Why Preach the Bible? Part 4
5-1-16 2 Timothy 3:17 Lesson 30
Good morning everybody. If we could take our Bibles and open them to 2 Timothy 3:17, continuing our look at this series that we’re in, which is a series within a series. The big series is
2 Timothy, the series within the series is Why Preach the Bible. And of course I want to give a shout out to all of the volunteers that worked so hard yesterday to put together that ladies luncheon. I feel the Lord blessed it and it was just a great event. In fact, some of you I’m shocked to see you here at church, I thought you’d be keeled over in exhaustion. But it’s good to see everybody here.
2 Timothy 3:17, if you’re visiting with us for the first time we are in the midst of a study through the book of 2 Timothy, which basically is a book about encouragement as Paul is seeking to encourage Timothy to complete his task in Ephesus as the pastor of that great work. Paul has called this young man to endurance, chapter 1. He has given him, chapter 2, about ten word pictures or metaphors explaining what endurance looks like. Some of those word pictures we’re going to dial back to today, as you will see.
And then he begins to talk about something that’s a huge subject in the New Testament but not a lot of pulpits address this. It has to do with the apostasy, how the church, as it progresses towards the end of the church age will be tempted more and more to veer of course and to abandon truth. It’s not really a prophecy about the world; the world doesn’t have any truth to abandon. It’s a prophecy about the church. Apostasy essentially is a departure from known truth. Paul has described the evil of the apostasy, verses 1-7. He’s given a couple of examples of apostates, verses 8-9. And then Paul gives the antidote for apostasy. He doesn’t tell Timothy you can stop the apostasy. What he tells him, though, is you can control how you react to it. And you, Timothy, need to not be pulled away with the majority; you need to continue on in what you know to be true. Paul tells Timothy to follow his own example of endurance.
And then beginning in chapter 3, verse 14 through chapter 4, verse 8, he tells Timothy to preach the Word of God. As the church loses interest in the Word of God you need to be more bold in proclaiming, first studying and then proclaiming the Word of God. And I want you to understand something, Timothy, that the Word of God accomplishes nine things. It changes lives, like Paul’s, verse 14. It gets folks saved, verse 15. It has to be preached because it’s of divine origins, it’s inspired by God, as we have talked about. And then last week you recall that it has an impact, a huge impact on the middle tense of our salvation that we call progressive sanctification. That’s all in verse 16. The Word of God gets you saved because “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” Romans 10:17. And then the Word of God helps you to mature and to grow. And that process of growth was described at the end of verse 16.
Now he continues on with his list and gives a fifth reason and this is where our focus is today on why the Word of God has to be something that’s a priority in your life, Timothy, as a spiritual leader, in spite of the apostasy. Number 5, the Word of God has to be a priority in your life because of its impact on equipping. See, there’s a lot of things that we want to do in the natural world but we’re just not fitted properly for it. For example, I think jumping out of an airplane looks fun, but unless I go through a training class and unless I have the right equipment, the parachute especially being important I guess, it’s not something that I would just jump out and do because I have to be fitted properly or equipped properly for that activity.
And you see, there are many, many people in the body of Christ that want to do this and that for God; they have a zeal for some ministry or for some vision that they have but they have never really allowed themselves to be equipped by God’s Word for that task. The Word of God, then, becomes this tremendous tool that the Holy Spirit uses to equip us. And that’s the focus there of verse 17.
So let’s take a look there at verse 17 as we read it once again, “so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Now what I’m seeing here are about seven clauses or phrases that need to be understood. It’s difficult to understand the philosophy of ministry that we have at Sugar Land Bible Church without understanding these seven phrases, or clauses, coming out of verse 17.
You’ll notice this first one there, “so that,” or sometimes translated “in order that.” That’s what you call a hina clause in Greek, “so that the man of God may be adequately equipped for every good work.” What does “so that” communicate? It communicates causation. In other words, the Scripture, which has been described in verse 16 and its role in our growth in Christ causes or produces something in the life of the child of God, as we’re going to be studying here, it produces equipment “for every good work.”
