Study to Learn and Know
By Pastor Jim May
2 Timothy 2:15-21, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work."
Most of us can remember our years spent in getting an education.
Some of you were in that generation where getting a high school diploma wasn’t as important as it is today. A high school education often had to take a back seat to the need of going to work to help support the family. Those who remember the Great Depression know what I’m talking about.
Some of us grew up in the next generation where a high school diploma was much more of a necessity if you wanted to have a good job. The job markets became more competitive and that meant spending more time in the classroom and with your head in the books trying to make the grade.
As time goes on, the job markets are getting more and more competitive. Today it is nearly impossible to land what most consider a “good job” without a college degree. Right now there are so many with college degrees that even a Bachelor’s Degree isn’t enough to get where you want to go. Now it takes a Master’s or even a Doctorate to really be in competition for the best positions.
In our present economy, very few can really achieve a high paying position without a degree unless you happen to be someone born with a “silver spoon in your mouth”, or you know someone who will make a place for you. Some entrepreneurs and a few hard working people really “make it”, but most are relegated to live a life of mediocrity, living paycheck-to-paycheck, and never able to forget that financial ruin lurks just around the corner.
One thing is sure – if you want to be successful in this world, you will have to spend a lot of time studying mathematics, English, literature, the sciences, and all sorts of subjects in order to have a well-rounded education.
Many of us would rather not have to spend time in studying. I know a lot of people who made a promise never to read another book after they graduated and I think that many of them have held true to their promise. Other than comic books, newspapers or advertisements, most people don’t read at all, and if they do, they only read for recreation and entertainment, not to study to improve their education level.
Paul, in writing this letter to Timothy, was doing his best to teach this young preacher, embarking upon a new life of ministry unto the Lord, just how important it was to really know the Word of the Lord. How could Timothy teach what he did not know? How could he live for God if he could not understand even the basics of who God is and what God expects of those who serve him?
Perhaps I have struck on a nerve here that explains in part, why there are so few people who want to serve the Lord in the areas of teaching and preaching the gospel. Why is it that every church struggles to find men and women who are willing to step up to the plate and become leaders in the church to teach classes and head up ministries?
Could it be simply because we don’t spend enough time reading and studying the Word of God, and are unable, because of that neglect, to really understand it enough to teach it to someone else.
I’ve often heard it said, and repeated it myself, that “Leaders must be Readers”. Reading means that we read to learn and understand, digging out the truths that are hidden just below the surface where most people tend to look because it requires more time and effort. We are just too easily satisfied with a surface knowledge.
Just about every one of those who traveled out west during the California Gold Rush that began in the 1847 and went on though the 1850’s, left their homes and families behind and went off with dreams of great wealth just there for the taking. In the beginning there were a few that found places where gold nuggets could be picked up easily in creek beds and mountain streams. But those “easy pickin’s” didn’t last long. It wasn’t long until they began to realize that it was going to take a lot of work, time and skill to find the gold. They had to start mining, digging, hauling out tons and tons of worthless rock, just to find one ounce of shining gold ore. While there were many who did gain wealth and notoriety as gold miners, most of those who left home with wild dreams of great wealth, eventually settled for working as farmers and ranchers. The gold was still there. There is probably a lot of it still in the ground today. But finding it now will require a lot of time spent in studying geology, and learning all of the modern techniques for mining, and most of all, a lot of time and money spent into the project of extracting it from the ground. For most people, it’s an impossible dream. There is no Gold Rush today because the cost to get rich is more than most can pay.
If you’re going to really work for the Lord and you really want to accomplish something for the Kingdom of God, it’s going to require hard work and study. That means a lot more than just hearing the words of a teacher or a preacher for two or three hours a week. It means getting into the Word every day, digging and mining, and scratching past the surface to get to the truths that lie between the lines and under the surface, down to where the real meat of the Word of God lies.
Today we see so many who are led astray and fooled by every wind of doctrine that comes along. There are a lot of Hymenaeus’ and Philetus’ out there today, who don’t know the Word of God very much, and misinterpret much of what they think they know, because they find a passage of scripture or two and establish a whole ministry or a new doctrine, or even a whole denomination, based upon a false interpretation.
Hymenaeus and Philetus believed in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They preached a gospel of salvation through the blood of Jesus, but then they began to go astray and led a lot of people away from serving the Lord. How could that happen? How can we preach the truth of the gospel and still lead people astray? We can do so by not spending time in the Word of God and believing a wrong doctrine.
Their only error was that they believed the Day of Resurrection had already come. Perhaps it began only as a teaching that Jesus was already resurrected and then went off on some intellectual tangent, but however their error began, their doctrines were really off track and began to discourage many people from serving the Lord. We must be so careful of what we say, and how we say it, because the souls of men hang in the balance. One wrongful interpretation can be a costly thing. One little fox of wrong interpretation of scripture can bring down a lifetime of commitment to serving the Lord because it will create doubt concerning all of the rest of God’s Word.
How could these two men, teaching that the resurrection had already past, cause so many to fall away?
By telling the Jews that the resurrection had already passed, while the temple, with its laws and sacrifices were still going on, they undermined the faith of the people in the shed blood of Jesus as the only sacrifice for their sins. How could Jesus’ blood be sufficient when there were still sacrifices going on? Hymenaeus and Philetus were confusing the Jews, just as some of you are confused right now. The Jews who fell away couldn’t understand what was going on, wouldn’t study the matter to find the real truth, and found in was easier to believe a lie and go back to what they already knew than to try to understand what the message of the gospel was really all about. Their laziness and lack of concern cost them their souls. I wonder how many are being lost to the deception of the devil today simply because they are too lazy to dig into God’s Word and learn its truths for their own good?
