All Scripture is Useful- 2 Timothy 3:16

In this verse, Paul tells Timothy (and us) the nature of Scripture and how it is useful to believers. He begins by telling us that “All Scripture is God-breathed”. The Greek term translated “God-breathed” is theopneustos, and in using this term Paul tells us here that “all” Scripture is divinely inspired, written by God Himself through human instruments, that it is the product of God, not man. Since it is the work of God (who is the truth) it is by nature true and therefore “useful”, a word which means “profitable, beneficial, useful”. All of Scripture is given by God to the believer for his or her profit or gain, studying and learning it is always beneficial, always profitable for those who will invest the time to read, study and memorize it. Paul then tells us the primary ways in which it is useful: that it is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”. The Greek term “righteousness” here is dikaiosune, here as a noun in the dative case. The term literally describes one who “conforms to a standard, who measures up, is acceptable to the one setting the standard”. Because it is a noun in the dative (not an adjective), it “goes with” not just training but with all four of the terms Paul uses here. In using this construction, Paul is telling us that the Scripture gives us the standard we are to follow and to measure all other things by. The four terms Paul uses here are grouped in two sets of two, the first having to do with our thinking and the second having to do with our behavior. The first pair is “teaching and rebuking”, and both Greek words have to do with our thinking. The word teaching is didaskalia, which literally means “to instruct, to transmit doctrine”. Scripture instructs us in what is true, it tells us what the standard is, it examines our thinking and teaches us the proper worldview and the proper way to look at life. Our thinking is to be informed and judged by Scripture, it is the final authority for the believer and any thinking which contradicts it must be rejected. The term “rebuking” is elegmos- “to refute”. This term was a critical one in Greek philosophy used for the process of controverting a proposition, of refuting something which was not true. It means to “set someone right”, and the Scripture sets our thinking right, it gives us the standards our thinking must conform to and shows us where our thinking is wrong, it controverts false propositions. Scripture shows us where we are off track and need correction, it refutes contradictory philosophies and corrects mistaken ideas and any concepts not conforming to it. The study of Scripture will first work to correct our flawed and mistaken thinking, and having our thinking corrected leads us into the second pair of terms, which have to do with our behavior. Our behavior flows out of our thinking, so Paul tells us Scripture first corrects our thinking, then will also work to correct our behavior. The third term Paul uses here is epanorthosis, which comes from a root meaning “to straighten”, and this particular word means “to restore, reform, correct”. The study of Scripture and having our thinking conformed to it will “straighten up” our behavior. Scripture shows us the standard of both thinking and behavior, and shows us where our behavior does not conform to the standard, where it is not like Jesus. It brings us to proper ways of behaving, puts us back on the straight and narrow, working with the power of God Himself to conform our behavior to the standards set in the Scripture. The final term Paul uses is paideian, literally “to train up as a child”. In Greek culture, the paideian was a servant who spent every moment of every day with a child to show them how they are to conduct themselves in the world. Scripture serves as our paideian, it shows us how we are to conduct ourselves in the world. It not only corrects wrong behavior but also shows us right behavior, it models the standard of behavior we are to conform to, training us up as children so we may learn to behave as mature believers. Scripture is “useful” here because the study of it gives us the right standard, shows us where we measure up and where we do not, it works (since it is divinely inspired) with the power of God to conform our thinking to the standard of God’s word and not to the standard of the world, and also works to conform our behavior to our reformed thinking, so that we think and act according to the right standards. It is only through this process (which comes only through the study of Scripture) that “the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (verse 17).

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