“Generations Under the Word”
2 Timothy 3:14-17
May 19, 2013
As the Word shapes you it shapes your family.
I. The Word impacts multiple generations (2 Timothy 3:14-15)
II. The Word shapes and equips us (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
I read an interesting article this week about the Tennessee Volunteers Women’s basketball head coach, the legendary Pat Summitt who stepped down last year due to early onset Alzheimer’s, but with an astounding 1098 wins, the most ever by an NCAA women’s or men’s basketball coach. On Mother’s day her son, Ty was asked by ESPN to highlight one lesson he’d learned from his mom: “If I were forced to choose, the lesson would be an overarching philosophy for life: "Always do things the right way." Not only did she repeatedly tell me this but her actions gave me an example to live by.
But his next words could be an example for all the family messages we’ve heard so far. He says: “Mom taught me to make relationships a priority. First and foremost is our relationship with God, which she showed me through her family's dedication to going to church, praying and reading the Bible. I have become strong in my faith and treasure my relationship with the Lord. Then comes our dedication to our family, which is especially helpful since I am marrying the love of my life this summer. My mom showed me what true dedication to family was by always cooking dinner, no matter what kind of day she’d had. As I go through life, I will know what the "right" decision is and keep relationships a priority because I saw my mom's example.”
Our text this morning is familiar to many: 2nd Timothy 3:14-17. But we’re in a series in which we apply familiar passages to family circumstances and so this morning I want to look at this passage with an eye on how God’s word impacts multiple generations, multiple generations within a family, and multiple generations of believers. But even though the family impact of the word is unarguable, I want to us to recognize this morning that we take hold of this truth individually. That is, what you do makes an impact on your family, on your parents and your peers and your children, both relational and spiritual. This text teaches that as the Word shapes you it shapes your family.
Let’s read the passage, emphasizing the generational nature of the word and how it shapes and equips us. 2 Timothy 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Verses 14 and 15 show us clearly the generational nature of God’s word. In this chapter Paul has been warning Timothy about the godlessness of the last days, how awful people’s conduct will become as the return of Christ approaches. So in these verses he’s telling Timothy how and why he can be different than the people around him, through the word of God. He says to Timothy ‘continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, known those through whom you have learned it.’ We will ourselves today ‘who did you learn it from’ and ‘who learned it from you’ – or is learning it from you?
There are two different kinds of generational answers to that question. The first is focused on your physical family, or more precisely your relational family, those you grew up with, those you are growing up with, those you are raising up. We know something about Timothy’s family. In chapter 1 Paul says “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.”
Timothy’s faith was learned from his mother and grandmother. Acts 16 tells us that, on his second missionary journey, “Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.” His mother was Jewish, his father was not Jewish, and Timothy had not been circumcised as a baby, probably because of his father’s opposition. But he and his mother and grandmother had come to faith in Jesus when Paul visited Lystra for the first time, or as a result of that visit. It seems likely his father did not come to faith.
It is possible, though not certain, that Timothy’s grandmother and mother came to faith first, and the young Timothy only later. However, chapter 1 could also mean that Timothy’s grandmother and mother had been faithfully expecting a Messiah as sincere Jews, and it was this expectation and understanding of Scripture that dwelt in them until they heard the good news about Jesus, which they then believed. Timothy may have trusted Jesus at that same time, or he may have become a believer on seeing and hearing the faith of his mother and grandmother. But by the time Paul came back to Lystra four years later, he had matured in the faith and was well spoken of by the believers.
Timothy is circumcised before he sets off with Paul. Titus, who was Greek on both sides of his parentage, was not circumcised. The difference seems to have been the ‘half-Jewishness’ of Timothy, who could not have had a witness to his own people, especially in the synagogues, without this circumcision.
But the big point is that there are generations going on here; Lois and Eunice taught Timothy as a young man to believe the Scriptures, that is the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and then to have faith in the sin-bearing, risen Messiah Paul proclaimed, Jesus. And Paul says that it is not only this Scripture teaching, not only the faith of his family, not even only the preaching of Jesus, but it is these Scriptures themselves that make a difference that they were able, to make him wise for salvation through faith, probably first by convicting him that he was sinful and needed a Savior. The Scriptures themselves were at work in his life.
In fact the Word was at work in individual lives over several generations. We saw the same thing in Tyler Summitt’s comments. Did you notice what he said? “First and foremost is our relationship with God, which she showed me through her family's dedication to going to church, praying and reading the Bible.” An article on Billy Graham’s website makes it clear that Tyler is the real deal. When he asked his future wife to marry him, Tyler knelt by a family bible that was inscribed ‘The Foundation of the Summitt Family.” And one of the comments in the Billy Graham article also made it clear that Pat Summitt’s parents were themselves people of faith and dependence on the word.
You can influence generations by that dependence. I wish I had time to tell more stories. Joni Eareckson Tada’s faith is generational: her parents and grandparents modeled it when she was little. It was their faith and prayer that got her through the lowest moments after her paralyzing accident.
