Archive for October, 2010

Why Study Scripture? October 26, 2010

“œAll Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work“ (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

We quote these two verses all the time””they’re succinct, unambiguous defenses of the inerrancy of Scripture and its authority in our lives. We pull them out whenever we’re admonishing church members to get into the Word or sharing with nonbelievers our reasons for relying on the Bible.  While those are good and right uses of this passage, the context of 2 Timothy 3:1-4:5 gives it  a deeper and more  powerful meaning than it  has in isolation.

In  the first 13 verses of  chapter 3  Paul paints a picture of the hearts of men in the last days (that is, the time after Christ’s work of redemption was fully accomplished). His list in verses 2-5  grimly reflects our present reality; “œBut realize this, that in the last days, difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self control, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these.” These are those who prey on those “weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to knowledge of the truth”(vv. 6-7). In the end, however, they will not be allowed to continue deceiving, just as the Egyptian magicians who used trickery and satanic power to oppose Moses before Pharaoh were exposed  (vv. 8-9).

In contrast, Paul describes how Timothy has rejected the world’s way and followed Paul’s commitment to Christ, in spite of tremendous persecution that comes from shining Christ’s light among those who deceive themselves (vv.10-13). This culminates in his description of Timothy as standing firm on the Word, in opposition to the world’s way: “œYou, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you learned them, 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.”

It is here that we find that famous and familiar passage about Scripture. It is anything but an off-the-cuff statement about inerrancy. Rather, Paul brings out the God-breathed Scripture as the ultimate counterpoint to every sin and evil the world has to offer. This Word is pure, proceeding directly from God the Father, and its effects on mankind are powerful. The Scripture brings “teaching,” “reproof,” “correction,” and “training in righteousness;” the breath of life to sin-filled men. These “sacred writings” that give “wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” are an inseparable part of Christ’s work–He is the Word (John 1), and the gift of salvation is through Him alone. Without the revelation of the Word, we would have no hope but to continue as those Paul wants us to avoid.

What does it mean to be “equipped for every good work,” as verse 17 says?  Perhaps a reversal of Paul’s list of sinful excesses from earlier in the chapter: “Through the work of Christ, and the teaching of the Scriptures, men will be  selfless, generous, humble, respectful, godly, obedient to authority, grateful, holy & decent, loving, agents of reconciliation, speakers of truth, self-controlled, lovers of all that is  good, loyal, prudent, modest, lovers of God rather than lovers of pleasure, holding to true Godliness and embracing the power of the One who is Truth.   Imitate such men as these.”

In the first   five verses of chapter 4, Paul lays out this “good work” in a charge to Timothy: “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” The work of righteousness is always inextricably the ministry of the Gospel–the Word of God on the lips and in the actions of His children.

So, why study Scripture? This passage makes it plain that faithful study is never an end in itself; as A.W. Tozer wrote, “What is generally overlooked is that truth as set forth in the Christian Scriptures is a moral thing; it is not addressed to the intellect only, but to the will also. It addresses itself to the total man, and its obligations cannot be discharged by grasping it mentally.” By the same token, however, the Living Word empowers us through God’s written Word to follow His example and do the work of righteousness. This is never accomplished without faithful reading, study, and meditation in the Scriptures.

Studying the Word is both more important and less important than most of us think. You can never, ever under any circumstances learn too much of and about the Bible, and you should never stop thirsting for the knowledge of God that He reveals therein, but you have a moral obligation to take the truths He teaches to the streets.

Posted by Justin Lonas

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