So this little expression, “so that” connects verse 17 back to verse 16. Well, what was the content in verse 16? Our sanctification. Our sanctification is not where we become sinless, but as we are going thru the process of progressive sanctification by being perpetually corrected by the Word of God, as we saw last time, hopefully what is happening is we’re sinning less. Our lives are gradually being conformed and transformed into the moral character of Jesus Christ. We are beginning to exhibit what the book of Galatians calls the fruit of the Spirit. [Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”] And as that process takes hold in the life of the child of God it produces so that, in order that, it produces a life of good works. So you notice the order here; holiness, personal holiness comes first and then the ministry of good works that God has for each of us comes second. God uses vessels that are pure.
Now when you go back to 2 Timothy 2:19-23 you’ll remember that Paul told Timothy about the two vessels. It says there, 2 Timothy 2:2, “Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.  Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.  Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”
What he is talking about here between these two vessels is not the difference between a believer and an unbeliever; he is talking about two different kinds of believers. One believer has made great strides through God’s Word in this middle tense of salvation, that we call progressive sanctification. Another one hasn’t, he, or she, is still living just like they lived in the world. And God looks at those two people as two different kinds of vessels; we might draw the distinction between plastic and silver; plastic wear and silver wear. If you’re having an ordinary occasion at your house you use the plastic wear. If something special is happening in your house, New Year’s, Christmas, birthday, anniversary, Thanksgiving, you break out the silverware. And it’s the same way in the Lord’s house. He’s got objects of plastic and He’s got objects of silver; one is for very common purposes, one is for very noble purposes. And what determines what a believer is one or the other fit for the Master’s use is their personal holiness.
That’s the significance of this hina clause, “so that” and the rest of the verse begins to talk about good works. The hina clause connects verse 17 back to verse 16 which is talking about our personal holiness. God uses people that are personally holy. And this is very different than the way our culture thinks; we look for talent constantly. Even in the church world we look this way, we look at people that have talent to do something, to preach, to teach, to sing, to administer, some kind of talent. We have a tendency to promote that person independent of what they’re like in their personal life. And God doesn’t think that way. Such thinking is foreign to the pages of God’s Word. And with our political system you hear politicians of all stripes saying look, I’m doing a good job in office, the economy is still running along fine. So what I do in my private life is nobody’s business.
So we bifurcate job performance with personal holiness and that thinking seeps into the church and what we discover in the Word of God, particularly the imagery with those two vessels is that doesn’t work with God at all. God uses people that are personally holy. The greater strides we make in this realm of personal holiness the more God graduates us to greater and greater degrees of usability.
You know, you run into a lot of people and you look at them and you say well, there’s a very talented person over there; I wonder why they’re not being used more in the area of their gifting. I wonder why God is not using that person more to expand His purposes on the earth. And I would bet this if I were a betting man; nine times out of ten if you look into that person’s life there’s a deficiency of their character. There is some sort of habitual sin that keeps happening and they have not brought that under the reigning and the authority of Jesus Christ. And so God basically puts them on the bench; they’re benchwarmers, they’re not really in the game. They’re very talented people but God simply can’t use them the way He wants because He uses vessels that are holy before Him.
“So that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Now notice this second expression, “man of God.” “So that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Who is “the man of God”? Well, that’s sort of an easy question to answer if you’re familiar with 1 Timothy because 1 Timothy comes before 2 Timothy. Do you all agree with that thinking? 1 Timothy comes first, 2 Timothy comes second. And going back to 1 Timothy 6:11 he defines who the man of God is, “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteous, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” So who is “the man of God”? The “man of God” is Timothy. The man of God, therefore by analogy or extension would be all people that really have a heart to serve the Lord. The man is “the man of God.” The woman would be “the woman of God.” And what I want you to see in 2 Timothy 3:17 is that he mentions “the man of God” but he mentions that “the man of God” needs to be “adequate,” and needs to be “equipped.”
