Wednesday, November 28, 2007

False vs. True Shepherd: A YouTube Comparison

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." (Rom 1:16-17)

I saw this interview of Joel Osteen on Dr. Eric Svendsen's blog. What follows is an absolutely pathetic example of someone who names the name of Christ yet is clearly ashamed of His words.

And the dance goes on:

Now compare that foolish, stumbling, bumbling unfaithful presentation of the gospel to that of the boldness and clarity of Dr. MacArthur below. This is the same venue with the same interviewer:

Now, ask yourself to which one of these men the words of our Lord applies:

"If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." (Mark 8:38).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

John Piper on the Prosperity Gospel

It goes without saying that I absolutely abhor what is commonly known as the "prosperity gospel." After God saved me out of atheism in 1994, I attended a non-denominational church that at one time had a pretty decent teaching ministry; that is, until it bought into this heresy hook, line, and sinker. However, my hatred of it grew to abhorrence 10 years later when in September 2004, I went to a local "word of faith crusade" to evangelize the attendees that were entering and exiting the facility. As I left the auditorium to get away from the noise for a moment, I saw a woman and her disabled son sitting right outside the auditorium door. They were there, like so many others, patiently waiting, hoping, and expecting to receive a "miracle" from the false prophet standing on the stage in the auditorium. This woman's son was severely afflicted with cerebral palsy. After striking up a conversation with her and then proceeding to respectfully challenging her "health and wealth" views, I'll never forget what she said, "My son can be healed on the basis of my faith" (emphasis hers) to which I quickly responded, "If that's true and your son is not healed, then what does that say about your faith?" (emphasis mine)

I patiently explained that given her doctrine, it logically followed that her son couldn't be healed because she didn't have enough faith. After sensing some guilt in her, I then began to explain how her doctrine had inevitably put her on a neverending guilt trip. This was because since her son has never been healed through the "ministry" of this or any other false prophet, then given her doctrine, she'll always blame herself for her son's unrelenting physical condition because of her lack of faith. Obviously, she immediately became angry, began to rebuke me, and refused to speak with me anymore. As I walked away, her 12 year old son continued to lay across her lap, writhing around, unable to communicate. After that experience, I vowed to take every opportunity available to expose this dangerous, pernicious heresy for everything that it is, and I still gladly do so today.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Grace Alone

INTRODUCTION (Read Ephesians Chapter 2)

The 1646 London Confession of Faith states in article XXI,

XXI. JESUS Christ by His death did purchase salvation for the elect that God gave unto Him: These only have interest in Him, and fellowship with Him, for whom He makes intercession to His Father in their behalf, and to them alone doth God by His Spirit apply this redemption; as also the free gift of eternal life is given to them, and none else. Eph.1:14; Heb.5:9; Matt.1:21; John 17:6; Heb.7:25; 1 Cor.2: 12; Rom.8:29.30; 1 John 5:12; John 15:13, 3:16.

Brethren, the most common distortion of the Gospel of grace among mankind manifests itself in the silly and unwarranted notion that by our own human efforts, we can make ourselves right with God. This type of thinking is the product of our fallen, sinful nature, and this false confidence now fills the evangelical world. From the self-esteem gospel to the health and wealth gospel, from those who have marketed the gospel as if it is a product to be sold and sinners are the consumers who want to buy it, to others who treat the Christian faith as being true simply because it works, the foolish idea that people can be made right with God through what they do has always been the one of the primary deceiving tactics of the devil. Contrary to Roman Catholic theology, the Scriptures clearly teach that God's grace in Christ is not merely necessary for salvation, but is the sole efficient cause of salvation. In light of that truth, Shepherd’s Fellowship of Greensboro confesses that human beings are born spiritually dead and are incapable of even cooperating with regenerating grace. On our website and in our foundational documents we state the following:

SOLA GRATIA (Grace Alone)

We reaffirm that in salvation we are rescued from God's wrath by his grace alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life.

We deny that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature.[1]

Question # 1: What do we mean when we say “that we are saved by grace alone?”

