Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
What we have learned in recent weeks is that the one, true God can be known and wants to be known. And so, we looked at Psalm 19, which teaches us that God reveals Himself in creation and especially in the Bible. So it stands to reason then that if God has especially revealed Himself in the Bible, then the Bible is an extremely important and vital topic. It comes as no surprise then our Confession of Faith devotes five articles to the Bible or the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God.
And we have already read something about the importance of God’s word in our Amos reading. There the prophet spoke about a famine “of hearing the words of the Lord.” And we know that this prophecy was about the 400 year period leading up to the birth of Jesus. During that time, there was no prophet to speak the Word of God to the people of Israel. And clearly this was not a good thing. So we obviously need the word of God. The word of God is very important. And it follows from this that we need a right understanding of the Bible as the Word of God.
And that is exactly what we have in our passage in 2 Timothy: A RIGHT UNDERSTANDING OF THE BIBLE AS THE WORD OF GOD. And it states this in the context of a society that sounds very much like the society we live in; a society where people are “lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” So clearly, to understand society and to understand God and salvation, we need a right understanding of the Bible as the Word of God.
But the sad reality is that we live in a society and even much of the wider church has little or no recognition of the Bible as the Word of God or what the Bible teaches.
· For example, in one survey of professing Christians, 80% of them agreed that the Bible teaches that God helps those who help themselves. And 12% agreed that the Bible tells us that Noah’s wife was called Joan of Arc.
· More importantly than that though, as seen with the recent Israel Folau controversy, the Bible’s basic message of salvation is viewed as hateful and/or far too exclusive, and its teachings on subjects like creation and the roles of men and women and marriage and sexuality and children and gender are despised and dismissed as from a bygone age.
So what is the right understanding of the Bible as the Word of God that is set before us in our text? What is the Bible? What is not the Bible? And what does it mean that the Bible is the word of God? Well, these questions are answered by what is said in these
verses about the Bible being GOD-BREATHED and AUTHORITATIVE. They will be our two main points today.
I. So first of all, we see in these verses that the Bible is GOD-BREATHED. Verse 16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.”
A. If you were to put a thin enough piece of paper in front of your mouth when you are speaking, you would see it move because speaking involves breathing. You can even feel your speech if you put your hand right buy your mouth. Well, the words of the Bible are words that God spoke/breathed. And interestingly, the Hebrew words for breath and spirit are the same word – Ruach. It is an onomatopoeic word. And this explains how the words breathed out by God have come to be written down on the pages in the Bible. It is by the work of the Holy Spirit.
1. Turn over 20 pages or so to 2 Peter 1:20. There we read, “Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” That verse is quoted in Article 3. And what is said there is that the Holy Spirit revealed God and God’s will to men. So the words that men like Moses and David and Luke and Paul wrote down were words from God by the Holy Spirit.
2. And the Holy Spirit then oversaw the process by which those original documents were faithfully copied and translated such that what you have in your Bible is the word of God. And note how I phrased that – it is the word of God; it doesn’t just contain the word of God; it is from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 the word of God.
a. That why our text refers to “All Scripture.” Every word in the Bible is God-breathed. If some of the words were just the thoughts and opinions of men, they would have no authority and we would be free to ignore them.
b. It is why Jesus said not even the dot on the top of an i will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
c. It is why we are warned in Rev. 22 not to add to the words of the book or to take away any of the words of the book.
3. I want to share with you some compelling evidence of how the Spirit has made sure that what you have in your Bible is the words He gave to men to write down many centuries ago. We do not have the original documents that Moses or David or Paul wrote. But in terms of the NT books, there are around 25,000 manuscript copies of the text of the NT. The oldest of these was made around 40 years after the original. Other ancient books from around the same time as the NT books are Caesar’s Gallic wars, Livy’s Roman History, Tacitus’ Annals, Thucydides’ History. And anyone who reads a copy of any of those books has no doubt at all that they have the same words that Caesar and Livy and Thucydides wrote back then. But there are just 10
manuscript copies of Gallic wars, 20 of Livy’s Roman History, 2 of Tacitus’ Annals, 8 of Thucydides’ History. And there are at least several hundreds of years, sometimes over a century! between when the original books were written and when the copies that we have today were written! So you can be certain that what you have in your Bible is what Moses and David and Paul wrote way back then!
