Paul's Letters To Timothy
by Greg Williamson (c) 2014, 2019
Featuring the text of the New American Standard Bible *
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Intro | 1 Timothy 1:1-11 / 1:12-17 / 1:18-20 | 2:1-8 / 2:9-15 | 3:1-7 / 3:8-13 / 3:14-16 | 4:1-6 / 4:7-12 / 4:13-16 | 5:1-16 / 5:17-25 | 6:1-2 / 6:3-10 / 6:11-21 | 2 Timothy 1:1-7 / 1:8-12 / 1:13-18 | 2:1-7 / 2:8-13 / 2:14-18 / 2:19-26 | 3:1-9 / 3:10-12 / 3:13-17 | 4:1-4 / 4:5-8 / 4:9-22 ** | Articles & Definitions | Sources

(2 Timothy 3:13-17)

13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Perilous in [2 Timothy 3:1] means “difficult,” “hard to deal with,” or “dangerous.” It is the same Greek word used to describe the demoniac in Matthew 8:28 and translated “exceedingly fierce.” How do we live for Christ in such terrible times? Stay with the Bible. Believe God’s Word will save you, mature you from childhood to adulthood, and equip you to serve the Lord. Satanic deception is rampant today and has infected the church, and the only weapon that defeats the deceivers is God’s inspired Word. - Warren Wiersbe [ref]

QuoteWorthy: Forsaking Sin
The beginning of sin is to forsake God. The end result of sin is to be God-forsaken. [ref]

2 TIMOTHY 3:13 - The Charge to God's Worker (vv. 10-17)

Standing Firm on Scripture

As people become more and more corrupt in their thinking, attitudes, and actions, we must continue to stand firm on God’s message in the Holy Scriptures. (see 2 Timothy 3:1-17) [ref]

evil men and imposters will procced (from bad) to worse (2 Timothy 3:13)
Evil: "men whose attitudes, desires, words, and works are wicked (see 2 Timothy 3:1-9), and whose master is 'the evil one' (2 Thessalonians 3:3; then Matthew 6:13)"; Imposters: "They are deceivers, shrewd and crafty individuals." [ref]

This will happen because "[t]he breach between light and darkness, so far from being healed, shall be widened." [ref]

"[I]t is the character of such men to do this; they may be expected to do it. This is the general law of depravity -- that if men are not converted, they are always growing worse, and sinking deeper into iniquity. Their progress will be certain, though it may be gradual ... [And so] Timothy was not to expect that he would be exempt from persecution by any change for the better in the wicked men referred to. He was to anticipate in them the operation of the general law in regard to bad men and seducers -- that they would grow worse and worse. From this fact, he was to regard it as certain that he, as well as others, would be liable to be persecuted." [ref

While true Christians are being persecuted for their faith/faithfulness, evil men seem to be enjoying success as they continue advancing and deceiving. [ref] "This is not contradictory of 2 Timothy 3:9, for here it is the intensity, as there the diffusion, of the evil which is in question." [ref]

deceiving and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13)
"The two generally go together. Few men admit to themselves that they are deliberate impostors; the practice of deceit is intolerable unless it be partly hidden from the actor by self-deceit." [ref]

These men will "deceive themselves that what they are doing is appropriate." [ref] "A 'deluding energy' is the punishment which those receive who would delude others. Delusion is their weapon; by delusion they are slain." [ref]

"In these last days, there will be more deception and imitation; and the only way a believer will be able to tell the true from the false is by knowing the Word of God." [ref]


2 TIMOTHY 3:14 - The Charge to God's Worker (vv. 10-17)

You, however, continue (2 Timothy 3:14)
No Christian, no matter how well grounded, is beyond the reach of temptation. "[H]ence the necessity of watching unto prayer, depending upon God, continuing in the faith, and persevering unto the end." [ref]


[In 2 Timothy 3:14] Paul begins a sentence ‘But as for you’ (su de), distinguishing Timothy from the ‘evil men and impostors’ he has just described. Previously he has contrasted their pursuit of their own inclinations with Timothy’s faithful following of apostolic doctrine and example. Now he draws another contrast: they ‘go on’ (though we have seen what a peculiar form their progress assumed), whereas Timothy is to ‘continue’ or abide in what he has learned and believed.

