Sermon Text: 2 Timothy 3:10-4:5
Date: July 7 & 8, 2018
The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year B
2 Timothy 3:10–4:5 (EHV)
10But you have faithfully followed my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfast endurance, 11my persecutions, my sufferings—the kind that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, the kind of persecutions I endured—and the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12Indeed, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13while evil people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
14As for you, continue in the things you have learned and about which you have become convinced. You know from whom you learned them 15and that from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, and for training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be complete, well equipped for every good work.
4:1I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom: 2Preach the word. Be ready whether it is convenient or not. Correct, rebuke, and encourage, with all patience and teaching. 3For there will come a time when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, because they have itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in line with their own desires. 4They will also turn their ears away from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
5As for you, keep a clear head in every situation. Bear hardship. Do the work of an evangelist. Fulfill your ministry.
Continue In the Things You Have Learned
1. For Yourself
2. For Others
Spend a few moments with me, going through a few statements that might be heard in the life and ministry of a congregation.
The pastor sits in his members’ home, visiting with them, especially focusing on how the family hasn’t been in church very often lately. “Oh, but it’s so hard. Sunday morning is our day to sleep in or spend time together as a family. It’s difficult to get things going to be in worship regularly. But don’t worry, Pastor. We still know and believe everything from church…”
A member stands up in a voters’ meeting that is discussing challenges in the congregation, “We should do something different. What we teach makes it hard to find new members or to get children into the school. Maybe we could soften what we teach to make our ministry more universally appealing. After all, don’t we ruin chances to share the gospel by being so tied to our set of doctrines? Can we really expect people to be ok with the Bible’s view on marriage or close communion, or other things?”
The pastor looks at his schedule for the week and sees just too much to do in too few hours. He has to make compromises, and takes time from his personal devotions and his study in preparation for the sermon and Bible Class figuring he’s skilled enough to just “wing it.”
What is at the root of all of those thoughts and comments? A downplaying of God’s Word.
As Paul wrote the words of our lesson, he was in prison. Not the semi-cushy house arrest during which many of his other letters were written. No this is prison, prison. He is near to his execution for being a Christian, being an apostle and missionary. His death is close and he knows it. He’s writing to pastor Timothy, someone who spent a great deal of time with him during his missionary journeys. He is very close with Timothy. Their relationship is almost that of father and son. 2 Timothy is written as a sort of farewell to his dear friend and partner in the gospel ministry. As Paul writes, he hopes to see Timothy again but doesn’t know for sure that that will happen.
Paul has to assume that this could be the last time he gets to communicate with Timothy. So what does he want to say? Where will his heart be? And what can we learn from Paul’s priorities in his final correspondence with Timothy for the day-to-day life of our congregation and our day-to-day lives as Christians?
Paul in our lesson is firm and upfront, “Continue in the things you have learned and about which you have become convinced.” You ever watch a sporting event and one team seems to be on fire at the start of the game, but then something switches? They maybe get lazy in the latter parts of the game, or they switch their plan from trying to win to simply trying not to lose. It’s frustrating to watch because it’s clear they know how to play the game in the right way, but for one reason or another they get away from it and even have the potential to spoil a great start and lose the contest.
That is what Paul is encouraging Timothy to avoid. “You’ve started off well,” Paul says, “don’t change that. Continue doing what you’re doing.” And what are the things [Timothy had] learned? Paul says, “From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, well equipped for every good work.” Maybe some of those verses ring in your mind from memory work in Catechism. We have students memorize these verses because of the high priority the thoughts have in our lives even many years after Catechism work.
Why is God’s Word important? Paul first mentioned that it makes us wise for salvation through faith in Jesus. We can learn a lot of things about God from the world around us and the consciences that we are all born with. We can know God is powerful and kind, just and caring. We can know that he wants us to be perfect and that we haven’t been perfect and thus we are in trouble with him. But we’re left to our own devices to figure out a way to fix that. On our own, we assume that we have to do something good to make up for the bad we’ve done. That’s why every single religion and spiritual school of thought that is not biblical Christianity places some requirements on you as an individual to get back in the good graces of God or the universe or whatever they worship and revere. But it’s only in the Bible, only in God’s Word, that God reveals the real solution—Jesus’ life and death erases sin and brings us eternal life as a free gift. Nothing we do can make any difference. It’s only Jesus for us.
But God’s Word is not important simply because it tells you something different. I could write anything down, different and weird, but just because it’s different doesn’t make it good or right. But God’s Word, in all of the things that make it unique, is important because it’s reliable. Paul says that it is “God breathed.” Verbal inspiration means that every word in the Bible is God’s. Whether written down by Moses, or Jeremiah, or Matthew, or Paul, God is the ultimate author of his Word, and every word and concept that he inspired is important, perfect, and absolutely trustworthy.
But this is where we as individuals or even as a congregation can be led astray. We can start to view God’s Word as a launching off point from which we grow and learn and work our way beyond it. We might think to ourselves, “Sure, when I was younger God’s Word was important for me. But now, I’m beyond that.” We can start to treat God’s Word like eating with a fork. We spent a good amount of time learning how to do that and now we’re done. It’s all fine.
That thinking can affect our congregation too. We can get so invested in our programs and plans that we start to leave God’s Word “back there” and focus on all of our good ideas. Because we think that these plans are really what people need. Again, God’s Word can be relegated to a simple starting point or even a footnote in the congregation.
Paul has strong words for us if we as individuals or we as a congregation start to take a view of God’s Word that is anything short of it being the most important part of our lives. No matter how skilled we are, no matter how many good ideas we have, it is God’s Word alone that converts people from slaves of sin and death to children of God. God’s Word alone is what strengthens us in times of weakness and assures of God’s unending love for us. God’s Word alone needs to be the focus of our lives, which means worship, Bible study, home devotions, no matter how many times we heard and learned these lessons. God’s Word alone needs to be the focus of our ministry, not meeting people’s social needs but meeting their real spiritual needs with the only thing that can actually help.
That kind of plan will not necessarily make us the most popular church in the area. If we were more focused on providing carnivals and self-help seminars instead of solid instruction in God’s Word, my guess is that more people would be here on a regular basis. I know for a fact if we just ignored certain parts of God’s Word and instead took society’s view on a few issues, our numbers in our church and school would be swelling. But let’s take our marching orders from Paul, both in our individual need for God’s Word and the need for it to be the focus of all of the work we do as a congregation: Preach the word. Be ready whether it is convenient or not. Correct, rebuke, and encourage, with all patience and teaching.
God’s Word is not something we outgrow. It’s not something that uses up its usefulness. We will never have anything more important in our lives than that beautiful, perfect Word of God, through which God brings us to faith in our Savior and assures us of eternal life. May that Word be the center of your joy and the priority of your life now and forever! Amen.