All Scripture Is God-breathed

2 Tim 3_16

2 Timothy 3:10–17 (NLT) But you, Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance. 11 You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured. You know all about how I was persecuted in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra—but the Lord rescued me from all of it. 12 Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived.

14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

Paul’s final charge to Timothy is to remain faithful to the teachings of the apostle.  Paul asks Timothy to remember everything that Paul taught him, how he lived his life, suffered for his faith, and particularly how the Lord rescued him from persecution.  Yet, Paul does not now ask the Lord to rescue him from the persecution that would lead to his death by beheading in Rome.  Instead, he reminds Timothy that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ will suffer persecution.”

The fact that Christians in the United States do not suffer persecution is probably due more to our lukewarmness than to any particular godliness or blessing from God.  To the contrary, Paul says that the normal state of those who seek to live a godly life will be that of persecution.  The fact that we do not suffer persecutions should give us pause.  Exactly how are we living our lives so that we do not suffer persecution?  In fact, much of our lives in the United States is spent in trying to avoid pain and suffering.

2 Timothy 3:16, 17 are two verses which every Christian should memorize.  As Paul writes these verses he is referring to the Old Testament, as the New Testament had not yet been written.  Yet Peter was already aware that Paul’s letters were being treated with the same reverence and respect as that of the Old Testament Scriptures.  (2 Peter 1:21) The formation of the New Testament had already begun as most scholars agree that there was a period in the early church, when the stories about Jesus Christ, the proto-Gospel, was spread about through the teaching of the apostles (including Paul) and repeated verbally from one believer to another and in the preaching and teaching of the pastors and evangelists in the church.

The word translated inspired is theopneustas, meaning literally God-breathed.  It occurs only in this verse in the NT.  Vine says that Wycliffe, Tyndale, and Coverdale all translated this word as “inspired of God.” (2 Tim. 3:16)  Divine inspiration is contrasted with natural inspiration.  There is a similar expression is found in 2 Pet. 1:21 “Above all you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative.  No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.”  Amos claims that the Lord revealed his counsel to the prophets.  (Amos 3:7)

There was a recognition that the Scripture was somehow different from other writings.  This is why there was a period of formation in both the OT and the NT in which the readers of the Scripture became aware of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit upon these books rather than some other books that might be good, but not have the same authority.  This is what we call the canon of Scripture.  Canon is a word that mean a rule or measuring rod.  The books of the Bible have been measured against an ideal, that they are inspired by God.  By the 4th century AD, the church had found itself with 66 books that constituted its Scripture.

The formation of the Hebrew Bible is separated from the formation of the NT.  The Hebrew Bible that we have today is essentially unchanged from the time of the return from the Babylonian captivity to today.  Scholars can discern 3 versions of the OT, but the Jewish scribes had created a master copy which was kept in the Temple and from which all other copies are derived.  The OT was ordered into three categories:  Law (Torah), Prophets (Naviim), and Writings (Kethubim).  When Jesus summarized the OT Law, he spoke of the Law and the prophets, meaning the whole Hebrew Bible.  The Hebrew Bible contains only 24 books as 1 & 2 Samuel form one book, 1 & 2 Kings form one book, Ezra-Nehemiah is one book, and the book of the Twelve contains the 12 minor prophets.  Luther in translating the Bible into German followed the LXX (the Septuagint, Greek Old Testament) and so we have 39 books in the Protestant tradition.

The formation of the NT was a process that was completed by about the 4th century AD.  The main criteria for the formation of the NT canon were:  apostolicity (there is some connection to the apostles), universal acceptance by the entire church, liturgical use (used in the worship of the church), and consistent message (the message is consistent with the rest of the Bible).   Matthew, John, Peter, and Paul were apostles.  So Mark was written by John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas who accompanied Paul on his journeys and later was with Peter in Rome, and Eusebius tells us that Mark wrote his Gospel based on Peter’s preaching.  Luke and Acts, of course, were written by Luke the beloved physician who accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys. James and Jude were the brothers of Jesus, who were important leaders in the church of Jerusalem.  Although we do not know who wrote the letter to the Hebrews, it was accepted into the canon based on its universal acceptance, and that the message was consistent with the whole tenor of the Scriptures.  The author of Hebrews was someway connected to Paul’s ministry through Timothy who is mentioned in the final verses (13:23).

So there were many non-canonical books, which were disputed or denied or omitted and ultimately rejected from the canon.  They may have been considered good books, but not holding the same level of authority as the Scripture.  Some of these are the Shepherd of Hermas, Barnabas, Apocalypse of Peter, 1 & 2 Clement, etc.  The majority of the rejected books are those that are termed pseudepigraphical books, that is, they were written later, but claimed to be written by one of the apostles.  The Protestant Bible includes only those books that Luther, Calvin and the other reformers included in their NT translations into the vernacular.

All the books that we have in the Bible have passed these tests of canonicity, and so we can trust that they are divinely inspired, “and useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives,” to “correct us when we are wrong and teach us to do what is right,” and “to prepare and equip” us “to do every good work.”  (2 Tim. 3:16, 17)  The purpose of all our preaching and teaching of the Bible in the church should match the purpose given in these verses.  We go wrong when we try to make the Bible say things that it does not say by taking it out of context, or try to use the Bible to support our agenda, especially when our purpose is opposed to the purpose of the Scriptures.


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