Please turn with me in your bibles to 2 Timothy chapter 3. Second timothy chapter 3.
Last week we began this short series on the doctrine of scripture by looking into what exactly is entailed by Paul’s first statement in verse 16, that all scripture is God-breathed.
We looked at how the bible views itself, seeing that both Jesus and the biblical authors viewed the word of God as authoritative, and they viewed themselves as writing words on par with the authority of the Old Testament.
Indeed, as we saw in the gospel of John, Jesus’s own teachings predicted that this apostolic revelation in the new testament letters would indeed be spirit-inspired.
Today, I’d like to move to a different aspect of the doctrine of scripture. If last week was examining what Scripture IS, this week I’d like to examine what scripture can do. Or perhaps more directly, what is scripture useful for? What do we do with it?
Let’s read our text, 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
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.
I’d like to begin by thinking for a while on what Paul says about scripture being profitable. “All scripture is God breathed and profitable.” We might translate it scripture is helpful, beneficial. Advantageous.
Why might that be the case? Well, we can say, for one, that God’s word is our most trustworthy source of knowledge. Let’s think about this for a minute. What are ways that people judge what is true and real?
One way is dreams. They think that if they have some sort of dream, that is must be from God and therefore true. While scripture does have examples of God speaking through dreams, like Joseph, we also have to confess that our dreams aren’t infallible, and certainly can’t be infallibly interpreted by us.
For example, if you have a dream where you run off and join the circus, does that mean you must go do that? Probably not. Our dreams can come from our own imagination, or worse, be potentially influenced by the demonic, therefore dreams can’t be a trustworthy guide to what is true.
Related to that, people often try to use God’s providence as an infallible guide to what is true. People, even unbelievers, will set up some sort of test for God, and then use that as a guide to their life.
They may say something like, “I’ll quit engaging in this or that activity when God tells me not to, or when God convicts me, until then, he must be OK with it.”
Or they might say that God must be OK with what I’m doing, because he hasn’t stopped me yet.
But that’s not now God works in this world. Just because he permits something to come to pass, doesn’t mean that he endorses that behavior.
Further, how do we know that we are interpreting God’s providence correctly? How do we know how to judge events that unfold as being good or evil? We can’t know that fully by ourselves.
In fact, we often want to interpret providence in the way that we’re already inclined to believe. People can tend to read their own preferences into the way that history unfolds.
A funny story from church history helps illustrate the point. There was an old Roman catholic church that was having a debate among the leaders about which liturgy to use, which order of worship. “Should we use the liturgy of St. Ambrose, or the liturgy of St. Gregory?” A plan was hatched to use God’s providence to make the decision.
Both parties agreed to leave a copy of each of the liturgy books on the altar at the front of the church, expecting God to revel the decision for them as to which one should be used.
When they opened the doors the next morning, Gregory’s liturgy book was torn into many pieces, and scattered abroad all over the room; but Ambrose’s book lay undisturbed on the altar. Some interpreted this turn of events to clearly mean that Ambrose’s book was certainly the one to be used, since it was left intact on the altar.
But, others, including the pope of the day, said that the tearing and scattering of the pages of Gregory’s book all over the room signified the dispersing of the truth of God’s word throughout the entire world, and thus, they said, Gregory’s book is to be used.
My point is this: that trying to read the tea leaves of providence is no certain guide as to what is true, and how to live. Even if we could see all the angles of each event in history, we still wouldn’t be able to know how to interpret and apply that, how to live in light of it.
Rather, scripture alone is profitable for us, and infallibly so. Unlike my dreams or my experience, or the events of providence, I don’t have to wonder if scripture is a helpful and trustworthy guide.
Paul would have us know that Scripture is THE MOST advantageous source of knowledge that we have. God’s revelation in nature is good, but it is not sufficient. However, God’s revelation in scripture is perfect, sufficient, and profitable every time.
Why do I say that? Why do we believe scripture to be the most profitable source of knowledge? Let me give us 4 reasons why:
- Scripture is profitable because it is the only book that comes with a divine promise of blessing.
Psalm 1 says this: “Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.”
Do you want to be blessed? We all do. Then let scripture be your source of delight, and let it be in your mind all the time. If you do that, then scripture promises that you will be blessed. Scripture promises blessing to those who heed it.
What other book can make that promise? Meditating on man’s word will never provide that. Studying philosophy or science or reading the best literature in the world can never make that promise to you.
