“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. “
We need this exhortation.
There lurks within us the human inclination to forsake the things we have learned. These things that we have learned are disagreeable to the flesh; and whenever we follow our carnal desires, we will most surely forsake them. There are all kinds of temptations round about us that would encourage us to turn away from the truths of the Scriptures and to follow after the folly of men. Our young people face these temptations when the prospect of marriage is before them, if only the future husband or wife doesn’t want to confess the same truths of the Word of God. It’s terribly tempting to marry anyway and leave the church. We face this whenever our faith is tested and we have to choose between the treasures of the world and its way of life and the hardships of the people of God and the narrow place of the Christian in the world. It’s easier for the flesh to join the godless labor union and live in financial security than to refuse such membership and live with less income or even struggle to keep a daily job. The temptation to forsake the clear instruction of Scripture for worldly pleasure is always great no matter how old we are.
We must realize how important the things we have learned really are. Only then will be by the grace of God earnestly continue in them no matter what the cost. Then we will see that the only course of wisdom is to continue in them and that it is folly, yea even spiritual self-destruction, to forsake them.
What are the things we have learned?
The first word of our text indicates that there is a contrast between the things we learned and the things practiced by those who do not believe the Word of God. That “But” packs a tremendous force. In the preceding verses Paul has been describing to Timothy how terribly the natural man lives. Listen, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” verses 1-7. In the immediately preceding verses Paul referred to those in the church that would be influenced by sin and cause persecution, “but evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
Those last days of which Paul speaks are our days. One with any degree of spiritual sensitivity knows all too well that it has gotten worse and worse. Lawlessness abounds on every side, boycotts, strikes, riots, public demonstrations, and disobedience to those in authority. Our world may well be classified as pleasure mad. Today one measures his success in his daily occupation by the few hours he has to work. With an abundance of leisure time, the natural man increases in iniquity and thereby becomes a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God. The license for gross immorality is being publicly granted even by many who fly under the banner of the “church”. They have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. The day is here when the faithful in Christ Jesus are not safe, but become the objects of persecution and hatred. The faithful church of Christ is constantly accused of bigotry and narrow mindedness and thus considered an obstacle to worldly “progress”.
Over against such iniquity Paul emphasizes in this letter to Timothy and to all God’s people, “But continue thou in the things thou has learned”. Emphatically Paul will tell us we have not learned open rebellion, nor to be lovers of pleasure, nor to lead captive silly women, nor to be evil seducers, but we have learned the truths of the Scriptures. These Scriptures were given by inspiration of God and through that miraculous working God has revealed Himself to us. We have learned that God is a sovereign God Who created heaven and earth and upholds all things by His providence. We have learned from the Scriptures that God is jealous of His love and directs it to His people in Christ. Man deserves no blessings of God, for he is conceived and born in sin and increases his debt daily. Christ alone is the ground of our salvation, for He bore the curse, due to us for our sins and satisfied the righteousness of God. Having redeemed us from the curse of the law Jesus Christ calls us by the power of the gospel and through the inner working of the Holy Spirit raises us from the dead and infuses in us the breath of life. This same Jesus is coming again upon the clouds of heaven to make all things new, to establish the final, everlasting dwelling place in heavenly glory and to cast all the unrepentant wicked into everlasting destruction.
Having learned the doctrines of the Word of God we have also learned how to apply them to our daily living. Since we are saved by sovereign grace and called out of the darkness into the light, it follows that our life is to be in conformity with the purpose that God has established. We recognize the law that God has established and believe that if we are to live in peace with God and our neighbor, we must live within the sphere of divine law. We are to love God and the neighbor for God’s sake. Instead of rebellion we have learned obedience; instead of lust, we have learned holiness, instead of a superficial religion we have learned the true religion which emphasizes the power of God unto salvation.
Paul in addressing this epistle to Timothy reminds him that he has learned the Holy Scriptures from a child. He had been taught these things. With this learning Timothy had been able to perceive the truth of Scripture and had been given the grace to understand them. He knew what was right and what was wrong. And this is true for most of us. Having been born and raised, in the church we also have learned the Scriptures. We have a goodly inheritance passed down to us as we stand in the glorious Reformed line of the covenant.
