I begin our study by saying that I believe there is a tremendous need in our day to ponder the nature of God’s revelation. How has He revealed Himself to mankind? Why is it necessary you might ask? Its necessity flows from two facts. First, ponder Paul’s prophetic statements in II Timothy 3:1-17 concerning the last days. He says that “in the last days perilous times shall come.” Men will have “a form of godliness, but will deny its power,” meaning that they will have the appearance, shape, or structure of Biblical Christianity, yet their religion will not be genuine. It will be powerless to justify or mature them in the faith. It will be a seductive counterfeit to truth. This deceptive form of religion will creep into people’s homes and capture those who are naïve and burdened by their sins. They will be deceived by their lusts. This deception will be similar to Jannes and Jambres, who withstood Moses when he stood in Pharaoh’s court. As they resisted the truth, so will those proclaiming these various forms of error. These men are men “of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.” He says that, “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”
We are living in the last days, the final chapter in human history. The rapture of the church is immanent. In Acts 2, Peter preached that he was living in the last days. The apostles addressed the early church as people living in the last days, and they commanded the churches to be looking for the return of Christ. We all should be deeply burdened for doctrinal purity and precision in these last days. If we are going to do this, we must obey Paul’s command to Timothy. Though “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived,” Timothy you must “continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto 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 perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Paul commanded Timothy to be a man fully committed to the inspired word of God. Paul reminds him of the nature of the word: holy, profitable for salvation, instructing, rebuking, correcting, and grounding; the source of the word: unchanging God Himself; the tools God used in delivering the word: tried and authenticated apostles of Jesus Christ; and the power of the word: it brings salvation and maturity to the believer. Paul commanded Timothy to be a man of the Word alone; sola scriptura as the Reformers would have referred to this doctrine. If we are anything but Biblicists in our practice or teaching, we are little better than the Pharisees in the days of Christ. We are in danger of leading people astray and setting before others a damaging pattern of preaching and teaching. While I assume that the people that will read these articles are doctrinally sound, I challenge each one of you not to practice the principles of those whom Christ harshly rebuked as “blind leaders of the blind” who according to Matthew 15 “transgressed the commandment of God by their traditions.” Let us never elevate tradition/opinion/derived principle to the place of inspired revelation.
A second reason that we embark on this study is the practical observation of Paul’s statements, in our contemporary culture. I think of several contemporary issues that we could easily see. We have false prophets telling us that Christ is going to return on a specific day when the word is clear, that no man knows the day or the hour. Groups preach a health and wealth prosperity gospel and are followed by the thousands. Some cults say that Christ is not the Second person of the Trinity, God incarnate, but that He is a god, a created being, brother of Satan, or a prophet. Some teach that salvation is through the church alone and its sacraments, while others teach that salvation is impossible to those who are joined to a church. While the name on a church sign may align that assembly with a historically orthodox, position that is distinctly sola scriptura, their practice may deny their name. Their teaching may be little better than the practice of the cults or the Pharisees of Christ’s day. I pray that these studies will challenge us to elevate the “rightly divided” Scripture alone as our standard for faith and practice rather than our opinions as we preach and teach the word of God. I also pray that these studies will aid those who have been careless in their study and teaching of the God’s word to develop a principled approach to studying God’s Word, so that the Holy Spirit can take the “rightly divided” word and apply it to our hearts and the hearts of those to whom we minister. May our teaching be Biblical not an emotional form of godliness that denies its power!