Wednesday, February 14, 2018


            Not to state the obvious, but I’m not usually short on words when it comes to talking about God. However, about a month ago, I went to a lecture by a very prominent pastor, who I’ll call Jim (not his real name), with a massive church that includes multiple campuses scattered across multiple states. He’s a prominent author and national speaker as well. I didn’t know much about his teachings, I only knew him because of his massive national prominence. So, when I received an invitation as one of a group of pastors to hear him speak, I accepted. He was a very unassuming man about my age, and he was very passionate about his approach to ministry. What Jim wanted to convey to the group of pastors in the room was that we needed to start thinking differently about the way we communicate. To illustrate what he wanted us to consider, he used the example of his own ministry’s success as a model to follow. Specifically, his ministry is no longer Bibliocentric. Instead, it is intentionally Christocentric.
From a practical ministry standpoint, they no longer use terms like, “according to the Scriptures,” or “the bible says,” or “the Word of God tells us,” because, according to him, the Scriptures seem contradictory at times, outdated, irrelevant, confusing, or down-right offensive. Instead, they focus on the stories behind the Scriptures and how they relate to our contemporary culture. Jim made it clear that they made this transition in their ministry because we live in a post-Christian era and many, maybe even most, of the people in attendance in our churches are highly educated unbelievers and appealing to the Scriptures turns them off. Jim’s appeal to those of us in the room was, if we take our call to reach lost people seriously, we need to consider new ways of reaching the lost souls coming through our doors. He reminded all of us, we are not saved by the Bible; we are saved by Christ. Thank goodness he reminded me of that minor detail because I nearly forgot. {Read: Sarcasm} Therefore, we should be focusing on a Christocentric ministry model if we hope to reach post-Christian Americans.
His lecture left me speechless, and it has been gnawing away at my mind ever since. Naturally, I compared the success of Jim’s ministry with the success of my own and began to wonder if I needed to make some changes. Here’s my dilemma: I am a student of the Bible—God’s Word. It has never been just a book to me. Instead, it is God’s revelation of Himself to me. If I can’t appeal to the Bible to tell you that God loves you and wants you to spend eternity with Him, then I’m lost. Here’s why: My words, no matter how eloquent they may be, don’t carry the same power as God’s Words. Paul commended the Thessalonians for accepting his message as being God’s word and that word was at work within their hearts and minds (1 Thess. 2:13). The Scriptures were never mere words meant to convey historical information or theological concepts. Instead, they were intended to introduce us to the God who loves us so much that He came to earth to die for us. John said that Jesus did many more things that were never recorded, but the things that were recorded were done so for the purpose of soliciting belief and through that belief, eternal life. I’m sorry, but that means the words of the Bible are pretty important if belief in their content leads to eternal life. So, no matter how smart we think we are about reaching the lost, the words of the Bible still have a power that our own words or slick programs simply do not have. Historically, the Bible has been recognized as God’s written revelation of Himself. Even Jesus said that we would be His disciples if we continued to live our lives in and through His word (Jn. 8:31). Finally, the writer of Hebrews makes it abundantly clear that the Scriptures are not just words in a book like the words in every other book. Instead, God’s word is alive and active with the ability to divide soul and spirit; sharp enough to divide joints and marrow; wise enough to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. I suspect that’s the real reason people are turned of by the Bible. Not because it’s irrelevant, or confusing, or contradictory, or offensive, but because its words are like a blow-torch blasting away against the sin in our lives. There is no other book in all of history that has the power of the Bible because no other book contains the message of the Gospel, which conveys the Good News of eternal life. “Scripture is not only man’s word, but also, and equally God’s word, spoken through man’s lips or written with man’s pen.”[1] Scholars call the Bible “divinely inspired.” It comes right from our Subject Text from the Greek word, theopneustos, which some versions of the Bible translate as “inspiration” or “inspired of God.” However, the literal translation is God-Breathed! We cannot be Christocentric if we are not also Bibliocentric. It is not a faith of either/or but of both/and. The Bible continues to be supremely valuable for unbelievers and believers alike because its words are God-Breathed!

Subject Text

2 Timothy 3:14-17

            14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how 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, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.


