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. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:1-18 (ESV)
The apostle Paul is addressing his protégé Timothy for what he believes to be the last time. Most of Paul’s letters were intended to clarify correct doctrine (i.e. Romans and Galatians) and to encourage his hearers in the faith. 1 and 2 Timothy were written as instructions to a young pastor and were meant to educate and encourage both Timothy and the congregation he served.
God gave us the gift of Holy Scripture as His revelation to us. The teaching of Scripture brings us closer to Jesus. Jesus is the whole point of Scripture, as Martin Luther said, “Scripture is the manger that holds the Christ Child within it.” We learn the story of God’s people. We learn of God’s condemning Law and His saving Gospel. Through the teaching of Holy Scripture, and the preaching of the Word, we are brought to saving faith in Jesus, the Truth, the Way and the Life.
Unfortunately in this age when information is as easily available as an internet search, Biblical literacy is at an all-time low. Recently an evangelist did a survey of people on the street asking how many of the Ten Commandments they could name. Then the evangelist asked people how many beers they could name (not that beer is a bad thing.) Sadly, many more people could name ten brands of beer than could name all of the Ten Commandments.
Because fewer and fewer people are being taught to read and to understand the Bible, more and more people are susceptible to all sorts of non-Biblical teaching that is being sold as Christianity. There are money-grubbing televangelists, New Age and Eastern philosophies, universalism, and other false religions that people are using to scratch itching ears. When we don’t know what the genuine article looks like, it’s a lot easier to fall for a counterfeit. When it comes to our relationship to God, the wrong information can lead us to deception and away from true saving faith in Jesus.
There are hard truths in Scripture that the world doesn’t want to hear. Nobody is good enough to earn his or her way to heaven. Every human alive is a sinner who was born under the condemnation of the Fall. Apart from Jesus and His sacrifice made for us on the Cross, there is no salvation.
Along with the hard truths, there is glorious good news in the Bible – good news that brings people to saving faith in Jesus. Jesus became a man and came to earth to be our substitute, to pay the penalty for our sins, because we can’t erase the curse of sin ourselves. Jesus died and rose again to save sinners. His gift of life forever with God is freely given to us, by faith in Christ, by the grace of God. Nothing we can do can earn this gift.
This is why Paul urges his protégé- and us as well- to preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
It is important not only for our own growth and development in faith that we learn and study Scripture, but also that we share what we learn with others, especially our children. Children do not learn anything about God, the Bible or the Catechism in public schools. The dearth of Biblical teaching and the lack of Christian formation among our youth is a contributing factor to a sad decline in civility and order in our society. More importantly, these are people for whom Jesus died to save who have not heard the Good News.
If children today are to learn to study God’s Word, to come to church to worship with God’s people, or even how to pray, it is up to parents- and if not parents, grandparents and other concerned people to teach them. We learn in Romans 10:17 that faith comes by hearing. How can people know of God’s truth if they aren’t taught?
There has never been a more important time for us as God’s people to truly care about His truth. May the Holy Spirit guide us to understand and teach and live what is given to us in God’s written Word, so others may come to saving faith in Jesus.