Please turn with me in your bibles to 2 Timothy 3. 2 Timothy 3. We will be looking at verse 17 and, if the Lord wills, conclude our little series of 3 sermons on the word of God, the doctrine of scripture.
I’m sure I haven’t exhausted this text, although I may have exhausted some of you, so I will endeavor to wrap it up today.
Of the making of books there is no end, scripture says, and I suppose that might be true of sermons, but take heart, this sermon series does have an end.
In our text today we will see that God’s word is enough. We don’t need more revelation. He’s given us everything we need for righteousness, and that frees us up to be confident in the truth, and to be faithful in delivering that truth to others.
Let’s read 1 Timothy 3, I’ll start in verse 14:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 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.
Last week we looked at the second half of verse 16 and saw that scripture is profitable. We specifically noted 4 reasons why scripture is different from any book written by man.
First, scripture is the only book that promises divine blessing. No other book can promise blessing to those who attend its contents.
Second, we saw that scripture is the only book that can provide relief amidst temptation.
Third, we noted that scripture is the only book that is an infallible guide. It can’t lead you wrong. God’s word is incapable of error, because God is incapable of error.
And fourth, we saw that God’s word doesn’t change. It won’t change. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our Lord stands forever.
Because of these four qualities, scripture is profitable to those who receive it in faith.
And we also saw from verse 16 that scripture is useful. It is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. Whatever our need in the Christian life, scripture is useful for it.
If we are ignorant of some truth or doctrine, scripture can teach us.
If we’re out of line, scripture can straighten us out.
If we’re not walking like we should walk, scripture can rebuke us.
If we’re unsure of what path to take, scripture is a profitable guide.
Today we will move onto to verse 17 and see a few more aspects of God’s word. If verse 16 described WHAT scripture is and WHAT scripture is used for, verse 17 might explain the goal, or the end for which scripture was given in the life of a believer.
that the man of God may be complete.
Paul here is directly writing to Timothy, of course. And he describes him as a “man of God,” which is language reminiscent of an Old Testament prophet. The title “man of God” was used in the Old Testament to refer to Moses (Deut. 33:1; Ps. 90:1), David (2 Chron. 8:14), Elijah (2 Kings 1:9), and the prophets (1 Sam. 2:27).
Paul is placing Timothy in the line of the great men of God who spoke on God’s behalf. And this isn’t the first time. In 1 Timothy 6 Paul gives a long list of sins to be avoided, and says to timothy: “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things” (6:11). God’s spokesman ought not to be tangled up in sinful dealings.
The minister of God’s word ought to be marked by godliness, by a pure life, by pious conduct.
But the prophetic element of Timothy’s role isn’t limited to him. Indeed, in as much as every believer is called to speak God’s truth, there is a sense in which all New covenant believers have been given the role of a man of God.
In the New Covenant, we’re united to Christ, who is our great prophet, priest, and king, and by virtue of our union with him, we likewise share in a prophetic element. I don’t mean that we predict the future, but I do mean that we serve as mouthpieces for God.
We’ve been given a message of truth, indeed an entire book of truth, and been given a commission, to share that truth, like ambassadors in a foreign land, speaking on behalf of our king.
In that sense, every one of us, every believer has a prophetic element to our work, and we stand in the line of the great men of God.
In fact, we have a privilege that none of the old testament prophets had. They talked about things that were distant, shadowy, and unclear. But we can speak with clarity about realities that have come to pass.
We don’t have to wonder what the coming messiah will be like, because he has already come. We don’t have to speculate about what his reign will be like, or what his coming will reveal. That’s already happened.
Indeed, we have in the coming of Jesus, the reality to which all the Old Testament prophets pointed. Even more, we have in the bible the perfect, spirit-inspired account of all that Jesus would have us to know.
We don’t have to wonder if we got the message clear enough. We don’t have to connect all the dots ourselves. We have the inspired word of God.
So I ask you, IF it is true that we all stand in the tradition of the faithful prophets of old, IF we are all in the line of the MEN OF GOD, like Paul and Timothy and David and Moses, then we need to ask ourselves, am I faithful to embrace and deliver the message given to me?
Am I being faithful to speak the truth of God’s word in the opportunities given to me? That means:
Parents: are you diligent to speak God’s truth to your children? You are the primary vessels of God’s truth to your young ones.
