2 Timothy 3:16–17 – Part 3 of 4: The Purpose of Scripture

Click here to read part 1 and part 2 of this series.

All Scripture is inspired by God and therefore profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16). In 2 Tim 3:16–17, the purpose for these functions of Scripture is “so that” (Greek, hina) or simply “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:17). In other words, when “the man of God” has rightly applied himself to allowing the Scripture to teach, reprove, correct, and train him in his belief and behavior, he “may be complete,” which is to say that he will be “equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16).

That “complete” is further described as “equipped for every good work” can be seen in that both “complete” (artios) and “equipped” (exērtismenos, from exartizō) share the same Greek root (art-), tying the two clauses of 2 Tim 3:17 together.

The emphasis in the first clause is the person. Scripture is profitable in its various functions, literally translated, “so that complete may be the of-God man.” In 1 Timothy 6:11, Timothy is emphatically called out―“O man of God” (ō anthrōpe theou)―to flee what is sinful and pursue what is fitting for his call as a “man of God.” Here in 2 Tim 3:17, the order of words is varied so as to emphasize identity of who Timothy was as a man. He was “the of-God man” (ho tou theou anthrōpos). And if his identity was so tightly bound to God as to be identified as “the of-God man,” then it was only fitting that the of-God Scripture should be that which shapes him for his role. When God has called a man to His service, it is to be one whose life conforms to what God has said.

A second note on “the of-God man”―again, while the wording is varied, it recalls Paul’s earlier address to Timothy as “O man of God” in 1 Tim 6:11. These uses in turn recall a regularly used title in the OT―“the man of God,” used almost 70 times. It is used most often for men like Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Samuel, David, and prophets in general (Deut 33:1; 1 Kgs 17:8, 24; 2 Kgs 4:7; 1 Sam 9:7; 2 Chron 8:14; et al). As a preacher of God’s Word, Timothy’s role as a man of God was to echo the lives of these prophets of old and declare only what God had said. Their lives were tightly bound to God and His purposes that, were there to be one descriptor of who they were as men, it would be that they were “of God.” While men of God today do not receive direct revelation today as did these prophets of old, our function is still the same―to say what God has said and no more and let our lives reflect who He is. Let us get ourselves out of the way for God’s people so that when they hear us preach, they actually hear Him and walk away changed by the Spirit and Word.

2 Timothy 3:16–17 – Part 2 of 4: The Function of Scripture

Click here to read part 1 of this series.

“All Scripture is…profitable for” four functions stated in 2 Tim 3:16, “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The first two functions have to do with the positive and negative of belief. Scripture is “profitable for teaching,” that is, instructing what is right and true. It is also “profitable…for correction,” that is, exposing and denying what false.

The second two functions have to do with the negative and positive of conduct. Scripture is “profitable…for correction,” which has the idea of correcting aberrant behavior. It is also “profitable…for training in righteousness,” which is to instruct one in right behavior.

To clarify, all of these functions go together. 1 Timothy 1:8–10 catalogues a list of sins and then also condemns “whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim 1:10). Sound doctrine leads to sound behavior. Instruction in doctrine always has implications for the Christian life. This is why Paul tells Timothy to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all patience and instruction” (2 Tim 4:2).

Looking more closely at 2 Tim 4:2, Paul seems to match the four functions of Scripture in 2 Tim 3:16 with four imperatives given to Timothy.1 He is told to “preach the word…reprove, rebuke, and exhort.” Notice the chart:

2 Timothy 3:16 2 Timothy 4:2
Teaching (didaskalian) Preach (kēruzon)
Reproof (elegmon) Reprove (elegzon)
Correction (epanorthōsin) Rebuke (epitimēson)
Training in Righteousness (paideian tēn en dikaiosunē) Exhort (parakaleson)

To “preach” is to herald and publicly declare the truth. To “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” all assume doing so from the basis of God’s Word and dealing with sin, and thus Timothy was to carry out each action “with patience and instruction” (2 Tim 4:2).

Given this profitability of Scripture, we should be sure to saturate our lives with it in every venue. We should certainly assemble with the church for worship where the Word is regularly preached. As we are able, we should study, memorize, learn, and meditate upon Scripture as well. Such habits can only allow us to profit from God’s Word.

