Life-Changing Verses: 2 Timothy 3:14-17 and the Sufficiency of Scripture

[Note: This post on the sufficiency of Scripture is part of a series on familiar verses that have been life-changing for the leaders and members of ECC. ]


“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).

These powerful words are some of the last words Paul ever wrote before his death. After fighting the good fight and almost finishing his course, he gives instructions for Timothy to continue in the study of Scripture. In these words we learn that God’s Word is the instrument of salvation (see John 20:31; Rom. 10:17; Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23-25). Here we discover that Scripture is inspired by God and therefore completely authoritative, inerrant, and powerful. As such, it is profitable for “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

But Paul concludes by making an astounding claim, which naturally follows from what he just said: Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for training in righteousness, “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). God’s word makes the Christian complete—perfectly and thoroughly equipped for every good work. In other words, God’s word is sufficient for our sanctification, our growth in godliness and conformity to Christ.

God’s Word Is Sufficient for Our Sanctification

Think for a moment just how profound this statement is. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 that will of God for all believers is our sanctification. Whatever else God has planned for us in this life, God’s will for all his children is that we strive for and grow in holiness, in godliness, in Christlikeness (see Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4; Col 1:22; Titus 2:14; Heb. 12:14). The testimony of Scripture is clear that this growth is only possible by the work of the Holy Spirit within us. But here is where 2 Timothy 3:17 comes into play: God works by his Spirit through his all-sufficient word!

Understanding the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture—that the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments contain all the words of God that we will ever need—changed my life. I lived much of my life under the impression that for someone to find God’s will for their life, they needed to hear God’s voice audibly telling them to be a doctor or a missionary, telling them to marry this person or take that opportunity, and so on. I imagined that God needed to show me a sign or give me a “fresh word” to help me discover God’s perfect will for my life. But once I realized that in order to hear God speak audibly, all one needed to do was read his Bible out loud, everything changed.

Thomas Terry, one of the members of the rap group Beautiful Eulogy, puts it like this:

“One of the most supernatural acts is that God through his word has actually revealed everything pertaining to life and godliness. There’s this idea that an individual is somehow more spiritual if he sees these signs and symbols and takes what’s normally invisible and makes it simple. But I say the mark of a mature man is the one who reads God’s word and understands and allows that to govern his decisions and his prospective plans.”

Continue in What You Have Learned

It is only as we continue in the word of God, what we’ve learned and firmly believed (2 Tim. 3:14), that we are increasingly molded into the image of Christ and so walk in God’s will for our lives. This is why Paul also tells the Thessalonians to “stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter” (2 Thess 2:15). Likewise, the apostle John says to “let what your heard from the beginning abide in you” so that we will have eternal life (1 John 2:24-25)! We must read, hear, study, mediate, memorize, pray, live, and breath the Bible because it is the God-ordained means by which we grow in holiness.

God’s Word not only gives us life; it also gives us direction. The Bible teaches, reproves, corrects, and trains us in righteousness. Scripture molds and shapes us into the image of the God who is speaking to us through his inspired, inerrant, authoritative, powerful, and sufficient word. To quote J. I. Packer:

What Scripture says, God says; for, in a manner comparable only to the deeper mystery of the Incarnation, the Bible is both fully human and fully divine. So all its manifold contents—histories, prophecies, poems, songs, wisdom writings, sermons, statistics, letters, and whatever else—should be received as from God, and all that Bible writers teach should be revered as God’s authoritative instruction. Christians should be grateful to God for the gift of his written Word, and conscientious in basing their faith and life entirely and exclusively upon it. Otherwise, we cannot ever honor or please him as he calls us to do (Concise Theology5)

To learn how to study the Bible, check out our three part series: part 1, part 2, part 3.

To learn more about the inspiration and sufficiency of Scripture, check out the “Doctrine of Scripture” section on our recommended reading list.

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