The contrast between Paul and those who deny the power of godliness, whilst retaining its form, is very striking.
"Thou hast thoroughly known my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith," wrote the apostle, and his whole life showed the power of his doctrine. His teaching was that of the present position of Christ in glory, and the grand truths which are connected with it; and his conduct, purpose, faith, corresponded with it. His life bore witness to his doctrine, and the power of godliness was shown in enduring persecution and suffering to the end. The Lord had said, at the call and conversion of Saul of Tarsus, "I will show to him how much he must suffer for My name"; and it is in suffering that true power is manifested. It is so in its far smaller measure for us. All who desire to live piously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, and it is always more difficult to bear pressure than to labour actively. We shall refer to this again.
And now we come to a most important part - where the Holy Ghost insists upon the value of Scripture - of the sacred letters given by God to men.
The character of the day in which we are living makes this exhortation more than ever important, for the true value of the inspired Word is denied by most of the teachers in Christendom. It will be said that this is too sweeping a statement, but, without going out of England, I believe that any sober-minded and well-informed person will admit that it is not merely Rationalism and Materialism that deny plenary inspiration, but that the so-called Church herself is sadly in doubt as to how far she can admit the blessed truth that every scripture is divinely inspired. Unbelief in the perfect canon of the Word has got into the very seat of the Pharisees; and they have added this to their sins, that they have listened lately to the Sadducees.
Let us look at the passage. Paul foresaw by the Spirit that things would get worse instead of better. Wicked men and impostors* shall go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. Jannes deceives Jambres, and Jambres deludes Jannes with nefarious arts; and all this is going on. What safeguard has the man of God? Now comes the answer, and the unspeakable value of the written Word - the Book given to us of God, by which, in the very darkest times, we shall be guided to His glory. Praise be to His name for ever!
*The word means wizards, professional cheats. What a terrible thing that such should have their field in Christendom!
Timothy was to abide in those things which he had learned, and of which he had been fully persuaded, knowing of whom he had learned them; there was the revelation of the gospel of the glory of the blessed God committed to a chosen instrument; he had not learned these things from any doubtful source. Then, from a child, he had known the sacred letters. It is what God has caused to be written here upon earth that is before us. There are a number of written books, forming one complete whole, able to make one wise unto salvation, through faith, which is in Christ Jesus.
It is this very Book that is attacked in the present day, and of whose integral fulness we are called upon to be jealous. "Every scripture is divinely inspired." Timothy, no doubt, as a child, knew only the sacred writings of the Old Testament; but the point here is the whole written revelation of God. It is not possible, in a brief article, to study the wonderful way in which the New Testament scriptures set their stamp upon those of the Old, and upon one another; but the point before us is, "Every scripture is divinely inspired." Overwhelming proof as to the authenticity of the various parts of the Word has been given over and over again; but what is needed, in order to recognise and understand God's blessed word, is faith.
I should recommend every Christian to look into the blessed subject of revelation, but exhort him at the same time not to stop at any mere outward recognition of the divine oracles.* The simplest saint, walking by faith, will at once know the difference between God's inspired dictation and man's writings; it will not be necessary to point out to such that "Bel and the Dragon" is not scripture, or that the false gospels are not worth reading.
*The excellent little work, "Have we a Revelation from God?" (J. N. D.), is worthy of all study.
God speaks to us in His blessed Book, making known to us all the glories of His grace in Christ Jesus; and we find in the sacred letters - that is, in the Bible (the Christian's library) - that which answers to every difficulty, no matter how trying the times may be; and we are made wise unto salvation by faith which is in Christ Jesus.
"Every scripture is divinely inspired, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, fully fitted to every good work."
Much has been said as to the effect of the Word according to this passage. I only wish to notice that we have here an action on the conscience, heart, and understanding of the saint, which no human writing will ever produce. The word of God is quick and powerful, and alone can divide soul and spirit, and reveal God's thoughts.
A word as to the man of God, who is thus formed by the sacred letters. A man of God is one who represents God's interests in an evil day. Thus, when Eli, the high priest, was allowing evil in his house (as many indulgent fathers do) and in Israel, he received a visit from a man of God, who proclaimed the judgment which should follow the violation of Jehovah's rights in Israel. (1 Samuel 2:27-36.) Such visits are not always well received.
The man of God is placed here in the midst of all the ecclesiastical evil of the present age, in the midst of the growing infidelity and materialism; and he is called of God to stand for Him, bearing witness to the truth when error flourishes. For this he needs the inspired writings. It is the want of spiritual study of, and submission to, the sacred letters that explains why so many of us are not complete,* and are not fitted to every good work.
*Well developed, as we say physically of one whose articulations are perfect.
It is a question here of knowing for oneself the written word of God, and surely we cannot read the passage without feeling how much we have failed in this. May we pay full attention to it, so that the knowledge of the Scriptures - as necessary to us as it was to Timothy himself - may be found in us in our measure!
God has called us to bear a remarkable testimony in these days of infidelity; we are to be developed and fitted for every good work, and for this we need to be formed, taught, convinced, and corrected by the sacred letters. E. L. Bevir.