Why Should a Christian Read the Bible?

Reading the Bible has been called a ‘means of grace.’ For the Christian, it is both a privilege and duty. When people focus on the duty but misapprehend the privilege, discouragement is swift to follow.

 Why do you read the Bible?

The idea Christians must read the Bible is common knowledge within the Christian community. However, it is the experience of this author that many Christians have trouble articulating why they should.

Can you answer that question?

To the satisfaction of others?

To your own satisfaction?

If you can, how well does your answer sustain your efforts? Do you struggle to take time regularly to read your Bible? If you struggle, you are in good company as many faithful Christians do. This author does.

So, right up front we have two fundamental “why” questions we need to answer before we get into the hows and wherefores: one theoretical to explain the habit, the other existential, as relates to motivation.

For many Christians, I fear the answer to both questions is the same common, but incorrect answer: “The Bible says to do it, so I am supposed to do it.”

Why is this incorrect? Does the Bible say to do it?

In fact, yes, the Bible’s own testimony places knowing the scriptures as fundamental and right, even commanded. It does so in both Testaments, Old and New. See for yourself:

Old Testament:

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV)

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

New Testament:

2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ESV)

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 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. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

1 Peter 3:14-16 (ESV)

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Even a quick reading of these three passages reveals God’s concern for our comprehension and exposure to his Word.

The Deuteronomy passage uses references to putting scripture up all over the place, particularly the body. The purpose is to show how much God wants the scripture to penetrate our hearts and minds.

The 2 Timothy passage tells us all Scripture is valuable because it is God breathed. That means all of scripture issues forth from God, it is his, and is therefore true and holy.

Paul lists a slew of great uses for scripture, but it is all God breathed. More on that in a moment.

1 Peter is less direct, but the context is the believer under duress, being asked to give a reason for his/her faith, and the hope that is in them.

Can you explain the gospel to the soldier holding a loaded gun to your head? What about at your execution for conversion to Christianity?

Peter is commending his Christian audience to be ready within such a context. Their daily reality was life or death persecution. While that was roughly 2000 years ago, Peter’s call to be ready has lost none of its weight, even for those of us free from such severe persecution.

So it is valuable. Still, what is my motivation?

Why read it?

If you answer that question with the imperative of “because I am supposed to,” you have missed the point.

An imperative is a command. The command to read, study and know scripture is either directly or indirectly present in all three passages given above. However, the command is not the justification for obedience, it is what obedience looks like. It is meant as guidance only. Relying on the command to motivate you will only wear you out because motivation comes from somewhere else.

Where is the motivation to read the Bible?

In the military, a soldier trains to be ready, and a good soldier takes training seriously. The question is not whether you are going to use the training soon but that you are a soldier, and by definition, you are to be ever ready. That is your identity: soldier. This is doing because of identity and action that flows out of identity is at the heart of these three verses.

In Identity…

All three passages are written to God’s people. The original audiences were varied, being separated by time and space. Their IDENTITY as God’s people was the common thread uniting them all. They were his children, and by implication, He was and is their Father.

So the command to know scripture, to let it penetrate your heart through constant exposure and deliberate study is a constant theme throughout the whole of scripture. You are supposed to know your faith so well, the cold press of a gun barrel fails to silence its message—that imperative command is built upon the foundation of Identity in and with God.

Reading the Bible for duty’s sake misses the point of all three passages. It is a reason, but lacks sustaining power. When times are hard, duty will be a burden you long to put down. It may even break your back. You need more than an “I told you to” when the going is rough.

Our call to be students of the Word is built on the Christian’s identity as an adopted son or daughter of God. Family tradition demand we know scripture like Jesus did. If you are a Christian, an authentic life requires regular reading and study of the scriptures as much as being human requires sleep, oxygen and vitamins.

Why Read the Bible?           Authenticity

Authenticity demands you be true to your identity and reading the bible is authentic to the Christian identity.

Christians should read the Bible because knowing His Word is required to know ourselves and our heritage. This is where it all connects with the scriptures being God breathed (2 Timothy 3:14-17). God is our Father and we should be about the family business. To do this we must know who he says he is and what he says about us. The Bible is your best repository of such things.

