The Purposeful Word
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The Purposeful Word

2 Timothy 3:16–17  (ID: 3055)

Paul commanded Timothy, to hold to the Bible alone in his ministry, relying on its power to do God’s work. In this message, Alistair Begg expresses the same concern and provides examples of what can happen when church leaders lack this commitment to the truth of Scripture. When we truly believe the Bible, its teaching impacts both our beliefs and our behavior.

Series Containing This Sermon

The Work of the Word

Four Essential Attributes of Scripture 2 Timothy 3:16–17 Series ID: 27301

A Study in 2 Timothy, Volume 3

God’s Word for Godless Times 2 Timothy 3:1–4:5 Series ID: 15504

Sermon Transcript: Print

Well, you will not be surprised when I ask you to turn again to 2 Timothy and to chapter 3. And we’ve been camping here in these verses at the end of chapter 3, and purposefully so. We’ll just read them again from verse 14. Paul says to Timothy:

“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, … for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Now, from the very beginning of this letter, Paul has been encouraging and exhorting Timothy to be a faithful and useful minister of the gospel. Throughout the entire letter—and I’ll point this out to you again—he has been both confronting him with his responsibilities and constantly reminding him of his resources. And here, as we come to the end of chapter 3, he’s pointing out expressly that in the Scriptures there is everything that is required of Timothy as a pastor so that he himself might be “complete,” so that he might be “equipped” for doing the work to which God has called him.

But Paul doesn’t mince his words throughout this letter. He makes it very clear to Timothy and to all, then, who follow in his line that to be such a minister of the gospel is a man-sized task. And if safety were to be found in numbers, then there’s not much safety that is offered to Timothy here, because as Paul tells him in 1:15, all of the folks in Asia had turned away from him. And even if there is hyperbole in this, it is an indication of a kind of wholesale declension on the part of leadership in the context of Ephesus. And so the thought is that Timothy is increasingly something of a lone voice, as many who perhaps once were prepared to begin in this way and to hold the line in this way have for whatever reason begun to fall by the wayside.

In chapter 2, he says that some, like Hymenaeus and Philetus, they’ve actually “swerved from the truth.”[1] They’ve been going down the road in a straight line, and all of a sudden, they just made a big left-hand or a right-hand turn. In chapter 3, he identifies those who are men of corrupt mind, who are disqualified as far as the faith is concerned, and the bad part about it, or the worst part about it, is that these individuals are leading other people astray.[2]

He’s going to reach, if you like, the high point of his letter in the beginning of chapter 4, and as Timothy anticipates ministering in an environment where people are going to, says Paul, “turn away from … the truth and wander … into myths,”[3] Timothy must be absolutely clear in his heart and mind that if he is going to navigate these stormy waters and ensure that he doesn’t run aground, as it were, on the sandbars of confusion or wreck the vessel of his life and ministry on the rocks of compromise, then he is going have to pay very careful attention to the words that Paul has provided for him, the commitments that he is asking Timothy to make.

Can I just remind you of them? And I hope many of you will say, “Got it. Got it. Got it.” Some of you may have to look again to reinforce it for you. But from the very beginning he says to Timothy, “I want you to make sure that you fan into flame the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of hands.”[4] In other words, “You have been called to this ministry. You didn’t volunteer for it. It wasn’t a bright idea that you had some Tuesday afternoon, and you said, ‘Oh, I think I’d like to be one of those.’ No, you were given a gift, and you were set apart, and that gift is a privilege, but it is also a responsibility. And your giftedness needs to be exercised, needs to be worked on, needs to be quickened and enabled.” That’s the first thing he says.

Then he immediately says in 1:8, “And I don’t want you to be ashamed.”[5] You say to yourself, “Well, would he ever be ashamed?” Clearly he would be ashamed—ashamed of the gospel message. Have you been sharing the gospel message just out in the common thoroughfares? How does it play out for you? Aren’t you tempted to be ashamed? Aren’t you tempted to say something like, “Well, you know, God loves everyone, and have a nice day,” and slip out the back as fast as you can? But if you’re going to hold to this message of a Galilean carpenter who is the only one who has the words of eternal life, there might be the temptation just to feel a little queasy.

