November 17, 2011

Friday after the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 22, 2 Kings 9:30, 2 Tim. 4:1-8
Evening - Ps. 6, 26, Eccles. 11, Mt. 23:25

Commentary
2 Tim 4:1-8

The Scriptures are the word of God, as though they came from the very mouth of God. They are, then, the authority of faith and life. 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17 begin by telling us the Scriptures are the source of profitable doctrine, and end by telling us the Scriptures furnish God's people unto holy living, "good works." "Profitable" implies first, that the Scriptures are the source of true knowledge of God, and true knowledge of how to love and serve Him. It also implies that other sources of doctrine, instruction, and furnishing people for the task of knowing God and living life, are unprofitable. They are defective, whether they come from the wisest of men, or our own inner thoughts. Only the Bible is inspired by God.

It is for this reason that Timothy, and all clergy, are to "preach the word" (4:2). Yes, there are some very wise people whose thoughts and lives have benefited humanity down through the ages. But they were simply human, and their words and views are filled with human defects. Their views of God and their directions for living a good life are flawed, including Timothy's. This is why ministers are to preach the word, rather than their own views. This is why ministers are to stay with the tried and true Biblical faith rather than blaze their own trails through the Bible. The current demand for new ideas, practical sermons in place of "tired" and "boring" doctrines, and creative and culturally informed worship are not new. Timothy faced them in Ephesus in the first century A.D. Paul writes to remind Timothy, and all who read this epistle, that those things cannot furnish the man of God. The Word, the Bible, is God's appointed means to accomplish these things. Preach the word... reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (4:2).

When God commands ministers to preach the word, He necessarily commands the Church to hear the word preached. But verses 3 and 4 warn that some people will not endure sound doctrine. They will want sermons that entertain them, and tell them how to get ahead in life and feel good about themselves. Paul says such people turn their ears from the truth, and turn them to fables (4:4). Again, such a warning to the preachers is also a warning to hearers not to be among those who reject the word for fables. Ministers may not offer trivialities to God's people, even if the people demand them. Ministers are to preach the word, they must "watch in all things."

To watch is to be on guard. Those who give themselves to fables and heap up teachers who preach what they want to hear rather than the Word of God, are like people who allow alcohol and drugs to cloud their judgment, making themselves easy prey for those who would rob and harm them. By contrast, God's true ministers are to be sober and on guard. They are to do only that which furnishes God's people for Godliness. Paul is especially concerned about this because he knows his time on earth is short. "The time of my departure is at hand" (4:6-8). He is not afraid. He looks forward to Heaven. But he wants to do his best to ensure that those coming after him in the Church know the truth, and have every opportunity to live according to it.

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