In this post we will look at 2 Tim 3:14-17 and its impact on the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture.
Without delay, 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ESV) reads,
14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it15and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
As you probably know, Paul is writing to Timothy under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In the previous verse Paul cautioned Timothy against “evil people” and “impostors”. In contrast to them Paul encourages Timothy to continue in what he “learned” and has “firmly believed”. Paul appeals to his own apostleship as the basis for Timothy’s confidence in his learning. Paul also validates the teaching Timothy learned prior to hearing Paul. These were the Old Testament Scriptures that “are able to make you wise for salvation”. But Paul does not stop there. Paul continues that they make wise unto salvation “through faith” and then only in Christ Jesus (v. 14-15).
After verse 15 is a good time to reflect on our study thus far in respect to salvation. The previous posts and these two verses, 14 and 15, are clear that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, who was foretold in the Old Testament as the One who would come, suffer, and claim His kingdom; and, this is combined with trust in what Jesus did by living righteously for us and dieing for our sins so that we might have eternal life (Romans 3:23-26, 6:23). Therefore, the Scripture is sufficient to reveal salvation.
Now, what of the other aspects of “faith and obedience” or “faith and life”? How are we to understand the sufficiency of Scripture in those subjects.
We continue with verse 16 and 17 of 2 Timothy 3. In these two verses God reveals the origin of Scripture. It is “breathed out” by Him. If we trace the usage of the word Scripture through the New Testament then we find that it refers to the entire Old and New Testament (v. 15 above; John 14:26; 2 Peter 3:15-16). Being breathed out by God it caries the characteristics of God that are communicable to it. That is to say that God does not make errors, so Scripture does not have errors; God is truth, so His Scripture is truth (John 17:17); and others, some of which Paul describes next.
Not only is Scripture breathed out by God but it is profitable, as you would expect words from God to be. God gives us His word so that we may grow by its teaching, by its reproof, by its correction and otherwise by its training in righteousness. If the verses stopped here we would at least have a remarkable list of benefits which God gives us through His written word. In each case we profit from God’s word. But that would not fulfill the requirement of sufficiency. It would only tell us that God’s word is a benefit for these things but not that it is sufficient to completely encompass teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness.
In verse 17 God gives the reason for His teaching through His word in each of these areas. That reason is “that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work”. The growth in these areas produces competency in the one who practices them. Not only is competence born but competence grown such that he/she is fully equipped for “every” good work.
The phrase “man of God” is important. The word “man” does not refer to only males but to all human beings, male and female. The phrase though, links it to godly men in the Old Testament. There was a particular character to those called men of God in the Old Testament. The character was that carried by Moses (Deuteronomy 33:1), angles (Judges 13:6), Samuel (1 Samuel 9:10), Elijah (1 Kings 17:18), David (Nehemiah 12:24) and so on. These were men who knew God, knew His law, feared Him, trusted in Him only and served Him only. There is a very tangible and high level of effort to be considered a person of God.
So the one who is diligent, thorough and obedient to the word of God, God grants competency and equips that one for every good work through His Scripture. By using His Scripture as the only instrument by which He performs this, we see that Scripture is sufficient for the work.
Now, we continue in the next post by investigating what every good work means: should we take out the garbage before we water the plants or the other way around and where is this found in Scripture?