************ Sermon on 2 Timothy 3 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 7, 2014
2 Timothy 3
"The Holy Letters"
2014 Kick-Off Sunday
I Opposition to the Truth
A Do you remember the story of Moses before Pharaoh? Aaron threw down his staff and it became a snake; Egypt's magicians did the same thing. Aaron stretched out his staff over the streams and canals and ponds and reservoirs of Egypt and the water turned into blood; the Egyptian magicians did the same thing. Again Aaron stretched out his staff over the waters of Egypt and frogs came up and covered the land; but the magicians did the same thing by their secret art (Ex 7-9).
Who are these magicians who opposed Moses and Aaron? Paul identifies them as Jannes and Jambres. This is the only time their names are mentioned in the Bible. However, these two wicked and evil men must of made a huge impression upon the children of Israel because they appear often in Jewish apocryphal literature. Long-standing Jewish tradition identifies them as the two chief magicians of Pharaoh. The Jewish Talmud, which is kind of a commentary on the Law, says that at the time of the Exodus the two magicians left Egypt with the Israelites (cf Ex 12:38). And, it claims it was Jannes and Jambres who were instrumental in promoting the worship of the golden calf that Aaron made (Ex 32). Another story in the Talmud identifies them as the "two servants" taken along by Balaam when he tried to curse the people of Israel (Num 22:22). These stories are interesting, but they should not be taken as equivalent to inspired Scripture. Paul, for instance, confirms the names of the sorcerers who challenged Moses as Jannes and Jambres without accepting the legends about them.
B We see here one of the main tools of Satan: he opposed Moses and Aaron by imitating what they did. Satan is an imitator; what God does, Satan counterfeits; what God is, Satan counterfeits. Remember our study of Satan's counterfeit Trinity in the book of Revelation? There is the dragon, the beast, and the prophet – a ghastly imitation of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Rev 13). Satan is but an imitator. All he can produce is but a counterfeit of the real thing.
Paul reminds us that we are living in the last days – that whole time between the first and second comings of Jesus Christ (2 Tim 3:1). Many Christians think of the last days as still to come, or perhaps as the days we are living in now, but that is not what the Bible teaches. In the Bible the last days are not something for which we are still waiting but the entire period that began when Jesus died for sin, was raised from the dead, ascended into heaven, and poured out His Spirit on His people (Acts 2:14-21).
In these last days, says Paul, Satan continues to do what he did at the time of Moses. He continues to use false teachers and false leaders – like Jannes and Jambres – to promote lies and resist the truth of God’s Word. These false or counterfeit teachers deny the authority of the Bible and in its place substitute human wisdom and philosophy. The result? Members of the church in Ephesus were deceived. They were unable to discover and understand the real truth of the Gospel that sets people free from evil desires (2 Tim 3:6-7).
Guess what? Satan has not changed tactics. Today he uses the same time-tested methods he used at the time of Moses and Paul. He continues to be a master of deception. He continues with his lies and counterfeit gospel. He continues to substitute human wisdom and philosophy for the truth of the Bible.
In my visits and on my vacations this Summer I have been hearing this first-hand. There are pastors that preach on books like the Shack; the Prayer of Jabez; the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; the Purpose-Driven Life; and other such books. One well-meaning lady gave us a copy of Sarah Young's book, "Jesus Calling," and gushed about how wonderful this book is. In their attempt to be "modern," many pastors and churches and church members deny or minimize the reality of sin and people's need for salvation. All of this is the same old sin: Satan tries to counterfeit the teaching of the Bible; he substitutes human wisdom and philosophy in place of the Bible.
C False teaching in the church should be distressing to us. But never believe, congregation, that heresy has the final say. Even though it may flourish for a while, even though church after church and pastor after pastor may fall under its teaching, God – so to speak – has false teachings and false teachers on a chain. Our Father in heaven is sovereign even over the heretic. God's truth abideth still. That's the message of 2 Timothy 3.
Under the inspiration of Satan, Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses. But, according to the book of Exodus, they did not get very far. When their staffs became snakes, do you remember what Aaron's staff did? Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs (Ex 7:12). Telling us what? Telling us the power behind Aaron was greater than the power behind Jannes and Jambres; telling us God was greater than Satan. Furthermore, do you remember what happened when Aaron struck the dust of the ground? All the dust throughout Egypt became gnats. But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not (Ex 8:16-19). Their folly, their lies, and their ultimate lack of power was made clear to everyone.
According to Paul, this actually is God's promise to us. Look at verses 8 & 9. What are we told about Jannes and Jambres and every other false teacher? Paul calls them "men of depraved minds" (2 Tim 3:8). As a result, says Paul, they are "rejected" or, another word we can use, they are "reprobate" (2 Tim 3:8). God dooms them to destruction.
Two thousand years of church history demonstrate the truth of Paul's words. At the Church Council of Nicea in AD 325 the Arian or Jehovah's Witness heresy was condemned. Thirteen hundred years later the creeds and confessions of the Reformation clarified the doctrines of salvation. We look at this and we know the truth of God's Word always triumphs over error and unbelief. That is God's promise.
II Continue in God's Word
A God's promise is that His truth abideth still. God's promise is that all the counterfeit teachers will be exposed. God's promise is that His Word triumphs over error and unbelief.
However, we are living in the last days when Satan is still busy at work. We are living in the "terrible times" described by Paul in the opening verses of our Scripture reading (2 Tim 3:1ff).
So, what do we do in the here and now? How do we fight Satan and his counterfeits?