This kind of summons is not infrequently heard in the pages of the New Testament. It is specially relevant whenever innovators arise in the church, ‘radicals’ who claim to be progressive and who repudiate everything which savours of the traditional. It has perhaps never been more needed than today when men boast of inventing a ‘new Christianity’ with a ‘new theology’ and a ‘new morality’, all of which betoken a ‘new reformation’. To be sure, the church of every generation must seek to translate the faith into the contemporary idiom, to relate the unchanging word to the changing world. But a translation is a rendering of the same message into another language; it is not a fresh composition. Yet this is what some modern radicals are doing, setting forth concepts of God and of Christ which Jesus and his apostles would not have recognized as their own. In such a situation we may perhaps be forgiven if, borrowing the Lord’s own words, we say to them: ‘no one after drinking old wine desires new; for he says, “the old is better” ’ (Lk. 5:39, RSV mg.). The apostles themselves constantly warned their readers of newfangled ideas and called them back to the original apostolic message. Thus John declares that ‘anyone who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God’ and exhorts his flock ‘let what you heard from the beginning abide in you’, for then they would ‘abide in the Son and in the Father’ (2 Jn. 9; 1 Jn. 2:24). Similarly here Paul enjoins Timothy to abide in what he has learned. In each of these verses the Greek verb is the same. Timothy had learned things and now firmly believed them. All right. Now he must continue in these things with steadfastness and not allow anyone to shift him from his ground.

- John Stott [ref]

the things you have learned and become convinced of (2 Timothy 3:14)
This speaks to the whole process of putting feet to our faith, learning and applying the truth, having enough faith to be faithful. [ref] [ref]

"Paul counseled Timothy to look to his past and to hold to the basic teachings about Jesus that he knew were eternally true. The false teachers might constantly move on to new and more exciting concepts and ideas for discussion and argument, but Timothy needed to stand secure on what he had learned and firmly believed. This did not mean that Timothy needed no further study, but that the basics that Timothy knew and believed would never change." [ref]

from whom you have learned them (2 Timothy 3:14)
Here Paul refers to Lois and Eunice, and probably also himself ("whom" is plural). [ref] [ref] [ref] [ref] The main point is the trustworthy character of those who have taught Timothy. [ref] It is vital to note that they "are not viewed as independent authorities, apart from the Word, but as secondary or intermediate sources of knowledge, avenues of instruction," and this only because they have accepted the sacred Scriptures as the infallible Word of God. [ref]


2 TIMOTHY 3:15 - The Charge to God's Worker (vv. 10-17)

According to Paul, the Scriptures: are holy (v.15a); lead us to salvation (v.15b); are true and dependable (v.16a); are profitable (v.16b); equip us for service (v.17). [ref]

from childhood you have known the sacred writings (2 Timothy 3:15)
"It was the glory of the Jews that their children from their earliest days were trained in the law. They claimed that their children learned the law even from their swaddling clothes and drank it in with their mother's milk. They claimed that the law was so imprinted on the heart and mind of a Jewish child that he would sooner forget his own name than he would forget it." [ref] "Little Timothy learned his ABC’s from the Bible, learned to read from the Bible, and thus from earliest childhood spelled out 'sacred letters.'" [ref] "Jewish families began their moral and religious training when children reached age five. The original teaching was given by mothers until about age ten, when fathers were expected to take over. The role of the family was essential in Jewish tradition and developed from God's own instruction (see Deuteronomy 6:1-25)." [ref] [ref] [ref]

This verse helps to highlight the fact that "God-designed parental roles cannot be easily replaced or eliminated. At home and in church, we should realize that teaching small children is both an opportunity and a responsibility. Jesus wanted little children to come to him (Matthew 19:13-15)." [ref]

"The sacred writings" was "a common designation of the OT by Greek-speaking Jews." [ref] "Possibly also [Paul] wishes to hint at an antithesis both to the unwritten myths and genealogies of the false teachers and to the sacred books and charms of the magicians at Ephesus (Acts 19:19). Your text-books were Scriptures, not tradition; they were sacred, not profane." [ref]

That said, we should also keep in mind that at the time of Paul's writing the "body of sacred literature ... comprised more than the Old Testament (see on 1 Timothy 5:18). Later, at the close of the first century A.D., 'all scripture' had been completed." [ref]



Those books in the Jewish and Christian Bible considered to be Scripture and therefore authoritative in matters of faith and doctrine. The term translates both a Greek and a Hebrew word that mean “a rule,” or “measuring rod.” It is a list to which other books are compared and by which they are measured. After the 4th century A.D. the Christian church found itself with only 66 books that constituted its Scripture; 27 of these were the NT and 39 were the OT. Just as Plato, Aristotle, and Homer form a canon of Greek literature, so the NT books became the canon of Christian literature. The criteria for selecting the books in the Jewish canon (the OT) are not known, but clearly had to do with their worth in the ongoing life and religion of the worshiping nation. The criteria of the selection of NT books revolved around their “apostolicity,” according to early church writers. Like those of the OT, these books were collected and preserved by local churches in the continuing process of their worship and need for authoritative guidance for Christian living. The formation of the canon was a process, rather than an event, which took several hundred years to reach finality in all parts of the Roman empire. Local canons were the basis for comparison, and out of them eventually emerged the general canon which exists in Christendom today, although some of the Eastern churches have a NT which is slightly smaller than that accepted in the West. Judaism, as well as Christianity as a whole, believes that the Spirit of God was operative in some providential way in the production and preservation of his Word.

