Celebrating 40 Years: Still Founded on the Word of God

Sermon preached on 2 Timothy 2:14-17 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 5/06/2011 in Novato, CA. This subject of the sermon was chosen in honor of the church’s 40th anniversary.

Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
2 Timothy 3:14-17

Celebrating 40 Years: Still Founded on the Word of God

Today we are celebrating our 40th anniversary as a church. On May 13, 1971, this church was officially organized as a congregation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. It was then known as the Novato Orthodox Presbyterian Church, pastored by Rev. Robert Graham who was also the original church planter who founded this congregation. In 1976, its name was then changed to Trinity Church, Orthodox Presbyterian, as it stands today. And so we hit the 40 year mark this last Friday for our congregation. And we are especially thankful for the many years of faithful service of Rev. Richard Miller, who pastored this church for most of these 40 years, serving for 32 years between 1974 to 2006. And, I should also note that this year our denomination celebrates its 75th anniversary. And so it is a significant year in both our church and our denomination.

And something that has characterized both this church and our denomination is the Word of God. Our denomination was started by men like J. Gresham Machen, for example, who wrote and spoke extensively on the inerrancy of Scripture and its role in the church as the fully inspired Word of God. The nature and role of the Scriptures was one of the fundamental points our denomination stood up for at its inception. And in our own church here in Novato, this is something we’ve repeatedly heralded. Over the years, our church has used this tagline to describe ourselves: “Where the Bible is sincerely believed and faithfully taught.” I’m not sure how long our church has used that slogan, but as far back as I can see, we’ve used it. Well, it was true at the start of this church, and it is still true today. Today we celebrate 40 years as a church, and we are still founded on the Word of God.

And so I thought that would be a fitting topic for us today to consider. Today we will consider the Word of God. We’ll consider the Bible and its’ use in the church. That’s what this passage is about. The letter of 2 Timothy is a pastoral epistle. It was written by the Apostle Paul to Timothy. Timothy was a pastor and evangelist helping to further establish a church that was recently planted. Paul is instructing Timothy about that in this letter. A lot of this letter is very specifically about how Timothy is to lead the church as a pastor. That’s what we see in this passage. Paul is telling Timothy the importance of the Scriptures. It seems Paul is telling him this for both his own personal growth as a leader in the church, but also in using the Word in his ministry. Timothy is to use the Word of God to grow himself, and to help others. By extension, this is what we should want all our church leaders to be about. All our church leaders should use the Scriptures as commended by this passage. The members of the church should demand this. And the members of the church should look for this. All of us should see the primacy of the Word for us to grow. That must be a hallmark of any church ministry. That’s what we’ll see today. The Bible is the inspired Word of God. As such it is imminently useful to accomplish all the ministry tasks of the church. It brings us to our salvation and grows us in godliness.

So let’s dig in. I’d like us to consider first today the nature of the Scriptures.
To understand the nature of the Scriptures, we need to start with the Scriptures. That’s something we call the self-witness of the Scripture. What do they say about themselves? Many critics of the Scriptures today don’t start there. They discount the claim of the Scriptures themselves. But if we are going to put faith in the Scriptures, if they are going to be of use to us, certainly we must understand what they claim to be. Some might then disagree with that claim, but at least they’ve heard out what the Scriptures themselves claim to be.

Well, we see the self-witness of Scripture in verse 16. They are inspired. That’s the clear statement of verse 16. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. This is a key verse for our doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. Our translation distills this down for us. But I like how some translations will get at the literal imagery here. The NIV, for example, says that Scripture is God-breathed. The ESV says that the Scripture is breathed out by God. The language in the original Greek here is one of “breath;” of “spiration.” God breathed out the Scripture. The most literal imagery here is not even God breathing into the Scriptures. No, as OPC Minister EJ Young put it, “That which God breathed forth from his mouth is Scripture.” The Scriptures are what God has breathed forth. They came from God. This is talking about their origin. They come from God.

