Jeremiah 9:23-24; 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2
To begin, I want to share with you the risk in preaching a sermon series like this. The risk is that I will say or teach something that you do not agree with or that you do not like because it challenges assumptions you have about the Bible that have never been challenged. This is part of the reason some of my pastor friends thought it was risky of me to follow through with this idea to preach this sermon series I had about six months ago.
There are two things I need to say before we begin, and I say it in an age where there are as many conspiracy theories as there are voices who promote such theories on platforms like YouTube. First, some of you have spent more time listening to those who validate your assumptions than carefully listening to the words in your Bible through a careful hermeneutic that studies each book, passage, paragraph, and verse in the Bible within its literary, historical, cultural, geographical, and theological context. My hope is that by the end of this series you will develop better skills in studying your Bible. As one of my seminary professors said at the start of his class: “If you are here to learn more about God through the Bible, you are a theologian by default; however, some of you are not very good theologians yet.”
Second, you must understand that there are two ways to categorize the various teachings of the Bible. The first category I refer to as “primary issues;” I also refer to these as “gospel issues.” A “primary issue” is something that is taught in the Bible that is so important that if proven false, your faith could be ruined. Some examples of “gospel issues” include: The origin of the universe, the inerrancy of the Bible as Holy Scripture, the person and work of Jesus Christ (his virgin birth, his suffering and crucifixion, and resurrection), the second coming of Christ to judge the living and the dead, the person and work of the Holy Spirit, and the teaching that God is One and yet three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) while existing as one God (aka the Trinity). Gospel issues are those doctrines that you must believe to remain orthodox in our faith.
There is a reason for the ancient Creeds that our Church Fathers have written, and that Christians have recited throughout generations and continue to do so today. The Nicene Creed dates all the way back to AD 325 and to reject any of it was to reject the primary truths of what must be believed for a person to be a Christian; consider what the creed states:
We believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
and was made human.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried.
The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead.
His kingdom will never end.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life.
He proceeds from the Father and the Son,
and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
He spoke through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
and to life in the world to come. Amen.
Everything that is not a “primary issue” is a “secondary issue.” Secondary issues are those things taught in the Bible that you believe to be true, but if shown that you were wrong, it will not wreck your faith. Listen carefully: “secondary issues” are never worth dying for. Permit me to list some examples of what I consider secondary issues:
The Hebrew word that is used in Genesis 1 for “day” is yôm which is often used to refer to 24 hour period of time we call a day or it can mean an indefinite period of time like an “age.” There are Bible believing Christians who believe that Genesis 1 is describing six 24-hour days that God created all things, and then there are Bible believing Christians who believe that God created everything over an extended period of time. I believe I have valid biblical reasons for believing that God created everything in six literal days, but it will not wreck my faith if it is shown that God actually did it in six ages. I believe that the origin of creation is a “primary issue” in that God created all things, but the timing of creation is a “secondary issue.”
Another example of a primary verses secondary issue is the whole Calvinism verse Arminianism debate. For me, the primary issue is that a person is saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed by Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone. Although I am a strong Calvinist, if I am shown to be wrong and that my Arminian brothers and sisters are right, my faith will not be wrecked because for me, Calvinism is not a primary issue for my faith, it is a secondary issue.
Primary issues I hold with a closed fist because my faith and salvation are dependent upon such truths. Secondary issues I hold with an open hand because being wrong on such things does not affect my faith and salvation nor does it affect the eternal plight of those who believe differently than I do on secondary issues.
There is a third category, and that is the category the Bible really does not address such as the size of the universe, whether or not aliens exist, whether or not Adam and Eve had a bellybutton, or if Adam had one less rib than the rest of mankind, and so forth and so on. Regarding these issues, it is fine to have an opinion, but Paul warned Timothy about making too much of such issues:
Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24–26)
I want you to know that most of the topics that were submitted were concerning primary and secondary issues that the Bible does address. For those of you who are concerned that I may say something you disagree with concerning those secondary issues, I will do my best to be fair in accurately representing various views I disagree with while clearly articulating how I believe the Bible addresses those topics. At the end of the day, it is your responsibility to take each sermon you hear in this series and search the scriptures yourselves to make sure what I have said lines up with what the Bible teaches.
The Ways God has Revealed Himself
There are two types of ways God has revealed Himself and made it possible for you to know Him:
- General Revelation. General revelation doesn’t give you all the data needed to know God. It is simply enough information given to everyone for the purpose of knowing that there is a God through what is seen and experienced through nature.
- Special Revelation. Special revelation is the supernatural and direct way He has revealed Himself. The Bible is God’s direct and intentional way of reveling who He is to specific people.