When we use the term “grace alone,” we mean that our salvation from the wrath of God; our deliverance from hell, is because of something good in God, and not because of anything good in us. The Biblical conception of human nature after Adam and Eve's fall into sin is not a pretty picture, but many people seem to have an unlimited confidence in human nature and human goodness. These same people have a very difficult time accepting what the Bible says about the human condition. In a democratic culture such as ours, we believe that our vote counts, and that by exercising our right to choose, we can truly and significantly change the world around us. We are all taught from our youth that we have it within ourselves to accomplish anything if we simply put our minds to it and give it our best effort. When we become Christians, we end up thinking that salvation works the same way. In other words, if God tells us to do something, it must be because we have the inherent ability to do what He commands. “Choice” becomes the mantra of the modern American, and we see it revered in everything from Burger King’s “Have it your way” slogan to the frequent cry of pro-death abortionists who argue “Women have a right to choose!” And so we fall headlong into one of the greatest heresies in church history, the heresy of Pelagianism, a doctrine that denies that people are sinners by nature from the womb and that each person is born morally neutral, neither good nor evil and that we learn good or evil from others as we grow up.

Pelagius, an ascetic monk that lived in the 4th & 5th centuries, said that since all people are born morally neutral, it is theoretically possible for a person to live his entire life without sinning. And so, according to Pelagius, infants do not have original sin, but instead learn how to sin from others. He said that some children will go further on in their childhood than others in a sinless condition, but he said that even when they sin, it doesn’t affect their free will. He said,

All therefore have a free will to sin and not to sin. It is not free will if it requires the aid of God; because every one has it within the power of his own will to do anything or not to do it. Our victory over sin and Satan proceeds not from the help which God affords but is owing to our own free will . . . Whether we will or whether we will not, we have the capacity of not sinning.[2]

One of Pelagius’ favorite sayings was, “If I ought, I can.” He believed that God never commands something that is impossible for us to do. According to him, man is able to repent and believe because he is responsible to repent and believe. Responsibility implies ability, right? Pelagius also taught that God’s grace is given only to enable us to do more easily that which we are already able to do on our own. And so, according to him, man initiates, God responds. So it was with Pelagius, and so it goes for most people today. It’s really quite simple: the need for understanding that salvation is by grace alone doesn't make much sense to an American who doesn't think that there’s much wrong with people in the first place. For “If people are basically good” they say, “why do we need grace in order to be saved?” You can hear the echo of Pelagius in the most ardent pro-choice secularists, and this is because their doctrines have the same father (John 8:44).

Question # 2: What do the Scriptures teach about the Human Condition?

The Bible teaches that the unregenerate person is completely powerless to come to Christ on his own (John 6:44, 65). He cannot have faith without the work of God occurring first in his heart (1 John 5:1). He is spiritually dead and must have life breathed into him by God Himself before he can even repent and believe the gospel (2 Tim. 2:24-26). Because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, the entire human race is unable of itself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt (Eph. 2:1-5; Jer. 17:9). His will is not free in the sense that he can choose to follow Christ of himself any good time he pleases. Yes, man does have volition or a will. He can and does make choices. But he cannot do anything. There are always limitations on man’s ability. The doctrine of Total Inability/Total Depravity says that he cannot, and indeed does not want to, come to Christ because it is not part of his nature to want to come to Jesus. The Jesus of the Bible is a stench to him and is spiritually repulsive to him (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:14; 2 Cor. 2:14-16). Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit’s assistance to bring a sinner to Christ. It takes “regeneration” (“born from above” in John 3; “made alive” in Ephesians 2:1). Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit by which He makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Now that the sinner has been given the new heart, they have the ability and in fact the will to come to Jesus (this is what is called Effectual Calling or Irresistible Calling or Grace). Faith is not something man contributes to salvation, but it is a part of the gift of God in salvation as we will see later. It is God’s gift to the sinner, not the sinner’s gift to God (Phil. 1:29). Therefore, salvation is all of God and all of His grace. In light of our firm stand with the Protestant Reformers in their proclamation of the Biblical truth that salvation is by grace alone, we will look at Ephesians 2:8-9 under two main points:

I. The Entire Package of Salvation is a Gift from God.

II. Salvation is by God’s Grace Alone Apart from Works.


I. The Entire Package of Salvation is a Gift from God.

NAU Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

“For by grace you have been saved . . .” – Notice that the text says that salvation is “by grace”. Grace is by definition, “. . . the free unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from him.”[3] The 1646 London Confession of Faith states in article VI,

ALL the elect being loved of God with an everlasting love, are redeemed, quickened, and saved, not by themselves, nor their own works, lest any any man should boast, but, only and wholly by God, of His own free grace and mercy, through Jesus Christ, who is made unto us by God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, and all in all, that he that rejoiceth, might rejoice in the Lord. Jer. 31:2; Eph. 1:3,7, 2:8, 9; 1 Thess. 5:9; Acts 13:38; 2 Cor. 5:21; Jer. 9:23-24; 1 Cor. 1:30-31; Jer. 23:6.