In other words, just because someone is a man or a woman of God does not mean that they’re qualified to do great exploits and things for God. There has to be some kind of equipping process which only the Word of God can provide. There are many, many people that are very sincere about the things of God. They are very eager to get on with the business of God. And yet God looks at them as a sincere man or woman of God who lacks the equipment which can only be given through the Word of God.
I’m reminded of the prophet, Ezekiel; Ezekiel had a tremendous ministry, it spanned about 20 years or so. He preached judgment and he preached restoration. And it’s interesting to me how the Lord prepared Ezekiel for that ministry. In the book of Ezekiel, chapter 2, verses 8-10, it says this: “Now you, son of man, listen to what I am speaking to you; do not be rebellious like that rebellious house. Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.  Then I looked, and behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll was in it.  Then He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back, and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe.”
It’s a metaphor here. Ezekiel, before you enter your ministry, before you enter your calling I want you to do something first by way of preparation. I want you to consume the scroll that I am giving you, metaphorically, for “man shall not live on bread alone, but on” what? “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Ezekiel, you’re going to have a tremendous ministry but you have to be equipped for it first. You have to consume, you have to absorb the Word of God.
You know, you think about Jesus; Jesus had a thirty year preparation for a three year ministry. And most of us would rather have that order reversed; I mean I want a three year preparation for thirty year ministry and frankly I don’t really want to bother with three years if I can get by without it. And that’s not how God works. There are many people that get out and try to do things for God who have never had a season in their life of absorbing truth and such people may have talent, they may have energy, they are kind of like a flash in the pan, but the depth isn’t there. They have a drawer full of maybe three sermons that they just repeat over and over and over again. And I know people like this; you listen to them talk and you say that’s what they said last month, or last year. There’s only so much they have to draw from because they have never submitted themselves to the equipping ministry of the Word of God. So Timothy, you’re a man of God and you need to be prepared for your ministry by the Word of God.
And then you’ll notice this expression here in verse 17, “may be,” notice again what the verse says, “so that the man of God may be” or might be adequately “equipped for every good work.” That’s a verb, “may be” as it’s translated. It’s what you call in the subjunctive mood which is the mood of possibility; maybe this will happen, maybe it won’t. It’s the mood of probability; maybe this will happen, maybe it won’t. In other words, it’s not guaranteed that Timothy will submit himself to the equipping nature of God’s Word. And that’s why God told Timothy back in the word pictures in 2 Timothy 2;15, in the word picture of the workman, he said, 2 Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”
How do you get to a point in your life where you can accurately handle the Word of God? Well, this verse says you have to be diligent. What is diligent? It’s consistency, regularity. And you have to present yourself over and over to God, submitting to His Word both in knowledge and in obedience. And that regular process is the process God uses more than any other single thing to prepare people to be the husband they’re supposed to be; to prepare people to be the wife they’re supposed to be. To prepare people to be the parent they’re supposed to be, or the child they’re supposed to be, or the ministry that they’re supposed to have. Or what they’re going to be doing on the job and in their career. We’re all called to do different things. How in the world does God prepare us for these tasks? It is only accomplished through the work of the Word, the ministry of the Word.
And a lot of us just do not reach our potential because we’ve never spent time in God’s Word the way we should. You know, I have these cleansing teas I drink in the evening, and sometimes I’m in a hurry, I just want to drink the dumb thing and get to bed and, you know, I throw it in the microwave, flick it on for 30 seconds and drop the tea bag in and okay, it’s been in there for 15 seconds, that’s enough time, let’s drink it and check it off my list and get to bed. You know when I do that the tea doesn’t taste too good; it tastes like water. And isn’t it interesting that the longer that tea bag soaks in the water the stronger and stronger that tea that I’m about to consume becomes.
And all of us are like this with the Word of God. We want to be this and we want t be that but we’re not really soaking in the Word of God as we should and so we have sort of a powerless taste to our lives. The power of life, the power of ministry comes from meditating on the Word of God both day and night.