            Timothy is Paul’s protégé in Ephesus. Unfortunately, Timothy was young, and people seemed to have a habit of trying to run roughshod over him. So, Paul was always encouraging him to stand firm in the faith that had been handed down to him. Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy while he was in prison, again. Although he was also in “prison” when he wrote his first letter to Timothy, he was really under house arrest. This time, he is chained in a cold, dark prison like a common criminal. This time, Rome is under the rule of Nero, and Paul’s time on earth is coming to an end. Paul is lonely. Everyone has left him, and he longs to have Timothy come to see him. Winter had arrived or was near because Paul specifically asks Timothy to bring him his cloak that he left with Carpus in Troas. However, Paul asks Timothy for something that is very important in the context of our lesson. Paul asks Timothy to bring him his scrolls and especially his parchments (2 Tim. 4:13). We never find out if Timothy made it in time to see Paul before he was executed. It is interesting, however, in the end, Paul longed for companionship, some simple clothing, and what was likely God’s Word.

Text Analysis

            14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,

            Whenever we start with “but,” we had better take a close look at what happened leading up to this text. At the beginning of chapter 3, Paul reminds Timothy that people will go from bad to worse as time goes by. Paul gives a very telling laundry list of what people will become as time goes by including “lovers of self” and “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” and pretty much every other sinful distortion of humanity you probably witness every day in the people around you at work, at school, in your neighborhood, at the grocery store, and even sitting in the pews around you on Sundays. Paul warned Timothy that he would constantly be faced with liars and charlatans who distort the Gospel message for their own gain. Twisting God’s words has been a strategy first perfected by Satan in the garden. Paul says that Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses during the Old Testament era and Timothy would be faced with similar deceivers during the days of the early Church just as we have had deceivers in our own days like Joseph Smith (Mormonism), Charles Taze Russell (Jehovah’s Witness), and Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Scientist).
            That’s when Paul says in v. 14 “but” you, Timothy, stick to the truth that was passed down to you by the people you trusted. I can’t begin to tell you why what Paul is telling Timothy is so important in your own home concerning your own children. I want to talk to parents right now and especially to fathers. You must learn and understand God’s truth because you must pass that truth on to your children because they will have everyone from friends, neighbors, and teachers trying to undermine that truth. Have you ever heard of the Shema? It comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and here’s what it reads:

4Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. [10When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 13Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.]

            Technically, the Shema ends at v. 9, but I wanted to include the rest because I wanted to combine two verses that speak to what Paul is trying to convey to Timothy in our Subject Text. Specifically, let’s combine v. 7 and v. 14 from the text in Deuteronomy and we get close to the spirit of what Paul was communicating to Timothy in v. 14 from our Subject Text. Someone impressed on Timothy (v. 7) the truth of the Gospel so that he would not be deceived and follow other gods (v.14). During the Old Testament era, it was the father’s responsibility to do that. However, for Timothy, it was his grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice, whom he trusted to teach him about God. Ultimately, if you are responsible for a child, whether you are a mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, step-parent, or legal guardian, you must impress on the child given to your care the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
            “Each of us is susceptible to this dangerous trap of deception unless we obey Scripture vigilantly. Following Christ is more than a one-time decision or an occasional church service or kind act. True Christianity involves continual dependence and obedience to Christ, the king. Paul told Timothy to continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of. Our faith is proved by its endurance.”[2] “In contrast to those who are ‘progressing,’ even if it is toward the worse, Timothy is to remain, and in contrast to their novelty, Timothy is to stay within the tradition. Note how the attention of this letter stays consistently on Timothy and his attitudes and practices…The issue has never been Timothy’s being persuaded by the good news, but his courage to stand by it in the face of suffering.”[3]

