2 TIMOTHY 3:16,17
Series: Reformation - Part One
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
October 1, 2017
Quick quiz: October 31st is the 500th anniversary of what?
1. The founding of the Plymouth Colony
2. Martin Luther’s (the monk) Birthday
3. John Calvin’s Birthday
4. Luther and his 95 Theses
October 31, 1517 - Martin Luther, who was an Augustinian monk - a professor of moral theology at the University of Wittenberg, Germany - Martin Luther walked the short distance through the town of Wittenberg to the Castle Church and nailed or hung his 95 Theses on the door of the church.
Luther’s 95 Theses are questions or propositions that Martin Luther wanted to have discussed - debated. They’re not written with antagonism or arrogance - but in humility asking to discuss and debate the issues raised. The first two theses contain Luther’s central idea that God intended believers to seek repentance and that faith alone - not our efforts - leads to salvation. The other 93 theses deal mostly with criticizing the practice of indulgences and support the first two theses.
What Luther did was to take the issues that were circulating at the time and to organize them - to codified them at a moment in history that was ready for religious reformation. Which is one huge reason why October 31, 1517 is generally considered the start of the Protestant Reformation.
Luther’s Theses went viral. Within a few years they were reprinted and translated and circulated through out Europe. Luther being skilled at the social media of the time - in the next 7 years Luther published more works than the next 17 prolific reformers combined.
The core idea of the Reformation - why the viral response - the core idea of the Reformation was a call to purify the church and a call for the church to return to her roots - to the foundations of our faith. Without which it’s doubtful any of us would be here this morning.
The title of today’s message is… “Sola Scriptura.”
There are a number of “solas” - five specifically - that are bullet point summaries of the main themes of the Reformation - what Luther codified. Sola Scriptura - Sola Gratia - Sola Fide - Solus Christus - and Soli Deo Gloria. “Sola” meaning “solo” - “only” - meaning this alone is foundational to our faith.
This month - as we’re celebrating 500 years of the Reformation - we’re going to be looking at these five “solas” as an opportunity to think through the foundations of what the church has historically believed - and what we believe - and to draw nourishment - strength - from those roots - what all that means for us today as we seek to be followers of Jesus.
The title of today’s message is... “Sola Scriptura” - which means… “Only Scripture” or “Scripture alone” - “only the Bible.” Which was the reformers way of saying that the Bible contains everything anyone needs to know for salvation and godly living - faith and practice.
Not church traditions like praying to saints - saints in heaven interceding for us or that Mary was born without the stain of original sin - or indulgences - making required payments to the church - or the infallible authority of the pope. Traditions and teachings that the Roman Church had come to rely on as having greater authority than the Bible.
“Sola Scriptura.” We believe that the Bible contains everything anyone needs for salvation and godly living - faith and practice.
This morning we are at 2 Timothy 3:16,17.
Would you read with me: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that that man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
Let’s do some unpacking.
First Paul writes: “All Scripture”
There was a pastor who told the old joke about Bible ignorance where someone asks, “What are the epistles?” And the answer received is, “They were the wives of the apostles.”
This pastor said, however, that after the sermon someone came up and asked, “Pastor, I didn’t get the joke. If they weren’t the wives of the apostles, whose wives were they?”
What Scripture is Paul writing about?
Paul is writing to Timothy. Timothy would have had the Hebrew Bible - our Old Testament. He’d read 1 Timothy. Now he’s reading through 2 Timothy.
But the New Testament is still being written. Probably the Gospels of Matthew and Mark were circulating through the Church - maybe Luke. James has been written. Maybe 1 Peter. Paul’s other epistles were probably circulating through the Church.
Timothy was there when most of these letters were being written. Which is a mind blower. Watching someone write Scripture.
But the Canon of Scripture - the gathering of what we have in our Bibles - arranged Genesis to Revelation - that Canon wasn’t gathered and arranged until the fourth century.
So what is Paul writing about?
Let’s be clear. Paul’s point isn’t about availability but authority. Because the Bible is God’s word it has God’s authority. Availability doesn’t change the fact of authority.
Paul writes that “All Scripture is breathed out by God”
God took 40 plus authors from every walk of life - kings and peasants - philosophers and fishermen - shepherds and scholars - a tax collector collaborator with an occupying power - even a persecutor of the Church - writing for over 1500 years - 40 generations - on 3 continents - written from prison cells and dungeons and palaces - written in times of war and in peace - written in three languages - Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek - covering hundreds of controversial topics, including a variety of literary types, recording history and geography - and yet what God has inspired is not a collection or religious ideals put together by some editor but a unified whole authored by the one true God.
