A Call For Bible-Saturated Christians
Nick Esch, 9/8/2019 Cornerstone Baptist Church
William Tyndale lived from 1494 to 1536. He was an English Reformer who gave his life to seeing the Bible translated into English; eventually he literally gave his life for this cause when he was tried as a heretic and then strangled and burned at the stake. At the time translating the Bible into any common language was illegal, and it was considered heresy to own any of the Bible in a common language, or even to speak any of the Bible in a common language. In the time around Tyndale’s ministry people were being put to death for having a copy of the Lord’s Prayer in English, and even for teaching the Lord’s Prayer to their children in English. So the powers at be had this against Tyndale, but they also abominated the way he was translating certain words. For instance, his translation spoke of elders instead of priests, congregations instead of the church, admission of sin instead of confession, and repentance instead of penance. And that was really why the leaders had such a problem with Tyndale: his translation of the Bible showed the fault in their gospel—that their gospel was really no gospel at all.
Tyndale was a contemporary of Martin Luther, and he wholeheartedly agreed with Luther’s teaching, that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone according to Scripture alone for the glory of God alone. He believed that justification happened in and through the person and work of Christ and our faith in Him. And he knew that faith comes from hearing the Word of God; and not only do we come to saving faith in and through the Word, but we grow in our faith in and through the Word. God’s Word is truth, and He sanctifies us in and through His truth (John 17:17, Romans 1:16-17, 10:17). Like Luther he believed, “The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it.”And He does so through His Word.
So, Tyndale gave everything to getting the Word of God into the people’s hands in a language that they could understand, because he knew that if they could just come into right contact with God’s Word, God’s Word would do a saving and sanctifying work. As Martin Luther once said in reference to the Reformation, “I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word: otherwise I did nothing… I did nothing: the Word did it all…”And like Luther, Tyndale knew that God’s Word is powerful and sufficient; it will accomplish all that God desires it to… But I wonder, do we know that? Do we live like we know that? Are our convictions about God’s Word strong enough that they effect every aspect of our lives? Well, Lord willing, as we dive into God’s Word today, our zeal and our convictions will grow, and we will truly live, and die if necessary, as men and women of the Word. So with that in mind, look with me at 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
Our passage is found in a letter written by the apostle Paul to Timothy, his son in the faith. After spending many years as a pioneer missionary-church planter, Paul is nearing the end of his life; but Timothy is a young pastor, who may have many years of ministry still before him. So, Paul is writing him and encouraging him to press on, stay faithful, live righteously, take courage, be loving, and preach the Word, come what may—in season and out of season. Paul tells him that, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12)… So, he needs to come to grips with that now and commit himself to be faithful to God’s Word and with God’s Word no matter what; because it’s God’s Word that makes God’s people wise unto salvation. That’s how it worked for Timothy; he was raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, learning the Old Testament, or the sacred writings, as Paul calls them in 3:15… And through the Old Testament Timothy came to know Christ. So, as Paul said in 1 Timothy 4:16, Timothy needs to keep a close watch on himself and on his preaching and teaching. He needs to stay faithful and persist in such things, because that’s the means God will use to save him and those who hear him preach…
God’s Word Is
After reminding Timothy of how he was saved through his acquaintance with the Old Testament, in the first part of verse 16 Paul says that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” So, not just the sacred writings of the Old Testament, but even the words of the New Testament are sacred Scripture that have been breathed out by God. Now granted, the church did not yet have a completed New Testament, but it did however have parts of the New Testament, and apostles like Paul and Peter, among others, recognized that these writings were just as much God breathed Scripture as the Old Testament. But, what does that mean? What does it mean that Scripture is God breathed?
Listen to how the Word of God explains this. In Psalm 33:6 it says, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.” Did God do something different to create the heavens than He did to create the heavenly hosts? No… As we’re told in Genesis, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (1:1)… How? God said, “Let there be…” And there was… God spoke the heavens and the earth into existence. The breath of God is directly tied to the words of His mouth… Just as we exhale as we speak, so God breathed or spoke forth His Word in creation, and likewise through His written Word. Men like Paul were instruments in the Redeemer’s hands to lay out His inerrant Word. As Peter tells us, “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). So in saying, “All Scripture is breathed out by God,” Paul is telling Timothy, and he’s telling us that all of Scripture is truly God’s Word—it’s God speaking and thus it should be received with reverence and joy, for it is through God’s Word that He makes us wise unto salvation.
