<2 Timothy 3: 14-17>
People call those who cannot read or write ‘illiterate.’ People call those who cannot work a computer ‘computer illiterate.’ Then we can call those who do not know the Bible ‘a Bible illiterate.’ Modern people boast of their knowledge in science and technology. Yet, there are too many ‘Bible illiterates’ among us.
Although America is a Christian nation, founded on Puritan ideals, the number of Bible illiterates is increasing. According to the Gallup Poll conducted in 1990, about 75% of Americans said they read the Bible somewhat. In year 2000, however, this percentage dropped down to 59%. In 1990, about 43% of Americans said they read few pages of the Bible every week; in 2000, this statistic declined to 37%. Less and less people read the Bible.
The reason why all of us are here sharing this communal ark called St. Luke’s church and offering worship service together is twofold. First, it is based on the confession of faith that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and second, it is based on the authority of the Bible as the word of God. Therefore, our church is a community that centers on Christ and believes in the Bible as the word of God.
Our church cannot exist away from Christ. Furthermore, we have no meaning without the Bible. Since the Bible testifies about Christ, we cannot wholly understand salvation through Christ without the Bible. If the Bible is the bind that holds us together, we cannot become mature Christians and disciples of Jesus without reading and researching the Bible. We cannot become mature disciples of God without consistently studying and researching the Bible.
The Second Epistle of Timothy is a second pastoral letter from Paul to Timothy, Paul’s young prodigy. During the time when Paul sent this letter to Timothy, there were many false priests and witnesses whom, for the sake of their own wealth and benefits, misinterpreted and abused the Bible for their personal gain. Paul wrote this letter to tell Timothy not to fall into the tricks and traps laid by these false priests.
Paul reminds Timothy in verse 14 of today’s scripture that what he has learned is fundamentally different from what the false priests have learned. “But as for you, continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.” Timothy learned the Christian faith from his true mentor, Paul. And from a very young age, he inherited Christian faith from his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois (2 Timothy 1: 5) and was especially versed in the study of the Bible.
Most of all, Timothy received a good, fundamental teachings on the Bible from early age. Take a look at the first part of verse 15. “And that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures.” ‘Childhood,’ in the original Hebrew Bible, is written as a noun, ‘brephos.’ ‘Brephos’ refers to the earliest stage in human development even up to the point of fetal development, when the fetus is still in the womb. Timothy learned about the Bible from his maternal grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice even when he was still in his mother’s womb.
Then what did Timothy learn from the Bible? Take a look at the latter part of verse 15. “Which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” People of the Old Testament were certain that the Bible made one wise. Therefore, Psalms 19: 7 hymns as such. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” All those who read God’s words can be wise. The word of God has the power make a person who has not spend a day in a classroom much more intelligent and wise than someone who holds ten doctorate degrees.
But there is the wisdom among wisdom that Bible gives us. It is the knowledge of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. We must pay particular attention to the fact that words ‘faith,’--or ‘pistis'--and--‘salvation,’ --or ‘soteria’ are closely linked. The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ is the salvation through faith. There is a lot of knowledge in this world; yet, there is no greater knowledge than the knowledge that provides eternal salvation from death and sins through the faith in Jesus Christ! If you keep the Bible near you and truly learn its words, you will learn the knowledge of knowledge, the knowledge of ‘salvation through faith in Christ Jesus!’
Then through verses 16 and 17, Paul explains the five benefits that the Bible provides. But before he explains the five benefits, Paul lays out a major premise. He states, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” According to the NIV version, Bible is “God-breathed,” meaning it was written from the breath of God. NSRV version interprets it as “inspired by God.”
What does all this mean! It means that even though the Bible was recorded by human hands, it contains God’s breath, His inspiration. God was inside the hearts and minds of those who wrote the Bible, to ensure that His true intent was correctly scribed into the Bible. This does not mean that man merely and mechanically recorded what was dictated to them by God. Rather, His breath, His spirit was in the hearts of those that recorded the Bible and enabled them to correctly scribe the intent
Without God’s breath, without His inspiration, one cannot write the Bible. Without God’s spirit, the Bible cannot be born. No matter how smart and intelligent the recorders of the Bible may have been, without God’s intent and plans for salvation, the Bible would never have been created.
