Monday, October 21, 2013

Sermon on 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5, for Reformation 3, "Scripture Alone"

Sermon Outline:
·         Week 3 of Reformation series—“Scripture alone”. Week 1 & 2, faith alone and grace alone—show that we are saved by faith in Jesus to the exclusion of our works, and by God’s grace, to the exclusion of our having merited or deserved it. Pastor Roschke made the excellent point that these truths stand “altogether”—that is that grace, faith, scripture, and Christ stand together. Clarifies that “alone” here does not mean “in isolation from everything else”. For example, you could say “Jenny is alone in the room”; or you could say “In our class, Jenny alone passed the test.” In the second case, it doesn’t mean that Jenny is by herself, but that the others didn’t pass.
·         Think about what this means when we say “Scripture alone.” Are we saying that we should not read or study or learn from any other book than the Bible? If so, then you shouldn’t even be listening to me preach. Rather, it does mean, that God’s Word alone is The rule and judge for all teachings and teachers and preachers. Indeed we must preach—the Bible text from Timothy commands it! But “Scripture alone” means nothing else is on a par with God’s Holy Word—not man’s opinions, not pastor’s sermons, not human writings, nor pope’s decrees, nor the declarations of church councils or assemblies. See lengthy quote in bulletin: God’s Word over all other authorities and teachings. God’s Word alone judges all other things. Any spiritual authority they hold must only be a derived authority, from Scripture. Our Lutheran teachings, a devotional or prayer book for your study, or any other teaching is judged by the Bible, God’s Holy Word. God’s Word is master, all other teachings, teachers, or authorities are servant. Includes our human reason. Our reason perceives and comprehends the teaching of Scripture, by the direction of the Holy Spirit, but our reason must never be the judge of Scripture. Would reverse our places. Scripture alone is the judge of all teaching & authority.
·         How do we know God’s Word, the Bible, has such authority? What does the Bible claim for itself? What does Jesus claim about God’s Word? Start with 2 Tim. 3. Paul writes to the young pastor Timothy to continue firmly in the faith that he learned from “the sacred writings”—that is holy Scripture. Note—he was acquainted with them from childhood (lit. from infancy)—can’t start too early! Since it is the Holy Spirit’s tool, the power of God’s Word is not limited by our age. Don’t forget that Jesus’ Word made the deaf to hear and the mute to speak and the blind to see! What power do these scriptures contain? Made wise for salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus. Salvation is the Bible’s central message, and it’s God’s own words about Jesus. Goes on, “All Scripture”—the whole of it, every part—“is God-breathed”—spoken by Him and His direction, through the voices and pens of the prophets and apostles of Old and New Testament.
·         Lest there be any doubt that the books of the New Testament were counted as Scripture also, the apostle Peter, in his second letter, wrote that the ignorant and unstable were liable to twist and distort the apostle Paul’s writings, just as they do the other Scriptures (2 Pet. 3:15-16). And the statements “All Scripture is God-breathed” and “from childhood you have known the sacred writings” only make sense if he’s referring to a definite set of books—not a vague or open ended group. Clearly they had in mind which books were sacred, and which weren’t.
·         “God-breathed” tells us that all Scripture is of divine origin, not human origin. Not by human imagination or cleverness. One could do a whole study on how God’s plan of salvation is contrary to the ways of man, and “how we would do things.” Because it is from God, it is “useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” God’s Word is a teaching Word—a “Lamp to our feet and a light for our path” (Ps. 109:105). And it is a correcting Word—it sets us back on the right path, and turns us away from error.
·         What authority does Jesus claim for Scripture? He says in the Gospel of John that “your word is truth” (John 17:17), and that “scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Jesus taught in the Gospel of Matthew that He did not come to abolish the law or the prophets, but to fulfill them, and that not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished (Matt. 5:17-18). Proverbs 30:5-6 says, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.” In other words, the witness of Jesus and the rest of the scriptures is that no word or thought of man rises to the level of Scripture, and that God’s word is the unqualified truth.
·         But let’s return to a point we mentioned briefly—what is the power and the purpose of Scripture. It is to make us wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ! This is why we hold so strongly to the authority of Scripture, because it teaches us of Jesus Christ, and because it is His own Word! God’s Word is the ultimate authority because it speaks about the matters of ultimate significance—matters of life and death, and our eternal salvation. Our soul is at stake, and the devil, the world, and our sinful nature will make every attack against the authority of God’s Word, to avoid its rebuking or correcting word against our sin.
·         Faith in Jesus as God’s own Son that prompts us to fully accept God’s Word—because Jesus Himself says it is truth. So Scripture alone holds this high authority, but Scripture stands together with faith in Jesus Christ. God’s Word aims to produce this very faith in us, as John wrote in his Gospel: John 20:30-31 “ Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” God’s Word is aimed and directed at giving us life by believing in Jesus.
·         This is the very same urgency that filled the apostle Paul when he told young pastor Timothy to “preach the word, be ready in season and out of season”. At any and every time, preach God’s Word. It doesn’t need “updating” to be “relevant for our times”, but is already relevant to all people and for all times. It doesn’t depend on the cleverness of the preacher, but on the power and authority of God’s Word. But Paul goes on to warn that “the time is coming” (and we could agree that we’re already there!) “when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” We have long lived in these days already, where people prefer to hear what suits their own passions and ideas, and will decline to listen to God’s Word of truth that challenges us and even rebukes us to turn away from a sinful path.
·         Do we endure sound teaching? Or do we want our “ears tickled” instead? Will we bear it to hear that we are sinners who have fallen short of the glory of the One, Holy and Righteous God, and that those sins demand their wages in death? Will we bear it to hear that Jesus Christ went to the cross to die and bear those wages of sin and death in great agony? God’s Word urges that we hear this message, and that we believe it. And when we do believe it, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are not left in dismay by the guilt of our sins or the terribleness of the cross, but we are lifted from despair by the Good News of the Gospel, the goal and aim of the Scriptures. That we would believe that Jesus died for us, for love’s sake, and that He wills to give us eternal life and reconciliation with our Father, even as He is risen from the dead. God wills that we know the depths of our depravity that we might know the even greater reach and strength of His love.

