God has gone to great lengths to demonstrate his love, so that we may know him in a very personal way. God chose men to write his words and works and to protect these writings so that they would be available for all. To follow and know God means that we should grow in our knowledge of him through the study of his word, the Bible. As we grow in this understanding of who God is and his ways, we will be changed to be more like him in our thinking, attitudes, and actions.
To help frame our thinking about Scripture, God sprinkles principles throughout the Bible. Many of these truths about the Bible also function as tools to assist in our Bible study. In Paul's instructions to Timothy, we find one of these nuggets of wisdom. 2 Timothy 3:16-17, says...
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Benefits of Scripture
One way to help focus on the main action of a passage is to temporarily remove the prepositional phrases. When we do this, we see ...
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,
and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Scripture is a gift to humanity and the giver and source is God. Every part of the whole of scripture are the words, thoughts, and actions of God which have been graciously given to mankind to reveal to us who He is and how He wants to relate to his creation. Here God expands the purpose of scripture to show us how we are to think, live and be outfitted to do the good that he wants us to do - that we were created to do.
Also, the Word of God is beneficial, advantageous or profitable. So, what benefit is God trying to emphasize here? The terms complete and thoroughly equipped identify this purpose of God for believers or followers of Jesus.
These two terms, complete and thoroughly equipped, work together to describe a person who is ready and able to glorify God in thought, speech, and action. A complete person is someone whose thinking has been reframed by understanding scripture. Then from this way of thinking or belief, a person must learn to skillfully deal with the situations of life with godly wisdom and understanding based on the truths of scripture, which is what the term thoroughly equipped means. To be this kind of follower of God or disciple takes some time and requires training and discipline.
Discipline involves the proper execution of teaching and correction based in grace and love and directed toward a goal or purpose. Grace and love are among the highest ideals that God wants to demonstrate through those who follow him. However, this training is not always comfortable. Not only is the man or woman of God immersed in an environment which is in contrast to God's ways but he or she has also been influenced by the world's thinking. The process of changing that distorted thinking can sometimes be painful, frustrating and confusing. With grace and in love, God’s purpose is to change believers to be more like Christ. This process of discipline involves encouragement, but it also involves loving chastisement, which is not usually something that gives warm fuzzies.
So, the main action of this passage tells us that God has given us his word for the purpose and process of changing our thinking and way of living so that we can become the people he created us to be, so that we may be a light to a world that has been darkened from his presence.
Defining the Terms
Verse 16 provides four terms that describe and categorize how scripture is beneficial for the purpose of training believers.
The first term is Doctrine, which simply means teaching. Scripture teaches us what to believe and think about God, man, and the world in which we live.
Reproof means to point out when something is wrongly done. Reproof is what a coach does when the athlete does not execute a skill properly. Scripture helps us to see and understand what actions are improper.
Correction is the process of changing a wrong way of thinking to a right way of thinking. Because we live in a world that has been distorted from God's ways and thoughts, we need to realize that our thinking has been and can be influenced by wrong ways of thinking. Correction involves identifying and replacing ideas, concepts, and principles that are in opposition to God's Truth. Sometimes this process takes a great deal of time and work to straighten out because some ways of thinking sound humanly good, are very popular with the majority, or have become ingrained into the culture in which we live. This is where the work of faith or trust in God's word takes place.
The final beneficial aspect of scripture mentioned in this short list is the phrase instruction in righteousness, which is training to develop habits of doing what is good or according to God's way.
Organizing the Terms
As we look back over the basic meaning of these four terms we discover that there are some similarities and differences which can help us organize these benefits in our thinking.
The first observation is that two terms have a positive aspect and two have a negative aspect. Doctrine and Instruction in Righteousness approach the process of completing and equipping the man and woman of God positively by directing our attention to how we should think and act. These show us what our thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and motives need to be and then how we need to express those in our behavior with the people surrounding us in our daily lives.
The terms reproof and correction provide the necessary negative aspect of discipline or training. We will continually face the issue of sin while on this earth. There will be wrong thinking that existed before we started our walk with God as well as wrong thinking that can creep in from the incessant pressure from the world’s distorted perspective. This wrong thinking will need to be identified and corrected. Since these wrong motives and attitudes affect our speech and actions, our behavior will need to be identified and changed, which is the reproving benefit of the scripture.
Another way to organize these terms is to observe the focus of the term. Doctrine and Correction are training aspects that take aim at our thinking, attitudes, beliefs, and motives. The ideas and qualities that make up who we really are inside. The terms reproof and instruction in righteousness take aim at our behavior or how we are to live out these internal qualities in our relationships and in the various situations in life.
Using the Tools
The benefits given in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 can be valuable tools in our ongoing study of God's word. Categorizing or grouping similar pieces of information is a great way to increase our understanding and set information in our minds. Here God gives us a tool to organize our study of His word by using these benefits as groups or categories.