  1. Cf. George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGTC: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), p. 449. []

The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 14:6–13)

This entry is part 37 of 40 in the series Revelation and Its Connections to the OT

Passage Summary

Another angel (cf. 12:7) was flying above, proclaiming his gospel to the world (14:6). Commands therein were to fear God and give Him glory in light of the final outpouring of His wrath, as well as to worship Him as the Creator of all things (14:7). A second angel announced the fall of Babylon (likely a literal city, yet symbolic of and related to the nations) as if it had taken place already (14:8). A third angel loudly warned his hearers of God’s eternal wrath for those who worshiped the beast and received his mark (14:9–11). The saints are then called to endure, which, in context, is to bear the wrath of the beast on earth than that of God forever in fire (14:12). God or Christ (cf. 1:11, 19) commanded John to write, promising blessing to those who die at the hands of the beast, specifically that they would rest (unlike their enemies; cf. 14:11) as a reward for their good deeds (14:13). 

Old Testament in the New 

Revelation Old Testament Connection Between the Two
14:7 Exod 20:11 God created all things, represented by some of its parts.
14:8 Isa 21:9; Jer 51:7–8 Babylon fell for making the earth drink from its cup of sin.
14:10 Gen 19:24 Sulfur, fire, and brimstone are elements used by God in executing His wrath.
14:10 Ps 75:8; Isa 51:17; Jer 25:15–18 God’s wrath is pictured as the content of a cup poured out on its recipients.
14:11 Isa 34:9–10; 66:24 God’s fiery punishment lasts forever, during both night and day, and yields unending smoke.

A Parting Thought

This is perhaps the most horrific picture of eternal torment and what happens to those suffer it forever. May we endure and know that this punishment is not for us and also know that our good works assure us of rest and yield us reward in heaven in time to come.


The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 14:1–5)

This entry is part 35 of 40 in the series Revelation and Its Connections to the OT

Passage Summary

John looks past the Tribulation to see the Lamb standing on Mount Zion in contrast to the dragon and beasts standing on the sand (14:1). Zion could be the literal Jerusalem in the Millennium, thus showing the Lamb’s victory in the face of what precedes it (cf. Zech 14:1–2). John then hears a voice like the roar of waters, loud thunder, and harps, a collective heavenly voice of those singing before the four creatures, elders, and the throne (14:3). The 144,000 from 7:4–8 learn their song, those who were redeemed during the Tribulation as the first of many to be saved during this time (cf. 7:9–14) and due to the hardships of this time, remained celibate (14:3–4). They were also truthful and blameless (14:5). 

Old Testament in the New 

Revelation Old Testament Connection Between the Two
14:1 Ps 2:6 Mount Zion is the central location from which God’s Anointed rules.
14:1 Ezek 9:4 Those marked by God are His own, persevere, and are protected by Him.
14:2 Ezek 1:24; 43:2 Both prophets heard something that sounded like roaring waters.
14:2–3 Ps 144:9 A new song is sung and joined by the sound of harps.
14:5 Zeph 3:13 The remnant in each passage speaks truth (cf. Isa 53:9).

 A Parting Thought

As with the 144,000, God sometimes calls people to difficult tasks with difficult circumstances. Just as they are the redeemed who will be with the Lamb, so shall it be true of us, and whatever tasks and circumstances may be ours, let us persevere just the same.


The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 13:11–18)

This entry is part 34 of 40 in the series Revelation and Its Connections to the OT

Passage Summary

John saw another beast (a person; cf. 19:20; 20:10) coming from the earth and not the sea, like a lamb and not ferocious beasts, with two and not ten horns, and speaking like a dragon (13:11). His authority was for bringing about the worship of the first beast, even by imitating the miracles of the two witnesses (13:12–13; cf. 11:5). These signs were to deceive people and have them make an image of the first beast (13:14). This image was given life to speak and to slay those who did not worship the first beast (13:15). It then restricted buying and selling to those marked with 666, the name or number of the name of the beast that Christians at this time will somehow use to identify the beast as the antichrist (13:16–18).

