Pentecost 19

Text: 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Epistle which was read earlier.

To continue from St. Paul’s letter to the young pastor Timothy, he encourages Timothy to do something, something that should be common sense to him and to everyone for that matter: “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed….” In other words, don’t deviate from what you have already learned. That makes perfect sense when you think about it. Why would you take something that you already know, ideally something that you are quite confident in and turn it upside down and start believing in something else? When you think about it, it doesn’t make any sense to Paul, and so it shouldn’t make any sense to Timothy either. And in turn, it shouldn’t make any sense to the Ephesians either.

As we look at young Timothy, we see how he has been raised in the faith. Although his father was a Greek who did not allow his son to be circumcised, Timothy was blessed with a mother and grandmother who nurtured him in spiritual things. He was convinced by the Gospel before Paul’s second visit to Lystra, his hometown. From there, he was Paul’s co-worker and fellow missionary, constantly learning from the second-best teacher there ever was.

The basics which Paul had learned from Jesus, the basics which Timothy had learned, and the basics which you and I have learned come from God Himself through the Scriptures. As Paul says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Paul is not speaking about pagan or philosophical resources. He is attesting the divine origin of the Old Testament, as Peter also does: “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Unlike other writings, these Holy Scriptures are emphatically “useful,” useful for the spiritual growth of those who know them and believe them. They are useful because they tell our story: the story of how God created us in His own image – perfect and without sin. They tell the story of how we sinned and death became a part of our lives. They tell the story of how God promised to send a Savior to redeem us from death. They tell the story of what Jesus did to redeem us sinners – how He lived, died, and rose again on our behalf to restore us as God’s children.

For the Christian, we are charged with one thing: be faithful to the Word of God. Unfortunately, that is something that is rather difficult in today’s day and age. We have the world telling us things that run complete opposite to that of the Word of God. We have the world telling us that the Word of God is archaic and no longer applies to us so it must be changed. We have the world telling us that the God of the Scriptures is the same as other gods, and that even though we call them different names, it really is the same god.

We must as Christians, remain faithful to the Word of God as recorded for us in the Bible. It means holding steadfast to God and the promises that He makes for us through Jesus Christ. That means looking only to Jesus for our forgiveness and salvation, for salvation cannot be found in anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ. However, that is not what the world would have us hear. They would have us hear that one can be saved apart from Jesus Christ, that one can be saved through their own merits and that there does not need to be a reliance on a man who lived and died and stayed dead. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the world lies to you, deceiving you by passing off salvation that isn’t really salvation. Something must be true, but where do we turn? We turn to the Word of God.

How is this done? Martin Luther explains just how to do this in the explanation of the Third Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” Luther writes in the Small Catechism, “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” There isn’t much to it: don’t despise the Word of God, but gladly desire to hear it. It sounds simple, but like much of the Christian’s work, they are very hard words to live by. They mean always coming to church, willingly; anxious and eager to hear God’s Word, through the sermon or through Bible studies. It is a tough task for everyone. There have been those Sundays where, in my youth, going to church was the last thing that I wanted to do. There have been those times where even when I was sitting in the pews, I mentally “checked out” during the sermon, because it was the same thing that I hear in every sermon – that Jesus lived and died for my sins.

This was the same sermon I heard from my pastor, Sunday in and Sunday out for 52 weeks straight! I already knew all of this; surely my pastor had something else he could have preached! But this was the sermon that he preached, every single Sunday. As much as I wanted to hear something different, the central focus of the sermon never changed. This was the message that I needed to hear!  This is the message that you need to hear, every single Sunday. That’s the message I pray that I preach every Sunday because that’s what you need to hear, for it is the power unto salvation.

Luther expounds upon this in much greater detail in the Large Catechism. He writes, “Let me tell you this, even though you know God’s Word perfectly and are already a master in all things: you are daily in the devil’s kingdom. He ceases neither day nor night to sneak up on you and to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against these three commandments and all the commandments. Therefore, you must always have God’s Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your ears.” 

We as the Church need to know one thing: the Word of God is not popular. It wasn’t popular in the time of the Old Testament, it wasn’t popular in the time of the New Testament, and it’s not popular today. There will always be something more poplar. There will always be a new fad when it comes to religion. But none of that, absolutely none of that, will do anything to save you. The only thing that will save you is what has been revealed to us through God’s holy Word.

Since 1942, that is exactly what the LWML has been doing – spreading the Word of God, one mite project at a time, bringing that Word of God to places that have never heard it, strengthening ongoing ministries in their proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By their work, their mites, and their dedication to the Gospel, they have continued in what they have learned and have firmly believed.

For that reason, the sake of the Gospel, that is why Paul impresses upon Timothy the need to remain steadfast in the faith. For that reason, it is impressed upon the Church today to remain steadfast in the faith. St. Peter writes, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith….” What is at stake is not mere child’s play; it is your eternal salvation. Because of this saving message of Jesus Christ and what it means for all who believe, we are left with one thing to do: be faithful to the Word. We are faithful to the Word that promises forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. We are faithful to the Word because it does what it says it does. We are faithful to the Word because it “is breathed out by God.” We are faithful to the Word because God is and always will be faithful to us, declaring us forgiven for Jesus’ sake. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.