The following message is based on 2 Timothy 3:10-17 entitled, “Stability Through Uncertainty” It was preached at the Central Schwenkfelder Church of Worcester, PA on April 25, 2010
What makes a recipe? There are few recipes that are to die for. My wife happens to make the best chili. It is sweet chili. If she did not add just the right amount of sugar, it would not be the same. From my former Church, Sante Fe Soup- lots beef and lots of cheese! Or my mom’s chicken and broccoli rice casserole- my favorite growing up. Can’t have it without the chicken! Ben Coy’s Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pound Cake- can’t have that without the chocolate or the pound of butter! Or it’s kind of hard to have deviled eggs without the egg yolks!
What are the essential ingredients of a church? What are those things which we consider the most valuable to who we are? Today we continue our study of Central’s Core Values. Last week we looked at the Trinity, specifically that Central is about, “…glorifying and worshiping the Father as Creator and King, Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and the Holy Spirit as Sustainer and Empowerer. He is the center of all that we do, providing purpose for our time, talents, and treasure…to extend His Kingdom.” We are God’s people and He is why we are here, the impetus for all that we do in the community and in the world.
This morning we look at Core Value number two, the Bible. For us, Core Value #2 is –honoring the written Word of God, the ultimate authority in our individual lives and in the life of Central Schwenkfelder Church. Our text this morning is one that we have studied before. Its words were penned by the Apostle Paul, part of his second letter written to Timothy. Timothy was a young pastor-missionary. The Apostle Paul wrote him a letter of direction and encouragement. He advises Timothy of why the Bible is so important in the life of the church by reminding him how the Scriptures have affected his life. In our text, we see two things that are essential to the spiritual health of an individual and a church. First, let us…
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF GODLY INFLUENCE.
2 Timothy 3:14 tells us: “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Just a few words about the spiritual influence in Timothy’s life. Mentioned earlier in the letter, his Grandmother Lois and mother Eunice were believers (2 Timothy 1:5). His father is thought to have been pagan, a Gentile. The same faith that was on his maternal side, fortunately, was in him. His Christian mother and grandmother took the time to invest their faith in the life of this young man.
Somewhere along the way, Timothy came across the Apostle Paul and the rest is history. He became a “spiritual son,” to Paul (1 Corinthians 4:17 and 1 Timothy 1:2), probably indicating that he was converted during the Apostle’s missionary journey to Lystra. But we can appreciate the work that these women did. They laid the groundwork. I learned this week that Jewish families in Biblical times started teaching their children the law at the age of five. It is invaluable that we teach the younger generation the essentials to the faith. If not, they will live and believe anything, especially what their hearts wander towards.
My father, recalls as a boy that his grandmother, someone I knew referred to as “Granny Williams,” would sing a hymn, read the Bible and say prayers every night before retiring to bed. Her Church of Christ upbringing influenced my dad. But it was my mom’s faith that influenced me the most. The proverb rings true: Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Who was it for you? Who made the spiritual difference in your life? Here I’m thinking of someone that imparts Scriptural knowledge and principles to you.
Why is it important that we see the Bible as the revealed truth of God? Paul says, for one, it is able to impart wisdom concerning salvation. Spiritual influence is only as valuable as the amount of Scriptural knowledge and principle it imparts. Verse 15 tells us that Scripture is: “…able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” This brings up the subject of justification. How can one be accepted by God? By good works? By sincerity? By bloodline or heritage? Church membership? None of these. Only by faith in Christ. It is not until one sees himself spiritually helpless and in need of a Savior, that they can place their trust in Christ for what He has done through His death and resurrection. Never underestimate the power of godly influence. Secondly…
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE USEFULNESS OF SCRIPTURE.
Notice verse 16: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Specific to Central Schwenkfelder, these verses tell us something very important. God would have us be a Biblical church, or would rather we not be a church at all. From our General Conference by laws and from our literature: That Holy Scripture is the directive authority in our lives, having been inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
This brings up the question of authority. Who has authority in our lives? Mom, Dad, Law enforcement, teachers, etc. The fifth commandment tells us to: “Honor your father and mother….” These are all human expressions of authority, but the one who has complete authority in our lives is ultimately God. If our authority is not God, then who is? Today, the world revels in a lack of authority. Individualism and pride keep people from God. Reason and experience do the same thing at times. God is our ruler and the Bible is the written expression of that authority. If not God, then we are disobedient children.
For the Reformers, Scripture was the expression of God’s character, His will, which meant that the sole authority for the church was the Bible. We know this as Sola Scriptura. This means that the Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured. Scripture alone as the authority for the church in matters of faith and practice. This would be in contrast to Roman Catholic teaching which holds that the Bible and tradition are the church’s sources of authority.