When reading or studying a book of the bible, it is always useful to get a big picture perspective of that book. This big picture will help us keep in mind the intent or context of that particular book as we discover ponder the details in the book. Part of this overview might include trying to classify which one or two of these 2 Timothy 3:16 benefits best identifies the major emphasis for that book.
For example, the book of Galatians is a letter where Paul found he needed to address a problem of improper teaching that had arisen in the church. Teachers of false doctrine had influenced the folks at the church of Galatia. Paul writes the letter with the main intent of identifying the false teaching and false teachers and correcting it by reminding them what they had been taught. So, we might identify this as a book as a book primarily of correction.
By categorizing the intention or theme of the book according to one or two of these benefits, we can help set in our mind the overall purpose of the book, which might keep us from missing the forest for the trees.
We may also use this tool to see training aspects of smaller portions of scripture. Identifying sections of a book, verses and phrases as doctrine, reproof, correction or instruction in righteousness can help direct, focus, organize, and set our minds to what is being said and what God wants to convey to us and build in us.
One aspect of God's purpose for believers is to reflect his ways and thoughts and to be representatives of him to a world that has become distanced from him because of sin. When others see that we are different because we think and do things according to God's Word of Truth, then we can have opportunity to share the life and contentment that God can give to anyone who would follow.
To do this we must be like him in our thoughts, attitudes and motives. We must also know how to demonstrate his character in our speech and actions. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 reminds us the various ways scripture is part of the up and down process of training through teaching, instructing, correcting and reproving.
May we be discerning of God’s ways and will in order to live and love in obedience to God’s Word so that all we think, say and do brings glory to God.
Questions for Thought and Discussion
- As we grow in our understanding of who God is, how will our thinking, attitudes, and actions change?
- What does it mean to be complete or thoroughly equipped?
- List some ways discipline is difficult.
- Define Doctrine:
- Define Reproof:
- Define Correction:
- Define Instruction in Righteousness:
- How do the four terms above relate to each other (how are they alike and different?)
- Why is the book of Galatians mostly a book of correction?
- What are some ways we must be like God to reflect His ways to the world?
- Summarize 2 Tim 3.16-17 in your own words.
- What benefit can we gain by categorizing passages we read by Doctrine, Reproof, Correction, and Instruction in Righteousness?
- Can you identify specific verses that seem to fall into one of these categories? These may be favorite verses or memory verses from past studies.
- How do we handle passages that seem to fit more than one category? Do we pick the most prevalent one? Do we use multiple categories?
Group Exercise – Can we apply what was taught?
- Identify sections, verses or phrases to categorize – you will need to choose a passage with which the group is familiar, or provide additional time for the group to read and evaluate the portion of scripture you chose.
- Books: Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, Timothy, Jude...
- Chapters: Here is a sample of verses to help you begin: Exodus 32, Leviticus 1, Psalm 23, Proverbs 2, Matthew 5, John 3.16-18, Acts 7, Acts 17.22-34 1 Corinthians 13, Ephesians 4, Colossians 3, 2 Peter 3, or any chapter in the books listed above
- Verses: Use familiar passages or verses the group has previously studied together
- Have the group read the passage together – if you have a large group, gather into smaller groups of 3-5 people for this activity. You can choose the same passage for each group, or give each group different passages.
- Have groups determine if the passage is mostly Doctrine, Reproof, Correction, or Instruction in Righteousness. Ask them to give reasons for their determination.
- If you have several groups with different passages, read each group’s passage aloud so that other groups might benefit from the discussion.
Leader Note: Not all groups will work well together the first time. As group leader, you can facilitate better group discussions by keeping the following in mind:
- Give passages that challenge, but do not frustrate the groups’ ability to understand.
- If possible mix the group with older and newer believers, introverts and extroverts, adults and young people. We can learn so much from each other when given the chance.
- Make sure one person does not dominate the group discussion. While sometimes a leader is needed to keep the group moving, that person should be encouraging other member’s input.
- Keep the discussion on the passage assigned. While reading Bible passages often leads to discussions about modern topics, make sure the groups remain focused on the Scripture and what it says. The purpose of this lesson is a better understanding of God’s word.
Personal Challenges – Make the lesson your own!
Hide it in your Heart:
Memorize 2 Timothy 3.16-17
Scratching the surface:
Write out your five favorite verses. Place each into one of the categories discussed in 2 Timothy 3.16-17. Underline or highlight words or phrases that show what the verse is saying.
Bonus: List three things you learned or were reminded about God and His character from the verses you chose.
Get out the shovel, we are going deep!
Choose an epistle (any book from Romans --> Jude) from the New Testament. Read it through several times – several means more than twice! For each chapter in that book, create a chapter title and identify which category(ies) it falls into: Doctrine, Reproof, Correction, or Instruction in Righteousness.
Bonus: List three things you learned or were reminded about God and His character from the book you chose.
Additional Information maybe for a group leader or extra resources to read or audio only links.