“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16)
A great Puritan evangelist, John Rodgers, warned his congregation against neglecting Scripture by telling them what God might say, “I have trusted you so long with my Bible...it lies in [some] houses all covered with dust and cobwebs, you care not to listen to it. Do you use my Bible so? Well, you shall have my Bible no longer.”
Rogers then picked up his Bible and started walking away from the pulpit. Then he stopped, fell on his knees, and took on the voice of the people, who pleaded, “Lord, whatever Thou dost to us, take not Thy Bible from us; kill our children, burn our houses, destroy our goods; only spare us Thy Bible, take not away Thy Bible.”
“Say you so?” the minister replied, impersonating God. “Well, I will try you a while longer; and here is my Bible for you. I will see how you use it, whether you will search it more, love it more, observe it more, and live more according to it.”
Thomas Goodwin was so moved by Roger’s dramatic presentation that when he left church he wept upon horse’s neck for fifteen minutes before he felt strong enough to mount it.
Do we feel that strongly about the Bible?
The Bible is Divinely Inspired
Paul wanted Timothy and the church at Ephesus to know that they could trust the words of Scripture. He wanted them to know that the words of Scripture were actually divinely inspired by God. They could trust that these words were in fact God’s words. He told them that “all scripture is God breathed.” This word is synonymous with the Hebrew word in the Old Testament when God breathed life into Adam’s nostrils, “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Gen. 2:7). This word is also synonymous with the Greek word John used when describing when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit onto the apostles, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). Take your hand and breath on it. Did you feel that? God did that when writing the Scriptures. He breathed on the men insuring that the words were divinely inspired.
To what extent were they inspired? Some would say that the Bible only contains God’s inspired word, but not all of it can be trusted as so. All of it is inspired. How God penned it was He would move men to write the words of truth. Men would write through their own personality and style and God word ensure that every word was accurate and true. Men did not write as dictators just writing what God told them, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21).
Paul writes that “all scripture” is divinely inspired. That is given to us by the breath of God. What is “all scripture”? In this specific context Paul is specifically writing affirming the divine inspiration of the Old Testament scripture. The New Testament had not yet been formalized. It was being written. The Old Testament had been though. It is interesting to note that most contemporary evangelicals practically discard the Old Testament as simply a book of history, yet Paul wanted his readers to know that it was inspired and profitable for them.
"It is interesting to note that most contemporary evangelicals practically discard the Old Testament as simply a book of history, yet Paul wanted his readers to know that it was inspired and profitable for them."
What about the New Testament then? Peter affirmed in the New Testament from the verse quoted a moment ago that the writings of the Apostles were scripture as well. There were strict standards to determine what the New Testament canon books should consist of. Here are five important things that were used to test the canonicity of the New Testament writings:
Now the next question becomes what about our English Bibles: can we trust them as being divinely inspired? Let me assure you that God has preserved His word. We can take our Bibles and compare them to the various manuscripts, the various translations and the various quotes from the church fathers (pretty much the entire bible has been quoted) and in comparing them you will find just a slight variance of 3-5% and none of these variances lose the meaning that the original author willed to convey. Yes, you can trust the Bible! You can trust the Bible that you are reading today.
The Bible is Profitable
Being profitable is important. It is particularly important economically. If the work that we do does not make a profit then at some point we have to change what we are doing. In all things there is a pragmatic element to what we do. It must be profitable. Paul here uses a pragmatic argument saying that the Bible is “profitable” for us as believers.
The Bible is profitable for doctrine, which could also be said as teaching the truth. The Bible is a theological book that contains all of the essential and fundamental teachings that we need to know for salvation and for Christian living. It is profitable for us to know the truth.
The Bible is profitable for reproof. This means it is a tool that is used to persuade or convince us of our sin. The Bible is like a mirror for us and when we look deeply into it we see our true selves. A person who is living in pride and arrogance is someone who is not using their mirror. It is like leaving the house every morning without checking yourself in the mirror. Here is the reality, “The Bible will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Bible.”
The Bible is profitable for correction. This means to get straightened out. The Bible is used to continually correct and get our thinking and actions back on track. A person who stays out of their Bible will be a person who continually has wrong thinking and wrong actions. We need to constantly be straightened out.
"A person who stays out of their Bible will be a person who continually has wrong thinking and wrong actions. We need to constantly be straightened out."
The Bible is profitable for instruction in righteousness. A better way to say this, that I think we will understand even more clearly, is it is profitable for the instructions in the principles of justice. As followers of Jesus Christ we are to learn the principles of justice and then we are to apply them in all areas of our lives. Only God’s word gives us the true principles of justice. All other principles will be driven by self-interest.
The Bible is to work in our lives in order to change us from the inside out. It begins by giving us a knowledge and understanding of the truths about God. Then it works to convict us of our sin and to change and confront our behavior in light of it. It must not stop at this inward change though. Our culture has been infected with this obsession that Christianity is summed up only by this inward change. It is properly referred to as pietism, which says that Christianity is all about the inward workings of the Spirit. It must continue on though and we must be people of justice. We must learn and apply the principles of justice. We must learn to think through equal scales. We must be able to sift through all of the noise of the world. You see the world has doctrine that it is attempting to teach us. It then reproofs and corrects us on the basis of their standards. It then teaches principles of justice that we must maintain.
I was reminded of this last week with what happened in Charlottesville. This protest broke out and so did the messages to me as a pastor of what I must do. Honestly I did not find out about this until Sunday morning. So, I did a little research, as I wanted to be able to draw proper conclusions. Here is what I found. The alt-right, the white supremacists are wicked and sinful people. They are full of hate and their worldview is straight from the pits of hell. The person that organized the rally though was a puppet of George Soros. Their doctrine and their worldview is straight from the pit of hell. The counter protestors were organized by a group called Antifa. You go to their facebook page and the about section says, “f*ck fascism.” Their counter response is straight from the pit of hell and their doctrine is from the pit of hell. Many supporters of black lives matter came out. Many of my black brothers and sisters are in support of this group and I understand their reaction to white supremacy and police brutality. Black lives matter is not the answer though. Consider what the group stands for. Within the movement is also a call to affirm homosexuality and transgenderism. My friends this is not the answer. The answer is for the church to rise up, know the Bible (and thus know the principles of justice), and apply those principles to all area of life. Until we do this there will be no true justice. There will only be collectivist groups who come together for self-interest of themselves and of their groups.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.