Andy Davis delivered a message to the Carolinas Regional Chapter of TGC titled “How the Scriptures Equip,” as a part of the series “Equipped for Every Good.” Teaching from 2 Timothy 3:14–17, he argued that Scripture alone is sufficient to equip believers for our journey of salvation—from unbelief to faithful followers of Jesus. He then applied that truth to the responsibility pastors steward as they preach and lead their churches. Summarizing Spurgeon, Davis challenged his audience: “There should be real teaching in your sermon. The doctrine should be solid and substantial. There should be a system of truth building up in your hearers if they hear you over a length of time.” And Scripture—in concert with the ministry of the Holy Spirit—provides all you need to wisely lead each person under your care.
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Andy Davis: Turn your Bibles to 2 Timothy 3 Verses 14 through 17. John 14, one of the most familiar passages of scripture, Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you,” and then Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This speaks of an eternal and an infinite journey that we are to make from deaden transgressions to eternally glorious in the new heaven and new earth with God.
So I was thinking about some illustrations of that and our theme here is equipped for every good work and I’m going to argue equipped for that journey, the journey of salvation, not just for us but for the elect, from every tribe, language, people and nation, and I’m going to zero in on scripture as the sufficient equipment for that journey, for that word of God. But I was thinking about illustrations. Recently I was reading Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage speaking about the Lewis and Clark expedition and one of the chapters talked about preparing for the expedition. In that, Meriwether Lewis was meeting with President Thomas Jefferson. They were going to be going from St. Louis all the way to the Pacific Ocean to explore the new Louisiana Purchase that had just been bought from Napoleon. Ambrose writes, they were talking together, President Jefferson and Lewis are talking together about the expedition, how it would proceed up the Missouri River, what they would need to cross the Rocky Mountains and descend the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean and then return.
The team would have to do this as a self-contained unit and once the expedition left St. Louis, Lewis would be stuck with the decisions that he had made during the planning process. How many men would he need? With what skills? How big a boat? What design? What type of rifle, how much powder, how much lead, how many cooking pots, what tools? How much dry or salted rations could be carried? What medicines in what quantity? What scientific instruments would they need? What books? How many fishing hooks? How much salt? How much tobacco and whiskey? They took a lot of whiskey. I was thinking about all of that foresight and planning, to think about the great unknown and what they would be facing as they made that arduous, that perilous journey from St. Louis up eventually to the Pacific, and they had to think of all of that ahead of time.
I had a second illustration recently as I was watching the movie Apollo 13 with my son, he had never seen it before and we were enjoying watching that. Of course that’s the story about the near catastrophic explosion that happened on one of the manned missions to the moon in April of 1970. Halfway to the moon, an oxygen tank exploded and it crippled the command module where all three of the astronauts were and it resulted in massive problems for them, limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of drinkable water, a host of other problems. Life-threatening problems. One of the greatest dangers to the life of the crew was the life-threatening rise in carbon dioxide in the cabin from all three of them just breathing, exhaling. The CO2 removal system in the lunar module where they were hunkered down and trying to survive was not sufficient to handle three people for four days. It was only designed for two people for two days.
One of the greatest triumphs of the mission engineers was figuring out how to reconfigure the CO2 scrubber from the command module and make it fit into the lunar module system, effectively fitting a square peg in a round hole, using only the things that were on board. They’re not going to be pulling off at the nearest off-ramp and finding a service station. Everything that they had to work with had to be right there, it was self-contained.
This is what engineers do all the time. I had to put in a plug for engineers and say this is what they do, they think ahead of time, mission planners had to do that even to begin with. To figure out everything that could possibly happen on a trip from the earth to the moon and back. Everything that they would need, they had to put on that spaceship. It had to be part of the initial payload that the Saturn V rocket put into orbit and then eventually made its way to the moon. These mission planners did amazingly well. There were six manned trips to the moon and all of them came back safely. The mission planners had to figure out the full equipment for every aspect of a safe trip, half million mile trip to the moon and back, how much oxygen they would need, how much food and water, how much battery power, protection from the vacuum of space radiation of the sun, on and on and on. They had to think about not only what would happen if everything went right but what about if things went wrong. They did an amazing job.
