God is Speaking to You (II Timothy 3:16, 17)
God is Speaking to You
II Timothy 3:16, 17
(One Truth: Your Word is Truth)
December 18th, 2016
I. “No, Really. God Spoke to Me!”
About two years ago, Michael Brooks, age 32, set his couch on fire, which then quickly engulfed his Albuquerque apartment in flames. Crews battled the blaze for about thirty minutes. When asked about why he did what he did, Brooks declared, “God told me to do it.”
More recently, less then two months ago, the tough-talking and colorful president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte vowed to stop cussing for good. Why the sudden change of heart about his use of profanity? Well, after flying back from a state visit to Japan, Duterte said he heard a voice in his head telling him to “stop the epithets” or the plane was going to crash. Duterte claimed the voice was the voice of God.
In almost every case, when someone today says “God spoke to me”, it's viewed as either a sure sign of mental illness, over-the-top excuse-making, or that something is just plain 'off'.
Most people have a hard enough time believing that God actually spoke to religious figures from way back when. Today, when there are so many criminals and religious fanatics and other colorful characters making this claim, it isn't hard to see why many people think the idea of God speaking to someone is about as believable as the moon being made out of cheese.
So in light of this kind of climate, what would you do if God really did speak to you?
If you knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the Creator of heaven and earth had told you to do this or that, or revealed some important truth to you, would you tell anyone? If you knew that God himself was speaking to you, would you go if He said “go”? Would you stop if He said “stop”? Would you do whatever He told you to do, even if it involved the possibility of personal risk or embarrassment?
Keep those questions in mind and turn with me this morning to II Timothy 3.
II. The Passage: "All Scripture is Breathed Out by God" (3:14-17)
Listen to verses 16 and 17 one more time. This is what Paul writes to Timothy, his younger co-laborer in the work of Christ. Look at verse 14:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
Now you may recall that Timothy was a young man that Paul met on one of his missionary journeys. Paul decided to take him along and train him as part of his ministry team. At this point though, Timothy is probably still overseeing the work at the church in Ephesus, while Paul himself is a prisoner for Christ in Rome.
But let's take a look back at our passage this morning as we try to better understand Paul's reason for writing these words to Timothy. We really need to start in verse 14. Paul urges...
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and 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.
If we started reading from the beginning of this letter, we'd discover that, at Ephesus, Timothy has been battling fears on the inside and false teachers on the outside. So as we see here, Paul urges him to “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed”.
We might think, “Well if these are things he firmly believed, why is there any concern about his staying the course?” But if we turn the question back on ourselves, we could ask if we still need encouragements from time to time, encouragements to “continue” in those things we would say we “firmly believe”. I know I do.
That is the moral exhortation this morning, that one word: “continue”. We need to hear the same thing this morning... “continue”. It's easy to slow down isn't it? It's easy to get sidetracked. It's easy to think that other path will be so much better. It's easy to feel defeated, discouraged, disappointed. But the encouragement for us is the same: “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed.
1. The Servants of Scripture (vs. 14, 15a)
But notice the reasons to “continue” that Paul begins to lay out here.
I want us to see this morning that all of the reasons Paul gives here to support the encouragement, the exhortation to “continue”, all of them revolve around what Paul calls in verse 15, “the sacred writings”. It is these writings, also referred to as “Scripture” in verse 16, it is these writings that contain what Timothy has learned and believed according to verse 14. At this point in history we know that Paul is talking here about the Old Testament, since all the NT had not yet been written, nor had it come together in the form we know today.
But the first Scripture related reason he gives is clear from verse 14 and the first part of verse 15: But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it  and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings...
As Paul calls Timothy to continue, his first has to do with those we might describe as “the servants of Scripture”. The force of this encouragement only works if the people Paul has in mind here are people that Timothy respects, that Timothy knows are trustworthy, people of integrity; people who have proven that they have Timothy's best interests in mind.