Well, he says, “I don’t want you to be ashamed of the gospel, I don’t want you to be ashamed of Jesus, and I don’t want you to be ashamed of me.” That’s why he then goes on—and we’re still not out of chapter 1—to say, “[Keep] the pattern of … sound words.”[6] “You’re not responsible for making it up, Timothy. You don’t have to become a smart aleck. You don’t have to become peculiarly creative. Just stick with the program. Play the notes on the score. You’re not there to impress people with your ability on whether you play the piccolo or whatever else it is. You have no freedom to all of a sudden just jump up and start a piccolo solo in the middle of it all”—that “you have a conductor, and you have a score, and stick with the score. It’s the pattern of sound words.” And then he changes the metaphor, and he says, “[And] guard the good deposit.”[7] “Guard the good deposit.”

I was thinking this week that I misplaced a watch. I still don’t know where it is as I’m talking to you now. I couldn’t do anything about it when I thought about it, but I said, “Goodness, I should have taken better care of where I put that, ’cause I don’t know where it is.” And I know when my wife hears me say this, she’ll say, “Well, I told you. I told you. I told you.” But I know: I should guard the good deposit. I should look after stuff. I understand that. That’s what he’s saying: “Look after it.”

And he says, “And look after yourself.” “Look after yourself. Because not only is it possible, Timothy, that you could go and shipwreck doctrinally in terms of your grasp of biblical truth, but you could also go south morally.” That’s why he says to him in chapter 2, “You’d better steer clear from youthful passions, for the things that you might be attracted to, the people that might seduce you, the temptations that might allure you: take care of that too,” he says.[8] “And while you’re at it, make sure that you work hard at these things. Present yourself to God as a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed.[9] No shilly-shallying around. No skirting around the issues. Make sure you put in a good day’s work. Make sure you’re working at least as hard as the men in your congregation are working, at least keeping up with the pace with them. This is no soft option,” he says. “And in the midst of all of that, it is imperative that you take the truth that I’m entrusting to you, and you make sure that it gets safely into the hands of faithful men, who in turn will then get it into the hands of others who will be in the process of teaching.”[10]

Well, it’s a long list. And that’s not even all of it. Timothy might be discouraged were it not for the fact that he never gives to him his responsibilities without reminding him of his resources. And that’s why he begins chapter 2, “strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”[11] “In one sense, this is up to you, Timothy. You’re supposed to do the work. You’re supposed to guard against temptation. You’re supposed to make sure that the baton is being passed safely into the hands of others. But remember when you do this that you are strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

Now, what he wants him to do, as we’ll see in chapter 4, when we finally reach it (in another year and a half, the pace we’re going now), is he wants him to “preach the word.” That’s the big charge that he’s leading up to. I think it’s the sort of crescendo, if you like, in the symphony of truth. He’s about to say to him in 4:2, “Preach the word; be ready in season … out of season.” Then he goes on and tells him the characteristics of his preaching.

Now, if he’s going to do this, Paul recognizes that it is of fundamental importance that Timothy is clear about the origin of the Scripture that he teaches and the power of the Scripture that he teaches and the result that flows from teaching that Scripture. In other words, that’s what he’s talking about in verses 16 and 17, where we have been camped, as I say, for some considerable time. He needs to understand that “all [of] Scripture is breathed out by God.” In verse 15, we noted that his emphasis is on “the sacred writings.” We take that to be the Old Testament, primarily. And then in verse 16, it is expanded to include some of the material that is already being regarded as the New Testament writings.

Timothy might be discouraged were it not for the fact that Paul never gives to him his responsibilities without reminding him of his resources.

Now, some of you have wondered about that. You’ve heard me say that, and you say, “Well, I don’t know how you get there.” Well, we’re not going to pause—except let me give you two verses to help you. If you go back two pages into 1 Timothy chapter 5… This to explain why I’m saying what I’m saying about verse 16. In 1 Timothy 5, Paul gives instruction to “the elders who rule well”; they’re responsible for the congregation. They should “be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.”[12] And then he says, “And let me tell you why.” “For the Scripture says…”[13] So he’s quoting Scripture. Now, what do you have there? You have two quotes. One is a quote from Deuteronomy chapter 25: “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.”[14] And the second one is a quote from Luke chapter 10 in the words of Jesus himself.[15] So what Paul is actually pointing out is that the sayings of Jesus are now regarded as Scripture in the same way as the sayings of the Old Testament are regarded as Scripture.