 Old Testament in the New 

Revelation Old Testament Connection Between the Two
13:13 2 Kgs 1:9–12 Both involve a person calling down fire from above.
13:14–15 Dan 3:1, 4–6 Those who did not worship the image were to be executed.

A Parting Thought

Despite an “unholy trinity” of the dragon, sea-beast, and earth-beast that are promoted by the beast-image for a false system of worship, complete with a resurrection and mark of membership, God’s people will not be deceived at this time (cf. Matt 24:14) and will be able to identify the Antichrist. Let us be watchful that we are not deceived by false prophets and antichrists in our own time as well.


2 Timothy 3:16–17 – A Key Text on the Nature, Function, Purpose, and Sufficiency of Scripture

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17 ESV).

This passage presents an array of interpretive options, which are of special import, considering that this is a primary text on the doctrine of inspiration and has been so since it was written.

Part 1 of 4: The Nature of Scripture

All Scripture: Technically, “all” (pasa) could be translated “every.” Scripture (graphē) is thus referred to as a collective all or a collection of every Scripture, perhaps referring to every passage or scroll that makes up the whole of Scripture. Either way, Paul refers to the totality of what was earlier termed “the sacred writings” (2 Tim 3:15), likely referring to the whole of the Old Testament.

Is Breathed out by God: “Is” is technically not in the Greek but is supplied, assuming that “breathed out by God” is a predicate adjective. “Breathed out by God” is theopnuestos, a combination of God (theos), “to breathe out” (pneō; cf. wind in John 3:8), and the ending –tos, which indicates that the Scripture was the passive effect of the action of God breathing something out, namely, His pneuma, or His Spirit. In other words, Scripture is not something that continually breathes out the Spirit of God into us as we read it. Rather, it is what was written as God breathed His Spirit through men so that the end result was His written Word.

2 Peter 1:20–21 describes the process of inspiration when it clarifies “that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” The verb “carried along” is pherō, the same verb used to describe what a wind does with a ship (Acts 27:15, 17).

From the above, to give a definition, inspiration is the process whereby God the Spirit superintended both the reception (1 Cor 2:13; “words…taught by the Spirit”) and writing (2 Pet 1:20–21) of the very words (verbal) of the entirety of Scripture (plenary; 2 Tim 3:16) by men, fully using their unique personalities and vocabularies to perfectly record exactly the truth that the Spirit intended them to write.

Some might suggest that, because it is grammatically possible, “breathed out by God” actually modifies “Scripture” instead of functioning as a predicate adjective. In turn, the “and” (kai) would be translated “also,” so as to say, “All God-breathed Scripture is also profitable” for its many functions. It is true that this would create a nice parallel with 2 Timothy 3:15. Just as “the sacred writings…are able to make you wise for salvation” (2 Tim 3:15), so “All God-breathed Scripture is also profitable” for many things (2 Tim 3:16). However, a parallelism more fitting is within 2 Timothy 3:16 itself. Both “breathed out by God” and “profitable” are tied together with the word “and” (kai), and the parallelism is that “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (predicate adjective number one) “and profitable” (predicate adjective number two). (If one does stick with “All God-breathed Scripture,” it does not have to follow that there is an implication that there are Scriptures not breathed out by God and thus absent of any profit for the reader.)

Overlooking Differences in Hope for Unity in Evangelism

For nearly fifty years, Jay Adams has been occasionally cited as a model for a theologian who supposedly discourages evangelism because of his understanding of election and the atonement. Said Adams in his well-known statement from 1970 in his book Competent to Counsel: “As a reformed Christian, the writer believes that counselors must not tell any unsaved counselee that Christ died for him, for he cannot say that. No man knows except Christ himself who are his elect for whom he died.”1

This isolated quote might cause one to assume that Adams never gave the gospel, but his very next sentence is this: “But the counselor’s job is to explain the gospel and to say very plainly that God commands all men to repent of their sin and believe in Jesus Christ.”2 His counselees would have apparently heard the gospel and been made aware of their obligation to repent and believe.