Not only, have we learned the truths of Scripture, but we also have become assured of them. This is still stronger. This is more than an intellectual knowing of the mind; this is very clearly a confirming of that which has been learned by the will, so that the person who has learned it also has the conviction that it is right. This assurance is two-fold. We are assured that the things we have learned from our youth agree fully with the Scriptures and are based upon it. This is important! Unless we have the conviction that what we believe and how we live is really Scriptural, we can never know whether it is right or wrong. The Holy Scriptures are the only divinely revealed truths and they alone are able to make one wise unto salvation. Hence the child of God longs to have the conviction that what he believes is in harmony with what God has revealed. In the second place, we have the assurance that the truths revealed in Scripture speak not only to others, but also to each of us. We believe that not only there is a God, but this God is our God in Jesus Christ. We have the assurance that our sins are covered by the blood of Christ and that therefore we also have part in the hope that maketh not ashamed.
Hence the injunction comes to us, “Continue thou in those things”. You know by faith what is right and true, you have the conviction that that knowledge is Scriptural; and because it is Scriptural you personally partake in it. Now do not depart from it, do not cast it aside, continue in it, think upon it, follow after it, grow in it more and more until the day of Christ.
You ask, why is this important? Why should we continue to be faithful in our confession of the Scriptures as we have learned them and as they are taught in our churches? Why shouldn’t we forsake them for something else?
Paul gave Timothy two reasons, both of which apply equally well to us today.
The first was, “knowing of whom thou hast learned them”. Paul referred of course to Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. Since his father was a Greek, it appears that he did not take part in his religious training. From childhood’s early years Timothy was recipient of these glorious truths. He undoubtedly attended the rabbinical school at Derbe; even Paul on his first missionary journey beheld in Timothy an “unfeigned faith”. Subsequently, Timothy was tutored by Paul himself while he traveled with him on the missionary journeys. Much of this applies to us also. Most of us were born within the sphere of the covenant and from infancy on were taught to sing the songs of Zion and memorize the Scriptures and to pray. This is true in the sphere of the home, the school, and the church. The business of all three spheres is to teach the Scriptures.
Why should this be reason for not forsaking? Parents are instructors, teachers take the place of parents in the school, and ministers and elders instruct in the church. Why should this fact that they taught us be reason for our continuing in the things in which they instructed us. First, they have been faithful teachers. It is a rare gift today to have teachers that love the Word of God and teach in harmony with it. This is reason to consider the things taught; they have been faithful to the Scriptures because our instructors loved the Word of God. What’s more, they have labored with love seeking our spiritual welfare. We may not cast aside lightly the truths we have learned; for our parents, teachers, and ministers have labored faithfully with tears and prayers guiding us into the paths of truth and holiness.
But, there is an even deeper reason. We need not imagine that it is for the sake of our parents, teachers, or preachers that we should remain faithful to the things learned; in the deepest sense Christ Himself has taught us. The exalted Christ has received all power and authorizes parents in the home, teachers in the school, ministers in the church to act as His ambassadors to instruct His Word. Hence if we consider Who it is that instructed us we must conclude that Christ has done this; and He alone is the way, the truth, and the life.
The second reason is that only those things that are in harmony with Scripture are able to make us wise unto salvation. The wicked is ever, “learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”. This is folly! There is only one state that is truly joyful, and that is the state of salvation. Within the state of salvation we are free from the burden of our guilt and instead enjoy the blessedness of being righteous in Christ. Instead of being under the dominion of sin and brought deeper into death, the child of God who is saved is in principle already delivered from the corrupting power of sin and receives the grace to repent of evil and seek earnestly to do the things pleasing in God’s sight.
This requires wisdom. There must be a way that leads us into this joyful state. And that way is the Word of God. The more we hold to the doctrines of the Scripture the more joyful we are; the more we walk in harmony with the will of God the more joyful we are. Hence the Scriptures are so important for us. The joy of salvation is not centered in man, but in God. We desire above all else that God’s name be praised. We have learned how to do that, for the Scriptures have pointed that out to us. Hence if we forsake the truths we have learned from Christ we forfeit in that measure the joy of His salvation. When the joy of salvation is gone, God is no longer acknowledged as God.
Continue therefore in the things that you have learned!
May nothing detract us from this faithfulness. As the world gets worse and worse in these perilous times, our carnal flesh is tempted more and more. May God give us grace to continue. Do not forsake this truth because you place greater value upon a husband or wife who doesn’t love this Word of God. Do not say that bread and butter is more important than this truth. Do not run away from the pure preaching because you don’t like the strict emphasis of the Word of God.
Continue! Search the Scriptures, read diligently and prayerfully the Word of God, that its rays may enlighten us in the midst of the darkness of sin, till we shall enter into the everlasting day.