·         It’s not for idle curiosity’s sake, nor for some kind of intellectualism that we confess the authority of Scripture as God’s perfectly true Word—rather it is because this Word alone teaches us of the salvation and life that we have in Jesus Christ. It’s truly a matter of our heart. “Stay with us Lord, and keep us true; preserve our faith our whole life through—Your Word alone our heart’s defense, the Church’s glorious confidence” (LSB 585:6). Turn to those pages of Holy Scripture, and hear in them of Christ’s mighty deeds and His words of eternal life. Alleluia! Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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1.      In 2 Timothy 3:15, the Greek word for “childhood” is brephos—which is used elsewhere in the Bible to describe both unborn and newborn infants (i.e. the New Testament holds no distinction between the two, accounting both as living children). Based on this New Testament understanding of “childhood”—when is “too early” to begin instructing children in God’s Word? Psalm 71:5-6; 22:9-10; Luke 1:15, 41-44.

2.      What is Scripture (God’s Word) able to do for us? What is it useful for? 2 Timothy 3:15-17; John 20:31; 5:39.

3.      What does it mean that Scripture is “God-breathed”? 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Hebrews 1:1. What do people in the Christian church today do with God’s Word to suit their itching ears? How have we done it ourselves? What sins do we desire to “protect” by trying to hide them from God’s judgment? What does it mean to hold to “Scripture alone?”

4.      How is God’s Word different from man’s word? Jeremiah 23:25-32, 36; 2 Peter 1:16-2:3.

5.      How and when was Timothy instructed to use the Word of God? 2 Timothy 3:14, 4:2, 5; cf. Romans 10:14-15; Acts 20:27.

6.      All Scripture points us to Jesus Christ. John 5:39; Luke 24:27, 44-47. What do we find in Him? 

Pastor’s Note: Below you find the opening words of what is called “The Formula of Concord”. ‘Concord’ or ‘concordia’ mean “with heart”, and expresses harmony and agreement. This writing is part of the larger work, the “Book of Concord”, which contains the “Lutheran Confessions” or teachings of the Lutheran church. The words below capture the essential Lutheran understanding of how our teachings relate to the Word of God. In short, it confesses that the Word of God alone is the only rule and norm by which all other teachings and teachers must be judged, and that all other writings, including the Book of Concord, are not judges, but witnesses and explanations of the faith taught in Holy Scripture. Creeds and confessions are therefore always beneath Holy Scripture, but must conform to it. They are nevertheless useful as they provide a public expression of our Christian faith, that may therefore be tested and examined in the light of God’s Word, which stands above all. (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1-6).

The Comprehensive Summary, Rule, and Norm According to Which All Doctrines Should Be Judged and the Errors Which Intruded Should Be Explained and Decided in a Christian Way

 1. We believe, teach, and confess that the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments are the only rule and norm according to which all doctrines and teachers alike must be appraised and judged, as it is written in Ps. 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” And St. Paul says in Gal. 1:8, “Even if an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

 Other writings of ancient and modern teachers, whatever their names, should not be put on a par with Holy Scripture. Every single one of them should be subordinated to the Scriptures and should be received in no other way and no further than as witnesses to the fashion in which the doctrine of the prophets and apostles was preserved in post-apostolic times.

 2. Immediately after the time of the apostles — in fact, already during their lifetime— false teachers and heretics invaded the church. Against these the ancient church formulated symbols (that is, brief and explicit confessions) which were accepted as the unanimous, catholic, Christian faith and confessions of the orthodox and true church, namely, the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. We pledge ourselves to these, and we hereby reject all heresies and teachings which have been introduced into the church of God contrary to them.

  3. With reference to the schism in matters of faith which has occurred in our times, we regard, as the unanimous consensus and exposition of our Christian faith, particularly against the false worship, idolatry, and superstition of the papacy and against other sects, and as the symbol of our time, the first and unaltered Augsburg Confession, which was delivered to Emperor Charles V at Augsburg during the great Diet in the year 1530, together with the Apology thereof and the Articles drafted at Smalcald in the year 1537, which the leading theologians approved by their subscription at that time.

 Since these matters also concern the laity and the salvation of their souls, we subscribe Dr. Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms as both of them are contained in his printed works. They are “the layman’s Bible” and contain everything which Holy Scripture discusses at greater length and which a Christian must know for his salvation.
All doctrines should conform to the standards set forth above. Whatever is contrary to them should be rejected and condemned as opposed to the unanimous declaration of our faith.

 In this way the distinction between the Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testaments and all other writings is maintained, and Holy Scripture remains the only judge, rule, and norm according to which as the only touchstone all doctrines should and must be understood and judged as good or evil, right or wrong.

 Other symbols and other writings are not judges like Holy Scripture, but merely witnesses and expositions of the faith, setting forth how at various times the Holy Scriptures were understood by contemporaries in the church of God with reference to controverted articles, and how contrary teachings were rejected and condemned.

Tappert, T. G. (2000, c1959). The Book of Concord : The confessions of the evangelical Lutheran church (464). Philadelphia: Fortress Press. 

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