In light of the first quote from Adams above, held in isolation, some assume that, should one have a view of election as Adams does, so also will he follow Adams (or Reformed theology in general) in holding to a limited atonement and therefore refrain from telling an unbeliever that Christ died for his sins, leaving the would-be witness to the gospel apparently crippled in his evangelism. (And in response to this, please remember the second quote above.)

But, suppose that one could hold to the belief that God chose only some unto salvation and is yet not quite where Adams was in all of his other Reformed, soteriological particulars (pun intended).

Suppose for a moment that the theological world of orthodox Christianity has some diversity when it comes to how to understand election, the atonement, and the relationship of these two to evangelism. And suppose that some of these people could believe that God chose some for salvation in eternity past and also find such a belief in complete harmony with having a passion for evangelism.

Suppose that, even when one believes that, in eternity past, God chose to create all things, allow the fall, provide salvation through Christ, place His saving love on some who would otherwise be left in their sins, predestine their salvation, and call them to Him through the means of a witness, His Word, conviction, regeneration, and their personal acceptance of the gospel―suppose that even when someone holds to these beliefs…such a one could actually be quite evangelistic.

Suppose that, even when one believes God chose some for salvation, such a one could also believe that Christ’s atonement is sufficient for all and functions as a basis whereby to call whosoever will to salvation.

Suppose that, even when one believes God chose some for salvation, such a one could also believe that, while this choice was active, His allowance for the damnation of others was passive since, after all, He is not the author of sin and their damnation is only their just due for suppressing the truth about Him.

Suppose that, even when one believes that God chose some for salvation, such a one could also leave it to the unrevealed and likely incomprehensible mysteries of God as to how one can be passed over for salvation in eternity past and yet be held responsible for rejecting the truth in his day of judgment.

Suppose that, even when one believes that God chose some for salvation, such a one could also believe that God desires all to be saved, in keeping with an atonement sufficient for all, and therefore invites all to accept Christ as their Savior.

Suppose that, even when one believes God chose some for salvation, such a one could also believe that a delay in God’s judgment does not mean slowness on His part but actually patience towards all so that some might reach repentance.

Suppose that, even when one believes God chose some for salvation, such a one could also believe that God will keep saving for Himself these chosen until Christ comes again, meaning the Great Commission is never over until we join our Lord in the air.

And suppose that, even when one believes God chose some for salvation, such a one could also believe that, while not being ultimately responsible for an unbeliever’s rejection of the gospel, an unbeliever’s blood could be on the believer’s hands to some degree because the believer failed to give this unbeliever the gospel. For me personally, I wonder at times if some of the tears that my Savior will wipe from my eyes will be tears of mourning for those who I knew who died in their sins but never heard the gospel from me.

Do you suppose it could be so?

At least for me, I know it to be so because I am at least one such a one.3

I realize that my beliefs are my own and do not represent everyone who reads this article. I also realize that there are some theological tensions above that some would prefer to theologically diffuse while I would prefer to leave them as they are.

And I also hasten to clarify that I will gladly be a joint witness with those who give more or less stress to either God’s sovereignty or man’s freedom in light of their own convictions. I hope that others share this sentiment. May our love for one another create a collective, harmonious voice so that we might better sound the gospel of our glorious Christ in making disciples for Him.

  1. Jay Adams, Competent to Counsel (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970), p. 70. []
  2. Ibid. []
  3. For a longer summary of these beliefs in soteriology, my position would be more or less represented by Bruce Demarest in his chapters on election and the extent of the atonement in his work The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1997), pp. 97–199. []

David: An Example of Wisdom in Youth

Referring to David as the king-to-be (about 20 years of age), God stated to Saul, “The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart” (1 Sam 13:14). When chosen to be king, it was not because of “his appearance or on the height of his stature. For the Lord sees not as man sees…the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). A young man said also that David “is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him” (1 Sam 16:18). As a result, “David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer” (1 Sam 16:21).

It could be said of the young David, “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men” (Prov 22:29). Similarly, we serve the King and hope to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt 25:21, 23). Until then, whether or not we serve the kings of this life, we want to be faithful in our service to our King, knowing that our faithfulness merits nothing for salvation, though it provides for reward in time to come.

