2 Timothy 3:16&17
I think you would agree that people today (even Christian people) are increasingly biblically illiterate.
A survey conducted by Knowledge Networks for Christianity Today International and Zondervan in September 2006 revealed the following. Nineteen percent of the 1,017 self-identified Christian adults who took the survey consider themselves Active Christians (high belief, high church involvement). Twenty percent consider themselves Professing Christians (high belief, moderate church involvement).
Among Active Christians, 86 percent believe the Bible is the authoritative guide for faith and Christian living; 93 percent read the Bible; and 82 percent agree that regular Bible reading and prayer are important spiritual disciplines for all Christians. Obviously this group has a strong reverence for the Bible.
Among Professing Christians, 74 percent believe the Bible is the authoritative guide for faith and Christian living; 48 percent say they read the Bible; and 54 percent say regular Bible reading and prayer are important spiritual disciplines for all Christians. According to this, only about half of Professing Christians see a need for regular Bible reading, and fewer than half even do it. What a huge surprise—to see roughly half of this group, most of which believes in salvation and the importance of the Bible—place a relatively low priority on using the Bible.
For the past few years, at Hallmark, we have been teaching through various books of the Bible, offering "Bible Reading Plans", and encouraging Scripture memorization in attempt to get God's people back into God's Word. Over the next 40 days, all of our Life Groups will be learning the "Devotional Method" of Bible study. I truly believe that when God's people are immersed in God's Word daily the end result will be life change. Not just increased information, but life transformation. It will not simply increase our belief, but it will also impact our behavior.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
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.
I. The Extent of God's Word
Some people will say that they believe the Bible contains SOME words from God, but that it isn't THE Word of God. The result of this belief is a cafeteria Christian that picks and chooses which parts of the Bible he/she wishes to believe. The Bible then becomes a buffet of belief that the consumer enjoys at leisure. They'll use it when it helps them, but refuse it when it challenges them (Who's God in that arrangement?).
As much as some of us would like to exclude some of what the Bible says, we must surrender to the fact that ALL of Scripture is God's Word.
It's important to understand that while all parts of the Bible are NOT inspirational, ALL parts of the Bible ARE inspired. In other words, you might find more personal worth reading the Sermon on the Mount than in reading the genealogy tables in Matthew chapter one; but one was just as inspired as the other. "ALL Scripture is inspired".
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.
King Solomon said, "EVERY Word of God is pure" (Prov. 30:5). When Jesus was led out into the wilderness, before beginning His public ministry, he was tempted by the Devil himself. His weapon against that wicked attack was God's Word, "It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4 KJV). Jesus went on to say, "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till ALL is fulfilled" (Matt. 5:18 NKJV).
II. The Evidence of God's Word
"…is given by inspiration of God"
The late, Dr. R.G. Lee said, "The Bible is a book above and beyond all other books…as a river is beyond a rivulet/as the sun is beyond a candle in brightness/as the wings of an eagle above the wings of a sparrow in strength/…it is supernatural in origin, eternal in duration, inexpressible in value, immeasurable in influence, infinite in scope, divine in authorship, human in penmanship, regenerative in power, infallible in authority, universal in interest, personal in application, and inspired in totality! The Bible is the book that has walked more paths, traveled more highways, knocked on more doors, spoken to more people in their mother tongue, than any other book has ever known, or ever will know."
"ALL scripture is given BY INSPIRATION OF GOD".
Perhaps, you've heard people say regarding that statement, "Prove it!" How can you prove that the Bible is NOT just another book? Well, there are two broad categories of evidence when it comes to God's Word: External & Internal.
For the sake of time, let's just take a look at 3 external evidences this morning that show us how the Bible is truly a miracle book:
A. The miracle of its origination.
The Bible is really a library of books…66 in all. These 66 books were written over a period of 1,600 years; they were written by 40 different men, from 13 different countries, and 3 different continents, yet they all come together as a literary masterpiece, with one central theme, and without contradiction. That's a miracle…with a divine Author overseeing the whole thing! Those 40 men came from a variety of backgrounds: doctors, fishermen, shepherds, soldiers, kings, and princes; some were rich, some were poor, some were educated, and others were uneducated.
If we were to take 40 men from church today, and let's say they were all equal in social standing, education, and background: if we put them all in a room together, the 40 of them probably couldn't ALL agree on any one thing, much less everything! And yet, God's Word stands without contradiction! And they all write about the same hero, Jesus Christ. Look closely and you find Jesus throughout this book.
The Bible covers a variety of subjects:
Origin of universe, creation of man, beginning of sin, divine principles of government, rise and history of Israel, incarnation of Christ, institution of the church, evangelization of the world. Yet, with all of this variety and with a thousand threads weaving its tapestry, when you step back and look there is just one theme from beginning to end: Jesus Christ, and the redemption of mankind.
In Genesis Jesus is the seed of woman prophesied in Gen. 3:15,
In Exodus Jesus is the Passover Lamb,
In Leviticus, He is our High Priest
In Numbers, He is the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night,
I could go on and on…
Needless to say, this book is a miracle!
B. The miracle of its preservation.
No less amazing than the Bible's origination, is its preservation.
Psalm 119:89 says, "Forever, O Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven".
The Bible is not the "book of the month"; it's the book of the Ages!!!
No book has been the object of more attacks and more scorn than the Bible.
No book has ever been despised and rejected like the Word of God.
It's been burned/ridiculed/outlawed, but amazingly, the more it is attacked,
the more it multiplies!
