Let Us Continue to Preach God's Word!
Dear Lord, we live in a day when society shows little respect for Your word or Your will. Preserve us from such unbelief. Rather, move us always to listen to You with open hearts and ready ears, so that we might grow in Your grace, increase in our faith, and be moved always to live our lives in love. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
There was a time in ancient Israel’s history when the word of God was literally lost! It was found during young Josiah’s reign. Josiah was moved by the LORD in faith to humble himself before God, an action that led to his personal blessing and a postponement of God’s impending judgment upon His rebellious people.
Jesus confronted the religious indifference and unbelief of many people in His day by pointing to the truths He was sharing openly with them. He assures us that if we abide in His words we are indeed His disciples, we will know the truth, and that truth will set us free!
Text: 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
As for you, continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, 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 good work. 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: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 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; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
In Christ Jesus, our precious Lord and Savior, dear fellow redeemed:
Today is Reformation Sunday. If we were to have had a guest speaker today, and if that guest speaker had been the apostle Paul himself, what might he have to say to us? The world today is so very different in many ways than it was in Paul’s day, especially in view of the many advances in technology and transportation. Yet, in many other ways, this world is very much the same. People are still people. They still make mistakes and commit sins. They still face a great many sorrows and are confronted by any number of fears. Nations still distrust nations and go to war to protect their interests. Death still remains very much a part of life, and the same questions concerning life beyond death haunt the minds of men and women who do not yet know the Lord.
What might the apostle Paul say to us were he here today as our guest speaker? I would imagine that he might share with us the very words he wrote in our text. They were, after all, among his final words—words which were originally written to provide guidance for young Timothy. Paul urged Timothy to “continue in the things which (he)had learned” and to “preach the word” at all times and under every circumstance, so that as many as possible might be convinced of God’s truths, admonished when necessary by those truths, and patiently instructed so they might properly apply those truths. Consequently, were the apostle Paul here, I believe he would encourage us to CONTINUE TO PREACH GOD’S WORD! He would urge us to do so, because it saves and because it equips! He would urge us to do so even though it will be opposed!
Yes, God’s word saves! Paul says, “Continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from who you have learned them…from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Timothy had known Paul and depended upon Paul’s advice and guidance for many years, but within a short time Paul would no longer be there. To whom or to what should Timothy refer in the future when he needed guidance? Paul told him to continue in, that is hold on to that which he had learned from his study of the Bible and the instruction he had received. Timothy was raised by two God-fearing women—his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. They had instructed him in the commands and promises of God’s Old Testament Scriptures. Timothy knew the difference between right and wrong from his study of God’s law. He also knew of the promises of the Savior to come. Timothy first learned that Jesus was that Savior through the preaching of the apostle when Paul came to Galatia and preached the gospel in Timothy’s home town of Lystra. The Holy Spirit had created faith in Timothy’s heart through the word his faithful mother and grandmother had shared with him as a child. The Holy Spirit had informed and strengthened that faith through the preaching of the gospel by Paul. The message Timothy received was the means the Holy Spirit used to save him—to bring him out of the darkness of sin and into the light of God’s grace and kingdom! Yes, from little on he had known that he could not be perfect as God’s law demanded, and that in view of his sins he deserved God’s eternal judgment. But, from little on he had also learned of God’s grace and a mercy to be revealed by a promised Savior. Paul had brought news of that Savior—Jesus Christ who had lived for Timothy and died for Timothy, so that he, Timothy, might have hope in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.
The same thing can be said of us today. Many of us had faithful parents and grandparents, who nurtured us with the words of God found in the Bible. We will be, are presently, or have been instructed by faithful ministers of the word, so that the faith the Holy Spirit created in our young hearts has been informed and strengthened. God would have us continue in that word—cling to it and proclaim it, for as the Scriptures say, “God our Savior…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4) and “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
My dear friends, there is nothing greater that we can do than preach God’s word, for thereby we are offering relatives and friends, mere acquaintances and outright strangers the gift of life! Let us not grow weary and let us not lose sight of the fact that all people who do not have faith in Jesus as their Savior are still walking in darkness. They are lost souls doomed to eternal destruction no matter what their outward circumstances appear to be in the world right now. The world by nature is sick and we have the cure! Therefore, LET US CONTINUE TO PREACH GOD’S WORD, for it saves!