If this is true, how should we go about reading the Bible? Is there a proper way or will any way do as well as another? How do you maximize your Bible reading?

These questions and more will occupy the next installment of this series.

 

NOTE: This is the first post of a series on reading the Bible.

Faith, Works, and Salvation

Have you ever been so scared by a passage in the Bible that you could not sleep at night?  This has happened to me more than once, most recently by this passage in Matthew.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ – Matthew 7:21-23

Sometimes reading that passage makes me stop and think “Is that talking about me?”  When I die, will Jesus say to me ‘Well done good and faithful servant,’ or will He say ‘Depart from me, I never knew you?'”  This question can be scary, very scary.

For one, you do not want to be doing everything you can to serve God, only to find out you missed out on the most important thing, the treasure that God actually wanted from you.  But also you do not want to go through life thinking that everything is fine, only to reach the final moments and find out your one way ticket to heaven was nothing more than a sham, sold to you by Satan and your betraying flesh.

What it means to be “Saved”

When a Christian says he or she is “saved”, what does that mean?  What is it exactly that we are saved from?

The most obvious answer that comes to mind is that we are saved from hell, to heaven (John 3:16).  But more than that, we are saved from sin, to righteousness – to good and righteous works God has called us to do (Romans 6:18, 22, 2 Timothy 1:9, Ephesians 2:10).  But one of the most important things we are saved for, is for the glory of God. That’s right, we are saved so that God can get glory (Romans 15:7, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Philippians 2:9-11).

How many people will be saved?  Not many.

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. – Matthew 7:13-14

Examine Your faith

Salvation is important. It brings God glory, empowers us to do the good work God has for us, and it saves us from the damnation we deserve.  But it is clear that only a few will find it, and many will think they have found it but will be deceived (Matthew 7:21-23).

For this reason Paul tells us to examine ourselves to make sure that we are saved.

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified. – 2 Corinthians 13:5-6

What Faith is Not

This brings us to a crucial point. The few passages we have looked at so far makes it seem like faith and works are the same thing.  But they are not.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should  boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

This passage shows us there is a difference between faith and works. Faith saves us, not works.  Remember the first passage we looked at, Jesus rebuked people who were doing good works, but lacked faith, lacked a relationship with Jesus.  Jesus said “I never knew you” which shows us that it is the relationship God wants from us, not our works of healing, casting out demons, building churches, or giving to the poor.

Works themselves mean nothing.  Isaiah 64:6 says that our good works are worthless, that “all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.”

Are Works Meaningless?

Those passages make it clear that it is only by faith that we are saved, our works mean nothing.  So are works not important?

Actually, works are crucial to a Christian’s faith.  “Wait a second” you are thinking, “You just said works mean nothing, we are not saved by works and all our good works of righteousness are as filthy rags, how can they, at the same time, be crucial to a Christian?”  It does seem a bit contradictory at first, but dig deeper in to scriptures.

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? – James 2:14-20

So we are saved by faith, not by works, yet faith without works is dead and such a faith does not save you… confused yet? Just hang on a little bit longer.

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. – 1 John 2:3-6

This is a cause and effect situation here. What came first, the chicken or the egg?  Which comes first, the faith or the works?

You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. – Matthew 7:16-18

And there Matthew sums this all up so nicely for us.  When we accept Christ, when we put faith in Him, something real happens, we are literally changed, transformed, the old person has passed away and a new being is created (2 Corinthians 5:17).  This does not mean that we never sin (that topic will be covered in another article).  The only way we can be sin free is to be in a new body, as long as we are trapped in these earthly bodies we will sin (Romans 7).

But our spirit is made new and the Holy Spirit indwells within us.  It is this which gives us the desires to do good works and gives us the ability to do good works.  Good works do not save us but they are the evidence that we are saved.

Just as a good tree only produces good fruit, a Christian, someone who is saved by faith, produces good works. Not because the works are required for salvation or give us merit at all, but because our nature changes completely.  It is something we can not help.

When I was in college – several years ago – I was a math major. In High school I could do math without a calculator.  I could solve the most complex calculations in my math class with nothing more than an occasional scratch piece of paper, but I could not write to save my life.

