Trinity Fourteen Sermon| Rev. Rolf D. Preus| (Rally Day)| September 12, 2004
“But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
When Christian parents bring their children to church to be instructed in the Holy Scriptures they do a holy thing. God gives us children because He loves us. Children are not born because a man and a woman choose to have children. Children are born because God chooses to bring them into this world. God is the Author of life. God did not embrace death when Adam and Eve set their hearts on a lie and rejected the truth. We did. We all fell in Adam’s fall. We were all born spiritually dead. We have no ability in and of ourselves to apply ourselves to spiritual knowledge. We are born in spiritual blindness. God alone can bring new life. God alone can enlighten us. He does so in the washing of Holy Baptism. This is why we baptize babies. God enlightens us through the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. This is why we teach our babies the word of God. This is why Christian fathers and mothers bring their children to Christian Day Schools, Sunday Schools, and Wednesday Schools. The Bible knows nothing of Christian Day Schools or Sunday Schools or Wednesday Schools, but the Bible most certainly does give to Christian fathers and mothers the responsibility of teaching God’s word to their children.
In the Book of Deuteronomy is recorded the famous Shema, the Hebrew word for hear. Listen to these words in the context in which Moses wrote them:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)
God gave His holy people the sacred duty to teach His word to their children. The same words that fathers and mothers were to cherish in their hearts were the words that they were to teach to their children. This is not a peculiarity of the Old Testament. This is a permanent feature of God’s dealing with His people. Parents are to teach their children the word of God. God gives us our children and when He does He calls us into the holy vocation of Christian fatherhood or Christian motherhood. God gives the father the primary responsibility of teaching God’s word to His children. When the father is unable or unwilling to teach God’s word to his children, the Christian mother must do so herself. This is what Timothy’s grandmother and mother did. It appears that Timothy’s father was not a believer. Timothy was not circumcised as a baby as he would have been had his father practiced the faith. But Timothy’s mother, Eunice, was devoted to the Holy Scriptures and she taught her son God’s word from the time he was a baby. When St. Paul wrote to Timothy, “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,” he was not speaking only of the instruction he had given to Timothy. He was referring also to the instruction Timothy had received since he was born. St. Paul added, “from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” From childhood – literally, from infancy – Timothy had known the Holy Scriptures.
Timothy was a preacher. In our text St. Paul refers to him as a “man of God” who, through the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, would be thoroughly prepared to do every good work given the pastor to do. St. Paul’s epistles to Timothy and Titus are called the Pastoral Epistles because these men were pastors and these epistles provide pastors with divine instruction on what the pastoral office requires of them. In order that Timothy would be a faithful pastor, he should study the Holy Scriptures, the same Holy Scriptures he had known since he was a little child.
There is no secret special “pastor knowledge” that is any different from the knowledge that the Bible gives to every Christian who reads it. Listen to these inspired words: “You have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” The Bible is able to make you wise. The Bible is not just a book. It is the words of God. God’s words are always able to do what God is able to do because God’s words are God in action. God speaks and so He acts. God speaks and so He gives. God speaks and He destroys. God speaks and He creates. Everything that God works within us to bring us to the faith, to keep us in the faith, and to produce the fruit of faith He does through His speaking to us. The Holy Scriptures are the very words of God. The Bible is God’s word. This is why it is inherently powerful to make you wise unto salvation through faith in Christ.
The Bible is God’s word. It does not become God’s word when the preacher preaches it. The Bible is God’s word. It doesn’t merely contain God’s word along with the opinions of men. The Bible is God’s word because it is God-breathed. The text of the Bible is written down in such a way that every word that is written down is God’s word. The various men who wrote the text did not do so under their own power or inspiration. God Himself led them to write exactly what God wanted them to write. This is why the Bible cannot err. God cannot err and God inspired the Bible to be written. To deny that the Bible is inerrant is to deny that God is its Author. But the perfection of the Bible comes precisely from the fact that God is its true Author. This is why the Bible is the source of all true spiritual knowledge. This is why the Bible is able to make you wise with the wisdom that possesses eternal life. True wisdom is to know Christ and Christ is the Savior of sinners. The reason God gave us the Bible is that we may know Christ, trust in Him, and receive from Him the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life that He alone can give.
