A sermon by Dr Donald T. Williams - donaldtwilliams.com

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Presented at Trinity Fellowship on 11/08/1992

2 Timothy 3:14-17

The Source of the Gospel 3:14 You, however, continue in the things which you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. INTRODUCTION

One of the weaknesses of modern Christians, even those who have not succumbed to the biblical illiteracy of our age, is that their knowledge of Scripture and its teaching tends to be fragmented. You have a series of isolated doctrines that are all affirmed with great gusto and defended with great zeal but which never interact. Over here is the person of Christ: his virgin birth, his deity, his sinless humanity. Over here is salvation: the vicarious, substitutionary atonement in Christ's blood, justification by faith alone. Over here is eschatology: personal, premillennial, imminent. Over here is Scripture: inspired, infallible, inerrant. But how are all these truths related? That is the missing dynamic.

Well, Second Timothy helps us to overcome this problem by, today, showing us how the doctrine of Scripture is related to salvation, evangelism, and the Christian life. For this great prooftext on the inspiration and authority of Scripture occurs in an epistle where Paul's overriding concern is with the Gospel: that Timothy may have boldness for the Gospel after Paul is gone, to preserve it in its purity and preach it with power. Therefore he wants Timothy to understand the basis for that boldness in the source of the Gospel, to the end that those practical ends will be achieved. For, as we have seen, because of the content of the Gospel, there will be opposition to the Gospel, which will often lead to suffering for the Gospel; but when we consider the source of the Gospel, the rewards of the Gospel, and the power of the Gospel, those considerations should give us boldness for the Gospel, in the preservation of the Gospel and the proclamation of the Gospel. Today we come to consider the source of the Gospel.


The emphasis of Paul's teaching on Scripture in Second Timothy is that God is the source of the Gospel message. He sent it first of all in the very person of his Son: it was "the appearing of our savior Jesus Christ" which "brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel" (1:10). In Christ, God entered history, and the New Testament is the authoritative record of this fact and its definitive and authoritative interpretation. If we look at passages such as John 15:15, 17:8, 14, 14:26, and 16:13, it becomes clear that Jesus came to give us God's Word; the Apostles are the instruments through which he continued to do so after his ascension; and the Holy Spirit is the guarantor of the fulfillment of their mission to do so. The New Testament then is simply a continuation of the ministry of Jesus Christ in revealing the Word of God to us. It is just as if everything in this book came directly from his own mouth. That is why it is so important that Timothy be a workman who needs not to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of Truth (2:15), and why he is, in contrast, to refuse empty speculations (2:23). It is God who makes Scripture the Word of Truth, the authoritative statement of the Gospel and its authoritative explanation, and this reduces versions of the Gospel based on any other source to fruitless speculation.

This teaching reaches its climax in 3:16, where all Scripture--the canonical Old Testament which prepared for Christ's coming and the growing New Testament which narrates, explains, and applies it--is inspired by God. Two key words are used in this statement. Graphe means writing; it refers to actual ink marks on parchment or vellum. So "Scripture" means concrete manuscripts, the actual words in the original languages that were written by the prophets and apostles and copied for us by a succession of scribes. That is why, while translations are useful (obviously), it is the original languages that are authoritative. And these Scriptures, these graphe, are said to be "inspired," theopneustos. Theopneustos means literally "God-breathed." The actual words of the original manuscripts of Scripture were, in effect, breathed out or spoken by God. Now, we know that they were literally written down by Paul, Peter Luke, John, etc., with their own personalities coming through unimpeded. But in effect they are the words of God. Inspiration means that God so superintended the process of writing that his apostles said exactly what he wanted them to say. And this is why we call the Bible the Word of God. These words were breathed out by the same Breath that put into Adam the breath of life. They are therefore not only God's, not only true, but they are also alive, powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, etc.


What does this mean? How does it advance Paul's agenda in this book of giving Timothy a well grounded foundation for boldly preserving and proclaiming the Gospel? This understanding of the source of the Gospel was to give Timothy, and should give us, at least three things. They are implied in the series of statements in 3:16 about what Scripture is profitable for: teaching, reprooof, correction, training in righteousness to make us equipped for every good work. And they are:


The Gospel was given to us by God, and the words that convey it are as good as if they had come from his very mouth. And therefore we should have a belief in the Gospel, a trust in it, that is more than tentative and that never wavers. This is no small thing. For no one who does not believe the Gospel is warranted in having that kind of confidence in his own philosophy of life. Do we know the meaning of life? Are we sure? Unless God has spoken in a trustworthy manner, no one can be sure.