Now notice also this word “adequate.” 1 Timothy 3:17, “so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” This word “adequate” is very interesting. It’s an adjective, artios, it means to be complete, capable, proficient, competent. Timothy, you’re not any of these things on your own, even though you’re a man of God, even though you have a heart for God. You’re not any of these things on your own. On your own you’re not complete; you’re not capable, you’re not proficient, frankly you’re not even competent. But it is the equipment and the fitting that the Word of God will give you that will equip you for your task. And what a task that was.
Can you imagine being put in charge of that church at Ephesus, the key church of the first century world; a church that Paul, the apostle himself had planted, a church that Paul, when he pastored that church, Acts 19:10 says everyone in Asia heard the word of the Lord through that ministry. [Acts 19:10, “This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”] What a ministry, and here’s this kid, young man, who basically gets sick a lot, not exactly something that would just jump off a page as you look at a resume, I mean, who would put Timothy in charge of this?
But Timothy was in that position. The Apostle Paul had put him in that position. And can you sense the inadequacy that Timothy felt? Not being up to the task; not being up to the job. No doubt some of you feel like that just in daily life. I feel like that many times, just not up to the task. And how meaningful this promise is here, that it’s the Word that will equip you. Give yourself to the sacred scriptures and writings because they, and they alone, as God unfolds them through the ministry of illumination will prepare you for your task, which you’re not adequate for by yourself.
What does the Word of God exactly do for us. This takes us to number 5, it prepares us for, notice this expression, “good works.” agathos is the word good; argon is the word work; notice again the verse, “so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every” we’ll be focusing on “every” in just a minute, but right now just focus on “good work.”
You know, I think… and I’m partly to blame for this, at least in this church, good works have gotten a bad rap. We preach so aggressively against, because of many false gospels out there, we preach so aggressively against this idea that goods works gain you salvation. We’re so aggressive in that direction that you get the impression that I guess good works are bad; I guess God doesn’t want good works at all. We preach so aggressively that good works don’t guarantee your salvation, good works don’t authenticate your salvation; what gives you the assurance of salvation are the promises of God. We preach so aggressively in that direction that we get this idea that good works are somehow out of God’s will; good works are bad.
And what a distorted impression of the Bible we can get. Let me tell you something. You were created to do good works. God desires for His children to abound in good works. We quote, quite frequently Ephesians 2:8-9, we leave off verse 10. Why do we do that? Ephesians 2:8-9 most of us know it by heart, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; it is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God,  not as a result of works, so that no one can boast.” And we put the Bible down. But what about verse 10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Wow, you mean I am created for the purpose of good works? You mean that the good works God has me to do as His child of God are actually prepared beforehand. You want to talk about restoration of good works, Ephesians 2:10 does this.
Now good works have to be understood correctly. They don’t precede salvation, they follow salvation in the design of God. We do good works with the right motivation under His power, however, the good works themselves are critical to the life of the child of God. Of course they don’t gain one justification before God; we’ve given multiple teachings on that. And yet the desire of God for the child of God is to abound in good works. Jesus taught this in the Upper Room, did He not. In John 15:5 Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me and I him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Wow, the Lord wants us, as His children, to bear, not just a little few shriveling grapes on the side but “much fruit.”
And then he says in John 15:8, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove yourselves to be My disciples.” We’ve drawn distinctions in our teachings between being a believer and being a disciple, which we won’t rehash here. But a disciple is a follower of God; not all believers are disciples but every disciple is a believer. You get saved, you receive the gospel, you’re ushered into the family of God and then the calling on your life is move off into discipleship. And what is the criteria that God uses to determine if we are truly His disciples? It is the bearing of not a few shriveling grapes but “much fruit.” That’s how you’re going to prove you’re really followers of Mine the Lord Jesus says.
If you don’t believe me, read this week the whole book of James, five chapters. The book of James contrary to popular opinion is not written so that people can second guess whether they are Christians; that’s not it’s point. It’s trying to move people off the bench and into the game. Are you tired of being third string? Don’t you ever want to be the starting quarterback? Read the book of James. It moves people away from dead orthodoxy, people that have their fire insurance paid up and are going to heaven and moves them into the realm of workers for the kingdom of God expanding His purpose on the earth. You all know that I believe the kingdom is yet future but certainly we can win souls for that coming kingdom, can’t we? That’s what the book of James teaches.
