The Cloak, the Books, and the Parchments

We have a guest blogger today, a man who would probably have been appalled at the very idea of appearing in a blog: my mentor and former pastor Dr. Alan Dan Orme, the founder of University Church in Athens, GA.  This passage is from his sermon “The Cloak, the Books, and the Parchments,” on 2 Tim. 4:13.  Paul asks Timothy,

When you come, bring the cloak I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments.”

First a work of explanation:  “Common grace” is grace that God gives to all men, as opposed to “special” or “saving” grace, which only comes to those who put their faith in Christ.  Common grace is what allows even fallen and sinful human beings to do things that are positively good, including the goods of culture.  Here then is Dr. Orme’s commentary on Paul’s request.  And here is my question:  When is the last time you heard something like this from the pulpit?  And a second which is like unto it:  Is your answer not an index of how sick American Christianity has become?  Here’s the excerpt:

The house Dr. Orme rebuilt, the current meeting place of University Church
The house Dr. Orme rebuilt, the current meeting place of University Church

Even in the year of his death, Paul was intending on studying general literature which was the common heritage of human beings—of the people of the Lord and the people of the world, alike.

In principle, Paul here gives an example of a realm of human activity and civilization that was one step higher than the body and creaturely comforts: it is the realm of the mind. Paul wanted to exercise his mind and learn from that mass of literature that God had given to the world, not by inspiration, as he had the Scriptures, but by common grace.

This realm of thinking tends to justify a university education and the educated professions, but it also justifies your being interested in secular learning even over and above any help it might be as an aid to interpreting and applying the Bible. We do not know all the books Paul had in his library, but he quotes from poetry, drama, history, and fiction throughout his writings.

"The Books": This is Codex Alexandrinus, one of the earliest copies of the whole Bible.
“The Books”: This is Codex Alexandrinus, one of the earliest copies of the whole Bible.

In your lifetime pilgrimage, do not be afraid to expose yourself to the scrolls. It is God’s world, and all of these things belong to us who are his children. You don’t need to be like Jerome and his friend Rufinus, who copied out and studied the classics and then lied a little bit that they were too spiritual to read such stuff. You can admit it!

Love the English language. Frequently use the dictionary. Read some history. One of the wonderful gifts that God has given us by common grace is the gift of culture and civilization. Advance to the limit of your abilities in appreciation for fine music. Make Christ Lord over the realm of culture and the mind, and then with thanksgiving to the Lord of all creation, responsibly enjoy his gifts. Free yourself from the froth that is on television and feed yourself with something that will enhance your mind, your life, and your Christian walk.

Monet's "Water Lilies": Fine Art and Music . . .
Monet’s “Water Lilies”: Fine Art and Music . . .

But do this responsibly. This realm must be used according to God’s commandments, as must be the realm of the senses and the body. But it is always in subordination to the spiritual, and the eternal, and the welfare of your everlasting soul.

Dr. Alan Dan Orme, “The Cloak, the Books, and the Parchments,” 2 Tim. 4:13, 3/9/03

For more of Dr. Orme’s sermons (and some by regular blogger Donald T. Williams), go to  To order Dr. Williams’s books, ($15.00 + shipping), go to


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