And that’s because no other book is spoken by the wisest, most powerful, most trustworthy person in all the universe. God’s word is trustworthy, and his promise of blessing is trustworthy because he is not only making the promise, but he has the ability and power to bring that promised blessing about.
- Scripture is profitable because it is the only book that can provide relief amidst temptation.
What did Jesus Christ do when He was tempted by Satan in the desert? When Jesus was weary in body because he hadn’t eaten in 40 days, and Satan comes and tempts him with bread, Jesus responds by quoting from the Old Testament, from Deuteronomy 8:
‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’
And this wasn’t a one-off tactic. Jesus frequently says “it is written, it is written, it is written.” Always responding to temptation and unbelief by pointing people back to God’s word.
If Jesus Christ, the word of God made flesh, used scripture to defend him in terrible trial, used God’s word as His sword of the Spirit to fend off the evil one, how much more ought we to arm ourselves with God’s word for when times of trial come?
Or perhaps the point is made clearer by stating the opposite. If you want to be found un-armed for spiritual battle, if you want to be ill-prepared for temptation, if you want to we weary and spiritually anemic, then be sure you never meditate on God’s word, that you don’t plant it deep in your heart.
Scripture is profitable because it is the only book that can provide relief amidst temptation.
- Scripture is profitable because it is the only book that is an infallible guide.
Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
God’s word is the only sure thing to guide our steps in this life. It’s a lamp, that illumines the darkness so that a safe way may be found. It is a light, providing safety and security to travelers walking unfamiliar paths.
When we want to know what is true and right, we read God’s word. When we want to know how to please God, we can find it in God’s word. When we in a tough situation, and we’re not quite sure what the best course of action is, we consult God’s word.
It may not address with specificity every single detail of every situation in our lives, but it speaks authoritatively and sufficiently for us to walk in righteousness in this life. More on that later, but for now, Scripture is profitable because it is the only book that is an infallible guide.
- Scripture is profitable because it is the only book that doesn’t change. It doesn’t move.
Isaiah 40: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”
You don’t have to worry about God’s moral standard fluxuating, that you might be righteous and just today, but that tomorrow the goal posts have been moved and you have become unrighteous.
“But Pastor, there are a bunch of Old Testament laws that aren’t in force today. Doesn’t that mean that God’s word has changed?”
No. No it hasn’t changed. It has been fulfilled. Those old testament laws pointed to some deeper reality, some coming truth, and now that that reality and truth has come in the Person of Jesus Christ, the old shadows have been superseded. They’re fulfilled and no longer followed to the letter like they once were.
It’s like now, that a rose has blossomed, there’s no longer need for the old leaves that encased the bud. There’s not been a fundamental change, it’s still a rose, but the new grandeur has replaced the old foreshadowing.
Man’s word is not like that. You can look at our own culture and see that. Just as one clear example, in my lifetime alone, society has gone from banning homosexuality, to permitting it, and now to celebrating it. I’m not even that old, and already the needle of morality has made a 180 degree turn.
God’s word is profitable because it doesn’t change, it doesn’t go out of date. It will never be irrelevant. It’s fixed and immovable, and therefore a proper foundation for everyone to build their lives upon.
There we go. There are 4 truths about why God’s word is profitable for us: it comes with a promise of blessing, provides relief amidst temptation, it is an infallible guide, and it doesn’t change.
But if these things are true, we need to ask ourselves “why we don’t always treat God’s word accordingly?” If God’s word is truly beneficial for me, provides safety for me, is a sure guide for me, then why don’t I find myself quick to run to it? Why don’t I find it easy to fill my heart with God’s word? Why do I find myself turning to other things in order to get knowledge?
The answer is sin. The bible makes clear that unbelief in God’s word is a root sin that is persistent and pervasive.
Adam and Eve did not believe in the word of God that had been given to them, and it devastated them and everyone else. Rather than being the blessed man planted by streams of water, Adam was uprooted and cast in the cursed wilderness outside the garden.
Rather than having God’s word as the lamp for his feet and the light for his path, Adam chose darkness, and cast this whole world into darkness because of it. And men and women have been choosing darkness ever since.
In fact, Jesus says in John chapter 3 that mankind “loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” We don’t want the light of God’s word because we like our sin more than we like the light.
We want our selfishness and our sensuality. We like to covet what isn’t ours and to be greedy. We like to justify our bitterness and jealousy and anger toward someone else, because we like the darkness rather than the light.
