Bible Study, Scripture Completes, Scripture Equips, Scripture Has a Purpose, Scripture is Profitable for Correction, Scripture is Profitable for Doctrine, Scripture is Profitable for Instruction, Scripture is Profitable for Reproff
2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works”
Studying the Bible is essential for one’s spiritual growth? Romans 15:4 puts it this way, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope”. My friend, the Bible isn’t merely a book about Christianity. It is designed to completely equip a born again believer in Christ to live by faith. Bible study is foundational for spiritual development of the believer. Thus, the Bible speaks for itself regarding:
(1) Its origin (1 John 1:1-4);
(2) Its value to a man and woman of God; and
(3) Its purpose.
ALL SCRIPTURE IS GIVEN BY THE INSPIRATION OF GOD
It explicitly repudiates and rejects all the false concepts which men have developed to try to get away from this vital doctrine. Many people think the Bible is flawed and unreliable, and obviously not written by God. Many people say and think the Bible is the product of man’s fertile imaginations and ancient mythological traditions. They place it in the same category as the Greek stories of the gods on Olympus or the writings of Confucius or Muhammad. To them, the Bible is just another religious book. Some people believe that the writers were “inspired” with the same quality of exalted feelings that inspired other great writers.
However, our key verse in 2 Timothy, Chapter 3 attributes it to the “inspiration of God” and not to human inspiration. There are those who believe the thoughts are inspired, but not the words. However, the Scriptures are inspired, not the thoughts of the men who wrote them. The “Scriptures” mean the “writings” the actual words written. Then there are others who say the Scriptures aren’t inspired in themselves, but only become inspired when a reader “encounters God” through reading them. This, also, is false. The Scriptures are inspired regardless of how they affect the reader. Actually, the phrase “given by inspiration of God” is one word in the Greek, meaning “God-breathed.”
There are those who think the Bible is full of scientific errors and therefore cannot be trusted in spiritual matters either. Because of their naturalistic assumptions, many scientists take issue with the miracles in the Bible. They question the scientific validity of the accounts of the sun standing still (Joshua 10:12-13), the Israelites being fed with quail, or Jonah surviving in the belly of a huge fish for 3 days. This is also referred to as the partial theory of inspiration, which says that part of the Bible is inspired, the (“religious” parts), but the (scientific and historical parts) are not inspired. However, our verse says that all Scripture is inspired! Then we have individuals who believe the Bible, insist that it comes from God and is error-free.
That’s why those who do not agree often point out what they feel to be historical inaccuracies. Whenever they find something in archeology or ancient records that seem to contradict a biblical statement, they jump to the conclusion that the Bible is wrong. Unless every biblical name is authenticated through research and every fact verified by historical study, they assume that the Bible is in error. We also have those individuals who think the Bible is outdated. My friend, there aren’t too many books still being printed today that were finished 2,000 years ago. However, that very mark of the Bible’s greatness is interpreted by some as a point of weakness and disinterest. Modern-day thinkers who have developed new philosophies and theories about life claim that no book written so many centuries ago could have anything relevant to say to our modern world–especially on such specifics as sex, marriage, ethics, and business.
Now we come to the only reliable or trustworthy source, the plenary verbal inspiration, which is of complete divine origin and authority. The Bible alone is our authoritative source for doctrine, due to its inspiration. When a person does accept the God-breathed authority of Scripture, that person has an infinite resource (God), serving as an inerrant framework for all true wisdom and knowledge. My friend, every church needs a pastor, deacons and teachers who will study, understand, and communicate the doctrinal teachings found in God’s Eternal Word. Ignorance of Biblical doctrine limits our spiritual growth and understanding of God’s Word. Believers who are ignorant of the doctrinal content of God’s Word are uncertain about what to believe, and where there is uncertainty about sound doctrine, there is doubt about preserving and protecting it.
I. HOW CAN WE TEST THE RELIABILITY OF THE BIBLE; WHAT CRITERIA CAN WE USE TO EVALUATE WHETHER IT’S TRUE?
Supermarket tabloids don’t have a glowing reputation for being reliable sources of factual information. For example, I remember seeing the headline: AMELIA EARHART FOUND ALIVE! The truth, of course, is that Amelia attempted a solo plane crossing of the Pacific in 1937 but disappeared. She was lost at sea and presumed dead. The tabloid’s story was probably interesting to read, but was it true? Highly unlikely. What about the daily newspaper? Much more credible perhaps, but not infallible. What is printed one day may be (and sometimes is) corrected or retracted the next day. So, if the Bible can give us good sound evidence that it has come to us from God, then we can see why it makes so much sense to trust its authority.
