By Pastor Glenn Pease
It cost Thomas Edison one dollar and ten cents to make the first light bulb. He sold them for 40 cents each. He then got the cost down to 80 cents a piece, but he still sold them for 40 cents. In the third year he reduced the cost to 50 cents. The losses were becoming greater as the sales rapidly increased, but in the fourth year the cost was brought down to 37 cents, and soon the profits began to make up for the losses, and his investment began to pay off. A great deal of time, money and labor had to be invested before there were profits. This is true for every businessman. He must make an investment if he expects to make a profit. This is a simple economic law, but it is not limited to the world of economics. It is true in every realm of life.
It is the athlete who invests time and effort in training who becomes a profitable sportsman. It is the musician who invests time and effort in practicing who gains the profit of greater ability. The best scholar is the one who invests time and thought in his study. The best mechanic is the one who invests time and study in the latest knowledge in his field. We could go on and on saying the same thing about every profession. The one thing they all have in common is the investment of time. Some call for money, some for work, and some for brains, but all call for an investment of time. The best things in life might be free in an economic sense, but they do call for an investment of time. The beauty of the heavens and stars are free to all, but it is only those who invest time in watching and study who fully appreciate these free wonders. Where a person invests his time will determine what kind of profit he makes in life.
If a person gives them selves to the effort of getting material wealth, their profits will all be in the material realm. God considers this a very poor investment, for what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul? A wise person invests in his soul as well as in his body, and does not put all of his eggs in one basket. And investment counselor helps his clients see where the greatest return can be gotten for his investments. In our passage Paul is counseling Timothy as to where he can invest his time for the greatest profit, and he advises him to turn to the Scriptures.
People are investing money in Bibles, for it has been the best selling book in the world almost every year since it was first printed in 1514. The tragedy is that people do not invest time in the study of Scripture, and the result is there is no profit for the soul. The seller makes a monetary profit, but the buyer makes no spiritual profit because they do not read it. The Bible is the most famous neglected book in the world. Leander E. Keck in Taking The Bible Seriously writes, "The Bible is more revered than read because most people do not know how to read it with understanding, hence they don't read it at all."
Unfortunately, it cannot be said of the majority as it was with Timothy that he knew the Scriptures from his youth up. Even with all of our new translations there is much we do not understand without deliberate search and study. This means that to really make the Bible come alive for us there must be a greater investment of time, effort and thought than Timothy had to give, for he lived in the culture in which the Bible was written. You may even have to start out like Edison with his bulbs and operate for some time at a loss. That is, you may have to read the Bible and ask questions for days and weeks at a time with little to no profit. It may seem like a waste of time, but the end result will be a breaking through into the vast treasury of spiritual wealth. The profits are so great that we cannot afford to pass up this investment opportunity. In order that we might more clearly recognize the riches to be gained by investing time and study in the Bible we want to examine the four areas that Paul lists as being areas of profit.
When you are seeking information on how to get to a certain destination, your primary concern is that you get accurate directions. There may be certain roads that are more scenic, and others better paved, and still others with better places to eat, but all of this is irrelevant if they do not take you to your destination. Whatever its shortcomings the right way is the best way. So it is in knowing the way to do God's will. There is no lack of voices crying out for you to follow this, that and the other way. But the only thing that really counts is knowing what path to follow that pleases God. Doctrine is to be compared to a road map. Possessing the map does not get you where you are going. It is the guide you must follow if you intend to get there. Doctrine is not enough, but nothing else is enough without it.
Nothing is so assuring in traveling as to know where you are and where you are going. Nothing is so frustrating as to be confused and uncertain as to where you are. This is why doctrine is such a major factor in the journey of life. Those who know the way to God by personal faith in Jesus Christ, who is the way, journey with assurance and peace. There are others who offer roads that sometimes seem more appealing, but they are all dead ends. How do we know which is which, and how can we be sure that we are always on the right road? The Bible is our road map that gives us assurance that we are on the right road.
If there is profit for the traveler to invest in a travel plan, then there is infinitely more profit for every traveler through life to invest in God's Word. It is the exclusive source of truth about God and His will. It becomes the standard by which all teachers, speakers and guides are to be tested. Paul had just warned Timothy that much false doctrine was floating around. Men were so sharp at deception that they even deceived themselves and believed their own lies. Those who have made no investment of time in Bible study may be confused by all the nonsense that is taught by cults and fanatics. Many Christians get caught up in these errors because they have not studied God's road map.