Let us do so as well for God’s word equips! Paul explains why God’s word is so important and powerful when he says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, 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 good work.” The Bible is inspired by God—that is, God breathed the thoughts and words into the minds of its writers, so that we can be confident as we read it today, that it reveals the very thoughts and words of God Himself! Why is this important? It is important, because God wants us to be able to live our lives with confidence, and we can only do that if we are certain that what we believe is true. Why is this so important today? It is important today, because the world would have us believe that all religious beliefs are merely personal opinions and valid only for those who hold them. Consequently, the world claims that religious truth is not truth, but rather merely a reflection of personal values—values which are useful for guiding an individual in his or her life, but which cannot be applied in any absolute sense to society in general. This simply is not true. Oh, yes, the word of God establishes a core set of values, which if treasured enrich our lives, but the word of God also establishes absolute truth—a moral standard of right and wrong, the proper identification of the true God and the accurate understanding of the human condition and God’s plan of remedy. Consequently, God’s word certainly saves, but in addition it equips us to fulfill everything that God would have us do!
This is what Paul means then when he says the Bible “is profitable for doctrine.” It reveals God’s nature to be triune, made up of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It shows how He has chosen to work through the means of grace—the gospel in word and sacrament. It confronts us with the awful fact that we are all by nature dead in trespasses and sins and therefore unable to save ourselves, but then it proclaims the joyous truth that God has loved us in Christ and delivered us from sin, death, and Satan through Jesus’ redemptive work. That same word is then “profitable…for reproof (and), for correction.” We are at times misled by the world around us and the Old Adam within us. We misuse God’s name; we drink too much; we allow improper books, magazines, or videos to excite our lust; we take things that are not ours; we allow our anger to move us to hurt and harm others by our words or actions; we rebel against our parents. In such situations, God’s word reproves us and corrects us. This is not easy for our human pride, but necessary for genuine repentance! The word of God “is profitable…for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Are you uncertain about what you should do in a given situation, or what you should say to a certain person, or what God expects of you as you make decisions that will affect your life and the lives of others? Turn to the word. God promises that if you apply that word faithfully in your lives, you will be equipped to do everything that God expects of you, and in honoring God by keeping His words, you will find blessing! The Psalmist says, “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). LET US CONTINUE TO PREACH GOD’S WORD, for it equips!
Let us do so fully aware that it will be opposed! Paul informed Timothy that, “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; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” Who are the “they”? They are people—the vast majority of people in this world and unfortunately also some who would profess the Christian faith. Immanuel congregation and our Church of the Lutheran Confession are striving to uphold and proclaim the truths of the Bible. We believe, as did Martin Luther and the other reformers, that the Bible is God’s inspired and inerrant word—that what it says brings salvation and is to guide and direct our lives. Bible truths are not always popular and frequently bring the criticisms of the world, so much so that many Christians begin to compromise those truths, because they fear the opposition of the world—an opposition that is real and often vocal and sometimes violent.
You have heard the criticisms—when the Bible affirms the gift of life and we are led to oppose abortion and embryonic stem-cell research we are called narrow-minded and ignorant. When the Bible defines marriage as the life-long union of one man and one woman, as opposed to the union of two men or two women, we are called hateful and bigoted. When we suggest that the physical evidence found within our universe provides exact evidence of God as Creator or of a past world-wide flood, we are called fools and unscientific. When we suggest that pre-marital and extra-marital sex damage many lives and that it is God’s will that sexual activity be limited to the marital relationship, we are called old-fashioned and out-of-touch. When we uphold the truth that Jesus alone is this world’s Savior and that without faith in Jesus there is no salvation, why we are called unloving and intolerant, and in some countries we would be imprisoned and perhaps even executed.
My dear friends, on this Reformation Day—a day in which we celebrate God’s work of restoring the truths of His word and His work of our salvation through Martin Luther and others, may we listen to these words of Paul. They are just as true for us today, as they were when they were first addressed to Timothy. Yes, LET US CONTINUE TO PREACH GOD’S WORD, for it still savesand it still equips…even though it will always be opposed! Amen!
Soli Dei Gloria!
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting