Sufficient In Times Of Bad And Worse

2 Timothy 3:10–17 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. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 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. 16 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 complete, equipped for every good work.

This morning we are continuing our miniseries on scripture. Pastor Dave is expected to return sometime tonight, spend a week recovering from travel, be with his family and then will preach again in two weeks. Last week Kyle used Psalm 19 to show the power of God’s Word. Next week John will look at the Authority of God’s Word. This morning we will look at the sufficiency of scripture.

One of the reasons we thought it was important to preach for 3 weeks on scripture is that scripture is usually the doctrine that is attacked by false teaching. Throughout church history, the church has had to defend herself from all kinds of false teachings and threats towards drift from orthodoxy.

During the reformation for example, the issue was focused on salvation and justification by faith alone. But for Martin Luther and the other reformers, underneath that was the insistence that doctrine must come from scripture alone. This is known as Sola Scriptura. When scripture is diminished in its sufficiency, authority or inerrancy, other doctrines can quickly fall. That’s one reason I wanted us to look more closely at scripture. And my hope is that we would have greater confidence in this book and it would do a number of different things: it would strengthen our faiths, it would motivate us to read and know the Bible and ultimately it would make us obey it and grow in godliness because of it.

As we look at our text today, 2 Timothy, Paul is instructing Timothy from a specific situation. Paul has endured persecution and he is preparing Timothy for more of the same. In fact things are going from bad to worse both outside and inside the church. In such troubling times, what is the thing that Paul will point Timothy to? Is it a strategy to go into hiding, or take up a sword?

Paul tells Timothy to stick to the old roads. Timothy must hold fast to the Word of God as he has been taught. And Paul goes on to say that the Word is enough. It’s sufficient for all things in faith and godliness.

If this were to be a lecture on the sufficiency of scripture, we’d probably start at verse 15 or 16. But this isn’t a lecture series; these truths about scripture that come from particular contexts. We don’t have to think about doctrine in a vacuum. In our passage, we see Paul writing a letter at a particular time from a particular setting to a particular person. As I studied this passage it struck me again how timeless the Bible is. Paul’s situation is not that different from ours.

The main point of this passage and the main point of this sermon is that the Bible is all we need to live a godly life, no matter the situation.

As we look at this passage I’m going to break it up into several parts: first we’ll look at the scene that causes Paul to exhort Timothy to hold fast to the scriptures. Then And then part 2 we’ll spend most of our time looking more closely at the what and why of scripture. What does the sufficiency mean? Why does it matter? And then I’ll give 5 ways to work to increase your confidence in scripture.

Before we dive in, would you pray with me and ask the LORD to speak to us through this passage.

Father in heaven, you are a good God. There is nothing you withhold from your children. We can know you and what you require of us without any subjective searching or groping in the darkness. We can know you plainly from your Word. Help us this morning to recognize our need for your Word and for your Son. Keep us from going through the motions or playing church. We want to worship you with right offering. Your word, all 66 books of it is profitable. Please teach us that we would know the gospel better. We would know your character more truly. We would have wisdom to discern all the decisions and challenges we face in our days. Please reprove us where we have strayed and gotten things wrong. You are gracious even in convicting us of sin, please help us to see it as good and for our good. Gently correct us and show us a more excellent way than our sinful hearts know. Please train us in righteousness and equip us for every good work. I pray that Grace church would be increasingly filled with disciples of christ who are growing in maturity. May we be a City on a Hill that others would see and acknowledge your glory. That’s a lot of things to ask for, but not too much for you to do. May Jesus be praised this morning and your Spirit would work. Amen.

I. Paul and Timothy’s situation (10-13)

Before we get to our immediate passage, let’s quick set the stage of the book. Second Timothy is a more personal letter to his disciple and partner in ministry, Timothy. Timothy has traveled and ministered with Paul over the years, and now he is in Ephesus pastoring the church there. Paul has written pastoral instructions and as Paul sees his time on earth coming to an end, he is preparing Timothy to continue on.