Which is what we’ve been seeing since January. The Bible bookends with perfection and God. And between Genesis and Revelation is the depravity of our sin and the chaos of our fallen humanity. And yet between the bookends of Genesis and Revelation is God at work at redemption. The Bible is one unified whole. Breathed out for us by the God who deeply loves us - even to the work of Christ on the Cross.
Scripture is from God. Meaning AUTHORITY.
In the fourth century representatives of the Church worldwide came together and they took the 39 books of the Old Testament and brought to them the 27 books of the New Testament - arranging those in the Canonical order we have in our Bibles.
Let’s be clear. The Protestant understanding of what those Church representative did is that they recognized what God had done - God breathing out Scripture - meaning that the Bible - as God’s word - has authority over us.
The Roman Church understanding of that - one of the cores issues of Luther’s 95 Theses - the Roman Church understanding is that those representatives came together and established the Canon of the Bible so that the Church has authority over the Bible. Which is how the Roman Church can treat Church tradition and the authority of the Pope as equal with Scripture as a source of faith and practice.
Big difference between the two understandings. Yes?
(photo) The PCV - The Pick & Choose Version is very popular these days.
Authority meaning everything we need to know for salvation and godly living - the final authority for our faith and practice - that doesn’t mean we get to establish the rules - picking and choosing what we want to believe or obey. Scripture’s authority is unchanging and timeless because God - who breathed it - is unchanging and timeless. Authority means that we’re called to embrace that authority and place ourselves under it.
In Timothy’s day the Canon was being breathed out. Today it’s complete. We have it in English. In multiple versions.
In 1456 Gutenberg printed the first book in the Christian world - the Bible. Which was in Latin. But the printing press made the Bible potentially available to the masses. In 1500’s with the Reformation the Bible was translated into the languages that people actually spoke. October 4, 1535 - Myles Coverdale printed the first complete Bible in English that was translated from the original languages.
Point being: God - who deeply loves each one of us - has prepared and preserved His word for us. That’s a priceless privilege that we’ve been given by God.
We saw the reality of that back in April - unrolled here at the front of the sanctuary. The 18th century Hebrew Torah Scroll that had survived the Nazi Holocaust.
The Bible - being written on material that perishes had to be copied and recopied hundreds of years even before the printing press. The Jews preserved the Hebrew Bible like no other manuscript has been preserved.
The New Testament has a library of early manuscripts and texts that is astoundingly greater than any other ancient document. We’re going to hear some what that means when we see The Case For Christ on October 15th.
Point being that regardless of the criticism or the attacks against it or the possibilities of it getting lost or distorted down through history - God has prepared and preserved His word for us.
You ever try to install an app or something and up pops one of those agreements? You know what I’m talking about. Fine print that we could scroll down forever and never get to bottom of. Right? Do they actually expect someone to read that? And what if we don’t agree with Section 53, article 34, paragraph 73 - the 16th word in? Or we have a question?
Ever just click on “agree” and move on?
So many people treat the Bible like that. Just click on “agree” and move on with our lives. We want what the app provides but don’t bog me down with the details. We want the blessings - the life of a Christian - but we don’t want to take time with the details.
So many claiming to be followers of Jesus are stumbling around in life. So many are getting picked off by Satan and his cults. So many are weak and sick and living lives way less than what God has for us. So much of the church in America is in spiritual jeopardy because they’ve neglected the privilege - trying to get by without reading and studying the depth of God’s truth for themselves.
Meaning we need God’s word if we are to live life as God intends for life to be lived. The only way to know God’s word is to read and study God’s word and live according to God’s word.
The Bible must have authority over our lives - not just when it seems reasonable or convenient - or it fits our framework of understanding and experience. The Bible must have authority over our lives in all things. God’s word should be so deeply imbedded within us that our natural reaction will be to live in obedience to it - to live as it teaches us to live as an integral part of our nature.
Those of you that have taken up the challenge of reading through the Bible this year - in Canonical order - keep going. Today you get to read Exodus 13-15. That is God’s - breathed out by the God who loves you - prepared and preserved for you - all sufficient truth for what we are to believe and how we are to live. What a privilege to read and study His word.
