All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (verses 16-17)
Paul starts this chapter with these words: “But mark this.” What follows is a whole list of character traits that will epitomize the last days (in which we have been living since the time of Christ), including “boastful, proud, abusive … without self-control … treacherous, rash, conceited … having a form of godliness but denying its power” (verse 2-5).
It’s a brutal list. It rings true for so much that happens in our day. It would be easy to focus on such a list and then go beyond it, ranting on about the degradation of our world, its political and cultural leaders, and the infectious taint in the whole of society. Such a rant would carry truth, but might ultimately tap into some of the very characteristics Paul denounces (“without love, unforgiving, slanderous”).
So what do we do? How do we acknowledge the evil of our times without getting caught up in the very same attitudes and behaviours? How do we guard our hearts and choose to live in eager obedience to our Lord?
The answer comes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Here is the means by which we can be “thoroughly equipped for every good work.”Having reflected on the fact that “evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse” (verse 13), Paul urges Timothy: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned” (verse 14). Namely the Scriptures. This is where Paul focuses in these verses. Scripture is useful for shaping us as God’s people, opening new vistas of understanding before us, calling us back when we are on the brink of going astray (or already over the edge), redirecting us into paths of righteousness, and strengthening us in our role as disciples.
All of this is possible because the Scriptures are something more than simply “writings.” They are “God-breathed,” God himself being the source, so that these writings are truly, in every sense, God’s word. We can trust them, knowing that the One who has spoken is faithful and true. Therefore, we hang on to the whole of it, valuing it as trustworthy for every aspect of faith and life.
But this God-breathed word doesn’t simply adhere to the page, getting stuck there. No, God’s intent is that his breath continue into our own lives, filling us with the knowledge of his will, in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (Col 1:9). As a living and active presence, his word pierces to the very core of our being, putting its finger on our thoughts and intentions, reshaping us (Hebrews 4:12).
This, then, is the place for submission to the Spirit, whose role is to “guide (us) into all truth” (John 16:13). The Scripture, God-breathed, is used by the Spirit (the very breath of God himself) to do the Lord’s good work within us, right at the centre, then spilling out into actions and attitudes and behaviour.
May we hold firmly to this word, trusting it implicitly. May we yield to the Spirit, inviting his guidance into truth. May we – equipped – step into every good work he has for us.
Lord, thank you that you are the God who speaks. You choose to reveal heart and mind to us. Thank you for the gift of your Word, which is living and active still. Thank you for the gift of your Spirit, who leads us into truth. May you fully equip us to do your will, to Jesus’ glory. Amen.
Reflect: What fresh step can you take this week to submit afresh to the action of Word and Spirit in your life? Be practical. Be specific.