We follow this pattern in other areas of life. When we are sick, we don’t ask a painter for a diagnosis and a prescription. Instead, we look for someone qualified to give us reliable medical treatment. And what about the deeper, most basic decisions of life? Where do we go when we want to know what’s right and what’s wrong? Who do we ask about the origin and meaning of life? Where do we turn when we are overwhelmed with a sense of sin and our terrible weakness? How can we find rescue, information about the future, and hope beyond the grave? Once again, if we can show that we have good reason to believe that the Bible has come to us from God, then we also have a book we can trust, a book like no other book this world has ever known. The evidence for the reliability of the Bible can be put into four basic categories:
(1) Its personal claims,
(2) Its protected text,
(3) Its proven accuracy, and
(4) Its profound impact.
The science of archeology can give us a lot of valuable evidence, which will either confirm or contradict the biblical record. One hundred years ago, many Bible critics were trying to dismiss much of its history as the work of creative storytellers. However, in this century, archeological finds have overwhelmingly supported the biblical data. One case of archeological evidence is a recent study of ancient Jericho, which concluded that the walls did tumble down as the Bible indicates. Archeologist Bryant G. Wood of the University of Toronto said, “When we compare the archeological evidence at Jericho with the biblical narrative describing the Israelite destruction of Jericho, we find remarkable agreement” (Biblical Archeological Review, March/April 1990).
Sir William Ramsay, a noted archeologist, was skeptical of the New Testament Book of Acts. He set out to prove the inaccuracy of the book but instead came away as an ardent believer in its great historical value. Ramsay concluded, “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense . . . . In short, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians” (The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, p.222). This perception matches what Luke himself said about his methods. In the introduction to his record of the life of Jesus (Luke 1:1-4), the author mentions his reliance on eyewitness testimony and his concern to present “an orderly account”.
II. DOES THE BIBLE HOLD TOGETHER?
That is, does a collection of writings by 40 different authors from many different backgrounds and occupations, over about 1,600 years, in three different languages, and written on different continents, have a consistent message or is the Bible a confusing mixture or combination of meaningless ideas? From start to finish, the Bible tells how God has been working out His plan to rescue people from the penalty and power of sin. He revealed Himself to the patriarchs, then to the nation of Israel. He worked out His plan in Christ, in His disciples, and in the early church. Moreover, the last book in the Bible, Revelation, tells how God will complete His plan. From the symbolic sacrificial system of the Old Testament to the reality of Christ’s sacrifice of Himself on the cross, from the first chapters to the last, God is consistently described. This incredible unity points to the Bible’s supernatural origin.
III. WHY IS THE BIBLE SO CONSISTENT AND RELIABLE?
For the answer to this question, let’s look at the Bible itself. Peter wrote, “. . . prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). In addition, to Timothy, Paul said, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). According to the Bible itself, therefore, it is not a compilation of men’s ideas but God’s. Even though He used men and their individual personalities to reveal His truth, the Bible professes to have but one author–God. That is why the Bible is so consistent and reliable from start to finish. When we say the Bible is inspired, what do we mean? For one thing, we do not mean the kind of inspiration that comes to an author trying to write a book or a mechanic trying to find out what’s wrong with a car. As they struggle with a problem, they may suddenly see a solution and say they were hit with a bolt of inspiration. This is not what we mean when we say that the Bible writers were inspired. Rather, we mean that their writing was initiated and controlled by God Himself. In a supernatural way, the Holy Spirit led Moses, Isaiah, Matthew, Paul, and the other Bible authors to write the message of God to man.
The Bible’s unusual claim to be the inspired Word of God is made clear in several key passages. The first is in Paul’s second letter to Timothy: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). The word translated “inspiration” means “God-breathed”. This tells us that the Bible originated in the mind of God. The Holy Spirit influenced the individual Bible writers to put down the message God wanted humanity to have. And another important passage that expresses the Bible’s claim to be the Word of God is in one of the apostle Peter’s letters: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation [origin], for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). These verses make a tremendous claim! They say that the Bible prophets did not originate what they wrote. Rather, they recorded what was given to them by God. They were moved by the Holy Spirit. Now, that doesn’t mean that their individual personality or style of writing was overpowered. It means that they were kept from having any error creep into what they wrote. They were moved by the Holy Spirit to record only what God wanted man to know. The Bible’s claim, then, is that it was written by God. It is not man’s book; it is God’s book. Paul informed us that the spiritual truth he gave was “not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches” (1 Corinthians 2:13).
