Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A HEART FOR TRUTH (2 Timothy Chapter 4)

2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

Paul’s solemn charge to Timothy to preach the word was accompanied by a warning of a time to come “when people will not endure sound teaching” (2 Timothy 4:3).  That time has come.  A heart for truth is arguably the most precious thing that a man can possess.  In sin and unrighteousness there is the suppression of truth (Cf. Romans 1:18).  It is only by God’s intervention that a man’s condition can be otherwise.  The truths associated with sound teaching are confrontational in nature.  The truth reproves and rebukes (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:16, 4:2).  It is only by the inner-working of the Spirit that a rebel sinner is born again through the truth to possess a yearning for the truth (Cf. 1 Peter 1:22-2:2).

Paul was not warning Timothy of a concern related to the lost in general because they would never be expected to have a heart for truth (Cf. Romans 1:18).  He was speaking of a time in which the professing church, the “religious,” would refuse to put up with sound teaching.  There can be little doubt that we live in such a time.  If a person desires religion unaccompanied by sound teaching there are plenty of churches in which it will be availed to him. 

Sound teaching is that which is in accordance with God’s inspired Word (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17).  The term “sound” refers to that which is “sound in health.”  Sound teaching is the healthy teaching that is consistent to the Word of God.  Since “all Scripture is breathed out by God” and “profitable” it is incumbent on a teacher to not “shrink from declaring” anything in it (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:16; Acts 20:20).  The truth is confrontational in nature.  Sometimes it will “reprove, rebuke, and exhort,” but the God-approved teacher is one who refuses to tamper with it (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:2).  Some things in God’s Word are difficult to understand or accept (Cf. 2 Peter 3:16).  Other things are difficult to put into practice.  If you are looking for someone who will avoid declaring the hard truths--who will tell you what you want to hear--you can surely find it.  But don’t expect to receive any spiritual benefit from that kind of teaching.

“But having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” (2 Timothy 4:3).  They will not put up with sound teaching and instead will “heap up for themselves” teachers who will gladly accommodate and cater to their desires.  The same thing happened in Isaiah’s day and God condemned the people for it, “For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions’ (Isaiah 30:9-10).  The religious of our day are no different than the religious of theirs.  “Smooth things” are deemed more desirable than hard truths.  Cultural relevance trumps Biblical authority in many American churches.

Paul is the great example of one who preached the Word faithfully in season and out (Cf. 2 Timothy 4:2).  He preached in cities and from a prison cell.  He preached before kings and before paupers.  He preached in synagogues and on a hill covered with altars to false gods.  He preached to the multitudes and he preached to a lone jailor.  He preached when he was healthy and when he was sick. He preached to receptive crowds and riotous ones.  In any and every circumstance Paul preached truth because he was a steward of it (Cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1).  He had absolute confidence in the ability of God’s Word to save and transform lives (Cf. Romans 1:16; 2 Timothy 3:15).  The yearning for truth is something to be treasured and guarded and especially in a time such as this.  In these last days it is as a precious and rare jewel.

Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III commented on this matter, “You see, the task of preaching God's message from God's word is so urgent because of the imminent spiritual dangers to the flock of God. And again, my friends, we look around us today and we see those dangers everywhere: Worship services where the word of God is never, ever, read; worship services where the word of God may be read, and then the message has absolutely nothing to do with it; worship services which lead the people astray with false teaching; congregations where once the gospel was clearly proclaimed, where it's completely lost. The imminent spiritual dangers of which Paul warns Timothy are around us today everywhere to see, and therefore, my friends, this passage is not just a passage that's relevant to preachers. It's relevant to members, to those who sit under the ministry of the word regularly. And we need to pray, and we need to want that word, and we need to long for that word, and we need to long that God would work that word in our hearts and transform us by it.”

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