2 Timothy 3:14–4:5
I’d like to focus on verse 3 of chapter 4 of our text. It says, "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." That time has come. And it’s especially visible in the church. Many mainline denominations have turned away from the truth. They’ve decided to compromise in an effort to attract people. It’s ironic, though, how that has backfired. Many mainline denominations continue to lose members and are failing to draw in more people. I guess when you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything, as a popular musician once said.
These days there isn’t much value placed on the truth. The reason for that is that truth as a whole is under assault by post-modernists. They believe that there is no such thing as absolute truth. That is the predominant philosophy of our day and age. So why value the truth when the truth can’t be reached or known—at least according to post-modernists.
The philosophy of post-modernism has affected some churches and how they view the truth. Since the truth is elusive, why not teach what people want to hear, instead? "We really don’t know what the truth is so why not just avoid talking about the truth and try to accommodate people’s needs and feelings." That’s what the church does in many instances. It’s more important to have good daycare services and entertainment than focus on the truth. The truth won’t get people through the doors, but other things will. "And Let’s find pastors and staff that will go along with that kind of thinking. That’s what we want. Who cares about the truth and sound teaching. We don’t need that." We find this kind of thinking in many churches today.
However, our church or denomination still insists on the truth. It still teaches the truth that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead for the forgiveness of our sins. It still teaches that the Bible is God’s inspired, inerrant word that is the source and norm for our teachings. Our church still demands that our pastors subscribe to the truth as it is found in the Bible and the Lutheran church’s confessional writings. The truth still matters.
Unfortunately, many people aren’t interested in sound teaching or doctrine. But the Lord does care. This is what He says in chapter 2 of the Book of Revelation to the congregation in Pergamum. (Pergamum was a city which was located in what is now the country of modern Turkey.) "Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore!" So sound doctrine does matter before the Lord. It’s important that we get the truth right when it comes to our faith in the Lord.
I hope we won’t be tempted to go the way of liberal church bodies and surround ourselves with people who say what we want to hear. I realize that what we’re told by the preacher isn’t always what we want to hear or feel we need. The truth isn’t always pleasant to hear. But it’s for our own benefit. The truth of Jesus gets us into heaven.
When Jesus was on this earth, the Pharisees and Sadducees couldn’t bear to hear the truth coming from Jesus’ lips. What He said pretty much turned their religious system upside down. For years they had been deceived. They had believed that their practices were God-pleasing, but Jesus dropped a bomb on them when He told them the truth, namely that they were leading the people astray with their false teachings. They became so angry with Jesus that they eventually had Him killed as we all know. But it was to their detriment that they did so. Because they didn’t embrace Jesus’ truth, they lost eternal life.
This is why the truth is important. That’s why we insist upon it in our church. That’s why the apostle Paul insists on it in our text.
If the truth is absent in the church, what good is the church? The church becomes just a social club and nothing more. The church must center on the truth of Jesus Christ as it is presented in the Bible, God’s word. So churches that don’t believe the Bible is God’s word and that Jesus is God who died on the cross and rose from the dead can hardly call themselves churches.
Many people who attend these churches and aren’t concerned about the truth. My guess is they desire to surround themselves with people who believe and say what they want to hear even though it’s not the truth.
I want us to beware of what’s happening. Let’s say we move to another town and leave our church. It’s my hope that we diligently seek out a church that preaches and teaches the truth. Don’t settle on a church just because it is close by or is entertaining. The number one criterion for selecting a church is that it teaches the truth.
Those of us who have children should encourage them to do the same. Look for a church first and foremost that teaches the Bible. Often times, young people are led astray and don’t understand why the truth matters. We need to pray for them and explain the best we can how important the truth is.
Now maybe some of us don’t think this really matters. If a church has strayed from the truth no big deal. That church is still meeting the needs of people. That’s what’s most important. I would argue that a church that doesn’t teach the truth isn’t meeting the needs of people. We need the truth so that we can repent of our sins and receive the Lord’s forgiveness. It’s only then that we can enjoy a right relationship with God. Being right with Him is our greatest need. If we’re not right with Him, we aren’t going to live with Him forever.
I hope we will heed the words of Paul in verse 3. The truth matters. I believe that’s why we keep our congregation going. We are concerned that the truth of Jesus Christ be taught. If we didn’t believe it was important, we would have let our church close down a long time ago. Let’s continue to heed the words of verse 3.
Let’s continue to be on our guard. Many churches today have abandoned the truth of Jesus Christ. They’ve become no more than social clubs. Let’s not go the way of these churches. Let’s stand firm in the truth.
May the Holy Spirit preserve us and keep us from any temptation to abandon the precious truth we have in God’s word. The truth matters. May God surround us with God-fearing Christian friends and family who value the truth.