Let’s go on. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable
All Scripture is “profitable” - meaning Scripture is ESSENTIAL.- irreplaceable - unique - "sola". Meaning helpful - useful - beyond dollars and cents valuable. Pricelessly profitable for transforming how we think about God and doing life. Real answers in real time to things we have no clue about.
First Scripture is profitable for “Teaching” - instructing our minds about the things of God. How to know God and be made right before Him - the forgiveness of our sins. How to live life. The deep issues of the soul. What comes after death. The things we cannot understand on our own - God’s word teaches us.
Second: “Reproof”. It shows us the truth about our lives. Where we’re falling short. Where we need to change. God is brutally and necessarily honest with us. In a God loves you sort of way.
Third: “Correction” - Not only does Scripture show us where we’re falling short - reproof - but it shows us how to live - how to make the right course corrections in our lives. Rather than living this way - which is self-destructive - live this way - which opens us up to the power of God working in our lives - the joy of living life with God.
Fourth: Scripture is profitable for “training in righteousness”. The word “training” has the idea of instructing children. Lovingly coming alongside a child and helping him or her to “get” life - to understand and develop healthy patterns of living life. The Bible coaches us - fine tunes us - trains us in what it means to live righteously - rightly - before God.
The world we live in is constantly working to transform and conform our thinking about God and life to how the world thinks about God and life - or not. Humanity’s - under the influence of Satan - fallen philosophy and knowledge and religion and self-focused arrogance. All of which is self-destructive. Exhibit A - just look at the world we live in.
The Bible points us to God. Opens up the mind of God to us. Opens up the heart of God to us. Read Scripture and God will use His word to transform us - at the core of who we are outward - to live feeling in sync with God’s heart - seeing and hearing the world around from God’s perspective - living by God’s understanding and wisdom in the stuff of our lives.
Going on - Scripture is profitable that man of God - meaning WHAT SCRIPTURE IS ESSENTIAL FOR - that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
“Competent” meaning completely able to do what needs to be done. Qualified. Proficient.
“Equipped” meaning having the tools necessary to do what needs to be done.
“Every good work” meaning doing whatever God calls us to do - whenever and wherever that might be. Living totally dependent on God - faithful and obedient to the max so that God alone gets the glory.
Every good work meaning: Forgive others like God forgave you. Love others like God loves you. Love your enemies. Take up your cross daily. Lose your life for Christ’s sake. Die to yourself. Crucify your flesh. Leave everything and follow Me. Humble yourself like Jesus humbled Himself. Husbands lead sacrificially like Jesus. Wives allow your husbands to lead.
The Mark Twain quote: “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”
Generally most of us don’t feel competent and equipped for every good work. Especially if we’re struggling with guilt over past failures and current shortcomings and sin.
I have no idea who said this. But, it is a great statement about trusting God: “Has the enemy come and swept away the trophies of remembrance of God’s good hand on you? Focus on what has been achieved, not on what has not.”
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3: “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…” (2 Corinthians 3:4,5)
God has brought us this far. Think about that for a moment - about your life. Of what that reality includes. Where you’ve come from. Where you are today. What hope you have for tomorrow. Think about the God who brought you here.
God isn’t hung up on our past. He isn’t caught off guard by our inadequacy. He’s not bothered by our feelings of failure. God knows where we’re at. That same God desires to lead us forward - teaching and reproofing and correcting and training us - healing and stretching and enabling us - making us to be competent and equipped for all that He has for us in life.
That promise is for Timothy and for each one of us. As we immerse ourselves in God’s word - place ourselves under the authority of God’s word - God will use His word to transform our lives. He will make us to be sufficient for every good work.
Do you remember “The Mutiny on the Bounty”? Read the book? Saw the movie? Both?
Can you hear Marlin Brando? “Mr. Christian! Someone has taken one of my coconuts!”
True history. Great encouragement for us.
In the 19th century - mutineers took over the ship HMS Bounty - set their captain - Captain Bligh - adrift in a lifeboat - and ended up finally on Pitcairn Island - in the South Pacific. What happened to these mutineers after they landed on Pitcairn Island is an interesting account in and of itself.
For the most part, these mutineers were rough - tough - godless sailors. Together with the wives they brought with them from Tahiti, they spent their days on Pitcairn drinking - gambling - swapping wives - fighting with each other. All that led to murders and suicides. Something like reality TV - minus the Kardashians.
In 1808 when the island was rediscovered by the American ship Topaz - living on the island were the descendants of the mutineers and only one lone surviving mutineer - John Adams. John Adams - when he left England aboard the Bounty - had been known as “Reckless Jack.” He was a thief - a criminal - who had learned to survive on the streets of London. Adams was one of the most active mutineers - part of the group that seized Captain Bligh.
