If any of you have read Pilgrim’s Progress, you know what an incredible allegory this is. This allegory was written by John Bunyan during his 10+ sentence in a Bedford jail in England. As Pilgrim (now Christian) was on his way from his old life in the City of Destruction on his way to heaven in the Celestial City, he comes upon the house of Mr. Interpreter. The first thing that Interpreter shows him is a picture:
Come in; I will show thee that which will be profitable to thee. So he commanded his man to light the candle, and bid Christian follow him. So he had him into a private room, and bid his man open a door; the which, when he had done, Christian saw the picture a very grave person hang up against the wall; and this was the fashion of it; it had eyes lifted up to heaven, the best of books in its hand, the law of truth was written upon its lips, the world was behind its back; it stood as if it pleaded with men, and a crown of gold did hang over its head.
This is a picture of the preacher! Eyes to heaven, “the best of books in its hand.” The world is behind him, and he pleads to men to turn to the truth of Christ, the point of the “best of books.” What is this best book? The Bible!
The Scriptures (a.k.a, the Bible, the Word, the Word of God) are a dividing line! Outside the church (and even inside), some question its authority over their lives. Some inside the church see the Bible as a set of moral instructions to guide their lives (basic instructions before leaving earth). Some take portions of Scripture they like and run with it, while ignoring others.
Someone once said, “Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, but because it contradicts them.” The Bible is a book about God’s rescue mission to save His people from their sins, doing so through the person of Jesus.
1. We preach the Bible because it is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16).
I remember a time in 1996 when I bought a CD that was a great day for me as a musician. I had always loved jazz and I loved listening to great jazz pianists like Bill Evans, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson and others like them. But I remember going through the stacks at a local bookstore and came across a man by the name of Dave Brubeck. He’s most well-known for his work Time Out which had the hit Take Five that you would know if you heard it.
But this was a different CD. This was a CD put out in 1953 called “Jazz at Oberlin.” Brubeck had just started touring to the various colleges across the country, so he landed in 1953 at Oberlin College in Ohio. The interplay between Brubeck on piano and Paul Desmond on alto saxophone was something to behold. The interaction between the quartet and the audience was amazing as well. They were actively engaged in what was happening. I remember sitting at my computer in my seminary dorm room thinking, “Wow—Brubeck was inspired that day.”
Now when I say the word ‘inspired,’ what does that mean? A burst of creativity is the usual understanding. Is that what God did? Did God just have a burst of creativity? We must consider that the revelation of Scripture was given to 40 men over a period of 1500 years, so it wasn’t a burst. It was a progressive type of revelation in time and space.
Peter believed this:
20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 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 (2 Peter 1:20-21).
The KJV uses the word ‘inspired,’ but other versions as you noticed with mine, used the word ‘God-breathed.’ The word comes from the Greek theospneutos which means ‘God-breathed.’ God breathed out every word. Yes, there are tons of translations—and every one of those translations are translated from the original languages of the Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT). In our Christian bookstores, there are many translations, but none of them deny any foundational doctrine Christians hold to. While they hold to differing translation philosophies (some do a word-for-word, others do a thought-for-thought), most of them uphold the foundational doctrines of the Scriptures.
Before I move on, I need to mention this. Someone may say, “Well, they are not inspired to me!” This is reflective of our culture—we become the ones who determine what is authoritative over us. We determine what has meaning! Be careful! In every book you read, you must look at what the author of that book intends first. It’s only then that you can understand what it means for you personally.
2. We preach the Bible because it makes you wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:14-15).
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
The entire Bible is a rescue manual—not simply how we can learn to be rescued, but about how from the very beginning, from the very time that sin entered into the world and into the heart of man, God made clear to us that from the foundation of the world He would rescue his people.
Jesus told the Jewish leaders, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). So the Scriptures that were taught to Timothy that spoke about Jesus—what Scriptures were they? The OT! At that time, the NT had not been given yet. So the conviction of this pastor and the conviction of this church must be that the entirety of the Bible is a Christian book.
The apostle Paul writes this to young pastor Timothy as his last words of sorts—in fact, this epistle is the last recorded words we have in Scripture. He warned Timothy that in the last days,
…there will be times of difficulty. For people will be 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. Avoid such people (1 Timothy 3:1-5).
Why? “they oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind, qualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all” (3:8b-9a).
He tells Timothy to “continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you have learned it.” A word here: the Christian life is a learning life! And we must ready ourselves to “continue in what we have learned and firmly believed.”
Martin Luther once said:
I study my Bible like I gather apples. First, I shake the whole tree that the ripest may fall. Then I shake each limb, and when I have shaken each limb, I shake each branch and every twig. Then I look under every leaf. I search the Bible as a whole like shaking the whole tree. Then I shake every limb–study book after book. Then I shake every branch, giving attention to the chapters. Then I shake every twig, or a careful study of the paragraphs and sentences and words and their meanings.