Yes, the Bible is the inspired Word of God, its powerful, living, and indestructible (1 John 1:1-3; Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”; 1 Peter 1:23-25). In both the Old and New Testaments, it is the message of God to people of all ages–a book you can trust! In an excavation at Jerusalem, archeologist Gabriel Barkay uncovered a small copper scroll with writing on it from the Bible. This fragment of Scripture was brittle and tarnished with age. Barkay took it to his laboratory and worked with unbelievable patience and delicate care to unroll it without destroying it. Dated around 400 BC, the scroll was a very important find because it contained the earliest written Hebrew name for God, Yahweh (or Jehovah). Apparently the scribe who copied it had broken with the practice of never writing that sacred name. Always before, because of their reverence for its holiness, Jewish scribes had felt unworthy to pen that special name. The Bible is God’s holy, inspired, infallible Word, and we must handle its truths with the same care Barkay gave to his discovery and the same reverence the copyists gave to God’s name. Scripture comes to us from God’s heart. Therefore, we must guard its message with integrity by “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). We must respect its every word. To take Scripture out of context or twist its meaning to serve our purposes or justify our own opinions is to dishonor God’s Word and His name. Let’s always handle the Word of God with care. Psalm 119:89, “Forever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.
IV: ALL SCRIPTURE IS PROFITABLE
The second quality of Scripture in this passage is “profitable”. This is not a financial term. Instead, it refers to that which is beneficial, helpful, useful, or the very thing needed. The inspiration of the Bible has a practical, helpful application in four particular areas, which includes:
(1) DOCTRINE – this term simply means “that which is taught”. It assumes a teacher/student relationship. The student must submit to the teacher, receiving the teacher’s instruction. After the instruction is received, the student must apply it and change. We are perhaps most familiar with the term “doctrine” as a part of the phrase, “doctrinal statement”. The doctrine of the bible is not only a list of truths to which we agree; it is truth that is designed to change lives by its application. After 30 years as a pastor, a New Jersey minister concluded, “The Bible is the best-selling, least-read, and least-understood book.” In his view, “Biblical illiteracy is rampant.” George Gallup, the foremost religion pollster in the US, agrees: “We revere the Bible,” he says, “but we don’t read it.” In a recent survey, 64 percent of those questioned said they were too busy to read the Bible. The average household has three Bibles but less than half the people in the US can name the first book in the Old Testament. One survey found that 12 percent of its Christian respondents identified Noah’s wife as Joan of Arc! Someone summarized 2 Timothy 3:16 by saying: “God’s Word shows us which road to take (doctrine). It tells us when we get off track (reproof); how to get back on (correction); and how to stay on (instruction in righteousness).” God’s Word is a precious gift and we should cherish it and share it with others.
(2) REPROFF (rebuke) and (3) CORRECTION (substitution) – a reproof involves conviction of sin. Because of its divine authority, the Word reveals sin and demands that we stop sinning. Correction follows reproof. After we know that what we are doing is wrong, the Word directs us to do what is right. It points out the substitution for the wrong and says, “Now start doing this!”
(4) INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS (which means training) – pictures the training a child receives from his or her parents. It involves both instruction and discipline. The focus of training is righteousness, and only God is the standard for righteousness. The Word of God trains us as though we were young children so that we can become “true to the standard” of God’s character. When we study His Word, we should seek these four qualities. Thus, we could say that “Doctrine,” more specifically, is teaching. “Reproof” is evidence or conviction. “Correction” is a word used only this one time, and it means setting straight. “Instruction” is chastening. Then, the end result of the perfect teachings, the convicting evidences, the correcting influences, and the chastening cleansing of the Holy Scriptures is to produce men and women of God who are both ready and able to meet the critical needs of the times in which they live. By the same token, the large numbers of nominal Christians who do not diligently study, obey, and apply the Holy Scriptures in their lives are not either ready or able to face the awful challenges of these last days found in 2 Timothy 3:1–14.
V. ALL SCRIPTURE HAS A PURPOSE
Inspiration isn’t an abstract theological concept. Verse 17 of 2 Timothy, Chapter 3 begins with a purpose statement. “That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works”. God has inspired His Word so that we could be equipped to live for Him. The Apostle Paul listed two of God’s purposes in creating the inspired text are:
(1) IT COMPLETES – the term “perfect” does not mean “sinless,” although we might wish it did. We should understand “perfect” as “complete, well-equipped.” The inspired Word of God is designed to make us competent for living, wherein it allows us to expend our lives in a way that honors God with effective service. God’s Word will produce spiritual maturity, whether it relates to marriage, family, or work relationships, God inspired His Word so that we could be well-equipped for the challenges of living for Him in a sinful society. Being well equipped results in a truly Christian lifestyle that honors God.
