“Continue in the Sacred Writings” (2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5)
In our Epistle reading today, St. Paul commends Timothy–and I would commend all of us–to the word of God. More specifically, I commend you to the continued study of Scripture, to a firm faith in the word of God, and to the living out of the Bible’s teachings in the form of a righteous life. And so our theme this morning, “Continue in the Sacred Writings.”
Paul tells Timothy: “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.” Remember a couple of weeks ago, we heard Paul say that he was reminded of how Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice, had passed on the faith to him. How they did that was by teaching young Timothy the sacred writings, which is another way to say, the Holy Scriptures. Lois and Eunice were the ones from whom Timothy first learned what he firmly believed.
And notice, Lois and Eunice didn’t wait until Timothy was old enough to make his own decisions. No, they started teaching him right away, “from childhood,” our text says. Literally, it says, “from a babe,” in other words, “from infancy.” That’s really the best time to start. As soon as that little baby is baptized, we should be raising the child in the faith, teaching him or her the ABCs of the faith. We should expect of the parents that they will bring their child to the services of God’s house, regularly, every week; that they teach their child the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer; that they place in his or her hands the Holy Scriptures; and that they provide for the child’s further instruction in the Christian faith, leading to the reception of the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood. All of that and more is what it means to teach your child the sacred writings from infancy on up.
I was fortunate enough to attend a Lutheran grade school in Chicago from kindergarten on up. We studied the Bible every day in the classroom: “A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories”; “100 Bible Stories”; and “Advanced Bible History.” We memorized Bible verses, dozens of them. We learned and sang hymns out of the hymnal, in the classroom. We had weekly chapel in the church, singing the Order of Matins every Wednesday. We studied Luther’s Small Catechism for two years, with lots and lots of memory work. That was a great way to be well grounded in the word of God. That was Monday through Friday, and then on Sunday, of course, there was Sunday School and church. I tell you, we learned the Bible!
How well do our children know the Bible? How well do we? Are we teaching our children? Are we teaching them from infancy on up? Many parents are not doing this, and really it is a serious form of child neglect. It is a sin when parents do not do this. They are to carry out the office of father and mother in their most important duty, which is, raising our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Was this your sin? Is this your sin? If so, repent.
And the good news is, God is gracious. He forgives our sins. He restores us and renews us. This is the very message of Scripture: the forgiving, renewing, restoring grace of God in Christ. This is God’s word to you this morning. We all, collectively and individually, as parents, as church, we all have failed in our responsibilities in this matter, to one degree or another. But God is gracious. The blood of Christ covers all your sins, including these ones. The Holy Spirit will pick you up and help you to do better. God is faithful, and he will do it.
But now notice, in our text Paul is writing to an adult Timothy when he says, “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed.” In other words, continue in the sacred writings. The point being, the learning of Holy Scripture does not stop when we reach age 13 or 14. The Bible is not just for children. A Christian disciple–and that’s you–you are called to be a lifelong learner. I can tell you for myself, I have been at this Bible-learning business for my whole life, and I still don’t know the Bible as well as I would like. And what’s more, I don’t believe it or live it out as well as I should, either.
So I’m glad that many of you, likewise, are continuing to grow in the faith. For our little church, we have an above-average percentage of folks attending Bible class, whether on Sundays or in our weekday Bible class. This is good. This is healthy. I invite the rest of you also, as you are able, to join us in Bible class, where you can increase your understanding of God’s word and be strengthened in the faith. And I’m so glad that we have started up a Sunday School class for our youngsters and are starting a catechism class for the older kids.
“Continue in the sacred writings.” Continue in the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. Why? Because it is God’s wonderful word of his amazing love for you! We see this in our text: After reminding Timothy of how from infancy he has known the sacred writings, Paul then adds, “which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” There it is! This is the reason we so love the word of God. It is God’s means of salvation. It gives us what we need to know to have saving faith in Christ.
Salvation in Christ is the heart and soul of sacred Scripture. This is its main message, from Genesis to Revelation. “All Scripture,” Old Testament and New, points us to Christ, presents our Savior before our eyes, so that we can take hold of him by faith. Jesus himself spoke this way about the Scriptures. In John 5, Jesus says, “these are the Scriptures that testify about me.” And in Luke 24, the risen Christ opens the minds of his disciples to understand the Scriptures, and he says to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” The Bible is all about the dying and rising Christ, and the message of repentance and forgiveness in his name.
Do you hear this message? Has your mind been opened to understand the Scriptures? This Savior is for you! Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross for you, suffering in your place, so that you would have forgiveness in him. This Jesus then rose from the dead, conquering the grave for you and opening up the kingdom of heaven for you to enter in. Is there anything more wonderful than this? No, I don’t think so! Scripture testifies to this Savior and this salvation. The Bible’s teachings will deepen your faith, strengthen it, as you learn them more and more and take them to heart. You will be well equipped to face whatever is coming your way, whatever trials or difficulties, and you will be in this for the long haul. This is why we treasure and love the sacred Scriptures.
And there’s more: “All Scripture is breathed out by God,” Paul declares. This is the doctrine of verbal inspiration in its clearest stating. “Breathed out by God”–“theopneustos” is the Greek word, “God-breathed,” “divinely inspired.” The Bible is utterly true, from cover to cover. God put the words he wanted written in there, causing the prophets and apostles to write exactly what they did. The Bible is the word of God in the words of men. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate author. So you can rely on Holy Scripture; it is completely trustworthy. “How firm a foundation, O saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in his excellent word!” So we have even more reason to love the saving, Christ-bearing, Spirit-inspired word of God.
Continue in the sacred writings also because they are profitable, useful, for our daily living, the living out of our faith. Paul tells Timothy that all Scripture is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” So, dear Christian, do you need to be taught the truth? Scripture is here to teach you. Do you need reproof, that is, do you need to have your doctrine straightened out, where you might be in error? Scripture will straighten out your theology. Do you need correction, to be brought back to the path of life when you have wandered off into sin? Scripture will correct you, calling you to repentance and restoring you to godly living. Do you need instruction for how to live as God’s child, in ways that are pleasing to him, helpful to your neighbor, and suitable for your various callings in life? Scripture will train you in righteousness, beginning with the righteousness we receive freely for Christ’s sake, and then proceeding out, and producing a life of good works, the righteousness that is actively lived out.
These Holy Scriptures tell us of a God who, far from being a grudging judge who only grants requests because he’s being bothered–no, these Scriptures tell us of a kind and loving heavenly Father who gladly hears our prayers and gives us what we need. The Scriptures tell us to lift up our eyes to the hills, to God’s dwelling place in the heavenly Jerusalem, from where our help comes. The Lord is your keeper. He keeps watch over his children day and night.
The Scriptures are very practical and profitable for the daily life of the Christian, as you and I walk along this path where Christ is leading us. Holy Scripture, because it is the very word of God, gives us faith and hope and love for all the days of our life–and on into the eternal life that Scripture promises us, when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead.
Dear friends, the message today is clear: “Continue in the sacred writings.” Why? Because the Holy Scriptures make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Continue in the sacred writings, because all Scripture is breathed out by God. It is the inspired word of God, the utterly reliable foundation for your faith. Continue in the sacred writings, because all Scripture is profitable, useful, for your daily life as a Christian, to strengthen and deepen your faith and to produce the fruit of faith in a life of good works. Brothers and sisters in Christ, because the Bible is God’s love letter to us, this is why we will continue in the sacred writings.