Scripture should be the center of all that we do. It is our source book. What did Caspar Schwenckfeld believe about the authority of Scripture? While he reserved the term “word of God,” to refer to Jesus or the communication of the Holy Spirit in a human heart, the Bible was at the very center of what Schwenckfeld taught. He wrote this in 1545: “I believe in the Holy Gospels and all the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, after that also the Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testaments. I believe what the holy prophets and apostles of Christ have taught and written. It believe that it was all for the benefit and furthering of blessedness and eternal life.” Moreover, the Schwenkfelders were more specific by the end of the 18th century, penning in their “Formula of Government,” in 1782: “The members of the Schwenkfelder church believe that the Bible is the sufficient and only infallible rule of faith and practice and in their interpretation of the same follow for substance of teaching the system of doctrine as taught by Caspar Schwenckfeld of Ossig.”
Yet the Bible has undergone more scrutiny over the last 200 years than in the first 1600 since the New Testament’s completion. Some cannot get past the human agency God used to bring about His book. Because humans are flawed and humans were used to write the Scriptures, they think they are flawed in some way. But this view does not take into consideration the divine super-impressionistic element of Scripture. Scripture cannot mislead because God cannot mislead. It is contrary to His character. The fact that the Bible is God-breathed is to say that Christianity is a revealed religion. Jesus said: “Thy Word is Truth.”
God is the ultimate author of the Bible. We call this inspiration. One commentator explains inspiration like this: According to Jesus, the words of Scripture simply are identical with the word of God. The apostle Paul said that, “the Scriptures are breathed out by God,” and Peter said that, “no prophecy ever came from human initiative, but men spoke from God.” For its first sixteen centuries the Christian church enjoyed unanimous consensus concerning the nature of Scripture. This view came to be known as “verbal-plenary inspiration.” This means that the Bible is breathed out by God not only in its intended meaning but in its very words.
And, it is able to be applied in all circumstances. Scripture is inspired and profitable for “…teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. Each of these nouns in the Greek is preceded by the preposition which indicates: “…for the sake or purpose of, in order to….” All of these nouns imply a human need. We need to be taught by God because we do not know everything. Our behavior is so wrong at times that we need to be rebuked. Hebrews 4:12 says: “For the word of God is living and powerful,… a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” We must be corrected. We must be trained.
All of these things have a goal in mind in verse 17: “…so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” That’s our goal. To be a man or a woman of God and be equipped, discipled, ready. Equipping here denotes a readiness for any and every circumstance: like a home in every season; like an army in every situation. It is only through our knowledge of Scripture that we can be ready to defeat the false ideologies of the world; ready to defeat the depression and hopelessness in my life; ready to conquer the sin that so easily entangles me; ready to give me confidence and a bright hope for tomorrow. Spending time in God’s word is a maturing exercise. The Lord works through that to your betterment and His glory!
Two things we’ve been instructed never to underestimate. Never underestimate the power of godly influence or the usefulness of Scripture. A friend just this week shared with me the following verse from Isaiah 50:4: “The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.” We need to be taught. But are we humble enough to be taught?
The power in the word is its inextricable partnership with the Holy Spirit. No other book has that partnership. As the Spirit applies the word, lives are changed. The more we read it and study it, the more we are transformed by the Holy Spirit, the author of the Scripture. The idea is to see the Bible as your counselor. Psalm 119:24: “Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.” To end our time, listen to the following words penned by Amos Wells:
I supposed I knew my Bible,
Reading piece-meal, hit or miss;
Now a bit of “John” or “Matthew,”
Next a snatch of “Genesis.”
Certain “Psalms,”- the twenty-third,
Twelfth of “Romans,” first of “Proverbs.”
Yes, I thought I knew the Word.
But I found a thorough reading
Was a different thing to do,
And the way was unfamiliar
When I read the Bible through.
Ye who treat the Crown of Writings
As you treat no other book-
Just a paragraph disjointed,
Just a crude, impatient look-
Try a worthier procedure,
Try a broad and steady view;
You will kneel in very rapture
When you read the Bible through.
 Caspar Schwenckfeld, Eight Writings on Christian Beliefs, (Kitchener, Ontario: Pandora Press, 2006), 134.
 Howard W. Kriebel, The Schwenkfelders in Pennsylvania (Lancaster, PA: Pennsylvania German Society, 1904), 80.
 “The Inspiration of Scripture,” The White Horse Inn, April 18, 2010.