God has delivered to you a handwritten personal letter for you to get to know Him. That personal handwritten letter consists of 66 books in the Bible, written by at least 39 different authors under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, over the span of hundreds of years, while remaining theologically consistent. It is without error, and is written so that you may know God, and provides instruction on how to live as one who belongs to him. The Bible does not address every subject there is to be addressed, but it does address what you need to know.
When it comes to the ways God has revealed himself, think of Creation as the delivery box and the Bible as the detailed contents inside the box. Your life was not meant to just appreciate the parcel box we call creation. Your life was meant to know what’s behind the wrapping of the box; you were meant to know the Person behind creation. A.W. Tozer said it best: “…the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what in his deep heart conceives God to be like.” C.H. Spurgeon once said to his congregation, “I believe… that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.”
The Bible is God’s special revelation given to you for the purpose of knowing him.
You Can Know God Through His Word
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible claims at least 3,000 times to be “The Word of the Lord.” In all of its 66 books, the many different contributors who were guided by the Holy Spirit over a period of hundreds of years, while remaining without error, demonstrates that it is a Book that stands above all other books. One can hardly find that kind of unity in a room with five authors writing about the same thing. The reason for this is because the Bible is supernatural book brought together and shaped by the same power that spoke all that we see and cannot see into existence.
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we are told that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” Why is all Scripture, “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”? So, that the man or woman of God, “may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The use of the word “all” is a reference to all of Scripture, something that the shaping of the New Testament at the time Paul wrote his letter to Timothy was considered to be a part (see 2 Pet. 1:20-21).
The word Paul used to describe why all Scripture is authoritative is a Greek word (theopneustos); many believe Paul himself coined it, and it is only used once in the New Testament. The point Paul was making is that God “breathed” through the activity of the various authors of Scripture while using their personalities to compose a unified document of what is now sixty-six books to communicate God’s infallible Word. This means that God gave the message that he wanted written down to the authors who interjected their own styles, characteristics, and the vocabulary that was available to each of the human authors God used as they were guided by the Holy Spirit to be sure of accuracy and freedom from error.
This is why when Moses wrote Genesis 1-2, while writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he used the vocabulary that was available at the time and only gave the details of what his human eyes could see from his vantage point on the dirt that he stood on. How was Moses to explain that which his vocabulary had to stretch to describe? What words could Isaiah use in describing the vision of heaven where he saw creatures he had never seen before (see Isaiah 6:1-5)? When John wrote of the weird locust-like-creatures, did the vocabulary, and experiences he had at the time enable him to give the kind of sketch you would expect a police sketch artist to come up with or was his vocabulary equally stretched like those who had come before him (see Rev. 9:7-11). God in his sovereignty used imperfect people to communicate through scripture to give us just enough of what we need to know to obey him. The beauty of the Bible is that although its human authors were limited, the infinite God inspired and breathed through them to provide a corpus of Scripture that is just as relevant as it is timeless.
Permit me to give you three more examples of the primacy of the Bible over all other religious books. God inspired Moses to write Genesis 3:15 as he no doubt was also retelling the story of Adam and Eve that had been passed down from generation to generation as God protected the retelling of it. When Moses recorded the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin and God’s promise of redemption in a single verse: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15), I doubt that Moses had in mind Isaiah 53 as the way that God would do just that. Yet, hundreds of years later a prophet by the name of Isaiah would write of one who would suffer for sins of mankind: “
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed….
And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. (Isaiah 53:3–5, 9-11)
I do not think that Isaiah envisioned hundreds of years before its invention as the most violent and dehumanizing form of torture, that the one he wrote about would be crucified on a Roman cross.
Finally, consider the apostle John who faithfully wrote down everything that he saw in the book of Revelation sometime in AD 90 as an old man with a broken and deteriorating body. I do not think he was able to fathom the ships, planes, and linguistic advancements and technology that has enabled the Gospel to be shared in languages of people groups not yet discovered in his day or ours, yet he wrote down the following of what he was permitted to see:
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:6–13, ESV)
So, the apostle Paul charged a young pastor in the city of Ephesus, in light of the trustworthiness and authority of all of Scripture and its value for, “teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” to equip the people of God so that they, “may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). What was the method young Timothy was to do that? What Paul wrote next serves to illustrate the primacy of the inspired word of God: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1–2). This is why I preach; this is why we stand when we read Scripture together, and this is why we study the Bible.
The Bible is much more than a religious book, it is the word of God, and by its own claim, “… the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of souls and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
 A.W. Tozer, the Knowledge of the Holy (New York: Harper & Row Publications, 1961), 9.
 Quoted in J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 17.
 See also Matt. 1:22; 4:4; 19:5; Mk. 7:9-13; Acts 1:16; cf. John 14:26; 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:13; 14:37; 1 Thess. 4:15; 1 Tim. 5:18; 2 Pet. 3:2; Rev. 22:18-19