Holy Scripture: (3) Its Authority and Profit
August 17, 2003 / No. 3163
Dear radio friends,
Last week we explained that God is the author of Scripture; that the words, ideas, and even the impulse to write Scripture were not due to the will of men but to the will and the work of God. Therefore, Scripture is trustworthy.
Today we examine another text that speaks of God’s being the author of Scripture and of the trustworthiness of Scripture. This text spells out areas in which Scripture is profitable and trustworthy. In fact, we see from this text that it is profitable for all of faith and life. It is important to remember once more that it is Scripture that is profitable and trustworthy in every area of faith and life. The decrees and councils and church bodies of men, the opinions of individual men — none of these will build us up in faith and godliness. But the Scriptures give us wisdom unto salvation.
That is the word that the apostle Paul, by inspiration, wrote to the young pastor Timothy in II 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, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
I call your attention, then, to the authority and profit of holy Scripture. Notice that the text teaches that this is due to the fact that the Scriptures are God-breathed: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Last week we explained what the word “inspiration” means when used in reference to the writing of the Scriptures — not that men were inspired in the sense of having a bright idea by themselves or motivated of themselves to do something the way we would use the word “inspiration”; but the Holy Spirit worked in the hearts of men in such a way that what they wrote was word-for-word the Word of God. That is inspiration. Now, in our text the word “inspiration” is used as the explanation of the origin of Scripture: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” But that word “inspiration” means literally, “God-breathed, inspired, the Spirit working in, the breath of God.” That is the explanation for the origin of the Scriptures as Paul explains it to Timothy.
Some say that when our text says that all Scripture is inspired or God-breathed, it means that all Scripture breathes of God. If that is true, then the text does not teach the doctrine of the inspiration and origin of Scripture, but merely that Scripture’s content is that of God. It tells us about God. That, however, is not the explanation of the term as we find it in our text. But the word is active, it refers to what God did — God breathed. That is inspiration. His Spirit, His breath. He works in Scripture itself and He worked in those men whom He used to write Scripture. That one same Spirit and that one same breath of God worked in Moses and in David, in Paul and Peter and in many different men. But it was always one God, one Spirit, breathing one breath.
Recall now that fact that when Adam was created and formed out of the dust of the ground, the Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. The breath of God gives life. So we see that the Scriptures are living. Not the books, not our translations, not the papers that we have Scripture written on, not even the original documents, but the Word of God of which Scripture consists is living. The writer to the Hebrews said, “For the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow; and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The Word of God is that! That ascribes to the Word of God personal powers. To be able to know a person’s heart and thoughts — that is something only another person could do. That is the Word of God. It is quick, it is alive, it is powerful. Also I Peter 1:23 speaks of the fact that the Word of God is living: “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”
This Word of God, therefore, is alive. It is alive because it is the breath of God. That is Scripture. In what sense is it alive? It is alive in the sense that it gives you and me spiritual life. It strengthens us unto our spiritual life. It is alive in the sense that, when we read Scripture in faith (the Spirit working in our hearts), we find it to be true not only that Scripture speaks to us of the living God, but also that through the Scriptures the living God Himself speaks to us.
That is the Word of God.
It is quick, it is alive, it is powerful.
When we understand that all Scripture is God-breathed, that God worked in the hearts of men to write Scripture and therefore they wrote His Word and it speaks of Him, then we understand that Scripture is authoritative.
God is our Creator. We owe Him gratitude and life-service because He has created us. God is also our Redeemer. He has forgiven sinners such as we are, renewed us by His Holy Spirit. And this God, who is our Creator and our Redeemer, will also be our Judge. He will return, in Christ, in the day of Judgment to judge us for what we have done, so that Paul goes on in chapter 4 to tell Timothy, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word!” (vv. 1, 2a).
Because God is Creator, Redeemer, and Judge, we know it is our duty to please Him in all that we think, say, and do. But we also know that we are not able, because of our own sinfulness, to please Him in everything. Therefore He gives us His Word. He gives it authoritatively, for He breathed His life into it. And that Word speaks of our salvation and guides us in knowing how to please Him. It is authoritative.
The question would be then: In what areas does it have profit? The text lists four different areas: for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness.
Doctrine, first of all. Teaching and instruction, that which so many pooh-pooh today, is most important, and Scripture has authority to teach it. Doctrine is a matter of our salvation. Salvation requires us to know. Jesus says in John 17:3, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Salvation is a matter of knowing true doctrine. It is not just a matter of having head knowledge, but fellowship with God in the way of knowing Him. Then again, Jesus said in John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” True freedom is enjoyed in the way of knowing doctrine. So Scripture is profitable for supplying our need to know doctrine, for Scripture is God’s revelation to us. He tells us who He is, and what we must know for salvation. He does not mislead us or tell us lies. He tells us the truth. And He tells us that truth sufficiently. All that we need to know for doctrine is set forth in Scripture. Scripture has authority and is profitable for us to grow in our knowledge of God.
Teaching and instruction, that which
so many pooh-pooh today, is most important,
and Scripture has authority to teach it.
Secondly, it is profitable for reproof. To reprove is to show someone his errors. And how greatly we need to be shown our errors. For, not only are we prone to error, not only is there the real danger that we do fall into error with regard to doctrine and life, but, in fact, we err every day. Every day we commit sin, which is error against God. And if we are not reproved for those errors, then we are being left on the path to destruction. Those who do not love God and who walk contrary to His law will be destroyed in the day of Jesus Christ. God provides, then, for our reproof. And He gives us a reproof in Scripture. For Scripture points out the errors of our life. Remember last time we referred to the law of God and how it tells us “thou shalt,” and “thou shalt not.” In telling us what we should not do, Scripture reminds us of our sins and points out our sins, Scripture reminds us that what we should not do is that which we, by nature, want to do and would certainly do. Scripture, therefore, is a means God uses to reprove.