- John R. McRay [ref]

Also see: The Canon of the New Testament

the wisdom that leads to salvation (2 Timothy 3:15)
"If we be ignorant, [the holy Scriptures] will instruct us; if out of the way, they will bring us home; if out of order, they will reform us; if in heaviness, comfort us; if dull, quicken us; if cold, inflame us." [ref]

"True wisdom leads to trust in Christ's strength to save, not to confidence in our intelligence." [ref]

As one commentator explains well:

We are not saved by believing the Bible (see John 5:39), but by trusting the Christ who is revealed in the Bible. Satan knows the Bible but he is not saved. Timothy was raised on the Holy Scriptures in a godly home. Yet it was not until Paul led him to Christ that he was saved.

What is the relationship of the Bible to salvation? To begin with, the Bible reveals our need for salvation. It is a mirror that shows us how filthy we are in God’s sight. The Bible explains that every lost sinner is condemned now (John 3:18–21) and needs a Saviour now. It also makes it clear that a lost sinner cannot save himself.

But the Bible also reveals God’s wonderful plan of salvation: Christ died for our sins! If we trust Him, He will save us (John 3:16–18). The Bible also helps give us the assurance of our salvation (see 1 John 5:9–13). Then the Bible becomes our spiritual food to nourish us that we might grow in grace and serve Christ. It is our sword for fighting Satan and overcoming temptation. [ref]

through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15)
"The Scriptures show people their need for salvation and point them to the person who alone can give it -- Jesus Christ." [ref]

The Scriptures show the way, and God provides the strength to walk in it. [ref]

"The use of the Scriptures was not magic, but of value when used 'through faith that is in Christ Jesus'" [ref] -- that is, faith that "rests on Christ Jesus." [ref]

This phrase also links the OT with the NT, "the difference between them consisting in this, that the Old did make wise by teaching salvation through Christ that should come, the New by teaching that Christ the Saviour is come." [ref]

QuoteWorthy: Adversity vs. Prosperity
Throughout its history the Christian movement has withstood adversity far better than prosperity. [ref]


2 TIMOTHY 3:16 - The Charge to God's Worker (vv. 10-17)

All Scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16)
"All Scripture" refers to "'Every Scripture' that is, Scripture in its every part." [ref] "'All' is pas, which [here] means 'every,' not 'all.' 'Scripture' here is graphē, 'a writing, thing written,' used of the writings of the O.T. prophets (Matt. 26:56), and of the O.T. scriptures in general (Matt. 26:54). The expression pasa graphē ('every scripture') speaks, not of the O.T. scriptures as a whole, but of each separate passage considered as a unit. The first thing Paul says about the O.T. scriptures which Timothy was taught, is that every part of them is inspired of God." [ref]

While Paul primarily has in mind the O.T., it is very possible that he is also thinking of his own writings as "Scripture." As one source explains:

It is true that nowhere does the apostle explicitly call his Epistles ‘Scripture’. Nevertheless, on a number of occasions he gets very near it, and he certainly directs that his letters be read publicly in the Christian assemblies, no doubt alongside Old Testament readings (e.g. Col. 4:16; 1 Thes. 5:27). Several times he claims to be speaking in the name and with the authority of Christ (e.g. 2 Cor. 2:17; 13:3; Gal. 4:14), and calls his message ‘the word of God’ (e.g. 1 Thes. 2:13). Once he says that, in communicating to others what God has revealed to him, he uses ‘words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit’ (1 Cor. 2:13). This is a claim to inspiration, indeed to verbal inspiration, which is the distinctive characteristic of ‘Scripture’. Peter clearly regarded Paul’s letters as Scripture, for in referring to them he calls the Old Testament ‘the other scriptures’ (2 Pet. 3:16). In addition, it seems evident that Paul envisaged the possibility of a Christian supplement to the Old Testament because he could combine a quotation from Deuteronomy (25:4) with a saying of Jesus recorded by Luke (10:7) and call both alike ‘Scripture’ (1 Tim. 5:18). [ref]