15and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

            I’d like to take a little theological detour in v. 15 to take a quick look at the Greek word, brephous, which the NIV translates as “infancy.” Some translate brephous as “childhood.” However, we have to be careful not to let our strong evangelical tendency to not ascribe salvific faith to very young children as do Catholics to cloud the truth of the text. In truth, translating brephous as “childhood,” I feel, is stretching an accurate translation. Honestly, literally or figuratively, the word is best and most often translated as “infant,” “babe,” or “young child.” So why is it a big deal? Well, first of all, it highlights the importance of what I was saying previously about the responsibility we have to share our faith with those who come after us and who have been given to our care; as early and as often as possible. Most importantly, this text makes clear that it is never too early to introduce our children to God’s Word. Paul is describing something about Timothy that is true of many of us; specifically, that we have always believed in God and don’t have a sensational conversion experience as so many Evangelicals insist is necessary as a true sign of conversion. That’s not to say that many people don’t recall a specific time when their faith became personal as opposed to being the faith of their parents. However, I want you to know that if you have always believed in God and never had a dramatic conversion experience, you’re in good company with Timothy and you should thank God that He has always been present in your life. You haven’t missed out on a special conversion experience that would make you special. Instead, you’ve likely missed out on years of grief and sorrow separated from God.
            Ok back now to the critical lesson of v.15. Paul says that the Scriptures provided Timothy with the wisdom that could lead to his salvation. Uh oh! Paul is saying that being Bibliocentric, in Timothy’s case, was a precursor to Timothy being Christocentric. Yikes! I wonder if Jim, the speaker I told you about at the beginning of the lesson, would have to remind Paul that we are saved by faith in Christ, not the Bible. I honestly believe Paul would have been appalled at Jim’s attitude and ministry approach. Instead, I think that Paul had a tremendously high view of God’s Word. Paul certainly knew that saving faith came through faith in Jesus Christ. But I think he also believed that the Scriptures had a divine power that no other writings had. Let me give you a peek into Paul’s heart when it came to the value of the Scriptures.
Remember that Paul is sitting chained in a cold, dark prison while he’s writing this letter to Timothy. Timothy is obviously planning a trip to visit Paul because, in the very next chapter, Paul tells Timothy to come quickly. Paul is lonely as he describes how he had been deserted by one of his companions whom he described as being in love with the world. While his other companions went off to other regions where churches had been planted or where in the process of being planted, Luke was the only one who stayed with him. Paul asked Timothy to bring with him some important things he needed. Paul asked Timothy to bring Mark with him because Mark was particularly useful to Paul in his ministry. Even at the end of his life, the advancement of the Gospel message was always a priority for Paul. However, Paul asks for something else in Chapter 4 that is important in understanding the value of God’s Word in the life of Paul and by extension the value it should have in our lives as well.
In Chapter 4:13, Paul asks first for a cloak that he left behind as a means to fight the bitter cold of the prison and possibly the coming winter. Then he asks Timothy to bring him his scrolls and especially his parchments. Many have wondered what was on those scrolls and parchments. Of course, we will never know but we can certainly make some educated guesses. Since Paul authored much of the New Testament, they probably weren’t his latest copies of People Magazine. Instead, it is likely that at a minimum the scrolls contained the Old Testament Scriptures. The parchments may have been notes and outlines from some of his other letters, but I would like to offer what others have suggested because Paul emphasized that Timothy should “especially” bring his parchments. Some scholars have suggested that the parchments were so special to Paul because they contained notes made by the disciples who personally followed Jesus around during Jesus’ earthly ministry. I obviously don’t know, but somehow this makes sense to me given Paul’s background as a Pharisee, a group known to study the Scriptures closely and diligently (Jn. 5:39). I can guarantee you that no one had to remind Paul that salvation was centered in Christ and not in the Scriptures. However, Paul knew that the Scriptures were God’s revelation of Himself and the gateway to Christ. Paul knew that the Scriptures were given to the Jewish people right from God. Consequently, they weren’t just ordinary words recording history. Instead, Paul would have recognized the Scriptures as being divinely inspired—God-Breathed!
            “On the one hand, training in the holy writings has been a way of life for Timothy, stretching back to his early years. Longevity and tradition are factors bearing intrinsic value. On the other hand, and perhaps the more important feature of the motivation, is the way in which the second reason qualifies the first: What Timothy has learned (from Paul, his family members, and others) is, according to the implications of v, 15a, in accordance with the Scriptures in which he was trained. The Pauline gospel is continuous with the will of God revealed in the holy writings; if the ancient writings are regarded as in some sense authoritative and irreplaceable, so too the revelation of Jesus Christ according to Paul’s gospel…For Paul, Christ is the climax of the biblical story, and the biblical story interprets Christ; the OT Scriptures and the Christ-event are integrally related…It is the life characterized by faith in Christ that releases the potential of the Scriptures for the eyes of faith. False teaching cannot deliver the promise of salvation. Paul’s gospel, on the other hand, grounded as it is in the truth of Christ’s death and resurrection, completes the ancient revelation in a way that augments and releases its power to save.”[4]