When we look at the context of what Paul is about to say, it’s actually helpful to back up a little bit further than our passage. If you are following along in your Bible, you might have a heading at the start of chapter 3 that reads something like “Godlessness in the Last Days”. Look at verse 1, But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.

Paul is warning Timothy about the godlessness surrounding him. And by ‘last days’, Paul doesn’t mean end times. It simply means, as it does many other places in the New Testament, that since Christ has come, we are all in the last days. Paul, Timothy, and us. So Paul is warning about godlessness in the last days. And then he goes into detail about what it looks like, all kinds of wickedness. And then we get to the start of our passage in verse ten where there’s a contrast between this godlessness and Timothy:

“You however…” Paul is contrasting this godless description with the godly character of Timothy.

2 Tim. 3:10 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.

Timothy has been discipled by Paul and has seen Paul’s life and teachings. It is full of virtue and godly character, and on top of it Paul has faced almost endless persecutions for preaching the gospel: He was jailed, he was beaten, he was chased out of towns, he was even stoned. He mentions here Antioch, Iconium and Lystra. These were some of Paul’s earliest travels recorded primarily in Acts 14. Here’s some of the account from the town of Lystra:

Acts 14:19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

Notice that he faced deadly opposition from the Jews. They didn’t like that he was preaching that Jesus was the Messiah and that he had risen from the dead. So they stoned Paul. But as he mentions in our passage, the Lord rescued Paul. So when the stoning didn’t work, he got up, and kept preaching the gospel. Acts 14 also has Paul teaching that the way to enter the kingdom is through many tribulations. This is the very next thing Paul will mention in our passage back in Second Timothy.

Verse 12 says, 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

Paul is pretty sobering in these verses. If you want to live a godly life, which any Christian should want to do, you will be persecuted. Paul is following Christ’s path through suffering and persecution. Paul follows Christ, Timothy will follow Paul, and all believers will follow along with Timothy. Which is another way of saying that anyone who desires to follow Jesus, he must follow him through suffering and persecution. Jesus said this very thing in Mark 8:34 if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Ask yourself, do you want to live a godly life? Do you want to live a life that is pleasing to God and God alone? That’s a hard question. That’s different than a comfortable life. By comfortable life, I don’t mean that being godly is an absence of all comforts. I mean that it’s easy to look like a Christian when things are going well. But as persecution comes, the comfortable life will fight to hold on to comfort or want to duck hard things to preserve a standard of life. But if you want to live a godly life, Paul is telling us what the cost is. We will be persecuted. Like he said earlier in Acts 14, the way to the kingdom is through many tribulations.

He continues by describing to Timothy the opposition they face. Evil people and imposters will threaten the church. This is the situation Paul and Timothy faced in the first century, and we are beginning to see these kinds of pressures here as well. Bad to worse could describe our current environment.

Outside the church we see national and state leaders overstepping their authority. We see them caught in lies and scandal. We see a culture more and more in love with pleasure and self, and in the name of tolerance people wanting to punish any dissenters to this way of thinking.

Inside the church-and by church I mean the evangelical church broadly- we have always had false teachers. But lately we are seeing pastors and leaders who are actually imposters. You might even have their books on your shelf, or listened to them on a podcast or at a conference. Maybe it’s because we have greater access to public personalities than ever before, but people seem to willing to forsake sound doctrine and faithfulness to Christ in exchange for pleasing culture in a number of different areas.

Here’s an example of how this is showing up in our culture, within the church: One of the prime threats in our culture is the idea that you need to understand the standpoint of various people in order to truly understand an issue. For example, there are some who insist that you cannot understand race relations or reconciliation unless you are a minority. Or you can’t truly understand other topics unless you have experience in that area. And worse, if you don’t have experience in that area, you might be racist. My point isn’t to delve into racial issues, but to point out some of the thinking that shows up. It’s an insistence that you need something more than scripture to truly know certain issues in this world.

I’m not aware of this being an issue immediately at Grace, but this is the kind of thinking that people are pushing in Evangelical circles. It can be subtle or louder, but it’s there. And we need to be aware of it and combat it when needed.