Peter in 2 Peter 1:21, helps explain this to us. 2 Peter 1:21. Peter says, “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” And so our doctrine of inspiration recognizes that humans were used in the process. God moved in the prophets to bring forth this revelation. He did this by the Holy Spirit. That’s 2 Peter’s point. 2 Peter helps to explain how humans were used in the process of delivering Scripture. But this passage in 2 Timothy especially brings out who the real author is. The real author of the Scriptures is God. Yes, God used prophets and apostles to carry this message to the people. And yet ultimately the Bible comes from God. He breathed it out. It’s his voice coming forth. That’s why we call the Bible the Word of God. It came ultimately from him.

And so 2 Timothy 3:16 very boldly states that God is the ultimate author of the Scriptures. That’s the self-witness of Scripture. That what the Bible says about itself. At this church and in our denomination, we believe the Bible at this point. There are many external reasons to believe this. I’d be happy to refer you to some of those afterwards individually. But the ultimate reason we believe this is because the Spirit has worked on our own hearts. We receive it because the Spirit has so worked on our hearts to convince us of its truth. Yes, there are rational reasons to consider the reliability of the Bible. But fundamentally we recognize the Bible because the Spirit has convinced us its true. As we’ve read it, we see its fulfillments. We observe how it perfectly describes our reality. We’ve seen its power at work in our lives. We’ve recognized how God has spoke to us through his Word. This is all a part of how God’s Spirit has convinced us of the truth of his Word.

And so, the implications of this point are staggering. The implication that the Bible is ultimately authored by God, is profound. If God is the author of the Bible, then that means it is without error. That clearly follows because Scripture says that God does not lie, Numbers 23:19. And Scripture clearly shows that God knows all things. So, if God knows all things, and does not lie, then his Word must be without error. It is completely true. And it is.

Furthermore, we affirm the infallibility of the Word. This follows from the doctrine of inspiration as well. God had a purpose in breathing out his Word. Since God is all powerful, we know that this purpose will be fulfilled. It will accomplish what he intends for it. In fact, that also is what the Scriptures attest. Isaiah 55:11 specifically says that God’s Word will not return void, but it will accomplish that which he intended.

And so the doctrine that God is the author of Scripture has important ramifications. And so we affirm the Scripture is inspired, inerrant, and infallible. And as God’s Word, we recognize that his Word is to be heard and obeyed. And yet this passage goes beyond just telling us about the nature of the Word. In fact, Paul is telling us about the nature of the Word only in passing. He’s telling us about the usefulness of the Word. It seems that he mentions the nature of the Word only to drive home how useful the Word is to be in our lives. Verse 16 uses the language of “profitableness”. The Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. Of course, this is related again to the nature of the Word. It is profitable to us, because it did come from God. God’s Word has the power to bring about these things in our life, because the Bible is breathed out by God. And so God authored the Bible for it to be used and profitable in our lives. Especially in the church.

Notice even how Paul subtly acknowledges the way the Word was used in the church to be a blessing to Timothy himself. Look at verse 14. Paul acknowledges that Timothy himself was taught the Scriptures. Paul notes that they were something he became convinced about. Paul even points Timothy to remember from whom he learned the Scriptures. Well, we have no reason to suspect that Timothy had some supernatural revelation of the Scriptures personally revealed to him. No, rather, Paul goes on in verse 15 to remind Paul how he had grown up learning the Scriptures. Chapter 1 had mentioned how both his mother and Grandmother were believers. And surely Paul himself had taught Timothy as well, especially about Jesus. And so the picture presented here about Timothy’s own learning of the Scripture was a very ordinary one. Timothy learned them and became convinced by them through the church. By the people of God passing them on. This is the ministry of the church, to teach and train people in the Word of God. That’s what Paul wants Timothy to be doing. Paul tells Timothy here how profitable the Scriptures will be in his life, and in the life of the church.