If grace is to be defined as God’s grace, it cannot be earned, purchased, or worked for in any way. It has to be freely dished out to unworthy sinners by God’s own good pleasure. This brings us to the next phrase in verse 8, “through faith”.

through faith – Technically speaking, Paul says that we are not saved by faith (as if faith had any power in and of itself) but through faith. In other words, faith is the instrument through which we are saved, but faith itself, does not save. B.B. Warfield said, “The saving power of faith resides thus not in itself, but in the Almighty Saviour on whom it rests . . . it is not, strictly speaking, even faith in Christ that saves, but Christ that saves through faith.”[4] So, Christ saves us by His grace, through the instrumentality of faith. This faith comes about by hearing, and hearing by the preached word of Christ (Rom. 10:17). Again, the confession states in article XXIV,

XXIV. FAITH is ordinarily begotten by the preaching of the gospel, or word of Christ, without respect to any power or agency in the creature; but it being wholly passive, and dead in trespasses and sins, doth believe and is converted by no less power than that which raised Christ from the dead. Rom. 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:28; Rom. 9:16; Ezek. 16:16; Rom. 3:12, 1:16; Eph. 1:19; Col. 2:12.

“and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;” – The confession states regarding the gift of faith at article XXII,

XXII. FAITH is the gift of God, wrought in the hearts of the elect by the Spirit of God; by which faith they come to know and believe the truth of the Scriptures, and the excellency of them above all other writings, and all things in the world, as they hold forth the glory of God in His attributes, the excellency of Christ in His nature and offices, and of the power and fulness of the Spirit in its [His] workings and operations; and so are enabled to cast their souls upon His truth thus believed. Eph. 2:8; John 6:29, 4:10; Phi1. 1:29; Ga1. 5:22; John 17:17; Heb. 4:11-12; John 6:63.

But it’s not just faith that is given as a gift of God. The singular word “that” in verse 8 (“and that not of yourselves”) is very important because it points back to something mentioned earlier in verse 8, namely, the entire package of salvation. This includes the grace, the faith, repentance, and anything else associated with salvation.[5] Paul’s point in verse 8 is that the entire work of salvation does not find its basis in men but in God; a salvation that is dispensed freely to whomsoever He wishes in accordance with His sovereign good pleasure. That brings us to point number 2, the fact that salvation is by God’s grace alone apart from works.

II. Salvation is by God’s Grace Alone Apart from Works.

NAU Ephesians 2:9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

“not as a result of works . . .” – As said earlier, we are not saved by what we do, we never could be. This is because what we do could never overcome the original sin that we have inherited from Adam nor could it overcome the actual sins that we have willfully and freely committed against Christ as we’ve violated His law time and time again. Paul says the same thing in Romans 11:6 when he says, “But if it [salvation] is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” and he says in Titus 3:5 “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness . . .”. We can never be saved by being a “good boy” or a “good girl” because what we do can never be good enough to satisfy God’s justice against the crimes that we’ve committed against Him! God’s love is not His most important attribute. His most important attribute is His holiness, which means that that He is supremely righteous and good, and since He must always be righteous and good, then He has to fairly and accurately judge your sin. Since God must judge your sin, then your works will always come up short because (a) they are not always done for His glory, which makes them worthless in His eyes [Isa. 64:6], and (b) you can never do enough good works to counteract the bad works that you’ve either willingly committed or unknowingly committed nor can you find a cure to fix the problem of being held responsible for the sin nature that you’ve inherited from Adam! My friend, if you are counting on your good works to get you to heaven, then you are in a sad, deceived state, desperately in need God’s grace. If you continue in your own self-righteousness and reject the righteousness that is found only through faith in Christ, then you’ll be given justice in accordance with your works. This means that you will earn a wage for your works-based system of salvation, and according to Scripture, this will be eternal torment in hell (Rev. 20:12-15). Not only must salvation be given freely to you, “by grace” alone because you cannot earn or merit God’s grace by anything you do, but salvation must be given freely apart from works to prevent you from being able to boast about what you did to earn your salvation.