The other reference would be in 2 Peter, where in 2 Peter, Peter is encouraging his readers in relationship to diligence in the Christian life. And in verse 15 he says, “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him.”[16] Remember what we said: that the Scriptures… As “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”[17] “… the wisdom given him”—verse 16—“as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand” —which is encouraging to know that Peter felt that way—“which the ignorant and unstable”—which we don’t want to be—“twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”[18] So what is he saying? Well, he’s confirming the fact that the writings of Paul are already at this point in the developing church regarded by him and by others as Scripture.

So, when we reinforce this by reminding ourselves that Scripture, according to Paul here, is not the product of human invention, but it is ours by way of divine inspiration—that it was not in existence and then had power breathed into it, but it was brought into existence by the breath or the Spirit of God. Breath and the Spirit of God: Spirit equals breath. It’s a synonym.

Now, you can be forgiven at this point for saying to yourself, “I think Alistair is belaboring this point.” Right? ’Cause some of you are going, “This is at least the third Sunday where we’re hearing the exact same thing.” Okay? Guilty as charged. I’m happy to accept the responsibility, because I’m doing it absolutely purposefully. And I want to illustrate this in a number of ways, and I indulge your patience in doing so.

Turn with me to the book of Genesis and to the beginning of the Bible and to the garden of Eden. The opening chapters of the Bible are no more a scientific textbook than any of the rest of the Bible is. But they are a historic record of these events that unfolded in the real time of the real lives of the real individuals—namely, Adam and Eve.

In 2:16, after “the Lord God [had taken] the man and put him in the garden … to work it and [to] keep it,”[19] 2:16 says, “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” Okay, that’s pretty clear: “There’s a wonderful place here. You can enjoy all of it except for this.”

Chapter 3 and verse 1: “Now the serpent”—the devil comes as a serpent—“was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman…” Well, that’s interesting in itself, but we won’t stop there. The command was given to “the man” (verse 15 and 16 of chapter 2), and the devil comes and says “to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden”?’” It’s calling in question God’s word, right?

And the woman sorts him out, as we would expect. “And the woman said to the serpent, ‘[No,] we may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”’” And here we go: “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You [won’t] die.’” “You [won’t] die.” The serpent still says to people, “You’re not going to die.” Hinduism is built on the whole notion that you’re not going to die. Reincarnation screams, “You’re not going to die.” But every person that lives in the world knows they are going to die. But it doesn’t stop him from being “a liar and the father of [all who tell] lies.”[20]

Now, the reason I start there is because that is where we must start in the ongoing battle that runs through the entire Scriptures and through the entirety of humanity throughout all of church history to this day. And here we find ourselves in the twenty-first century, in the Western world, and what do we discover? We discover that the antagonism of the Evil One is directed supremely to the person of Christ, not to religion in general, and expressly to those who would seek to affirm that the Bible is not a human invention, but it is a divine gift; it is a gift of revelation; that it is unerring in all that it teaches; and that it is to be believed and it is to be obeyed; and it is a book about salvation, and salvation belongs only to this God who has written this book; and therefore, there is no one else to whom we can go who has the words of eternal life.[21] And the devil comes from every angle and in every way and says, “No, you don’t have to believe that. That isn’t true. You shouldn’t believe that stuff”—sometimes as a result of emotional attacks, sometimes as a result of moral attacks, often in terms of intellectual attacks.

Every institution that I know of—Christian institution—that has sought for intellectual acceptance with those who oppose the Bible vociferously has ended up up the creek. Because the Bible may be substantiated, may be affirmed. We do not need to remove our brains in order to come to these convictions. It is entirely rational, as we’ve said in the past. But the fact of the matter is that the quest for intellectual acceptance in the academy in a world that is starting from the point of unbelief inevitably leads institutions to a bad place.

Now, let me give you one illustration that has just come out of the past week. I had the privilege this week of being in Princeton, New Jersey. I have never been there before. I was there to speak at a conference in a Presbyterian church adjacent to the university campus. I was very excited to go, and having been, I’m even more excited about going back a second time. One of the things that I wanted to do was not only be on the campus but go to the graveyard. (As you know, I have a thing about graveyards. And I still haven’t given up on our graveyard over here, and many of you are knocking on the door to get in. I know, because you tell me. Well, hold on. Don’t die yet, because we haven’t got it done.) But anyway, I went to the graveyard, because I knew that I could find the graves of Charles Hodge and A. A. Hodge. I could find a number of graves there, and so I went to look. And I brought back just a couple of photographs to show you.

