All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness
The apostle Paul, in his second imprisonment in Rome, where his situation seemed bleak with all his friends deserting him and martyrdom became obviously near, writes the epistle of 2 Timothy to his beloved son, in a bid to encourage the younger man to walk in the correct path as a leader and as a preacher. Much of the letter was written as if he was never going to see Timothy again, the wishes of a dying man. In chapter 3 of this book, Paul exhorts the importance of following sound doctrine, the essence of which is captured in this verse.
All Scripture is breathed out by God – It is very tempting to, since the apostle Paul states All Scripture, simply conclude that he refers to the entire Bible – after all, these are all scriptures. But many scholars argue that at that point, the New Testament has clearly not come into being; and thus this verse only acknowledges the Old Testament as scripture and not the New Testament. The Old Testament is breathed out by God, inspired by God, no matter how much people doubt and argue about the validity of the authorship of some of those books. I’m not very comfortable with singling out the Old Testament as All Scripture – what, is the New Testament not inspired by God? Did Paul write all his epistles from nowhere and for no reason? After all, Paul emphasizes in 2 Peter 1:20-21 – Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. I cannot see All Scripture as merely the Old Testament and blatantly ignore the New Testament Bible. If we have to push the debate forward, 2 Timothy was largely considered to be Paul’s final epistle, and at the time of writing, several other books by other authors of the New Testament had already been written. While the New Testament was certainly not collated at that point, Paul may also refer to Scripture as what he and the other apostles had taught. Even if Paul clearly only means the Old Testament Bible, I don’t think we should limit ourselves to that, for it is very risky to simply limit ourselves to thinking that the Old Testament Bible is breathed out by God – there is a strong undertone here that the New Testament Bible isn’t breathed out by God, which is simply incorrect.
is profitable – I love this part – it’s pretty much one of the basis of the whole re-Ver(sing) Verses project – All scripture is profitable – and that implies that no scripture is useless. No Scripture is meaningless. In re-Ver(sing) Verses there is a strong belief that all verses can be studied and analyzed, even verses of greetings and verses of genealogy will have doctrinal messages and sound theology in them if we look in the right way. However, the key to this is that we ought to be careful in our interpretation – keep all interpretations in accordance with the rest of the Bible, and not simply create meaning where meaning is not found. It is always important to refer to the rest of the Scriptures.
for teaching – One of the biggest uses of the Bible – the Bible has been known to be the best-selling book across the world, it’s simply the most translated book that transcends time itself, and throughout the generations have been saving the souls of millions of people. The Bible is a very good teacher in itself – the authors who wrote them under the inspiration of the Spirit were all teachers (to some extent, arguably), and when reading, the Spirit becomes a teacher to the reader as well. We discover doctrine from the Bible, we establish and prove that doctrine in other parts of the Bible, and we learn how to apply the doctrine to our lives via the Bible as well. It’s always from the Bible. You don’t create doctrine, you retrieve it from the Bible. For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope [Rom 15:4]
for reproof – Reproof is a word I wouldn’t usually use in my daily life – it kinda means a reprimand or a chiding of sorts, doesn’t it? I’m not very sure how it’s intended to mean here in this verse, to say the Bible is profitable for reproof. In this sense, it probably doesn’t mean a reprimand to correct (that comes later), but likely a reprimand to convince people of the truth, to confound those who deny it.
for correction – and here correction would likely mean a restoration in behaviour and in our sinful lives, bringing us back to how we should be in behaviour, morals and actions. All scripture is profitable for correction – to right us when we’re walking in misguided paths, to correct our mistaken views; to remind us and to awaken us from our self-deluded perceptions.
for training in righteousness – Even if a man is taught, corrected to the right path, it is also important that he is instructed in righteousness, and that’s where the scriptures come in again. In meditating on the scriptures, spiritual knowledge is imparted, the principles of justice, the Biblical concept of righteousness will be inherited. In essence, be it reproof, correction or training, they’re all subsets of teaching. All these happen in conjunction with each other – it is very hard to just read a scripture and limit yourself to be trained in righteousness. At times, before you know it, a verse you never expected to mean anything to you may jump out and impact you in overwhelming ways. That makes the Bible a very interesting and unique reading experience. The role of the Spirit in our reading and teaching of the Bible is immense.
It was with intention that I quoted the ESV Bible in the opening of this study, rather uncharacteristic of me as my main Bible that I use for reading and studying, my physical copy of the Bible and the first version I’d always refer to is the NIV (1984). The NIV is still largely popular in English-speaking societies today, and I grew up with it. ESV is a largely new translation compared to NIV (which came about at around 1975), and is, as endorsed by certain teachers of the Bible, like John Piper, a more literal version compared to the NIV, which is more paraphrased. Certainly not as paraphrased as The Message, which I find very hard to read personally, but in certain scriptures it leaves the reader to no room for interpretation as the interpretation was already made by the translators. I do not discredit the NIV – it is my main Bible and it will likely always be – I use a bilingual Bible with half of it being NIV and I write notes on it heavily, and since some time ago I’ve already set my heart to that Bible being my main Bible for the rest of my life, if God willing. But just for this verse, which emphasizes on the validity of the scripture, I thought it would be ideal to use a more literal version of the Bible. Whether NIV, ESV, KJV or even the Message, or any other great translations, they are all still scriptures, undeniably, and surely God can work in them as he does with the original Hebrew and Greek versions. Just as the authors were inspired by God while writing; we who read are inspired by the Spirit in our interpretation as well. The validity of the Bible cannot be contested. Let us treasure our Bibles. Let us treasure our scriptures.