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2 Timothy 3:16–17

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (v. 16).

“The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined…and in whose sentence we are to rest; can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture,” says the Westminster Confession of Faith (1.10). One of the many biblical passages that support this statement is our passage for today’s study, 2 Timothy 3:16–17, where we read that the Scriptures are “breathed out by God.” Scripture finds its origin in the mind and character of the Creator so much so that His very words have been “breathed out” for all to hear. When we breathe out in our speech we speak audibly, and when the Lord God Almighty breathed out in speech long ago, His Word was written down by the apostles and prophets.

Some have said that Scripture contains the Word of God, becomes the Word of God, or is a witness to the Word of God, but as orthodox scholars like B.B. War eld have shown throughout history, none of these conceptions do justice to the concept of inspiration taught in 2 Timothy 3:16. The Holy Spirit so superintended the writers of the Bible that the words they produced are the words of each particular author and at the same time the exact words of God Himself, with all the authority His speech carries. This is why Jesus can say “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35) and why Paul can exhort Timothy to continue in the Word of God that He has heard and to use it to correct and edify other believers (2 Tim. 4:1–2). This is why Scripture is the final authority for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, and it is why Scripture is necessary to make us competent for every good work (3:16–17).

Paul’s statement is applicable not only to the old Testament — even though some argue that the apostle only has the old covenant writings in mind here. Yet since the apostle never speaks about the old Testament apart from the revelation of Jesus Christ, Paul’s conception of Scripture includes the gospel, which is proclaimed clearly in the new covenant writings. Therefore, the old and New Testaments together are the very breath of God, the only infallible and inerrant rule for faith and practice.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Augustine comments that we can never let our failure to understand a specific biblical text make us think that somehow that text is uninspired. “When we are wrong because we haven’t understood it, we leave it in the right. When we have gone wrong, we don’t make out Scripture to be wrong, but it continues to stand up straight and right, so that we may return to it for correction” (ACCNT 9, p. 269). We do not judge the Word of God; it judges us.

For Further Study
  • Exodus 34:1
  • Deuteronomy 29:29
  • Acts 17:10–11
  • 2 Peter 1:21

Wisdom for Salvation

God Has Spoken

Keep Reading The Already and the Not Yet

From the December 2009 Issue
Dec 2009 Issue