The Holy Spirit: 2 Timothy 3:16-17

spirit-thumb.jpgI get emails —

I have been reading through your blog material for quite some time now and I appreciate you so much. You are addressing so much and reaffirming to me that I am doing the right thing by coming out of legalism. It has been a long, difficult journey, but very liberating. The Bible is starting to make a lot more sense to me now, for sure.

I have a question though, that I am hoping you will be able to answer for me. It is probably addressed at some place on your blog, but I just haven’t found it. I am reading through your book currently, “The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace.” This is a great book. I have for a long time been a “representative” pusher, or that the Spirit indwells us through the Word only. I no longer believe that. I realize that for so long in this and on many other issues, I have been merely protecting tradition. I finally see the Bible gives us too much for us to deny that the Spirit indwells us in a personal way and influences the heart of the Christian. It is amazing what honesty will do for you.

Anyway, as I study through this stuff, I kind of rehearse my response to a lot of arguments that I know my friends will throw my way as I am “coming out the legalism closet” so to speak. One verse I know they will throw my way (I know because I once thought like they did) is 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which at the end tells us that Scripture makes us complete and equipped for every good work. How would you respond to that? If the Scripture is sufficient to equip us for all good works, then what need would there be for the Spirit to indwell the heart of a Christian? I realize there has to be a way to harmonize these concepts as I don’t believe it is possible for God’s word to contradict itself.

Thank you for what you are doing brother! Finding your material and books could not have come at a better time in my life for me personally.

The text of the passage is —

(2 Tim 3:16-17)  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The English Standard Version is a little closer to the original —

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

The theory to be tested

The theory we need to test is that because Scripture equips a man of God for every good work, there is no need for the Holy Spirit’s present work in a Christian.

First point

Let’s start with the meaning of “Scripture.” Obviously, at the time this was written, much of the New Testament had not yet been written. Therefore, when Paul wrote this, “Scripture” referred either to only the Old Testament or else to the Old Testament and those books of the New Testament then written.

Question: If the theory above is true, why did God inspire, through his Spirit, additional books of the Bible? Wouldn’t this theory, if true, require that the Spirit also stop inspiring additional Scripture?

Second point

If the Scriptures are entirely sufficient to equip us for good works, why do we have elders, preachers, and teachers? Don’t these and other Christian leaders use the Scriptures to equip fellow Christians?

If so, then clearly the Scriptures are even more effective when some one or more persons use them to equip us. The Scriptures don’t equip entirely on their own! And as the Spirit is a person, too, the Spirit can certainly make use of the Scriptures to equip Christians.

Tying it together

Consider —

(Eph 4:11-12)  It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up …

Here Paul credits gifted members of the congregation with equipping Christians for works of service. The parallel is obvious, and yet Paul sees these people as necessary to the task. The Scriptures are “profitable” but not self-sufficient.

Moreover, these members have special gifts to help in the equipping process. Where did these gifts come from? Obviously, as taught in 1 Cor 12 and Rom 12, from the Holy Spirit.

Thus, the Spirit gives us the Scriptures and also gifts certain leaders to use the Scriptures in equipping us for good works. Of course, the Spirit also helps us individually understand the Scriptures.

(1 Cor 2:14-15)  The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment:

Of course, the Scriptures are profitable for doing good works. But in no other context would we impose on that passage the interpretation that the Scriptures do it all by themselves and so no help is needed.

Speaking as someone who has been studying the Scriptures all long as he could read, I need all the help I can get. I especially need the Helper.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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2 Responses to The Holy Spirit: 2 Timothy 3:16-17

  1. Robert Baty says:

    It is, as I have alluded to previously on this topic, appropriate to "test" for a need of certain "works" within a Christian.

    The non-fallacious ad-hominem "test" I have made reference to has to do with "testing" the experiential claims of such Christians, who have in their own minds resolved the "need" test, as to certain "things" happening to them as a result of such alleged works.

    If it turns out to be "better felt than told", why don't those pushing such things simply keep their feelings, possibly indigestion anyway, to themselves instead of trying to tell the rest of us about them?

    Oops! I guess that raises that other recent issue about "giving our testimony"?

  2. Edward Fudge says:

    Perhaps the ESV does not best represent Paul's statement in 2 Tim. 3:16 after all. Paul affirms that "all Scripture" (referring primarily, as you note, to what we call "Old Testament" Scripture) is "inspired of God" (KJV) and is therefore "profitable." Rather than emphasizing Scripture's ORIGIN, as the ESV does with "breathed out," the word Paul uses (theopneustos = literally "God-breathed") reminds us of the creation of Adam, when God "breathed into" the clay body "breath of life" and Adam became a LIVING BEING. Similarly, God has "breathed" his life into Scripture, so it is profitable (and, as Hebrews tells us, "living"). Although this says something about Scripture's divine origin, Paul is emphasizing one of Scripture's QUALITIES (it is"God-breathed, therefore profitable). He is not developing a particular theory of inspiration.

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