Devoted To the Scriptures Part 2
Topic: The Bible Passage: 2 Timothy 3:16–17
This is the second message on being devoted specifically to the word of God. You might say this is Devoted to the Word Part 2. We live in what some have described as a post-Christian society. Whereas, 100 years ago, largely Christian assumptions were agreed upon by a large majority in our nation, that has eroded. For decades, relativism and a host of other “isms” have joined forces in a full frontal assault on biblical truth. Certainly it is largely a post-truth society that we find ourselves in right now.
Relativism is the air we breathe. Increasingly, the idea that truth is objective, is rejected. By objective truth, I mean it is true whether you were born or not. And this is not just a problem out there (in the world). You kind of expect that. The world lies under the power of the evil one… and reject the Lord Jesus Christ who is “the Truth”. But it’s not just a problem in the world. This is a growing problem in the church, among those who call themselves Christians. In a study conducted by Ligonier Ministries (RC Sproul), the study stated the following:
Religious belief is a matter of personal opinion; it is not about objective truth.
Guess how many American Evangelicals agree with that statement? A whopping 38%. That is staggering! A few years ago a mega church pastor came out and said we need to unhitch from the old testament. More recently the same pastor has come out and basically said, we need to unhitch from all the bible. He said the bible is not a sufficient starting place for faith in the modern world. And he said this without blushing! Now, many Christians would not say that out loud, but actually agree with it.
But, if there is anything that should describe Christians in any age, it is that we are people devoted to the word of God, which means we are people devoted to the truth. The Protestant Reformation was a time in which the truth of God’s word was unleashed in Europe… and transformed the entire continent… Much of the blessings we experience in Western Civilization are owed to the shaping power of the bible in the lives of individuals, families, cities, and nations. We must be people of the truth. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth. Your word is truth”. And especially in a post truth age and post truth society, we must stand on the solid foundation of God’s truth. True truth. Truth that does not budge. Truth that ultimately doesn’t care about personal opinions and feelings and emotions. Truth that doesn’t flinch when the world tries to cool shame us because of what we believe.
In order to stand firm in the truth, we need to be absolutely convinced of what this text teaches us. To be continually devoted to the scriptures, we need to be unashamedly assured of what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write in this text. Our text makes two astounding claims. 1) It says that the scriptures are profitable in every way and 2) they fully equip us for all of life. Those are enormous claims. But that is indeed the claim here! To see how that can be, we need clarity on the first part of verse 16.
All scripture is breathed out by God
This phrase clearly lays out the essence of what the bible is. The essence of what the scriptures are. The word scripture here refers to what is written down. The Greek word “graphe”. Now, some translations say “All scripture is inspired by God”. That’s not the best translation. The Greek word is “Theopneustos”. This is two words squished together. Theos is God. Pneustos is “to breathe or to blow”. The breath or blowing of God. All scripture is the breath of God, God-breathed, breathed out by God. Now this takes us back to two weeks ago. What the bible says, God says. The bible is not made up of some fables and myths from which we are to get some insight from.
It is also not the words of men that God then comes along and breathes life and power into. No! God does not breathe into scripture. Scripture is the breathing out of God. Have you ever thought of that? Are you holding a bible in your hands? Have you ever considered what you are holding in your hands? The breath of God. Scripture is authoritative and powerful and trustworthy and sufficient because it is the very words of God. What scripture says, God says.
And of course, it must be pressed - it is all scripture. Not just the NT and the psalms. All of it. If this is true (and it is!) then it only makes sense that all of scripture would be profitable in every way and equip us for all of life! Let’s see how. First, let’s look at how it profits us.
Profitable in Every Way (v. 16)
All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…
All scripture is profitable… useful, helpful, advantageous. Far from being irrelevant, the scriptures are omni-relevant, and profit us in every way. And we need to ask God to help us to see and feel what in incalculable prize we have in the scriptures. “The scriptures are a golden epistle sent to us from God”, and we would do well to pay close attention so that we get the full profit out of them. A man who starts a company has every desire to make a profit. A farmer who plants a field is looking for a harvest. We too should have every desire to accumulate benefit, profit, a harvest from the scriptures. The promise here is that the scriptures do indeed profit us in every way.
Paul gives us four ways in which the scriptures profit us: for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. These four ways the scriptures profit us really can be put into groupings of two: teaching and reproof go together, and correction and training in righteousness go together. Teaching and reproof deal with belief, or creed, or doctrine. And correction and training in righteousness deal with behavior, conduct, duty.
And this really does cover it all. Scripture profits us in our belief and behavior, our creed and conduct, our doctrine and duty. Let’s look at teaching and reproof. Scripture profits us by shaping our doctrine, what we believe, our creed if you will. This is important.
All scripture is profitable for teaching and reproof. Teaching is positive doctrine. The bible teaches us what is true. One way to approach the bible for maximum profit, is to approach it humbly with the attitude, “This is the standard of what is true, not what I think in my brain”. It’s standard fair these days to rely on what our brains or emotions tell us more than the word of God. Listen to a few more items in The State of Theology study.
- 43% of American evangelicals think Jesus was a good teacher but not God.
- 56% of American evangelicals believe that God accepts worship from all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
- 65% of American evangelicals believe everyone is born innocent in the eyes of God.
- 26% of American evangelicals think the bible is not literally true.
This is where things are at in the church! We cannot pretend that all is well in Zion. Too many people have been discipled by the likes of that pastor who thinks we need to unhitch from the bible.