“. . . so that no one may boast.” - For Paul says of Abraham, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. (Rom. 4:2-4) If you are made right with God by what you do, then you could boast about how you accomplished your own salvation. But Paul says that the entirety of salvation is a gift of God, “so that no one may boast.”


Many of you may realize that you have found yourself on a treadmill of good works, trying to get into heaven by being a good boy or a good girl. But Scripture says that we aren’t saved by what we do, but by what God does to us. God gives us the gift of salvation as a package deal to whomever He wishes, and just as you can’t earn a gift from a friend, neither can you earn or merit God’s gift of salvation. He regenerates our hearts and enables us to repent and believe the gospel. It’s either that or hell. Do you genuinely hunger and thirst for righteousness? Do you desire to know Christ and be accepted by Him? If so, then call upon Him in faith, and beg Him for mercy. It’s your only hope, for salvation is all of grace, and none of works!


[2] Curt Daniel, The History and Theology of Calvinism, (Springfield, MO: Good Books, 2003), 13.

[3] Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, (San Francisco, CA: Foundation for American Christian Education, 2000), 93.

[4] B. B. Warfield, “The Biblical Doctrine of Faith,” Biblical Doctrines, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981), 502-504.

[5] For a detailed explanation of this, see James R. White, The Potter’s Freedom, (Amityville, NY: Calvary Press, 2000), 295-296.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More Logical Conclusions of Atheism

A Social Darwinist Speaks and Murders

by Gary DeMar

Atheist writers have tried to make the case that religion is the cause of all the evil in the world. Get rid of religion, and we’ll all live happily ever after.1 For a brief time, there were a few news articles that reported on a school student in Finland who shot and killed eight people (six students, a nurse, and a principal). Here’s how Reuters reported the story:

“Eight people were killed when a teenaged gunman opened fire at a school in southern Finland on November 7, 2007 hours after a video was posted on YouTube predicting a massacre there. The gunman was a pupil at Jokela High School, a teacher who witnessed the attack told Reuters, and had walked through the school firing into classroom after classroom. . . . The YouTube video, entitled ‘Jokela High School Massacre—11/7/2007,’ was posted by a user called ‘Sturmgeist89.’ ‘I am prepared to fight and die for my cause,’ read a posting by a user of the same name. ‘I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit, disgraces of human race and failures of natural selection.’ Sturmgeist means storm spirit in German.”2

The shooter described himself as “a social Darwinist.”3 An almost identical article appeared in Sky News but with no reference to the Darwinism association.4 I haven’t heard any of the New Atheists explain this evolutionary “logic” and how it might be morally wrong for an atheist to kill the unfit. I’m most interested in what super-atheist Richard Dawkins has to say since he blames religion for all types of ills: “Religious beliefs are irrational. Religious beliefs are dumb and dumber: super dumb. Religion drives otherwise sensible people into celibate monasteries, or crashing into New York skyscrapers. Religion motivates people to whip their own backs, to set fire to themselves or their daughters, to denounce their own grandmothers as witches, or, in less extreme cases, simply to stand or kneel, week after week, through ceremonies of stupefying boredom.” Dawkins doesn’t like to talk about the irrational, dumb, dumber, and super dumb belief system called Communism and the 100 million deaths at the hands of its atheist practitioners.

Dawkins has a real problem on his hands since he believes that “human super niceness is a perversion of Darwinism because, in a wild population, it would be removed by natural selection. . . . From a rational choice point of view, or from a Darwinian point of view, human super niceness is just plain dumb.”5 Evolutionists need the Christian worldview of altruism (super niceness) to maintain sanity in the world. If atheists were truly consistent with the tenets of their materialist faith, they would praise the Finnish Darwinian killer for following “a rational point of view” that led him to argue that it was proper for him to “eliminate all who he believed were unfit.” Instead of killing himself, he should have demanded to be tried by a jury of his atheist peers. He could have called Dawkins as a witness and called into evidence the following statement made by him: “In the universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won’t find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice.”6

1 It was a Scottish missionary who convinced some African communities from killing twins. “In pre-colonial times some communities used to kill twins and occasionally their mothers, believing a double birth was an evil portent and that the mother must have been with two men to bear two children at once.”

