by Pastor Ron Thomas
RODGERS BAPTIST CHURCH
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Text: II Timothy 2:14-26.
Introduction: The early American Christian fundamentalists, were Christians who held to what they considered to be the foundational, fundamental truths or beliefs of the Christian faith. Christian fundamentalists believed:
1. The inerrancy of the Scriptures.
2. The virgin birth and the deity of Jesus.
3. The doctrine of substitutionary atonement by God's grace and through human faith.
4. The bodily resurrection of Jesus.
5. The authenticity of Christ's miracles and His pre-millennial second coming. This (5 points) definition makes us all fundamentalists.
The word "fundamentalist," however has fallen on hard times. It is often used today to describe what people would regard as extreme religionists, people who are radical and dangerous. Here are a couple of definitions of a fundamentalist Christian that I found on the web. "A fundamentalist is a Christian who believes in the Bible word-for-word. They are generally racist and homophobic." "A fundamentalist is put simply, a religious nut!" This message is not about the fundamentalist, but the fundamentals of our faith.
As Paul continues his second letter to Timothy, he challenges him to take his stand on the fundamentals. Fundamentals describe those things that are essential. Verse 19a reads, "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure." The word "foundation" speaks of beginnings, fundamentals, the primary principles. II Timothy is one of three New Testament books known as the Pastoral Epistles. As the apostle Paul writes to his "son in the faith" Timothy who at the time was the pastor of the church at Ephesus, he is writing to a new generation of Christian leaders. In this passage, Paul challenges Timothy and future generations of believers, to adhere to four fundamentals.
Fundamental one: Sound doctrine. Verse 14 says, "Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers." As pastor of the church of Ephesus, Timothy often had to confront false teachers and false doctrine. There were individuals in the body who were always starting some controversy over meaningless issues that ended up destroying the faith of the weak. These issues and questions were designed to feed egos, cause division, and solicit their own followers or disciples, rather than make them followers of Jesus Christ. Paul charges Timothy to confront those who were focusing others on trivial things instead of truth!
In verses 16-18, Paul points out that such things not only lead to divisions, but also to unholiness, irreverence, and false doctrine. He writes Timothy, "But shun (avoid) profane (unholy) and vain babblings (empty, useless chatter): for they will increase unto more ungodliness (desires for evil things). 17 And their word will eat as doth a canker (spread throughout the church body like gangrene): of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; 18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some." These two men, Hymenaeus (hoo-men-ah'-yos )and Philetus (fil-ay-tos'), were actually denying the resurrection of the body. The believers in Ephesus growing up in the Greek world, were exposed to Greek philosophy. The Greeks viewed the physical body as evil and the spirit as immortal. The doctrine of the resurrection was understandably difficult for them to believe. These teachers taught that the second, spiritual birth was the only resurrection a believer would experience. Essentially, they spiritualized the doctrine of the resurrection of the body.
The only way to stop the spread of gangrene is to cut it out and apply antibiotics! As a pastor, Timothy was forced to take action and put these men out of the church, delivering them over to Satan. Their influence and teaching was destroying the faith of the weak believers. Once they were removed, the antibiotic of sound, Bible teaching was applied! The gospel was at stake here! Minus the resurrection, the gospel is destroyed! Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead, and appeared in a forty day post-resurrection ministry! Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:1, "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand." Verses 3-4 give the gospel.
Paul says, "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures." Paul went on in I Corinthians 15 to make the case for the necessity of the resurrection! He says in verses 12-17, "Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins."
We must take a stand in our churches against false teaching. We must stand up to false teachers, identifying them and showing them the door. Then we must stand for sound Bible doctrine! A. W. Tozer a noted 20th century pastor, preacher and author once said, "We have gotten accustomed to the blurred puffs of gray fog that pass for doctrine in churches and expect nothing better. From some previously unimpeachable sources are now coming vague statements consisting of a milky admixture of Scripture, science, and human sentiment that is true to none of its ingredients because each one works to cancel the others out. Little by little Christians these days are being brainwashed. One evidence is that increasing numbers of them are becoming ashamed to be found unequivocally on the side of truth. They say they believe, but their beliefs have been so diluted as to be impossible of clear definition. Moral power has always accompanied definite beliefs. Great saints have always been dogmatic. We need a return to a gentle dogmatism that smiles while it stands stubborn and firm on the Word of God that lives and abides forever."
Fundamental two: Bible exposition, knowledge and application. This second fundamental leads easily from the first. A church that stands for sound doctrine, is a church that encourages Bible reading and Bible study. Verse 15 says, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Churches need preachers, pastors and teachers, who will not seek the approval of people, but the approval of God as faithful expositors of the Bible. The phrase "rightly dividing" literally means to cut it straight! A Bible teacher must make sure he or she correctly interprets the Word of God. Paul often made tents to support himself and the ministry. His tents were made out of goatskins, and he had to cut the hides properly so they would fit together. Paul said you must "cut it straight" so every portion of Scripture comes together. You can't make sense out of the whole, unless you know what to do with the parts. As we read and study God's Word, it is vitally important as to how we arrive at the proper meaning of the text. Here are five rules that if followed will assist and secure proper Biblical interpretation.
Rule one: Interpret literally. This means, let the Bible speak for itself. The Scriptures mean what they say, and say what they mean. There are those who feel they must explain away the supernatural elements of the Bible. If our God said He created the world in six twenty four hour days, it means He did. Others spiritualize the Word of God. If the literal sense makes good sense, don't make it nonsense!