Brothers and sisters, this is why the entirety of scripture must be studied so that over time we develop a whole biblical worldview. AW Tozer said, “The whole bible makes a whole Christian”. That’s what we are after - becoming whole Christians. If someone camps only in the psalms, that person will eventually become imbalanced. If someone spends all their time in the gospels or Romans or the prophets, that person will lack the balance needed for the full profit the scriptures give us.
Now, I understand why we are drawn to certain books, or even chapters. You have heard me say that Romans 8 is the most glorious chapter in the bible - I still think it is! But truly we need all the bible to teach us all the divine truth God wants us to know.
Think about it. The law teaches us the nature and character of God… what pleases him and what brings about his displeasure. The law teaches us his standard for right and wrong, good and evil. Have you noticed all of that seems up for grabs these days? The narrative texts teach us the ways of God with his people in blessing and discipline, the faithfulness of God in keeping his promise to Abraham, David, and others.
The poetry sections show us the heart of God for his people… and truly gives us voice to cry out to God and sing to God. The wisdom literature reveal to us practical understanding for taking dominion in all of life. The prophets give us a sense of both the goodness and severity of God as he pronounces judgment on idolaters, and also promises restoration to his covenant people.
The gospels and Acts show us both what Jesus Christ - the God man did and taught when he was on the earth and what he continued to do and teach through his apostles and early church. The NT epistles teach us the meaning of what Christ accomplished for us in his death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming. They teach us about the eternal purpose of God in Christ, and what God expects from his New Covenant people indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Revelation teaches us about the final victory of Jesus Christ over evil and death.
Ultimately it all points to Christ (Luke 24). The point is, it all profits us. And so without a growing knowledge of the bible, we are in the darkness of ignorance and error. This kind of ignorance is never bliss. Thomas Watson had a pithy, pointed statement: “Ignorance of scripture is the mother of error - not of devotion”.
Which leads to reproof. Scripture is profitable for teaching and reproof. The word reproof here carries with it the idea of conviction - referring to conviction of error through proof of the truth. It is for want of both teaching and reproof that the church has often fallen into error. I think of a friend who several years ago was getting a dose of the jet-fueled power of God’s grace. And he really was learning and growing in his understanding of the glory of God’s free and undeserved grace. However, he wouldn’t allow the reproving portions of scripture to bring balance - to convict him of sin and error, and before long he had crossed the Rubicon. We profit as the scriptures reprove us. The scriptures are profitable for teaching positive truth and reproving sin and errorant beliefs. And we need both.
All scripture is profitable for correction and training in righteousness. This has to do with our conduct, our behavior, duty, with how we live. Scripture is profitable for that as well. We are wrong to assume the bible is meant only to fill our brains with beliefs. No, it also fits our hands, feet, lips, and every other part of our body to live out what we believe. What we believe should come out of our fingertips and toes. We are all imperfect and inconsistent in this, which is why we need correction and training in righteousness.
The word correction means “to straighten”. The word of God straightens us out. Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been in the word or listened to it taught, and been hit with the realization, “This area of life is all out of whack!”? And it had the effect of straightening you out? That should happen to us - probably often. If that NEVER happens, there really are only two options: One, you are perfect (which you are not!) or two, you are not allowing the bible to profit you as it should. We should often be straightened out by the scriptures… as God addresses us.
And finally, the bible is profitable for correction and for training in righteousness. It straightens us out and shows us how to live right. They train us to live right… to do what is right… to live a righteous life. It’s fitting that this is the last in the series of ways the bible profits us - because this really is the point of it all. In the Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian says, “The soul of religion is practical part” by which he means obedience, righteous living. The scriptures train us in righteous living. Not just hearing… but doing it. Putting it into practice… being trained (fully discipled) in righteousness. This means that the word of God sets us into motion, puts us to work… the truth that goes into us and we believe by faith, is to be worked out in obedience, in action. James addresses this:
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)
What a picture. You get up in the morning and your hair is disheveled. You got sleepers in your eyes. You see what needs to be done to clean up a bit. Then you walk away and forget… The word is a mirror to show us what we look like and the path of a righteous life. Without this practical part of obedience, doing what the word says, James says we are deceived. Jesus says the wise man is the one who hears his words and does them (Matthew 7:24). And this is the path of blessing. This is the road to a truly happy life. Jesus said in Luke 11:28, “Blessed (happy) are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” Of course this isn’t always easy. Sometimes the way of profit requires us to do something hard, something difficult, something in our flesh we don’t want to do. Some marriages are always struggling because the righteous path has been left untried. Someone once said, “The Christian life has not been tried and found wanting, but it has been found hard and left untried.” The training program in righteousness is profitable, but sometimes hard. So the scriptures profit us in every way - in belief and behavior, doctrine and duty. [Transition: Not only that, the scriptures equip us for all of life.]
Equips For All of Life (v. 17)
That the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
The two words complete and equipped mean almost the same thing, which is why some translations say something like “fully furnished” or “thoroughly equipped”. I think the point is clear. The scriptures make us super-equipped for all of life. For every good work. The promise is that they profit us… and the purpose of the profit we gain from scripture is to super equip us for all of life.
And it only makes sense. When you are receiving solid, healthy doctrine - both positive as well as the reproving correctives - you begin to think the very thoughts of God. Loving what he loves, hating what he hates. And when the word of God is straightening you out and training you how to live right and pleasing in God’s sight, guess what? The Spirit-inspired word does the work of shaping us as disciples into conformity with our Master Jesus Christ.