But on Pitcairn Island - rummaging through his trunk one day - he found a Bible that his mother had put there. He began to read it. And soon - through the Holy Spirit’s work - God’s word changed his life.
When that island as rediscovered in 1808 John Adams was known to be kindly, wise, deeply religious - the moral leader of the islanders. On Pitcairn - because John Adams began to teach God’s word to others - there was no jail because they had no crime. They loved God and they loved each other. God’s word had totally changed their lives and their society.
That’s one example - that could be echoed or amened by many of us in this room. What God has used His word in our lives to do.
All God breathed out Scripture is profitable so that - purpose - so that Godly men and women - may be prepared and trained - competent - equipped with everything we need - to live righteously doing all that God has called us to in life.
Processing all that...
If you will bear with me a little bit of history.
The first hand-written Bible manuscripts in English were produced in the 1380’s by John Wycliffe - who was a professor at Oxford. Wycliffe was known throughout Europe because of his opposition to the teachings of the Roman Church which he believed were contrary to the Bible.
The pope was so ticked at Wycliffe because of his teachings and translation - that 44 years after Wycliffe had died - the pope ordered his bones to be dug up, crushed, and scattered in the river.
One of Wycliffe’s followers - John Huss - from Bohemia - taught that people should be permitted to read the Bible in their own language and that they should oppose the Roman Church that threatened to execute anyone possessing a non-Latin Bible. Huss was burned at the stake in 1415 with Wycliffe’s manuscript Bibles used as kindling for the fire.
The last words of John Huss were, “in 100 years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform cannot be suppressed.”
Just about 100 years later - 1517 - Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle church.
In that same year - 1517 - the Roman Church burned 7 people at the stake because they were teaching their children to say the Lord’s Prayer in English not Latin.
In January, 1521, Pope Leo X excommunicated Luther in January 1521. In April 1521 Luther was called before the imperial legislature at Worms, Germany and ordered to recant - take back - what he had said and written.
In May 1521 the Emperor Charles V declared Luther to be an outlaw that anyone could kill without punishment. Luther survived until his death in 1546 under the protection of the Prince of Saxony.
In 1525 William Tyndale showed up on Luther’s door step. By the end of that year Tyndale was the first person to translate and print the New Testament in English. In 1536, Tyndale was thrown in prison for 500 days before he was strangled and burned at the stake.
We could keep on going down the pages of history to times and peoples that touch our lives.
In 1990, Robert Seiple, at that time the president of World Vision, writing in World Vision Magazine, wrote this personal account. “In 1915, a Russian Armenian was reading his Bible when he was beheaded. I saw the Bible - large, thick and well used. Inside was a reddish stain that permeated most of the book. The stain was the blood of this man, one of more that a million casualties of a religious and ethnic holocaust.” (1)
Today - there are places where our brothers and sisters in Jesus are dying to have a Bible and some are dying because they have Bibles.
Let’s read this together: “We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.”
God’s word - because it is God’s word - must have the authority over our lives - how we come to salvation - how we interpret life - how we justify every effort of what we are striving for in life. “Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises
How seriously do we take that? Do we really believe what we say we believe?
Honestly answering the question isn’t a comparison with Christian America that takes the Bible for granted or as something lesser than the authoritative word of God or that considers the Bible as on the same level as social media or what people think or write about the Bible based on their assumptions and background. Christian America where we have a Bible translation and edition to cater to just about everybody’s whim and bent - and yet where the significant majority of Christians have never read the Bible and are Biblically ignorant.
The honest comparison is with those who have died because they chose to live under the authority of God’s word and to die being used by Him to prepare and preserve His Word for us. The honest comparison is with those who inspire and encourage us - who have lived and are living lives transformed and under the authority of God's word wherever and in whatever circumstances God calls them to live for His glory. That's the real time example of living by what we say we believe.
These days, what does that look like for you?
Not that any of us is competent or adequate for that. But the opportunity is there if we will choose to live totally dependent on God and surrendered to the authority of His word. And we fail at that - and all of us do - if we will keep turning to Him - lovingly and graciously He will make us competent - equipping us - for every good work.
God knows how He desires to use us - you. Maybe today is the beginning of a reformation in America - an awakening in America. Or maybe even in your family or where you do life.
1. Robert A. Seiple, World Vision, June-July, 1990
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.