It critical to us to be biblical. We call ourselves Bromborough Evangelical Church. Two of those words are easy enough! But what about the middle one? What do we mean by “evangelical”? How important is it? Would it be better to say something else, like “gospel” or “community” or “Spirit-filled” or “family” or…?
It matters a lot, because it reflects who we are. But the word gets misused by lots of Christians (maybe you) and abused by the media (especially in America).
2 Timothy 3-4 explains what we’re talking about. And when you really grasp it, the demand to be biblical is tough. And the demands come straight away…
Suffer for Christ (10-13)
Remember that 2 Timothy is a letter from the apostle Paul to a young pastor called Timothy. Paul is an old man in prison for speaking out about Jesus. Last time we saw Paul warning Timothy that there would be “very difficult times” for telling people about Jesus. False preachers and churches would come along teaching false things, living out worldly lives, generally making it harder for Christians to persuade people of the truth.
Paul listed a pile of things about what those people will be like. But Timothy is to be different. He’s to follow Paul’s example, because Paul has imitated Christ in his life. Read 2 Timothy 3:10-11.
There are nine things listed. They start off speaking about Paul’s godly conduct and character (which Timothy should follow). Then at the end Paul speaks of the persecution he’s had to endure (which Timothy should expect!). You can read about it all in Acts 14, where Paul was actually stoned and left for dead in Lystra. But “the Lord rescued me from all of it!” The logic is obvious: Live a godly life and you will attract tough persecution, but the Lord will rescue you from it all, though not necessarily in this life.
Godliness brings conflict and persecution
Read 2 Timothy 3:12.
- Really? Yes, certainly true in absolute terms in Ephesus (where Timothy was) under Roman rule.
- And it’s still generally true everywhere today. It has to be.
- The world isn’t godly, so if you want to live a godly life you’ll inevitably come into conflict at some point. Must do.
- If you haven’t experienced persecution for Christ, maybe you’re compromising in godliness? Or just not interacting with the world? Neither is right or good.
It sounds a bit unfair, a bit unexpected. Shouldn’t living for God mean reward? Why do bad people seem to flourish? Read 2 Timothy 3:13.
- It’s a conundrum that is asked a number of times in the Bible (see Psalm 73), but the answer is always the same.
- Everything will pass; ensure your happiness is secured in something (someone) eternal.
Be godly (like Christ, for him). Be ready to suffer for him too. Keep an eternal perspective though: He will rescue you. He will wipe away your tears himself. You will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Be godly. It’s good to do good; it’s right to do right. Even when it means you must suffer for Christ.
Listen to Christ (14-17)
Timothy might well see people in other churches having all sorts of successes based on slack gospels and untruths. But a flourishing ministry isn’t to be measured in numbers. Read 2 Timothy 3:14.
Faithfulness to the truth as he has been taught it is critical. How can we know he was taught well? Read 2 Timothy 3:15.
But remember that the Scriptures Paul is talking about can only be the Old Testament. He’s saying the Old Testament will make you wise to salvation in Christ Jesus. How?
- Firstly, you realise that God is our creator and that he dwells in unapproachable holiness and purity.
- Second, you see the sinfulness of humanity – and that God judges sin.
- Third, it’s clear that you yourself are a sinner, guilty before God. You are accountable to him, and you’re lacking.
- Fourth, there’s hope in how often God is seen to be merciful and gracious, a God of forgiveness and love.
- Fifth – wonderfully, this holy unapproachable God has provided a sacrificial system that allows you to draw near and have fellowship with him.
- Six: You see the promise of a Saviour to come; a suffering servant who will die in your place; one who will reign as prophet, priest and king forever and ever.
- Seven: It’s obvious to anyone with ears to hear and eyes to see: Jesus is that saviour. Salvation is in him by faith.
You can see hear the very purpose of Scripture itself: To provide a permanent, written foundation to point you to Jesus, so that in Christ you may come to the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Be biblical because the Bible is God-breathed
Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT).
Very familiar verses, and the NLT translates them as we usually read them. More literally:
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
- Remember, Paul is writing to a pastor, a church leader.
- The phrase “man of God” is an Old Testament term applied to the likes of Moses, Elijah, David, some prophets
- Scripture taught Timothy ‘wisdom to salvation’ in Christ, and the same Scripture is to be Timothy’s equipment in serving as a “man of God” leading the people of God.
- The Bible is to a pastor what a saw, hammer and chisel are to a joiner – core tools of the trade.
- And with the Bible, the man of God has a “complete” toolset, provided he uses it fully and well.
Pastors are to be like Ezra in the Old Testament, who studied, obeyed, and then taught the Scriptures.