But God wouldn’t let that remain. God chose to speak in a new way, he spoke through the Son. The beginning of John’s gospel reminds us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. That’s Jesus Christ.
And it says of him, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Though mankind was content in the darkness, God chose mercy instead. He sent the son, the light of the world, to save the world through him.
And Christ was not like the first Adam. When the first Adam encountered the Serpent, he doubted God’s word. But when the second Adam encountered the serpent, he faithfully believed God’s word, even through great trial.
But the good news isn’t just that Christ succeeded where Adam failed. The good news of the gospel is also that Christ bore the punishment that the first Adam had earned.
While the first Adam was judged for unbelief and cast out into darkness, Christ endured the worst darkness that anyone could experience: he bore the full wrath of God on the cross, and then was placed into a dark grave.
The first Adam tried to hide in the bushes and cover up his shame with fig leaves, but the second Adam was stripped naked and hung on the cross, enduring the shame that Adam brought upon the world.
The first Adam tried to blame his wife in order to cover up his own sin, thereby earning a curse. But the last Adam died for to sake away his bride’s curse.
And Christ did all this willingly, fully trusting in the promises of God found in his word. He knew that terrible pain awaited the promised messiah, but also that wonderful glory awaited for the faithful who believed.
This is good news for people like us who so often fail to believe. We neglect God’s word, we disregard his holy law, we ignore his promises, we act like his warnings aren’t for us. And by doing so we merit for ourselves eternal darkness in Hell.
Don’t ignore the warnings of Scripture. The first verse of the next chapter describes Christ as the one who will judge the living and the dead. If you will not have him as your savior and substitute, then you will have him as your judge, where all of your sins, including unbelief, will be brought against you.
But for those who believe, who trust in this light of the world, who embrace the Christ of the scriptures and submit to him in faith, we have a different fate. Scripture promises that all who believe in Christ will be saved. Trust in this Christ, and have your sins forgiven and nailed to the cross.
Listen to the word of God, your only infallible guide, which is calling you to trust in the Son who died for sin.
Now, in the remaining time I’d like to look at some practical uses of God’s word. Paul lists them; for us in verse 16:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness
Teaching first. It is profitable for teaching. And we need teaching.
James 1:5 promises that “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Who of us has enough wisdom? How many of us has a sufficient amount of wisdom? I know I sure don’t.
I need wisdom, I need to be taught. I don’t have it all figured out. Which is why I need God’s word, which is profitable for my instruction.
Satan loves dumb sheep; they are the easiest to lead astray. If we would be best defended against error and false teaching, we need to be well taught in the word. We need instruction in truth and doctrine. Our aim should be to be like Apollos, who was described in Acts 18 as “a man mighty in the scriptures.”
I don’t think I could come up with a better compliment for a Christian, than to call him or her mighty in the scriptures. We need to be taught, and scripture is profitable for that, helpful, beneficial.
Next, Paul says scripture is profitable for reproof. We might say rebuke. It “carries the idea of rebuking in order to correct false doctrine or behavior.” We not only need to be taught and instructed, we need to have our wrong thinking corrected.
And scripture is the only book that can do this. Hebrews 4 tells us why: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
No other book is living and active. No other book can be invasive, can pierce us to the core, can convict and bring rebuke. No other book can cut right to the heart.
We can quickly get off track, get distracted, have our thinking all messed up. And so we need God’s word, which is beneficial to rebuke us. It may not be pleasant in the moment, but it is so necessary.
Only a fool would ignore a reproof from God’s word. Proverbs 13:
“A wise son hears his father’s instruction,
but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.”
Don’t be a scoffer. Don’t ignore the clear warnings of scripture. Heed the reproof.
Proverbs 1 makes this promise: “If you turn at my reproof,
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you.”
Do you want to hear God’s instruction to you, then heed the reproof when it comes. If you want his spirit to dwell in you richly, then turn at his reproof.
Next, God’s word is profitable for correction. The Greek word used here is only used in this place in the entire New testament. It carried the idea of restoring something back to its former and proper condition.
We might think of it in these terms. Paul will often speak in terms of putting off and putting on. We put off sin, and put on righteous deeds. The rebuking term just used might refer to the putting off of sin, while the correction term used here aims more at the putting on of righteous deeds.
This refers to the positive elements of the law. It is not enough that I don’t murder, righteousness demands that I seek to promote the life of others. Getting rid of adultery isn’t sufficient, men also need to love their wife as Christ loved the church. Not stealing isn’t enough; Christians are also called to be generous. You get the idea.