"Inspired by God" (Greek theopneustos) literally means "God-breathed," with "the power of the divine Spirit being conceived of as a breath of life: the word thus amounts to ‘inspired,’ ‘breathed through,’ ‘full of the Spirit.’" [ref] "The term stresses the divine origin and thus the authority of Scripture. Paul does not point to the human authors of Scripture as inspired people but says that the writings themselves ('Scripture,' Gk. graphē, 'writing,' which in the NT always refers to biblical writings) are the words spoken ('breathed out') by God. Whereas it seems that Paul and Timothy’s opponents stressed certain aspects or portions of Scripture (e.g., genealogies, 1 Tim. 1:4; cf. Titus 3:9), Paul stresses the authoritativeness of all of Scripture." [ref]

As one source explains:

In the OT, Hebrew words for “breath” are frequently translated “spirit” in English versions (e.g., Gn 1:2; 6:3; Jgs 3:10; 6:34). God’s “breath” is an expression for his Spirit going forth in creative power (Gn 1:2; 2:7; Jb 33:4; Ps 104:30). That creative power is the source of those special human activities and skills required by God for the fulfillment of his purposes (Ex 35:30–35; Nm 24:2; Jgs 6:34). Throughout the OT the breath or spirit of God is specifically associated with prophecy (Nm 24:2; Is 48:16; Jl 2:28; Mi 3:8). Such observations provide a background for understanding Paul’s word, “God-breathed.” By “the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth” (Ps 33:6); likewise, by God’s outbreathing the Scriptures were produced. By sending forth his Spirit (Ps 104:30) God performed his creative works at the beginning. God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life “and man became a living being” (Gn 2:7). Similarly, God breathed through man the words that make up the Scriptures, which carry God’s image and which alone are able to “instruct for salvation” and “train in righteousness.” [ref]

The Bible actually has a dual authorship -- both divine and human:

  • "The Spirit, however, did not suppress the personality of the human writer, but raised it to a higher level of activity (John 14:26). And because the individuality of the human author was not destroyed, we find in the Bible a wide variety of style and language." [ref]
  • "God made the mind and the heart of man, and his Spirit knows how to guide them. He does not move them about like blocks but fills them with light, guides them with light, guides them in word and in thought." [ref]
  • "The writers wrote from their own personal, historical, and cultural contexts. Although they used their own minds, talents, language, and style, they wrote what God wanted them to write. Scripture is completely trustworthy because God was in control of its writing. Its words are entirely authoritative for our faith and lives." [ref]

While "inspired by God" (Greek theopneustos) is found only here in the Bible, the idea is a prominent one: Exodus 20:1; 2 Samuel 23:2; Isaiah 8:20; Malachi 4:4; Matthew 1:22; Luke 24:44; John 1:23; 5:39; 10:34-35; 14:26; 16:13; 19:36-37; 20:9; Acts 1:16; 7:38; 13:34; Romans 1:2; 3:2; 4:23; 9:17; 15:4; 1 Corinthians 2:4-10; 6:16; 9:10; 14:37; Galatians 1:11-12; 3:8, 16, 22; 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2:13; Hebrews 1:1-2; 3:7; 9:8; 10:15; 2 Peter 1:21; 3:16; 1 John 4:6; Revelation 22:19. [ref]

"All Scripture is inspired by God" can also be translated "All God-inspired scripture." If the latter is correct, then most likely this is simply Paul's way of drawing a clear and sharp distinction between the sacred writings (= Scripture) and those employed by the false teachers: "We must note that Paul here makes a distinction. He speaks of 'all God-inspired scripture.' The Gnostics had their own fanciful books; the heretics all produced their own literature to support their claims. Paul regarded these as man-made things; but the great books for a man's soul were the God-inspired ones which tradition and the experience of men had sanctified." [ref]

We should also bear in mind that inspiration guarantees accuracy but not God's approval of sinful acts: "Some critics argue that all Scripture cannot be divinely inspired since a moral God could not possibly have inspired, say, the story of a horrible rape in Jdg 19:22–30. Scripture does record immoral acts. Inspiration guarantees its accuracy, not its divine approval. God’s approval or disapproval of human acts recorded in the Bible must be inferred from the comments of the biblical narrator, the divine response to the action, the purpose of the book as a whole, and biblical principles stated in other sections of Scripture." [ref]



Theological term for the influence God exerted on the writers of Scripture, enabling them to transmit his revelation of himself in writing.

For the early church, two factors were significant in their total acceptance of the OT as divinely inspired. One was the constant assertion throughout its pages that “God spoke” or “God said” this or that. Also, many OT prophecies concerning the coming Messiah had been fulfilled in Jesus, and to Christians it seemed clear that such prophecies must have been directly communicated by God himself. The second factor was Jesus’ attitude toward Scripture. He declared that the OT “cannot be broken” (Jn 10:35; cf. Lk 16:17). Jesus loved the OT and lived out its essential message, demonstrating his acceptance of it as the Word of God. For the early church, his recognition of its inspiration (Mt 22:43) validated its divine origin and verified its historical accuracy.

