Paul’s second letter to Timothy contains what many believe to be the Apostle’s final words to the young preacher who would shortly pick up Paul’s mantle and carry on. As he drew this letter to a close the words to Timothy were “the time of my departure is at hand” (4:6b). While there is some discussion as to the exact meaning of these words most writers hold to the idea that shortly after penning these words Paul was executed by the Roman government and thus he “departed” this earth in realization of His Heavenly hope (2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:21). It is the basic reason for his imprisonment and execution that should speak to every child of God living today. Anyone who has read any history at all or watched an old movie knows that in Paul’s day the followers of Christ were routinely led to the slaughter of the lions in the Roman Coliseum, hung on a cross or burned on a pole serving as a “street light.” The Apostle knew none-too-well the fate that could await any who stood for the cause of Christ. And yet as we read this letter we can’t help but notice the encouragement given to Timothy, not to run and hide but rather stand and preach. “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (2 Tim. 2:1, 3) Paul knew of the hardship first hand and had written of his own suffering. “…in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeying often in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” (2 Cor. 11:23a-28) Earlier in the same letter the Apostle, after he had addressed his troubles wrote, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Cor. 4:17) For the Apostle, this was simply part of doing what the Lord had sent him to do and his life was to be an example to young Timothy.
As I survey the current climate existing in the church in America (and no doubt around the world in varying degrees) I cannot help but wonder if we could not all use a similar letter from Paul today? I have often written over the past twelve years of the condition of the church and believers in America. We look at our nation and take inventory of the current social, political, moral and Spiritual climate one’s heart must truly ache. In the past fifty-plus years our great nation has booted God and prayer our of the government school system, permitted the murder of millions of children through abortion, legalized homosexuality and same-sex marriage and now is actually arguing over which bathroom people should use. How did all this happen? How did a nation supposedly founded on Christian principles get to where it is today? How is it that Christianity itself is under now attack?
The answer is complicated and yet very simple. Sociologists, psychologists, and other “thinkers” will provide a myriad of causes for the America’s (the world’s) current state. The greedy wealthy, crime, poverty, government regulations and intrusion, or not enough of the same, are just a small sample of the many issues said to be attributing to the problems facing the world today. Millions of dollars are spent each year by various groups in an attempt to study and correct the problems and make the world a better place. But where do they look, what do they find, and what solutions are formulated? In truth, the answer is none which only leads to requests for additional funding and more studies. Where will it all end?
The answer is really quite simple and can be arrived at with very little expense and no drawn out expensive studies. The simple answer can be found in the one place where the prestigious learned men and women do not dare trod, the universities reject and the academic / thinking world holds in disdain; the answer is the Word of God. A failure on man’s part to give heed to the Word of God always leads to destruction (in every definition of the word). It is simply the failure to seek and obey the instruction from the Lord. “All scripture is given by the inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim. 3:16).
What is the simple truth of this passage? What can we learn from it? First, as the passage begins we are told that ALL Scripture (holy writ), not some, not what we like, ALL the Sacred writings (the Word of God) was originally given by the very “inspiration of God”. This phrase is actually one compound word in the Greek and literally, means “God’s breath” or that ALL Scripture literally came from the breath of God. The Bible we hold on our laps is not some ancient book written by men and women, but rather it is a sacred book made up of the very words the proceeded out of the mouth of God Himself. As such they ALL must be treated with great care and attention must be given to their obedience.
The verse continues that these God-breathed words are profitable for our doctrine (what one believes), reproof (the evidence for what one believes), correction (correcting what one believes), and instruction in righteousness (putting into practice, living out what one believes). You see friend it is the Bible itself that God has given to man as the “Instruction Manual” for our walk with Him, our salvation, our hope and destiny, our future. But it is also our manual for daily living. This reminds me of the passage in Proverbs; “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6) The Psalmist addressed the place of the Scriptures (As David was used to pen these words the “Scriptures” were found in the Law of Moses given to the Nation of Israel. But the same truth concerning their “Scriptures” can be horizontally applied to the completed Word of God we hold today.) in the life of Israel as he penned the words of Psalm 119. (Permit me to make a simple substitution as I quote a few of the passages.) “Blessed are they that keep His ‘Word’, and that seek Him with the whole heart.” (:2) “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy ‘Word’. (:9) “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (:105) Over and over again, throughout the entire passage, the Psalmist points the reader to the Scriptures. Their importance in life cannot be diminished.
So what is the problem? Paul warned of a time when there would be a turning away from the truth of the Scriptures. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Look at Christendom today; listen to the preaching, look at the preachers. The Word of God is ripped to shreds with man’s opinions, or set aside altogether. Health, wealth, and prosperity lead the way on religious broadcasting. The word Faith movement has a tight grip on the church leading many of its followers into the depths of confusion and the Lake of Fire. The church has become a shopping mall of doctrine leaving its shoppers in deep confusion. It is sad when I listen to people who get so wrapped up in the glitter and glamor of what has become of religion that they begin to espouse teachings that are clearly not founded upon the Word of God. God has become nothing more than a Good god Fairy just waiting to give one whatever it is they request. Facebook (The thing everyone hates but uses.) has become a breeding ground for Biblical confusion. Contrary to what is constantly posted on Facebook God will not give me a lot of money, heal my sick friend or save a marriage if I Like and Share.