Now these two illustrations really are pointing in the same direction. Thinking about what God had to do for our salvation, for our infinite journey, from dead in our transgressions and sins to glorious, eternally glorious, in resurrection bodies in a new heaven, new earth. Full salvation, justified through faith in Christ, little by little, growing in sanctification and conformity to Christ in holiness. Fruitful in many good works for the glory of God and then finally glorified in heaven, a resurrection body. God had to figure out what equipment we would need for that journey and he put everything that we would need for it in the scripture.
Just like Apollo 13 and also somewhat the Lewis and Clark expedition, God had to more than just think about what if something went wrong. The whole journey was about things going wrong. We are profoundly messed up and everything that we desire to do as Paul says in Romans 7, the very thing we hate we do and the things we want to do we do not do. So God had to think of all of this ahead of time and put in the 66 books of the Bible everything that we would need for our full salvation, and that’s remarkable. Everything that we need is in scripture, and that’s what I want to talk about today. As it testifies to the finished work of Jesus Christ and the cross and the empty tomb, his death, his resurrection, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have everything that we need for our salvation.
So we’re going to zero in on 2 Timothy 3 and we’ll be talking about many other passages as well but I’d like to read that for you now and then we’ll move on into the text. 2 Timothy 3:14-17, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed. Knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is breathed out by God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
So we’re going to look at that, walk through it, and I want to begin by speaking of scripture as perfect and sufficient equipment. The perfection of scripture comes from its divine origin. Scripture’s perfection is asserted plainly, Psalm 12 Verse 6 says, “The words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay purified seven times.” And our text tells us why. If you look at Verse 16, it says, “All scripture is breathed out by God,” in the ESV. Theopneustos, God breathed.
The King James gives a little more familiarly, “given by inspiration of God,” it’s a time-honored phrase and it will not lead us astray. But I prefer to think about what the ESV says, more exhaled, breathed out by God, inspired seems to focus more on the prophet, what’s coming into the prophet, and I think that’s important, it’s both ends of the equation. But we would think more that God exhaled the scripture into the minds and hearts of the human authors, and then guided them to write exactly what he wanted them to write. He used their vocabulary, their personalities, their experiences, their immediate circumstances, to speak a timeless and eternal word to every generation of believers in the New Covenant, and he guided them to say exactly what he wanted them to say, and guarded them from error.
2 Peter 1:20-21 speaks of this process, he said, “There above all you must understand that no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation for prophecy never had its origin in the will of man but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. So no writer of scripture ever got up that day and said, “I think I’m going to write eternal scripture today.” They just were writing in certain circumstances and the Holy Spirit came on them and lead them to write the words that he wanted them to write.
In 2 Peter 1, it says, “Men spoke,” so the Bible is 100% human, but then it says, “From God,” so the Bible is 100% divine, so it’s in some sense an incarnation similar to our Lord, and it says, “As they were carried along by the Holy Spirit, they were powerfully moved, like a sailboat under a prevailing wind moving from one direction of the compass to the next.” So God specifically planned what would be needed and the scriptures were composed over centuries, different authors at different times, and God little by little fed out what he wanted to say over redemptive history until the canon was complete. When the full equipment is there, is guaranteed by the perfect wisdom of God, nothing is lacking.
Now for me as I think about the doctrine of scripture and the perfection of scripture, I always want to go to our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, and I want to have for myself, I want to have the same attitude towards scripture that Jesus did. It’s a very powerful remedy to any attacks on the inspirational authority of the Bible. I minister in Durham and we are surrounded by really top-notch universities and I remember meeting with a student from Duke University who had taken a Bible class there and at other times I’ve met with students that have sat under Bart Ehrman at UNC-Chapel Hill and they have their faith somewhat ruffled to put it mildly, somewhat shredded by the things they’re learning in these Bible classes from these unbelieving professors.