Outside and inside, just as in Paul’s time, things seem to be going from bad to worse. In past years we could rely on our government at least making certain decisions and policies that more lined up with what the Bible generally says is right. But that has eroded rapidly.

Paul continues, warning that these people will go on both deceiving and being deceived. People who are evil and teaching falsely are both trying to deceive others while they themselves are being deceived.

What’s the remedy to this? How are we to endure persecution? In a world going from bad to worse and filled with deception, what is the answer? Paul gives the answer in verses 14 and 15:

II. Paul’s Command to Continue (14-15)

14 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.

Again Paul contrasts the godless people with Timothy. Under the threat of persecution, with deceivers surrounding, Paul tells Timothy to hold fast to what he already knows. He’s traveled with Paul and seen his character and heard his teachings. Paul and others have discipled Timothy, and now it’s time to simply stay the course. Of all the things Paul could tell Timothy as his last words, Paul instructs him to remain faithful to the sacred writings, or the Word of God. There is nothing new to know or learn, which is the opposite of their opponents who are always looking for something new.

Beyond Paul’s tutelage, Timothy was taught by his mother and grandmother. (2 timothy 1:5). This should be an encouragement and a challenge to you parents and grandparents. An encouragement that what you are teaching your kids has the potential to remain with them for a long time. It’s a challenge to make sure we are teaching them God’s Word in all things, and that they won’t depart when they are old. That is a high bar to help our kids understand all of life from a biblical worldview. To not be deceived. To prepare for persecution and to be able to live godly lives.

The sacred writings that Paul is talking about represent what we know as the whole Bible. But when Paul wrote this letter, the sacred writings are primarily the Old Testament. Think about this, when Timothy is reading a letter from Paul, there is no ‘New Testament’ or ‘Second Timothy’. So when Paul reminds Timothy about the sacred writings, he is talking about the Old Testament.

Just like the New Testament, the Old Testament speaks highly of scripture. I’ll highlight a few of these places.

Deut. 8:1 “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers. 2 And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.

Psalm 119:86 All your commandments are sure;
        they persecute me with falsehood; help me!
151    But you are near, O LORD,
        and all your commandments are true.
160    The sum of your word is truth,
        and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
172   My tongue will sing of your word,
        for all your commandments are right.

Sometimes Christians can dismiss the Old Testament and overemphasize the New. We must know the entire story, not just the most readable or familiar parts. Or the parts where Jesus and the gospel are most explicit.

Timothy is familiar with the Old Testament since his childhood, but it’s also clear that he has been taught how the Old Testament, the sacred writings, connects to Jesus Christ. Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament and it’s only when we understand that that we can understand the gospel. And this is what Timothy knows and believes.

We see in verse 15 that scripture is able to make us wise unto salvation. Kyle preached last week about the power of scripture, and here is another example of its power. It is able to open our dead unbelieving hearts to know the gospel and be saved. Scripture tells the story of redemption. It tells us that we have rebelled against God and that’s our greatest problem. But the story of the gospel is how we can be saved from God’s wrath and be justified before a holy God. And it is only through knowing the gospel and believing the gospel that we receive life. It is only in new life that we can actually be wise. Unless we have life we remain in our ignorance and unbelief and can’t truly understand scripture. But scripture is for more than just salvation. It contains all we need for godliness too, which brings us to our next point.

Sufficient for Every Good Work (16-17)

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

Scripture works in various ways. It is the story of redemption so that we can be saved. But it also has something to say for every area of life. The Bible has more to say in some areas than others, but God speaks to everything in some way. Paul lists four ways scripture is profitable and I’m going to go through this quickly:

Profitable

  1. Teaching – This is maybe the most straightforward way. Whether it’s formal teaching like Sunday School or preaching a sermon, we all profit from learning God’s Word. It helps us to know true things about God and his world, and also helps us combat false teachings and wrong worldviews. In a world where people are deceiving and being deceived, it’s so important to cut through deception with scripture.
  2. Reproof – reproof is pointing out error or convicting of sin. As we read, study, and hear scripture, it convicts us of sin and wrong-thinking. A good example of this is found in Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
  3. Correction – correction is the other side of reproof. If we are convicted of doing and think wrongly, correction is the positive way to do or think rightly. This is illustrated well by places like Epheisans 4 and Colossians 3 where it talks about the idea of putting off and putting on. You put off the bad, and replace it with good.
  4. Training in righteousness – Scripture is profitable for righteousness. That we can actually live godly lives, regardless of our surroundings. It might be hard, it definitely won’t be popular, but scripture is able to train us to live righteous lives.

