The Authority of the Holy Scriptures
But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto 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 perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
In contrast to the false teaching and evil practices of many in the last days, we now have the example of Paul himself set forth under nine heads, after which he stresses the importance of cleaving to the Holy Scriptures as our security against error.
First we read: “But thou hast fully known my doctrine.” Paul was pre-eminently a teacher; he was also an evangelist, but his great gift was that of teaching, unfolding the truth which God had revealed to him for the blessing of others.
Second, inasmuch as Timothy had been associated with Paul for a number of years—ever since the early days when he first began to witness for Christ—the Apostle says to him, “Thou has fully known my…manner of life.” It is a pitiable thing when one’s behavior is not in accordance with his doctrine. You have heard of the preacher who preached, “Do as I say but not as I do.” That is a poor testimony. We cannot lift men higher than ourselves. If one is not living for God, is not walking with Christ, then he is not going to be a real blessing to other people.
In writing to the Thessalonians Paul said, long years before he wrote this Second Epistle to Timothy, “Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost” (1 Thessalonians 1:5, 6). Paul and his companions lived such lives that they gave power to their message.
Third, we read, “Thou hast fully known my…purpose.” It is most important that we have a purpose and stand by it when that purpose is not to magnify oneself but rather in all things that Christ might be magnified.
Fourth: “Thou hast fully known my…faith.” Not the faith that saves but that faith which enables one to lay hold upon God day by day and triumph over all circumstances.
Fifth: “Longsuffering”—enduring all things for Christ’s name sake and the gospel. Coupled with that is “charity,” the sixth in order. This is only a very small part of its meaning. The original word translated “Charity” is not simply almsgiving, though that may be included, but it is unselfish love and compassion for men everywhere, thus enabling one to rise above jealousy, envy, covetousness, and every unholy tendency. We are to love even our enemies, no matter how they treat us.
Seventh: “Thou hast fully known my…patience.” It takes a lot of patience to go on in the work of the Lord. So many things try and exercise one’s heart. But if we recognize the fact that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28), we can patiently endure even the most distressing experiences.
Eighth and ninth, the Apostle adds, “Persecutions, afflictions,” which he had to suffer for Christ’s sake. Timothy knew a great deal about them. He knew what Paul had gone through at the beginning in Antioch, in Iconium, in Derbe, and in Lystra where Timothy lived as a lad. It was at Lystra that Paul, having performed a great miracle, had difficulty to keep the people from worshiping him and Barnabas, his companion, as gods. Later these same people were stirred up by unbelieving Jews and tried to kill Paul. They thought they had done so, and dragged his body outside the city gate, leaving it there as refuse. However, as the disciples gathered about him in great distress, and were about to make arrangements to bury him, he opened his eyes and indicated there was no need of a funeral for the present.
Timothy was familiar with all these things; but Paul could say, “Out of them all the Lord delivered me.”
You and I sometimes think we suffer if people cross our wishes, if they find fault with our motives; but I am sure it could be said of most of us, as Paul said to the Hebrew Christians, “Ye have not resisted unto blood, striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:4). Many Christians in other lands have been called upon to suffer excruciatingly, to suffer in ways we have never known. Unto us it is given not only to believe on Him but also to suffer for His sake.
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” If to some extent we are not the objects of the world’s hatred, if we do not have the disapproval of those who despise Christianity, if we are not evil spoken of as were the prophets of God of old, then we may very well raise the question as to whether we are living godly lives or not. Persecution is inevitable for those who are faithful to God in a world like this, where “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” The world is ripening for judgment: it goes on and on in rebellion against God and His Christ, and its doom cannot be delayed much longer.
I know some people have the idea that the whole world is to be converted and all men brought to the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ by the preaching of the gospel. But Scripture gives no hint of anything of the kind. In fact, we find it teaches the very opposite. Our Lord said, “As the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37). The world was not converted in the days of Noah; the mass of men were given over to violence and corruption. And the Lord Jesus Christ put the question, “When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). The nearer we get to the end, the higher is the rising tide of rebellion against God.