So one particular individual, I sat down with him and I said … He was a Christian, the student. He said, “I’m just troubled. There’s some things that are brought up, I don’t know how to answer and I’m struggling.” I said, “I’ll tell you what. You and I are both Christians. Let’s just agree together that we’re just going to have a Christ view of scripture.” He said, “All right. Fine, what is that?” I said, “Well let’s look.” We just walked through the gospels and we little by little just saw the attitude that Jesus had toward the scripture, and I would say this is by far a true assertion. No one in history has ever had a higher view of scripture than Jesus Christ. I actually think it’s impossible for any of us to have a higher view of scripture. His life was prophesied by scripture, it was predicted centuries before he was born. He fought his battle with sin in the desert by doing nothing but “scripture” including Matthew 4:4 where he said, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
The high point for me as I was meeting with this student and seeking to just be therapeutic in his struggling with unbelief over the scripture came with Jesus’ statement in the Garden of Gethsemane when the soldiers were there to arrest him and Peter thought to deliver Jesus from the cross and he pulled out his little fisherman’s dagger, his [inaudible], and he was about ready to fight. And Jesus told him, “Put your sword away. For all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Then he said, “You think I could not call my father and he would at once put at my disposal more than 12 legions of angels.” How then would the scripture be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way.
So to translate and apply it to this young man that I was talking to, Jesus’ view of scripture is he would rather die than violate scripture. That’s why I say none of us will ever have a higher view of scripture than Jesus. Jesus said scripture cannot be broken, and so he would rather die. So in the mind of Christ, scripture is perfect food for the soul, it is perfect authority from God, and it commands every aspect of our lives from birth to death.
Now concerning the sufficiency of scripture, it’s vital for us to understand everything we need is in this equipment. We are fully equipped. Sufficient equipment for the journey that we’re making. 2 Peter 1:3-4 says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life in godliness, through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them, you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by human desires. That’s salvation.
So what Peter is saying there is God by giving us his word, his divine promises has given us everything we need for life is, to cross over from death to life as he has said in John 5:24, “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, he has crossed over from death to life.” So the scripture is sufficient to take dead sinners, sinners dead in their transgressions and sins and bring them over to life, eternal life. Scripture is sufficient for that. And godliness. Not just life but also godliness. So that’s growth in sanctification and holiness. Everything we need.
So 2 Timothy makes it plain then that scripture is sufficient to save our souls. If you go back to Verse 15 in 2 Timothy 3 it says, speaking to Timothy, how from childhood or infancy you have known the holy scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” So the holy scriptures, that’s what Paul calls them there, set apart writings. They are as pure as God is. God is light [inaudible], there’s no darkness at all. The scripture is the word of God. It doesn’t contain the word of God. Like a chocolate chip cookie contains chocolate chips. It is completely the word of God, which scripture says God says. So the holy scriptures, and Paul says, “They’re able to make you wise for salvation. They are powerful, they have a power to make you wise for salvation.”
What does that mean? Wise for salvation, that’s a fascinating phrase. Scripture drives away the foolishness of unbelief. The foolishness that the devil weaves into our lives. We’re born in foolishness in Adam, foolishness is wrapped up or bound up in the heart of a child, and then the devil crafts a system of temptations to make us more and more foolish in wickedness and sin. The ultimate foolishness is atheism, a sense that there is no God and we’re not accountable to God, and unbelievers are practical atheists. “The fool says in his heart there is no God,” Psalm 14, Verse 1.
So the remedy is the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom. Scripture is able to give you that wisdom, it’s able to make you fear God. I think in evangelism, we are surrounded by people who are dead in their transgressions and sins and they’re hovering over the pit of eternal condemnation, of the lake of fire and they don’t know it, they don’t believe it, and they’re not afraid of it. And we who are born again, it is our responsibility to fear on their behalf. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
So when they begin to come toward Christ, they begin with fear. Fearing God and what he will do in reference to their sin. And scripture has the power to make you wise. So it is foolish for us to act as if there’s no god, it’s foolish for us to live as though this world is all there is. It’s foolish for people to violate their conscience to satisfy their physical lust and heap up wrath day after day, that is foolishness. Scripture is the remedy. Scripture can make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All the wisdom that we need for the eternal good of our souls is found in the Bible, and the wisdom of the Bible, God and the Bible, is in direct competition with the wisdom of this world. Right now I’m preaching through 1 Corinthians and just got done with the whole section, the second half of 1 Corinthians Chapter 1, where you’ve got that competition between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God and each is calling the other foolish.
It says in 1 Cornithians 1:18-20, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God for it is written I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, the intelligence of the intelligent. I will frustrate, where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
The culmination, all of the wisdom of God is found in Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 130, it said, “It is because of him, God the Father, that you are in Chris Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God.” So Jesus is our wisdom. As it says in Colossians 2 in Verse 3, “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” So the scriptures are able to make us wise for salvation. For then it says, “Through faith in Christ Jesus. Scriptures are sufficient to equip our souls for faith in Christ Jesus. By the power of the Holy Spirit, they are able to give us a vision, a hard vision of Christ, the invisible Christ. Though we have not seen him, we love him. How is that by faith? Faith is the eyesight of the soul, and scripture has the power to give us sight where we had none before. We were blind, now we can see, and what we see above everything else is Christ the savior.”