Just recently I took an algebra class and struggled through it.  I could not comprehend the math. I barely got a B in Algebra and Trig, and ended up getting a C in my pre-calculus class.  But I aced every one of my English and writing  classes and (so I am told) I write fairly well.

This is an example of my nature changing.  I went from being a math wiz to being a writer.  No amount of work on my part can change what I am.  I can practice and get by at math, but it will not come as naturally as writing does to me now.

In the same way a Christian cannot defy his or her nature.  When we are still stuck in sin we cannot do good works except by our effort, it was a struggle, but now, after salvation, the good works are a natural response, just like breathing.

This shows how it is possible that works are important to our faith and salvation but do not save us, because they have nothing to do with the salvation part, they are just an example of that salvation.

How do I examine myself?

So how then, do we go about examining ourselves?  The only thing I can say is to pray and read the Bible.  Examine your life, your actions, your check book (where you spend your money), your thoughts, everything, against scripture.  Are you living in sin that needs to be repented of?  Are you doing works in the church on a daily basis but missing that relationship with God?  Are you doing good works but feel that it is a burden to you?

Examine yourself, see what is keeping you from having a relationship with God, what is keeping you from the Bible.  Use natural works, the ones you enjoy and are not a pain to perform to see if it is a natural response or something you are (subconsciously) trying to fake.

Romans 10:17 says that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” I cannot stress enough how important the word of God is in our seeking God.  Read it every day, even more often in times of examining yourself spiritually.

*Photo by Jon Zenor, Copyright 2010 Jon Zenor Photography.*

Jesus does not need you, you need Him

Jesus does not need you, you need Him

I cannot count the number of times I have heard someone say to me “I would follow God if he would just show up in my room with blinding light telling me to follow him,” or if God would just miraculously give me a million dollars in my bank account or save me from this situation or do any number of extraordinary things.  God is capable of doing this, of course, so why doesn’t he?

The answer is simple, God does not need to beg you to come to him, he gives you all of the evidence you need, it is up to you to decide to follow him.

God never begs anybody to follow Him

Have you ever noticed in the Bible how Jesus never, ever, begged people to follow him?  Never once did Jesus say “please follow me, pretty please?”  Then why do so many people think God caters to us to try and entice us to come to him?

The purpose of parables

After Jesus told the parable of the sower (Matthew 13) the disciples asked him why Jesus told parables (Matthew 13:10). Jesus’ answer was probably a little shocking to the disciples, I know it is shocking to me.  Jesus answered and said

Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.  Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.  And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:

‘ Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’ (Matthew 13:11-15)

Is the Bible telling us that Jesus did not want them to understand?  Yes, that is exactly what this is saying.  But why? Because the people would not respond correctly. “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15)  Jesus had just said in Matthew 13 that people will be judged based on how much knowledge they are given, so Jesus speaks in parables out of compassion, not giving too much information to those who will not respond properly but giving enough to peak the curiosity of those that really want to know God.  Jesus only wants those to come to him who will respond properly.

Jesus wants everyone to be saved, right?

Yes, God wants everyone to be saved (2 Timothy 2:3-4) “God our Savior,  who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God wants everyone to come to him in the same way I want my son to follow God and never stray, never get hurt. But I know that my son will stray despite what I want for him, just like God knows not everyone will come to him despite God wanting everyone to come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus stands at the door and knocks

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:20)

Jesus knocks on the door for all of us, he does not beat down the door or force his way in. Those that answer the door Jesus dwells with, those who tell Jesus to go away, get a silent door.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks (John 4:23)

Those who seek

God wants you to seek him, not be lazy and wait for everything to come to you.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6)

Jesus is a treasure worth sacrificing everything

Today it is so easy to get caught up in what the society thinks. We think God is nothing more than something else we add to our life, an hour or two a week and try to avoid sin and then we are good, we have our ticket stamped ready to go to heaven.  But that is not what God wants. God is more valuable than that! God is not a trinket we wear around our neck along with everything else in our life. He is our life.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. (Matthew 13:44)

Jesus, treasured above everyone

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

What? We are to hate everyone in our life? Jesus has to be number one in your life; your love for him must be so much more than any other relationship that everyone else is put to the side for Jesus, you do not put Jesus to the side to serve your family!

