2 Timothy 3:10-17
10 But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance, 11 along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from them all. 12 In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 Evil people and impostors will become worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, 15 and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
The term “God-breathed” or “inspired” in this passage (v. 16) is a real kicker of a word. Theopneusios in Greek, it’s possible that this word was coined by Paul himself to describe the power of Scripture in the life of a person. Theos means God and pnuestos comes from the word that means breath, so he kinda stuck those two together. So why would he coin that word to describe the Bible?
One thing we might consider is the “breath of God” itself. Strange to think about, but there are a couple of instances where His breath is mentioned in Scripture. The first one is in Genesis 2:7 in the recounting of creation. After forming man out of the dust of the earth, the Bible records that God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (ESV). The breath of God brought life into Adam, and only after that was he a living creature.
Another instance is in Ezekiel. This passage was one I used to read as a kid when the sermon got boring, because it was kind of freaky. In chapter 37 Ezekiel had what was likely a vision of a valley of dry bones. God told Ezekiel that He would cause breath to come into them and cause them to live. Then Ezekiel heard a loud rattling sound as the bones all came together with flesh on them to form an army of the dead! (You can see why I liked this story as a kid.) God gave breath to them and they stood up alive, ready for battle, as a symbol of what God wanted to do for Israel. Like Adam, until God breathed life into them, they were not alive, not living creatures.
Remember that when Paul referred here to Scripture, he was talking about the Old Testament. The Gospels most likely had not been penned yet (given a mid-60s date to 2 Timothy), or at least some were just being written. The New Testament had certainly not been compiled with the books we have today. Paul was likely to have been the earliest of the New Testament writers.
In verse 15 in today’s reading, Paul encourages Timothy to keep studying the sacred writings of Scripture because they are “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (ESV). The wisdom of God and His plan for salvation is all over the Bible, cover to cover. The full counsel of Scripture brings us to a mature and steady faith in Christ Jesus as it teaches, reproves, corrects and trains us in godly living. That means the whole thing—and not just John 3:16!
So putting all that together, why did Paul use a word like “God-breathed” or “inspired” when talking about the full counsel of God in Holy Scripture? Because His word is life to us, just like the breath He gives us. His word gives us meaning, purpose and abundant life. His word is breath to these dry bones! In His powerful hand it gives us everything we need for life and godliness, knowledge of Him, teaching us how to live not as unwise but as wise.
When we need correction, trust me, His Word corrects. His life-giving Word, breathed into by the Giver of Life, is yours and mine today within the pages of Holy Scripture. So breathe deeply today as you study and learn His Word!
- Go ahead. See how long you can hold your breath. Can’t do it for long, can you? You need breath.
- If God’s Word is God-breathed and His breath brings life, guess what? You need to “breathe in” His Word too.
- Open your life—everything you do—to His Word. Let it wash over every relationship and decision, to evaluate the good things and bad things you’ve done. That’s why He gave it to us. His Word is life. Let it teach, reprove, correct and train you as you study it.