The Usefulness Of Doctrine (Part 3)

According to a 14 century idiom “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” makes reference to finding out if something is true by testing it. Timothy had been a keen observer of the effectual working of God in a few select lives. That in addition to his own, Paul, Lois, and Eunice were vivid reminders of gospel truth that formed the nucleus in each of them. Timothy had found solace and strength from these familiar testimonies that were so similar to his own. It may be that you know someone who remains committed to Christ and because of their godly heritage, you press on in the same manner holding to the same truth! Knowing truth and continuing in it is central to the text in 2 Timothy 3:11-15: know all about my teaching (v10), continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of (v14), you have known the holy Scriptures (v15). While positive proof had been aptly seen in the lives of those nearest and dearest to Timothy, in verse sixteen the focus pivots from a demonstration of the truth to a three point description of it. While the passage in 2 Timothy 3:11-15 clearly depicts for us the transforming power of the gospel, verse sixteen gives a threefold basis for the Bibles effectiveness: the Scriptures are inspired, useful, and purposeful. For the Bible student verse sixteen may well be the key verse for inspiration. Yet, many other texts do exist that can attest to this too. We should not lose sight of the fact that Timothy comes under fire and must face difficulties such as being under Nero’s reign, the growing pressures within his own congregation because of his youth, and his own timidness, and you have an instant formula for disaster. For Paul to strengthen Timothy’s faith, a great deal of traction is gained by teaching him how reliable, practical, and purposeful the Scriptures can be.

To begin, inspiration means “God breathed”. It is a heaven sent message preserved by God for His people so they can learn to live righteous lives. Every word in the Bible is from God and therefore completely trustworthy. To be fully convinced that something is true from cover to cover means you can fully rely on it. The Greek word for inspiration is found nowhere else in Scriptures. Up to this point in time, all of the Old Testament and most of the New Testament books had been written with the exception of 2 Peter, Hebrews, Jude, John, 1st, 2nd & 3rd John and Revelation. Verse 16 accords well with the prior testimonies of Paul, Lois, Eunice and Timothy not because their lives are infallible, but because the Word they followed is! Following God’s infallible Word is the sure means to godliness and as such it is an intensively useful book.

Much could be said here about the Bible being an immensely relevant book where we can learn all about God and the prospect of a personal relationship with Him. The Word brings its truths to bear on the sinner’s life through the Holy Spirit to draw the sinner into a right relationship with God, so that he may love Him. Recall how Christ provided the central aim for all the laws and the teaching of the Prophets when asked about which is the greatest of them. Christ summarized them by answering that we are to love God and to love one another. The Scriptures teach us how a proper relationship with both God and man is even possible. This is where the Scriptures are richly useful. Consider the fact that God uses His Word to teach, correct, rebuke, and train us in righteousness. We are always in His sights. So that means that whether history, Israel’s trek through the desert, the lineage portion in Matthew, the parables, genre of literature, even the old Mosaic code, are designed and synchronized with one thing in mind — to help us learn more about God and His Son that we may love and serve them. God is an incredibly wise and powerful Architect who designed everything to promote in us knowledge about Him. If we pay special attention and read Scripture through the lens of learning something more about our God, then as our understanding increases so should our love for Him.

It is strange how some suggests that teaching doctrine is not essential saying that it is not needed and has little impact on Christian living. Yet, in 2 Tim. 1:13 Timothy is commanded to keep to the pattern of sound teaching that he had learned from Paul. Undiluted doctrine is what will help establish sound practices and values. The Barna group surveyed Christian youths and learned that their ethics were often not in accord with Christian orthodoxy. What they discovered was that personal behavior had been affected by weak beliefs. Having a poor view of God, sin, and salvation often is the cause behind unethical practises. It is not surprising that Timothy was told to “Preach the Word” because “the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine” 2 Tim. 4:2-3. Good advice when you consider the times we live in and the need for our younger generation to be given a strong doctrinal foundation to backstop solid values of their own, so that when the time comes they too may be able to influence others as well.

The Believer’s Influence (Part 2)

A story is told of a young man who had found a buried treasure. Now rich and famous he ventured into a nearby village where many came out to meet him. Among the crowd was a poor beggar who never had as much as roof over his head those many years. He summed up his courage and approached the stranger for some money to buy bread. To his surprise the rich stranger turned over half of his wealth to him. Amazement was felt by everyone present especially the beggar. The night passed and the next morning the beggar appeared at the door of the generous stranger. He said that he had appreciated his generosity but wanted to give back all the money. When asked why he was returning it, the beggar said that he dearly wanted to find out what he had that would cause him to give so freely so he could have it for himself!

What a person becomes is often determined by beliefs and influences. Of great importance for the Christian is the Word of God. The Bible is the source of knowledge for man to learn about his origin, his future state, and God. It gives direction, instructions, and teaching on important matters such as sin, judgement, and the deity of Christ. But most important it reveals our need of a Saviour and assures us about eternal life. Its truths impact our lives insomuch that they are observed by others who may wish to own these truths for themselves. In 2 Tim. 3:10-17 we are told that Timothy was to look outward at the lives of Paul, his Grandmother Lois, and his Mother Eunice, before looking inward at his own life where as a child he was taught the Scriptures, that led to his salvation. With these vivid reminders of God’s faithfulness before him and having known the Scriptures well, and even though he lived under Nero’s brutal regime, Timothy was expected to remain true to his faith. Without a doubt, the Scriptures is the lifeline for a Christians faith, we will learn more of this in the weeks to come, but for now let us turn our attention to the impact that the Believer may have on others.

A company of Christians was provided by God to help Timothy to continue in his faith and ministry. He was raised by a godly Grandmother and Mother from infancy and later in his teen years he met Paul and set out on an itinerant ministry with him. In the case of Timothy, the need for godly fellowship and mentoring cannot be overly emphasized. Proverbs 13:20 says “He who walks with the wise grows wise but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Timothy learns about God’s repeated protective care over Paul, and the manner he was able to endure though the many trials and circumstances (even now Paul is writing from prison). God’s faithfulness to Paul meant that, as Paul’s pupil, Timothy can also expect to find divine help to remain faithful. When we experience God’s faithfulness for ourselves or see it in others our hearts are lifted to pursue harder after God. In our day many have left behind an inspiring account of God’s grace in their lives. Lives that had been tested severely such as persecuted Christians in war torn countries who have not compromised or surrendered their beliefs but have remained firm. When faced with pressures, they pressed on and did not flee from God and seek help elsewhere. We must not forget these living testimonies of perseverance where Christians having faced all kinds of adversity and have come through it with their faith not only intact but considerably stronger than before. It is a sad day to see how little it takes for the North American Christian to turn away from following Christ. Perhaps, we need to look a little more closely at those who have been through the fire and have not departed.

In two weeks, part 3 – The centrality of the Scriptures