16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

            Paul’s high view of the Scriptures in confirmed in vv. 16-17. God-Breathed! That’s what Paul says the Scriptures are. Not just words comprised of the opinions and wisdom of men. Instead, they are words given to us by God. Whether it was the prophets of the Old Testament who spoke or recorded the words given to them directly by God, or the New Testament authors who walked with Jesus, were related to Jesus, or witnessed Jesus after His resurrection, they were instruments of the Holy Spirit. The Trinity was intimately involved in revealing itself through the Scriptures from the very beginning. Peter, in his second letter, writes, “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21).” And because it is God’s Word, spoken or written, it has a power and an authority that no other words can have. One of the sad things Jim claims is that the Scriptures are equally as irrelevant as other “holy” writings, such as the Quran, as a source of authority in the lives of unbelievers! Stop and think about the shame of this for just a minute, a prominent, evangelical, Christian pastor with tens of thousands of followers claims that our God-Breathed Scriptures are as useless as the Quran. I will concede that Jim makes this claim about unbelievers only. However, I insist that if God’s Word is powerless in the lives of unbelievers, then it has no power at all. If it has no power in the lives of the people who need Him most, then it is useless. God created all people, believers and unbelievers both so His Word has authority over both. It is only because of an unbeliever’s unrepentant sinfulness that he or she doesn’t recognize its appropriate authority. However, it is not, therefore, useless! No! I refuse to believe this. Instead, I agree with Paul that all of God’s Word is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. And it has the power to accomplish just that in the lives of Christians and even in the lives of unbelievers to some extent (in the same way that God’s common grace benefits the believer and the unbeliever alike).
I will concede that this instruction is paramount primarily in the lives of believers because it builds and nurtures within them the character to be God’s faithful servants in the world—servants in their homes, servants at their places of work, servants in their schools, servants in their communities, servants in their governments, and servants in their churches. That righteous character is crucial in that it is a reflection of the righteousness of God to an unbelieving world.
            “What is the meaning of the adjective ‘God-breathed?’ Is it active in meaning, suggesting that all Scripture has an inspiring effect? Is it passive in meaning, suggesting that all Scripture has its origin in God, is a product of the breath of God? The Greek word (theopneustos) contains the suffix (tos), which frequently suggests a passive meaning (e.g., agapētos, ‘loved [by God],’ Rom. 1:7). The term in our text is passive in meaning. The idea the term advances is that God has breathed his character into the Scriptures so that it is inherently inspired. Paul was not asserting that the Scriptures are inspiring in that they breathe information about God into us, even though the statement is true. The Scriptures owe their origin and distinctiveness to God himself. This the abiding character of Scripture…
            “Paul describes four uses to which Scripture can be put. First, it is useful for teaching. This suggests that Scripture is a positive source for Christian doctrine…A second use for Scripture is for ‘rebuking’…Whether the reproof is personal or doctrinal, Scripture can show sinners their failures, clarify the point of the mistake, and lead them to a new sense of peace and wholeness.
            “The third use of Scripture is to provide correction…The term ‘correcting,’ used only here in the New Testament, suggests that Scripture helps individuals to restore their doctrine or personal practice to a right state before God. Correction is one means God uses in order to restore people to spiritual positions they have forfeited…
            “A final use of Scripture is to provide moral training that leads to righteous living…Here it describes a system of discipline in Scripture that leads to a holy life-style.”[5]
            “The sense of the passage is that scripture is given to enable a ‘person of God’ to meet the demands that God places on that person…
            “That for which the person of God has been equipped is…every aspect and task of the Christian life, and in Timothy’s case, of the Christian ministry…It signifies that without exception God has equipped ‘the person of God’ to do what is ‘good,’ i.e., what he has indicated in his scripture should be done, since he himself is the norm of all good. Since God created Christians for good works and calls on them to do good works (Eph. 2:10; Tit. 3:1; 2 Tim. 2:21), he has given scripture to instruct them so that they may know in principle what God expects of them and thus be equipped to do that particular ‘good deed’ called for in each situation.”[6]
            “The word of God is alive. This is a living Book. This is a mystery which only living men, quickened by the Spirit of God, will fully comprehend. Take up any other book except the Bible and there may be a measure of power in it, but there is not the indescribable vitality in it which breathes and speaks and pleads and conquers in the case of this sacred volume.
            “We have in the book market many excellent selections of choice passages from great authors and in a few instances the persons who have made the extracts have been at the pains to place under quotations from Scripture the name ‘David,’ or ‘Jesus,’ but this is worse than needless. There is a style and majesty about God’s world and with this majesty a vividness never found elsewhere. No other writing has within it a heavenly life whereby it works miracles and even imparts life to its reader. It is a living and incorruptible seed. It moves, it stirs itself, it lives, it communes with living men as a living word. Solomon says concerning it, ‘When you go, it shall lead you. When you sleep, it shall keep you. And when you awake, it shall talk with you.”[7]