Some passages from Proverbs mention how to serve in the presence of a king, and they instruct us in how to live our lives as we prepare to one day stand before the heavenly throne. What might they say to us as we consider how to live this life in preparing to meet our King?

  • Walk wisely to please the King. “A servant who deals wisely has the king’s favor, but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully” (Prov 14:35).
  • Watch your words around the King. “Righteous lips are the delight of a king, and he loves him who speaks what is right” (Prov 16:13).
  • Tread carefully around the King. “A king’s wrath is a messenger of death, and a wise man will appease it” (Prov 16:14).
  • Be genuinely godly since the King knows your heart. “He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend” (Prov 22:11).
  • Be loyal to the king. “My son, fear the Lord and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise, for disaster will arise suddenly from them, and who knows the ruin that will come from them both?” (Prov 24:21–22).
  • Let the King praise you in His own good time. “Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble” (Prov 25:6–7).

Whether or not our wisdom lets us stand before kings today, may we live to please the King both now and to hear “well done” when we stand before His throne.

Dealing with False Teachers in the Church

From Paul’s letters to Timothy, leaders in the church can gather quite a bit for how to deal with so-called teachers who profess Christ but deny Him in word and deed.

Be an example in the midst of false teachers.
In in event that one might “despise you for your youth” (or later, for that matter), “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim 4:12). In the presence of false teachers, a godly example of a teacher is worth a 1,000 words in and of itself. The difference between right and wrong will be all the more obvious.

Keep away from the influence of false teachers (2:20–21).
When Paul speaks of the one who “cleanses himself from what is dishonorable” (2 Tim 2:21), he uses the picture of honorable vessels being cleansed by separating themselves from dishonorable vessels (cf. 2 Tim 2:20). Instead, we should pursue what fits our faith “along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim 2:22).

Tell false teachers to stop teaching different doctrine (1 Tim 1:3–4).
Timothy’s task was clear. He was to “charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies” (1 Tim 1:3–4).

Confront and correct false teachers in a proper manner (2 Tim 2:24–26).
Speaking of “the Lord’s servant” as one who is “correcting his opponents,” Paul requires this servant to be “kind to everyone…patiently enduring evil” (2 Tim 2:24). With this kindness and patience, he also corrects “with gentleness” (2 Tim 2:25). The goal is never to simply shut down the opposition and destroy them. Their souls, too, are at stake. With a proper rebuke, “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Tim 2:25–26).

Use witnesses when dealing with false teachers publicly before the church.
In the event that the false teacher is an elder in the church, we should “not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses” (1 Tim 5:19). Should such a one “persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Tim 5:20).

Hand them over to Satan (1 Tim 1:19–20).
Along with this public rebuke, the persistently unfaithful are put out of the church, which is Paul’s meaning when he speaks of Hymenaeus and Alexander and said, “I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim 1:20). These men likely led others in “rejecting this, that is, “faith and a good conscience” (1 Tim 1:19), creating spiritual warfare in the church (cf. 1 Tim 1:18).

The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 13:5–10)

This entry is part 33 of 40 in the series Revelation and Its Connections to the OT

Passage Summary

The beast (Antichrist) rules for forty-two months, the final half of the Tribulation period, blaspheming God and His dwelling all the while (13:5–6; cf. 2 Thess 2:3–4). Having global authority, he wars against God’s people while everyone else on earth worships the beast, showing their names are absent from the book of life (13:7–8). A sober warning and a call for endurance then readies the saints for being taken captive or being slain with the sword (13:9–10). 

Old Testament in the New 

Revelation Old Testament Connection Between the Two
13:5–6 Dan 7:8, 11, 20, 25; 11:36 The Antichrist speaks blasphemy and rules for 3.5 years.
13:7 Dan 7:14, 21 The Antichrist uses his authority to war against the saints.
13:8 Dan 12:1 John mentions those whose names are not in the book. Daniel mentions those who are.
13:10 Jer 15:2; 43:11 John echoes the warning of captivity and the sword to come.

 A Parting Thought 

Just as this future time is imminent, so also should we expect to see such a time to some degree today. Blasphemous rulers who persecute the saints will always exist. Let us be thankful that we experience relative peace for now.