The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16); and we find out what the gospel is in and through God’s Word. From Genesis to Revelation the God breathed Word points us to the Incarnate Word, Christ Jesus, who is God the Son. God’s Word shows us who God is: that He is holy, perfect, good, and infinitely glorious. God’s Word shows us who we are as sinners who have fallen short of His glory and who thus deserve His wrath. But it also tells us of God’s grand plan of redemption in and through the person and work of Jesus. In God’s Word we see that God came down from heaven, took on flesh, lived the perfect life we have failed to live, died a wrath absorbing sacrificial death in our place, and rose from the grave in a death defeating resurrection, so that all who will turn from their sin and trust in Him will be saved. And by God’s grace in God’s timing, when God’s people encounter these truths in God’s Word, God opens our eyes to see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). And when God’s people get a glimpse of God’s glory in Christ they cannot help but turn from their sin and trust in Him. And so I encourage you, if at anytime God begins to open your eyes to the truth of the gospel, the truth of His God-breathed Word, please repent and believe. Trust in Christ! For that’s how God makes us wise unto salvation through His Word. As I say that I’m reminded of Tyndale’s last words… Just before they executed him he cried, “Lord! Open the king of England’s eyes!” And that’s my prayer for you if you don’t know Christ.
What we see here in the first part of verse 16 is that God breathed means God spoke; God spoke forth His Word. And because God is God His Word is therefore powerful, sufficient, and life giving… After all, it’s by His Word that He created the heavens and the earth; and He created out of nothing… Therefore His Word is both powerful and sufficient; nothing needs to be added to it or taken away from it. And His Word not only creates, but it recreates. As Martin Luther once said, “God created the world out of nothing, and so long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us.”His Word is able to make His people wise unto salvation, because in it the gospel is laid out and the gospel is the power of God for salvation. So Scripture is the all-sufficient, powerful, life giving Word of God. And since it it’s spoken forth by the holy, perfect, good, and infinitely glorious God of the universe, it too must be perfect and good… God’s Word is inerrant and infallible just like the God who breathed it.
God’s Word Does
Now, let’s continue working through our text. We’ve seen what God’s Word is, but now let’s look at what God’s Word does. We’ve already seen that God’s Word is what makes us wise unto salvation; but we would do well to ask what salvation is. Salvation can be broken up into 9 parts: 1) election, 2) calling, 3) regeneration, 4) conversion, 5) justification, 6) adoption, 7) sanctification, 8) perseverance, and 9) glorification. Salvation is a big word… But, what Paul seems to be referring to in verse 15 primarily is regeneration, conversion, justification, and adoption—becoming a Christian. However, in the rest of verse 16 Paul tells us that the Word doesn’t merely make us Christians, but grows us or sanctifies us as Christians.
Verse 16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” As we encounter the gospel in God’s Word, by grace through faith in Christ we become Christians; but as Christians we are to be holy and bear fruit in keeping with repentance. We are to live for the glory of God in all things. And in order for that to happen we must go to God’s Word as well… Because the Word of God is profitable; in other words, the Word of God is beneficial. Because the Word of God is the Word of God it is good for God’s people. When the Bible speaks, God speaks; therefore we would do well to listen… It’s profitable, it’s beneficial, it’s good for us to hear, read, and study God’s Word.
But, how is the Word of God profitable? Well, Paul gives us four ways in which God’s Word does us good. First he says that the Word of God is profitable for teaching. God’s Word teaches us what we are to believe. It teaches us who God is, who we are, what sin is, who Christ is and the wonders of sovereign grace; it teaches us about the dangers of the world, the flesh, and the Devil, and the great hope of glory, among many other amazing things… God’s Word gives us sound doctrine. Secondly, God’s Word is profitable for reproof. Just as the Bible teaches us what to believe, it also teaches us what not to believe. God’s Word knows us better than we know ourselves. God knows that our sinful hearts are prone to wander, and so His Word warns us of the false doctrine of the world, which we are so easily led astray by. I mean, think of the glorious hope of the resurrection laid out in 1 Corinthians 15; that’s there because people in the church doubted the resurrection. So Paul rebukes them and corrects their doctrine. And now we have that glorious chapter in our Bibles. God’s Word is profitable for teaching and reproof.
After laying out these first two aspects of how God’s Word is profitable, Paul then shifts from focusing on what we believe to how we should live. Thirdly he says, God’s Word is profitable for correction. God’s Word is able to set us right in our conduct. God tells us what to do and what not to do. And lastly, we’re told God’s Word is profitable for training in righteousness. To train is to teach, educate, instruct, or discipline. And righteousness refers to right or just living. Which for me always brings to mind Micah 6:8, which says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” And I quote that verse to demonstrate that righteous living is much more than being well behaved. Doing justice, or living righteously and loving kindness require walking humbly with God.
This is not telling us that the Word of God enables you to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and become well-behaved model citizens. No! There’s much more going on here than just that. There are far too many people who read, or even preach the Bible in such a way that it’s all about us. They look at the Bible through a man-centered lens; and thus they think they can clean themselves up and do better, or even be healthy and prosperous if they merely do this or that, or feel this way or that way. But, those views far underestimate our sinfulness.
One of my favorite scenes in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is when the Interpreter takes Christian to see a man trying to sweep a dirty, dusty room; but the more he sweeps the more the dust just flies all over the room. But then water is sprinkled throughout the room, and suddenly the man is able to truly clean the dust. When Christian asks the Interpreter what the scene means he’s told that the room is the heart of a man that had never experienced the sweet grace of the gospel; and that the dust is sin… The broom is like the law; it’s like trying to clean ourselves up in our own strength. We might be able to move things around for a bit, but eventually the dust settles, and we can see that everything is still dirty. But the water in the scene is like the gospel. And you see, the gospel makes all the difference.