It has been my privilege to serve as a pastor in Christ’s church for over twenty-five years. What a wonderful privilege it is! No man deserves the right to preach, just as no one deserves the gospel that is preached. It is always God’s gift of grace. Sinful mortals speak words to sinful mortals that promise and bring forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The words the preacher preaches and the words the hearer hears are the words of God that come from the lips of Jesus. It was after Jesus bore our sins on the cross and washed them away by His blood that He appeared to His apostles on that first Easter Sunday and commanded them to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. That command is recorded for us in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20 and 21. That command is Christ’s institution of the pastoral office. The apostles were the first preachers, and Christ has been sending His Holy Spirit to preach through His preachers for nearly two thousand years now. The preaching of the gospel is the time and the place where God forgives sinners, giving life to the dying. It was after Jesus won salvation for the entire world by His vicarious suffering and death that He instituted the office of preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments so that through the gospel and the sacraments the Holy Spirit would gather together the Christian Church on earth. Jesus earned the treasures distributed here.
I haven’t always felt like preaching on a Sunday morning and I suspect that you haven’t always felt like listening. Fathers and mothers don’t always feel like teaching God’s word to their children and their children don’t always feel like learning it. Children are a wonderful gift from God. They are the only gift God gives us here on earth that we can take to heaven with us. Our money, property, physical strength, popularity, prestige, social standing, job, and whatever other material gifts we treasure will be lost to us forever when we die. Our children are bought by the blood of Christ and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. They need God’s word whether or not we feel like providing it. They need to hear sound biblical preaching whether or not our schedules permit it. The greatest gift Christian parents can give to their children is God’s word.
Children are not born loving God’s word. The love for God’s word that we have comes from God. It comes from God’s word. This is why we need to feed children the word of God from the time they are born. This is why we must persist in teaching children even if they aren’t anxious to be taught. Loving Christian discipline begins with the determination on the part of fathers and mothers to indoctrinate their children in the teaching of the Holy Scriptures.
The Bible is profitable or useful for teaching. It is popular in our day to despise the love for pure doctrine as if doctrine or teaching is boring, lifeless, and irrelevant to Christian life. Nothing could be further from the truth! God’s teaching is always life giving because it is always centered in Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life. Everyone is going to be taught something. Who are our teachers going to be? Those who do not acknowledge the Bible as God’s inerrant word and who do not confess the pure doctrine taught in the Bible are not fit to teach anyone the way of eternal life.
The Bible is useful for reproof. That is, the Bible can convince you that you are wrong. It can show you what is right and wrong, true and false, beneficial and harmful. This is because the Bible is God’s clear and infallible word. It profits us when we are confused by a lying culture and a weak or erring conscience. The reproof of the Bible shows us where we are wrong.
The Bible is useful for correction. It corrects us by restoring us. It converts us. It changes us. The correction of the Bible is the correction of God Himself. The law shows us our sins and the gospel gives us our Savior from sin. This is how we are corrected.
The Bible is useful for instruction in righteousness. We cannot live righteous lives until we are righteous people and the Bible – from cover to cover – reveals to us the righteousness that we have in Christ. Christ is our righteousness. He has done all that God’s law required of us. He has suffered all that God’s law demanded of us. He is our righteousness and the Holy Scriptures teach us that this righteousness is given to us in the word and sacraments and received by us through faith. Training in righteousness proceeds from being justified by God’s grace alone through faith in Christ who is and will always be the LORD, our righteousness.
The Bible is the source of all Christian teaching. The Bible is therefore the judge of all Christian preaching. The authority of the creeds and confessions that we confess (including Luther’s Small Catechism) comes from the Bible. We indoctrinate our children in the Catechism at home and in Sunday School and Wednesday School because we are confident that the Catechism faithfully sets forth the saving doctrine of God’s written word. The gift God thereby gives our children is incalculable. Every child thoroughly catechized in the Six Chief Parts of Christian doctrine will be able to judge the teaching and preaching he hears from the pulpit for the rest of his life. The gospel that is preached is no different than the gospel that is confessed. When you have been indoctrinated in the pure doctrine of the Holy Scriptures you are wealthy beyond compare. After the words of our text, St. Paul writes this warning to Timothy:
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:2-4)
Those days are upon us as well. Doctrinal indifference is the spirit of our day. If we judge sin and false teaching according to God’s word the religious majority will condemn us as unloving bigots. This is how Christians are frightened away from taking a Christian stand and making a Christian confession. Bible doubters and deniers who don’t think the truth can be known, much less faithfully confessed, intimidate Christians into silence or outright denial of the saving truths of God’s word. We know from God’s word that we must stand up for the truth by which we are saved and confess it. This is why we support our Sunday School and Wednesday School. This is why we teach our children the word of God at home. This is why we faithfully bring them to the services of God’s house every Sunday. This is why we read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Holy Scriptures. In the Holy Scriptures is Christ and the wisdom of salvation. This is our greatest treasure in this world. This treasure will lead us out of this world into the eternal joys of heaven with God and all the saints.