So it says in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing the word,” and the word is heard through the message of Christ. So faith, the word of God gives us the ability to see Christ for who he is. Who he really is, born of the Virgin Mary, who lived a sinless life, who did all these incredible miracles, these signs and wonders, who taught these amazing teachings and no one ever spoke like this man. The scriptures are able to help us see Christ crucified. We can picture him in our mind’s eye as it says in Galatians 3:1, “You foolish Galatians who has bewitched you before your eyes, Jesus Christ was portrayed as crucified.” How is that? Through preaching, through the word of God, we can see Christ crucified and not only that, but we can see him ascended through the heavenly realms. We can see him by faith, seated at the right hand of God the Father, so the author to Hebrews uses that kind of language. In Hebrews Chapter 2, he says, “We see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels now crowned with glory.” How do we see that? By faith, and scripture is able to give us that faith. We can see with the eyes of our heart. Ephesians talked about the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, that we can see Christ.
We can see Christ resurrected, the empty tomb. It’s so fascinating to me in John 20 how there is that account of Peter and John, John doesn’t name himself the disciple whom Jesus loved, and they go to see the physical evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, and they go and look and they look at the linen cloths there and the head covering, head cloth folded up off to the side, stone moved away and there’s all this physical evidence of the resurrection.
It says in Luke that Peter went away wondering but it says of John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, he saw and believed. That means he saw with his eyes the physical evidence and then John adds as a vital addendum, they still did not understand from scripture that Christ had to rise from the dead. Why does he add that? Because we’re not going to get to see like that and believe. None of us do. I have not seen the linen cloths. I have not seen the head cloth folded up by itself. I have not seen any stone moved away from the entrance to the tomb. I read about those things in the Bible, and I am able to see them in the eyes of my heart and believe that Christ has risen from the dead.
So the scriptures are able, they’re sufficient equipment for my salvation to believe these things. The centerpiece of all of this is the cross in the empty tomb. That’s why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “I resolve to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ from him crucified.” So that’s what the scripture is sufficient to do, it’s sufficient equipment to save us, to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Not only that, but it’s sufficient to finish our salvation. None of us is done being saved yet. I’m not done being saved. I am done being justified, I am eternally justified, vindicated. I am seen to be righteous positionally through faith in Jesus Christ. But I’m not done with my salvation because salvation is bigger than justification. There is sanctification, glorification yet to come, and my journey from justification until the moment of death or the second coming of Christ is completely covered. I have sufficient equipment for all of that.
So on 1 Timothy 4, Paul tells Timothy to keep giving himself to the public reading of scripture, to preaching and teaching, and needs to continue to develop his gifts in this area so that everyone can see his progress for by so doing, he will save both himself and his hearers. Scripture is sufficient, the public ministry of the word is sufficient for that, to save himself and his hearers.
So our desire, for me as a pastor, my responsibility every week is to feed the faith of the flock God has entrusted in me. To give them a healthy diet of the word of God so they can continue to believe in Jesus. So keep trusting in Christ, their invisible savior. So it says in John 21, Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my sheep.” I think about that every time I get up to preach. It does not matter what people think about me, whether I did well or I looked good or any of … What matters is did I feed his sheep. Did I feed them the word of God. Is there faith renewed, strengthened by a strong diet of the word of God. Because just like Peter himself, Jesus said, “Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat. But I have prayed for you Simon that your faith will not fail.” The way he does is it by ministering the word of God through the Holy Spirit that our faith will not fail. So scripture is sufficient for that.