And what prepares us for these good words? It’s the Word of God. The Word of God equips us, not just a little tiny bit but adequately for every good work. Thomas Constable, in his Online Notes writes this: “Every good work is the ultimate goal of our lives.” Ephesians 2:10. The mastery and use of Scripture is only a means to an end, not and end in and of itself. God did not give us the Bible just to satisfy our curiosity but to enable us to help other people spiritually.”
You mean the study of the Bible, you mean learning Greek tenses, you mean winning the Bible Bee, memorizing verses, listening to sermons, going to Sunday School class, reading through the Bible in a one year plan, you mean that’s not the end of the game? No it’s not, that’s the beginning of the game. That’s not even the end goal; that’s a means to the goal. The Word, when it does its work in the heart of a person adequately equips that person to be used as a vessel or a channel or a vehicle for God so that other people can be blessed.
Have you heard the expression, “Blessed to be a blessing”? What is God’s plan for your life? He wants to use you to bless other people. That’s what He wants to do. Well, what prepares you for that? It is the work of the Word which prepares us for our purpose.
Barclay in his commentary writes this: “He” the Christian, “must study the Scriptures to make himself useful to God and useful to his fellow man. He must study, not simply and solely to save his own soul but that he may make himself such that God will use him to help to save souls and comfort the lives of other people.” God wants to use you to help save other people, to comfort them, to bless them. He is not giving you an understanding of the Bible just to win some kind of trivial pursuit contest. “Blessed to be a blessing,” and yet you can’t move into that realm of being a blessing unless you’ve been adequately prepped for it through the Word of God.
And what does the Word of God do? This takes us to number 6, it equips the child of God. The word “equip” here is very, very interesting because if you hold you place here let me take you to one other place in the Bible. Look at Ephesians 4:11 and following. And what you need to understand as you’re turning there is that the church at Ephesus has a paper trail. 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy, written to the church at Ephesus do not represent the first book that God ever wrote to that church. In fact, the very first book that God authored through Paul to that church is the book called what? Ephesians. Where was Timothy? Ephesus. So to understand this concept of equipping it’s necessary to go back to the very first letter that the Holy Spirit gave to that church. And if you start connecting the dots in this way you’ll start to see what he means by this ministry of equipping.
In Ephesians 4:11 it says, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets,” now that’s the foundation of the structure of the church, and He gave “some as evangelists,” those are those who have a gifting and a calling to go out amongst the lost and bring other people to Christ into the fold. Without evangelists the church can’t grow. And watch this, “and some as pastors and teachers,” in the natural world there is a difference between an obstetrician and a pediatrician; those are two completely different disciplines, aren’t they. In fact, I don’t even know of a doctor who is both. The obstetrician helps in the birthing process; pediatrician helps the newborn grow. The evangelist is the obstetrician, the pediatrician is the pastors and teachers, more technically pastor-teacher.
For what purpose? “ For the” what? What’s the next word? [verse 12] “For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;” and you go right through the rest of that paragraph through verse 16 and you’ll see what maturity looks like. [Verse 13, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.  As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;  but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,  from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”] It is the function, then, of the pediatrician or the pastor-teacher to equip the flock so that the flock can grow and mature to a point where God can start using them as individuals to bless other people.
Now here’s the $20 question: through what means or mechanism does the pastor-teacher equip the flock. Well, let’s take it to the third letter that Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus and that’s back to 1 Timothy 3:17, it tells us exactly. After dealing with the Scriptures he says, “so that the man of God may be adequate,” and what? “equipped,” the gift of pastor-teacher is the ability, therefore, to understand the Word of God and explain the Word of God in a way that your average Christian can get it and understand it. And as the Holy Spirit uses that spiritual gift of pastor-teacher what is happening to the flock of God is they are growing in terms of maturity and Christ likeness. And as they grow in maturity and Christ likeness, as they become blessed what happens is they are equipped so they can be a blessing.
