Near the end of his life, when Paul was in prison in Rome, he looked to Timothy for comfort, a young man he had led to the Lord at Lystra. In a letter to him, Paul asked his friend to bring his scrolls/parchments to the prison the next time he visited.
In 2 Timothy 4:13 it becomes clear Paul was requesting that scrolls of Old Testament Scriptures be brought to him for further study. But how could Timothy get them into Rome and into the jail when, by that time, Christians has already become an outlawed sect? The only possible way would have been to smuggle them in with other items. It appears that Timothy, a young man converted by Paul in Lystra, was the first scripture smuggler!
Billy Graham, in his book Hoofbeats, suggests that John the apostle had to write his Revelation secretly, while closely guarded by the Romans. The parchment manuscript pages would have been smuggled off the island of Patmos and Christian volunteers copy them for the churches… This theory makes sense if you consider the cryptic (or apocryphal) nature of Revelation, such as his reference to the “beast” and his “number” in Revelation 13:18, or his frequent references to “Babylon”, and empire long overthrown, and eventually taken over by the Romans.
I say all this to simply point out the was special care given here, and consistent throughout history, to faithfully preserve the words of God, both in times of prosperity, and in difficulty. The fundamental teachings HAVEN’T been corrupted/changed over time, yet the Bible continues to be under attack, even in our day. The places where the highest honor is placed in God’s Word, appear to the be the very places where it is the most dangerous to possess the scriptures!
Another one of Satan’s favorite tactics against believers (and he HAS been around a LONG time!), is to twist the Words of God to mean something He did not intend. He was successful in raising sufficient doubt in Adam & Eve, enough to get them to disobey God’s clear command, but he was unsuccessful with the “2nd Adam” that is Jesus, when he appealed in 3 ways (Matthew 4 & Luke 4). Jesus didn’t “bite”, on the temptations, and came back with scriptural support, and even a correction on Satan’s scripture-twisting.
There, Jesus modeled what the psalmist declared in Psalm 119:11, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” The purpose of memorizing scripture, as is done at our church, in AWANA, youth group, and a few of our adults as well, is to internalize His Eternal Truths for those harder times, when His Word is not open in front of us!
G.K. Chesterton wisely observed, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
I know I keep coming back to this, but at a time when MOST of Jesus’ “disciples” left him (John 6:60, 66), saying, “This is a hard teaching, who can accept it?”, Peter responds by faith, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." (6:68-69)
Going through the scriptures together, 2nd hour (11-11:45, January-Easter) on Sunday mornings, is one of my favorite experiences over the course of the year at Elk River Baptist! We’ve finished Genesis, and are currently going through Exodus and the other “books of Moses”. There ARE difficult passages, but the more we seek Him in it, the more we see it reveal His Holy Nature & Attributes! It should lead us to a holy reverence for the places of mystery, AND gain a greater appreciation for the parts we know well!
My prayer is that when we come together as believers, we will be increasingly excited over the treasures discovered over the course of the week, and be eager to share with one another! This will lead to mutual edification and growth as a Church, and Lord Willing, be a stepping stone towards reaching those outside our fellowship as well. When intellectual knowledge is implemented, and shared with others, it becomes experiential knowledge! The experiential knowledge, leading from shared intimacy with Him, becomes an unshakeable conviction that cannot be twisted by Satan. It will also be increasingly observed by others, so that they will seek an answer “to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15)
With all this in mind, Paul’s prayer for the Church makes ever more sense to me:
“I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:16-19)
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge— that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)
This is my prayer for you as well! May you increasingly discover the depths of Him in His Holy Word.