Rule two: Interpret according to context. Context refers to the verses that directly precede and immediately follow a Bible verse or passage. Never isolate a verse when interpreting it. The context can usually help us get at the meaning. Always ask, "Who is speaking?" "Who is being spoken to?" "What is the occasion?" and "Why is it being said?" These questions are all answered in the context.
Rule three: Interpret according to normal word usage. This means to take words to mean and say what they do in everyday usage. We speak in English, but the Bible was written in Hebrew, Greek, and a few parts in Aramaic. We must view words according to language and grammatical rules.
Rule four: Interpret according to overall truth. Always interpret a passage in light of what the Bible says as a whole. No one has the right to take one Bible verse, pull it out of it's setting, disregard other passages, and make it the basis for something he or she wants to say. A difficult passage will be interpreted easier in light of overall truth.
Rule five: Interpret according to foundation truth. Do not get side tracked on side issues and questions which have no answers. This is what Paul is warning Timothy about in our text. Spend your time on those things that are foundational and clearly revealed.
Verse 19a sums this up with encouraging words. Paul says, "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His." With all the false teaching and improper use of the Scriptures that has plagued Christianity for centuries, it is a wonder that true Christianity has survived! Paul assures Timothy, and he assures us, that the foundation of the gospel and Bible truth will prevail! Jesus Christ Himself is the "chief cornerstone," and on that foundational stone is the inscription, "The Lord knows His true followers!" There will always be Christians on this earth, until the Lord Jesus returns to sort it all out! He alone is sufficient for that task! Meanwhile, we must remain faithful to the truth of God's Word!
Fundamental three: Separated living. Verse 19b continues, "....And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." Most Bible commentaries connect this with the account of Korah and his followers who rebelled against Moses in Numbers 16. Those who separated themselves from the tents of Korah, were spared the judgment of God. Christians can be found in the tents of Korah if they are not careful! It is easy to get caught up in the rebellious, sinful attitudes and actions of influential personalities! Christians must separate themselves from sin and the world unto the Lord, else they will dearly pay for it! The word "depart" means to withdraw yourself.
In verses 20-21, Paul uses different imagery. He describes a "great house," the house of a wealthy person, which would contain a variety of "vessels" or utensils. Some of those vessels were common or ordinary, and some of them were quite extraordinary. Some were used for shameful purposes, such as the removing of trash, and others for honorable purposes such as attractive, expensive, decorative vessels.
Paul writes, "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour." Paul moves to the application in verse 21. He says, "If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work." Timothy and all Christians are to determine to be vessels that can be used at will by the Master for noble purposes! We will use a dirty glass to drink water if we have to, but if given a choice, we would choose the clean glass. We each have a responsibility to monitor our own hearts and lives! We must "purge" or cleanse ourselves with the Word of God, confessing and forsaking our sin.
In verse 22, Paul makes it clear as to what he means by being set apart for God's service. He says, "Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." Paul speaks of the "evil desires of youth." Teens are especially vulnerable to embrace passions, emotions and attitudes that can be very destructive. More than ever, they need leaders, examples, voices in their lives, that help them to avoid, even flee destructive impulses and embrace virtue!
Some Christian fundamentalists are known to make a doctrine out of subjective things. The New Testament speaks more about internal, spiritual sins which if left unchecked, can lead to sinful destructive behavior! If you notice in verse 22, Paul mentions a "pure heart." Everything begins and flows from the heart! If our hearts become rebellious, sensual, angry, bitter, prideful, we may disguise it for a while, but eventually it will be manifest in our attitudes, our words, our dress and behavior. There ought to be an obvious difference between a Christian and average sinner. We have been predestined by God to live lives that are holy and blameless before the world.
Fundamental four: Biblical restoration. Verses 23-26 read, "But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.
24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." It has been said that the Christian army is the only army that shoots it wounded. There will be casualties in this spiritual warfare.
Paul addresses those who fall prey to false doctrine and the lies of the devil. Individuals who are deceived are often argumentative and resentful to anyone who attempts to speak the truth to them. Paul reminds Timothy that when confronting these people, he must not become like them. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal! A Pastor or Christian for that matter, cannot afford to "strive" or engage in a war of words. Instead, he or she must be gentle, patient and meek. We must view these people as opposing themselves, rather than opposing us. Don't take their heated words and accusations personally!
What do we do?
1. Speak the truth in love. Ask God to give you the proper attitude, thoughts, words, and actions necessary to restore them.
2. Pray for them, asking God to penetrate their minds and hearts with truth. Intercede for them, and ask God to change their hearts. Ask God to take the rebellious heart, and make it a repentant heart!
3. Gain a higher view of this conflict. This is spiritual warfare! Satan is involved.
4. Most of all, Keep the door open for restoration. Don't be so quick to close the door on people and write them off. Galatians 6:1 gives us an idea of what restoration is all about. "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted."
These are fundamentals that must be found in every generation of Christians, and in every church. If we leave these, we will forfeit the purpose God has for us in this world! Perhaps it is time for you to come back to these things in your own personal life. What about your personal theology? Do you know what you believe and why you believe it? What about your personal time in God's Word? Do you know your Bible? Can you lead someone to Christ? What about your testimony in the world? Is there a difference in the way you live? Can God use you to restore a believer who has lost his or her way?