As the preacher draws near the end of his sermon his goal is to draw together the various threads from the text into a definite, irrefutable and applicable conclusion. This, at least in theory, is what lies behind the words, “in conclusion.” (As you well know, this does not necessarily mean that the sermon is almost over!)
The goal of preaching and teaching is to come to definite conclusions and then to live out the practical convictions flowing from them. This, at least in part, is what Paul meant when he exhorted Timothy to “continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them” (2 Timothy 3:14).
From the context of the book it appears that amongst the influences in Timothy’s life were his mother, his grandmother, and, of course, the apostle Paul (1:3-5; 3:10). Through the teaching ministry of these individuals Timothy had been instructed and indoctrinated in the faith. From his childhood (3:15) Timothy had been so catechised that he was able to draw some conclusions from which he was to conduct his life. Paul here exhorted him to continue to live out such convictions from his biblical conclusions.
In chapters 3 and 4 Paul reminded Timothy that he faced a culture in which absolutes would be questioned and even outright rejected. Paul’s concern was that Timothy live his life on solid conclusions derived from Scripture.
Our day is much like the times faced by Timothy. Even within the church, it would seem that there is a hesitancy to say, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” One reason, of course, is that many think that the clearest of Bible doctrines are open for debate and therefore it is arrogant to say that some things are true and others are not. But, generally speaking, I think that the major problem is a loss of confidence in our ability to draw conclusions. Because we are assailed with so much information we find ourselves hesitant to firmly conclude anything.
It is clear that the apostle Paul did not suffer from a queasiness to conclude. And once we have properly studied the Word of God neither should we be—regardless of what Dr So-and-So says. I am not saying that we should not consider the studied interpretations of respected Bible scholars; I am saying that the Scriptures are clear enough on every area of importance that we can and we must draw conclusions. And, having done so, we then, with confidence in Scripture, are to live out those positions. In other words, we are not compelled by a lack of information to live our lives in flux when it comes to such biblical issues as: What constitutes life? Is one saved by works or by grace? Is one’s salvation dependent upon God’s unconditional election? Is the fourth commandment still the obligation of believers since the cross?
For example, I find that particularly this last issue is problematic for many. And yet I would maintain that the Scriptures are very clear with reference to the continuing validity of this Sabbatical commandment. There is no biblical justification for the new covenant believer to be hesitant when it comes to a full embracing of this wonderfully blessed law from God. Even though the view (held by the leadership along with the vast majority of BBC) is not popular; nevertheless there is ample biblical justification for drawing the conclusion that the Lord’s Day is intimately connected to the fourth commandment—regardless of what Drs So-and-So say.
The point of this article is not to argue for this interpretation (though I have no hesitancy to say “in conclusion”) but rather to encourage you to have such a confidence in the clear teachings of Scripture that you will, like Timothy, continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of. In other words, having weighed the biblical evidence for a position, take the decisive step of saying, “In conclusion.” Don’t spend your life vacillating on important doctrinal issues but rather study the Scriptures, seek the insights of others, and then say with confidence, “Here I stand!”