2Eight killed at Finland school after YouTube post,” Reuters (November 7, 2007).

3 David Williams, “Eight shot dead including principal in school massacre predicted in YouTube video,” Daily Mail online (November 7, 2007).

5 article

6 Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (New York: HarperCollins/BasicBooks, 1995), 133.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Avoiding Burger King Religion: Scripture Alone

INTRODUCTION (Read 2 Timothy 3)

After Paul’s release from prison in Rome in 62-63 A.D. and after his fourth missionary journey, during which he wrote 1st Timothy and Titus, he was again imprisoned in Rome under the maniacal Emperor Nero in about 66-67 A.D. As he was fading away in a cold dungeon, chained like a common criminal, he knew that his work was done and that he was going to die soon. And so, the lonely Paul, sat down and wrote his “last will and testament” to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:6-8). In this second letter to Timothy Paul tells us that he had been deserted by many of his missionary companions (4:10, 16), yet the Lord stood with him and comforted him while he awaited his arrival into God’s heavenly Kingdom (vv. 17-18).

Paul was lonely, but more than that, as part of his “last will and testament” he wanted to encourage the young, and timid Timothy to be strong in the Lord Jesus (2:1) so that he could pass on the precious apostolic doctrine he had learned from Paul to other faithful believers (v. 2); believers who would then go on to teach healthy doctrine as a countermeasure against the wickedness that would become prevalent in the last days of the Old Covenant age (2 Tim. 3:1ff). Paul then exhorts Timothy to continue in the doctrine and teaching Paul gave him, noting that suffering and persecution is part and parcel of having a faithful gospel ministry in world that is full of hostile gospel impostors and deceivers (3:10-14). He finishes his exhortation for doctrinal perseverance with these words about the all sufficient nature of Scripture to equip Timothy for his demanding life and task as a Christian and church planter,

NAU 2 Timothy 3:14-17 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

And so we’ll look at Paul’s exhortation to Timothy about the nature of Scripture under three primary headings:

  1. The God-Breathed Origin of Scripture.
  2. The Fourfold Sufficiency of Scripture.
  3. The Effect of Scripture.


Just as Paul didn’t tell Timothy to grab onto the latest newfangled religious fad, so we too at Shepherd's Fellowship are committed to the five “solas” that drove the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century. The five solas are a quick way of summarizing the essentials of the Christian faith and have enjoyed much stature within historical Protestantism. And to that we now turn our attention to a brief description of the first of the five solas, Sola Scriptura.

SOLA SCRIPTURA (Scripture Alone)

Our church affirms with historical Protestantism that the inerrant, infallible Scriptures consisting of the 66 books of the OT and NT are to be considered the only source of written divine revelation that can bind the conscience. In other words, the Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the supreme objective standard by which all Christian behavior and doctrine must be measured and assessed. Therefore, we deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian's conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be an infallible source of divine revelation in this present age. This brings us to point number one, a discussion of the God-Breathed nature of holy Scripture.

I. The God-Breathed Origin of Scripture (“All Scripture is God-breathed”)

Paul said in verse 16 that All Scripture is God-breathed . . .” (NIV). The traditional translation of this first phrase found in the KJV, NKJV, NASB is “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God . . .” But two popular translations render it differently:

NIV 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed . . .

ESV 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God . . .

While the traditional translation of the single Greek word theopneustos is rendered “inspired” notice how the NIV and the ESV change it to “God-breathed” and “breathed out by God” respectively. This major difference in translation reflects the validity of a study done long ago by B.B. Warfield, the great Reformed theologian and scholar of Princeton University.[1] Warfield’s summarized his research on this single Greek word in this way:

