Thursday, February 12, 2015

P1 Why the Bible? Perilous times need the Word of God

2 Timothy 3:1, 10-13 "Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, andsufferings, 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."

One of the most difficult and perilous things I have ever done is tackle the ropes course at fallscreek. Imagine being 20-30 feet off the ground and being tethered to a single rope. As you navigate the course, you have to walk on wires, jump on teetering platforms and if need be, hang upside down with all that air between you and reinforced concrete. I will say this, if it had not been for two operators of the course guiding me every step of the way, I would have gotten hurt and given up. 
Today begins a new series that will tackle questions that revolve about the issue as to why the Bible alone is to be considered the Word of God. Without a doubt I will aim to communicate as clearly as I know how what I preach, teach and attempt to live out by God's grace daily when it comes to the scriptures. Knowing what one believes about the scripture informs ultimately how one lives for the Lord. However, in the midst of unprecedented attacks on Christianity in this country in general and the trustworthiness of scripture in particular, this blogger felt it necessary to equip readers with the tools needed to answer the question: why the Bible, and no other book? 

In the KJV we read the beginning verse of this section in 2 Timothy 3:1 "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come." The New American Standard renders that same word as "difficult". Whether we use the term "difficult" or "perilous", the point is that such times needs the Word of God. The remainder of 2 Timothy 3:2-9 details the nature of the dangers that will be faced by Timothy and subsequent generations of Christians. 2 Timothy 3:10-17 is in Paul's second letter to a young pastor by the name of Timothy. This particular letter or epistle would had been Paul's final words prior to his martyrdom, which means that what we read is not only a matter of truth, and certainly without a doubt inspired by the Holy Spirit, but also a matter of conviction. Paul warned Timothy of coming days that would grow darker. At the end of this post we will deal specifically with how Paul prescribes the scriptures for perilous times. 

Why the Bible? Persistent need for the lamp of truth
I thought it would benefit the reader to see what God says in the Bible concerning its ability to shine light in the darkness. Psalm 19:8b notes: ".....The commandment of the Lord is pure,enlightening the eyes." Psalm 119:105 states: "Your word is a lamp to my feetAnd a light to my path." Proverbs 6:23 "For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light;And reproofs for discipline are the way of life." 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words." Then finally, Hebrews 4:12-13 "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." 

How is it that the scriptures are able to perform this function? They can only do so because of the fact they are the revealed Word of God. Proof of these assertions will be brought forth in later posts. It is important to remember that the scriptures claim themselves to be God's authoritative Word in places such as Proverbs 30:4-5; Psalm 112:6; 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:20-21. Jesus reminds us in John 10:35 that the scriptures cannot be broken and in Matthew 5:18 the the Word of God is preserved by ordinance of God. 1 Peter 1:25 states that the Word of the Lord will endure forever and Isaiah 55:6-10 explains the Word of God not returning void but achieving the purposes for which God reveals it. To say that the Bible is God's revealed word is only repeating what the Bible claims for itself.  

It can be stated without apology that to deny the inerrancy, infallibility and Divine authority of scripture is to depart from the view that the Prophets, Jesus and the Apostles held while the scriptures were being produced in their days.  

Why the Bible? Past times needed God's Word
We see examples of this time and time again throughout history - from the decadence of Greece and Rome to the rise and fall of cultures and kingdoms from those days until now. In general terms, we also see throughout Old and New Testament history cases where in the darkest hours of humanity, God gave His Word.  Think about the following few examples:

1. Adam and Eve were given Gen 3:15

2. Noah was revealed the ark Gen 6-9

3. Abram was told to leave and go to the promised land. Genesis 12

4. Moses was given the revelation of Genesis - Deuteronomy to lead 2 million unruly people

5. David was given a covenant of promise assuring that coming of an ultimate king. 2 Samuel 7:8-16

6. Israel throughout her history was given the prophets to speak God's Word
Amos 3:7

7. Jesus came as the living Word made flesh. The Gospels, John 1:14-18

8. The early church received the Holy Spirit and was formed and grown by prophetic preaching, despite persecution. Book of Acts

9. The Apostles were given revelation in the form of letters to guide the church through her trials and to better understand what Jesus achieved and how they were to live. The Epistles

10. The Apostle John penned his book of Revelation on an isolated island in exile.

Why the Bible? The present time was predicted by it
One of the first places we can turn to in discovering how long our day and age had been predicted by God is Proverbs 30:11-14 "There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother. 12 There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness. 13 There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up. 14 There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men." The KJV handles this particular text better than the NASB in that it refers to "a generation". Certainly this gives a picture of what happens when an entire society, and even generation of people are given over to their own base desires and sinful pleasures. 

