Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! 12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
A People of the Book
In this series on Education for Exultation, we have focused on God, Christ, the cross, and faith in Christ that comes by hearing. The natural next step is to focus on what we hear, namely, God's Word, the Bible. I wrote a paragraph to go with this message in the outline in your three-ring binder that shows how crucial this topic is:
We are a people of the Book. We know God through the Book. We meet Christ in the Book. We see the cross in the Book. Our faith and love are kindled by the glorious truths of the Book. We have tasted the divine majesty of the Word and are persuaded that the Book is God's inspired and infallible written revelation. Therefore, what the Book teaches matters. Doctrine is important for worship and life and mission. Education for Exultation is education saturated by the Bible.
I want to show you where that conviction comes from. In 2 Timothy 3:10-11 Paul reminds Timothy about his sufferings for Christ and how Christ has rescued him, over and over. Verse 11: You have followed my "persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me!" Then Paul turns, in verse 12, from his own personal experience to a general statement about persecution: "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." This is a sober preparation for Timothy: "Timothy, if you follow my example in pursuing radical godliness, you will suffer."
But then in verse 13 he warns Timothy not to think about running from godliness to escape persecution. He says, "But evil men and impostors [the opposite of godliness] will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." So you don't want to go that route, Timothy. It is better to be persecuted for godliness than to have a fun time duped by the devil.
Don't Advance - Don't Go Forward
Then in verse 14 Paul puts it positively again: "You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of" (even if it results in persecution). I want you to notice a contrast here between verses 13 and 14 that is more obvious in the original language than in English. But you can still see it if you look closely. In verse 13 the evil men, it says, "proceed from bad to worse." The word for "proceed" means "advance" or "go forward," and in this case it is from bad to worse. Then in verse 14 Paul says to Timothy, "You, however, continue in the things you have learned." The word "continue" is the opposite of "advance" or "go forward." It's the word for "remain," "abide," "stay." "You, Timothy, don't advance, don't go forward - remain, abide, stay, continue in the things you have learned."
There is a conservative impulse in Christianity - an impulse to conserve: to remain and to stay and to abide. Be careful here, though! There is also a liberal impulse in Christianity - an impulse to be free from human tradition and to be radical and take risks for God and make changes and to bow before God alone as our ultimate authority, not man. But here Paul stresses the conservative impulse. So we need to ask: Conserve what? Remain in what? Stay with what? Abide in what?
Verse 14 says, "Continue in the things you have learned." But what does that mean? Anything and everything you've learned? No. Verses 14b-15 tell us what Paul has in mind: ". . . knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings . . ." There it is: it's the "sacred writings" - the "Scriptures" - that he should continue in. Don't leave these. Don't "go forward" from these. Don't "advance" from these. Don't think that the "Word of God" is grammar school material while something else (say philosophy or science or technology) is college or graduate school. Don't leave the "sacred writings." Continue in them. Conserve them. Keep them.
That is God's word to us as we launch into Education for Exultation. Bethlehem, "Continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of. . . the sacred writings" -the Word of God, the Bible. Don't advance. Don't go forward. Don't proceed from this. Continue in this. Stay in this. Remain in this. This kind of conservatism will make you the most radical, counter-cultural, risk-taking, free people possible in Christ. If you leave the Word, you will, in the end, just conform to the world - to the spirit of this age. This may feel freeing for a moment. But it will make you the slave of every passing fashion - and they are passing faster and faster.
So God's word to us in this vision of Education for Exultation is: Continue in your absolute allegiance to the unchanging truth of God's Word, the Bible. Stay here. Abide here. Build children's ministries on it. Build youth ministries on it. Build adult ministries on it. Build church planting strategies on it. Build marriages and families on it. Lead elder meetings with it. And whatever else you do, John Piper, don't preach anything but the Word of God, the Bible.
Saturated by the Word - Why?
When I think about what I could say to lift your sense of commitment to the vision of Education for Exultation - the vision of growing without growing - one of the most fundamental things I want to say is: All our education and all our exultation will not only be built on, but saturated by the Word, the Bible. If I were in your shoes, that is what I would want to hear from my leaders: We are not "advancing," we are not "going forward," we are not "proceeding" to something more up-to-date or more modern. We are "continuing," "staying," "abiding" in the things we have been taught - the Word of God, the Bible.