Who taught Timothy?
We see from 2 Timothy 3:10 that Paul himself taught him as was his custom with everyone. In Acts 17:2-3, we see that “Paul went in, as was his custom, and . . . he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”
But in verse 15, we see how he also learned “from childhood.” At the beginning of the letter, it was his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice who acquainted him with the sacred writings! Does this not show how important it is for families to be guided by Christ and His Scriptures? In fact, Ginger LeBlanc and I have discussed ever so briefly about how we can work to make our ARBC k!dz ministry a family-integrated ministry, where we work to minister to the families of our children as well. Why?
God calls parents to train up their children in the ways of God. Ephesians 6:4 tells us “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” This is nothing new. In Deuteronomy, we are called to “teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7). Even in Exodus 12, when the Passover is established, and soon the others OT feasts—they are established as lessons to remember how God worked to rescue His people, with all of these things mentioned in the OT being used to point to the ultimate of that One who would come to rescue, Jesus Christ.
Pastors, Sunday School teachers, musicians, deacons, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, Christians—all work in concert to ultimately teach from the “sacred writings.”
3. We preach the Bible because it makes us equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-4:2).
Read with me 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2:
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
4:1 I 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: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
There is a use to Scripture, given out by God for a purpose. When we hear some people talk, we some people say too much, using far too many extraneous words to communicate their point. Others do not use enough. But every word found in this book is inspired, breathed out by God, for a purpose.
The ‘teaching and reproof’ deal with the teachings of Scripture—that is, for doctrine! The teaching is the aspect of teaching from all of Scripture since God gave it all! John Calvin once noted, “We must not pick and cull the Scriptures to please our own fancy, but must receive the whole without exception.”
“Correcting and training in righteousness” is about conduct—how we put our beliefs into practice. To ‘correct’ comes from the word which means to straighten out. By submitting to the Word, we are put back on the path laid out by Christ. The Word is there to train and equip! To be ready for every good work.
Given the nature of the Scriptures, no wonder Paul turns to Timothy as a father turns to his son, solemnly charging him before God to “preach the Word.” Why? God gave it to show Jesus, who makes us wise to His salvation and equips us perfectly and completely for His work! But there is something more significant: Christ is coming to judge the living and the dead. We are equipped to help equip others for His coming!
4. We preach the Bible because it helps us discern truth from error (2 Timothy 4:3-5).
Join me in reading 2 Timothy 4:3-5:
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Regardless of whatever field you may find yourself, you will find some who follow the rules, and some who do not. There are some who will listen to what they are supposed to do, and some who will do not.
Verse 4 brings about a great question for us: how intent are we in coming and listening to the truth? Keep in mind, for the apostle Paul (inspired by the Holy Spirit), the truth is found in the Scriptures. Do we come only ready to hear what we want to hear?
I spent time at my Christian college sitting under professors who were looking to take the clear teaching of Scripture and take the ‘myth’ out of it. Moses didn’t really write the first five books of the Bible (even though Jesus said so), Jonah could have been a parable (even thought Jesus said he was an actual person). Now, we see magazine articles questioning the historical Adam, saying that Adam wasn’t real—at least not the way the Scriptures say.
Even now, a pastor of a large church will be in Denver on June 1st. It’s called a “night of hope.” But as this man teaches and preaches, you see a pattern. He tells us that our destiny is already inside us, and just needs to be unlocked. Be positive, speak positive, and the Lord will bless. The only sin he preaches about is the sin of not realizing the destiny God gave you.
But any minister who speaks from the Bible, and yet does not get to the point of the Bible—which is that God sent His Son to a bloody cross to atone for our sins and that we must surrender self to Christ (not exalt self, as many say)—then those people must be avoided.
So what do we as preachers do? How do we react? “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” Kent Hughes noted that as a pilot keeps his head during an emergency, so too must we keep our heads and not lose it.
Alistair Begg onces told a group of pastors how verse 5 is such an anchor.
So if things at ARBC start going well and people are coming into the church, coming to Christ and being strengthened in the faith, the anchor is: “Be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist.”
If things start going rough and Satan begins to move and persecution hits: “Be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist.”
May that be our anchor as well.
Back in 2005, I wrote a hymn (no music yet) for preachers of the Word:
This is the charge we have to keep!
To tell it strong before His sheep
And rouse the lost out of their sleep!
O preach, dear men, the Word of God!
Be ready, shepherds, to reprove
Exhort the church so it may move
To spread the truth, embraced with love!
O preach, dear men, the Word of God.
The world moves out with itching ears
That long to hear what they hold dear
And mute the Word that’s all too clear!
O preach, dear men, the Word of God!
With sober minds and patient hearts
We persevere as from the start
“Fulfill your calling — do your part!”
O preach, dear men, the Word of God!.