The Sufficiency of Scripture for Pastoral Ministry
2 Timothy 3:14-17, “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have know the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Here in these verses, 2 Timothy 3:14-17, the Apostle Paul gives those who are ministers of the word at least four good reasons to be devoted to the scriptures and to be confident in their absolute sufficiency for the work God has given us to do. In the next couple of blog posts we’ll look at them, beginning with the first two and then after looking at all four I’ll try to draw out some practical implications and lessons.. First of all, there is…
The Saving Wisdom Scripture Gives
In v.15 Paul reminds Timothy that, “from a child you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” When it comes to the salvation of sinners, the scriptures are enough. The scriptures are sufficient. The scriptures are able to make you wise for salvation, salvation that only comes through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Secondly, Paul underscores…
The Divine Origin of Scripture
This is the emphasis of v.16. Someone has said that 2 Tim. 3:16 is the most famous verse about the Bible in the whole Bible. And the first thing Paul underscores in this verse is that, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.”Here’s another reason, Timothy, you must continue in your commitment to the scriptures. It’s because of what the scriptures are, literally, “All Scripture is God breathed.” The Greek is pasa graphe theopneustos. Let’s look at the words in this assertion.
First, the most important word is “theopneustos.” Again, it literally means breathed out by God, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” This is what you’ll find, for example, in the ESV and a number of other translations. The translation “is given by inspiration of God” can actually be a bit misleading and easily misunderstood. As B.B. Warfield with meticulous scholarship demonstrated long ago this text is not actually saying that the writers of Scripture were inspired men, inspired by God. That’s not the emphasis. That’s an emphasis elsewhere but that’s not the emphasis here. Here Paul is saying that Scripture itself is God-breathed. It is breathed out by God.
Secondly we have the word, “graphe.” This is a word used in the N.T. only to refer to Holy Scripture, the sacred writings. So what is it that is breathed out by God? Well, again, Paul is not talking here about the act of the Holy Spirit in carrying along the writers of Scripture. Peter speaks to that in 2 Pet.1:21 but here Paul is talking about the product, graphe, the written words themselves. The text of Scripture itself, this written material, the very words themselves written are God-breathed. Scripture doesn’t merely contain God’s Word, it is God’s Words
And then, thirdly, we also have the word, “pasa.” “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” “Pasa” could be translated as “all” or “every.” If we take it as “all” it refers to Scripture as a whole. If we take it as “every” it refers to the totality of Scripture in all its parts. But either way Paul is saying the same thing. Every book, every chapter, every verse, every line, every word of Scripture is God-breathed. All Scripture!
Now, of course, the scriptures available to Timothy at that time were primarily the O.T. scriptures. But Paul’s thought can properly be expanded to the entire canon of scripture for the church. It’s a very comprehensive expression. Already at this early time, even though the canon was not yet fully compiled, there was the recognition of N.T. inscripturated revelation. In 1 Tim. 5:18 Paul cites Lk.10:7 as Scripture. And Peter in 2 Pet. 3:16 refers to the epistles of Paul as Scripture. We read in Heb.1:1-2, that “God who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets”, speaking of the O.T. revelation, “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.” Christ, having come and having finished the work of redemption, is God’s final revelation. And God speaks to us now through both God’s revelation given in the O.T. scriptures and that final revelation given in connection with the coming of God’s Son into the world and his appointed apostles. So that with the Apostolic scriptures of the N.T., the canon of scripture is complete and finished and the church is built, Eph. 2:19-20, upon the revelatory foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. That foundation is not still being laid, it has been laid once and for all and the scriptures are completed. So when Paul speaks of “all Scripture” what he says here can be applied to the entirety of the Bible we now hold in our hands. Every section, every passage, every sentence, every word of Scripture is breathed out by God.
Now remember, why is Paul saying this to Timothy? His purpose in this context is not to give a full blown discourse on the doctrine of inspiration. He is simply reminding Timothy of what the scriptures are because of what he’s urging Timothy to do. He’s urging him, v.14, to “continue in the things you have learned and been assured of”, and to base his life and his entire ministry on the scriptures. If he’s going to stick with the scriptures and be satisfied with the scriptures; if he’s going to build his life and his ministry on the Bible; if he’s going to preach the scriptures in season and out of season and not be led astray to other things, it’s of the utmost importance that he is convinced and constantly reminded of what the scriptures are.
The same is true for you and for me. This is no ordinary book. This book, the Bible, is not merely a human book which contains inspiring thoughts from inspiring men. This book, and this book alone, is breathed out by God. Yes, God used human authors and he speaks through their own unique personalities and styles of writing. But every word proceeds from the mouth of God. It’s not a mixture of truth and error, It’s not a mixture of fallible human words together with divine words and the task of biblical scholarship is to separate the two so that the scholar becomes the final authority and not the Bible. The priesthood of scholars becomes Pope telling us what we are to believe in the Bible and what we’re not. No, all Scripture, the written text, all of it, every part of it, every word of it, is breathed out by God.
Isn’t that alone reason enough to stick with the scriptures and to be satisfied with the scriptures and to be absolutely confident in the scriptures? Isn’t that good reason to keep at it studying the scriptures and standing up every Lord’s Day once again to preach the scriptures, knowing that as we preach and teach God’s Word faithfully, rightly expounding it’s meaning and application to our hearers, we stand as the very mouthpiece of God Himself and we bring ourselves and our people into living contact with him. This is why Luther at one point said that the church is God’s mouth house. It’s because when the Word of God is proclaimed in the church, or by the church through her appointed preachers, it is God himself, who is speaking
So we have reference to the saving wisdom Scripture gives and the divine origin of Scripture. In the next post we’ll see how Paul speaks in this text of a least two more reasons we should remain committed to the scriptures and satisfied with the scriptures. Then I hope to draw out some practical lessons.