“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.” Paul was thinking of Timothy’s instruction in his home, as well as that which he had received from Paul and others of his companions, who had been fellow laborers in the gospel. In those early days there was no such thing as a Bible institute or a theological seminary where young men, who wanted to give themselves wholly to the work of the Lord, could go in order to be trained for Christian service. The custom was for an experienced servant of Christ to take one or more young men with him and instruct them in the Scriptures and train them in the work of the Lord. This was Timothy’s case. He had gone forth with Paul; he had heard him preach the truth of the Gospel; he had learned from him that which he had gotten direct from God Himself through divine revelation.
Then Timothy had his Bible, and he was responsible to read it. Paul says, “From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures.” It is a wonderful thing to know the Holy Scriptures from childhood. Many of us can thank God that we first learned to reverence and love the Bible in our own homes. How we should praise Him for godly parents who loved this Book and who implanted in our hearts a reverence for its teachings. Timothy had this privilege. If any of you parents do not give this privilege to your children, you are robbing them of something they will never be able to get anywhere else. Do not depend upon sending your children to others to teach them; do not depend upon the Sunday school or the church service to do this for them. These, of course, are important, but you should supplement this work by instruction in the home.
Timothy was well furnished. He knew the Word of God from a child. It was not, however, the New Testament which the Apostle had in mind. That had not been written when Timothy was a child. Do not neglect the Old Testament. Many Christians do; many give very little time to the Old Testament, and the result is that they have a very imperfect understanding of the New Testament, for the roots of the New Testament go deep down into the Old Testament. Timothy knew the Hebrew Scriptures. He was familiar with the prophecies concerning the coming of Messiah, so that when the Lord Jesus was presented to him, he was prepared to believe in Him. “From a child thou hast know the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Simply knowing the Scriptures will not produce salvation. One may know the Bible; one may be able to quote many Scriptures, but that in itself does not save; but the Bible reveals Christ, and when one believes in Him, he is saved. That is what happened in Timothy’s case, and thank God, in the experience of millions more.
Note how fully Scripture meets every need for the believer as he goes through this scene. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Originally this term “Scripture” was applied specifically to the Old Testament. Later the books of the New Testament were also so designated. In the last chapter of his Second Epistle the apostle Peter adds Paul’s letters to the other Scriptures.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God”—that is, it is divinely breathed. The men who wrote the Bible did not write their own thoughts; they wrote as guided by and directed by the Holy Spirit. We read that “No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:20-21). Whether it be the historical books of the Bible; or the poetical books, like the Psalms; or the wisdom literature, like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes; or the Gospels, and the Epistles of the New Testament—the writers of all these books wrote not simply their own thoughts, but they wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit of God; and so was we turn to any page of this Book we may know that God is speaking to us. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable.” One might not think there is much that is profitable or instructive in some parts of the Word, such as the genealogies, for instance, but all are of value, whether we realize it or not.
Scripture is profitable for four things: for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. The only authoritative book on divine teaching is this blessed volume. Men have written thousands of books to try to explain the Bible, but the Bible itself is the only authority. No matter what teaching may be set forth if it is not found in the Bible then we are not to accept it; we are to test everything by what is written here.
Second: Scripture is profitable for reproof. It is profitable to show where we are wrong in our lives and in our thoughts.
Third: it is profitable for correction. It shows how to get right.
In the fourth place, it is profitable for instruction in righteousness. After I have taken the right path, it shows me what God’s will is for me. Therefore, we shall never reach the place where we can be independent of the Word of God. Sometimes just one verse will change one’s whole viewpoint. We need to read and ponder every word in dependence on the Holy Spirit, that He may open our understanding to the truth.
As we learn from the Scriptures we shall find that they are all-sufficient to so guide and direct that “the man of God may be perfect (or mature), throughly furnished unto all good works.”
In the light of this passage we may be sure that nothing is esteemed by God as a good work if it is contrary to the Word of God. When we stand at the judgment seat of Christ it will not be a question of what we thought about this or that, but what God said. The standard is His Word, not our understanding of it. But we should seek to understand it as the Spirit of God opens up to us, in order that we may walk in obedience to it. If any turn aside from the Word they will be held responsible for disobedience. The Bible and the Bible alone is the basis of instruction and guidance for he Spirit-led believer. God grant that we may be subject to that blessed Word.