Christ’s view of the OT became the view expressed in the NT, which is saturated with quotations from the OT and allusions to it. Constant use of formulas like “the Scripture says,” “it is written,” “God said,” or “the Holy Spirit said” shows that in the NT, Scripture is equated with the written Word of God.

But what about the inspiration of the NT itself? The first preachers of the gospel were sure that they had received divinely communicated “gospel” (Rom 1:16). The gospel message, given in oral form to the apostles “through the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:2), was later embodied in writing by the action of that Spirit. When the NT eventually took its place alongside the OT as Scripture, it was with awareness of the specific and established meaning of the term: “Scripture” connoted “God’s Word written.”

The two Testaments consequently belong together and are regarded by Christians as constituting a single utterance of God. “Inscripturation” is the process by which God’s self-disclosure was committed to writing so that the resulting product can be accurately designated the Word of God. God’s revelation is said to be inscripturated in the biblical record. Certain NT passages specifically refer to the supernatural inspiration of Scripture, but to Christians the evidence of that reality is seen throughout the entire Bible.

The Nature of Inspiration
Before the middle of the 19th century, the church was unanimous in its view of inspiration: God gave the actual words of Scripture to its human authors so as to perpetuate unerringly his special self-disclosure. But in the second half of the 19th century the pervasiveness of evolutionary ideas and the rise of “higher criticism” in biblical studies led certain theologians to question the historic concept of verbal inspiration. Attempts were made to modify the concept or to replace it altogether with a new doctrine of inspiration allowing for a theory of religious development and a patchwork OT. Some theologians shifted the locale of inspiration from the objective word to subjective experience. The experience might be that of a religious genius, or of a prophet whose insights and glimpses of truth are preserved in the Bible. It might also be the experience of a person today who, gripped by a biblical word or message, avows the Bible to be an inspiring book.

Such drastically altered views do not satisfy the Bible’s understanding of its own inspiration. “For it was not through any human whim that men prophesied of old; men they were, but, impelled by the Holy Spirit they spoke the words of God” (2 Pt 1:21 NEB). For both the spoken and the written Word the Holy Spirit enlightened the mind and superintended the work.

According to Paul, the very language of Scripture is “God-breathed” (2 Tm 3:16). Paul’s statement means that Scripture is the product of God’s creative breath and hence is a divine product.

In the OT, Hebrew words for “breath” are frequently translated “spirit” in English versions (e.g., Gn 1:2; 6:3; Jgs 3:10; 6:34). God’s “breath” is an expression for his Spirit going forth in creative power (Gn 1:2; 2:7; Jb 33:4; Ps 104:30). That creative power is the source of those special human activities and skills required by God for the fulfillment of his purposes (Ex 35:30–35; Nm 24:2; Jgs 6:34). Throughout the OT the breath or spirit of God is specifically associated with prophecy (Nm 24:2; Is 48:16; Jl 2:28; Mi 3:8). Such observations provide a background for understanding Paul’s word, “God-breathed.” By “the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth” (Ps 33:6); likewise, by God’s outbreathing the Scriptures were produced. By sending forth his Spirit (Ps 104:30) God performed his creative works at the beginning. God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life “and man became a living being” (Gn 2:7). Similarly, God breathed through man the words that make up the Scriptures, which carry God’s image and which alone are able to “instruct for salvation” and “train in righteousness.”

Consequences of the Biblical View
Two corollaries follow from accepting the Bible’s own account of its inspiration.

Inspiration Is Plenary. First the inspiration of the Scriptures can be said to be “plenary,” a word meaning “full; entire; complete.” That is, Scripture is God-breathed in all its parts. The Spirit’s activity is not limited to a few texts or special passages of Scripture, but belongs to the written Word as a whole.

Yet plenary inspiration does not require that every statement in the Bible is necessarily true. The mistaken view of Job’s friends (cf. Jb 42:7–9), the falsehoods told by Peter (Mk 14:66–72), and the letters of heathen kings (Ezr 4:7–24), although quoted in the Scriptures, were not Spirit-inspired. Whether they are actually true or false must be discovered by reference to the context. The recording of such words by the writers of Scripture, however, was subject to the Spirit’s inspiration; God wanted them to be part of his revelation.

Inspiration Is Verbal. A second corollary of the Bible’s affirmation is that inspiration applies to the biblical words. God-breathed Scripture consists of God-given words. The Scriptures are “sacred writings.” Inspiration functioned in the inner connection between the thought and the word, influencing them both. That understanding of inspiration historically has been referred to as “verbal.” The term directs attention to the products of the divine outbreathing, the actual words. Because the Holy Spirit was concerned with the words of Scripture there is no limit to the trust and reliance a believer may place in them.