Voltaire, in his day said, "in 100 years the Bible will be a forgotten book, only to be found in museums." 100 years later, Voltaire was dead and his house was purchased by the Geneva Bible Society for the printing and distribution of Bibles!
Robert Ingersoll, agnostic and Bible skeptic of last century, used to travel a circuit delivering messages on why the Bible is not true, he said, "In 15 years I'll have the Bible in the morgue…within 15 years Robert Ingersoll was dead and buried. A local preacher bought his house and used the same desk Ingersoll had used, to write weekly Bible lessons.
Many a man has preached the funeral of the Bible, only to find it remains the most published and translated book in the world.
John Cummings said, "the empire of Caesar is gone, but the Word of God still survives, the legions of Rome are now dust, but the Word of God still survives, the avalanches that Napoleon heaped upon Europe have melted away, but the Word of God still survives, the pride of the Pharaohs has fallen, but the Word of God still survives. Tradition has dug for it a grave. Many a Judas has betrayed it w/ a kiss. Many a Demas has forsaken it, but the Bible still survives!"
There's only one explanation for the Bible indestructibility…it has been miraculously maintained and providentially preserved by Almighty God.
The Bible is a miracle in its origination, its preservation, and
C. The miracle of its circulation.
No book has been circulated like the Bible; by far the #1 seller of all time. Many people have given their lives for the cause of circulating the Word of God. The Gideon's are just one organization doing this, and each year they distribute over 500 million Bibles worldwide. I have met folks who risk their lives to smuggle the Bible into countries whose leaders forbid its distribution; yet some in America won't even carry theirs to church.
John Wycliffe gave his life to translating the Bible from Latin to English, against the wishes of the pope, (Wycliffe had spoken out against the pope, saying that he was not infallible). A clergyman hopelessly entrenched in Roman Catholic dogma once taunted Tyndale with the statement, "We are better to be without God's laws than the Pope's". Tyndale was infuriated by such Roman Catholic heresies, and he replied, "I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spare my life a few more years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the scriptures than you!" After his death, the church actually dug up his bones and burned them, and threw the ashes into the Thames River…what a beautiful picture, though, of what he did for the Bible, for the river carried his ashes to the ocean, and ocean currents spread them over the world, and everywhere that waves crash on the shore, the Word of God has been distributed.
It's a miracle book…in its origination, preservation, and circulation. That's just some of the external evidence.
We could spend at least as much time discussing the internal evidence for God's Word:
A. Scientific Accuracy
B. Historical Accuracy
C. Archeological Accuracy
D. Prophetic Accuracy
Hopefully you've come to realize that, with a cursory study of the evidence, the Bible is no ordinary book. In fact, it is God breathed. He inspired ALL of it, and has miraculously preserved it for us today and for all time. That leads us to the question, "Why?"
III. The Effect of God's Word
"and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
righteousness that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every
Some important prepositions in this text are: by, of, and for. God's Word is given BY inspiration OF God and is profitable FOR... God's Word is "for" some things.
Doctrine is a belief system built on what the Bible teaches us about: God, man, sin, incarnation, salvation, sanctification, etc. Any church that names the Name of Jesus Christ should have the Bible, and ONLY the Bible, as its source for doctrine.
If the Christian life is like a journey, proper doctrine assures us that we're on the right road. But what happens when something causes us to veer of the straight and narrow?
God's Word not only instructs us about what's is right, it reproves us when we're in the wrong. In Jeremiah 23:29 the Lord said, "Is not My Word…like a hammer that breaks the rock into pieces?" I'm sure I am not alone when I say that there have been times in my life where God's Word has literally leveled me in my sin. The Lord has brought certain passages of Scripture to bear on my life at just the right time, and in just the right way to turn me back to the straight and narrow. I always pray in my heart before I preach or teach God's Word, "Lord, comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable".
It corrects our mistakes and often reveals to us where we went wrong. If we stumble along the way out of ignorance, like a patient teacher, it shows us what to watch out for and corrects our steps. This leads us to…
- Instruction in Righteousness
God's Word not only teaches us what to believe, but it also teaches us how to behave. Do you want to please God with your life? Live what you learn from God's Word. It is no mystery how to please your Maker; simply do what He says. Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15 NKJV). We heard a message on John 3:17 a few weeks ago which says, "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them" (NKJV).
We see the effects of God's Word outlined for us in Paul's letters contained in the New Testament. He wrote the letter to the Romans to emphasize the importance of "doctrine". In his letters to the Corinthians, he shows it is profitable for "reproof". In the Galatians epistle His emphasis is on "correction". And, in the Ephesian letter he speaks about the need for "instruction of righteousness".
An effective ministry of God's Word will do all four – teach doctrine, reprove sin, correct false paths, and instruct in godly living. Balance is the key. The temptation is to overly emphasize one purpose to the exclusion of others. Some preach mainly on Bible doctrine but hardly ever deal with Scriptures that reprove sin, correct false thinking, and instruct on righteous behavior. Others emphasize reproof; they beat the pulpit and shout red-faced reproving everyone else for their sins. Others think it is their calling to correct everyone else's improper thinking. Others spend all of their time instructing in righteousness to the exclusion of doctrine and reproof. The results of all these examples are imbalanced believers that are easily swayed off course.
God's Word has been given to us, preserved for us, and will work in and through us if we simply study it and do what it says. A believer's behavior will be blessed if it is built and bound by the Bible.
Our faith is not rooted in fable; it's rooted in the truth of God's Word. Believing the Bible isn't a leap into the darkness, it's a step into the light!
May the Lord help us over these next forty days as we study His Word; like never before. I pray that we would be changed individually and corporately for His glory!