But the story closest to my heart is my own parents. I came to faith in Christ when I was thirteen, and the first thing I did was to go home and tell my parents, assuming this truth had never been known to them before. My mom, at least, must have felt I was a bit presumptuous, since she had accepted Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade years before. But I hadn’t seen her faith as an important part of her life, and my father was probably not yet a believer. But though my words that night only raised their defenses, God’s work in my life and my deep involvement with his people were one of the things that drew my parents into a stronger faith, or in the case of my father, into saving faith. And that was huge as he endured numerous heart attacks beginning when I was in my teens. One of the most meaningful moments of my life was when my father was giving me a ride back to college one day, and at a toll booth on the New Jersey turnpike, he said “I don’t know how people get through life without the Lord.” And I’ve rejoiced ever since that God got hold of his heart. This generational thing can be not just down generations in a family, but up as well.
Finally, before we get to the two verses we need to apply to catalyze this generational impact, I want to mention the other way that faith can be generational.
In 2 Timothy 2 Paul says to Timothy: “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” There are four spiritual generations of believers in that verse. None of these people is necessarily related as physical family, but they are father / son / father / son / father / son spiritually. And that’s how God has spread the faith and discipled believers most often in the history of the church. Some few people get saved in a vision or dream, some get saved by a solo encounter with Scripture. But most get saved because someone, usually a friend, helps point them to their need and offers God’s rescue in Jesus.
And believers grow because of personal input from other believers. I’ve read a lot about Andy Stanley’s book ‘Deep and Wide.’ Stanley says they identified five things that fuel the development of faith: “We call them the five faith catalysts. . . Practical teaching – that is, Scripture; Private Disciplines – that is, pursuing Scripture and prayer yourself; Providential Relationships – that is someone who disciples you; Personal Ministry – that is investing in the lives of others; and Pivotal Circumstances – that is, circumstances that test and deepen your faith.” Stanley says “We intentionally structure what we do to support those five things, because we know if they happen, people’s faith will grow.” Amen.
At the core of personal growth is discipleship: being a disciple and making disciples. In recent decades the organization most closely associated with this principle has been the Navigators. It was founded in 1933 by Dawson Trotman, and 2 Tim 2:2 was the center of the ministry. When I was in college I was discipled by Varoujan Mazmanian, who is still at Stevens. He was a Navigator, and I’m pretty sure he could trace a path of spiritual generations between him and Dawson Trotman. Which means that I could trace such a path. I tried to call Varoujan on Thursday to ask that question, but I couldn’t get hold of him.
But the point is that spiritually the Word is generational; I teach you the Word, you teach others; they teach others. Two weeks ago we had a great Bible Immersion Camp. When I first posted about it, Bethany Berreth, who attended years ago commented “I just wanted stop and say thank you for the investment you put into Bible Immersion Camps, where I learned to really dissect the Scripture and share what God taught me from it. As I'm preparing a message for the youth, memories are flooding back from when I first began to research the Scripture with all the resources you provided and taught us to use. I'm thankful to God for you & Gail.” That’s generational discipleship: Bethany is now teaching kids at Bay Area First Baptist, communicating the same truths.
Okay, so the Scripture has generational impact; that’s the point, that’s the application to family. But the text teaches us something that must not be missed: it is only as the word shapes you that it shapes others. Verse 16 is what I call the tractor verse. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training-in-righteousness. Those last words roughly spell the word tractor, and just as a tractor prepares the soil, maintains the soil and eventually harvests the crop, so does the word of God work in our lives. It is only when you allow this tractor of Scripture to run you over and till and weed and harvest you that you are able to have a similar impact in the life of others.
The first thing to notice is that Scripture is inspired by God; the literal translation is ‘God-breathed,’ All Scripture is breathed out by God the Holy Spirit. Thus it is true and authoritative. Scripture itself claims this. Jesus says to the Father ‘your word is truth.’ Paul tells Timothy that he should be a workman who rightly handles the word of truth. Proverbs says every word of God is proven true. And so it is authoritative. The words of the Bible have the same authority as a word spoken directly from God, who has the right to tell us what to do. So, all Scripture is inspired by God, true and authoritative today.
But it is not only true, it is useful, profitable. It shapes and equips us so we can be used to shape and equip others, in our relational family or our Spiritual family. It’s useful for teaching; rebuking; correcting and training in righteousness.
Scripture teaches everything we need to know about God and his salvation; about who He is and what he does; about who we are and what we need. Scripture is a picture window, surveying the very mind and heart of God, a panorama too vast, intricate and detailed for us to fully grasp. Scripture is a fountain, pouring forth streams of wisdom, knowledge and insight for right living. Scripture is an ocean, vast in its breadth to delight a child’s heart, but with hidden depths to satisfy the philosopher’s yearning. Scripture is a treasure house in which all truth is stored. You and I need to be students of Scripture, for only the truths of Scripture have the power to change lives.
Let’s develop an example here, anonymized from a true story. It seems there was a young man, call him Reggie, who became a believer, but did not immediately grow in faith. He went to college, got a degree, got married. But his work never paid well, and as his family grew, he became a real penny pincher to make ends meet and save a little for the future. Then he attended a Promise Keepers event, and began to get serious about his faith, growing in the Lord. And one of the teachings he heard, from Promise Keepers, and at the church they began attending was that he ought to be giving.