Who specifically does Paul have in mind here? Well the term “childhood” in verse 15 is clue that points us back to chapter one, verse 5, where we read: I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.
From “childhood”, Timothy had been instructed in the Old Testament by both his mother and grandmother. There were no ulterior motives with these women. They were not driven by pride or greed. Their integrity should inspire confidence in Timothy as he continues in what he learned from them.
But Paul also has someone else in mind in verse 14. Look back at verses 10 and 11 of chapter 3: You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.
In contrast to the character of certain troublemakers at Ephesus, Timothy knows very well that Paul is a man of integrity. Thus, Paul says, continue in these things, knowing the kind of people you learned them from.
For many of us, we can also look back to a mother, a father, a grandparent, a leader, a friend, someone who introduced us to and/or instructed us in the Bible. And in some cases, God does use their character and integrity to encourage us to stand firm.
2. The Salvation of Scripture (v. 15)
Paul gives his second Scripture-related reason to “continue” at the end of verse 15. Listen to the whole thing again: But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and 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.
Moving past his focus on the servants of scripture, Paul now emphasizes for Timothy the salvation of scripture.
Even though the Old Testament does not mention Jesus by name, it can “make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”.
The Old Testament teaches us incredible things about the sin from which Jesus rescues us, incredible things about the wise and righteous life to which Jesus calls us, incredible things about the grace which Jesus represents in its fulness, incredible things about the God to whom Jesus reconciles us, and incredible things about the future which Jesus will bring about.
What Paul is reminding Timothy of here is the fact that he should continue in biblical truths, not simply because that it what he's always known or because that's what the people he respects believe in. Timothy should continue on this path of truth because these writings have been and will continue to be a path to salvation.
3. The Source of Scripture (v. 16a)
So as we continue forward, remember what Paul is doing here: in the face of destructive influences in the church at Ephesus, Paul is urging Timothy to continue in the truths of Scripture, first, because he knows the trustworthiness of those who taught him the word, and, second, because Timothy himself has found and will find wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ. Paul has appealed to both the servants of Scripture and the salvation of Scripture.
But only when we get to verse 16 do we find the climax and linchpin of his entire argument. Look again at verse 16. Paul urges Timothy to “continue in what you have learned and firmly believed” because, All Scripture is breathed out by God...All Scripture is breathed out by God.
Our perseverance in the truth is not ultimately about the other people in our life, even though they have and do play a pivotal role. Our perseverance in the truth is not ultimately about us and about what we have experienced. No, our perseverance in the truth must ultimately be about God, about the fact that the Bible is not the words of men about God, it isn't even a book that simply contains the words of God. The Bible is itself the word of God.
Now, at first, that statement probably sounds a little anticlimactic in a setting and for people who are familiar with and agree with that idea that the Bible is God's word. But I think our familiarity with that truth can sometimes keep us from thinking about the astounding implications of II Timothy 3:16.
When Paul says that All Scripture is breathed out by God, he is telling Timothy that as this young man reads the words of these sacred writings, he is, in fact, hearing the voice of God. God is speaking to Him. And how could he not “continue” on the right path if he knows that God himself...not Paul, not his mother, not his grandmother, not even his own desires...God himself has spoken, is speaking, and will speak to him every time he listens to those writings he has known from childhood.
And when in his first letter to Timothy, in I Timothy 5:18, Paul quotes Luke 10:7 alongside Deuteronomy 25:4, he, a devoted Jew, is making it clear that God is continuing to breathe out his words beyond what He has already breathed out in the Old Testament.
And what's even more amazing is that as Paul wrote those words, even as he wrote II Timothy 3:14-17, God was exhaling His sacred word at that very moment; which means...are you ready...which means that every time we read those words this morning, we have, in fact, heard the voice of God. God himself has spoken, is speaking, and will speak to us this morning. Did you hear him?
