1 Timothy 4:12-16
Please open your Bible to the book of 1 Timothy chapter four. We are building upon verses 12 through 16 as I share a message entitled, The Deity of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps like me, you have crossed paths with various surveys of the professing Christian community in America. Various surveys are conducted by Christian researchers from time to time which attempt to assess where professing Christians stand on essential doctrine and important issues. I must say reading these surveys over the past decade indicates that the professed church in America is in a mess.
For example, a new survey released this past week conducted by Ligonier Ministries (the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul) reveals alarming attitudes of many who claim to be evangelical Christians. Every two years, Ligonier Ministries releases a new survey titled the “State of Theology,” and the 2020 results were published recently. And they are shocking, to put it mildly.
Survey respondents were asked whether they agreed (strongly or somewhat), disagreed (strongly or somewhat), or were not sure about a variety of statements. Here is how those who are considered evangelicals responded to the following statements regarding basic beliefs about the person and work of the Godhead:
32% agree: Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God (such professed Christians are at best confused or unlearned, and at worst they are not Christians at all)
46% agree: God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. (Surely even a baby Christian understands God does not accept the worship of those who deny His Son)
56% agree: Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God. (An additional 11% are not sure!) This is shocking and is a blatant denial of the deity of Jesus Christ. I will speak to this subject in a moment. I suggest you listen well as your salvation depends upon it.
51% agree: The Holy Spirit is a force but is not a personal being. This is gross error and reveals a lack of understanding or perhaps a straight-forward rejection of the Triune Nature of the one true, living God.
54% disagree: Even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation. This attitude reveals many in the professed church lack an understanding of God’s holiness; there are no small sins; all sin is an afront to God’s holiness and leaves us in a lost condition in need of God’s saving grace offered on the merits of his Son’s substitutional death and victorious resurrection.
80% agree: God counts a person as righteous not because of one’s works but only because of one’s faith in Jesus Christ. This is encouraging assuming professed believers understand who Jesus Christ is. Faith in a Jesus who is less than God has no saving efficacy. God only honors faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, not a false Christ who is less than God-incarnate. This is exactly why Jesus will one day say depart from me I never knew you to some who thought of themselves as his disciples and even prophesied in his name, cast out devils in his name, and did many wonderful works in his name.
There are several observations we need to draw from this research. First, pastors must make sound doctrine the priority of their preaching and teaching ministry. There is no way such a large portion of this part of the visible church is so unlearned about the nature of God and his Son except too many Pastors are neglecting sound doctrine.
Next, there is the very real possibility that some pastors are not rooted and grounded in sound doctrine themselves. It follows that those sitting under their ministry will be weak if they are Christians at all. Pastors need to be rooted and grounded in the doctrine of Christ in preparation for ministry and continually deepening their own faith if they are to properly disciple those whom they serve.
Next, it is obvious too many churches are no longer built around preaching. Said another way, too many churches do not give the Word of God preeminence in the life of the church. Most of our services need to give the most time to preaching, teaching, and exhortation from the Word of God. That would be true in every service offered by the church. In at least some of those services spiritual leaders should preach or teach through the books of the Bible verse by verse.
Another observation that comes to mind is a great many professed Christians simply are not attending church enough. In many cases they have a faithful pastor, but do not see the need to be in church where they can be fed the Word of God.
Beyond a faithful church life, it also seems obvious to me many professed Christians are not reading and studying the Bible in their personal lives.
Furthermore, most of the youth in our churches are not receiving consistent instruction at home, at church, and at school in the Scriptures. Such youth grow up and become part of the statistics in these surveys. Thankfully, there are exceptions to this neglect with children receiving consistent instruction from the Word of God at home, at church, and at school. However, this is the Achilles heel of the church and until we get serious about raising our children in the faith, we are not going to see this picture change very much.
May I ask you a question: do you accept the record God gives of His Son in Holy Scripture? Do you believe Jesus Christ is God incarnate?
Let’s explore this essential element of our faith for a few minutes and I begin with our text. Look at 1 Timothy 4:12-16:
“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”
Please note Paul’s reference to “the doctrine” in verse 16. In his two letters to the young pastor Timothy, Paul references doctrine a total of 13 times. For example, in verse three of chapter one of this first epistle to Timothy the apostle says, “As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine.” Clearly there was and still is a body of doctrine which defines the Christian faith, and which is to be guarded with fear and trembling.