B. So, all Scripture is inspired; it is the word of God. The next and most obvious question though is What is Scripture and what is not? How can we know what books are God-breathed and what are not? For example, if you count the books listed in Article 4, you get a total of? 66 books. We believe that there are 66 books in the Bible – 39 in the OT and 27 in the NT. But look up ‘Catholic Bible’ on Wikipedia and you will see that they recognize a Bible with 73 books. And I won’t bore you with how the numbers work but that that is because they include the books from the list in Article 6 in their OT. And the Roman Catholic Church decreed in two councils in the 1400s and the 1500s that the books in Article 6 were God-breathed and that anyone, meaning Protestants or Non-Romans Catholics like you and me, who reject those books as unbiblical are anathema, which means cursed of God. In addition, you may have heard that there are other books known as Gospels, like the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Peter and the Gospel of Mary. So again, how can we be sure that the 66 books in our Bible are all of the Scriptures?
1. Well, let’s quickly look at three Bible passages to help us with this question:
a. Luke 24:44-45. Jesus was teaching His disciples about why He had to die and rise again. And He refers to “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.” In those days, that was Jewish shorthand for the OT – the Law of Moses is the first 5 books, the Psalms is the Psalms or the Poetry section, and the Prophets is the rest – the history and prophetic books. And in v45 we read, “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” So Jesus agreed that what we call the OT is the Scriptures – the Word of God.
b. And turn back a few pages to Luke 11:51. Jesus is condemning the Jewish leaders for their part in killing the prophets that God had sent to His people. And He uses this phrase, “From the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah.” The blood of Abel is a reference to the death of Abel that is recorded in the first chapters of Genesis – the very beginning of the OT. The blood of Zechariah refers to the killing of the prophet Zechariah that is recorded in 2 Chronicles 24. You see, the Jewish OT has the same books as our OT but it has them in a slightly different order. SO the last book in the Jewish OT is? You guessed it, 2 Chronicles! So when Jesus talks about from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, He is referring to the OT.
c. But turn also to 2 Peter 3:15-16. Peter talks there about the letters that Paul wrote to the churches. And he says that some of the things Paul wrote are hard to understand, which some people “twist … as they do the other Scriptures.” So
Peter viewed the letters of Paul as Scripture; as being of the same God-breathed character as Genesis and Judges and Isaiah and Matthew and Acts.
d. So even from within the Bible we get a picture of the Bible of Bible times being the same Bible that we have today.
2. But there are other reasons why we can be absolutely certain that the 66 books of the Bible are all of the Scriptures:
· The Jews of the OT never recognized the books listed in Article 6 as part of the Bible.
· They are also never quoted by the Lord Jesus or the Apostles, while they quote from the OT books we recognize all the time.
· The early church fathers of AD 100-400 did not recognize the books of Article 6 or the extra ‘Gospels’ as a part of the Bible.
· Those books contain historical inaccuracies and fanciful tales.
· They even contain teachings in direct conflict with biblical faith. If you have ever wondered where the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory comes from because it doesn’t sound biblical, it is because it comes out of these other books.
· And if you read these other books, it will be as plain as the nose on your face that they do not belong in the Bible!
3. And it is because of all these reasons that Article 5 says, “We receive [the books listed in Article 4], and these only, as “holy and canonical.” The word “canonical” literally means ‘measuring up to.’ So the only books that measure up to the standard of being God-breathed are the 66 books you have in your Bible. That is why they have always been received as the Bible throughout the history of the church.
a. And that word received is absolutely critical. You have probably heard it said that that there was once a massive church meeting around AD 300 where lots of potential books were considered and each book was voted on as in or out, so that the Bible we have was just the end result of a democratic church debate. But that is simply not true. There were several church meetings where the Books of the Bible were discussed. But what happened was that representatives of the churches in Jerusalem and Rome and Asia Minor and Greece and Spain and Constantinople shared what OT and NT books were being used in the churches and it was discovered that their lists were the same, which is exactly what you would expect if the Holy Spirit was in control! And so the books of the Bible were received or recognized as the Bible. The church did not create the Bible, it received the Bible.
II. So the words of the Bible in your hand are God-breathed. And the implication of this truth is explored in our text also. It is that the Bible is AUTHORITATIVE. Only these 66 books have the authority of being God’s Word.
A. Hands up here who has done a BUNGY JUMP? Not me. I’m too chicken. It seems unnatural to me to jump off a platform that high up attached to a rubber band J So to take that leap is to have faith that the rubber band will support your weight. And faith always needs a foundation. So bungy jumpers have seen other people jump and survive and there is probably an OSH certificate somewhere on the wall of the bungy place saying that their rubber bands conform to bungy code 814.2.b, etc. So those things together for the foundation for your belief that you too will survive a bungy jump. Well, we said at the beginning of the sermon that God can be known and that He wants to be known. But we cannot physically go to God and hear Him talk or ask Him questions. Our dealings with can only be a matter of faith. What we need then is a reliable foundation for our faith.