It's very important for you to hear that and believe it. We want your trust. And without this, we should not get it: remaining in the sacred writings, the Word of God, the Bible.
Now why is this Paul's word to Timothy and to us?
Paul gives two kinds of reasons to Timothy to "continue in the things you have learned . . . the sacred writings." One kind has to do with the quality of the persons who taught him the Scriptures. And the other has to do with the good effect of the Scriptures. You might say, Paul reminds Timothy how the Scriptures came to him and what they would do for him.
1. The Quality of Your Teachers
First, Paul tells Timothy to remember the quality of persons who taught him the Scripture. Verse 14b: ". . . knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings." Remember, Timothy, who taught you to cherish the Scriptures and showed you what was in them. Why should he? Because that will be an ongoing confirmation of why he should love these writings and "continue in" them.
Who does Paul have in mind? Who taught Timothy the Scriptures? Verse 15 gives us a clue when it says, "From childhood you have known the sacred writings." Who made Timothy know these writings from childhood? Not his father. Acts 16:1 tells us that Timothy was "the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek." It was his mother that taught him the Scriptures. And not just his mother, but his grandmother too. In 2 Timothy 1:5 Paul says, "For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well."
These are two of the people Paul has in mind in 3:14 when he says, "Continue in these things . . . knowing from whom you have learned them." In other words, one of the reasons that Timothy should hold fast to the Scriptures is that his mother and grandmother were the kind of believers whose lives gave strong credibility to what they taught him.
Now this is another great part of our vision of Education for Exultation. The aim is to be the kind of church that builds those kinds of parents and grandparents, who build that kind of young person - the kind who has the moral fiber to stand firm for God's Word no matter what. I will not say more here, because in three weeks I am going to devote a whole message to this issue of parenting and teaching the next generation. But for now know this: Education for Exultation means that we want our children and our youth to remain with the Bible and continue with the Bible and abide with the Bible all their life. And what this text teaches us is that one crucial part of that steadfastness in the Word is the quality of faith and life that the parents have and that we as a church have corporately.
That's one kind of reason Timothy should continue in the things he has learned - the sacred writings, the Scriptures. The other reason has to do with the good effect of the Scriptures - what they can do for him that nothing else can do.
2. The Good Effect of the Word
What is that?
Verse 15b gives the answer, and verses 16-17 explain why this is so. Verse 15 says, Remember, Timothy, "that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." Don't leave the Scriptures behind, Timothy, don't advance, don't go forward away from these, because they "are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ."
There is no salvation from sin and guilt and condemnation and hell apart from faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; Romans 10:13-17; 1 John 5:12). And there is no other authority besides the Scriptures to show you who Christ is and to give you his Word. So don't leave the Bible, children. Don't leave the Bible, young people. Don't neglect the Bible, dads and moms. Don't ignore the Bible, single people. Under God, the "sacred writings," the Scriptures, are the greatest treasure in the world. They alone make us wise unto salvation through Christ. O don't neglect this Book!
Why do the Scriptures have this power? Verses 16 and 17 give the answer: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." The basic answer is that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Inspired means "God-breathed." God superintended the writings of these books. He bore along the writers, Peter says elsewhere (2 Peter 1:21), so that the words they wrote are his words, and the meaning he intended is carried by them.
Of all the wonderful things that we might say about this truth - that the Scriptures are God-breathed - I will say one, because it is so relevant to our series on Education for Exultation: The divine origin and power of the Bible means that it (see verse 17b) "equips people for every good work."
Why is this so relevant for the goal of exultation in God?
Because Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." The aim of good works is that people might come to exult in our Father in heaven. Therefore, if we are going to do education for this exultation, then our education must equip people for these good works. And how shall we do that? 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that Scripture is inspired by God and profitable . . . so that, by this Word, people might be "adequate, equipped for every good work."
If we want Education for Exultation, we must remain and stay and continue with the sacred writings, the Word of God, the Bible. May God grant us the grace until Jesus comes to remain unmoved from this anchor of truth.