However there is a particular sense in which the sinfulness of man will reach untold, unprecedented proportions in the days preceeding the coming of Christ. Jesus Himself predicted in Matthew 24:37-39 "For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking,marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did notunderstand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

The author of this Proverb, Agur, states that the above mentioned generation will have no regard for parents, pour out words of death, no longer value life itself and devour the poor. The fact that God is not even mentioned in this description suggests that the generation here will have totally forsaken God all together, a step by step process outlined most clearly in places such as Romans 1:18-31.

As further exploration of the Bible is made, more mention is found of the particular day and age in which we are living, lending further proof to the need for God's Word in dark times. This age is known as the "information age" and the prophet Daniel predicted it in Daniel 12:4 "But as for you, Daniel,conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”  It has been observed that roughly speaking, if we were to take all of the human knowledge we acquired from 3000 b.c to 1950 as representing our knowledge of the world around us, we discover that from 1950 - the 1970's we acquired the same amount of information. Through the 1970's to today we have seen the same amount of time decreasing as we double our knowledge of the world, to the point where today, we are doubling our knowledge every twelve months or less. 

As fascinating as these days are in which we are living, they also present conditions whereby the evil and sinful choices of human beings can be carried out at rapid speed. Without a doubt, dark times have existed on our globe, which led to God's Spirit injecting His church with the twin desires to be on it's knees in intercession and thrusting itself back into the scriptures. Texts such as these set the stage for what Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:10-17 to young Pastor Timothy, and ultimately us in the 21st century. 

Why the Bible? Perilous times need the Word of God
A brief scan of 2 Timothy 3:10-14 will yield details that complete the picture explored in the verses above. Why the Bible? Why the need for God's Word? What kind of darkness are we talking about that would prompt us to turn to the Word of God to get a Word from God?  Notice.....

1. Perilous times require increased ability to see God's faithfulness. 2 Tim 3:10-12
Paul reminds Timothy of how his own ministry began some 20 years prior with persecution in 2 Timothy 3:10-12 Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience,love, perseverance,11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me atAntioch, at Iconium and atLystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me!" 

How can we have the ability to see God's faithfulness to us in times of persecution? By the Word of God. Paul Timothy to God's faithfulness to him, and the faith he himself had in God as an example to follow. Despite the persecutions and sufferings that he experienced in Acts 14 at the hands of the Jews in Iconium and Lystra, wherein they had left Paul for dead, God miraculously raised him (Acts 14:20). Then get this: Paul went back into the city to preach some more! To then further demonstrate how much he saw God's goodness, Paul is recorded saying in Acts 14:22 "strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, andsaying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” 

What Paul expressed some twenty years prior in Acts 14 was communicated to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:11b-12 "what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me!12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesuswill be persecuted." Paul appealed to his experience, which in turn was nested inside the Divinely revealed record of Acts 14. God's Word enables the saint to see God's faithfulness in darktimes, which is why we need God's Word. Now notice the second reason why God's Word is needed in darktimes.....

2. Perilous times require the ability to hear God. 2 Timothy 3:13-14
Notice what Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:13-14 "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." The kingdom of darkness and the sinful designs of human beings are described here as literally "continuing to cut an advancing path." The word translated "imposters" in verse 13 speaks of someone who seduces, does sleight of hand, a juggler or a worker of the magic arts. The idea here is that for such people, the line between illusion and reality is blurred and eventually erased. The lies of men and the words of such imposters will be carried far and wide to every ear who is willing to listen. 

What then is the solution? How can a child of God, a pastor or a church ever hope to not only survive but thrive in such a hostile environment? Paul gives the answer in 2 Timothy 3:14-15a "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.....". In verse 15 Paul is alluding to the Old Testament, which Timothy would had learned from his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5) and in verse 14 he is alluding to the Apostles, like Peter and himself, as well as some of the New Testament books which would had been in circulation. When we say the Bible is God's Word, we are equating it with God's voice. In an age where we hear an overabundance of men's voices, we need to get back to the Bible. It alone communicates God's voice in its words and pages. 

Closing thoughts
Today we considered why perilous times need the Word of God:
1. Persistent need for the lamp of truth

2. Past times needed God's Word

3. Present time predicted by it

4. Perilous times need the Word of God to both see God's faithfulness and hear His voice. 

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