After my one-on-one session with Mark, one of my dgroup members, earlier, I realized 2 Timothy 3.16-17 is my favorite passage to share in a one-on-one setting. It is one of the passages that God has put in my heart that has motivated me to really seek Him every day. Allow me to share some thoughts here.
Context first. Second Timothy was the last known epistle that the Apostle Paul wrote. He wrote this to his mentee Timothy when he was about to die. if you were in his situation, what would you tell the people you disciple?
“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 3.16-17
When Paul wrote the epistles, the New Testament has not yet been compiled. The disciples then were referring to the Old Testament (OT), most of the time, when they mention Scripture. However, in 2 Peter 3.15-16, Peter implied that Paul’s letters are considered Scripture as well. This begs the question, how did the New Testament (NT) come to be?
There was a council in church history that finalized what is considered as canon today. They had set criteria on determining which can be considered canon. But the books of the NT were already in circulation among the churches long before the canonization. This means that in God’s providence, the books of the NT we have now are the ones which survived history. I can expound on this more, but this may sway the discussion from my point. My point is that the whole Bible today, all 66 books, is considered Scripture.1
Breathed out by God
In NASB, this is rendered as ‘inspired by God’. ‘Inspired’ gives us an idea that God ordained the writing of Scripture. This is commonly known among theologians as the doctrine of inspiration. However, the original Greek word is closer to the ESV rendition ‘breathed out by God’ What does this mean? It means the Scripture came out from the very breath of God. If the Scripture is the Word of God, then it follows logically that it is infallible and inerrant.
The Scripture is perfect, but the Bible that we have today is not because of two reasons. Firstly, the Bible that we have is from the manuscripts, which are copies (or copies of copies…). Scholars have a system in correcting the discrepancies to the point that they say we can be 95%-99% confident of the accuracy of the manuscripts. Secondly, the translation. As I have just illustrated in the use of ‘breathed out by God’, it is hard to translate perfectly. That is why in word studies, there is a need to verify with the original language, which for me is a key skill of preachers. Can you imagine the great lengths to which the Bible as we know it came to be?
What does profitable mean? Its root word is profit. When we talk about profit, we think of the difference of the revenue from expenses. In relation to the verse, we invest something for it to be profitable. We then gain something in return that is more than what we put in. The same is true with studying the Word of God. We invest hard work in understanding it, but the gain does not compare to the hard work. Studying, meditating and memorizing Scripture is worth it.
In NKJV, this is rendered as ‘doctrine’. Sadly, in this age, there is this tendency to pit doctrine against loving Jesus. I have heard Christians today say “No creed but Christ.” But this is a false dichotomy. In fact, the Lord Jesus Himself had a high view of the Scriptures which is made manifest in the number of times that He asked “Have you not read…?”2 We learn from God’s Word. It guides us in the way a Christian ought to live. As Psalms 119.105 says, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
Big word. Haha! This can be understood from the NIV rendering, ‘rebuke’. Scripture rebukes us. It is living and active and pierces through our soul and spirit, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart3.
We can liken God’s Word with law as the law informs what is right or wrong. The difference, though, is that the law does not help us when we commit transgressions. The Bible, however, through the Holy Spirit, corrects us and helps us be restored to living a godly life.
Training in Righteousness
When I first meditated on this, my mind was blown away. Is there a training in righteousness? Yes! God transforms us from glory to glory4 and the Bible is essential for this. When Jesus was tempted, He countered it with God’s Word. He showed us how to act towards temptations.
That the Man of God may be Complete
The Scripture is sufficient for us to do every good work. Therefore, we need not worry about other writings such as the documents of the church in history or lost writings of the apostles because the Bible is enough. The Bible may not directly tell you what career you should pursue or who you should marry, but the principles laid out are enough for us to decide with wisdom on such things.
For me, the application is we hold the Scriptures as the final authority over Christian faith and practice. Everything that our leaders say, we weigh it against the Scripture just like the noble Bereans5. At the end of the day, we do not want to anchor our faith to pastors, not even to the famous ones. Ultimately, we want our faith anchored to God and His Word.
Also, as a reflection, this is how essential the Word of God is for a Christian. How come we neglect the discipline of studying, meditating and memorizing God’s Word? Besides, it is unthinkable to say that we love God, yet we do not long for the Word which is the very breath of God.
I understand that there are some parts that are hard to understand. That’s why if you are just starting out, I suggest you start with John then finish the whole NT. By the time you get to the OT, which is harder to read, you would have already developed the discipline to read the Bible every day. Also, look up The Bible Project6 on Youtube. They provide great explanations and context on every book of the Bible. You can also check Exposit The Word for expository sermons on the books of the Bible. Frankly, we do not have any excuse not to understand the Word at this age because of the abundance of resources available. How blessed are we to live at this time in history!
Lastly, I want to end with this verse:
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2.2-3
This article was previously published by the author of this site as a Facebook note. Revised June 1, 2020.
See Matthew 12.3, 5; Matthew 19.4; Matthew 22.31; Mark 12.10, 26; Luke 6.3 ↩
Hebrews 4.12 ↩
2 Corinthians 3.18 ↩
Acts 17.11 ↩
The Bible Project, for the most part, has sound explanations. However, I object to their view of atonement and hell. So I am recommending it with some reservations. As always, practice discernment just like the noble Bereans. ↩