But how do we know how to do this? Psalm 119 is helpful:
“How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.”
Scripture is profitable for our correction, for repairing our moral compass, for guiding us in righteousness. And if that is the case, then I need that word planted deep in my heart, so that it is ready for use, ready for application.
Let us not be caught unfamiliar with the sword of the spirit, unskilled in its handling. Rather, God’s people ought to be so armed with the word of God, that the handling of the sword of the spirit becomes second nature. God’s word just flows out of us because our hearts are so steeped in it.
Parents, this is of special need in the early years of raising children. I ran across a quote from Spurgeon related to this and thought it well put. He says,
“Give us the first seven years of a child, with God’s grace, and we may defy the world, the flesh, and the devil to ruin that immortal soul. Those first years, while the clay is still soft and malleable, go far to decide the [final] form of the vessel. Do not say that your office, you who teach the young, is in the least degree inferior to ours, whose main business is with older folks. No, you have the first of them, and your impressions, as they come first, will endure last: oh that they may be good, and only good!
Among the thoughts that come to an old man before he enters heaven, the most plentiful are those who previously visited him when he sat upon his mother’s knee. …Childlike things are dearest to [those in] old age. We shuffle off a portion of the coil that surrounds and hampers us, and go back again to our more natural selves; and therefore the old songs are on our lips, and the old thoughts are in our minds. The teachings of our childhood leave clean cut and sharp impressions on the mind, which remain after seventy years have passed. Let us see that such impressions are made for the highest ends.”
May we as parents, and we as a church, be faithful to instruct and train, to correct ourselves, and especially our children. May we receive with meekness the implanted word, which James tells us is able to save our souls, and may that implanted word never depart from us.
Finally, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness
Training in righteousness. God’s word is the key for us to grow to be like Jesus Christ our older brother.
The church doesn’t have to run after the latest new programs and fads. Parents don’t have to read the latest and greatest parenting books. God’s word is profitable for training in righteousness.
If we want to grow in holiness, God’s word is our beneficial guide.
If we want to know how to handle our money, God’s word can train us.
If we want to be a good husband or wife, God’s word can make you that.
If we want to love our children well, God’s word can help you with that.
If we’re unsure what direction to take, God’s word speaks to that.
If we’re unsure how to act, God’s work is enough for you to be blameless.
God’s word is to be used with great profit, and it remains always, ready for us to pick it up, listen to it, heed it, and believe it. Those are the promises of God to us.
Let me close with this related to our doubt of God’s word:
If you are a Christian and you have doubts, the church can be a scary place, not merely because of the presence of your doubts, but because you’re afraid what people will think about you when you voice your doubts.
But I’d hope that our church would embrace the doubting, and would welcome the skeptical. We need to be like the man in Mark 9, “I believe, Lord help my unbelief.” When professing believers express doubts or questions, we can’t brush them off with trite answers. We need to wrestle with them in the scriptures.
And we can help them by reminding them of the promises found in God’s word.
In this book alone there are several sweet promises.
In Chapter 1 verse 10, Paul says that the gospel “has now been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Jesus has abolished death. He’s brought life. He’s done it, and done it perfectly.
Your doubt is not stronger than Jesus’s provision. Doubt can’t bring death to a Christian, Christ has already abolished death. Your fears can’t overcome Christ’s faith.
Look ahead to verse 12: “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” Paul was not afraid of the future, because he knew who was guarding his future. Likewise, we need not fear tomorrow’s doubts or trials, because the one who holds the future is likewise able to hold us through it. He will guard you until the final day.
We could go on; this letter is laden with promises, as is the rest of scripture. Such is the nature of God’s word: full of glorious gospel promises. And it is upon those promises that we can stand stable in this life.
Like we sang earlier:
Standing on the promises that cannot fail.
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.
 Story found in: William Bridge, “Scripture Light the Most Sure Light: in three sermons on 2 Peter 1:19, sermon 2” found in The Works of William Bridge, vol 1 (Banner of Truth, Carlile: 2022), 457.
 John MacArthur and John MacArthur, 2 Timothy, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, Ill: Moody Press, 1995), 157.
 MacArthur and MacArthur, 160.
 From a sermon on 2 Timothy 3:15 called, “The Sunday School and the Scriptures,” No. 1866-31:577. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Morning, October 18, 1885, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.