In the third place, Scripture is profitable for correction. Correction is the positive part of reproof. Reproof shows one his error. And when one has knowledge of his error, when one has seen that he is fallen, then one needs direction in how to get out of that error and be restored. We are not able to correct ourselves in our own strength. But Scripture is profitable for correction. The way of correction for sin is sorrow for that sin and repentance, seeking forgiveness in Jesus Christ. The way of correction of wrong teaching is to see the true teaching in Scripture and to renounce what we formerly thought as our own imaginations and to bow before the Word of God. In the way of that correction God enables us to enjoy the covenant relationship with Him that He has in mind for His people. We can see that this profit of Scripture is very necessary for us.
Fourthly, Scripture is profitable for instruction in righteousness. The idea of instruction is that which a parent gives a child. Much is involved in the training of a child — attending not just to the physical needs of the child but to his emotional and developmental needs and, for the godly family, to his spiritual needs. The goal in the training of a child is that he become mature and use the teaching that his parents give him as a way in which he can grow in maturity and then himself, one day, be able to live without the reminders of parents. God’s Word does that to us. We are the children. We are children of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. But as children, we do need instruction how to live. And Scripture gives us that instruction. We have already said that it gives us reproof and correction, but the point of this phrase, “instruction in righteousness,” is that it brings us to spiritual maturity. That was the word that the apostle Paul said to Timothy, too, in the verses just prior to our text: “Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (vv. 14, 15). It is an adult who is wise. I did not say every adult is wise. But most often an adult who has taken to heart what he has been taught as a youth is a wise person. So Paul is telling Timothy that the Scriptures are able to make him spiritually mature, wise unto salvation through Christ, because they are profitable not only for doctrine, for reproof, and for correction, but also for instruction in righteousness.
Having set forth these four areas in which Scripture is profitable and authoritative, we should understand that by these four things God through Paul means to teach that Scripture is profitable for all of life. There are some who say “but Scripture is not a history book, Scripture is not a geography book, Scripture is not a science book.” While it is true, of course, that Scripture does not set forth the principles that children need to learn with regard to history and geography, the fact is that in Scripture there is historical fact, geographical fact, and scientific fact taught. And those facts which are taught in Scripture are those things necessary to know for salvation. In saying that Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, God is teaching us that His Word has authority and is profitable to regulate all our faith and life. As regards the living of a spiritual life to the glory of God, with our eye on heaven, there is no document we need to turn to besides the Scriptures.
Scripture is profitable for all of life.
Let us use them to that end.
If it is sin that we face, let us turn to the Scriptures. If it is false doctrine that we are confronted with, let us refute it with the Scriptures. For all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for these areas: doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.
Then the question arises, What is the purpose of Scripture having this profit? Paul answers that question of Timothy in verse 17, “that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” When Scripture uses the word “perfect,” as it does in our verse, it does not mean perfect in the sense of sinless. Noah is called “perfect.” Of Enoch we read that he was perfect. We know, however, that these men were sinners so long as they were on earth. When Scripture uses the word “perfect,” it refers not to one who is without sin, but to a person or a thing that is well fitted for a certain use. When Paul says that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works, he says in essence this: Scripture has the purpose of preparing man to do good works (not every man, but the man of God).
What are good works, then? Good works are those that proceed from a true faith, are done to the glory of God, and are performed in accordance with God’s law. It is not our purpose to elaborate greatly on that description of good works now. But no work can be truly good that is not done out of faith. No work can be called truly good when it is done in violation of God’s law. And no work can be called truly good when it is done for the glory of man rather than God.
Scripture has the purpose
of preparing man to do good works.
To do good works is the calling of the child of God in gratitude for the salvation that God has given. How do I find in myself the ability to do good works? I do not. I am a sinner. God gives it by His Spirit. But is there some means that His Spirit uses that enables me to know what good works are and motivates me to do them? Yes, it is the Word of God — profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness, with this as the purpose: that the man of God may know how to do all good works and be equipped to do those works.
That purpose of God He will accomplish in every man of God. Who is a man of God? He is a man whom God has chosen to be His own. He is a new person in Jesus Christ. But then he is a man who loves God in response and who studies the Scriptures. He is a man, therefore, who desires to please God and to show gratitude to God. And that man, as he goes through life, wonders, What do I have as a standard by which to judge my works, because I would have them be works of genuine gratitude to God? The answer to that man, God gives the Scriptures, breathed of God, and therefore the Word of God Himself.
Trustworthy, profitable, in every area of life.
Do you study Scripture that way? Approach it as something that will surely help you today in your spiritual journey? Do you believe Scripture is the Word of God and His Word alone? Your answer to that question will determine whether you have a right to the name “a man of God,” or not.
That one who is conscious of all that God has done for him in making him His child uses the Scriptures as the rule of gratitude and finds profit in it in every area of life. May you find that to be true.
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, how seldom we use the Scriptures rightly. How imperfectly we use them. How often our concern in reading them is not to become wise unto salvation, or to find profit and instruction and correction in them, but merely to satisfy what we feel to be a duty we owe Thee, a mere outward duty. We pray, grant us grace to study Scripture from our heart and to find in it the wisdom unto salvation through faith in Christ that it gives. For we believe this: the Scriptures are Thy Word. Be glorified in all our life. For Christ’s sake we pray, Amen.