From all points of approach alike we appear to be conducted to the conclusion that [theopneustos] is primarily expressive of the origination of Scripture, not of its nature and much less of its effects. What is theopneustos is “God-breathed,” produced by the creative breath of the Almighty. And Scripture is called theopneustos in order to designate it as “God-breathed”, the product of Divine spiration, the creation of that Spirit who is in all spheres of the Divine activity the executive of the Godhead. The traditional translation of the word by the Latin inspiratus a Deo is no doubt also discredited, if we are to take it at the foot of the letter. It does not express a breathing into the Scriptures by God . . . What it affirms is that the Scriptures owe their origin to an activity of God the Holy Ghost and are in the highest and truest sense His creation. It is on this foundation of Divine origin that all the high attributes of Scripture are built.[2]

It is pretty hard to overemphasize what was said by Warfield in that quote: The term that Paul used to teach about the origin of Scripture combined with other things that are said about it throughout the rest of the Bible provides the basis for all sound theology, apologetics, philosophy, and Christian living. In other words, the Scriptures themselves are not primarily human as to their origin, but are first and foremost divine in origin. Because the Scriptures have God as their ultimate author, then all non-Christian systems, must by definition, seek to overthrow the plain teaching of the Holy Spirit through the pen of the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16 in order to maintain their unbiblical teachings and philosophies. In light of the nature of Scripture, let’s now move on to a discussion of the fourfold sufficiency of Scripture.

II. The Fourfold Sufficiency of Scripture.

The first pair of words in verse 16 (“teaching/reproof”) deal with correcting a man’s creed and the second pair (“correction/training”) deals with correcting his conduct.

First, Scripture is useful “for teaching” - Given the fact that Scripture testifies to itself that it has its origination in God and is divine in nature, Paul says that Scripture is “profitable (ophelimos, i.e., “valuable”, “useful”, “beneficial”) for teaching” (didaskalia = “doctrine”). Both terms are very significant. Some people will say that just because Scripture is profitable that doesn’t necessarily make it sufficient for settling all Christian doctrine and living; as if Paul’s point here is to say that Scripture is like “an assistant” to one who teaches, kind of like what a dry-erase board is to a teacher using dry-erase markers. But this is not Paul’s intention; Timothy didn’t need teaching aids, but encouragement about what was able to give him the wisdom that leads to salvation and what was absolutely essential for his continued success in ministry after Paul went home to be with the Lord.

Notice also that the emphasis is on “all” of scripture. This would include both the Old Testament and the apostolic New Covenant revelation given to the 12 apostles (cf. 2 Peter 3:15-16). Because “All Scripture” is God-breathed, it is that alone which Timothy was to base his doctrine, preaching, and ministry on. Paul makes no reference to some other equally profitable sources for Timothy to derive his doctrine, but his focus is that Timothy base his entire ministry on the entire revelation found in the Scriptures that were available to him at that time.

That Scripture is useful for “teaching” means that both the OT “writings” (graphe) and NT revelation were to be the content of instruction. Paul says of the OT Scriptures in Romans 15:4, . . . whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Paul says in that verse that whatever was written in the OT was written to provide general (thought not explicit) truths for New Covenant believers. Given the numerous quotations of the OT in the NT, it is clear that Paul wants the content of Timothy’s instruction to come from the sacred graphe (“writings”), or 37 books of the OT, especially as they are understood and applied in the New Covenant era through the teachings of Jesus and His apostles.

Secondly, Scripture is useful “. . . for reproof - The word rendered “reproof” (elegmon) is used in the sense of rebuking, reprimanding, chiding, or admonishing against bad doctrine that eventually produces bad behavior. This is also one of the duties listed in 4:2 for Timothy’s ministry (“preach the word . . . reprove, rebuke, exhort”) and is a duty of any Christian leader today. Paul also uses a similar word for “reproving/refuting” when he tells the Ephesian church to avoid participating “. . . in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;”

Thirdly, Scripture is useful “ . . . for correction – This word (epanorthosiv) is used in the sense of correcting or “setting straight” a person’s crooked and immoral conduct (cf. Titus 1:5 epidiorthoo). There are many instances in Paul’s letters where he sets believers straight who are engaging in loose, hypocritical living (1 Tim. 6:1-10).