Then what are the five benefits of the Bible? Take a look at the latter portion of verse 16. “And is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
First, the Bible is good for teaching, or education. The Bible teaches us three things: Who God is, who we are, and how we can attain salvation. Do you want a lesson on life? Get into the Bible. All questions that stem from life lie within the pages of the Bible.
Second, the Bible is useful in rebuking, or rejecting, false ideals. In criticizing and denouncing false teachings, immoral theology, and wrongful education, there is no better standard of comparison than the Bible. When you err and sin, the one book that criticizes and rebukes you and sets you on the right path is the Bible. A Korean proverb attributes bitter taste as a prerequisite for good medicine. At times, the Bible is hard on the ears, keen and cutting to the point of being uncomfortable. Yet, the Bible is a good elixir for our spirits. Enthusiastically receive the rebuke from the Bible. Within the rebuke lies the path to true survival.
Third, the Bible is good for correction. Although the Bible criticizes immoral theologies and religions, it also leads us down the right path. When corruption plagued Catholicism of the Middle Ages, leading many souls to destruction, Martin Luther found the right path through the Bible. When we walk stray onto a curvy road, the path that leads us astray, the only thing that can straighten us out is the Bible. The Bible is the compass that guides us when we are lost. It is the lighthouse that shows seagoing vessels the correct route in the pitch darkness of the night. Believe in the fact that the Bible is the sole standard the can straightens our crooked path.
Fourth, the Bible is necessary in “training us in righteousness.” Righteousness here means having a right relationship with God. But we cannot become righteous under our own accord. We cannot have the right relationship with God through our own powers. We can become righteous by believing in the fact that Jesus died at the cross for our sins and confessing our faith. Through Jesus, we can establish this right relationship with God. But when read the Bible, we can not only repair our relationship with those around us, but also with God. Within the pages of the Bible, we can find the method by which the sinner can become the righteous.
Lastly, in verse 17, the Bible has the power to make “man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good move.” No one falls into the abyss of sin after reading the Bible. The Bible always leads us down the righteous path. The Bible helps us grow complete within God, as a person of God. It teaches us how to live righteous in the midst of a sinful world. When we read the bible, research it, and study it in our minds, God’s words will grasp us. It makes us complete with God’s love, and give us the ability to completely finish all good tasks given to us. Although we are weak, we gain the ability to become the righteous worker of God through Christ!
If the Bible is so good, we must read it, research it, and apply it to our everyday lives. In order to do so, everyone must listen to the sermons proclaimed by pastors and other members of clergy like myself throughout the course of this year. Pastors were professionally educated to correctly interpret and teach the Bible. Over the course of this year, I plan on giving sermons that are based on the Bible as much as possible. Please attend all worship services and Bible study sessions to listen to the words that I proclaim. And nurture the ability to read and see the Bible through the sermons of the pastors.
The Bible has tremendous capabilities for those who believe and accept it as God’s words. In India, a man named Ramad, a member of a notorious gang, went on a larceny binge; on the table of one of the houses they broke into, Ramad saw the Bible. Ramad thought the pages of the Bible would be good for rolling his cigarettes. Without much thinking, he took the Bible from the table and put in the bag with other stolen items from the house.
From that day on, he took a page from the Bible and used it to roll and smoke his cigarettes each day. One day, Ramad realized that the Bible was written in his language, and began reading the pages before he rolled his cigarettes. A few weeks passed.
One day, Ramad was greatly graced by one page that he had ripped out to roll his next cigarette. He fell to his knees, and asked Jesus to come into his heart to forgive his sins. Ramad truly repented his sins, and turned himself in to the police. Within the prison walls, he became a great missionary, able to convert the multitudes of inmates and guards to the embrace of Christ.
Bible has such amazing capabilities. As long as you believe and accept that fact that the Bible is the God’s word, designed for the salvation of the people, God will come into each and every one of our hearts and allow us to experience His love. Why don’t you deeply read this wonderful book? Why don’t you think about God’s words whenever you have a few moments to spare? The opportunity is there every mornings, Wednesday nights, and Friday prayer service to deeply research God’s words. Why don’t you join this group and exploit the opportunity? This year, our goal is to become closer to God’s words. It is a year to read the Bible completely, from cover to cover. Do not forget! Amen.