No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

Do you get it yet? Jesus is not someone who begs you to follow him.  Jesus is so awesome, so wonderful, you need to come seek Him.  Jesus already paid the ultimate price to free you from your bondage in sin, and he created you (John 1:3), what else do you need?

References

Why did Jesus speak in parables?

The Breath of God

Genesis 2:7 “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

The breath of life… When man was first created, he was created special, different than the rest of the animals in the world.

For all of the other animals, God spoke them into existance. God said a word and there they were. But with man, God formed man by hand, and then God breathed into the man. We are litterally hand crafted by God, which is a cool thought if you really think about it.

When God breathed into man, He breathed into man man’s spirit. It’s this breath that brought us to life physically.

2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;”.

The phrase “inspired by God” litterally means “God-breathed”. The scripture was breathed by God, and it is the breath of God to us.

Just like God breathed physical life into us, for us to be spiritually alive we must also have God’s spiritual breath. Without us reading the Bible, our spirit is dead, just a clump of dirt. It takes the breath of God to make us alvie, so why do we ignore the Bible so much?

If we do not read the Bible on a regular basis, we will be spiritually dead, never growing or having a relationship with Christ, and that, is very dangerous.

Make sure you don’t let your spirit die. Read the Bible daily and see what the Spirit of God breathes onto you today.

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Veritology

Today was the third attempt at having a Bible Study based on The Truth Project series by Del Tackett. For the first time people actually showed up! We had a very successful tour of what truth is, even if we did start late.

2 Thessalonians 2:9-13
The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth,

The enemy of truth is a lie, and it is by believing in the lie that we are led astray. Jesus Himself says that He is the truth, and that it is only through Him that we are saved. The Bible tells us that it is the truth that sets the captives free.

Do you want to know the truth? What real truth is? Then follow Jesus, the ultimate authority on truth.

Romans 2:8
8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath,

2 Timothy 4:3-4
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

In a time where so many churches and “Christians” are being led astray by false doctrines and false teachings, we need to study the one and true Word of God, and only by studying what God says can we know the truth and be truly free. Only obeying what we want to believe will not do us any good.

This may be just some rambling, but they are some good verses that I wanted to bring to your attention.

I will post more on ideas that I have later, but for now, study God’s Word and obey it, for that is the only way we will guard ourselves from false doctrines and not be taken captive by the lies of the world.

Being an effective leader (Part 2)

2 Timothy 4:5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry

And what was Timothy’s ministry? To lead, feed, and protect the flock! So the first thing he needed to do was be watchful – awake and aware of what was going on and what potential threats there were to the peace and safety of the flock. He was to investigate the religious and philosophical environment and make sure no intellectual diseases had made the place unhealthy. Whenever and where ever he discovered such threats, he was to deal with them as a good shepherd.

In this time in which we live, more and more were being told that it’s intolerant to disagree with differing ideas, lifestyles, and beliefs. Because truth is no longer an absolute, it’s determined by whatever works and no one’s truth has any more merit than anyone else’s. It seems the only intolerance that’s acceptable today is the rejection of the Christian faith.

It seems anything goes except Biblical Christianity. Unfortunately, many well meaning Christians have bought into the idea of an uncritical tolerance. When a caring and watchful pastor dares to warn the congregation about a false teacher or errant teaching, he is often rebuked for being intolerant.

“Can’t we all just get along” has become the rallying cry for many. The answer to that is a resounding – Yes! We can all get along, in fact, we all ought to get along, if by “all” we mean genuine believers.

The Unity that God desires for His people is a Unity under Truth. We must never sacrifice truth on the altar of unity. If it isn’t true, if it doesn’t conform to the Will of God, then there is no unity – on the contrary, the Lord calls us to separate ourselves from error. Because there will always be error and false teaching, the pastor must constantly watch and warn.

The pastor also does the work of the evangelist as he lays out the meat for the believers, he makes sure there’s milk on the table for the lost. He includes the basic elements of the gospel the Holy Spirit can take and apply to those who sit one seat removed from the table. Then, he invites them to take a seat at the table by offering them an opportunity to respond.

This is why my pastor will usually weave certain words into virtually every message and study – that Jesus died for our sins and rose again from the dead to give us new life. That’s the basic gospel – and God uses it to win the lost.

