2 Timothy 3:16 — A Sign of Insanity
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
People have commonly approached the Bible as if it were only a curiosity. Having read the Sacred Pages through sin-darkened minds, they understand it to be nothing more than great literature or fanciful interpretations of ancient history. On the contrary, the Bible is more than just a book of literature or antiquity. The Bible is the most unique book in all of human history. The Bible holds authority over mankind today that is equally as powerful as it was when it was written. The issues the Bible addresses are the same today as they were thousands of years ago. It is sure that society has changed a great deal from Bible times, but man’s problems have not changed because every man is created equally in God’s sight. Every man has the same forefather in Adam, and as such, inherits a sin nature. Sin has not changed in thousands of years, so man’s problems have not changed either. Man may pervert the use of his most recent inventions to commit the same sins of robbery and murder as in Bible times.
Paul writes the letter of 2 Timothy as a sequel to the first letter to a young pastor named Timothy. Timothy had been reared in a godly Jewish home by his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois. According to Rabbinic law, Eunice and Lois taught Timothy the Law so that he knew it by heart by the age of five. Paul points Timothy to the Bible that he had learned so well as his source of authority as the spiritual leader of his church. Paul encourages Timothy to ‘Preach the word’1 as opposed to merely giving good advice or his own opinions. The very instruction Timothy had received as a child was still sufficient in his adulthood. Paul tells Timothy that the Bible is given by God to teach us how to live. You too may turn to the Bible to know how to live.
What profit does the Bible hold for mankind? How can you derive benefit from the Bible? Paul tells Timothy four manners in which the Bible works for your benefit.
The first way in which the Bible works is through the teaching of doctrine. The Bible reveals truths which man cannot learn on his own. The Bible teaches truths such as man’s origin, God’s character, the fact of sin, the method of forgiveness and reconciliation, and man’s future. All of these things must be revealed by God if man is to know them. B. B. Warfield said, “It is to the Bible that we owe it that we know Christ and are found in Him. And may it not be fairly doubted whether you and I … would have had Christ had there been no Bible? It is actually to the Bible that you and I owe it that we have a Christ, — a Christ to love, to trust, and to follow.”1
Second, the Bible is beneficial to convince or convict of sin. Man’s writings may reveal the fact of sin. For example, look at the front page of your newspaper. Read the headlines and you will quickly discover that the news deals primarily with the sins of men. None of those writings deal with the ultimate consequences of sin. Yes, the news may report the judgment sentences passed upon those who are convicted of crimes, but they do not speak to the whole of mankind. Only God’s Word can speak to the sins of the human race. The very Holy Spirit which channeled God’s creative breath into man also convinces men that they are sinners. Without the Holy Spirit’s operation through the Scriptures, man would have no knowledge of his own sin.
The Scriptures are helpful because they provide correction. The Greek word translated correction is used only here in the New Testament. In extra-biblical Greek literature, the word is often used of a captain correcting his ship’s course after several days of sailing without the aid of the sun and stars for navigation. For whatever reason, the ship had left its intended course, and the captain corrected the course by the sun and stars. The Bible provides believer and non-believer alike a standard by which to correct his behavior.
God can teach us what is truth, and He can convince men of their sin. He can show man how to make his life right, but God’s Word also teaches man how to keep things right. Righteousness simply means right. We live in a day and age where men define what is right based upon their own opinions. Every man has a different opinion of what is right, so no two men’s opinions agree completely. Man’s opinions change with time and convenience. A man may choose to set aside his morality temporarily so that he may achieve a certain benefit or end (the ends justify the means). Man’s opinions are prone to change. What he may consider right today might have been wrong yesterday or will be wrong tomorrow. How is man to know what is right or wrong if the standard of rightness constantly changes? God’s opinions of what is right are the only standard by which man can measure himself. More than ever, we need a perfect standard by which we may live in today’s pluralistic world. One commentator said, “How we need righteousness today, when totalitarian governments are denying that anything can be called right or wrong except in relation to the advancement of the policy of the state, and when in philosophy we have what is called ethical relativity, with all stable standards disappearing.”2 The commentator doubtlessly spoke against totalitarian governments such as found in Communist countries in his lifetime, but his words certainly ring true in our politically correct environment of today’s American government.
J. Wilbur Chapman, a well-known American pastor and evangelist during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, made the following illustration concerning the Bible. “Bible reading is not enough with the open page in your hand, my friend, you may go to hell! I noticed the other day on the roadside a signpost with on it the words, To Edinburgh 7 miles. For Edinburgh was I bound and here was the welcome instruction from the dumb signboard. What would you think if I, footsore and weary and eager to be in your bonny city, had mounted that signboard, straddled stride legs upon it, and [made a] resolution to stick on its top? You would come by, and salute me first, as usual, about the weather; then Scotchman-like, it would be about the whither! Oh, I’m going to Edinburgh. To Edinburgh? What are you doing up there then? Why, can’t you read? Read, read and see. To Edinburgh 7 miles. Yes, isn’t it grand to be here? On this signpost that speaks this blessed speech! Well, you begin to feel eerie-sort and slip by and you report to the policeman that there’s a queer-looking chap squatting on the roadside signpost seven miles from Edinburgh, and you’re sure he must have escaped from Morningside Asylum! Ay, you would think rightly, and do rightly in that case, but oh! dear, dear soul, examine yourself, are you in your Bible-reading and resting just as silly and insane? Are you straddled on the signpost to Calvary? Are you content with your chapter and chapter and chapter that but point you. Are you resting in your daily portion, your family-worship? Have you used this Bible just for what it was meant for to direct you to the Christ, the A and Z of it?”1
James said something very similar in his letter in the New Testament. “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”2 We can read the truth given to man by God, but if we do not allow its benefits to affect us, then we have deceived ourselves. We cannot achieve the completeness only the Bible can give, as Paul describes in the very next verse after our text.3 If we are not doing the work of God as we are taught in God’s Word, we are like the insane man on the signpost in Reverend Chapman’s story. We cannot just read the Bible; we must allow the Bible to change our lives. The Bible holds authority over our lives because it comes from God. We must do as the Bible commands because the omnipotent, omniscient authority of God commands that we live as He lives. Anything less than complete trust and obedience of God’s Word is insanity.
What are your thoughts on this verse?
What four benefits does the Bible offer to you?
According to the first half of the verse, why does the Bible provide authoritative benefits for the believer?
At what times are/have you read the Bible but not applied it to your life?