And so let’s think about this usefulness. Let’s think about how the Scriptures are profitable and beneficial. There are at least five specific things mentioned here. Let’s briefly think through them. We’ll begin with the list in verse 16. The first thing mentioned is doctrine. The Scriptures are profitable for doctrine. The word for doctrine here is simply the word for teaching. Where do we get our teaching and doctrine from? It comes from the Word. Disciples of Christ should be concerned to learn about God and about revealed truth. All our doctrine comes from the Bible. Today, some Christians turn their nose at doctrine. But doctrine is just a word to describe the teachings of Scripture. Paul says that the Bible is profitable to teach us this. There is a way in which all Christians can use the bible to share truth with one another. And there is a way that all Christians can learn from their own personal study of it too. But we should also acknowledge the importance for our church leaders to be teaching from the Bible. That’s what 1 Timothy 5:17 acknowledges. It mentions how some elders specifically labor in the Word, preaching and teaching. That’s referring to the pastors, of course. All our official church leaders, and especially the pastor, are to use God’s Word and teach it! The church is to be about teaching the truth from the Bible.

The second and third items in this list are reproof and correction. The Bible is useful for reproof and correction. These are closely related things, but they are distinct. The reproof described here is that which points out something negative. The Bible is useful to call us to account when we have some action or belief that is incorrect. It can rebuke that negative thing in us. This is so important in our Christians walk – being willing to be challenged by the Word of God. When this reproof does come to us, the appropriate response is correction. Paul says here that the word of God brings that about too. The word for correction here is specifically that positive thing you do when you turn from the previous sin or error. The correction mentioned here is the positive change that’s been made. The Bible can bring this about in our lives. And so when we personally study the Bible, we should be willing to be challenged and changed by it. And we should expect our pastors and elders to challenge us and call for change according to the Bible’s teachings as well. And so the Bible is the foundation for this change. Think for example, when the Bible talks about putting off certain sins and putting on righteousness in its place. The Bible gets very specific at these points. But this putting off and putting on is none other than the reproof and correction described here in verse 16.

Look now at the fourth useful item in verse 16’s list. The Bible is useful for instructing in righteousness. The word for instructing here is actually a specific kind of instruction in the Greek. This word has a very active connotation; it’s instruction that leads to a changed behavior. It can be translated as “train” or “discipline.” The Bible is useful for “discipline in righteousness.” In other words, this instruction is not just academic knowledge. If so, that would have been covered earlier in the list in verse 16, when it talked about doctrine. No, this is talking about rearing us up in real godly behavior. That we really learn right behavior through putting the Word into practice. This phrase implies a bit of hard work in growing in godliness. And so the Word of God is useful to help us in this too. It is working in us spiritual discipline. It’s working in us the knowledge and passion for godly living.

We see the purpose for all this usefulness in verse 17. That the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. After 40 years, this church still believes this. Realize the sufficiency of this statement. You don’t have to supplement the Bible with something else. When it comes to living godly, the Bible itself is sufficient to train us and grow us in what we need. It’s tempting to think we need worldly wisdom to solve our problems. I’m not saying that the world doesn’t have some good insights by common grace into particular struggles we might have. But at the end of the day, the Bible is all we really need when talking about growing as Christian. And so the ministry of this church teaches the Bible. We sincerely believe it, and look to faithfully teach it. Verse by verse. Precept by precept. Expositing the text and drawing out its meaning; never wanting to import outside ideas into the text, but rather let the Bible and the passage speak for itself. Comparing Scripture by Scripture when we get to more difficult passages.

I mentioned there were five things said here of the Bible’s usefulness. So far I have mentioned four. The fifth is in verse 15. The Scriptures are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. The Bible is able; the Bible is powerful, to make you wise for salvation. Salvation that is in Jesus Christ, by faith in his name. By faith that trusts in Christ’s death on the cross, and in his resurrection. Faith that turns from your sins unto his forgiveness and grace. Faith that trusts in Jesus for eternal life. You see, this is the ultimate story of the Bible. The Bible tells us so many things. It can teach us so many things. We can learn about how to live godly. We can learn biblical truth. We can be challenged over those sins in our lives and directed in what we should replace those sins with. But all of that is meaningless unless we have first been made wise for salvation. Unless we have first found salvation in Jesus. But this is what the whole Bible is all about. It’s about grace through faith in Jesus. It’s about salvation in God’s Son, Jesus. As we talk today about the usefulness of the Bible, we must declare this. Use the Bible to find Jesus! To find salvation. That’s what the book is all about. And so I call each us today to believe in Jesus. Repent and believe in the gospel of Christ, and be saved! Then you will be able to see the list of things in verse 16 really shine forth in your lives. Then you will see God’s Word really teaching you and training you in Christian doctrine and living.

