Today we are beginning a new series we are calling, ‘God Breathed’ a three week series about the Bible and its relevance for your life today… and as we saw in our man-on-the-street video there are very different opinions about the Bible’s relevance out there on the street… everything from the Bible having no relevance at all to the Bible being vital for life. And I want to weigh in on this question ‘Is the Bible relevant today?’ right off and say that the reason we are taking three weeks to talk about the Bible is that we not only believe that the Bible relevant to life today but we are also convinced that your life can’t be complete without The Bible. (Repeat!) Now, talking about the Bible’s importance is nothing new for us… we’ve talked about its importance and we’ve addressed some of the questions people have about the Bible before; questions like, ‘Where did the Bible come from?’, ‘How did the books that are in the Bible end up in the Bible?’ and ‘Can we trust the translations of the Bible?’ I know that it has been a while since we directly addressed these kinds of questions in a weekend service, so if you are wondering about these kinds of things then I recommend that you go to our website and look up our ‘Here We Stand’ series from 2012. There you’ll find sermons on the Bible and you’ll hear our answers to many of these important questions. We’ve also put a direct link to that series on the Grace app. But this series is less about these sorts of important questions and more about why we believe that the Bible is not only relevant to your life but is necessary for your life. And the most important reason that the Bible can and should be important in your life is that the Bible is God’s primary way of telling you the truth about himself and it is God’s primary way of telling you the truth about yourself. We believe with all of our hearts that the Bible is the main source for finding the truth about God’s character, that he is loving, gracious, all-powerful and holy. We believe that the Bible tells us the truth about God’s concerns: we see over and over in the Bible that every life matters to God and he longs to see this broken world healed. We also believe that the Bible tells us the truth about God’s mission in the world: here at Grace we often talk about God’s mission being the healing of the 6 broken places and we came to the understanding that this is God’s mission in the world through carefully studying the Bible. In fact, I don’t see how we would know much about God’s character, his concerns and his mission without the Bible. And we also believe that in every book, in every chapter and verse the main character is God… God is everywhere in the pages of the Bible either telling us directly the truth about his desires for his world or God is working through the stories, poems and letters that we find in the Bible to point us to his truth. I know that this is a huge statement to say that God can be found somewhere behind every word in the Bible… especially when we are talking about what is actually a collection of 66 separate books, written by a good number of different authors over a period of thousands of years. But it is a statement that we are unapologetic about making because we firmly believe that God’s Spirit was actively involved in making sure that the authors got it right when they wrote about God’s character. And we are confident that God’s Spirit was actively involved when the authors wrote about the experiences they had with God. And we also believe that God’s Spirit was actively involved when the authors wrote their descriptions of God’s mission in his world. Further, we believe that God’s Spirit was actively involved in making sure that the original writings were copied and saved in ways that ensure that what we have still gives us these truths about God. And we also believe that God Spirit is still actively involved in helping us understand these truths about God when we read the Bible today. Again, these are all huge statements of confidence and faith, but we stand by them. In fact, the Bible actually addresses this issue of its own importance to your life and God’s presence in and through the Bible in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. There we read this, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’ (NIV) This verse is easily the most quoted verse in all of the Bible when it comes to the source of scripture and its importance in our lives. We’ll look closely at these verses this in a minute, but first a couple of important comments before we go any further. First, we know that when this verse was first written by the Apostle Paul, one of the leaders of the early church and the writer of 13 books of the New Testament… when Paul wrote this statement in a letter to a young man named Timothy, a young man Paul had put in charge of the church in the city of Ephesus, the only sacred scriptures that existed were the books we now call the Old Testament. When Paul said ‘all scripture’ here, he was talking about the Old Testament, not the books that would later be called the New Testament. Most of them hadn’t even been written yet. But, we are also confident that when the early church fathers came to their conclusions about the sacredness of the writings we now call the New Testament, they did so by the leading of the same Holy Spirit who had earlier given the stamp of scripture to the books of the Old Testament. And so, we believe that when we read the words ‘all scripture’ in this verse today, it includes both the Old Testament and the New Testament… it’s all scripture and it is, as Paul said, ‘God-breathed.’
