Summary: God reminds us that Christian faith is kept alive at all times through his Word that he commissions faithful ministers to proclaim.
“There will be terrible times in the last days” (2 Timothy 3:1). It may surprise you but those words were first written by the Apostle Paul sometime around 66-67 AD. Long before skyscrapers graced urban landscapes. Centuries before the sound of jet engines racing through the sky was a reality. Far removed from the threat of bio-terrorism. Decades before the civilized world even realized that North America existed, the Apostle Paul who saw his own life coming to a close penned those words of warning to one of his successors, his young protégé, Timothy. Already in the first century AD Paul knew that the future for life on this earth didn’t look too bright. What kinds of terrible things was the Apostle Paul talking about? He tells us: “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:2-5).
Isn’t that the world in which we live today? A world that revels in the destruction of sin: marred by selfishness, thirsty for violence, reckless with words, hateful in action, and filled with hypocritical self-righteousness. Why? Because true love for God that demonstrates itself with selflessness, forgiveness, and self-control is scarce. How do we know it is scarce? Just listen to the voices speaking over the airwaves. Even as we face terrorist attacks there are still far too many human beings who remain preoccupied with love for the baseless promise of the goodness of the human spirit rather than occupying themselves with the good promises of God that fill human hearts with his Spirit and his love. When this is true times will be terrible because the natural spirit of the human heart is utterly sinful.
In the face of all this what can we do? The answer to that question is the same as the answer Paul gave to young Timothy as he faced terrible times nearly 2 millennia ago. The answer remains the same because the root cause of all our problems is still sin and there is still only one solution to that problem. That’s why we listen to God’s encouragement to Timothy offered through the Apostle Paul. In the face of terrible times God encourages us all to: Keep Faith Alive! Keep faith alive 1) by faithfully continuing in the Holy Scriptures. Keep faith alive 2) by responding to God’s faithful ministers.
Why would Paul point Timothy back to Holy Scripture to keep his faith alive and well? Only Holy Scripture could keep Timothy’s saving faith alive and well because only Holy Scripture could make Timothy wise for salvation. This work had begun in Timothy’s life when he was just a baby. From his birth Timothy’s mother and grandmother faithfully share the good news of the Savior, the good news of Holy Scripture with him. Now, even in the face of terrible trials and difficult circumstances Paul assures Timothy that Holy Scripture was exactly what he needed to keep his faith alive and well.
What gives Holy Scripture this incredible power? Paul tells Timothy very plainly that what gives Holy Scripture its power is this: the very words that are recorded on its pages are words breathed by God himself. This is often referred to as the doctrine of verbal inspiration. Not only did God give the human writers the thoughts of Holy Scripture – he gave them the exact words. That means each and every word recorded on the original pages of Holy Scripture is there because God himself wanted it to be there. That’s what makes this book different than any other. Since these words are God’s words they are without error, they are timeless, and they are priceless. Since these words are the words of God they are useful for teaching people about the only path to heaven. Because they are the words of God the Holy Scriptures are therefore also useful as the authority when it comes to identifying and encouraging attitudes and behaviors that are in line with God’s definition of righteousness and rebuking and correcting those that are not.
But Holy Scripture is more than just information. It is also motivation. Holy Scripture works on the head and on the heart. It not only changes thoughts but attitudes as well. God’s Word recorded on the pages of Holy Scripture changed Timothy’s heart by choking his naturally rebellious heart with the law and raising up a new heart of living, obedient faith in its place through the gospel. Through the words of Scripture God eradicated Timothy’s desire to trust in his own works to get him into heaven and filled him instead with true confidence that heaven would be his home because of what Jesus had done for him. As Holy Scripture testifies only a heart that is filled with confidence in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection can actually produce works that are good in God’s eyes because only that kind of heart truly rejoices in the opportunity to give thanks to God by living in joyful obedience to his will. Only Holy Scripture gushes with that kind of confidence that flows like the river of blood out of our crucified Savior’s side off of each page of his Holy Word. It’s that confidence that would thoroughly equip Timothy’s faith for every good work even when tough situations would arise.