That, if you look carefully, is the grave of Jonathan Edwards, the third president of Princeton College, who, at the age of thirteen, went to Yale and graduated not long after that. The man was a genius—one of the great theologians and intellects of the American world. He died in 1758, it says, actually, on the top of the grave, but it’s all written in Latin. Here is the grave of Benjamin Warfield—B. B. Warfield—who came a substantially long time after Jonathan Edwards.

Incidentally, you go in that graveyard, and it’s a testimony to what we just read in Psalm 103: “All flesh is like grass, and the glory of man like the flower of the field, and the wind blows over it, and its place knows it no more.”[22] I mean, here’s one of the great intellects and theologians the world has ever produced, and the whole world is passing by. The whole world is going, “Oh, I didn’t know he was in there. I don’t know who he is. Who’s that? Oh, really?”

B. B. Warfield—another wonderful illustration—the last, really; the last good one, in Princeton Seminary; the last one to remain a conservative. He was a professor there from 1887 to 1921. He wrote a book in his early days, a joint book with A. A. Hodge, whom he followed as the president of Princeton. And they wrote a book on the inspiration of the Bible. They wrote on the inspiration of the Bible because there was such an onslaught against the Bible. There were so many people rising up and saying, “Well, if you’re an intelligent person, you couldn’t possibly believe the Bible. I mean, we’re supposed to be intellects here. This is not some other kind of place. This is Princeton, for goodness’ sake. We don’t want to be thought of as silly people.”

And so he and Hodge wrote together to demonstrate that the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Bible was simply orthodox Christian teaching—that there was nothing strange or weird about it, that it was within the framework of historic orthodoxy. It wasn’t, as some were suggesting, a concept that had been invented in the nineteenth century. And so he was passionately committed to rebutting the liberal perspective, which said, essentially, “The Bible is a human book.” And here we are, walking around and looking at his grave, and he is persona non grata at Princeton Theological Seminary, as is Jonathan Edwards, as is Charles Hodge, as is Alexander Hodge, as are all of them. Why? Because they all sided with the liberals. They all said, “No, it’d be far more appealing if we tell people that this is just an ordinary book. It will make it much more accessible to them.” And what has it done? It’s given them nothing to say.

“Who else would we go to?” the disciples said to Jesus. When he said to them, “Would you like to go away?” they said, “Well, where would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”[23] Where are the words of eternal life? In the Scriptures. Give up on the Scriptures and you’re finished. Your institution is finished. Your seminary is finished. Your church is finished. Oh, it may take a hundred years before it all becomes apparent, but I guarantee you, it will happen. So when we’re saying as a leadership here in this church things about the transition from one generation to another, this is not a concept that we just sort of came up with. This is a consuming passion: that we will not allow any one of us to succumb to the temptation to give up on that which is represented in historical, orthodox, biblical Christianity.

And all you need to do is stay awake, and you will discover that the challenge is being fought, as I speak to you today, not as a result of the inroads of a liberalism that has come from nineteenth-century Germany but as a result of a liberalism which is incipient in the contemporary evangelical world, where they seek to dismantle the very Scriptures which provide the foundation upon which we take our stand. That’s why when Paul says to Timothy, “Timothy, all Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable,” its profitability is directly tied to its origin.

Scripture was brought into existence by the breath or the Spirit of God.

Now, “profitable” for what? Well, profitable because it teaches us what to believe. It also teaches us what not to believe. It reproves us. It teaches us how to live and how not to live. So in other words, it involves both our belief and our behavior. The Scriptures moderate the two. We’re not supposed to become big sort of eggheads divorced from the living of life. We’re not supposed to be engaged in “Well, we’re involved in the living of life, but we’re not really into that doctrinal stuff.” No. No. It’s “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” in order that our lives might be lived out on the strength of the belief that we affirm.

Now, some of us who were here last Sunday night know that we made a stab at the teaching part of it, and I don’t want, really, to go back down that line. But let me just add to it in this way. The Bible is “profitable for teaching.” Okay? That means you can learn from it. That means you’re supposed to learn from it. That means that when you read the Bible, you’re not reading the Bible to get a funny feeling in your tummy or to get some kind of divine afflatus that makes you go, “Whew!” You’re actually… This is teaching. This is where you learn things. You think. You make deductions. You say, “Well, this is so; therefore, this follows. This cannot be so; therefore, I can’t hold that position,” and so on. And when we read the Bible, Paul tells us in Romans 15 that everything that was written in the past “was written for our instruction, [so] that through endurance and … the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope”[24]—so that all of the Old Testament stuff that some of us have been reading at the moment as part of the Murray M’Cheyne readings is “profitable for teaching.”

