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 perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
(2 Timothy 3:16–17; KJV)
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul gives a wonderful description of God’s Word and how it should be used in our lives (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In just one sentence that spans two verses, he sums up the usefulness of Scripture to every believer. Paul begins by pointing out that all Scripture has been inspired by God. Some translations say that Scripture is “God-breathed.” While the words may have come from the pens of men, those men (including Paul) were given these words by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit working through them.
This is an important point. In his book, A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens writes that it is important to understand that Jacob Marley was dead in order for anything wonderful to come from the story Dickens is relating. When it comes to the Bible, it is important that we understand that it is the Holy Spirit inspired, inerrant Word of God in order to read it, understand it, and use it for the purpose that God intended. After establishing this point, Paul goes on to explain that purpose.
The Word of God is profitable, or useful, for several reasons. First and foremost, it is profitable for doctrine, or teaching. By reading the words of the Bible, we learn who God is, what He has done for us, and what He desires from us. The doctrine that we need for life is God’s truth and the only place where we can find that truth is in His Word. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 tells us that a day will come (indeed, that day may already be here!) when people will not want to hear sound doctrine. For this reason, we need to have the truth of God’s Word in our hearts.
This brings us to the second reason that God’s Word is profitable, for reproof. Reproof can be looked at in a couple of ways. It can mean using the truth of God’s Word to rebuke those who teach false doctrine and warn those who believe that false doctrine. It can also mean rebuking believers who choose to persist in sin (1 Timothy 5:20). In order to do these things, we need the truth of God’s Word in our hearts so that, with patience and teaching, we can be ready when necessary to use His Word to reprove and rebuke.
The third reason for the usefulness of God’s Word is to correct. As we walk in God’s ways, we likely will face opposition from those who do not share our faith. Their opposition may come by choice or because of a lack of understanding of God and His truths. The Word of God gives us what we need to correct, with gentleness, those who oppose us. When we do, the power of God and His Word may very well lead them to repentance as they receive the knowledge of His truth (2 Timothy 2:25).
Finally, God’s Word is useful for instruction or training in righteousness. God’s Word shows us what is right and then teaches us how we can live according to godliness, always seeking to do what is right in the sight of God. When we learn how to live righteously, we can also help new believers to learn to live righteously.
Paul ends these verses by telling us why these things are important to the believer, why we need God’s Word to learn and teach, to reprove and correct, and to train to live righteously. If we count ourselves as believers, we need these things so that we may be complete, so that we have all that we need to carry out the work that God has planned for us.