What is this church, Sugar Land Bible Church about? What is our forte? What is our game? What is our bag? What is our specialty? You can sum it all up in this word “equip.” We are a teaching church; we believe in teaching the Word of God in a way that people can understand it and apply it and so that they can grow to the point where God can begin to use them in their office, their vocation, their calling, their ministry. And unless you understand this ministry of equipping the focus of this church is a mystery. I mean, why do you have to preach for a whole hour? Can’t we beat the Baptists to the cafeteria at 1:00 someday at least? And so much of church life today is not built around this concept of equipping. It’s like fast food, you’re in and you’re out; give me a liver quiver for the week. Give me three points and a poem and let me get on with my life. That’s not what this church is; that’s not what our calling is. That isn’t what our specialty is. It isn’t what our forte is. It is about equipping.
And Paul is very clear here that this equipping cannot and will not happen independent of a perpetual intake of the Word of God. We’re not here for entertainment; we’re not here for show. We’re not here for meet and greet. We’re not here for people to use the church to climb some kind of social structure or scale. That’s not the purpose at all. That’s not even why God called the church into existence and began to put into it various spiritual gifts. This church is about equipping.
Now later on in the passage, chapter 4, which we won’t be getting to today, it also says do the work of an evangelist. I don’t believe I have the gift of evangelism. I wish I did but God gives the gifts according to His will, Hebrews 2:4 says that. [Hebrews 2:4, “God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”] And I don’t think Timothy had the gift of evangelist either. And yet he was called to do the work of an evangelist. So part of our equipping ministry is to also give the gospel regularly in the hopes that some would respond to it. If I had the gift Billy Graham had I could give the gospel and hundreds and thousands of people would get saved. That’s not happening with me; God hasn’t made me that way. So then why do you keep giving it? Because some of you have the gift; God wants to use you as an evangelist because you, in your family, in your business, in your office, in your spheres of influence, have contact with people whose names I don’t even know and have never met. And I can equip you to be an evangelist because you’ll hear the gospel over and over again, and you’ll start picking up on how to share it, what to focus on. This is all part of this ministry philosophy of equipping.
And this last one, now “last one” doesn’t mean we’re done in 30 seconds because this one will step on a few toes.. all right? But we’re all friends at the end of the day, I want you to remember that. The last point here is “every.” Did you catch the everys and the alls back in verse 16, Scripture is inspired by God, it says, “All Scripture” that word “all” is a big deal. Now notice what he says here in verse 17, “so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for” what kind of good work? “every good work.” It’s an adjective, “all” or “every.”
There is a parallel passage in 2 Peter 1:3-4 which makes the same claim. Peter writes, so “that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” Notice “promises” is underlined; that’s the Scripture. What do we have in the Scripture is “everything” related “to life and godliness.”
Going back to 2 Timothy 3:17, [“so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”] What does the Scripture do? It adequately equips, not for a few good works, but “for every good work.” Now this is a piece of Swiss cheese, it’s supposed to look like that anyway. That is how your average evangelical Christian today looks at the Bible. They look at it like a piece of Swiss cheese, it’s got a lot of holes in it. The Bible has a lot of good things to say, people think, but what do we do with these holes where the Bible has not really addressed something. We’ve got to plug up the hole with something and let’s borrow the thinking of man to plug up the hole.
And what I’m dealing with here is not the issue of inspiration of the Bible; I’m not dealing with inerrancy of the Bible, what I’m talking about here is the sufficiency of the Bible. Is the Bible enough to prepare the child of God for “every good work.” That’s the battle today because you can walk into a church and they can be pursuing a totally different ministry philosophy and I’ll show you why they’re pursuing that ministry philosophy in just a moment, and they will tell you they believe in the inspiration of the Bible; they will tell you they believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. Then what’s the problem? The problem is a disagreement over the sufficiency of the Bible.