Notice it says that all scripture is profitable. (Old and New. Law and Gospel. Narratives, epistles, genealogies, dietary laws and tribal allotments.). That doesn’t mean all scripture is equally clear, or even equally profitable, but all scripture is profitable. That is one of the benefits of expository preaching, is that we don’t pick and choose what to preach, but the primary diet is to work through books and not miss anything.

Purpose

17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The purpose of people is to bring glory to God in all things. 1Cor. 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

What the purpose of scripture is, is to help us know how to glorify God in all situations. That’s what it means to be equipped for every good work.

In the immediate context, Paul is saying that scripture will equip Timothy to face persecution and deceivers. But the every, means scripture equips the Christian for any and every situation. It provides what we need for all of life to live in a God-glorifying way.

What is the Sufficiency of Scripture?

When we talk about sufficiency, there are various things that might come to your mind. So let’s look at what we mean by sufficiency and what it doesn’t mean.

First what it is: Scripture contains all the divine words necessary to both know salvation and also how to please God in life.(John Frame, Doctrine of the Word of God)

God has something to say to everything in this world. But that doesn’t mean he has an equal amount of words for every situation. Sometimes we need to apply what God has said as a rule or principle to our situations. For example, the Bible doesn’t really mention abortion explicitly. But taking what God has said clearly about babies created in God’s image, the preciousness of life and the command to not kill gives us plenty to understand how we should think and act about abortion.

We don’t add or subtract to scripture. The Bible gives serious warnings about adding or subtracting: Revelation 22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

This means that scripture is closed. There will not be more books added, we will not need to look for more information from God in order to obey him.

What sufficiency is not:

Solo Scriptura

Hopefully this is obvious, but it doesn’t mean that because God’s Word is sufficient we have no need of other books. If you’ve been in my home or my office, you know that I love books. Books can be a great blessing. Many books contain deep truths about God or his world, but these are not necessary to complete anything that scripture lacks for us to know God, the gospel or how to live a godly life.

God speaks exhaustively on every topic.

God has something to say on everything we might think about or do. But he doesn’t speak equally on every topic. Think about a birthday party. Nothing in scripture speaks specifically to how to throw a birthday party, although there are principles that we could apply to planning a birthday party. Now compare that to a worship service on the Lord’s Day. God has a lot more to say about how to conduct a worship service that is pleasing in his sight, because it is more foundational to our duties before God.

The Bible doesn’t explain every detail of the natural world, because the Bible isn’t primarily concerned with biology or chemistry. But we do know for example that God created all things. There are other things we can figure out logically from scripture, and we can also expect that whatever people are able to discover in the scientific world, it will ultimately reconcile with how God created this world.

In the same way that we can’t ever know God exhaustively, we can’t know everything there is to know about every topic either. But we can know everything God requires of us to live godly lives. Deut. 29:29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

III. Why can we bank our lives on God’s Word?

Our Father is trustworthy. Just as God has given us everything we need for salvation in Christ, he has given us everything we need for life and godliness in His Word. Imagine what would happen if he didn’t give us everything? We would constantly wonder if we know enough? Is God pleased? How can I know? We would have no way of confidently knowing what to do. If God’s Word is not complete, that would be a cruel joke where God is leading people on in some kind of guessing game. But God is not cruel and he doesn’t lead people on. His Word is sufficient for everything he expects out of us.