Reggie’s pastor taught on giving from 2nd Corinthians: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
So Scripture was teaching him. But often we hear the teaching of Scripture and fail to do what it says. Reggie couldn’t see himself giving away his hard earned money. He resisted this teaching for a long time, giving a dollar or two when he happened to have it in his pocket. This is when Scripture begins to rebuke us. Reggie began to hear that rebuke every time he opened the Scripture: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” First Scripture teaches the path, and then it shouts ‘you’re not on it.’ God uses his Word to rebuke selfishness, hard heartedness, pride, anger, all the things we’ve talked about as problems in our families.
But God through Scripture also corrects our course, puts us back on the path. Reggie saw how Zacchaeus had repented of his sinful greed by giving to the poor and repaying what he owed; he was taught that Paul had encouraged people to give to God’s work each week as God has provided. And as he studied Scripture and went over what he had been taught, he determined that the Old Testament tithe, ten percent, while not mandatory in any way, was what he wanted to give to the Lord. And he began to look forward to carefully calculating that and taking it right off the top of his pay check.
Scripture had corrected him and placed him on the right path. And finally, it trains us in righteousness. The word ‘train’ is used in Greek of one-on-one tutoring, child training. It’s even used in Hebrews 12, of the discipline by which the Lord parents us. God uses Scripture to build disciplines, the attitudes and behaviors of a righteous person. Reggie was trained in righteousness when he lost his job. The first time someone gave a gift to pay his bills, he looked at it long and hard: then he put it in the bank and tithed off it. And Reggie would testify that though there have been hard times, God has been faithful, provided for them, and allowed giving to continue to be a joy for the family.
So Scripture, first, makes you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus. Then it begins to teach what is right, rebuke when we’re wrong, show the correct path and train us to stay on it. God wants to use Scripture all those ways to shape you.
And the shaping that Scripture does has generational influence because as you are shaped by Scripture, you are equipped to impact the lives of others. Paul says ‘that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.’ ‘Complete’ in that sentence is sometimes translated perfect, sometimes mature, which would really be the best choice here, because the other two indicate kind of a static end state, while mature implies the ability to handle present circumstances. A mature person is equipped to handle the trials and testing and circumstances and opportunities that come their way, even the relationships in a family or among brothers and sisters in Christ. The mature person is equipped for every good work, living out in practice all that he or she has been taught in Scripture. None of us ever arrives at complete maturity, but many of God’s show notable growth in this direction.
One family that has exemplified all this to me is the Howard family. Which Howard family, you ask? Well I’m thinking specifically of Philip E. Howard Jr. and Katherine Gillingham Howard, who had six children, Philip, Elizabeth, David, Virginia, Thomas, and James. Elizabeth Howard grew up to marry Jim Elliot and become famous as his widow, returning to the tribe that murdered him to bring the Gospel. She is equally well known for her writings, which have encouraged believers for many years to take the Scriptures seriously and live in ways which honor the Lord. In that sense Elizabeth Elliot, shaped by Scripture, has shaped spiritual generations of believers by Scripture.
But what intrigues me is the fact that he Howard family itself was ‘generations under the Word.’ Listen to this paragraph from an interview with Elizabeth Elliot in 1985: “I'm not really sure where my father (Philip Howard) met Mr. Ralph Norton, who was the founder of the Belgian Gospel Mission, but I know they had both offered themselves to the Lord for foreign mission service before my mother and father were married. So the move to the mission field in Belgium was my parent’s honeymoon trip, as it were.
They spent five years there, during which time two of us were born. But when I was five months old, my father received a call to come back to the States to be associate editor of The Sunday School Times, which was a family newspaper, just about the only nondenominational Christian magazine in this country in its day. It was founded by my great grandfather, Henry Clay Trumbull. My grandfather, Philip E. Howard, was president of the company. My great uncle Charles G. Trumbull, author of a number of books was editor at the time and wanted my father to come and be his associate.” Do you see the ‘generations under the word there? Great grandfather, grandfather, father all shaped by Scripture and shaping others.
And of course that’s exactly what Elizabeth Elliot has done; she has shaped others because she herself is shaped by Scripture. And all of her brothers and sisters have the same story, though without Elizabeth Elliot’s fame. I well remember the teaching and leadership of her brother David, who was one of the key leaders of Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship in the 1970’s and the key organizer and author of Urbana 76, the Inter Varsity missions conference that had a tremendous influence on my own commitment to ministry.
Do you see how this works? Generations are shaped by the Word when individual are shaped by the Word. Someone shaped by the word will shape both their blood families and their spiritual families.
The application of all this is obvious and simple. Do you want a family with a legacy of godliness and good works? Be shaped by the Word so that you are godly and full of good works, and as you are shaped by the Word, you will shape others. Allow God through his word to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus, not just as a one time act but as an ongoing stance, and allow God through his word to teach, rebuke, correct and train you in righteousness so that as a mature person you may be fully equipped for the good works that will shape generations. Those shaped by the Word shape others.
You know this is true!
You know what to do!