By God’s grace, through the power of the Holy Spirit, our eyes are opened to the glory of Christ in the gospel, and everything about us changes. It’s like the words from John Newton’s hymn We Were Once As You Are: “Our pleasure and our duty though opposite before, since we have seen His beauty are joined to part no more.” What we couldn’t sweep up, what we couldn’t change by the law or our own strength, we’re now able to mop up, to change not by our strength, but by Christ’s; and we actually delight to do it. As Paul says in Titus 2:11-12, the grace of God trains us to renounce ungodliness. Through the gospel we are released from our bondage to sin, and now our soul delights to live for Christ; because in the gospel we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8)… And the sweetness of Christ has made our sin taste bitter. Because of the gospel we can now live righteously—do justice, and love kindness, all ultimately because by God’s grace we are now walking humbly with our God. And we walk humbly, because we ultimately have no righteousness of our own; but, “For our sake he (God) made him to be sin who knew no sin (Jesus), so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He traded His righteousness for our filthy rags; and, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).
Scripture is therefore profitable for teaching and reproof, which relate to right doctrine—what we believe; and Scripture is profitable for correction and training in righteousness, which relate to right living… But these are not disconnected. We don’t live rightly merely because we have a list of rules to live by; we live rightly because in the gospel and in and through the Word of God, the God of the Word has gotten a hold of our hearts and has so transformed our desires and our thinking that now we delight to live for Him. Again, as Newton said, “Our pleasure and our duty though opposite before, since we have seen His beauty are joined to part no more.” And with all of that said, we can see that God’s Word is truly good for us because it shows us what to believe and how to live, and most importantly in it and through it we encounter the incarnate Word of God who saves us and sanctifies us… So, that’s what God’s Word does: it instructs us and it transforms us: it saves and sanctifies.
God’s Word Makes
Now look with me at verse 17. As we’ve seen, Scripture is God breathed and profitable (then it says), “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” If verse 15 deals with justification, and verse 16 deals with sanctification, then verse 17 deals with the fruit of sanctification and eventual glorification. The phrase, the man of God, refers to Timothy first, and thus especially to ministers; but it refers to any and all men and women of God—all who have been reconciled to God through faith, and counted righteous in Christ. In other words, it’s saying that Scripture is God breathed and profitable to make the Christian complete and equipped, or fully capable, to do every good work, or able to meet every demand God makes. God’s Word equips God’s people to follow God’s Son faithfully, until their faith becomes sight. In my introduction I quoted Luther, who said, “The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it.” And here, 2 Timothy 3:17 is telling us that the Word of Goddoes not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The Word of God not only makes commands of us, but it also enables and equips us to fulfill those commands; indeed it equips us for every good work that God has prepared for us, so that we might please God.
What this is telling us is that God uses His Word to make us faithful followers of Christ, and keep us faithfully following Christ. God works through His Word to bring us to repentance and faith, and through His Word He sanctifies us, enabling us to fight sin and pursue holiness, and through His Word He commands and commissions us and enables and equips us to follow His commands and embark on His commission—He makes us faithful followers of Christ, true Christians who holdfast and persevere. And in looking at all of this, what verse 17 is driving home, is that the Word of God is sufficient. God’s Word is God speaking; it’s the infallible and inerrant Word spoken forth by God. And His Word is profitable because it saves and sanctifies; and not only that but it truly makes us Christians who are able to live in glad obedience to God, until the day we see the Son of God face to face, and are made like Him (1 John 3:2).
Beloved, without the Word of God we are nothing… Without God’s Word we have no hope… But, by God’s grace we have God’s Word. And God’s Word is more than enough: it reveals, it saves, it sanctifies, it enables, it equips, it leads, and it guides us home to Jesus. May we not neglect such a gift… We do not need fancy programs, gigantic budgets, and flashing lights… We need the Bible… We need Bible saturated preachers who preach Bible saturated sermons. We need Bible saturated Christians who live Bible saturated lives. We need the Word!
William Tyndale knew how important God’s Word is, and he gave all that we might have it in English. And now that we do, will we not give all to know it and hold to it? We should take every opportunity to dig deeper into God’s Word. We should be reading, studying, and meditating on it daily on our own; and we should gather with God’s people under God’s Word as often as possible as well. So are you? Are you taking advantage of our Wednesday night Bible study, of Sunday School, and corporate worship each Lord’s Day? If not, why not? Why not take every opportunity to grow in faithfulness and thus grow in joy?
Beloved, the Word of God is powerful. As the author of Hebrews says, “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (4:12). Friends, if we would be true Christians who stay faithful come what may, if we would be joyful and walk in glad obedience to the Lord, then we must be people of the Word. So, evaluate your life and your schedule and see how you can make God’s Word more central to your life, because that’s what will really transform your life. Don’t look to the world, and don’t look to yourself… “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5-8).