There are unlimited possibilities of dealing with the subject of doctrine, but we just want to see that all truth about God and His plan of salvation are to be found in the Bible. You cannot find a book anywhere that gives you greater knowledge on this most important subject. Not to invest your time and effort in learning the doctrines of the Bible is not only poor stewardship, but it is folly. It is to race down the highway of life never bothering to check the map to see if you are on the right road, and this is folly.
This is very close in meaning to the next word dealing with correction, but it refers more to instruction and discipline to get a person back on the right track by convicting them that they are going astray. Correction might be better seen as improvement, for it conveys the idea of going ahead from a less to a more mature state. To be corrected implies that ones present understanding is inadequate. Reproof is to get a person on the right road, and correction is to get them further along on that road.
To reprove implies that one is wrong in act or attitude. The Bible is instructive in showing us where we are wrong. This means that believers are not always right, and that they never will be until the end of time. The tendency to error and sin is always with us, and we are in constant need of the Word of God to keep us on the right road. You might ask what is the profit in having a book that always shows you where you fall short? The wise man praises God for the mirror of the Word that constantly reveals his flaws and weaknesses, for without it he would be content with his mediocrity and unsanctified life. This is just what happens to the non-Bible reading Christian. By not seeing his sin and folly he remains is in his present state and loses the profit and blessings of continuous growth in Christ's likeness.
The Bible has a high regard to the role of reproof in making men what God wants them to be. God considers him wise who loves and heeds reproof. Just a few examples from proverbs will make this clear. Prov. 10:17 says, "He who heeds instruction is on the path of life, but he who rejects reproof goes astray." Prov. 12:1 says, "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid." Prov. 13:18 says, "Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but he who heeds reproof is honored." Prov. 15:10 says, "There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way; he who hates reproof will die."
Reproof is essential to a healthy spiritual life, and without it believers wither on the vine. We cannot afford to lose the profits that come from a life constantly being reproved by God's Word. This is worth the investment of a great deal of our time.
In Paul's Epistles there is a great deal of correction. The Christians have not gone on to maturity. They have not applied Christian truth in every realm of life, and so Paul had to write and correct them by setting them straight so that they might improve. The Galatians had to be corrected on their misunderstanding of the law and the Gospel. They were trying to live in under both Testaments at the same time. The Thessalonians had some false concepts about the state of the dead and the Second Coming, and Paul had to correct them.
The Christian world is the same today, and there are many misunderstandings of Christian truth because believers have not studied the Bible enough. They have followed man made systems of thought, and this leaves them open to all kinds of heresy. The Bible alone is the only objective source of knowing the mind of God, and so it is the great corrector. Jesus corrects the churches in Rev. 2-3, and He makes it clear where they are going astray. No Christian or church can make progress toward Christian maturity without a consistent exposure to the correcting Word of God. Correction is essential to Christian growth and maturity, and so there is great profit if we expose our selves to this correction.
IV. INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.
It is a basic principle in the Christian life that we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. There is only one source where we can seek the righteousness of God and that is in the Bible. You cannot obey the primary commands of Christ without reading and studying the Bible. Righteousness is directly linked to knowledge. A godly life is a result of godly knowledge. The more one is instructed in God's Word, the more likely it is he will be righteous in his attitudes and acts.
Christians are often guilty of giving people misconceptions about the Bible by saying that they believe it from cover to cover. This implies to the non-believer that everything in the Bible is approved. Then when they read some of the accounts of evil they are totally confused. Many Christians are also confused and wonder how can these stories of rape and lust be in the Bible. How can they instruct us in righteousness? We must recognize that the shocking accounts of sin are no more approved of by God than the horrible sins we read of in the daily paper are approved of by the editor. They are there because they happened, and they are recorded for our benefit so that we can see the terrible results of disobedience to God's will.
The awful accounts of sinful behavior in the Bible erase all illusions that man is not sinful. They keep us aware that even as believers we are still subject to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. They remind us that we who stand must beware lest we fall. They keep us conscious of our need to pray daily that we be not led into temptation, but be delivered from evil. The shocking parts of the Old Testament are profitable in instructing us in righteousness because they keep us aware of our weakness, and they show us what to avoid.
In verse 17 Paul shows us what the end product will be for one who invests his time in the Word. The end result is a man of God who is complete and mature. He is not tossed about by every wind of doctrine. He is on a solid foundation because he listens to the reproof and correction of the Word. He responds in obedience and presses on to become fully equipped to be God's servant in the world. This is why we must invest time in the study of God's Word. We cannot serve a lost world in any meaningful way if we do not know God's will. The most practical and profitable study in the world is the study of the Bible. It is one of the greatest investments that you will ever make.