To all of us: when you’re at work, or at the store, or at the gym, are you faithful to speak God’s truth to those around you? Maybe it is a word of encouragement, or a word of reproof, or a word of instruction.
Or here is a convicting one: how many of us pray for and seek out opportunities to share God’s truth? It’s one thing to speak the truth when an opportunity falls in your lap. That’s much easier. That’s like going fishing and having a fish jump in your boat.
But how many of us put effort into sharing the truth? We’ve been called to be fishers of men, and how many fishermen do you know who go fishing without intentionality and effort? No fishermen do. Fishermen wake up early, they prepare their fishing equipment, they go to where the fish are, they labor diligently.
You’ll never be a successful fisher of men, you’ll never be faithful as a speaker of God’s truth in the line of the great men of God, if you don’t pursue it with intentionality.
It should be a regular prayer from us: Lord grant us opportunities to speak your truth, grant us the awareness to see the opportunity when it arrives, and the boldness to seize the opportunity.
That’s what a man of God does. He follows the leading of God, and courageously delivers the message of God.
He’s not like Adam, cowering in the bushes. That’s where my sinful flesh wants to be, if I’m honest. I don’t like speaking God’s truth to strangers, because I’m afraid of what they might say or might think about me.
Or, I’m unwilling to speak the truth of God’s word to my family out of laziness or apathy.
Do you ever feel that way?
I’m so grateful to God that Christ didn’t feel that way. Our perfect prophet, our perfect man of God, Christ delivered his message without any fear or apathy. He alone was the true fisher of men. With divine intentionality he seeks out the lost fish by going where they were, and bring in his catch with matchless skill.
And he does this through the gospel. He draws men to himself using the Word of God. He didn’t bully or cajole people into the kingdom. He does it with a simple message: that he died for the ungodly.
Jesus came in human flesh, lived a life of perfection according to the law, never once sinning, and yet he died in the place of sinners. It’s a simple message, but it’s enough to fish for men, and it was enough for our great man of God. And that message is for each of us. If you find yourself not as faithful with the Word of God as you’d like to be, or fearful to speak God’s word when you should, then be encouraged by the good news that Jesus died for that sin. He dies for our lack of intentionality, our lack of faithfulness, our lack of diligence with the truth, and he died for our timidity, our fear of man.
There’s no more punishment for you who believe. God isn’t upset with you, ashamed of your poor effort. In fact, his message for you is this: Christ’s work is complete, and because of that, you can be a man of God complete.
That’s the connection back to our text: All scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete.
Do you want to be complete, lacking nothing, a well-prepared and trained fisher of men, then listen to God’s word, which points you to Christ. Arm yourself with the good news that Christ has forgiven you, and has drafted you into service in his army of fishermen.
But this message is for others too. If you’re listening and you’re not convinced, then I urge you to consider what will become of you. You might think you know better, or that this Christianity stuff is just a myth to help people sleep at night. I challenge you with this: what if you’re wrong? What if you’re wrong, and the bible is correct?
If that’s the case, then you will be like the people described in the very next chapter, who turn away from listening to the truth and wind up in judgment. That’s what Paul says in chapter 4, that the Lord will repay people according to their deeds. He will return and judge the living and the dead.
No amount of money can shield you from that judgment. No worldly success. No good deeds, no charitably giving, no service, none of it will shield you from God’s judgment.
If you will not have Christ as your prophet and advocate speaking on your behalf, then you will have Christ as your prophet speaking judgment on the final day. And his word is cutting and fierce. Each of your sins will be revealed for all to see. No dark thought, no shameful act will be left unturned.
And each of your dark deeds will be listed as evidence to justify your eternal punishment in hell.
But that doesn’t have to be the case. Christ is willing to speak instead a word of grace to you, if you would but trust in him. His promises are made to all who would come to him. Trust in this Jesus, and in his good word as the perfect man of God. His gospel message is trustworthy, worthy of being accepted by everyone. Trust in this Jesus, and you too can be spared from the judgment to come.
Now, going back to our text, Paul says that all scripture is All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable … 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Notice how exhaustive Paul’s statement is: that the man of God may be COMPLETE, equipped for EVERY good work.
Here we have perhaps the clearest statement in the entire bible of what theologians call the sufficiency of scripture. Scripture’s sufficiency.