I heard about an ethics professor who serves as a consultant in major ethical dilemmas and legal cases all over the world. Again and again he provides deep insights into complex moral questions, and his opinions have influenced corporate decisions of global significance. But the professor himself is not ethical. He cheats on his wife, and he embarrasses the university by his public behavior. Now, this man knows the law. He has deep insights into right and wrong. But his knowledge doesn’t affect the way he lives. He’s like a pianist who has all the notes in front of him but doesn’t play the music. He’s like the builder who has all the plans and materials but doesn’t build the building properly. He’s like so many who live without Christ—the One who created them and has a design for their lives. Everything that exists has been created “through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16), and we would be wise to follow His plan. Like good musicians and expert builders, when we live according to God’s design, we will be successful in carrying out His plan for our lives. As the apostle Paul prayed, may we be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (v.9). And then, may we live accordingly. To know life’s purpose, you must know life’s Creator.
(2) IT EQUIPS – when we furnish a house, we equip it as living quarters. Depending on our financial ability we might furnish the house very basically or more lavishly, but it must be furnished well enough to allow it to function as a home. The inspired Word furnishes, or equips, us. Because we have the Word, we are sufficiently prepared to live.
The words that modify “furnished” should fill believers’ hearts with confidence and joy. We are not just equipped, though we would think that would be enough. Instead, we are “thoroughly,” or completely, equipped for the Christian life. God’s inspired Word provides “above and beyond” equipping. We are equipped to produce good works. The inspired Word is the means by which Ephesians 2:8-10 can be realized. Those who are saved by grace through faith are ordained by God to produce good works. These works are not the cause of salvation but the gracious effects of it. A friend of mine is a gifted handyman, but for years he was unable to develop his gifts. The reason was simple: He lacked the right tools. So for his birthday I gave him a tool kit that opens like a large book, containing the basic tools a handyman needs. As he examined each tool, his eyes shone with anticipation.
After completing his next job, my friend told me excitedly, “There’s nothing more satisfying than having the right tools for the job.” Then, applying that thought to his spiritual life, he added, “I know where I can find the right tool for every job—in the Bible!” The apostle Paul, a tent maker by trade and a “master builder” in God’s kingdom (1 Corinthians 3:10), knew he needed the right spiritual tools. He understood that the most practical tool kit for meeting spiritual needs is the Word of God. In 2 Timothy 3, he declared that all Scripture is God-inspired (v.16). It’s indispensable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, training, and equipping believers for every good work. Open and use God’s “tool kit” every day. Experience the deep satisfaction of finding in it the right tool for each spiritual task you have to do. It’s the tool kit that has all you need. Just use it! The Bible has all we need to know, so we can do all God wants us to do.
Because the Word is inspired, we are completely equipped for every good work that we might ever do. The Bible is absolutely sufficient for living the Christian life: we are completely furnished for every good work. Therefore, if a believer finds him or herself poorly equipped to live as a Christian in a situation, he or she must turn to God’s Word for the equipping. There is no reason (nor is there an excuse) to be self-sufficient. Putting these concepts together, Paul seems to be saying that the “man of God” is not necessarily a man who is sinlessly perfect, but one who is both fresh (ready to meet present needs) and fully equipped (able to meet present needs). And, of course, it is significant that this splendid testimony to what a man of God can be—and should be—follows immediately upon Paul’s grand testimony to the inspiration and power of the Holy Scriptures. The Scriptures, first of all, “are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Timothy 3:15). Then, they are “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16). The Word of God (Bible) is God breathed. We need to be taught, rebuked, corrected, and instructed in righteousness. We need to carry the good works of Jesus Christ into every part of our lives.
The idea of homemade religion is becoming increasingly popular in today’s world. People think they can believe in Jesus while accepting unbiblical teaching. Although professing to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, some feel its okay to also follow the teachings of Buddha or Krishna. They feel that having an additional belief is simply another step toward spiritual fulfillment. Chuck Colson, who has examined this trend, says that “instead of adhering to a specific set of doctrines, they feel free to pick and choose from all the various belief systems, or to create their own tailor-made religion.” He cites studies to show that people claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ have embraced reincarnation, astrology, and communication with the dead. This is dangerous ground. The true believer knows that Jesus Christ is the only way to God (Acts 4:12), and that the Bible, God’s inspired Word, is the only true source of instruction (2 Timothy 3:15-16). All beliefs and practices relating to spirituality must be based on biblical truth—not on how appealing they may sound. Don’t trust a homemade religion that contains a little of this and a little of that. Make your faith all about Jesus Christ, and test everything by God’s Eternal Word. Then you can’t go wrong. If we truly accept 2 Timothy 3:16-17 by faith, we must make time to know and apply this God-breathed book. Someone summarized 2 Timothy 3:16 this way:
(1) God’s word shows us which road to take (doctrine).
(2) It tells us when we get off track (reproof).
(3) How to get back on track (correction), and
(4) How to stay on track (instruction in righteousness).
The Bible, God’s Eternal Word, gives us a picture of who we really are. Many other books can inform, but only the Bible can tranfsorm.