[August 8]--The Spirit at Work: Breathing the Word

2 Timothy 3:16-17

We touched upon this yesterday, but I thought it deserved another day’s treatment. When discussing the issue of biblical inerrancy, 2 Peter 1:19-21 is one of the main passages to consider, and then today’s is the other. Keep in mind that 2 Timothy is a collection of the last words of Paul, so whatever’s in this book deserves the utmost attention. Just about every word in these two short verses is wealth of wisdom concerning God’s word and the Spirit’s word in producing it.

We need to note the very first word here, because it’s pretty relevant: “All.” Not “some,” not “most,” but “all.” This includes the parts we like to read, like the Gospels and the stories in the O.T., and the “boring” parts as well. It includes the genealogies (lists of names) you find scattered throughout Scripture. It includes the building plans of the tabernacle and the temple. It includes the prophecies of doom with names of nations you've never heard of. My wife and I just finished the book of Jeremiah on our 3-year Bible reading plan, and—to be brutally honest—it was a beating. Chapter after chapter after chapter after chapter about how God is about to punish his people doesn’t personally appeal to me. I promise next year when we get into the prophets in the blog, I’ll keep that in mind. But I keep coming back to that one little word: “All.” As a pastor of mine once said, the Holy Spirit is incapable of small talk. If it’s in there, there’s a reason for it.

The next word I want to focus on is “God-breathed.” If you’re used to another translation besides the NIV, you might have seen “inspired by God.” There’s nothing wrong with that translation, since the word “inspire” literally means to “breathe into.” The only problem I have with the word “inspire” is that it’s used too broadly in modern communication. I can say I’ve been “inspired” by Abraham Lincoln or George S. Patton. But to say that it’s “God-breathed” denotes more precisely what happened. God the Holy Spirit “breathed” (remember the quirk about spirit/breath/wind being the same word) into the hearts and hands of the authors of the Bible. Sometimes he gave them word-for-word what to say, but most of the time he used the author’s vocabulary, writing style, and background in order to have the author write down the exact meaning of what he (the Spirit) wanted to convey.

There are four ways in which the Spirit uses Scripture to change us. First, it teaches us. It imparts information, gives direction, and reveals truth we would never know otherwise. Second, the Scripture rebukes us when we need it. If you listen to a Bible-teacher or preacher who consistently makes you feel good about yourself, you need to drop that person like a hot potato. One of the main purposes of the Bible is to show us where we’re falling short of God’s standard. The third thing that the Spirit does through the Scriptures is to correct us. This might seem like a repeat of the second, but it’s not. According to MacArthur, the word was used in extrabiblical Greek to denote the act of righting a fallen object or helping someone back on their feet after they stumble. The word points out where we’re wrong (rebuke) but then shows us Christ and leads us towards restoration. And fourth the Spirit uses the word to train us in righteousness. It’s the main tool of the Spirit in the process of molding us into the likeness of Christ, in the way we think and talk and act.

Remember the importance of links between verses. The purpose of Scripture is to thoroughly equip us to do every good work. If you read and know and follow the Scriptures, you have everything you need for fulfilling what the Father has for you to do.

So do you really believe this? Maybe you have a completely orthodox view of Scripture being God-breathed, but your actions and reading habits don’t show that you think that all of it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. If you do believe that, then do you actually read and try to apply all of God’s word, or do you just stick to the parts you like? Really?

Father God, I’m sorry for all the times I’ve let other things get in the way of studying your word on a regular basis. It’s your tool for changing me, and I keep it on the shelf. Please forgive me and use your word to bring me back to where I’m supposed to be.

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