Scripture also can equip our souls for spiritual maturity in Christ for that full journey of sanctification. Look again at Verse 16. “All scripture is God breathed and profitable, for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” So I’ll just jump to the end of that series of statements, training in righteousness to me is just another word for sanctification. Christian growth. I’ll talk more about that in a moment but that’s what we’re talking about here is the development of Christians to being more and more righteous in how they think and how they live, and the scripture is sufficient for that. First of all, the text says, “Scripture is profitable or useful for sanctification.” That means that scripture produces the desired effect for which it was designed to do, what it was sent to do.” I love using tools. Like most men I love a good tool. The right tool for the right job, don’t you love that? I love my reciprocating saw. It is just so good at destroying things. So if I have something I want to destroy, I’m going to get my DeWalt reciprocating and I’m going to do it. Like I love doing our Christmas tree on January 1. I destroy the thing. It is so much fun, and in just a few moments, it’s absolutely shredded. It’s just a great tool.
I could go on and on but that would be beside my point. I’m just making an illustration. It’s an excellent tool and it does it exactly what I want to do. A worthless tool is frustrating to the craftsman. A broken drill, a reciprocating saw that doesn’t reciprocate or that the blade snaps off. These things are frustrating. But we are not going to find ourselves frustrated by the scripture. It’s not going to be a broken tool or an ineffective tool. It’s actually useful or profitable. It’s perfect equipment to complete our salvation. It does everything it needs for teaching, rebuking, correcting, training and righteousness. So God does not send forth his word in futility as Isaiah 55 tells us. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth, making it bud and flourish so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for food, so is my word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will achieve the purpose for which I sent it. It will accomplish what I desired.
So this is an effective, profitable tool for teaching, rebuking, correcting, training and righteousness. Now let’s look at each of those briefly. Scripture is profitable for teaching. It’s filled with doctrine. So in a healthy ministry, pulpit ministry, there should be a bunch of doctrine, there should be a flowing of teaching, that people should be learning things from you as a pastor teacher. A pastor must be a teacher of the word of God and the journey of salvation that I have mentioned is fueled by new insights and new doctrines and develop and expanding of old doctrines we’ve already known and a re-establishment of things we’ve already learned. That’s teaching, it’s a teaching ministry. The pastor must be a teacher of the word of God, and sermons must be filled with doctrine. Meaty, rich, powerful. Not frothy bubbles that are merely designed to entertain. So many of the more famous megachurch pastors that are on TV and all that, some of these prosperity gospel people or whatever, they’re just frothy entertainers. I recently watched a sermon, an Easter sermon by Joel Osteen, and he began with a joke about a man and his mother-in-law. I’m thinking, “What a missed opportunity. Here are all these people coming to church Easter Sunday, and we begin that way.”
It’s just a different goal as he gets up in the pulpit. For me, my desire is that I would be filled with the spirit and that I would teach the gospel and teach the word of God. So the people that God brings to your church are deeply needy of a good feeding from the word of God from sound doctrine. So recently I was reading Spurgeon’s lectures to my students and he was giving an illustration from the Roman days back when the emperor Nero, the Roman emperor Nero was resigning, tyrant, a wicked tyrant. There was a severe famine in Rome and the populace was desperate for shipments of grain from Egypt. Egypt was the breadbasket of the Roman Empire and people were starving and a fleet of Alexandrian ships finally was coming into port.
The people gathered there, ready to receive the food they so desperately needed in order to survive, but on those Alexandrian ships was a special kind of sand that was good for the gladiatorial games to soak up the blood of the gladiators. The tyrant Nero had ordered it from Alexandria. The people rioted. And Spurgeon said about that illustration, it’s a true story, but he said, “Alas, I have seen certain mighty galleys of late loaded with nothing but mere sand of philosophy and speculation, and I have said within myself, “No. I will bear nothing in my ship but the revealed truth of God, the bread of life, so greatly needed by the people.”” God, grant us this day that our ship, when it comes in, many have nothing on board that may merely gratify the curiosity or please the taste, but that there may be necessary food for the salvation of souls. Truths.
Now we don’t want to make our sermons so chock-full of all the doctrines we can possibly imagine. Spurgeon used another illustration of a wheat field. He said, “You don’t want to give them a wheat field. Give them a loaf of bread. Pick some of the heads, grind it, make the bread and serve it.” So that was a good illustration, keep that in mind. I’m always tempted to say so many more things than I really should. My goal is to get my sermons under 40 minutes. Someday I’ll do it. But to be clear and concise as Calvin said, lucid brevity. I’m trying for it. But don’t just give them a wheat field but do give them solid food that they can feed on.
