Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, October 16, 2016
Itching Ears - October 16, 2016 - Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 24) - Text: 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
This morning we continue reading through Paul’s second letter to Pastor Timothy. Interestingly enough, I believe that Paul’s words, or rather I should say, God’s word through Paul to Timothy sound very contemporary, that is they sound very much like God is writing to us today concerning the ideas and attitudes of people in our world and even people in our own church!
Paul begins by reminding us that the Bible is a gift. We read, “3:14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (v. 14-17).
The Bible is God’s gift to us. The Bible is God’s Word, it does not simply contain God’s Word, but it is God’s Word and there is a definite difference in these two ways of understanding the Bible. There are many in our world today and there are many churches and even those that call themselves Christian churches that suggest that the Bible merely contains God’s word meaning that we have to be a detective and find out which is and which is not God’s Word. Of course, this leads to the abuse of God’s Word such as, if we do not like certain parts of the Bible, then we can simply say that part is not God’s Word and throw it out. Unfortunately, if this is the case, then we really must throw out the whole book. However, we understand, we believe, teach and confess that the Bible, all the Bible is God’s Word, it is breathed by God into the Holy Writers.
So, if the Bible is God’s Word, then it is to be believed because it is God’s Word. If the Bible is God’s Word, then all of it is God’s Word and all of it must be believed, even those parts we may not like or want to believe. Really, it is an all or nothing with God’s Word. It either is or is not His Word.
Because the Bible is God’s Word we understand that it is efficacious, that is it effects or does what it says. Because the Bible is God’s Word, when God tells us we are sinners, then we know we are sinners. When the Bible tells us that God promised to send a Savior and that Jesus is that Savior, then we know that Jesus is our Savior. When the Bible says we have forgiveness of sins, then we know we have forgiveness of sins. When the Bible gives us faith we know we have faith and when the Bible gives salvation we know we are saved.
Furthermore, the Bible is profitable for teaching, reproof, correcting and training in righteousness. Although we may buy into societies belief that we are not to judge other people, God in His Word tells us what is sin and what is not sin and it guides us to know how God Himself judges others and us as well. Thus, we can call attention to the fact that someone is sinning in order to correct them and ultimately, if a person remains in their sin and does not repent, we can announce God’s judgement on them.
The Bible is God’s Word and it equips Christians to be confident and to do the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do. This is not something we do on our own, this is not something that comes from inside of us, but this has its origin outside of us, in God and in Him alone. God gives us His Word, and His sacraments. God gives His gifts through His Word. God gives faith, forgiveness and life and God works good works through us as well. It all always points to Him.
But, Paul is not done. He reminds us that the Bible is to be used. We continue reading, “4:1I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (v. 1-5).
Paul goes on to instruct Timothy and for that matter, as members of the priesthood of all believers, he instructs us as well. He reminds us that the day of judgment will come. Each day we live on this earth brings us one day closer to the Lord’s return, or to our own passing and going to Him. It will happen, it is inevitable, we will meet the Lord, sooner than we know and sooner than we might imagine and so we must be prepared. And we prepare ourselves, not by staying away from the Word of the Lord, not by staying away from Divine service and Bible class, not by staying away from personal and family devotions, or reading God’s Word and the like, but by making regular and diligent use of the means of grace.
Paul reminds Pastor Timothy that he is to preach the Word, in season and out of season. Remember, God’s Word never goes out of season. God’s Word is always His Word of today. God’s Word always speaks to our contemporary situation. Here again, as I mentioned when we started, God’s Word is not simply His Word to Timothy and the people of his day, but His Word is for us here today. And if you actually read and hear His Word you will know this.
Pastor Timothy is to use the Word of God for reproof, rebuke, and exhortation. As Christians, as members of the priesthood of all believers, it is also our duty and privilege, indeed, even our responsibility, to use God’s Word for reproof, rebuke and exhortation. We are to speak words of law to those who sin. And that is the purpose of the law, to cut to the heart of sin. If we ourselves are not hearing God’s Word of law that is because we either think we have no sin or we simply think it does not apply to us and that would be a disaster for us. Each one of us should hear the law. Each one of us should hear how God’s law is singling us out as sinners, lost and condemned apart from Jesus. How can we know of our need for a Savior unless we know we have sinned.