Brothers and sisters, we have at our disposal today the very same resources every generation of the people of God have had – the Word and the Spirit of God! In fact, in some ways, we are even better off – because of modern technology we have complete Bibles we can carry around with us. The advances in archaeology have discovered a wealth of information about the culture and languages of Bible times that add depth to our understanding of the text.

My pastor recounted a story of when he was a young boy praying that Jesus would appear in his bedroom. He says that if that happened, then he just KNEW he would be the next Billy Graham. He then says he realized how foolish this type of thinking is.

Our obedience and the depth of our devotion to the Lord is not about externals – it’s about our heart! Do we love the world or God? It’s one or the other – it cannot be both.

As James says in James 4:4 . . .

Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

2 Timothy 4:14-15

14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works.

15 You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.

Just as Paul told Timothy to be watchful and warn the flock under his care, Paul now warns Timothy to watch out for one particular man in Ephesus. His name was Alexander – the head of the metal workers guild in Ephesus whose speech in the theater had incited the anger of the population of Ephesus against Paul and the emerging church there. Alexander was still acting as the point man for opposition and Paul warns him to keep an eye on him.

If anyone needs biblical support for the idea of naming names and pointing out trouble-makers, here is most certainly an example of one.

In conclusion, a good spiritual leader is one who preaches the Word of God always keeping in mind the reality of having to be judged by God concerning rewards, to be watchful of false prophets and doctrines and to equip his flock with the truth so that no one is led astray.

An effective, godly leader is to preach the truth of the Word even if it may offend so that those in his flock are not just getting pleasant words they want to hear, but they are getting an opportunity for the Spirit to move and convict their hearts. The effective leader is to also provide opportunities for those who aren’t sheep to become sheep by inviting those in the congregation, if they so feel the call of the Lord, to repent and accept the Lord. So the sermons should include meat for the mature Christians and milk for the young Christians (and non believers).

The effective leader is also to recognize falsehood for what it truly is, to expose it, and to also draw to attention those who’re spreading false hoods and expose them. The leader is not to rely on fables, visions, and various stories they hear as the heart of their ministries; God’s truth in His Word is to be the main focus.

Being an effective leader (Part 1)

2 Timothy 4

v. 1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:

v. 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

v. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;

v. 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

In order to understand the full weight of Paul’s charge to here, Timothy, we must look at the end of chapter 3. These verses are a classic declaration of the Bible’s inspiration.

2 Timothy 3

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Because all of scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, is God-breathed and is profitable to make the people of God complete and fully prepared to live lives pleasing to God, Paul moves to lay a solemn charge on Timothy – that charge, is to preach the Word.

Paul had spent years disciplining Timothy. Throughout his ministry, Paul had laid the emphasis on keeping the main thing, – and that was to study, teach, and preach the Word of God. But as he now passes from the scene and it is time to pass the leadership of the church over to a new generation of Christian leaders, Paul wants to make sure Timothy realizes he is not to be an innovator and creator of new means–His mandate, as a pastor and leader of the Church is to do what?

Preach the Word!

So Paul phrases his charge in the most solemn language . . .

2 Timothy 4:1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ

So here Paul is commissioning Timothy with a solemn and serious charge. We will all stand before God and the Lord Jesus Christ . . .who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom. This why the charge Paul lays on him is so serious – because all history, all mankind, will one day stand before God and give a final reckoning. Timothy will have to answer for how he has discharged the charge. Paul is laying a trust on Timothy – that trust was the word of God and his office as pastor of the Church at Ephesus. One day, he would stand before the Lord and give account for how he had performed his role and what he had done with the precious treasure of the Scripture.

All of us will one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ – not for judgment for our sins, but for rewards. The believer’s sins were judged at the Cross, so the judgment we will face is not one that determines our eternal destiny – that is already settled in Christ. But we will face a judgment for rewards.

Paul describes this judgment this way in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 . . .

9 We make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Then in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 Paul gives a description of what this judgment will be like

11 No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,

13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.

14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.

15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire

While everyone will appear before the judgment seat of Christ and give account for how they have lived and used the gifts and resources He’s entrusted to them, pastors will face an especially strict judgment.

James says in James 3:1

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.

