Scripture’s Sufficiency Declared by Paul
Moving from the Old to the New Testament we come to the apostle Paul’s second letter to his protégé, Timothy. Similar to David’s beautiful description of the nature and function of Scripture, here we find Paul’s writing on similar themes albeit more laconic.
Chapter 3 begins with a warning to Timothy to prepare for difficult days ahead, times characterized by people turning from God to godlessness, from worship of the Creator to idolatry of creation (vv. 1–9). To prepare for the coming storm of personal and ecclesial hardship and persecution, Timothy is instructed to batten down the hatches by committing himself to “the things you have learned and become convinced of … the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (vv. 14–15). In a time marked by deception (v. 13), the young man must cling desperately to the anchor of wisdom-granting, salvation-bringing truth found in God’s word.
Its Character and Capacity
With this need and charge as the backdrop, Paul then moves to describe for Timothy the character and capacity of these “sacred writings,” i.e., Scripture, all of which “is inspired by God” (v. 16). While David poetically used six different words to describe the nature of God’s word, Paul uses just one: inspired.
Though the word is usually translated ‘inspired,’ which means ‘breathe in,’ technically theopneustos refers to a breathing out, which might more accurately be translated ‘expired.’ Paul is saying that Scripture is ‘expired’ or ‘breathed out’ by God. This is not a mere quibble. It is obvious that for inspiration to take place there must first be expiration. A breathing out must precede a breathing in. The point is that the work of divine inspiration is accomplished by a divine expiration.1
The apostle claims that Scripture is breathed out by God and, as such, carries with it his infallible, inerrant, and authoritative character.
But what of its function? What is the intended purpose of these inspired sacred writings? Paul claims they are “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (vv. 16–17).
The self-declared purpose statement of the “breathed-out-ness” of Scripture is the ample outfitting of believers—through means of teaching, reproving, correcting, and training in righteousness—to accomplish every good work they’re called to accomplish. We know from elsewhere in Scripture that God has prepared good works for his people to do,2 and here we’re shown the means by which we are armed for success in those endeavours. It is via the inspired word of God that Christians are adequately prepared for their God-given tasks.
Peter echoes Paul’s sentiments when he writes that, “[God’s] divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.”3 The Bible, exhaled by God himself, is all that is needed for the purpose for which it was given, i.e., to prep God’s people for the work God has for us to do. Simply stated, it is sufficient to make God’s people sufficient.
1 R. C. Sproul, “Based on God’s Word Alone,” in One Foundation: Essays on the Sufficiency of Scripture (Valencia, CA: Grace to You, 2019), 4.
2 Eph 2:10; 2 Tim 2:21; Tit 2:14; 3:8; Heb 13:21; 1 Pet 3:13
3 2 Pet 1:3, emphasis added