1. And as we have seen over the last two weeks, creation tells us that there is an eternal and powerful and good God. But the existence of evil and sin in creation and in every human being tells us that there is something horribly wrong with creation and with ourselves. But that is as far as creation can take us with God.
2. And that is why God has given us the Bible for the solutions. And the message of the Bible is that the solution to the problems in creation and in humanity is Jesus Christ. Belief in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross is our only hope for eternal life and Jesus will one day rid this world of evil when He comes again and brings in the new heavens and the new earth.
3. Can you see how much is at stake here? When a bungy jump goes wrong, you get a nasty splat, but if we don’t come into contact with the Bible or we don’t get to hear what the Bible says, our eternal destiny is at stake.
4. And this is why you cannot hang your eternal destiny on the opinions of Andre Holtslag or any other minister, or even the Belgic Confession of faith or any other man-made, church document. What you need as a reliable foundation for your faith is the authoritative Word of God.
B. And this is exactly what Paul speaks about in our text. In vv14-15, Paul encouraged Timothy to continue in what he had learned and firmly believed from the “sacred writings.” And the sacred writings, for Timothy, was the OT. From elsewhere in the Bible we learn that Timothy’s mother was a Jewish believer. And she and Timothy’s grandmother had taught Timothy from the OT since he was an infant. And having heard Paul preach about how the OT pointed forward to Jesus, they had taught Timothy the truth of salvation in Christ. So Paul says of the Sacred writings, which for you and me
today means the OT and the NT, that they “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” What is in here can make you wise for salvation in Jesus.
1. And you get salvation in Jesus either from the preaching of Scripture. Romans 10:13-15 says, “For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” So it’s not the preacher; it’s not his words; it’s the preaching of God’s Word. It is as you hear the sermon and you look down at the text of Scripture and can see that what you are hearing is what God is saying, that you become wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.”
2. Paul spoke about this in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, when he said to the believers there, “We also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God.”
3. God’s word is authoritative. It is God’s word that brings us to salvation in Jesus.
C. But this is not just so in relation to salvation. Look at vv16-17 of our text. There we see that Scripture, because it is the word of God, is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” The Bible is also authoritative for doctrine and life.
1. This morning we talked about having children and raising children. How can we know what is right and what is wrong when it comes to family life?
2. Israel Folau has said that unrepentant sinners will spend eternity in hell. I think we can safely say that opinions about what he said are polar opposites – some completely agree with Izzy, some totally disagree with Izzy. Who is right?
3. There are some who say that abortion and euthanasia and same-sex activity and polyamorous relationships and no fault divorce and women serving as elders and deacons and naturalistic evolution and transgenderism are wrong/untrue. Many, however, including more and more who profess to be Christians, say that all or some of those things are perfectly fine. Who is right?
4. And even in a small conservative church like ours, people can disagree with each other or with the elders. How can disagreements be sorted out? Is there any authority for such situations or is one person’s opinion as valid as another’s?
5. And also, the most important activity that any of us can engage in is the worship of God. And it won’t take you long if you visit a few churches to see that there is incredible variety in how people worship. Does this matter? Is there are right way and a wrong way to worship God? How can we know?
6. Now of course, it would take us hours to sift through each of these issues and carefully answer them all. The major point is that because we are creatures and God
is the Creator and because we are weak and sinful human beings and God is majestic and holy, it is to His word that we must turn for authoritative answers to these questions.
7. Any student of history should know that the opinions of men ebb and flow and constantly change. Friends, if you are committed to what the Bible teaches, I hope you realize that in terms of Western Society, you are in a rapidly dwindling minority on the types of issues I listed a moment ago. But you also need to know what the Scottish preacher and theologian, John Knox, once said, which is that “one man with God is always in the majority.” When we are able to say, “Thus says the Lord…” we are appealing not to our own opinions but to the authority of our Creator and Saviour.
This is why Peter said, “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And it is also why Paul finished his letter to Timothy by saying, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” Timothy was a minister and an evangelist. There were a whole host of activities that Timothy did and that Paul had given him instruction about. And there are all sorts of activities that a church can get involved in. But our what our text reveals about the words of the Bible being God-breathed and authoritative, and what we read in 4:2 make it very plain that the core and key task of the church is to preach and teach the word.
Praise God for the gift of His word and may we faithfully preach and teach it. Amen.