My final point for us today is to draw us to the actual exhortation in this passage. There’s a command Paul is giving to Timothy in all of this. This is the command I would like to urge upon all of us today as well. It’s in verse 14. Continue. Paul calls Timothy to continue. This is the same word often translated as “abide.” Continue. Abide. Abide and continue in the Word of God. In the God-breathed Scriptures. Continue in them. Continue to use them, to teach with them, to be taught by them. Continue.

You see, we are celebrating our church’s 40th anniversary today. For those who’ve been a part of this ministry for a while, I deeply hope that you didn’t hear anything new today, per se. Paul tells Timothy to continue in what he’s already learned and in what he’s already convinced of. That’s what I want us to be doing too. This church had been founded on the Word of God all these many years. And yet so had Timothy. But Paul still called him to continue in these things. Paul knew that challenges will come to us in this area. Even on things that we have been convinced of all our lives. Paul says Timothy has known the Word and been convinced of it all his life; yet he still calls him to continue. Well, this is our call as a church ministry. This ministry has known the Word. We’ve been convinced of its full inspiration by God. We must continue in that.

Historically, this has been a doctrine attacked from within the church. 75 years ago when J. Gresham Machen and others started our denomination, this was one of the main doctrines that they stood up for. Liberal Christianity wanted to disregard the Bible as just musty old manuscripts. Christian experience was to be king; the new foundation. Others of course, then and today have wanted to disregard certain parts of the Bible. Many today, for example, want to elevate Jesus’ words in the Gospels as Scripture and treat everything else as inferior. Even some of Reformed Seminaries today, seminaries started years ago to protect this doctrine, have found some faculty members flirting with views less than the full inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.

And so there are still threats even within conservative churches and seminaries on this very issue. Every generation must be reminded of this call to continue in the inerrant, inspired, Word of God. At our 40th birthday as a church, this is the call I bring to our congregation. Let us be steadfast on this point. Insist upon it with every pastor that will ever teach here. Demand it of every ordained elder and deacon that serves in this church. Hold this dear yourselves. This is our foundation for truth and godliness. If a building loses its foundation, the building crumbles. If a house is built on the wrong foundation, it will crumble – remember Jesus’ parable about building on the rock and not the sand. The Bible is our foundation. The Bible which we have received as the full Word of God – that is what Christ’s church has been built upon. The foundation has been laid, that’s what Ephesians 2:20 says. We must not depart from it. Continue in it.

If we are continue in this foundation, then we must use it. And we must continue to build upon it. That means we must be growing through the teachings of God’s Word. Every new members that is added onto this holy building, must be added through the teachings of God’s Word. And so to continue in the Scriptures is to continue to see the Bible as our foundation, and to continue to use it as our foundation.

And if we ourselves are to continue in using the God-breathed Word, let us remember an important catechism question. This catechism question is so beautiful in how it summarizes how we can continue in the Word. Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 90: “How is the Word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation? That the Word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation, and prayer; receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practice it in our lives.” That answer draws us to have the right perspective about the Word, and then look to really study it and live out. In other words, we approach it as God’s Word, trusting its truth. We don’t doubt it, or its claims or it practical value. No, we in awe of God receive his every Word. We don’t ignore it – no, it comes from God. We instead give all attention to it. We then go away continuing to think about it. Continuing to contemplate how it applies to every aspect of our lives. We then, submitting to the almighty God, look to put his words into practice. The Bible is God’s Holy Word. Let us indeed treat it like this. Let us continue in this fellow saints, as men and women of God, and as a church. Amen.

Copyright (c) 2011 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.


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