Afternoon Sermon: What Is The Word Of God?, Baptist Catechism 4, 2 Timothy 3:10–17

Baptist Catechism 4

Q. 4. What is the Word of God?

A. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, and the only certain rule of faith and obedience. (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; Isaiah 8:20)

Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 3:10–17

“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:10–17, ESV)



To appreciate question 4 of our catechism, we need to remember question 3. 

Question three addresses the question of knowing. “How may we know…”, question three begins. That is an interesting question all by itself, wouldn’t you agree? How can we know things, all kinds of things? That is a question worthy of our consideration. In particular, question three asks, “How may we know there is a God?” The answer that is given is helpful both to the general question, how may we know?, and to the more specific question, “How may we know there is a God?” 

The answer given is, “The light of nature in man and the works of God plainly declare that there is a God; but His Word and Spirit only do it fully and effectively for the salvation of sinners.” So here we learn a most foundational truth. We may know things in general, and we may know that God exists in particular, because God has revealed truth to us. God has spoken both through nature and also through his Word. We call these two forms of revelation general or natural revelation, and special revelation. God reveals himself, and certain truths about himself generally through the world that he has made. And God reveals himself, and truths about himself much more specifically through his Word. Who has access to natural or general revelation? All people do. Who has access to his special revelation? It is only those who have read or heard the truths now contained within Holy Scripture. One more question about this: is it possible for men and women to be saved through natural revelation? We say, no. For the gospel is not communicated in the stars or in the trees or in the heart of man, but only through God’s special revelation. 

So then, question 3 introduced us to the “Word of God”, and now question 4 asks, “what is the Word of God?” The answer that is given is very basic. “The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, and the only certain rule of faith and obedience.” The answer is basic, but it is very helpful. Let us consider it now piece by piece. 


The Holy Scriptures

Here the “Holy Scriptures” are said to be “the Word of God”.

Scripture means writing. The writings that are being referred to here are (for the most part) the writings of men. Men like Moses, David, and Paul wrote the scriptures that we now have. But here we are confessing that these writings are not ordinary writings — they are holy. The word “holy” reminds us that the scriptures are from God and they are pure. 

We confess that the scriptures are inspired by God. Did men write them? Yes indeed. Did men choose the words? Yes, they did. Can we get a sense of their education or their personalities through their writings? Yes, I think we can. Men wrote the scriptures. But with the holy scriptures, there is more to the story. These men we inspired by God. God’s spirit carried them along to write what they wrote so that at the end of the day we are correct to refer to their words as the Word of God. This is what Peter says, and I quote, “knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20–21, ESV). This is a marvelous description of inspiration. Again, “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

The Holy Scriptures are the Word of God, and they are therefore pure. The scriptures are inerrant and infallible. They are trustworthy and sure. By the way, if we are going to confess that the scriptures are the words of God, we must also confess that they are inerrant, infallible, trustworthy, and sure, for God cannot error. He cannot utter a lie. In fact, if we were not so constrained by time, I would explain to you that, because scriptures is God’s Word, we must view scriptures as having these qualities or characteristics: the scriptures are inspired, clear, sufficient, and authoritative.  

I said that the answer provided by our catechism is simple. If it were more complex it might also address the fact that God has spoken in other ways in the past. God spoke to men directly, as with Adam. He spoke to and through the prophets. He wrote the ten commandments with his own “finger”. Supremely, God spoke to us through his Son, Christ the Lord, the eternal  Word of God come in the flesh. That is all true. But where is the Word of God found by us today? Not in the mouths of prophets, not from within ourselves, but in the Holy Scriptures.

If our catechism were more complex it might also address the fact that what most of us read today are translations of the Holy Scriptures. The scriptures were written originally in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. And when we speak of the scriptures being inspired by God, inerrant, infallible, and authoritative we have those texts in mind. The modern translations we possess are marvelous. It is a tremendous blessing to have translations of Holy Scripture in our native tongue at our fingertips. But it is important for us to keep the distinction between the originals, copies of the originals, and translations of the originals in mind. Thanks be to God that he has not only spoken to us by his Word, he has also preserved the scriptures for us so that we might know what he has said. 

Q: “What is the Word of God?”  A: “The Holy Scriptures… are the Word of God…” 


Old And New Testaments

More precisely, our catechism also says that “the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God…” The phrase, “of the Old and New Testaments”, is very important, for it identifies what “scriptures” we have in mind. Not just any scriptures (writings), but the scriptures “of the Old and New Testaments”.

As you know, our catechism summarizes our confession of faith. And our confession of faith is more detailed at this point. The books of the Holy Scripture are actually listed out in chapter 1.2. Brothers and sisters, I think it is important to understand something about the structure of the scriptures. The Holy Scriptures are made up of two testaments. And what divides the Old Testament from the New? What distinguishes them? Well, it is the life of Christ. 

Matthew 1 is the beginning of the New Testament and it begins by telling us about the birth of Jesus the Messiah – his life, death burial, and resurrection. The other three gospels do the same. The book of Acts tells us about the Acts of Jesus’ Apostles. The Epistles provide instruction for the church based upon what Jesus accomplished. Revelation does the same while also giving us a glimpse of our final inheritance in Christ in apocalyptic form. Stated succinctly, the New Testament is about Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah. 

What then is the Old Testament. Well, it is about many, many things. In brief, the Old Testament scriptures tell us about creation, man’s fall into sin, the promise of God to provide a Savior. The Messiah would emerge from the descendants of Abraham after they became a great nation. The vast majority of the Old Testament scriptures is about Israel, therefore, and what God did in and through them to bring the promised Messiah into the world through them. 

So then, we must see that both the Old and New Testament scriptures are about Jesus Christ. This is in fact what Jesus taught his disciples on the road to Emmaus as recorded in Luke 24. He interpreted the scriptures, that is to say, the Old Testament scriptures, showing how all of the law prophets, and Psalms were fulfilled in him. Saint Augustine once famously described the relationship between the Old and New Testament like this: “The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed” .


The Works Of God

After saying that “the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God”, our catechism then declares that they are “the only certain rule of faith and obedience. 

Rule means standard. What is the standard for what we should believe and for what we should do? The scriptures are. They are the rule of faith and obedience. 

What should we believe about God? To the scriptures we must go! What should we believe about ourselves? To the scriptures we must go! What should we believe about salvation? To the scriptures we must go! And how should we live? How should we worship? To the scriptures we must go! Natural revelation may help us in many ways, but the rule of faith and obedience is not found there. It is found only in God’s Holy Word.



Do you know the scriptures, brothers and sisters? To love to listen to them read and preached? Do you read them for yourselves? Do you cherish them and store them up in your heart? We ought to, for the scriptures are God’s word to us. 

Moreover, “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:7–11, ESV)

Q. 4. What is the Word of God?

A. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, and the only certain rule of faith and obedience. (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; Isaiah 8:20)

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