The term “verbal” does lend itself to ambiguity, as some conservative scholars readily admit. Most evangelical theologians agree that any statement of inspiration that regards the words of Scripture as “dictated” by the Holy Spirit to machinelike writers should be rejected. Yet they retain the word “verbal” as best able to convey that the Holy Spirit so influenced the writers of Scripture that their words are to be taken in the fullest sense as the Spirit’s words (cf. e.g., 1 Kgs 22:8–16; Neh 8; Ps 119; Jer 25:1–13; Rom 1:2; 3:2, 21; 16:26).

The words of Scripture, however, are at the same time fully human words. Scripture can be said to have dual authorship. It is the joint production of God and of individual human beings. Evidence of human authorship is obvious in stylistic features, historical outlook, cultural context, and so forth. From a psychological viewpoint, each biblical book is a distinctive literary creation of its author. From the theological viewpoint, its content is God’s creation. Moses, the prophets, Jesus Christ, and the apostles all considered their words to be, in a literal sense, from God himself [Jer 1:7; Ez 2:7; Jn 7:16; 12:49, 50; 1 Cor 2:9-13; 14:27; 2 Thes 3:6].

The doctrine of plenary, verbal inspiration thus asserts that in a unique and absolute way the Holy Spirit acted in relationship with the biblical writers so as to render them infallible revealers of God’s truth; hence, the Bible may be spoken of as God’s infallible Word. In Scripture, as in the person of Jesus Christ, the divine and human elements are regarded as forming one indissoluble whole, dynamically united. The language is human; the message is divine. The human writers were not passive in the process. They were God’s penmen, not merely his pens. The result assures that God is the primary author of Scripture, so that the whole biblical account is rightly designated the Word of God.

- H. D. McDonald [ref] (condensed/extracted from longer article)


To say that God inspired the Bible is to say that the Holy Spirit supernaturally motivated and superintended the prophetic and apostolic recipients of revelation in the entire process of writing their scriptural books.

Many other books have coauthors, so we need not imagine that Scripture has to be either a human or a divine production. The Holy Scriptures originated, not with the will of its human writers, but with the will of God the Holy Spirit (2 Pt 1:20–21). Over 3,000 times biblical writers claimed to have received their messages from God. God the Holy Spirit “inspired” (breathed out or originated) the Scriptures through the human writers (2 Tm 3:16).

God prepared these conscious, active prophetic and apostolic spokesmen (and their secretaries) providentially by their heredity, character, vocabularies, and writing styles. At the appropriate time, in all the processes of writing, they were “moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pt 1:21). This technical meaning of inspiration does not apply to any alleged revelations outside the Bible or to any literature that in a more general sense may be said to be inspiring.

God commissioned His true prophets to write, including Moses (Ex 17:14; 34:27), Joshua (Jos 24:15–26), Samuel (1 Sm 10:25), Isaiah (Is 30:8), Jeremiah (Jr 30:2; 36:2, 17, 28–29), Ezekiel (Ezk 43:11), and Habakkuk (Hab 2:2). Hence the Bible was not a result of Israel’s quest for God; it is God’s witness against Israel (Dt 31:26). Zechariah laments the fact that Israel “made their hearts like a rock so as not to obey the law or the words that the LORD of Hosts had sent by His Spirit through the earlier prophets” (Zec 7:12).
The collection (or canon) of biblical books began to be formed as inspired writings were placed alongside the ark of the covenant in which were contained the Ten Commandments (Dt 31:24–26; Jos 24:25–26; 1 Sm 10:25; 1 Kg 8:9; Is 8:20; 29:18; 34:16).

The Lord Jesus Christ validated the OT’s inspiration by quoting from all three sections: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (Lk 24:44). He endorsed the inspiration and authority of the OT in detail (Mt 5:17–18). The Lord also prepared His disciples for the coming of the NT (Jn 16:12) and so endorsed it in principle. Paul received revelation pertaining to redemption (Gl 1:11–17) and expected his writings to be received as from God (2 Th 2:13, 15). Peter classified Paul’s writings with the inspired OT (2 Pt 3:16).

What the authors or their close associates originally wrote in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek was inspired. Although their original manuscripts have not been discovered, we know what they wrote. In numerous available copies, quotations, and translations, there is amazing agreement. Through some 20 centuries of laborious copying and printing, there have been no substantial variations of any important fact or doctrine.

So, in the twenty-first century, we can rely on serious translations to convey what believers need to be “equipped for every good work” (2 Tm 3:17). The Holy Spirit attests to the truth of this written revelation and uses it like a sword to convict of sin, draw sinners to Christ, build them up, and send them out to bless the world (Heb 4:12).