Paul goes on to warn Timothy and each of us today that the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. Satan is quite busy supplanting the truth with false doctrines and like the slithering snake he is, he subverts the truth very cunningly through those in the church who deny the Lord who bought them.
I would remind you that Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
Again, Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine.” My friends, we must build our faith upon the clear teaching of the Word of God. Our doctrine, or teaching, about the person of Christ must be true to Scripture. Otherwise, our supposed Christianity is nothing more than a false hope.
In just a moment we are going to look at just a few passages that clearly set forth the eternal deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. We shall once again revisit the cornerstone of our faith and allow the Scriptures to both correct and rebuke those who slanderously reduce our Savior to a mere deceiver who has no power to save anyone.
Now, just before we visit those passages please take careful note of the absolute necessity of preserving the doctrines that define the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Paul says in verse 16, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”
If we are to be saved we must receive the teaching of Scripture concerning the unique person of Christ and his saving work for us upon the cross as the Son of God. We must take heed to the gospel, which is defined by the person and work of Jesus Christ. We must turn to him in repentance and confess him as our Lord and Savior.
Like Timothy and those who listened to him, we save ourselves by taking hold of God’s provision for our salvation. Strictly speaking we cannot save ourselves, however, we save ourselves in the sense that we take hold of the lifeline God has provided for us through the gift of His only begotten Son.
For instance, if I were drowning in Lake Erie but someone through a life preserver to me, then it could be said I saved myself when I took hold of the life preserver. Of course, it is the life preserver that saved me. However, if I refused to take hold of it then I would drown. So it is with the doctrine of the gospel. The doctrine of Christ has the power to save those who take hold of it by faith. I ask you, have you took hold of Christ for your salvation? Amen!
My friends, the very heart of Christian doctrine, the very heart of the gospel, is the unique person of Jesus Christ. The Bible very clearly teaches the deity of Christ. This means that in the person of Jesus the Christ God came to earth to dwell among us. Jesus Christ is the unique Son of God. His title, Son of God, is a title of deity. True Christians confess that Jesus is the God/man. He is the Lord from heaven.
In fact, the Bible makes that exact statement about Jesus in the book of 1 Corinthians where we read, “The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.” My friends, there is only one Lord in heaven and that is God himself.
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament are unified around the person of Christ. The classic passage in Isaiah we are so familiar with from the Christmas season says, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” As you well know, the title Immanuel means, God with us.
You would think this verse alone is enough to establish the deity of Christ. It certainly is no sign for a virgin to become pregnant in natural course from a husband, however, if a virgin who has not known a man is found with child a miracle has occurred. Such a circumstance would be a sign to the whole world a special child has come.
And so it was, in the fullness of time the Holy Spirit came upon Mary who conceived miraculously in her womb and was found with child. That child born of Mary is the Son of God. It is in this supernatural conception the eternal Word took to himself human nature in the person of Jesus the promised Messiah.
So, the apostle John writes in his gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . And the Word was made flesh (that is, he took to himself human nature) and dwelt among us.” John goes on to say, And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.”
How can anyone confuse the doctrine of the incarnation? Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. He is both God and man in one person. He is the unique Son of the living God, sent by the Father for our salvation.
That Jesus is equal with the Father and thus God-incarnate is the whole theme of the book of St. John. Furthermore, the entire New Testament sets forth the deity of Jesus Christ. Thus, it is inexcusable for any professed Christian to resist correction on this matter. To persist in the denial of the deity of Christ proves you are no Christian at all. Furthermore, for any Pastor to deny the deity of Christ identifies such a one as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. As Jude says in his epistle to the church, “there are certain men crept in unawares (secretly) who . . . deny the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I must close this message, but there are so many other passages to look at. I conclude with one other passage that clearly calls Jesus God. It is another verse from I Timothy in which the Holy Spirit says, “And without controversy (that is, by common confession or beyond any question) great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest (or revealed) in the flesh (that is, in the person of Jesus the Christ) and justified in the Spirit (that is, declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead).
You will recall the experience of Thomas following the resurrection of Jesus (John 20:28). Fully convinced of his bodily resurrection Thomas confessed, “My Lord and my God.” Amen! The confession of Thomas remains the confession of true Christians today. Jesus is our Lord and God. To him be glory now and forever!