Fourth, Scripture is useful “ . . . for training in righteousness – (padeian ten en diakaiosune) The type of “training” in mind here is that of training and instructing someone with the goal of producing conduct whereby “righteousness” is brought about in that person’s life. The “righteousness spoken of here is that of “right conduct” and the “training” that brings it about is a consistent application of the teachings of Holy Scripture. Paul said the same thing to Titus, For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age . .” Because we are not accustomed to this type of living when we first become Christians, we must be instructed in righteousness from the God-breathed Scriptures. This is why Paul says Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart . . .” (2 Tim. 2:22) and “. . . flee from these things . . . and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called . . .” (1 Tim. 6:11-12). So, Paul makes no room for false living and false activities in the life of the believer. He wants heart-devotion wrought through consistent heart-training in the Scriptures that leads to righteous living. Sound doctrine and sound living go hand in hand. There is no separating the two concepts, as James made so clear (Jas. 2:14-26). There is a logical order here, for Dr. James R. White notes,

. . . the man of God that brings the Word of God to bear on the congregation will do so in the venue of “sound doctrine” and, as a result, will see that powerful and active Word bringing reproof into the lives of God’s people. But it will not stop there: The Word brings correction, restoration, and healing as the Spirit works repentance and a godly commitment to honor Christ. Training in righteousness follows for those who are learning to lay aside the old ways of the flesh and walk in “newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Hence, the entirety of the Christian ministry and life finds its origin, its foundation, its lifeblood, in that which is God-breathed.[3]

The teaching from verse 16 regarding the origin and fourfold profitability of the Scriptures provides the basis for discussing our next point, the completely equipped man of God in 3:17.

III. The Effect of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:17)

The Holy Scriptures are profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, and for instructing in righteousness so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” The words “so that” (hina purpose clause) indicates that the purpose of Scripture’s four-fold work is to enable and equip any person of God (ho tou theou anthroupou) to meet all the demands that God sovereignly places upon them (2 Tim. 4:2 – with reference to Timothy in particular). The word translated “adequate” (NASB), “perfect” (KJV), and “complete” (NKJV) is the Greek word artios, which carries with it the sense of being “fully qualified”, “proficient”, “fully ready”, and “capable”. The idea with Paul’s use of this word is to show that God has given Timothy, and by extension, every Christian that is well-trained in the God-breathed Scriptures everything they need for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training themselves and others for the purpose of producing healthy doctrine and righteous living.

Paul goes on to add a second description, “equipped” (NASB) and “thoroughly equipped” (NKJV). This Greek word (exartizo) means that the Christian will be completely equipped for any good work in the Christian life. He will not need to look around for anything other than the word of God to completely prepare and equip him for Christian living and ministry. And so, each generation of the church is promised that if they obey and rely upon that which He has provided in His word, they will be equipped for every good work.[4]


When Paul says that all Scripture is “God-breathed” (theopneustos) and uniquely profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training for righteousness, and then further asserts that a Christian is completely equipped for every good work as it pertains to Christian life and doctrine by thorough training in the Scriptures, he is stating unequivocally that holy Scripture is sufficient for that which God has decreed it to do and nothing else is needed. Almost every sub-Christian and non-Christian theory of what constitutes our ultimate authority or ultimate reference point for determining how we should live and who we should ultimately obey, is answered and summarily dismissed by a thorough consideration of Paul’s teaching to Timothy in the text of 3:16-17.

If there was to be some other source of ultimate authority in the form of additional Scriptures beyond the apostolic deposit or external ecclesiastical structures in the form of the papacy or the Kingdom Hall, or a “new and improved” group of prophets, or any other extrascriptural organization or foundation, the apostle would’ve surely made mention of it by saying “Follow Peter’s successors to Rome!” or “Wait for another message from other prophets that God will send!” But no, Paul says nothing like that. Instead, he commends the readers of 2nd Timothy to the entirety of the written word of God. O’ that we’d heed this admonition today!

[1] B.B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture, (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1948), 245-296

[2] Ibid., 296.

[3] James R. White, Scripture Alone, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2004), 54.

[4] For an refutation of the leading attempts at destroying the testimony of 2 Tim. 3:16-17 with reference to Roman Catholic apologists, see David King and William Webster, Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, 1:71-92.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Doug Pagitt: Slippery as an eel on a greased pole?

Listen to this interview of Emergent Leader Doug Pagitt with Todd Friel of The Way of the Master Radio. Instead of commenting on this interview, I'd appreciate your feedback regarding Friel and Pagitt's interaction regarding Pagitt's non-statements about hell, judgment, the afterlife, and other world religions.