That means, scripture lacks nothing that is needed to love God and honor him. Scripture is not merely ONE profitable book that you need to read, along with others needed to supplement. Rather, scripture contains all that a man or woman of God need in order for life and godliness.
Equipped for every good word. “If there is any good work that God wants a Christian to do, this passaged indicates that God has made provision in his word for training the Christian in it. Thus, there is no ‘good work’ that God wants us to do other than those that are taught somewhere in scripture: it can equip us for every good work.”
A similar statement is found in Psalm 119:1, “Blessed are those who way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.” Being blameless is paralleled with walking in the law of the Lord. The point is clear: to be blameless, you do what God’s word says, nothing more.
“To be morally perfect in God’s sight, then, what must we do in addition to what God commands in scripture? NOTHING! Nothing at all! If we simply keep the words of scripture we will be ‘blameless’ and we will be doing every good work that God expects of us.”
This is good news for us. Many people today might be happy to affirm that the bible is trustworthy, but would not want to affirm that the bible is sufficient for all life and godliness. They might say the bible helpful, but what you also need is an understanding of psychology to really help counsel people. Or maybe the bible is helpful, but what we really need is the insight of critical theory to get to the root of modern man’s problems.
But Paul would have us to see otherwise. God’s word is sufficient, and capable of equipping every believer with what they need for every good work. No supplementation is necessary. No additional study required to know how to honor God. Scripture is sufficient.
Let me give us 4 practical implications of this truth. 4 Practical Implications of the sufficiency of scripture:
- If scripture is sufficient, then nothing is lacking, nothing is to be added. Nothing is lacking, and nothing is to be added.
False religions and cults always have to undermine the sufficiency of scripture. Mormonism says that the bible is good, but not sufficient. What you need is Joseph Smith to find some angelically-delivered Golden Plates, which allowed him to dictate the book of Mormon, and then deliver the final revelation of God’s truth.
Islam, likewise, believes that the bible was good and sufficient for its time, but was superseded when new revelation was given to Muhammad, and now the Quran is the final word of God. The bible was not sufficient.
Indeed, even the Roman Catholic church practically denies the sufficiency of scripture when it says that you need the Pope and his Bisops to interpret and apply the oral tradition passed on through the apostles through the succession of popes to today. It doesn’t matter that things like purgatory and the treasury of merit aren’t in the bible: they’re taught by the church’s authoritative tradition, and therefore on par with the authority of scripture.
God’s word isn’t enough, it has to be supplemented by man’s word and tradition.
But that’s contrary to what Paul so plainly teaches here. God’s word is enough for us to be complete, ready for every good word. Scripture is sufficient, and therefore we need to be on guard against any church or doctrine that would explicitly or implicitly undermine the sufficiency of God’s word by seeking to add to it.
- If God’s word is sufficient for our faith, it means we’re free from the traditions of men. We’re free from the traditions of men.
Man has a long history of trying to worship God according to his own imagination. Think of Cain bringing the wrong sacrifice, or the Hebrews making a golden calf, or Nadab and Abihu offering strange fire to God in Leviticus 10, or Hophni and Phineas corrupting the priestly work of the sanctuary in 1 Samuel 2.
Man has some sort of corruption within himself where he’s not content to worship God as God has prescribed, but like to make up new ceremonies and traditions from his own imagination.
It is not lost on me that this week began the Lent season, and many professing believers decided to go get ash rubbed on their head. That’s another tradition that has no direct biblical support.
If God’s word is sufficient, then we don’t have to make up more ways to honor God. Indeed, we shouldn’t try to make up new ways, new ceremonies, new traditions to honor the Lord. His word is sufficient for every good work, which includes the good work of how to worship him properly in the church.
The sufficiency of the word means that we’re free from following the traditions of men. The flip side of that is my third point:
- If God’s word is sufficient, we’re free from the prohibitions of men. We’re free from the prohibitions of men.
If God’s word is sufficient, that means that we don’t have to put up extra fences around what is or is not righteous behavior. Like we said earlier from Psalm 119: to walk in the law of the Lord is to be Blameless.
We don’t have to, nor should we, add prohibitions to God’s word. Some people think that its wrong to have caffeine, wrong to drink alcohol, wrong to dance, wrong to go to the movies, wrong to eat meat. And the list could go on and on. They say if you really want to be holy, you need to obey these extra rules.