2 Peter 1:3-4, 2 Timothy 3:17 are making a claim of sufficiency, that the Bible is enough “for every good work.”
Let me give you some examples. The Bible is enough to tell you how to get to heaven; if you want to know how to get to heaven when you die you don’t need to consult a bunch of theologians and Popes and priests and Monks from the past, and a bunch of church traditions. There’s no hole here that has to be plugged up; you simply consult the Word of God, interpreting it accurately. Do you want to know where everything came from? How do we get here? The Bible tells you. Genesis 1-11 explains where we came from. It’s astounding to me how must… not most buy many evangelical Christians don’t believe that. The Bible has a hole there, they say. Well, how are you going to get to the truth? We’ve got to plug up that hole with the thinking of man, a little bit from Charles Lyell a little bit from Charles Darwin may help, and let’s mix the whole thing together.
That is an assault, that mindset is an assault on the sufficiency of the Bible. I don’t need Charles Darwin because the Bible tells me where everything came from. In fact, if I needed Charles Darwin what does the church do for 1859 years? Charles Darwin published his book, The Origin of Species in 1858; what did the church do for 1859 years before Charles Darwin came along. That’s the silliness that we gravitate towards when we take the thinking of man and put it on some kind of pedestal.
What about emotional health? Do you know what I’ve discovered as a Christian? This book has done for my emotional wellbeing than any other single source. It’s helped me with anxiety, a destructive emotion, it’s helped me with worry, a destructive emotion, it has helped me with bitterness, with a destructive emotion, and today I’m a… you know, a fairly normal person. Don’t push that too far, I’ve got some growing to do as we all do. This book has liberated me emotionally and once I began to discover that I began to discard the thinking of Freud, Skinner and Young, most of whom hated God’s guts. Carl Jung even had his own spirit guide named Philemon, who I believe was a demon, giving him insight into human behavior.
What about the issue of spiritual warfare? You know, you talk to different Christians and they’re involved in all kinds of practices that you don’t find in the Bible: praying down territorial spirits, binding Satan. Why would I bind Satan when the Bible says he’s not going to be bound until the millennial kingdom. Why would I have in my prayer life “Satan, I bind you?” Some people, I’ve talked to them and they’re very deep into spiritual warfare and they will actually tell you the names of the demons they’re fighting. I don’t see that in the Bible. What I see in the Bible is sufficient information for engaging in spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:16 says, with “the shield of faith” we are “able to extinguish” what? “all the flaming darts of the evil one.”
1 John 2:14 says, “I have written to you, young me, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” Why? Because of “the word of God.” These are all sufficiency of Scripture issues that I am articulating.
What about money? What is your philosophy of money? Finances? Debt? Revenues? Taxation? It’s fascinating to me how Christians will flock to some speaker somewhere with limited biblical credentials, if any, to teach you how to line up your finances. Did you know that the Bible says more about money than any other single issue. Before faith, before heaven, before hell the Bible is talking about money. If you want a great book that articulates a biblical philosophy of money I would encourage you to read the book, Money and Possessions in Light of Eternity by Randy Alcorn. As a new Christian I devoured that book. Why? Because it wasn’t filled with a bunch of human wisdom. The whole thing is exegesis of Scripture. It deals with every Scripture you can imagine in the Bible dealing with money.
What about church management? Well, God has given us some books on church management. There’s three of them: 1 Timothy, 1 Timothy, and Titus. But beloved, that’s not where the church leadership is today in many places; it’s Peter Drucker, Steven Covey, and Abraham Maslow. And in fact, I have been handed books by people related to the subject of church management that I will not touch with a ten foot pole. Let me tell you why I don’t touch them with a ten foot pole: because I can look in the index and I can ascertain where is the wisdom being pulled from to produce this book. Many times you have no references to the pastoral letters in these books; you have a lot of references to marketing management, secular thought, Steven Covey, Peter Drucker, whoever, but we’ve forgotten that the Scripture is sufficient in this area of managing a church.