What would you do if God really did speak to you? If you knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the Creator of heaven and earth had told you to do this or that, or revealed some important truth to you, would you tell anyone? If you knew that God himself was speaking to you, would you go if He said “go”? Would you stop if He said “stop”? Would you do whatever He told you to do, even if it involved the possibility of personal risk or embarrassment?
Brothers and sisters, if we are to continue in the truth of Scripture, we must do so with the firm conviction that all Scripture is breathed out by God himself.
You hold in your hands, not simply a book, but a burning bush. You hold in your hands, not simply a book, but a prophet's voice. You hold in your hands, not simply a book, but the thunder of Mount Sinai. You hold in your hands, not simply a book, but the utterance of Jesus Christ himself, who spoke and the crowds were amazed, who spoke and blind eyes were opened, who spoke and the storm was still, who spoke, the night before His death, and a squadron of soldiers and temple officers were knocked to the ground.
Today, the Bible and the Bible alone is the voice of God. It alone is God's word to us. I love the way our full Essential Beliefs statement expresses this: The Bible is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it teaches; obeyed, as God’s command, in all that it requires; and trusted, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises.
Do we know, do we really understand what we possess? Do we understand what is happening when read or hear proclaimed the words of this book?
4. The Sufficiency of Scripture (vs. 16b, 17)
Notice how Paul finishes verse 16, into verse 17: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
Because every book, chapter, verse, and word of the Old and New Testaments are breathed out by God, they are “profitable”. All Scripture is profitable.
What Paul is doing in verses 16 and 17 is expanding on and explaining what he meant when he said in verse 15 that God’s word is “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”.
How does it make us wise for salvation or for what we might call “the saved kind of life”? Well the key word here is in verse 17. God’s word equips us to be competent. What does it equip us for? Through the word of God, through the Scriptures, we are “equipped for every good work”.
As a pastor over God’s people, as a man of God (remember, that phrase “man of God” from the OT was often used in connection with the prophets, those who guided the people by being God’s voice), as a man of God, Timothy needed to reminded the Scriptures alone, that all Scripture was sufficient to equip him for every good work that God called him to do.
What do the people need to know? Don’t give them your opinions, Timothy, but teach them all of God’s word.
How can you confront those who are working against God’s purposes? Don’t respond in anger, Timothy, venting your feelings, but rebuke, reprove them with all of God’s word.
How can you direct the misguided and deceived back onto God’s path? Don’t use emotional manipulation or gimmicks or just hope they’ll figure it out, Timothy, but correct God’s people with all God’s word.
How can you present every person complete, mature in correct? How can you help every follower of Jesus walk in a manner worthy? Don’t resort to legalism and brow beating, Timothy, but train them with all of God’s word. Scripture is profitable in all these ways!
III. Are You Equipped?
There is a word at the beginning of verse 16 that is repeated at the end of verse 17. It is the word “all”. In English, we translate it “all” and “every”. But the point of those ‘bookends’ is so important. Every part of Scripture equips us for every good work. All Scripture equips us for all we are called to do as God’s people. God’s word is sufficient for living a godly life. Do you believe that?
Are you “equipped” to “continue” for Christ, to “continue” in faith? Like a pitcher without a ball or glove, like a sniper without his rifle, like a painter without his brush, like a ballerina without her feet, like a judge without the law, like an astronaut without a rocket, like a teacher without students, like a carpenter without his tools, we have nothing without the word of God.
Whether or not people think we’re crazy, the only way for God’s man or woman to live for Him is when they are consistently straining toward Scripture, believing that God himself is speaking to us.
This Christmas, will you receive again, or maybe for the first time, the amazing gift of God's word? I love what Paul told the Thessalonians in his first letter to them. He wrote, And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. (I Thessalonians 2:13)
Does that describe you, even this morning? What will that belief look like in your life this week? Will you continue this week in what you have learned and firmly believed? Let’s pray that God, through the cross of Christ, through His grace, let’s pray that God would equip us as we hear what He himself has breathed out.
other sermons in this series