“There should be real teaching in your sermon,” said Spurgeon. “The doctrine should be solid and substantial. There should be a system of truth building up in your hearers if they hear you over a length of time.” There’s a body of doctrine, a worldview erected, city of truth, brick by brick, building by building, street by street. You’re not starting from scratch every week, there’s just this sense of truth that’s rising, a worldview that comes up out of scripture that’s so beautiful. As Paul says to the Ephesian elders, “You know, I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful, but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have not shrunk back from the whole council of God.” So scripture is an education and theology, the word of God is sufficient to teach. It’s profitable for teaching.
Secondly it says it’s profitable for rebuking or reproof. Scripture is able to rebuke us. It’s able to come in and show us where we are sinful. Remember that I said a moment ago faith is the eyesight of the soul by which you can see invisible spiritual realities. What that means is you can see Christ in all his glory but you can see yourself too. Scripture, like the law of God is a mirror to show you yourself. I actually believe that salvation, sanctification is a journey by which the Holy Spirit just takes you on a tour of yourself and you get to see little by little just how much you needed Christ and the savior. It’s not how great you are, not at all. And so scripture is sufficient to rebuke you and me.
So we can see ourselves rebuking a reproof. That’s what conviction is. The Holy Spirit does this. He uses scripture to convict the world of guilt. John 16:8. So a powerful preaching minister, you will regularly bring your hearers under a sense of the aweful, holiness of God, and a sense like Isaiah had when he was in the presence of the Holy God saying, “Whoa is me, I am ruined, for I am a man of unclean lips.” He’s very specific about the areas of sin that he felt in his life and I live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the kings.” So the preaching enables their spiritual eyes to see King Jesus on his throne, but they’re also able to see themselves and scripture is profitable for reproof or rebuke. It’s able to do what Nathan did to David after speaking words and David was filled with rage about a particular man in a story, in a parable, I don’t think David knew it was a parable, said that man deserves to die for what he has done, and Nathan pointed a finger at him and said, “You are that man.”
Well scripture does that for us. It shows us sin in our lives. It’s sufficient, it’s profitable to rebuke us, and bring us to a point where we’re able to say, “What a wretched man I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Scripture the power, it is profitable to do that. So much of our sin is hidden from our eyes. We are so often self-deceived. That’s why Paul says often, “Be not deceived,” because we can be easily deceived about areas of sin in our lives, and scripture is profitable then to rebuke us and to bring judgment day very vividly into our minds. Hebrews 4 says, “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we will give an account.”
Scripture is thirdly it says profitable for correcting. I was talking to somebody about this text, I said, “What’s the difference between rebuking and correcting?” I think there’s a big difference. It’s like the difference between getting a diagnosis of cancer and getting a therapy or cure for cancer. So scripture is able to point out the sin in your life and then tell how you to put it to death. How to solve your marital problems, how to solve your difficulty in parenting, how to solve your struggle with internet pornography. How to actually get back on the path of righteousness. That’s what correction, a course correction is.
After Hurricane Florence went through our area, we didn’t get the full brunt of the hurricane, but on Monday morning, we got a major deluge. I was driving my son to the airport so he could fly to Boston and I think it was probably the most dangerous driving I’ve done in three or four years. I couldn’t see more than 30, 40 feet in front of the car. It was like driving in a car wash, I couldn’t see the road signs. I was continually drifting out of my lane. Continually drifting dangerously on the edge of the road, they have that rumble strip [inaudible] but it was very, very dangerous and so often spiritually we can be like that and we need to know how we get back.
Think about Pilgrim’s Progress where Christian and hopeful get off the path, they willfully jump over a fence and get into a bypath meadow, thinking, “Well it just runs alongside,” but they didn’t know that it little by little digressed and they got themselves further and further into danger and then a deluge came down in that story, they couldn’t find their way back, they didn’t know where they were, they lay down, they are exhausted, and they are awakened by giant despair and pretty soon they’re in doubting castle and they’re getting beaten up and tempted to suicide.
Never dreamed it would go that far. There’s this drifting that’s going on and we need to know quickly how can I get back. Scripture is profitable for correction. As it says so beautifully in Isaiah 30:21, it says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way. Walk in it.” Scripture is sufficient through the Holy Spirit to say, “This is the way, walk in it,” so we know how to get back when we’re messed up.