Paul told Timothy to shun profane and vain babblings. I’m here to tell you the same thing. Be careful of what you listen to, or whom you listen to. Not everyone who calls themselves Christian really are. There are a lot of wolves in sheep’s clothing out there right now who are only there for the money that they get out of their congregations, or who are only there for recognition and have no real love for the people. Multitudes today, this very hour, are sitting in pews across this nation, listening to profane and vain babblings about the prosperity doctrines, the exalted saints, the Virgin Mary, the DiVinci Code, modernism, post-modernism, relativity, and a lot of other philosophical and scientific subjects. Most keep going and listening because they don’t want to make a change. Even though they don’t understand what’s being taught, and might even disagree with some of what they hear, they simply refuse to study to know the truth. They can’t rightly divide truth from error and, because of their laziness and refusal to study; they are slowly but surely led astray into error at the cost of their eternal salvation.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t learn of any of these things, but what we must do is compare what is being said to the Word of God, dig out the truth for ourselves and get to the root of the matter to find where the real truth lies.
Can it happen in a Holy Ghost filled Pentecostal church? Yes it can. We have not been immune to such foolishness for sure. In the early church it obviously happened in Paul’s day with Hymenaeus and Philetus, who were both spirit filled in the beginning. In our modern churches, we have seen the errors of the hyper-faith movement, the shepherding movement, the Toronto movement, the prosperity movement and so many more! Can we be so smug to think that we know all there is to know and that we don’t need to study anymore?
The command still goes out today – “Study to show yourselves as proven Christian, approved by God in all your beliefs and doctrines, and able to rightly divide and discern what the Word of God really preaches.” Either study or fall into error – that’s the choice! We must know what we believe and why we believe it, and most importantly, we must know that what we believe lines up perfectly with God’s Word and is not based on the doctrines of men.
2 Timothy 2:19, "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
Whether we listen to vain babblings or not; whether we heed the words of false teachers or not; and whether we study or not, does not change the fact that God’s Word is always true. The words of men do not change the Word of God. The doctrines of devils do not negate the true doctrines of God’s Word. God’s Word is Truth and it will not change to accommodate any false teacher, or whatever you may accept that is wrong doctrine. God Word is the only Truth and we will only know what is truth and what is error if we study the Bible. No other book will substitute, no matter how popular the author or how many copies are sold.
I also want to add that we must be very careful to choose which version of the Bible that we use. Some versions add books that are not part of the Truth. Some take away certain books that take away from the Truth to leave only that part that agrees with what they want to believe. Others misinterpret, or limit interpretation, to only the views of those who write them.
That’s why I love the King James Version and use others only as commentaries. There is much more Truth that can be learned through King James than for some of the other versions out there. In an attempt to make the Bible easier to understand for those who refuse to dig into it and study it, there is also the danger of losing much of the meaning and truths that can be gleaned.
Quite often I can read the same scriptures over and over again and find many different meanings depending upon what is going on in my life at any given moment, but when I read many of our modern translations and versions, I can’t see those different meanings because some man has decided that his translation is the only one that matters. I want to know what God has to say, not some educated doctor of religion. God’s Word is the only Word that counts. Anything else can lead you down the primrose path to eternal death.
God knows those who believe and hold to the truth of His Word. He also knows those who follow after wrong doctrine and go into error. We must be careful to adhere to what God has to say and no one else. We must repent of following after the teachings of men that lead us astray or we will face judgment for our lack of concern.
2 Timothy 2:20-21, "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work."
In the church we find all kinds of people. Some are vessels of gold and silver, doing their best to serve the Lord in holiness and righteousness, digging and mining into the Word of God on a consistent basis; doing everything they can to remain faithful and true. These are the folks that stand out in the Body of Christ. These are the vessels that God uses and blesses and honors with His anointing and presence to accomplish the work of the Lord and reach the world with the gospel.
But in the church there are also vessels of wood and earth. These are people who are worldly-minded, and more concerned with pleasing men than God. They don’t study to rightly divide the Word of God. They simply accept the words of the preacher as the truth without checking it out for themselves because it requires more work and time than they want to give. These are the folks who are called by His name, and yet their hearts are far from him. Their feet are planted firmly into this present earth. Their vision is only for today; not on the eternal things of God. These are vessels of dishonor. No one looks to them for truth or as an example. They are set in the closet, in the background, and most people don’t even notice if they do anything or not. Their lives are not a testimony to a victorious, overcoming Christian, but of an unfaithful, unholy, self-righteous, or judgmental person who claims to be Christian in name only. They can’t lead others to Jesus because they don’t even know Him.
Paul told Timothy to purge himself from those vessels of dishonor. Those who refuse to study to be approved of God are a hindrance to the work of the Kingdom of God and we should not listen to their profane and vain babblings.
What kind of vessel are you this morning? Do you study the Word of God, or just read it? Have you learned to check out everything you hear against the Word of God? We need more vessels of Gold and Silver in the church today. God is going to weed out every vessel of wood and earth and not one of those will enter into his kingdom.
Let us learn to study the Word and rightly divide it so that we may be vessels of Gold and silver in God’s House.