In the previous post we began a consideration of 2 Timothy 3:14-17, focusing specifically on what this passage teaches us about the sufficiency of Scripture for pastoral ministry. The passage gives us at least four reasons to be confident in the scriptures and shape our ministries by the scriptures and faithfully to teach and to preach the scriptures. The first two mentioned in the last post were the saving wisdom Scripture gives (v.15), and the divine origin of Scripture (v.16a). Now let’s consider two more reasons to stick with Scriptures. The third is…
The Wide Ranging Purposes Scripture Serves
In v.16 Paul tells us, not only that Scripture is God-breathed, but it is, “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” So here is Timothy, this young minister of the gospel. He faces a whole array of needs and bewildering situations as he seeks to minister to the church in Ephesus and to the churches of Asia Minor. How is he to meet all these challenges? Well here the Apostle tells him that Scripture is useful, profitable; it is suited to this fourfold function of teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. What you need for each of these purposes, Timothy, is to be found in the scriptures. He’s told him what Scripture is, breathed out by God, now he tells him what Scripture is for.
First of all, it is for doctrine or teaching. The scriptures are sufficient for teaching people who God is and what he requires of them. The Bible answers all of the big questions of human existence. Where did we come from? What went wrong? What’s wrong with the world, what’s wrong with me? Is there any hope? Where is it all heading? The Bible gives the answers to all of these questions. It tells us what God requires of us in our personal lives; in our homes, in the work place, in the church, in society. It tells us about marriage and about how to raise children. Most importantly, it tells us about our sin and rebellion against God and the only way to be saved. It tells us about Christ and the cross and the resurrection and about how we can know forgiveness and new life. It tells us about heaven and hell and the world to come. All of this doctrine and teaching is in the Bible
So what should we pastors do? Teach the Bible! Those of you who have been in the ministry for a long time, you sometimes have young men who are just starting out asking for advice. What should I do?, they ask. They’re looking for the secret of being a good pastor and preacher. What’s the secret? The answer is pretty boring, I guess, it’s simple. Teach the Bible
Alistair Begg tells about a young curate who was about to preach his first sermon. He wrote to the bishop and asked him what he should preach about. The bishop said, “Preach about the Bible and preach about 20 minutes.” Maybe you should preach longer than that, especially after you’ve been at it a while, but the main point is correct, preach about the Bible. Or better, don’t just preach about the Bible, preach the Bible. Not only is it profitable for teaching…
Secondly, it’s profitable for reproof. If we’re teaching the Word of God properly, teaching the whole counsel of God in Scripture, we can’t just be positive all the time. Sometimes this element reproof has to come in. “Wait a minute that’s not going to attract people.” John MacArthur refers to a description he read commending a particular church. It said, “There is no fire and brimstone here. No Bible-thumping. Just practical witty messages.” Another one said, “The sermons are relevant, upbeat, and best of all, short. You won’t hear a lot of preaching about sin and damnation and hell fire…It is sophisticated, urbane, and friendly talk.” When I was pastoring in South Carolina we had a church down the road from us and on their sign it said, “A fellowship of encouragement.” Certainly encouragement is important but that’s the spirit of our day, isn’t it? We want everyone to know how nice we are and we want them to know how wonderful we think everybody is. Everything’s cool, chill, no worries. You’re okay, I’m okay, we’re all such wonderful, wonderful people, let’s just all be encouraged.
I wonder what would happen if you put up a sign for your church that said, “A fellowship of reproof”? I’m not suggesting you do that. There is the other problem of a cantankerous preacher who does nothing but reprove. His whole ministry is focused on polemics, every sermon pointing out what is wrong with people or what’s wrong with this group or that group. There are some preachers and all they ever do in their preaching is reprove. We must never be like that. We must, indeed, encourage with the gospel, we must be gospel preachers, preachers of good news for sinners in Jesus Christ
However there are others and all they ever do is encourage. They preach as though the most dreadful thing that could ever happen is to make anyone here feel bad about themselves. There’s never this element of reproof. But it’s sometimes good and necessary to feel bad about yourself. It’s the bad news about ourselves that makes the good news about Jesus Christ, good news.
Thirdly, Scripture is profitable for correction. Not only showing people when they’re on the wrong path, it’s also able to correct and to put people on the right path. I played baseball in college. I was a pitcher. I wasn’t very good but I played. Later when I was in seminary someone hired me to help their teenage son with his pitching; to be a pitching instructor for him for little while. Well imagine if we came together and I said, “Okay show me how you pitch.” He throws a few pitches and I say, “Well you don’t have your foot on the rubber properly. You’re wind up is wrong, you’re arm slot is wrong, you’re release is wrong. That’ll be 50 dollars.” No, his parents didn’t hire me just to show him what he’s doing wrong, but also to teach him how to do it right. So it is with Scripture, it’s profitable not only for teaching and for reproof but for correction. It warns us of the wrong path but also shows us the right path. And then….
Fourthly, Scripture is profitable for instruction in righteousness or training in righteousness. The word here is often translated discipline. It refers to discipline or instruction used to train a person in that which is right. In the school of faith Scripture is the God given textbook and God’s people grow to be competent, mature, stable, Christ-honoring, serving, fruitful godly Christians by means of hours, days and years of faithful training in righteousness from the scriptures .
So this is what Scripture is for; teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness. Everything we need for each of these purposes is provided by the scriptures. There’s the saving wisdom Scripture gives, the divine origin of Scripture, the wide-ranging purposes it serves. And then Paul mentions, fourthly….
The Complete Equipping Scripture Provides
Notice again what he says in vv.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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The Scriptures are sufficient to render the man of God complete. The idea is completely fitted, capable, proficient, able to meet all the demands of the ministry that are placed upon him. Scripture is able to render the man of God “complete, thoroughly equipped.” Thoroughly equipped for what? “For every good work.” Think about that, think about the tremendous implications of that statement. Absolutely nothing is lacking. You can’t state the sufficiency of Scripture more powerfully than that. The Scriptures are absolutely sufficient, enough to make us complete and to thoroughly equip us. And this sufficiency is for “every good work.”
Someone says, “But that’s talking about the man of God, the minister of the gospel.” Yes, but if the scriptures are sufficient to render the man of God complete and to thoroughly equip him to every good work, how much more the ordinary Christian! If they’re sufficient for all the multifaceted duties and responsibilities of the man of God in his ministry to the sheep for their salvation, faith and life, they’re certainly sufficient to give the ordinary Christian everything he needs for salvation, faith and life.
So here in this passage we’re confronted again with the sufficiency of Scripture; for salvation, v.15, but not only for salvation, as we saw in the last post, but also for the Christian life and the Christian ministry. In the next post I hope to draw some of the practical implications of the sufficiency of Scripture for the Christian life and Christian ministry.