “It is impossible for God to lie.”
If God can't lie and these are his words, guess what? There’s no lie in this book. There’s no untruth. That's why we call it inerrant; infallible. It is perfect. It is God's word, and you can take it to the bank. Listen, people may lie to you. People may break their contracts with you. But God will never lie to you, and his word will always prove faithful. Take it to the bank. That's the inspiration.
Secondly, what are the implications of this? “Okay, big deal; this is God's inspired word. What's the significance of that?” Glad you asked. Let me give you a couple of the significances of this inspiration. Number one, it's true, and that's what I was just talking about. This book is true. But secondly, it is timeless. Psalm 119:89 says “Forever O Lord your word is established in the heavens.” That is, God's word will never change. It was relevant when Jesus trod this earth. It was relevant when Abraham lived. It was relevant when Jesus and the apostles lived, and friends, it's just as relevant today. It is timeless. “Forever O Lord your word is fixed or established in the heavens.” It will never change, and I'm so glad. This book is more relevant to your life than the newspaper that you picked up off your doorstep when you came out this morning. And by the way, nowadays, the newspaper that you get on your doorstep is already out of date. You know, you’d better look at your feed on your cell phone, right, to get the most recent story as it breaks. I want to tell you something. This book is more up-to-date than your news feed on your cell phone. It is timeless.
Listen, this is important. You young people listen to me. We’re living in a day where they talk about the “information overload.” Have you heard that phrase? I’ve talked to you before about what's called the “knowledge doubling curve.” Remember Buckminster Fuller, that scientist who said that from the dawn of humanity to the year 1900, human knowledge would double about every 100 years. Every once in a while you'd have an invention. The Chinese would invent fireworks. Then several hundred years later Gutenberg would invent the printing press. So knowledge grew very incrementally. But he said that when you get to the year 1900, when modernity is kicking in, knowledge begins to double every 25 years. Then you come up into the 1980s when he published his book, he said that knowledge was doubling every 12 months, every year. So every hundred years, every twenty-five years, every year. They say that now, with the Internet, and AI, artificial intelligence, human knowledge is doubling every 12 hours.
Now, an unintended effect of the doubling of knowledge is what's called the “half-life of knowledge.” Now, stick with me on this. I'm going somewhere! Listen. The half-life of knowledge. I've got some nursing students in here. I've got some medical doctors in here, so you can back me up on this. They say that when you go to medical school and you graduate, within 24 months half of what you learned in medical school is obsolete. You're an engineering student; they say that within a matter of a very scant few years, half of what you learned in engineering will be obsolete. Think about software developers. With software, there is the initial version, typically Version 0. Then V1.0, V2.0 etc. as updates and upgrades are needed. But look here: there’s no Bible 2.0, nor need there be. There's not going to be a Bible 10, and do you know why? Because this is inspired. God breathed it out. And because it's so, it's true and it is timeless. Because of divine inspiration there is no date of expiration! And all God's people said [“Amen”]. Doggone Right! Doggone Right. That's the production of scripture.
Now, number two, the practicality of scripture. Young people, listen to me. I'm an old fellow now, and I've learned some things across the years, and I'm going to help you. I'm not going to charge you tuition or anything. This book that I hold in my hand is practical. You say, “Man, I don’t want to listen to a sermon. That's boring. That has nothing to do with how I live.” Nothing could be further from the truth. You're not going to watch a television program; you’re not going to Netflix something (Is “Netflix a verb?). You’re not going to watch something on Netflix that's more pertinent to your life or more practical than what I am teaching you this morning and every other Sunday as far as that goes. I'm the most relevant media in your life, if I could say that; someone who faithfully teaches the word of God, and I hope that I do. And your Sunday School teachers, your small group leaders, your Bible study leaders, because they're giving you the inspired word of God, and it's practical. He says that this inspired word is profitable. I love that word. It means useful. It means valuable. This is useful, this is valuable, this is practical, all right? And he gives us four ways in which it is practical. Watch this. Four ways it’s practical: for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. Now, watch. Instruction is positive. “Here's what you ought to believe.” Reproof is negative. That's like, “Oops, you've got it wrong there; let me reprove you. Correction is also negative. And then the last word, training in righteousness is positive. So it's positive, negative, negative, positive. Do you see that? Those four characteristics are actually two pairs. The positive and negative first go together, and then the third and fourth, negative and positive, they go together. It’s what’s called in scripture a “chiasm.” Those two pairs go together. The first two pertain to our beliefs. The Bible gives us instruction as to what we ought to believe, and it reproves us when we believe anything different from that. But it's not just our beliefs that we get from the Bible. It ought to govern our behavior, and that's the last couplet. For correction; that is, when I’m off the path, and I’m behaving as I ought not, the word of God corrects me. And then it trains me in right conduct, righteousness, right living, making it practical.