And Paul encourages Timothy, and as your Pastor, certainly I read his word of encouragement to me as well, to be patient in his work of service as a pastor. Paul says that the time will come and is already here when people will not want to listen to the purity of God’s Word but would rather pervert it for their own sakes. This is happening in our world today. As I have mentioned in Bible Class time and again, there are those who would preach a message of self-righteousness, telling people how good they are and how good they can be. And this is something some people like to hear. We do not like to hear the fact that we are sinners. We like to hear that we are good and can be good. Unfortunately, the end result is not good. If we are so good, if we can be good, then, really we have no need for a Savior and apart from Christ we would be eternally condemned. Again, unfortunately, those who preach such self-righteousness cause more damage than they can imagine, because when someone has been told how self-righteous they can be, when they hear the law and the Gospel, they want no part of it and they remain in their sin and they remain lost and condemned.
Thus, Paul is encouraging Timothy and us to keep the faith, and to keep the doctrine pure and to keep preaching. Yes, even as the people of our world are leaving doctrinally sound churches for those who preach and teach a self-righteousness, we are not to waiver in our course. We are not to compromise our own preaching and teaching, but we are to continue to reach the remnant the Lord continues to keep for Himself.
So, what does this mean? First and foremost, Paul reminds us that God’s Word is unlike all other books. God’s Word is a book with power, power to do what it says, power to give the gifts He has to give. This reminds us that when we hear the Word of God, when we hear the Law we must confess, God is talking about me and to me. We know that old joke, a pastor can preach about sin in general, but when he starts preaching about my particular sin, then he’s meddling. Well, that is what that pastor is supposed to be doing, meddling. Because, if we fail to see our sin, if we fail to confess our sin, then there is no forgiveness and the consequences would be disastrous. So, first we must hear that word of law and admit, God is speaking to me and then and only then, as we confess our sins, we can hear God’s most gracious words, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Paul reminds us that God’s Word must be guarded to keep the teaching, that is our doctrine pure. Yes, as we have said over the past couple weeks, purity of doctrine is important. To water down God’s Word, to make it palatable to all sorts of people, by saying the Bible only contains the Word of God, is to make God’s Word ineffective and worthless.
Unfortunately, as we have said, the world would rather be confirmed in their sinful ways. The world would rather have someone preach that they are okay. We call this tolerance. Of course, when it comes to tolerance, we might well understand that when we are asked to be tolerant it is always to be tolerant of unacceptable behavior. Well, think about it, do we have to be tolerant of good behavior? No one needs to ask others to be tolerant of our good behavior. We are often asked to be tolerant of others wrong behavior. And our society would rather we be tolerant of their wrong behavior so they may be left to live in sin than to have their ways corrected.
So, God’s Word is useful for correcting the false teachings of the world. Yes, God’s Word is useful and we should use it to call attention to sin, however, we should not be shocked when we are called all kinds of names and when all kinds of insinuations are directed at us for doing so, because our society would rather not tolerate such good behavior.
For us Christians, for myself as a pastor, I understand that God’s Word gives gifts and thus it must be preached. God’s Word has power and so, more than being afraid of our society, more than being afraid of being put into jail, or persecuted, we are to fear and love God and share His Word with others. And His Word will not return void, but will accomplish that for which He has given it, when and where He pleases.
Paul’s word to us today reminds us that the Bible is God’s Word, it was breathed by God into the hearts, minds and hands of the writers of Holy Scripture and through His Holy Word He gives us His authority and power so that we may use His Word for teaching, reproof, correction and training, first for ourselves. Indeed, we are first to hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Word of God for ourselves so that we might be given the gifts of God, loved by Him, and strengthened by Him so that we can share His love with others. And His promise continues to be that His Word will not return void. May the Lord give us such confidence in Him and in His Word so that we might, with all boldness and confidence not only believe, not only live lives according to His Word, but also live and share that Word with others. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.