Now, when I grew up in Scotland (and in England, for that matter), I had Scripture Union notes. They came every quarter or every two months; I can’t remember. I think I usually got them from school. And you put them in your Bible, and you read the Scripture passage for the day. And they all had a little layout. It said, “Now, you start: you pray, ‘Make the Book live to me, O Lord. Show me yourself within your Word.’”[25] That’s where I get that little piece from. And then you’re supposed to read, and then you’re supposed to m-a-p: you’re supposed to meditate, you’re supposed to apply, and you’re supposed to pray again.

Well, this was very helpful to me as kid, because I thought that what you were supposed to do when you read the Bible is you read the Bible and wait till it hits you. And if it doesn’t hit you, then you just fold it up and don’t worry about it. Then someone said, “No, that’s not how you read the Bible. You read the Bible, and you ask certain questions when you read the Bible.” And they gave you the questions. So they said, “As you read this passage of the Bible,” for example, “ask yourself: Does this passage teach me anything about God the Father? God the Son? God the Holy Spirit?” You read a certain passage; it doesn’t. Say, “Okay. No, it doesn’t.” Another one says, “Yes, it teaches me something about Jesus: that he died for my sins.” So I’d make a note of that: “Jesus died for my sins. I learned that today.”

Also, they encouraged us to say, “As you read this passage of Scripture, ask yourself, ‘Is there a command to be obeyed? Is there a promise to be trusted? Is there a warning to be—heeded?’” Thank you. Wonderful! That was the exact word. “Is there a warning to be heeded?” See, that was providential right there. We’ll get to that tonight. But the fact is it could have been someone else sitting on the front row and said another word that wasn’t the right word. But anyway, there we go. That’s super. That’s super.

So I said to myself this week as I was recalling that, I said, “Well, how does that work with that stuff in 2 Kings?” Because if you’ve been doing 2 Kings, you’re like, “Whew, 2 Kings.” I mean, 1 Kings, and then now 2 Kings. So I decided, “Well, I’ll go back and just look at it again.” And so let me just show you something here.

Two Kings 17 is a really low spot, and then 18, it picks up, because you have the kingly rule of “Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, [the] king of Judah.” He “began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned [for] twenty-nine years.”[26] So, you can work that out—somewhere like he was, you know, fifty-four when he finally was finished reigning. This is like… In Glasgow, it rains for longer than that. But anyway.

So, he was fifty. And here’s the thing we’re told about him: not only who his mom was and so on, but “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done.” What does that mean? Well, “he removed the high places,” all the paganism. He “broke the [altars].” He “cut down the Asherah. … He broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made.”[27] Why? Because the people had turned it into a shrine. It’s interesting: when religion goes wrong, it can take even good things and turn it into something bad. That’s one of the reasons I’m not big on icons or on religious stuff, because people turn them into all kinds of strange shrines in their minds.

Anyway, he didn’t do that. But, verse 5:

He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, [and] there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did[n’t] depart from following him[. He] kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; [and] wherever he went out, he prospered.[28]

It’s just absolutely amazing. So you read that, and you say, “Okay. Is there an example to follow?” Yes: the example of Hezekiah. To recognize that this is the way you follow God: you follow God wholeheartedly. This is the example of the kind of leadership that should be, and so on. And then you go forward, and you get through.

Incidentally, there’s a wonderful little section that I’ll leave to you. Because he takes ill in chapter 20, and he’s going to die. And he asks for extra time. It says that when he found out he was going to die, he “wept bitterly.”[29] He didn’t like the idea of dying. I find that quite good as well. I’m not particularly keen on it myself. And he received a word from God that said, “I’ve heard your prayer, and I’ve seen your tears. And so I’ve decided I’m going to heal you. And you’re getting extra time: you’re getting fifteen more years.”[30] That’s what it says in 2 Kings 20. He gave him fifteen. He said, “I would rather not die, if it’s okay with you, God,” and God says, “Okay, I’ll give you fifteen more years.” Now, I like that part. I don’t know what we can do with that in terms of, you know, “Is there an example to follow?” or whatever it might be. But I’m going to try it. I don’t know if it’ll work. But as soon as… You might want to try it too. Fifteen more years. People are going, “We couldn’t stand another fifteen years of you. Don’t do that. Don’t do that.”