            I grew up in a home where my father never told any of us kids that he loved us; at least that was my experience. My mom often told me he did so I can only assume he did even though his actions, for most of my life, brought that into serious question. In any event, when I had my own children, I determined never to allow my girls to wonder if I loved them. So, I tell them often and I do my very best to make sure my actions conform to my words. If I act toward them in love but don’t tell them, would they know I love them or would they think I act out of obligation? Who knows? So, to avoid any doubt, I tell them over and over and over. If I, a horribly, imperfect father, am this intentional about making sure my girls know I love and care about them, how much more intentional would our heavenly Father be about making sure we know how much He loves us. So how would He go about telling us?
            Many years ago, my wife and I belonged to a church that had a great Sunday school program. We taught some of those programs while our young children attended. I’m sure we did a lot of the same things that many of you do in your Sunday school programs. However, one of the things we always did was sing a simple song that I’ll bet you know: “Jesus Loves Me.” If you don’t know the song already, here is the first stanza and the song’s refrain:

Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

            Of course, ever since I decided to put this song into my lesson I haven’t been able to get the words out of my head (you’re welcome). No Christian would doubt that Jesus loves them. It’s been pounded into our heads for years. But how do you know Jesus loves you? Because your parents tell you? Because your Sunday school teacher tells you? Because your pastor tells you? Because I tell you? That might be good enough for you (I hope not), but it’s not for me. And that’s precisely why I love the Bible. I don’t ever have to wonder if Jesus loves me, because the Bible tells me so. It is true that the sixty-six books of the Bible were authored by a variety of men spanning thousands of years. So how can you and I be confident that when the Bible says, God loved us so much that He gave us His son and whoever believes in His Son will have eternal life, that they are words coming from God and not just some fanciful words contained in an ancient book? Because the Bible is not just another ancient book. If you want to see true and lasting transformation not just in your spiritual life, but in your life as a whole, make time every day to read the Bible because it’s not just a book. Interact with it. Use it as a means to pray God’s words back to Him. Allow it to speak to you as though God is having a conversation with you. Dr. Larry Crab wrote a book about the Bible. He called the Bible, 66 Love Letters: A Conversation with God That Invites You into His Story. The Bible is not just another book because no other book has the power to convey God’s love through His words directly to our heart. Only the Bible has the authority and power to accomplish that because only the Bible is God-Breathed!

[1] J. I. Packer, The Origin of the Bible, (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2003), 31.
[2] Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon—Holman New Testament Commentary, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2000), 305.
[3] Luke Timothy Johnson, The First and Second Letters to Timothy—The Anchor Bible, (New York, NY: Doubleday, 2001), 419.
[4] Philip H. Towner, The Letter to Timothy and Titus-The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006), 583-584.
[5] Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, Jr., 1, 2 Timothy and Titus; The New American Commentary, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 1992), 236-237.
[6] George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles-The New International Greek Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1992), 450.
[7] Ernest LeVos, Portraits of the Great “I Am”—Charles Spurgeon on Christ’s Seven “I Am” Sayings, (Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2017).

(Audio version; Music: "None Other" by: John van Deusen and "Life" by Hillsong United; Music Coordinators: Meagan Seredinski & Sasha Zarubin)