Secondly, it is also important to keep in mind that Paul didn’t write these verses to Timothy in a vacuum. Paul wrote these words for a very specific reason to address a very specific issue. As I said earlier, Paul had placed Timothy in charge of the church in Ephesus and Ephesus wasn’t in some small, backwater place where a young pastor could cut his teeth before moving on to greater responsibility. No, Ephesus, was a very important city of 250,000 people. It was the 3rd largest city in the Roman Empire and it was one of the wealthiest cities in the world. And besides being big and wealthy it was also something of an ancient equivalent to modern day Las Vegas but with religious twist… it was a religious tourist destination where thousands gathered to participate in all sorts of pagan fertility rites. I could talk a long time about Ephesus and the depraved sexual practices that went on there in the name of ‘religion,’ but one thing is certain: the civic and business leaders in Ephesus weren’t at all happy about the rise of this new religion called Christianity that taught that the ‘worshiping’ that throngs of people came to Ephesus to take part in was both useless and wicked. The Christian position of worshiping only Jesus and living a moral life went against everything that had made Ephesus a thriving city. And Timothy’s task was to lead the church in the midst of all of this! And if that wasn’t bad enough for young Timothy, the Ephesian church, itself, was fraught with false teachers, it was plagued by Jew-verses-Gentile racial divisions, and some of the Christians in this church were living blatantly, immoral lives… And Paul clearly says many times in his 2 letters to Timothy that the best way for Timothy to lead this unruly congregation within this difficult environment was to hold fast to the things he had learned through the Holy Scriptures. Paul said something like this to Timothy, ‘Timothy, hold on to what you have learned from the Bible. What it taught you is true. It gave you the wisdom that comes from trusting in Jesus and if you put what you’ve learned into practice it will continue to make you wise and continue to make you steadfast and continue to give you confidence. The Scriptures will make your life honorable.’ It is in this context that Paul tells Timothy why it is that the scriptures can do all of this for him. Paul writes, “The reason that Scripture can make you wise and confident and honorable is because, ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’ (2 Tim 3:16-17). When Paul says, ‘All Scripture is ‘God-breathed’’ he used a Greek word that is only found one time in the Bible. (hapex legeminon.) Actually, many scholars think it’s a word Paul made up. The word is theonuestos. (It is a compound word: Theo simply means God; nuestos is a word that can mean spirit or breath or wind… all things which mysteriously cause things to move with life. Sometimes you’ll even see nuestos translated ‘inspire’ here…(it’s translated that way in the King James Bible because the word ‘inspire’ was actually the Middle English word for breath). (inspire/expire). Theonuestos: God-breathed… God-inspired. Now, theonuestos may have been a new word, but the idea that something had been given breath from God wasn’t new at all. In fact, it was a very old concept that would have resonated immediately with Timothy. The idea that God had breathed life into the first man Adam, is found right at the beginning of the Bible in the 2nd Chapter of Genesis… Here is what the Jews believed: God had fashioned Adam; Adam was a clay model, if you will; then God leaned over Adam, breathed into Adam’s nostrils and Adam suddenly came alive. God’s breath gave Adam vitality, strength, power and dignity; it gave him life. And Paul was telling Timothy that this is also true of the Scriptures. God has breathed His life into the very words we find in the Bible… God has given his word vitality, strength, power and dignity. This would have immediately made sense to Timothy. Paul was telling Timothy and he is still telling us that we need to listen to the Scriptures, heed their teaching and teach others to understand and follow the words of Scripture because scripture itself has the very breath of God in it. This is why Paul says it is useful for teaching the truth and rebuking those who are living sinful lives. This is why it can correct mistaken notions about God and why it can train you to live a righteous life. Paul was telling Timothy and he is still telling us that when we allow ourselves to be captivated by the words of the Bible God will breathe life, dignity, purpose, strength, power, truth and vitality into our souls. He will make our lives complete. How wonderful is that?