In light of this stricter judgment, Paul says this to Timothy in 4:2

2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

The best thing Timothy can do as a pastor and leader of the flock is to Preach the Word! The safest course to being able to stand before God on that day when he will give account is to Preach the Word! Realizing this, I marvel at why so many pastors today do anything other than Preach the Word.

Paul is absolutely clear here. There is no obscurity or uncertainty about his charge. This needs no interpretation – only application! Timothy must give himself and his ministry to the faithful and consistent study, preaching and teaching of the Scriptures. He must be ready at all times, when he feels like it and when he doesn’t, to minister to people with the Word of God. When dealing with people who are in error, he needs to be able to bring forth a word from The Word that will challenge their error. When someone is downcast and in need of encouragement, when they are weak and need strength, he must carry the Word to them. And he must be consistent in his ministry in the Word – even when it seems no one gets it.

The story is told about an old American Indian who attended a church service one Sunday morning. The preacher’s message lacked real spiritual food, so he did a lot of shouting and pulpit pounding to cover up his lack of preparation. In fact, as it’s sometimes said, he “preached up quite a storm.” After the service, someone asked the Indian, who was a Christian, what he thought of the minister’s message. Thinking for a moment, he summed up his opinion in six words: “High wind. Big thunder. No rain.”

When the Scriptures are neglected, there is “no rain”, no life-giving virtue in the message.

It is not the words of man, spoken in the greatest eloquence possible which make a difference. Only when preaching is based on God’s Word are His people blessed and refreshed. One of the reasons why the good pastor, the faithful church leader will keep the ministry centered on the study, preaching, and teaching of the Word of God is because . . .

2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;

4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

Paul is certainly speaking prophetically here. But history shows that what he says here has seen a sorry fulfillment again and again in the history of the Church. The Church seems to go through long cycles where it wanders from the Truth to the enticing words of false teachers. The Church is thus corrupted, and when people grow weary enough of the corruption, there’s a reform movement that sees a return to Biblical teaching and preaching. But after a while, the reform becomes institutionalized and once more people turn from Truth.

We see this in the development of Roman Catholicism and the many reform movements that occurred during the Middle Ages. Then we have the Reformation and the birth of Protestantism. That reform degenerated into rationalism and the rise of liberalism. Then there was the Modern Evangelical reform movement. But now it seems the Evangelical church is being co-opted by the philosophy of religious humanism.

Paul sees these cycles of corruption and reform turning like a massive wheel until the time would come when the wheel of corruption would grind to a halt in the end times. Then, most people would not want the “healthy doctrine” of the Word of God. Because of their “itching ears” they would accumulate teachers who would satisfy their cravings for things that disagree with God’s truths.

The fact that a preacher has a large congregation is not always a sign that he is preaching the truth. In fact, it may be evidence that he is tickling people’s “itching ears” and giving them what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear.

Note what Paul says – the time will come when people will not put up with good, solid Bible teaching – instead, because of their own inner lusts, and yet because they have a deep-seated religious stirring, they will find for themselves people who will tell them what they want to hear. So it is that when people who realize the need to believe in something bigger than themselves but who don’t want to submit to God, look for someone to scratch their religious itch, they will find a ready supply of those who will tell them what they want to hear, and make it sound religious all at the same time. So today, we have the health and wealth message which is tailor made for our secular, materialistic society.

Once people have rejected the Truth, they turn to fables; to wild stories about trips to heaven or hell or seeing a 90 ft. tall Jesus. These fables are exciting and sensational, but they aren’t likely to convict them of sin or make them want to repent! The result is a congregation of comfortable, professing Christians, listening to a comfortable, religious talk that contains no Bible doctrine. These people become the prey of every cult because their lives lack a foundation in the Word of God. It is a recognized fact that most cultists were formerly members of churches.

Paul’s emphasis on the ministry of the Word of God is the predominant theme of the pastoral epistles of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. Here he says that because this time of apostasy is coming, Timothy ought to give himself to the task of preaching and teaching. If that was true for Timothy’s day, how much more now when it seems that what Paul forecasted is coming to pass?

What I rejoice to see is that while there may be many who have itching ears and are heaping up false teachers to tell them what they want to hear, there is also a solid and devoted group of Christians at many good churches around the world who not only endure sound doctrine, but crave it!