In fact, what runs most churches today is not 1Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus; it’s a man named Abraham Maslow, who developed what is called The Hierarchy of Needs, first you get your… at the bottom of the pyramid your physiological needs, then your safety needs, then you move up the list to your social needs, to your esteemed needs and finally you reach some point of self-actualization. I used to teach marketing in the community college in California, I know all about Abraham Maslow, one of my majors in college was marketing. Marketing is built around Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs where you produce a marketing mix or a product that appeals to somebody’s needs in one of these five areas and they’ll buy the product.
And how discouraging it was for me as a young Christian to get into the seminary and to take a class on pastoral leadership only to find the same philosophy at work with maybe one or two verses thrown in. In the pastor’s coffee today we were talking about how churches you go to them and you feel like you’re hearing the same message over and over and over again. Why is that? Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As people have brought this into the church you pick sermon topics around one of these needs and anything that doesn’t fit into one of these needs, like heaven, hell, angels, demons, salvation, you just discard. So what you’re getting is a canon within the Canon, where certain Bible verses are recycled over and over and over again. It’s related to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Sadly I’ve taken classes where people say you’ve got get people’s right personality types identified and they have different animals for the different personality types. Sadly I even took a class at my Alma Mater dealing with that. If that issue was so significant why aren’t an analysis of our personality types found in the pages of God’s Word? How about family? Marriage? Child rearing? Where do you go for that kind of information. Do you know where most of the world goes in Christianity? They go to a psychologist. One of them is very popular, he’s on the radio quite a bit. You listen to him talk, he’s borrowing from secular psychology. He’s bringing it into the Christian world as some sort of tool to help people with marriage and family.
And oh how different our lives would be if we took our cues from the Word of God. If we went to Ephesians 5:22 and read it as a family down through chapter 6 verse 4 you would find instructions from the God of heaven who has told husbands what they’re supposed to do, wives what they’re supposed to do, parents what they’re supposed to do, children what they’re supposed to do. How about employee/employer relations, the ancient labor/management conflict. Where do you get your analysis for handling those problems. I get mine from Ephesians 6:5-9. That will tell you more than any other single source related to how you should behave as a boss and how you should behave has an employee.
And how we are being bombarded today with extra-biblical revelation. The Mormons, not if but when they show up to your door will tell you that what you have in the Bible is incomplete, you need these other books; you haven’t heard about Jesus and His presence here in North America? These other books, The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine of Covenants, will tell you about it. And how sadly so many Christians will not make a move in their personal life unless they have some sort of dream, some sort of vision or some sort of subjective experience from God. Beloved, what does 2 Timothy 3:17 say. [2 Timothy 3:17, “so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”]
I’m not against dreams and visions if that’s what God gives you but your authority is not some dream or vision or premonition or experience. The Word of God is sufficient to equip you for every good work. How do you vote in elections? I’m not getting into Republican, Democrat, Liberal, Conservative. I’m talking about when you go into a voting a booth and you pull a lever for someone what are you thinking about? Do you know what I’m thinking about? I’m thinking about the Bible. You say well, that’s weird, what about your party? I’m a Christocrat anyway not a republican or a democrat.
I’m thinking Bible because God has revealed issues in the Bible related to foreign affairs, related to finance, related to domestic affairs. He has spoken on these issues and I want to know, does Mr. and Mrs. So and So for such and such an office that I’m voting for, do they line up with the way God thinks? I don’t vote the way my parents voted, I don’t vote the way my party tells me to vote. I don’t vote whether if I vote for this guy then my office is going to get some new contract from government. I’m not thinking about that at all. I’m thinking God, because that’s what the Scripture will do for you if you give it a chance. You guys are pretty quiet, I told you I’d step on a few toes. That’s my challenge to you. You may not agree with every little jot and tittle with what I said; that’s fine, we’re still friends at the end of the day. I would just challenge you with every issue in your life, and we’ve covered many, is the Scripture the authority. What’s the Word of God going to do for you? A lot.
Shall we pray. Father, we’re grateful for this small verse at the end of a chapter reminding us, bringing us back to basics, what the Scripture can do, how it will adequately equip us for every good work and we will be careful to give You the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus name, and God’s people said….