“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV)
Our text today comes from Paul’s letter to the young preacher, Timothy as he prepared for leadership in the church at Ephesus. In this letter Paul passes the mantel of ministry to Timothy and exhorts him to continue faithful in his duties, especially as it pertained to holding to sound doctrine (1:13-14), avoidance of error (2:15-18) and confidence in the Scripture (3:15-17). Paul knew the importance of knowing God’s word and its critical role in the survival of the early church. Paul’s message, the direct result of God’s inspiration (2 Tim. 3:16), is relevant to believers in the 21st century. Although we may not be clergy (1st and 2nd Timothy are ministerial letters), we are expected to “hold fast the pattern of sound words, which we have heard” (2 Tim. 1:13). Are we “holding fast”?
The Barna Research Group found that Biblical literacy is neither a current reality nor a goal in the U.S.
“Bible reading has become the religious equivalent of sound-bite journalism. When people read from the Bible they typically open it, read a brief passage without much regard for the context, and consider the primary thought or feeling that the passage provided. If they are comfortable with it, they accept it; otherwise, they deem it interesting but irrelevant to their life, and move on.”
Paul warned that in these “last days” leading to Christ’s Second Return, one of the things that would suffer would be knowledge of God’s Word.
“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4)
We can no longer depend exclusively on our pastors and other ministries to explain and interpret God’s Word. In many churches, the full counsel of God’s Word (both Old and New Testament) is being neglected. Ministers are questioning, from their pulpits, biblical truths including the security of believers and the sinlessness of Christ. Such behavior is not new, for Jeremiah observed: “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?” (Jer. 5:30-31)
Biblical literacy in the 21st century is critical. Why? Because in reading the Bible one receives wisdom from God (1 Cor. 2:6-16). In addition, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3: 16-17, ESV). Personally, biblical literacy encourages spiritual maturity and empowers us to live victoriously in these tumultuous times. As we witness to unbelievers and seekers, it will become the tool for sharing the Gospel—the message of life over death. Therefore, “Handle with care!”