But here’s the issue. You get to chapter 21. After he’s had his extension, he then dies, and Manasseh takes over. “Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign …, he reigned [for] fifty-five years.” His dad reigned for twenty-nine; he reigns for fifty-five. You say, “Well, what a wonderful dad. What a terrific example. Goodness gracious, I can’t wait to read about Manasseh’s reign. He must really have…”

And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. … He rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, … he erected [the] altars for Baal[. He] made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and [he] worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. And he built altars in the house of the Lord …. He built altars for … the host of heaven …. And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. [And] he did much evil in the sight of the Lord.[31]

Somebody would have looked on the reign of Hezekiah and said, “You know, hey, it’s a home run. Hezekiah’s got it set up. Everything’s perfect, and presumably, for the foreseeable future, it’s going to be fine.” That’s exactly what people said in churches that I could take you to in Scotland and England. They’re going to tell you, “You know the minister who used to be in here, Mr. So-And-So? What a minister he was. Oh, true, right down the line.” And someone says, “Where is he now?” “Oh, he died.” “Yeah? Well, who took over?” “Well, this other guy took over.” So what happened? Well, he didn’t believe. He didn’t preach. He didn’t hold the line. He wasn’t orthodox. The place is empty. I can take you to place after place.

Now, loved ones, I’m not trying to alarm you in this. It’s not that I have some horrible premonition of the future of Parkside. All I’m saying is, in order to ensure that we as a church do not go that road, do not go the road that other institutions have gone and continue to go—that does not happen by chance. And it does not happen simply because of the orthodoxy over a long period of time. It has to be purposeful, and it has to be focused. So as you pray, and as you think about our children, and as you observe what’s being said, and as you participate in the dialogue, and as you contribute along the way, remember this. Because remember: Uzziah was gloriously helped until he became strong, but “when he [became] strong, he grew proud, to his [own] destruction.”[32] May God save me from that. May God save us from that. May God save us, one and all.

Father, look upon us in your mercy, we pray. Thank you for the reminder that your steadfast love never ceases,[33] that you are a covenant-keeping God, that you fulfill your purposes. We’re not destabilized by second-guessing that at all. We know that your mercies are new every day,[34] but we also know, from the reading of our Bibles, that many who began well finished poorly, for whatever reason.

So, Lord, we pray that you will humble us, and help us, and teach us, and prepare us, and grant that the pressure of an alien world, the desire for intellectual acceptance and compatibility, the fearfulness of being thought strange and weird will not cause us to stand back from a wholehearted dependence upon you and a wholehearted commitment to the truth of your Word. Let your kingdom come, Lord. Let your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, we pray.[35] For your Son’s sake. Amen.

[1] 2 Timothy 2:18 (ESV).

[2] See 2 Timothy 3:6–9.

[3] 2 Timothy 4:4 (ESV).

[4] 2 Timothy 1:6 (paraphrased).

[5] 2 Timothy 1:8 (paraphrased).

[6] 2 Timothy 1:13 (ESV).

[7] 2 Timothy 1:14 (ESV).

[8] 2 Timothy 2:22–23 (paraphrased).

[9] 2 Timothy 2:15 (paraphrased).

[10] 2 Timothy 2:2 (paraphrased).

[11] 2 Timothy 2:1 (ESV).

[12] 1 Timothy 5:17 (ESV).

[13] 1 Timothy 5:18 (ESV).

[14] 1 Timothy 5:18. See also Deuteronomy 25:4.

[15] See 1 Timothy 5:18; Luke 10:7.

[16] 2 Peter 3:15 (ESV).

[17] 2 Peter 1:21 (ESV).

[18] 2 Peter 3:16 (ESV).

[19] Genesis 2:15 (ESV).

[20] John 8:44 (ESV).

[21] See John 6:68.

[22] Psalm 103:15–16 (paraphrased).

[23] John 6:67–68 (paraphrased).

[24] Romans 15:4 (ESV).

[25] R. Hudson Pope, “Make the Book Live to Me” (1943). Language modernized.

[26] 2 Kings 18:1–2 (ESV).

[27] 2 Kings 18:3–4 (ESV).

[28] 2 Kings 18:5–7 (ESV).

[29] 2 Kings 20:3 (ESV).

[30] 2 Kings 20:5–6 (paraphrased).

[31] 2 Kings 21:1–6 (ESV).

[32] 2 Chronicles 26:16 (ESV).

[33] See Lamentations 3:22.

[34] See Lamentations 3:23.

[35] See Matthew 6:10.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.