Here’s an example of Jesus using scripture to fight temptation. When he was in the wilderness for 40 days, starving, tired and tempted, imagine all the ways Jesus could have fought Satan, the ultimate deceiver. He could have shot fire at him or called down angels or opened up the earth to swallow Satan. But instead he used scripture. He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 Man cannot live by bread alone. When Satan misused scripture, Jesus corrected, with more scripture.

If Jesus, the Incarnate Word, sees scripture as sufficient, even for suffering and persecution, then we should too. Again we see Paul following the example of Jesus and then encouraging Timothy and all saints to follow the same example.

How can we increase our trust of God’s Word? How can we grow in confidence for what God provides in His Word? Here are five ways we can do work to do that:

Continue in what you have learned

This is the command Paul gives to Timothy. None of us has arrived in our knowledge of scripture. We all must continue in what we’ve been taught and keep growing in our knowledge. Join us in Sunday School where we devote ourselves to studying scripture and gaining confidence in its sufficiency.

If you don’t have a reading plan, find one and start reading. Be familiar with the big story of scripture and also dive deeper into smaller passages. If you don’t know where to start or how to do it, find someone, an elder or someone else at Grace to study together.

God gave us a book as the way to know Him. We must be readers and learn how to study. You don’t get to say “I’m not really a reader.” All who have come to believe in the gospel, must be readers and lovers of The Word. That doesn’t mean everyone will be a scholar, but we are all called to know God’s Word and how it affects everything we do.

See scripture like the Bible does

All scripture is God breathed. That means it is ultimately God speaking. If you want to hear from God you don’t have to wait for the still, small voice. God has spoken in His Word and has given us everything we need. When you open up your Bible, you are hearing from Jesus. Expect to be changed when you read, maybe not immediately, but it will change us. It will teach, reprove, correct and train us.

Teach others

Scripture is profitable for teaching. Implied in this is that we will teach one another. That doesn’t always mean a formal teaching setting, but more often it will look like studying the scriptures with one another, explaining things during family worship or with a friend.

Don’t be ashamed of God’s Word.

This is the story with talking snakes, giants killed by stones, a worldwide flood and a God who became a man who died, was buried and then rose 3 days later. People will think it’s folly. People will label us religious nuts or anti-science or anything else to frame us as fools. The Bible expected it and doesn’t seem too bothered by it.

Let scripture be your main diet

Other sources of information and thought can be great, but watch how much intake you are getting from other places. The flow of information is endless. News, books, social media, movies, podcasts. And they are all fine in doses, but our main diet must be a regular intake of scripture. Read to get the whole story and read deeply to understand the truths. Hear the preached word every week, study with one another. Read books that help explain and apply scripture.

Conclusion

When we talk about the sufficiency of scripture, it is impossible to separate the idea of the Bible from Jesus. He is the Word of God. Hebrews connects scripture with Jesus in this way in chapter 1:

Heb. 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

The Father gave us everything we need to know for salvation and to live godly lives in this world. Scripture tells us how to be saved, and the Father send His Son to be everything we need to be saved. He faced persecution without sin. He fulfilled all scripture, spoke and taught with the authority of God. Ultimately Timothy, and all saints can take confidence in scripture, because all of scripture points to our Lord Jesus Christ.

When we face hard things, the more we know the character of God the more we can rest in his protection. We can know the truths in scripture and be able to discern false teachings and worldviews. We can better trust the promises God makes to his people and take heart that they are as good as accomplished. We can look to the hope of Christ’s return and the ultimate victory that contains. This is why sufficiency matters.

Grace, we can’t predict or control what will happen in our current circumstances. But even as things move from bad to worse and we face evil and imposters, God’s Word is enough. God’s Son is enough for us to endure. We must use scripture as our guide to discern truth and cut through false teaching. We must use scripture to grow our faith and persevere in the face of tribulation.

Father, thank you for your Word. Thank you for your Son to know truth and to be made wise unto salvation. Thank you for your Spirit who illuminates scripture for us. Please make us a strong church, ready to endure whatever is in front of us. We pray for saints around the world who face persecution. Please strengthen pastors in hard places with a love of your Word and a confidence that it is sufficient for all things. Father, stir in us a greater desire to live godly lives, no matter the cost.