Rev. Stewart is a missionary of the Protestant Reformed Churches to the Covenant Protestant Reformed Fellowship of Northern Ireland. This series is being reprinted with permission from the Covenant Protestant Reformed Fellowship website, http://www.cprf.co.uk/ Volume IX, Issues 9 & 10.
Since, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God [literally, God-breathed],” it is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Tim. 3:16). The infinitely wise God did not breathe forth a Word of little use or value; He breathed forth the most eminently useful and profitable book ever produced.
Some recognize the profit of the Scriptures but they use them the wrong way. They think that the Bible’s profit consists in its telling us (in code form) when Christ will return (contrast Mark 13:32) or who will win a war or a sporting event. Others open up the Bible at random and put their finger on a verse hoping that it will guide them in decision-making: Should I move house? Should I marry him? Should I become a minister? Where should I go on holiday? etc. Others think that the purpose of Bible reading is to make them happy and feel good about themselves.
The Bible must be used to learn about our Father and the duty He requires of us so that we can glorify Him and enjoy Him forever (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q &A 1, 3). II Timothy 3:16 explains the profit of Scripture in four short phrases. The Bible is profitable “for doctrine.” Note that doctrine or teaching is put first; many today would place this last or ignore it altogether. Scripture instructs us about the triune God, glorious in His holiness, power and truth, and His eternal purpose with the world, centering in saving His people through faith in Christ crucified and risen (15).
The Scriptures not only teach us the truth but they teach us how to live the truth. They are “for reproof,” convicting us and stinging our consciences for our wicked ways. They are also “for correction.” By “reproof” the Bible shows us our sins; by “correction” it tells us what we must do. Moreover, Scripture is “for instruction in righteousness,” so that it provides us with disciplined training in godliness. Since the Word is God’s hammer, it also empowers us to grow in grace day by day.
It is vital that you believe that there is profit in the Bible. If you don’t, you’ll stop reading it on your own, for what good does it do? You’ll grow weary in and then cease family devotions. On the other hand believing in the profit of the Scriptures, you’ll make diligent use of the Word personally and collectively. You’ll search the Scriptures and not merely “skim” it. And you’ll memorize parts of it and meditate upon it.
So look for profit in the Word in the way that it says it will profit you. Expect to be taught, rebuked, corrected and disciplined in righteousness by the Bible. If you are not profiting, there is something wrong in your spiritual life and you must repent and rediscover the glory of the God-breathed Scriptures.
II Timothy 3:16-17 expresses the goal of the Bible: “All Scripture is [God-breathed], 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.”
These verses speak especially of the Christian minister. II Timothy was written to a minister (Timothy). He is addressed as “thou” (15) and called a “man of God” (17). The true minister is a “man of God” because he is shaped by and proclaims God-breathed Scripture. Yet it is evident that these verses also apply to all God’s children.
The argument of the text is easily grasped. First, Scripture teaches, reproves, corrects and disciplines us. Second, this makes us “perfect,” capable and complete. Third, the complete Christian is “throughly furnished” (totally equipped) unto all good works.
This teaches us the sufficiency of Scripture. All Scripture is profitable for four key things (doctrine, reproof, correction, discipline) making Christians complete and thoroughly equipped unto all good works. The sufficiency of Scripture does not mean that it is sufficient as a history of Britain or a recipe book, though this does not mean that the Bible is in some way deficient. It is sufficient for the task for which God has appointed it. The Bible’s purpose is to “make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (15) and to teach, reprove, correct and discipline us in righteous living. Thus it enables us to do all good works so that we bring glory to God. As Westminster Confession 1:6 states, “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture.”
This means, first, that the minister must preach nothing more and nothing less than the whole counsel of God set forth in sacred Scripture. Second, the people of God must want Scripture preached to them with the specific purposes and goals God assigns to it. It will not do to say, “I do not like doctrine,” or “I don’t want to be reproved in the preaching,” or “I don’t like the discipline of the Word.” God has given Scripture (and the preaching of Scripture) in order to teach, rebuke and discipline us. You must not only want to be taught and to be exhorted to live godly in Christ Jesus, but you must require that sound doctrine and the warnings of Scripture be proclaimed. Thus you must seek out a faithful church where the Word is explained and applied the way II Timothy 3:16-17 directs. Remember, it is as you are taught, rebuked, corrected and disciplined by the preaching of God-breathed Scripture that you are more and more fitted to all good works and experience God’s love, joy and peace.