But if God’s word is sufficient for EVERY GOOD WORK, then I don’t have to obey extra-biblical commands in order to be righteous. I don’t have to seek out some extra list of written or unwritten rules about I can or can’t do in life.
Indeed, when we seek to add to God’s word, even with the best of intentions, there will be harm to the church and to the lives of individual believers. “The holy Spirit is not going to empower obedience to rules that do not have approval from scripture, nor will believers generally find delight in obedience to commands that do no accord with the law of God written on their hearts.
In some cases, Christians may repeatedly and earnestly plead with God for ‘victory’ over supposed sins that are in fact not a sin and not displeasing to God. Great discouragement in prayer and frustration in the Christian life …[is often] the outcome.
In other cases, continued or even increasing disobedience to the new ‘sins’ will result, together with a false sense of guilt and a resulting alienation from God. Often there arises an increasingly uncompromising and legalistic insistence on these new rules on the part of those that do follow them, and genuine fellowship among believers will fade away.”
Adding new laws to God’s law will be destructive within the church, will harm relationships, will foster pride among some and discouragement among others, and will ultimately prove detrimental to all parties involved.
We’re instead called to obey God’s word, which is our sufficient rule for life and godliness.
Psalm 119 says “I will keep your law continually, forever and ever, and I shall walk at liberty, for I have sought your precepts…Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble” (44-45, 165).
Do you want liberty and peace? Then God’s word is enough for you.
Lastly, we’ve seen that God’s word needs nothing added to it, that it protects us from the traditions of men, it protects us from the prohibitions of men, and a final point of application:
- If God’s word is sufficient, we should be content with God’s revelation. We should be content with God’s revelation.
There are some things in the bible that God has told us very little about, and we need to be content with that. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God,” says Deuteronomy 29:29. Some things are above our pay grade, and that is ok, indeed not merely ok, it is for our good.
God, in his infinite wisdom has given us all we need, he has revealed in scripture exactly what is right for us to have. We must accept that scripture is what God has revealed according to his wisdom, and not what WE THINK it ought to be.
But some people are not content with what God has revealed. They either think God should have emphasized some things more, or emphasized some things less. They don’t like some parts of God’s word, and so they neglect it, shy away from it, or ignore it all together.
We see this in many churches where there can be a tendency to ignore biblical categories: like sin, righteousness, atonement, or Christ’s blood.
Or when people skim over portions of scripture, because they don’t align with modern man’s sensibilities. For example, I can talk about portions of scripture that deal with man being the head of woman, and some people start to squirm, and immediately start thinking about the “yeah, but” statements.
Or portions of scripture that talk about slaves and masters, and the duties of each.
Whatever the portion of scripture and how uncomfortable it might make us, the doctrine of scripture’s sufficiency reminds us that ALL scripture is God breathed and ALL scripture is profitable. It’s all good, and it is all consistent with godliness.
We can’t pick and choose what portions we like and don’t like, because it is not OUR word. It is God’s word, and we are not God.
Rather, we should be content with the revelation given, and we should emphasize what God has emphasized, resting content in that revelation as sufficient.
Indeed, we can run off the rails on the other side too. Some ignore portions of scripture, but equally as damaging are those groups that over-emphasize portions of scripture. Cults, for example, often take a single portion of scripture and elevate it above the rest.
Like a sledgehammer in the hands of a child, they use a single verse of scripture pulled out of context and knock down the other portions of God’s word, leading to a faith that is, at best, imbalanced, and at worst, heretical.
One example would be the Mormons with their doctrine of baptism from the dead, mentioned only one time in scripture, but it became a big interpretive lens through which the rest of scripture is interpreted, and the clearer portions of God’s word are knocked down.
That’s not what we are called to do. Rather, the sufficiency of God’s word is enough for us to rest contented in God’s revelation, neither ignoring the portions the don’t like, nor overly-emphasizing the portions we do like.
We’re called to embrace it all as from God, and for our good. Churches and individuals need a steady diet of the whole counsel of God’s word, rightly interpreted and applied, if we are to grow up into the men and women that God calls us to be, complete, equipped for every good work.
There are our four implications of the doctrine of scriptures’ sufficiency.
We have been given God’s word, and it is enough for us to please the Lord in worship.
 Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 128. Emphasis added.
 Grudem, 128.
 List expanded from a few points made by Grudem: 132–35.
 Grudem, 133.