So we need to have specific prescriptions of what to do. I love what Jesus said to that church, the church at Ephesus, that had forsaken their first love, I had this against you. You have forsaken your first love, and then he gives them a very clear prescription of how to get back. Remember the height from which you have fallen. Repent and do the things you did at first. I mean isn’t that helpful if you’ve drifted, if you feel like you’ve drifted from your first love to know what to do about it? Think how it used to be between you and Jesus when you were first converted. Think about the sweetness of fellowship that you had back then, and repent. You have forsaken your first love. It’s not an accident, you’ve made choices. Then do the things you used to do when you loved me. That’s very clear and so again and again we see the need for this and this is in the science of practical applications in sermons. That’s a very important area of the sermon, where you think about who it is. For me as a preacher, who is listening to me. What different categories of people are there listening to me, and what could their situations be in reference to the text that I’m preaching?
Liam Perkins in his book on preaching called The Art of Prophesying, he exhorted pastors to be mindful of the various types of hearers in the congregation. The ignorant and unteachable who [inaudible] said need the equivalent of a bomb lit under their seats, the ignorant but teachable who only need clear and orderly instruction of Christian doctrine, just tell me what to do, I don’t know what to do. You tell them they’re ready, they’re ignorant but they’re teachable. The knowledgeable but unhumbled, who need to be moved to urgency about the seriousness of their sin. They know but they’re not taking it seriously. Then conversely the humbled but desperate, who wonder if they have sinned themselves out of the grace of God or they’ve gone too far and they need to be re-grounded in the comforts and promises of the gospel. Then there are believers who are doing well. They’re really flourishing in their Christian lives and they’d like to know more about what you’re preaching about but they just need to be encouraged and taught how to keep walking with God. Then there are believers who have fallen into certain errors. Errors of mind or of their lives. Then [inaudible] said there’s other subcategories such as the discouraged, the hurting, the depressed, the triumphant, the bored, the lazy, the novices. It never ends.
But just thinking about pockets of people, and we have to address them. We have to go in and look at the truths and what should we tell them? What applications? Well for example number one, be sure of such and such doctrines that flow from the text. Be certain of these doctrines. Or number two, reject such and such errors or attacks to that doctrine. So positively these are the doctrines you should be believing based on this text. Conversely these are the ways Satan tends to attack these doctrines. Thirdly do such and such good things connected to the text. What practices and habits should flow? Conversely, fourth, what to avoid, what errors and sin patterns you should avoid based on the text you’re preaching? Then fifthly, take for yourselves all you hearers the encouragements that the scripture is giving you in this text.
So feed yourself now. Be encouraged in your walk with Christ based on this text that I’m preaching. Then sixth, examine yourself based on this text. What areas are you strong? Weak? What do you need? Now what [inaudible] said, he’s like, “We’ve got seven categories of hearers and you’ve got six types of applications. You got 42 different applications you could do every sermon. There’s no way you have time for all that.” But still the need to feed God’s word into people so that people are course corrected, they’re corrected by the word of God. Then the final word is profitable in training and righteousness. The word training, paideia in Greek, it speaks to a holistic instruction of the life and it sums up sanctification. That more and more in mind and life, awe are conformed to Christ. The scripture is profitable to train us in righteousness. Righteous thinking, righteous living.
Hebrews 5 says the same thing, Verse 13 and 14. “Anyone who lives on milk being still an infant is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness, but solid food, meat, is for the mature, who by constant use, have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” So the scripture is sufficient for training and righteousness. Then it flows on, scripture equips saints for works of service. All scriptures God [inaudible] useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, training and righteousness, Verse 17, “So that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” You have everything you need for all the good works God wants you to do.”
As you have the scripture, you have everything you need to get yourself ready for the good works, and that when you are there, you will have all the equipment you need to do those good works. Works of evangelism or works of counsel or works of discipleship. Works of parenting. All kinds of different good works that God is preparing you to do in the body of Christ. It’s so powerful that God works both sides of the equation. Through scripture, he trains up the men and women of God, the person of God, anthropos, the person of God is made ready by scripture for the good works, thoroughly equipped for every good work, so they are taught, rebuked, corrected, trained in righteousness and they’re equipped and sent out with the word of God. Then so beautifully in Ephesians 2:10, he gets the good works ready for you. He’s working both sides of the equation. It says in Ephesians 2:10, we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance that we should walk in them.