The Lord expects his pastors to teach, rebuke, correct and train in righteousness all of the Lord’s people (you). But not with man-made ideas. Not with nice, happy thoughts to make you feel good all the time. You are to be taught, rebuked, corrected and trained in righteousness not by me, but by the God-breathed word.
That’s what we mean by “evangelical” – we unashamedly preach God’s word, and we look to see and hear Jesus on every page.
Revolve around Christ (1-4)
So the onus on the Bible teacher is strong. In case Timothy didn’t quite see that, Paul really spells it out! Read 2 Timothy 4:1-2.
Don’t miss the solemn weight of these words. Paul is putting the charge to Timothy in the context of eternity – this stuff matters more than life itself.
More important still, don’t miss that this is about all of us. You will one day stand before Christ on his great judgment throne. I must prepare you for that day as best I can with the word of God. You must listen to the word of God. Because there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. He said, “No-one comes to the Father but by me.” In grace, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. You can only be saved by faith in Christ.
Only Christ can save you from judgment for your sin. Scripture is God’s revelation of Christ to you.
So, Timothy (Preacher): Preach the word!
And therefore, Listener: Listen to God speaking.
It should be clear that preaching the Bible is not an optional extra for me; it’s what Christ has appointed me to do. But it should also be clear what that means for you: You must listen. Not to me, but to the Lord. You must make listening to him a priority in your life, with the solemnity and seriousness applied to me to preach.
Your Creator has spoken
Your Creator has written down what he wants you to know about himself, yourself, and the way of salvation in Christ. He rebukes and corrects you by his own holiness. The direction is from him to you. You’re his creature.
Some people find that too much, too demanding, over-the-top. They prefer an easier religion made in their own image. Read 2 Timothy 4:3-4.
See how that’s the wrong way round?
- Sometimes, people are driven by society and culture and want to re-work worldly values back into the Bible.
- That denies the fact that these are God-breathed words.
- It denies the authority of God to tell you how to live in his world.
- You end up in moral quicksand because there are no absolutes.
- And man-made religion is more dangerous than DIY surgery. Gangrene will set in, and you will perish.
So hear the word of God. Teach it to your children. Revolve your time and your life around Christ as presented to you in his word (not some indistinct, fluffy version of your own making). Is preaching solemnly mandatory for preachers but somehow optional for hearers? No.
Revolve around Christ as presented to you in his word. Then:
Persevere for Christ (5-8)
In 2 Timothy 4:5, Paul lists four things Timothy is to do in his ministry. It’s helpful to see them literally (e.g. CSB)
- exercise self-control in everything (keeping an eternal perspective, remain faithful and steady under fire)
- endure hardship (lit. “suffer”, so standing out in godliness for Christ is expected, as that will attract some suffering)
- do the work of an evangelist (writing to a Pastor; suggests he is to teach the gospel to the church and to those outside the church. Also, in Ephesians 4, an evangelist equips the church for evangelism – we’re all in it)
- fulfil your ministry (preach & pray, love and lead)
It should be clear by now that Timothy is to imitate Paul in these things, and that we’re to learn to imitate them too. These words apply to you and me. Not least so that you can have the testimony of Paul as an old man: Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8.
Be biblical all your life
Some of us are older than others. We know we have more years behind us in these bodies than ahead. But look at Paul’s testimony: Life has been hard, but the future in Christ is glorious.
- Paul can look back and say he’s fought (literally, wrestled). He’s struggled hand-to-hand every day against sin, temptation, opposition and hardship.
- He’s run the race – kept to the track the Lord laid out for him and run with all he’s got to win the crown!
- He remained faithful (“kept the faith”), true to God’s word, true to Christ, even when it cost him dearly.
- Paul has exerted himself for Christ for years. It’s an astonishing testimony. And there’s no retirement, either.
- He will go to the end, looking forward to being welcomed by Christ into his presence; Jesus is the reward.
For those who are younger, here’s your goal in life. Jobs, homes, etc all important, but not the big goal. Fight the good fight, run the race, keep the faith. Serve the risen Jesus Christ all your days.
We’re evangelical; we trust in the Christ of the Bible.
- So expect to suffer for Christ. The world is against him, and it will be against you as you stand in godliness.
- Listen to Christ. Spend time in his word. Allow it to prick your conscience, reorient your desires, redirect your life.
- Revolve around Christ. He has placed a solemn charge on those who teach his word; you’re under a similar charge to hear that word. Fix your week around it.
- Persevere for Christ. Rooted in him, serving him, making him known. Wrestle and run to the prize. Not in your own strength, but in the power of the Spirit. Christ is the prize.