Let me give you an example of what went wrong. As Moses was nearing the end of his life he brought the Nation of Israel together and gave to them his parting instructions. “And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? Only take heed to thyself, and keep they souls diligently, lest though forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons;” (Deut. 4:8-9) “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deut. 6:7) Moses was the great Lawgiver to Israel and now as he nears the end he instructs Israel that they are to remember and teach that Law (Israel’s “Bible”) and remind their children, and their children’s children of all the Lord had done for them. What happened?
Moses was replaced by Joshua and as his life was nearing an end we read of Israel’s state. “And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that He did for Israel.” (Judg. 2:7). The people served the Lord as Moses had commanded. These were the people who had survived those forty years of wandering in the wilderness brought on by disobedience and doubt. These were those who had seen the Lord’s works and all that He had done for them. Of all those Joshua would lead into the land of promise this was the first generation. Now note what is said in Joshua 24:31. “And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that He had done for Israel.” These are the second generation, they had not seen the works of the Lord but rather had been told (“had known”). But now note what is said of generation number three. “And also all that generation were gather unto their faithers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim.” (Judg. 2:1-11) What a sad commentary of generation three, but of generation two as well. Generation three had turned away from the Lord and served the pagan gods, but generation two had failed to heed the instruction of Moses and pass the truth along. Generation one had a conviction, they had seen firsthand the Lord at work. Generation two had a preference, they hadn’t seen but they heard and believed. Generation three had an opinion and it was to go in a different direction; to turn away from the truth, from the Lord. In just three generations the truth had not been passed down and it was lost. And we know that the Book of Judges covers a very tumultuous time in the life of the Nation of Israel.
But let’s come back to where we are today. Say what you want from the past the modern church has gone from a strong Fundamental position to that of the Evangelical / Neo-Evangelical to Post Modernism manifesting itself in many ways most notably the emergent church. We hear the term “Evangelical” thrown around by the media but in truth, it really is an empty shell of a word that has lost most, if not all of its original meaning.
How did all of this come about? The answer is a departure from the simple truth of the Word of God and the Word Rightly Divided and the doctrines as set forth by the Apostle Paul. It is the failure on the part of the church to know and understand the unique place that Paul plays in the Scriptures, in history. Even more so his unique message which the Scripture refers to as the “Mystery” (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:3-4, 9; 5:32; 6:16; Col. 1:26-27). I have known several pastors, and many laymen who embraced the teachings of the Apostle Paul only to slip backward, some departing altogether their previously held positions. This may be the result of some new program or scheme peddled by some author made popular by the so-called Christian publishers. Most often this is the case of failing to “Rightly Divide” (2 Tim. 2:15) the Word of Truth. Similar words or phrases used by Paul are now said to be the same thoughts expressed by previous writers. Churches soft peddle Paul’s Gospel because it is so different from others that it can become divisive. I recall years ago we had a ministry through our church that would send literature to pastors in an attempt to persuade them in the truth of the Mystery and a Mid-Acts Dispensational understanding of the Scriptures. I was shocked on one occasion when a pastor, who claimed to believe the message wrote and in a not-so-kind tone demanded that none of that literature is sent to pastors in his town. The failure of the pulpit to boldly stand and teach the unique Gospel of the Grace of God, as did the first generation (In our so-called “Grace Movement” men such as Stam, O’Hair, Baker, Kulp, Wasson, Levere, Webb, Reuller, Johnson, and others.) is, in my opinion manifesting itself in teaching today. In just a few generations the unique message or at least a bold strong stand for the message of the Apostle Paul is being diminished, and in some cases lost. Too many the “Grace message” is all wrapped up in Ephesians 2:8-9 and one’s salvation being by pure grace and grace alone. Yes, this is certainly a major part of our message but it is only a part, not the whole. Yes, we must boldly proclaim the saving Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work, His death, burial, and resurrection. We live in a nation (a world) that is desperately lost and on its way to a Christless eternity in the Lake of Fire. We must be about the business of sharing the Gospel as1 ambassadors of reconciliation given to every believer in this age of Grace. (2 Cor. 5:17-21)
But we cannot become as Israel and lose the message that great men of the faith fought to gain. In the message of Grace, the Mystery, the Gospel of the Grace of God, the “my Gospel” that Paul writes about we learn of real security through the sealing work of the Holy Spirit. We know of the permanent indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. We learn of our “Blessed Hope” in Christ Jesus, of the catching away, or the Rapture of the Church, the Body of Christ. The day-to-day fear people have for a coming Tribulation is removed. The so-called contradictions and confusion of Scripture leading to doubts is answered. Confusion and false teachings are answered. Without a bold stand for the Word of God Rightly Divided and the solid teaching of Paul’s unique message from our pulpits the message will be lost to future generations.
Pastor, Sunday School teacher, Deacon, Elder, Youth Leader, don’t worry about current trends or being popular, preach the Word. It is the Truth that sets men free. It will be the Truth that gives hope to the hopeless, comfort to the discouraged and strength to the weak.
“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given un in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (2 Tim. 1:8-9)