Not that long ago I watched a program on the new hundred dollar bill introduced in October 2013. With computers and printers and scanners the Secret Service has its hands full spotting what is counterfeit. So they look for eight features of the new bills: the portrait, the seals, the border, the serial numbers, the paper, the starch, the feel, and the watermark.
As we stand at the start of another church year I want to tell you the secret to spotting counterfeit teachers, preachers, and churches: The only way to spot the counterfeit is with God’s truth! "This is what the Lord says!" is the final answer to every question.
We know that evil men and deceivers are only going to get worse and worse. They will deceive more and more. Why? Because they are being deceived by Satan! In these last days, there will be more deception and imitation; and the only way a believer will be able to tell the true from the false is by knowing the Word of God.
B We have programs galore to help everyone here know the Bible. Let's start with Sunday School and Catechism classes. Too many parents take the attitude that these are optional, that their kids don't have to go, especially if they receive a Christian education at home or school. As for adult Sunday School and Sunday Evening Fellowship, that too is considered optional by many. But remember what I told the children – the Bible is the sword of the Spirit. It is our first line of defense against Satan and his lies. Don't ever forget, the Bible is God-breathed and as such is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Cor 3:16). The Bible is what we use to fight off counterfeit faith and counterfeit teaching and counterfeit gods.
Let me turn from Sunday to mid-week programs: GEMS, Cadets, Youth Group, Young Adults, Young Couples, Men's Bible Study, Women's Bible Study, Senior Bible Study, Coffee Break. We have something for every age and every person. Why? So you are armed, congregation, to fight Satan and his lies. So you can take your stand against the Devil and his ways. So you don't get taken in by what is counterfeit. So you can resist the Jannes and Jambres of today.
Let me turn from the church to the home. And, let me say this good and loud. Every home and every family should have daily Bible reading and prayer. I almost feel foolish saying this, but let me remind our families of what many of us grew up with. My dad or mom started every meal with prayer. At the end of the meal they would read the Bible and then close in prayer. Ruth and I just spent time in South Dakota with our son, his wife, and his two children. It was wonderful to see them practice this tradition. One of the meals I sat by my grandson. I read him the story of Jericho. He loved it so much I ended up reading it 3 more times.
Our children and grandchildren should never be able to remember the first time they heard the Bible. Nor should they be able to remember the first time they ever sat in church. How else will they be equipped to spot the lie, to spot what is false, to spot what is counterfeit and from Satan.
This is a good time to encourage Christian parents to teach their little children the Bible. In our home, we have a couple of children's Bibles. We also saved the colorful Sunday School lessons from when our boys were growing up and put them in a binder. What a joy it is to sit my grandchildren on my lap and to teach them from the same Bibles and lessons I used on my own children. We consider it a blessing that both Sunday School and Christian School included a Bible memory program. Some parents think it is a bother – it is anything but. As soon as your child is born, surround him with the Word of God and prayer. You will not have this opportunity after she grows up.
I had someone in my office a month ago. She was talking about our children and youth and young adults. "I am jealous," she said, "of how much they know, of what your church takes for granted." She was talking about our knowledge of Scripture and our beliefs. Someone older took Pastor's Class with a bunch of our youth. "Wow, do they ever know a lot," he said to me.
C Now, look at our Scripture reading. Timothy had been taught the Word of God from the time he was a child (2 Tim 3:15). Timothy's grandmother and mother had faithfully taught him the Old Testament Scriptures. Now that Timothy is all grown up, what did Paul tell him to do? Paul told him to "continue" in what he had been taught (2 Tim 3:14). Continue learning. Continue growing. Continue studying. Continue. We never outgrow the Word of God.
I have heard people say, "Well, I needed the Bible when I was younger; but I can do without it now that I'm older." How wrong they are! Adults need the guidance of the Word far more than children do because adults face more temptations and make more decisions.
Paul says that from infancy Timothy has known "the holy Scriptures" (2 Tim 3:15). A literal translation of the Greek is "the sacred letters." From infancy Timothy has known "the holy letters." Meaning what? Meaning that young Timothy learned his Hebrew alphabet by spelling his way through the Old Testament Scriptures. The word for holy means "consecrated for sacred use." The Bible is different from every other book – even books about the Bible – because it has been set apart by God for special sacred uses. We must treat the Bible as the special book it is.
The way we treat the Bible shows others how much or how little we respect it. What are we saying if it sits on a shelf gathering dust? What are we saying if we read anything but the Bible?
Timothy's mission is the mission of every Christian and it is really quite simple – to continue in what we have learned from the apostles and to keep on believing in their message (2 Tim 3:14). Believers may not depart from the apostolic and prophetic Word into new and fanciful teachings but must rather study and proclaim the old, familiar story of Jesus and His love. We don't turn to other books and popular authors. Rather, we stick with the wonderful words of life. For, don't forget, only the Scriptures "make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 3:15). Salvation from what? Salvation from sin, salvation from Satan, salvation from evil desires, salvation from eternal punishment. We need saving because we cannot save ourselves. That's the message of Scripture.
I am sure you all realize we are not saved by believing the Bible (cf John 5:39), but by trusting the Christ Who is revealed in the Bible. Satan knows the Bible but he is not saved. Timothy was raised on the Holy Scriptures in a godly home. Yet this meant nothing until he came to know and confess Christ. If we trust Christ Who died and rose for our sins He will save us (Jn 3:16-18).
So, as we stand at the start of another church year let me urge you to spend time with Scripture. For it alone makes you wise for salvation. And it alone equips you to fight off the attacks of Satan.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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