“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.” II Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is profitable. How often do we consider this portion of II Timothy 3:16? It seems often and for good reason we think more of the first eight words of this verse. The authority, authorship, reliability, and trustworthiness of Scripture is regularly under attack. Men like Bishop Spong and Bart Ehrman are constantly calling all people, especially Christians, to reject the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. So the church rightly defends the eternal truth of the Word of God knowing with full confidence that as it stands firm in the truth it does so with the promise of God that though the grass withers and the flower fades, the Word of the Lord shall stand forever. The church also knows that many scoffers and deceivers will come deceiving, if they could, even the elect. So when they come, though they hate the thought, their words and deeds are declaring the Scripture they reject to be in fact true, for Jesus warned us of such people some 2,000 years ago. He did not tell us they “might” come but rather that they would come. They are here and the church must stand firm so that God’s people do not fall away from the truth. As we consider this truth that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God let us also remember how that verse continues, “…and is profitable.”
Several weeks ago I was having breakfast with a friend and the topic of church and Scripture came up. The gentlemen I was speaking with explained how he did not understand the point of much of Scripture and so he and his church focused on the “profitable” parts, particularly the gospels. Many who are new to the faith come to the church and describe their understanding from various popular preachers or books that the Old Testament is not beneficial for us today and we should focus on the New Testament. There is, of course, a measure of truth in these two popular ideas. The gospels and the New Testament are indeed beneficial and profitable. However, there is also a serious flaw: The New Testament that many tell us to focus on exclusively teaches us that not only is some Scripture profitable but that all Scripture is profitable. What does this mean? How can we consider the bears killing the children in II Kings 2 to be profitable? What about the imprecatory psalms? Surely the endless rituals described in Leviticus cannot be deemed profitable, can they?
In an age of skepticism and the worship of personal experience, such questions are very common in the church and thankfully can be answered. The answer to these questions takes us back to the beginning of verse 16. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. All Scripture, as some translations will say, is breathed out by God. God is the author of Scripture. It is all His Word. As God is truth, His Word is also truth (John 17:17). The God of Scripture does not waste His breath as you and I might do. When He breathes out His Word it is for a purpose; it is all profitable. If the eternal triune God’s Word were not all profitable, He would not be holy and perfect in all His ways. Praise be to our holy and righteous God that all His Word is true and profitable as He has said! This leaves us then with some work. When we accept God’s Word to be true and profitable but cannot see the profitability of certain portions, we must work harder to understand those portions. The Ethiopian eunuch did not understand God’s Word from Isaiah 53 and God sent Phillip to teach him. God has provided means for His people to understand His Word and the ordinary means is the reading, but especially the preaching of it (Romans 10). So God has appointed ministers for this important and essential task of preaching so that God’s people may be built up in the knowledge of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and may glorify and enjoy Him accordingly.
There is a further importance to the Christian in embracing the truth that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. We are told (verse 16) that it is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (verse 17) that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto good works. All of Scripture is profitable for the perfecting of God’s people and furnishing them for good works. When men reject portions of Scripture they are rejecting the means God has provided for their perfection, their sanctification, and furnishing unto good works. In many places today, Jesus is viewed merely as a loving God and His other attributes are ignored. As a result those who follow such teaching do not know the true God in the true way. They quickly fall into foolishness as they embrace sin under the pretense of “loving like Jesus loved” and reject the call to repentance and freedom from sin by the grace of God received through faith in Jesus Christ.
When we see the Scripture for all it is, profitable, for doctrine, correction, reproof, and instruction in righteousness we embrace the whole Bible and can better know our God, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. And as we embrace the perfect Scripture we are built up in the perfection of the truth and are equipped unto good works. This is the will of God, even our sanctification.
We could spend pages and pages discussing hard to understand portions of Scripture or portions that seem difficult to embrace. Explaining those passages and books is not the purpose of this article. Rather, the urgency and exhortation of this letter is for us and all men to embrace the profitability of all of Scripture. When we embrace the truth of God’s Word the Lord will bring us to an understanding of just how each passage is profitable for His purposes. How will the Lord do this? He has given us pastors. Let us talk to the pastors and elders that God has ordained to watch over and teach His people. He has given us prayer. Let us pray to the Lord and ask Him for understanding. He has given us the Holy Spirit to teach us. Let us ask God for understanding from the Holy Spirit.
Scripture teaches us doctrine. It corrects us from error. It reproves us of sin. It instructs us in righteousness. All of this is from God so that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto good works. Praise be to God who has breathed out all of Scripture, all of which is profitable!