But Paul wasn’t done telling Timothy about the importance of the Scriptures. He went on to say that scripture will also make ‘the servant of God fully equipped for every good work.’ Now, some translations say, ‘fully equipped,’ others say ‘fitted’ or ‘made ready.’ The Greek word that gives us these various translations is also a word that is only found one time in the Bible. But this time this isn’t a word that Paul might have made up. It is the word ‘artios’ ( and it is a word that described a ship that had been fully prepared for a voyage: filled on the inside with all that it might ever need and readied on the outside in every way to withstand whatever circumstances might come its way. That is a cool image. Paul was telling Timothy that if he allows God to breathe his life-giving word into his soul, no matter what might come his way in that difficult situation in Ephesus, he will be ready! In fact, from all that I can tell after looking carefully at this passage, Paul was telling us that the only way for us to be prepared for the voyage of life is by allowing God to breathe his word into our souls. This is how important the Bible is… again, our lives cannot be complete without it.
The reason I am going to such great lengths to emphasize the importance of the Bible is this: this week marks a major moment here at Grace and it has everything to do with the Bible… or to be more exact, the Bibles we have placed under the seats in front of you. If you haven’t noticed already, all of the Bibles here at 146th Street, at North Indy and at our Fishers campus are new. And not only are they new but they are a different translation than the Bibles we have been using over the years. I want to explain this change for you. Something that is coming very soon is the opening of our new campus in Fishers and part of opening that new building was the need to buy new Bibles. Well, our old Bibles were the 1984 version of the New International Version or the NIV and the publishers of the NIV have for a number of years made it impossible to buy the 1984 version of the NIV. In fact, they have made it impossible for you to get any version of the NIV in any form… print or electronic… except in their most recent, I believe, 2015 version, which is quite a bit different from the 1984 version. A number of years ago we took a hard look at the various translations of the Bible and we determined at that time, and I think it might have been as long ago as 7 years ago, that if we were to ever to buy new Bibles for Grace we would prefer to purchase a translation called The New Living Translation. It is a clear, accurate, wonderful translation of the original texts done by an amazing gathering of trustworthy scholars. In fact, we have been using the New Living Translation as our primary version of the Bible in Grace Kids, Merge and Fuse for years. The desire of the leadership here at Grace was to eventually use the New Living Translation throughout all of Grace, but we couldn’t justify the expense of a replacing all of our Bibles without a greater reason. The opening of the new Fishers building and the need to buy new Bibles for that campus gave us an appropriate reason to bring all of Grace into line with what was already happening in much of the church. And so, what you will find in the seat in front of you here at 146th, and at North Indy and soon under the seats at our new Fishers campus is the New Living Translation. And I couldn’t be happier about this switch. I also want to tell you that I have a personal connection to the New Living Translation. When I was in seminary at Trinity in Chicago my second year Greek professor was Dr. Grant Osbourne. He was one of the primary editors and translation advisors for the New Living Translation. During the first days of that course he told us that the man who had been tasked with translating 1st Peter for this new version of the Bible had died unexpectedly and that he had been asked to complete this man’s work… and our class was going to help him as he did this work. Now, I had nothing to do with the translation of 1 Peter for the New Living Translation, but I did have a front row seat for watching Dr. Osbourne as he prayerfully and very painstakingly went about the work of translating Peter’s Greek into clear, accurate and beautiful English. I soon came to the conclusion that what I was watching wasn’t simply the work of a first-class scholar; what I was watching was the active work of the Holy Spirit as he guided and enlightened both Dr. Osbourne and the members of the class. And the result is a work of both amazing accuracy and astounding elegance.
If you would take out one of these new Bibles and turn to the passage we were looking at earlier I think you will see what I mean. 2 Timothy 3:16 and it’s on page ??? in the house Bible. And if you need a Bible at Fishers just raise your hand and someone will bring it to you. And by the way, we won’t have to say that much longer. In less than a month Fishers people, you’ll be worshiping in our new building and there will be new Bibles under your seats. Look at 2 Timothy 3:16-17 in our new Bibles: ‘All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.’ You can see how clearly that translation states both the importance and the relevance of the Bible? Here is the bottom line… If you want to know what is true… if you want to be aware of what might need to be corrected in your life… if you want to know what is right and how to do what is right… if you want to be fully prepared and equipped to do the good works of God… if you want encouragement, affirmation, confidence, hope… if you want a clear sense that you are loved and important to God… if you want your life to be complete… then you need to take in the words that contain the very breath of God… words that can bring life and vitality… words that can give you the power to do all that God calls you to do… words that will make your life complete… if this is what you want it begins with making the time to read, listen to, study and breathe in the words of the Bible.