Unless God has spoken, human beings are reduced to blindness at worst and relativism at best when it comes to the important questions of life. On every issue we are surrounded by conflicting opinions. Is sex too good to be confined to marriage or too good to be lightly had outside of it? Both perspectives seem to make a certain kind of sense. How could you ever know which is right? And what is the purpose of life? The Epicurean says it is to pursue pleasure and avoid pain. The Stoic says it is to practice mental discipline so one can avoid being affected by things one can't control. The Hindu and the Buddhist say it is to realize that our individual existence is an illusion and be absorbed back into the All. How do they know? What if they have it wrong? Which one should you follow? Why?

The reason the human race has never been able to reach a consensus on such questions is that no human being is in a position to provide a trustworthy answer. Only a person who could see life and the universe as a whole could speak with confidence about their ultimate purpose. Even the wisest and most knowledgeable of us is like someone trying to guess the nature and purpose of an automobile by looking at a few of its scattered nuts and bolts. Therefore modern and post-modern nihilism refuses to admit that anyone can know the purpose or meaning of life, because no one has the "God's-eye view" it would take to provide such answers. But what if there were someone who did have a God's-eye view? And what if that Person had communicated with us? That would change everything. And that is precisely what Christians claim. I am not left to pick at random from the cafeteria of ideas; God has spoken! I am not left to vacillate eternally between conflicting positions with no hope of ever resolving them; God has spoken! I am not left with an endless series of "yes, but . . . but then . . . but what if . . . but what about? . . . on the other hand . . ." God has spoken! Jesus has said, "I say unto you. . . ." And he continues to speak whenever we read the Bible with understanding, handling accurately the Word of Truth. And therefore we can believe the Gospel with confidence, because it does not depend on any claims we might make for our own intelligence or our own wisdom. It is the gift of God.


The Bible, Paul says, is profitable, i.e., worthwhile, useful. It is good for you. How does it profit us? What is it good for? It is good for doctrine. It teaches you to know who and what you are, right from wrong, where it's at, what from what. It is good for reproof. It calls you to account, brings you up short, and stops you in your tracks. It is good for correction. It straightens you out, gets you back on the right track, puts you back on course. It is good for training in righteousness. It fosters the positive acquisition of a lifestyle that honors God and brings joy, peace, contentment, and fulfillment. It works because it is true, because the Gospel really does come from God. And the end result is that we are adequate, equipped for every good work. But note: the Bible will do none of these things for us unless we receive it as the Word of God, unless we believe that God is the very source of the Gospel by giving us his Word through his Son and through his Apostles. And then it can do these things indeed.


This credibility in proclaiming the Gospel is the product of the Bible doing its work in producing confidence in believing he Gospel and consistency in living in accordance with it. It is the height of arrogance to say, "I have it all together, I have it all figured out, so listen to me." The nonbeliever often misinterprets us as saying something very like that. And therefore we must be very clear that our confidence does not come from our own wisdom but from God's revelation. And we must be very sure that we have the humility which conveys that message in more than words. If we do, then the transformed life which has the courage of its convictions based on the Word will itself be the best evidence of the truth of its message. Why? Because "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."


I would not have the gall to stand before you week after week and try to offer some kind of help and hope for your lives unless I believed--and had good reason to believe--that this Book is truly the Word of God and therefore the source of the Gospel. Apart from this Book, there is nothing I could say to you that would be more than the blind leading the blind. But it is the Word of God! I can defend it intellectually; I have proved it practically; I have leaned on it with all my weight and it has held me up. And so I say to you this morning, in the midst of your confusion, your doubt, your agonizing search for certainty: God has spoken! And he speaks. May that give you confidence in believing the Gospel, consistency in living the Gospel, and credibility in proclaiming the Gospel this week. And if you do not yet know the Lord, may it give you boldness to come to Jesus Christ as your own personal Lord and Savior, he whom to know aright is life eternal. Amen.

Here endeth the lesson. Dr. Donald T. Williams

Updated 02/07/2004