February 02, 2024

Training in Righteousness

Sinclair Ferguson
Training in Righteousness

As our heavenly Father brings us up in the family likeness through the instruction of His Word, He gives wisdom to His children that this world cannot explain. Today, Sinclair Ferguson explores what it means for Scripture to train us in righteousness.


All this week we’ve been thinking about the Bible as God’s Word: His living Word, His active Word, His working Word, the God-breathed Word. And we’ve been especially reminding ourselves of Paul’s famous words to Timothy about the Scriptures being useful in our lives— teaching us doctrine, reproving our sin, bringing healing and correction, transforming us, equipping us to serve our Lord Jesus Christ. And this is Paul’s last word in this section of his letter. He says that the Scriptures ultimately have in view training us in righteousness. He actually uses a word that really means “child-training.” His instruction is instruction of a father to his children. Bringing us up in the family likeness, bringing us up to be more like our elder brother, the Lord Jesus Christ.

You probably know the hymn “This Is My Father’s World.” And if no one has done it, I think someone should write another hymn to go along with it, a hymn about the Bible: “This Is My Father’s Word.” We could probably use the same tune. So, at the end of the working week, here we are. The Bible is God’s Word and His words. It’s His mouth. The words are carried to us by the breath of the Holy Spirit. And as Christians, we sense that as we respond to it, we are always saying, “Abba Father, teach me more. Make me more like Jesus.” And you know, when you think about it, the wonderful thing is that the Scriptures instruct us, no matter whether we are rocket scientists or very simple people. Remember how the Scriptures teach us that they make us wiser than even those who may teach us in the secular world, because we listen to them and we let them do their work in us.

I want to close out this week by telling you a story that I love very much. When I was a teenager, one of the books that we used to help us understand Christian doctrine was called In Understanding Be Men. It was written by an Irish minister called T.C. Hammond. He eventually went to Australia and became the principal of Moore College in Sydney. He was a very remarkable Irishman, and he ran a club in Dublin at one time for boys. Not boys from the best part of town, but actually from the worst part of town. And he taught them what became known as the one hundred texts. They memorized one hundred texts of Scripture. And one day the bishop visited, and he was pretty unsympathetic to Hammond’s gospel preaching. And when Hammond told him that these boys knew one hundred texts of Scripture, the bishop simply didn’t believe him.

And he rather snootily said that he’d test these boys. So, he turned to the boys assembled in their best behavior and said, “Boys, can any of you tell me what Timothy says about the Bible?” Total silence reigned. And he asked them again. More silence. And then he turned and rather demeaningly spoke to T.C. Hammond, as though Hammond’s deceit had been exposed. These boys, he thought, didn’t know one hundred texts at all. It was all a lie. And seeing this, one of these little street boys piped up and said to the bishop, “Sir, Timothy didn’t say anything about Scripture, but in 2 Timothy 3:16–17, the Apostle Paul said ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished for every good work.’ ”

Of course, he knew the verse in the King James Version. You’ve got to love it, haven’t you? Here was a learned bishop looking down his nose at these boys. And this little boy actually had a more accurate knowledge of Scripture than he did. The Word of God had made him wiser than his teachers. Isn’t that what Psalm 119:99 says? “I have more understanding than my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.” So let’s remember as we think about the Bible, and as we turn to the Bible more often, that it’s God’s Word. That it’s doing God’s work. And that it’s going to give us wisdom that will enable us to negotiate the world in which we live and see through the falsehoods of the world.