One can only imagine what it would have been like to have the Apostle Paul as a mentor and father figure, not only in the faith, but in life as well. We can observe and note how this may have been through the letters that he wrote to his young protege Timothy. His care, encouragement, and desire to impart wisdom is evident, particularly in a well-known passage from 2 Timothy 3. In the midst of encouraging Timothy to follow and emulate the pattern of his life, Paul encourages him to continue in the faith and to recall his younger days when he was acquainted (literally know or understand) with the sacred writings. Presumably, this mention of sacred writings leads the Apostle into a brief discourse on the nature of Scripture, which is our passage under consideration in this post.
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Two questions immediately jump out at the reader, first is what is defined as Scripture and second, who is the man of God. The remainder of the passage seems fairly straightforward. Whatever the Scriptures are defined to be, they are breathed out by God, theopneustos, literally that they are God-breathed or from the mouth of God. It would not be difficult to see how the parallel concept of Scripture as the Word of God is likewise valid.
Scripture is the generic word, writings, but its contextual use in the New Testament is always a reference to the inscripturated revelation of God. We find references to Scripture time and again in the gospel accounts of our Lord’s earthly ministry. Here, as with nearly all of the other uses, it is a reference to the Old Testament or TANAK. This fact was never in question. The difficulty comes by way of trying to understand if Scripture can refer to the New Testament. Without creating a brand new post for that defense, suffice it to say that there is internal evidence that this is indeed the case, particularly when one considers 2 Peter 1:16-21; 3:16; 1 Timothy 5:18 as well as the overwhelming number of references, allusions, and echoes of the Old Testament, not to mention the words of Christ Himself. It is therefore without question that both Old and New Testament’s collectively may be referred to as Scripture.
We then arrive at four given functions of Scripture. The Apostle informs Timothy that the Scriptures, which have come from the mouth of God, are profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. Strong’s defines profitable as helpful or serviceable, advantageous, each of which help to draw out more clearly the idea that is being conveyed here. Combining this with our four functions and we see that the Scriptures are a helpful, even more – advantageous, companion for teaching or instruction, which elsewhere Paul has described as communicating doctrine (Titus 1:9).
Likewise, the Scriptures are helpful for both reproof and correction, which sound similar and would seem to be communicating a similar concept. In reality however, it is likely that the former means the Scriptures are advantageous for correcting doctrinal errors and reproving those who would hold to beliefs that are contrary. The latter however uses a different word, which the ESV translates as correction, which better communicates the idea of correcting moral behavior. Together then, we see that the Scriptures are helpful for correcting both doctrinal deficiencies and moral deficiencies of character.
Finally, we arrive at our fourth function of Scripture, that it trains in righteousness. Elsewhere in Scripture when this word for training is used, it is in the context of discipline and instruction, as with a Father to a son (Eph. 6:4; Heb. 12:5, 12:7, 12:11). Turning to Strong’s again and we find that it also connotes the idea of cultivation. In farming, this would include the entire process from plowing the ground to planting the seed and watering all the way to the production of the fruit. It is easy then to see how the Scriptures would function in this way in the life of a believer, from the rather painful discipline of plowing the hard heart to the joyful producing of spiritual fruit.
All of this brings us to our second question, who is the man of God. If we relied on some common understandings of this passage, we would be left with a limited application of the man of God referring exclusively to pastors or preachers. But that’s too technical of a definition and would be a sad outcome leaving the rest of the “lay” population of believers on the outside looking in at this magnificent discourse on the nature and purpose of Scripture. Along this line of thought, the everyday believer would figuratively hand over the Scriptures to the professional man of God so that they could be used properly for the functions as described. But though the Scriptures are a sword, they are not the sword in the stone waiting only for the professional Arthur to come along. The Sword of God fits all hands of believers who by faith wield it in the power of the Spirit, particularly for the functions mentioned here.
The man of God, as the footnote in some Bibles indicate, also means the messenger of God and echoes a common Old Testament reference. Essentially it is the man (anthropos), belonging to God (possessive) that articulates or communicates the truths of God’s Word, the Scriptures. This could occur on a street corner, at a dinner table, in a gathering of believers, 1 on 1, 1 on 50, anywhere that a person takes a stand and proclaims the Word of God. Which brings up a second point. Anthropos here is not restricted to males only. It is most often used generically as a reference to mankind. So, therefore, women need not feel inferior that the power and function of Scriptures are limited to men only. This promise is for the man or woman of God who communicates the message of God using the Word of God (1 Timothy 2:12 & 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is for another day).
Take heart believers, God has equipped us in this twisted and corrupt generation to proclaim His Word. Not only has He fulfilled His promise in giving His Holy Spirit, but He has armed us with the Sword of the Lord, His Scriptures, which have proceeded from His very mouth. These Scriptures complete and equip the man or woman of God for every good work. We are not adequate for such things on our own, literally we are unarmed. Thus the power of Scripture to equip, or to furnish us with the means necessary to do the good work that God has set before us. Be bold and confident in the Lord.