As a result of its inspiration, all that the Bible affirms is true.

- Gordon R. Lewis [ref]

Also see: The Inspiration of the Bible

profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)
Since Timothy was already well aware of the inspiration of Scripture, its profitableness is probably Paul's main point. [ref]

As one commentator aptly puts it: "The Scripture is thus absolutely incomparable; no other book, library, or anything else in the world is able to make a lost sinner wise for salvation; no other Scripture, since it lacks inspiration of God whatever profit it may otherwise afford, is profitable for these ends: teaching us the true saving facts ... refuting the lies and the delusions that deny these facts ... restoring the sinner or fallen Christian to an upright position ... educating, training, disciplining one in genuine righteousness. The character of the source (God-inspired) is matched by the profit produced; the profit attests the character of the source." [ref]

Paul was telling Timothy that the written word of God is profitable for each and every aspect of his (= Timothy's) ministry. The Bible is profitable in a twofold sense: it equips the teacher so that he/she can teach, reprove, correct, and train in righteousness; it likewise equips the student by teaching, reproving, correcting, and training him as he applies its truths to his life.

The four functions of Scripture can be described in a number of ways. For example:

  • Creed & Conduct. "The NEB expresses the matter clearly. As for our creed, Scripture is profitable ‘for teaching the truth and refuting error’. As for our conduct, it is profitable ‘for reformation of manners and discipline in right living’. In each pair the negative and positive counterparts are combined. Do we hope, either in our own lives or in our teaching ministry, to overcome error and grow in truth, to overcome evil and grow in holiness? Then it is to Scripture that we must primarily turn, for Scripture is ‘profitable’ for these things." [ref]
  • The Right. "[The Scriptures] are profitable for doctrine (what is right), for reproof (what is not right), for correction (how to get right), and for instruction in righteousness (how to stay right)." [ref]
  • Believing & Doing. "(1) 'for doctrine' -- to know what to believe; (2) 'for reproof' -- to discern what not to believe; (3) 'for correction' -- to learn what not to do; and (4) 'for instruction in righteousness' -- to understand what should be done." [ref]

Regarding these specific functions of Scripture:

  • teaching: "teaching material" [ref] or "doctrine" (KJV/NKJV); "imparting knowledge concerning God's revelation in Christ" [ref]
  • reproof: "refutation of false teaching and rebuke of sin" [ref]; "'conviction' ... The verbal form means 'to rebuke another with such effectual wielding of the victorious arms of the truth, as to bring him, if not always to a confession, yet at least to a conviction of his sin' (Trench)." [ref]; issuing warnings, refuting errors, pointing out dangers, and exposing false teachers and their teaching [ref]; Scripture refutes "every religious lie, falsehood, fiction; truth naturally destroys all these and frees from them" [ref]
  • correction: "correction, recovery, setting upright on their moral feet" [ref]; "'restoration to an upright or right state, correction or improvement' of life or character" [ref]; "Not only must the sinner be warned to leave the wrong path [= reproof], but he must also be directed to the right or straight path (Daniel 12:3) [= correction]." [ref]; "restoring the sinner to an upright position from his fallen state, the believer who has fallen back into sin and guilt" [ref]; "To bring false teachers and those influenced by them back to a knowledge of the truth." [ref]
  • training in righteousness: "training" includes "'the whole training and education of children which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals, and employs for this purpose, now commands and admonitions, now reproof and punishment; whatever in adults also cultivates the soul, especially by correcting mistakes and curbing passions, hence, instruction which aims at the increase of virtue; in biblical usage, chastisement, chastening' (Thayer)." [ref]; "[Righteousness] is forensic: that quality which has God’s own verdict in its favor, which he as the Judge approves by his verdict (Matt. 25:34–40)." [ref]


Christians are apt to be uncomfortable with the psalmist’s claim, “I have done what is righteous and just” (Ps 119:121). From the perspective of the NT, we are likely to think of righteousness as an impossibility. Only God is truly righteous. And only in Jesus can we stand before God as a righteous people. How then can a human being appeal, “Hear, O LORD, my righteous plea” (Ps 17:1)? We feel much more comfortable with Ps 143:2: “No one living is righteous before you.”

This sense of discomfort illustrates how important it is for us to understand the biblical concept of righteousness. For righteousness surely is a basic theme in both Testaments and a keystone in Christian theology.

In both the OT and the NT, the words translated “righteous” and “righteousness” speak of conformity to a standard or norm. For Israel and the NT church, that norm is the will of God, which is an expression of his nature and character. The OT speaks of God’s righteousness, affirming that his acts and his law are in conformity with his character. A “righteous” person in OT parlance is one who fears God and whose relationship with the Lord is expressed in keeping his commandments. There are many blessings promised the righteous, just as the wicked are warned of God’s necessary judgment.