That makes every day so amazing. Every day so marvelous. God goes ahead of us to prepare good works and meanwhile he’s been preparing us for those good works and he marries them together everyday. So we’re thoroughly equipped for every good work, and these works are essential to building up the body of Christ as Ephesians 4 makes it plain.
Now we need that proper training and that equipment. We have a couple of commercial air pilots in my church. I’m not trained to fly a 747. I mean that’s very obvious. I’ve never flown any plane at all. I often wonder about Orville and Wilbur. Where did they get their flight training? I mean that’s amazing. The courage to just teach yourself to fly. No flight simulators, no flight instructors. No manuals to read, nothing, it’s incredible, but that’s what these commercial pilots had to go through, one of them was in the military, another one just came up through the ranks to be a commercial pilot but there’s all kinds of training that goes on to be qualified, to be qualified to use the equipment to fly the plane.
The Bible is a multifaceted book and milk is so simple a child could understood, that’s what makes it milk. But there’s also meat, and it takes a while to deal properly with the scripture and to be able to handle it properly and use it well and wisely and so earlier in 2 Timothy it says in Chapter 2 Verse 15, it says, “Study to show yourself approved onto God a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” So he wants you to cut it straight. He wants you to deal properly. He’s not going to be ashamed of doing a butcher job on the scripture. But you’re going to deal rightly with the scripture and fit the scriptures together in a system of theology in which scripture doesn’t contradict scripture and it’s harmonized in a beautiful system of truth. So you’re rightly dividing the word of truth.
[inaudible] so beautiful, I have this illustration where you’re cutting the word of God and we do that as we think about a sermon, we cut it, we think where are we going to begin and where are we going to end, so we’ll cut it off there and then we’ll divide it up into subsections and bring things up to talk about. So I was actually making spaghetti sauce with real onions and I was cutting open this big juicy white onion and it was a very emotional experience for me. I just was weeping and it was just … I was moved. It occurred to me, as we cut open the scriptures, it cuts us open. The aroma flows from the scripture, an aroma of life onto life or death onto death or whatever is flowing from that, whatever God wants to do, it just moves us. If it’s dealt with skillfully, if the word of God is rightly divided, it’s also a sharp double-edged sword rightly dividing us too. Cutting us open like it says on the day of Pentecost they were cut to the heart. And so we need to get good training in the word of God. How we can rightly divide the word of truth.
Final point I want to make and I’ll be done. Scripture’s equipment is powerless apart from the Holy Spirit. None of this will happen apart from the spirit. The word of God has no power at all on any human heart ever except by the direct ministry of the Holy Spirit. God intended it that way. I’m not in any way impugning the scriptures. There’s nothing wrong with the scriptures. Something wrong with us, and God has made it that apart from the spirit, the scripture has no effect at all. It says very plainly in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The man without the spirit does not accept the things that come from the spirit. For they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” Only in the spirit is the veil of unbelief removed and only by the spirit do we see the beautiful truth.
So I think of the scripture without the spirit like Elijah’s sacrifice, that you get the altar there on Mount Carmel, and you’ve got the animal there and you’ve got everything and then it’s covered with water because the Lord told him to do that, but there it is and it’s waiting, and what is it waiting for? Fire from heaven. Fire from heaven, that’s the power of the Holy Spirit. And so you can be sharing the gospel with somebody but if the fire doesn’t come from heaven, they’re not going to be moved at all. If anything the word’s just going to harden them. But if the Holy Spirit comes and uses the word skillfully through your handling, you’re rightly interpreting, you’re rightly applying it, you’re using scripture you have memorized and stored up in your heart and you’ve been trained and you’re ready and you’re evangelizing, you’re counseling somebody who’s struggling with sin or you’re dealing with somebody who’s depressed or discouraged or just lost a loved one and you’re ministering the word of God, the Holy Spirit is there to work so powerfully.
So we have in the scripture sufficient equipment. We have sufficient equipment for life and sufficient equipment for godliness, for everything that God calls us to do, every good work to which he calls. Let’s close with me in prayer. Father we thank you for the time that we have to study and to be together as brothers and sisters in Christ and we ask that you would take these words and apply them deeply and richly and powerfully in our hearts. Help us to know what you’re calling on us to know and to hide your word in our hearts so that not only we won’t sin against you but so that we will be thoroughly equipped for all of the good works you have prepared for us. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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