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“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 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. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:14–17
You may have heard or referenced this passage before when considering why we read the Bible or what’s so special about it. The Bible is the living, breathing, active Word of God, and it has a special place in our hearts and our faith. While we can receive hope and encouragement from it, it also guides us. It corrects us when we sin. It straightens us out when we get turned around. It points us in the way of God’s will when we don’t know where to go.
This passage tells us that the Bible is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (v. 16). At first glance, these words seem really similar. But no word is placed in Scripture haphazardly; the Word of God is very intentional. So let’s break these words down and see how the Word of God plays specific roles in our lives.
The Word of God Teaches Us
To teach is to give information, to show how to do something. We are taught how to speak, how to listen, and how to cooperate within the norms of this life. As young children we are taught to obey our parents, count to 10, and follow instructions. We are taught the laws of society and the social expectations of our culture as we grow up.
But Scripture is the greatest teacher of all. It teaches us about God Himself. It gives us information, showing us who God is and what He expects from His children. It teaches us about our sin condition, our need for grace, and the free gift of salvation.
The Apostle Paul encourages us to “continue in what you have learned and firmly believe” (v. 14), which is a reminder to press on in the knowledge we find in Scripture. The “sacred writings” mentioned in verse 15 refer to the oldest texts that all Jewish people were taught growing up. These Old Testament texts were combined with the New Testament after it was penned, and today we have the whole of Scripture to help us know more about God.
We read the Bible because it is the best instructor—the way we come to know who God is and what He is like. We especially see this in passages like Genesis 1, Psalm 139, John 1 and Revelation 21. These passages give us beneficial information and hope for the future. They help us have a more complete understanding of God’s nature and character. The Bible is the greatest teacher!
The Word of God Stops Us
There are some lessons we were taught as children that seemed restricting, but were really for our benefit: don’t touch the stove top; don’t cross the street when cars are coming; don’t interrupt when other people are talking. We were likely stopped from disruptive behaviors or actions that could have hurt us or others. At the time, it may have felt like those in authority were just out to ruin our fun, but more often than not, the reproof was for our good and safety.
Similarly, Scripture teaches us to stop. This is reproof. The Bible points out sin in our lives and actions that have no place in the Body of Christ. Think about Galatians 5:16–21, Colossians 3:5–9, 1 John 1:15–17, or the Old Testament Law found in Leviticus.
These rules may seem harsh or limiting when read out of context, like God is out to limit our freedom. But every single law in the Old Testament or instruction in the New Testament was given for a reason. It is so that we may experience freedom and abundant life in Christ! Galatians 5:1 and John 10:10 affirm this truth. We are to stop looking like the world in order that we may glorify God and experience His goodness. This is the design He has for our lives, which is better than anything this world has to offer.
Just like our earthly parents prevented us from running into traffic, God is out for our good and His glory. He knows what will come from our sin, so He invites us to cast it aside and choose the freedom and abundance of walking in step with Him. Scripture stops us from sin, challenging us to choose the better way and live as obedient children.
The Word of God Changes Us
Sometimes our behavior or beliefs need to be modified or corrected. We may be operating from a falsehood or a misunderstanding about the character of God that keeps us from fully experiencing the freedom of relationship with Christ.
For example, maybe you believe that you have to go to church and read your Bible every day to be considered a “good” Christian. These actions are right and good—but the motive and belief need to be corrected. You can never earn your salvation, or experience it at all apart from the grace of Christ! Going to church and reading your Bible, along with practicing other spiritual disciplines, are meant to help us know and relate to God on a deeper level. They are not intended to earn us points in the Kingdom of God.
Correction either looks like taking an action and turning it toward Christ, or replacing a form of misbelief that has wrongly shaped our obedience. This process can be humbling, refining and challenging—but it is necessary if we want to grow in our faith and relationship with God.
This can be seen in passages like James 1:22–27, Matthew 6, and the book of Proverbs. These passages point out practices that we believe are earning us favor or that look similar to obedience, but the heart or motive may be off. Correction can be challenging, but it is always for our good and God’s glory.
The Word of God Starts Us
There are often verses of Scripture that we read and think, “I had no idea I was supposed to be doing that!” This is what training looks like. Just like a personal trainer teaches you new methods or practices to help you get in the best shape, Scripture teaches us to start new habits and rhythms that make us more like Jesus.
I think about the Sermon on the Mount, some of the most famous teaching of Jesus, found in Matthew 5–7. This is a perfect example of training, as Jesus took the common understanding of good behavior and showed people a better way. You’ve been told one thing, but this is the way we are to live in the Kingdom. This form of training was new and unexpected, but its purpose was to align the hearts of people with the heart of God.
Jonah is another example of this type of training. Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh, where God had commanded him to go. He didn’t believe the people were deserving of God’s love. So he did what he wanted and defied God’s command. God used a great fish to turn Jonah’s heart toward Himself and get him started in the right direction.
Scripture serves as a way to encourage us to get up and get going—not out of fear or self-righteousness, but out of an honest desire to know and follow Jesus more and more. It trains us in the way of the Lord, helping shepherd us toward the better portion (Luke 10:42).
Today, come to the Word of God with an open heart and a renewed desire. Lay your life before Him with open hands and be willing to accept His guidance. Know that any time God corrects or challenges you, it is for your good and His glory. Your life is a small part of the greater picture the Lord is painting, and when we align ourselves with the truth of Scripture, we get to experience the Lord using our life as a brushstroke on His work of art. What a privilege to know and follow Him more day after day!