But you — you remain in the things you learned and became convinced of, because you know from whom you learned, and because from infancy you knew the sacred letters, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and beneficial for teaching, for reproof, for restoration, for training in righteousness, in order that the man of God might be equipped, for every good work fully-equipped. (2 Timothy 3:14-16)It is as if Paul deliberately words himself in a way calculated to drive restless and discontented folks nuts. They'll want to get as far away from these words as fast as they can. But let's linger.
The backdrop of this is Paul's word to Timothy in light of the difficult days that he will face (3:1-9). It seems certain to the apostle that Timothy will not have Paul personally present, to lead and guide him (4:6-9). He'll be on his own, and the church will be under the care of such as he.
So what would Timothy have to guide him?
- Timothy would have the teaching Paul gave him, and the life which underscored that teaching (3:10-13).
- Timothy would have the grounding in Scripture that his believing grandmother and mother had given him from infancy (3:14-17)
Little Timothy learned his ABC’s from the Bible, learned to read from the Bible, and thus from earliest childhood spelled out “sacred letters.” As he spelled out this and that word, mother and grandmother told the story. Soon he could read a little, ask questions, hear more. A lovely picture indeed! I like it better than our method of today which supplies secular matter for the primers and holds back the sacred letters until later years (R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus and to Philemon, 839 [Columbus, O.: Lutheran Book Concern, 1937]).
... Scripture is “breathed out by God,” which is the correct translation of a word sometimes translated “inspired.” The word means not that God breathed something into the Bible but that God breathed it out, or, in other words, that he spoke it. The written Word is God’s personal speech. It is nothing less than the divine voice. (John M. Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 63 [Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006])
Because Scripture is God-breathed, it is also profitable. It is inherently profitable by its very nature, of course. But the apostle details four ways in which Scripture is profitable:
- Teaching (didaskalian). This is the impartation of information meant to inform and control both what we think, and how we think. Scripture lays both the premise and the template for thought. It lays out the lines for us to color in.
- Reproof (elegmon). Flowing naturally from the first is specific information showing where we are in the wrong in how we think and behave. It shows where we have crossed the line, exposes our sin as sin — heinous, indefensible, and always with God as the primary injured party.
- Restoration (epanorthōsin). This noun means to make something straight and right again. God breaks us with the reproof of His Word; then with His Word, He restores us, sets us straight, heals us and puts our feet on His path. It means... reformation! (Da da daaaaa!)
- Training in righteousness (paideian tēn en dikaiosunē[i]). The Word provides divine pedagogy, giving sole authoritative and comprehensive instruction in God-centered living. It is, itself, an entire course of study in that life which serves, pleases, honors and glorifies God.
The net effect (and design) of all this is as the apostle himself says: "that the man of God might be equipped, for every good work fully-equipped." There is a play on words that, rather to my bafflement, most English versions (including CSB, ESV, NAS, NIV, TNIV, NKJ) do not even try to bring out. Equipped renders the adjective artios, and fully-equipped translates the participle exērtismenos, which is etymologically related to artios.
The real question to us is: does that matter? To vast hordes of professed evangelicals, whatever their formal answer, the de facto answer very clearly is "No."
Which is the point and focus of this series.