2 Timothy 3:16-17

This evening I am going to do all I can do to make you think, and by thinking to grow closer to God, and in the process of growing closer to God to deepen your faith in Jesus our Savior and God our Father. I truly hope that our thinking this evening will open [even further] your heart and your mind the God's Spirit.

When I was growing up, certain scriptures that were frequently emphasized in the pulpit and in classes. One of those scriptures was 2 Timothy 3:16, 17. To many of you, that is a very familiar passage.

  1. The only translation I heard of this scripture as I was growing up was the King James translation.
    1. In the King James translation, these verses are translated:
      2 Timothy 3:16,17 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.
      1. The common emphasis given to this statement was:
        1. "All scripture" was the Bible with emphasis on the New Testament.
        2. "Inspiration of God" was rarely discussed, and when it was there were differences of opinion as to the means God used to give scripture. Whatever means was emphasized usually involved some literal, "hands on" approach such as dictation.
        3. Much emphasis was given to what scripture was profitable for:
          1. Doctrine--a basic teaching or principle that must be believed
          2. Reproof--a declaration of what is wrong
          3. Correction--a declaration of what is right
          4. Instruction of all things God wants done.
          5. Thus scripture supplies every spiritual need people have.
          6. Much of the time it was assumed that when we talked about the adequacy of scripture, we were talking about the New Testament.
        4. "The man of God" was a Christian.
        5. "Perfect" meant without flaw or blemish.
        6. "Thoroughly furnished to every good work" meant God specifically told us in Scripture everything He wanted us to do, and we must do only that.
    2. My sophomore year at David Lipscomb College I was introduced to the American Standard translation by some godly men who were serious students of Scripture. The result of that inclusion in my studies introduced me to some understandings that were not new, but that I had not heard them.
      2 Timothy 3:16,17 Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.
      1. In this translation, the emphasis is slightly different.
      2. If it is scripture, it is from God.
      3. Its benefits go beyond the fact it is from God: it is beneficial for all spiritual needs.
      4. The objective of scripture is to make the person who belongs to God spiritually complete--the concept of maturity rather than the concept of flawlessness.
        1. It "furnishes" the person who belongs to God.
        2. It directs that person towards God's good work.
      5. For the first time I was introduced to an understanding I had never considered before--in this statement Paul was more likely referring to the Old Testament scriptures than the New Testament scriptures.
    3. When I was on the mission field, a friend and fellow preacher visited us and brought me a copy of the New American Standard translation.
      2 Timothy 3:16,17 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
      1. The emphasis is not different, just more specific.
      2. If it is scripture, God was involved in producing it. Scripture is divine directive, not human advice.
      3. The purpose of scripture is to develop adequacy in the person who belongs to God.
        1. No human being can be spiritually adequate apart from scripture,
        2. Or, unless the person who belongs to God depends on scripture, he or she will be spiritually inadequate.

  2. All of this was just a matter of growth and development in understanding.
    1. Most of that growth was not revelatory in nature when I realized is was okay to grow in understanding.
      1. My first transition required that I do some thinking and understanding instead of just defending what I had always heard and thought.
        1. After I understood that it was desirable [more than okay] to move toward spiritual maturity, I had a sense of privilege and appreciation instead of a sense of crisis.
        2. If it is scripture, God is actively involved in producing it.
        3. The objective of scripture: to allow God to address the spiritual inadequacy of men and women who belong to God.
        4. We cannot know what God considers good unless we know scripture. [Our history, traditions, or heritages cannot teach us--an understanding of scripture always takes precedence over those things.]
      2. The only real challenge to my thinking was the realization that when Paul wrote these words to Timothy, the evidence indicates he was speaking of what you and I call the Old Testament.
    2. Consider some situations.
      1. The scriptures of the early first century church were the Old Testament scriptures.
        1. When the first century was half over, most of the New Testament had not been written.
        2. It was more than a hundred years after the letters were written that they were generously accepted as scripture and declared to be a part of the Bible.
      2. What is your image of a Christian in 45 AD studying the word of God?
        1. It is likely that no New Testament writing that you and I have in our Bible was even written in 45 AD--the books you and I study so much had not even been written a decade after Jesus' resurrection.
        2. No Christian teacher would say to a class, "Read the book of Philemon this week and we will discuss it in class next Sunday."
        3. No Christian would say, "Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5..."
        4. If you were a Jewish Christian, you had heard what we call the Old Testament discussed in the Jewish synagogue all your life.
        5. If you were not a Jew, but a fourth or fifth generation idol worshipper, it is possible you had never heard Jewish scripture.
      3. To remind yourself of the importance of Old Testament scripture in the early church, go back and examine how often a writer like Paul, or James, or the author of Hebrews used the Old Testament to give authority to his statement.
        1. Let me use just the example of Paul's writing we know as Romans.
        2. Paul used the Old Testament to prove the Jewish people of the first century misrepresented God's intentions in Romans 2:17-29.
        3. He used Old Testament history and quotations to prove God's love for people who were not Jews in Romans 3.
        4. He used Old Testament history and quotations to prove the power and importance of faith in Romans 4.
        5. He used Old Testament history and quotations to prove that God was not unjust to first century Israel in saving people who were not Jews in Romans 9.
        6. He used numerous Old Testament quotes to verify the importance of faith in Jesus Christ and his word in Romans 10.
        7. He used Old Testament quotes to prove that God had not rejected Israel by making Jesus Christ Lord in Romans 11.
        8. He used the Old Testament's ten commandments to verify the power of love in Romans 13.
        9. He used an Old Testament quote to verify that it was wrong for Christians to pass judgment on each other in Romans 14.
        10. He used Old Testament quotations to verify that Jewish Christians should change the way they looked at Christians who were not Jews in Romans 15.
        11. Paul made enormous use of Old Testament scriptures in teaching Christians.
    3. Listen to these words written almost a thousand years before Jesus' birth:
      Psalm 119:105-112 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. I have sworn and I will confirm it, That I will keep Your righteous ordinances. I am exceedingly afflicted; Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word. O accept the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord, And teach me Your ordinances. My life is continually in my hand, Yet I do not forget Your law. The wicked have laid a snare for me, Yet I have not gone astray from Your precepts. I have inherited Your testimonies forever, For they are the joy of my heart. I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes Forever, even to the end.

  3. Let me direct your attention back to 2 Timothy.
    1. In 1:5 Paul said he remembered the sincere faith that existed in Timothy that first lived in his grandmother Lois and then in his mother Eunice.
      1. Question: how did that sincere faith come alive in his grandmother and mother?
      2. By studying what you and I call the New Testament?
        1. That is very unlikely in his mother.
        2. That is nearly impossible for his grandmother.
        3. The faith that Paul so admired in Timothy began with his grandmother's acceptance of the message of Old Testament Scripture.
    2. Let me close with a statement Paul made to the Christians at Corinth regarding a whole list of Old Testament events:

1 Corinthians 10:11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

If we want to be the righteous people who belong to God, we dare not neglect a proper understanding of Old Testament scriptures.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 1 June 2003
previous next in series

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell