2 Timothy 3:14-17 and the Church

“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 been acquainted with the sacred writings, 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.”

– 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ESV)

 

“It is the Bible and the Bible alone that furnishes us with the information we need for a correct understanding of the church. Tradition, history, the needs of men and women, and the ideas of men are simply irrelevant to the doctrine of the church. The Bible alone is the source of our information about the purpose and the organization of the church.”

John Robbins

 

2 Timothy 3 teaches us that “[T]he sacred writings … are able to make [one] wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” The words of God are able to make one wise. Note well that this wisdom brings salvation. The wisdom that saves is belief in truth about the saving work of Jesus Christ. For, the Church must proclaim that God has saved His people from His wrath. Divine wrath is due to man for his evil, but by an act of sheer mercy salvation is obtained by the work of Jesus Christ alone on behalf of God’s people. All those who, by the irresistible work of the Holy Spirit,  simply believe the promises of God in Jesus Christ will live forever with joy and holiness in the Kingdom of God.

Paul’s second letter to Timothy moves from one powerful eternal truth to another; “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” Remember that Titus 1:2 tells us that God cannot lie. If God cannot lie, and if all of Scripture is breathed out by God, then it necessarily follows that all of Scripture is true. As the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1, Section 4 states:

“The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.”

Not only is all Scripture breathed out by God, but it is all “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.” Men in the church need to look to scripture because it is breathed out by God, and it is sufficient to make the man of God complete for every good work. The category “every good work” does include running and governing the church, for he who seeks an office in the church does, after all, desire a good work (1 Timothy 3:1).

Since the Scriptures are true and sufficient for our purpose, let us look to them alone to understand way the church ought to be.

We will be looking at 1 Corinthians 14:26-37 next week.

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The Purpose of the Church

The late John Robbins wrote:

Contemporary popular theology and practice, including the doctrine and practice of the church, is a confused and unbiblical mess. To quote Augustine and Calvin, many sheep are without and many wolves are within the churches. The confusion can only be eliminated by studying the Scripture. It is the Bible and the Bible alone that furnishes us with the information we need for a correct understanding of the church. Tradition, history, the needs of men and women, and the ideas of men are simply irrelevant to the doctrine of the church. The Bible alone is the source of our information about the purpose and the organization of the church. A reading of what the New Testament has to say about the purpose and organization of the church quickly leads one to the conclusion that most of those societies that pass for churches today are not churches at all.

What is the purpose of the church? Is it to induce a feeling of awe and dependence in worshippers? A warm glow of fellowship? Is it to re-enact the Gospel or the sacrifice of Calvary? Is it to appeal to the whole person’? Is it to do good works? Is it to be a social action, anti-abortion, antiwar, and anti-poverty organizing center? If once we understand what the purpose of the church is, all the rest of the doctrine of the church falls neatly into place. But if we do not know what the purpose of the church is, then we cannot understand how the church is to be organized and operated.

The purpose of the church is really quite simple: education in the truth. All its activities are to be educational activities, and all its education is to be education in the truth. In his first letter to Timothy (3:15), Paul stated his purpose in writing: “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

Granted that truth is propositional and therefore must be communicated by language, granted that truth is the propositions of the Bible and their logical implications, and granted that the purpose of the church is the propagation of the truth, several things follow: Virtually all non-educational functions, whether they be charitable,* political, social, ceremonial, ritual, aesthetic, or economic are not proper functions of the church. The church’s principal and essential job is education in the truth, and the only source of truth is the Bible.

*To keep charitable activities from interfering with the purpose of the church, Paul wrote 1 Timothy 5:4-16. In verse 11 he commands that some widows be denied charity; in verse 17 he commands that competent teachers be paid well.

I have rarely read anything more refreshing or relevant, and this article was written in 1989. I pray that God would use clear teaching like this to sweep away the systems that rise in pretended grandeur against the Word of Truth. The Church of Jesus Christ is an educational institution. It is meant to teach the TRUTH. Where is one to find truth? The Scriptures alone are sufficient for teaching truth.

In the weeks to come we will continue to examine the doctrine, purpose, and practices of the Church.

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