The OT references to imputed righteousness and to the fact that God’s covenant commitments were not made on account of any human uprightness were ignored in the Judaism of Jesus’ day. Righteousness and law were viewed in an integrated way, and the good Jew sought to establish his righteousness by keeping the law.

Jesus, however, challenged this view in bold confrontations. In his Sermon on the Mount, he spoke of a “surpassing” righteousness. He pointed out that in order to win God’s approval, the heart and not simply the behavior must be right. True righteousness means being like God, not simply obeying him.

The apostle Paul applied the OT in ways that were totally radical to contemporary Judaism. Human righteousness is impossible, Paul argued. What the law does is condemn. To find a basis for a legal standing as a righteous person, one must look to the OT concepts of redemption and atonement, not to the law. Thus the gospel is good news because it announces that God will declare righteous those who believe in Jesus, whose life was offered in atonement for our sins. Paul also shows that imputation was involved when God “counted” people of the OT righteous, and that this has always come through faith.

But Paul goes on to show that righteousness from God is more than a legal judgment. God acts in Christ to actually make the believer a righteous person. He does this by taking up residence within the believer in the person of the Holy Spirit. The believer now is free to act righteously by following the promptings of the Spirit, who also enables him to do the actions of faith.

The righteousness that law commanded but could never create now becomes a reality. Through Jesus, God both announced that we have his righteousness and works to make us more and more like him: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Co 5:21).

- Lawrence O. Richards [ref] (condensed/extracted from longer article)


2 TIMOTHY 3:17 - The Charge to God's Worker (vv. 10-17)

so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17)
Paraphrase: "that the man of God may be competent because he has been equipped [outfitted, furnished] [for] performing every good work" [ref]; "So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work" (AMP).

Paul was not long for this world. God's written Word would equip Timothy for the tremendous task of carrying on without his friend and mentor.

"Man of God" = "The preacher of righteousness, the minister of the Gospel, the person who derives his commission from God, and always appears as his herald and servant." [ref] "Both the OT background of this phrase and the context show that Paul is thinking specifically of Timothy as his delegate and a leader over the church (see 1 Tim. 1:3–4; 6:11). While this verse applies generally to all believers, Paul’s specific focus here is the preparation of Timothy to continue in his task when Paul is no longer present." [ref]

"Adequate" (Greek artios) means "complete, in fit shape, in fit condition." [ref] In the field of mathematics, it refers to "an integer or whole number ... to which nothing needs to be added to make it complete." [ref] "Equipped" (Greek exartizō) carries the idea of "completely furnished" or "fully equipped." [ref]

Being adequate and equipped applies to both "the teacher fitted for his task by the study of Holy Scripture" and "the pupil fitted for his task by the teacher’s training." [ref] While this is classroom imagery, two points are worth noting: 1) Teaching occurs in both formal and informal settings, and 2) unlike Timothy's day, today we are blessed with literally tons of solid Bible teaching in the form of Bible encyclopedia, dictionaries, commentaries, etc. (Click here for some recommended titles.)

"God's word is that which gives one the necessary skills and tools to be capable in performing every good work." [ref] As one commentator notes well:

[T]he relevance of Scripture may be seen in its complete sufficiency for living the Christian life. [2 Timothy 3:17] closes the passage with a statement of purpose (so that) that reaches not only to the man of God who must carry out the tasks enumerated in [2 Timothy 3:16] but to all believers. Constant study of God's Word equips one to do all that God requires, because it contains the knowledge of God's will. Paul says in Ephesians 2:10 that we have been saved "to do good works" -- that is, saved in order to bear tangible fruit in our lives, particularly in service to others and in our relationships with others (compare Gal 5:6, 22-23; 6:9). This "other-oriented" description of Christian living (thoroughly equipped for every good work) is linked inseparably here with nourishment from the Scriptures. [ref]

Broadly speaking, "equipped for every good work" "includes everything that God calls a believer to do. But, in a specific sense, this also supports the doctrine of the 'sufficiency of Scripture,' that is, the idea that the truth contained in Scripture is sufficient in all matters pertaining to doctrine and moral behavior. Although there are no commands outside the Bible that apply to all of God’s people, this does not exclude individual guidance by the Holy Spirit on how to apply the universal commands of Scripture in particular situations." [ref]

"The purpose of Bible study is not just to understand doctrines or to be able to defend the faith, as important as these things are. The ultimate purpose is the equipping of the believers who read it. It is the Word of God that equips God’s people to do the work of God." [ref]


*Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. ( | **This outline is from The Bible Exposition Commentary, by Warren W. Wiersbe