Let me give you a word picture that I think will help you. Every little boy's dream – let me help you with next year’s Christmas list, all right? Moms, dads, listen. You want to get your son a gift he’ll like? Get him a Swiss Army Knife if he's never had one. How many of you have ever had a Swiss Army Knife? Would you raise your hand up? Swiss Army Knife – there's nothing cooler in the world. The reason it's cool is because it's so practical. You've got a magnifying glass. You've got scissors. You've got tweezers. You've got a ruler. You've got a saw – you can saw off a little branch. It's even got a hidden toothpick, did y'all know this? It’s pretty nasty; you can use that toothpick and put it back in the knife. That’s funny! Swiss Army Knife. But it's practical.
The Bible is your spiritual Swiss Army Knife. It instructs you. It reproves you. It corrects you. It trains you in righteousness. For some of you, you're not into Swiss Army Knives. Let me just use this illustration. This is a smartphone. This is the Millennials’ Swiss Army Knife, right here. Have you ever thought about what a smartphone can do? It's crazy! It's a phone. It's an alarm clock. It's a stopwatch. It's a calendar. It's a secretary. I can speak into this, and it will transcribe in written form what I say. I can text. I can email. When we were driving from Virginia to Louisiana, I didn't have to worry about where to turn. This is a guide for me. I could go on; you get the idea. I know you love your smartphone. You wouldn't dream of going anywhere without your smartphone. You lose it, and you’d start having hives – “where’s my smartphone?” You wake up; it's the first thing you consult. It’s the last thing; you put yourself to sleep scrolling through Instagram picks. Hey, don't go anywhere without God's word. Hide it in your heart. Daily devotional in it. Live it. It is practical.
Now, to the end. The purpose of it. I’ll just give you these two. It helps us become mature. Do you know why a lot of people in church are immature? Because they don't know the word of God. You become mature, the Bible says, speaking the truth in love. We are to grow up into him who is the head. How do you grow up? You get the word of God in you, and then, not only will you be mature, you’ll minister. You’ll serve.
Our ministries grow out of our knowledge of the word of God. And, oh, the ministry that God wants to do through your life. You’re some of the most gifted, dedicated people I know, and as you imbibe the truth of God's word you're going to be equipped and strengthened to find your place in ministry, and conduct it.
We're going to conclude this morning by celebrating the Lord's Supper. I’m going to tell you one last story. There was once a ship in the British Royal Navy. It was called The Bounty. It had a captain who was very demanding; some say cruel, even. They were sailing in the South Pacific, and they happened into the Tahiti Islands. They set down their anchor, and they lived there in Tahiti for a period of time. The sailors, they thought they’d died and gone to heaven. They’d come from cold, wet England, and here they are in balmy Tahiti. Palm trees swaying. Gentle breeze. Beautiful island women. The sailors reveled; they loved being in those islands.
The captain finally had had enough, and he said, “All right, we're going to get on board, and we're going to leave. We're going to go about our duties.” Some of the sailors decided they would mutiny; that is, turn on the captain, and they did. They put the captain and some of the senior officers into one of those rowboats, like a lifeboat on the ship, and they sent them away. They commandeered the ship. They put on board the ship a couple of dozen Tahiti people, many of them women, and these sailors sailed off into the ocean blue with these beautiful Tahiti women. They ended up finding a small remote island called Pitcairn Island. You can look it up. Pitcairn Island. They sailed into the bay of this beautiful tropical island. They took off everything of value from the ship, and they burned the ship so that they would never be discovered, they hoped. Because, look, if you mutiny against the Royal British Navy, it's a capital offense, so they're hiding for their lives. There, they think they've died and gone to the Garden of Eden. They are living ungodly lives. They discovered how to make alcohol from one of the plants on the island, and they're drinking, and they’re being sexually immoral.
But as the years go by, their Garden of Eden does what the first Garden of Eden did. It goes south. The men become jealous, fighting over the women. Many of the men are killed. Finally, there's only one British man still living. A number of Tahiti women are living. Now, they’ve fathered many children; kind of a colony there. The man is distraught. He sees the ruin and chaos about him, and he's searching through the things that they got off the ship, and he discovers a Bible and a Book of Common Prayer. He begins to study the word of God, and he becomes convicted of his sin and his need to repent and get right with God and get saved. And he does. Then he takes that same word of God, and he begins to teach the women he once abused, and the children.
Many years go by. In 1808, an American ship happened upon that island. They went there. They needed water, and they landed on the island. They discovered these people; now listen. Where there had once been warring and violence and crimes, there was peace. There wasn't a jail on the island. There wasn't a need for one. And the people were all Christian. How did that happen? Two words: sola scriptura, God's word transformed their lives. God intends that nothing less happen with us. He wants to transform us by his word. Do you know the primary way we’re transformed? Here I’m coming to the end. Jesus said to those who heard him; he said, “You study the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life. It is they that bear witness about me.” In other words, Jesus was saying, “It’s not enough to know scripture. You've got to know me.” He is the focal point of scripture. Do you know Christ? If not, this day, surrender your life to him, he who died on the cross, shed his blood, his body was broken for us. He arose from the dead so that we might be forgiven and transformed.
Let's stand with our heads bowed.