I have a love/hate relationship with instruction manuals. On the love side, I am a compulsive reader of instructions. Before I turn on any new phone, assemble any toddler toy or dive into the new furniture, I first sit down and read the instructions from cover to cover. Well, actually, I usually skip the Spanish, German, French, Danish and Chinese portions of the manual. On the hate side, I find it hard to handle the incredibly common ineptness with the English language, inability to draw a reasonable likeness to the product and convoluted order of events. Nothing is worse, however, then getting half-way through a project only to find you were missing a vital page of instructions. Generally, this will be the most important page and will require you to undo multiple bolts and screws. Insufficient instructions, to a compulsive instruction reader, are maddening. When Paul wrote to Timothy about the sacred writings (2 Tim. 3:14-16), he wanted to be sure Timothy understood that God’s Word was completely sufficient. There were no missing instructions or half-truths, and no need to look for outside help. The Scriptures are sufficient.
Scripture, the words breathed out by God that make one wise to salvation, are profitable. There is practical, effective help in the Word of God. Paul lists four things Scripture is profitable for: teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. It’s a little hard to distinguish these terms from one another in the English (it’s hard to do it in the Greek too). Perhaps the best way of looking at this list is to see two pairs of words, one the positive side and one the negative. “Teaching” is the positive side of “reproof” while “correction” is the negative side of “training in righteousness.” Regardless of how much distinction we see or don’t see in these words, one point should be clear. God’s Word is profitable both for doctrine and practice. Scripture comes directly from God, and it is good for telling us what is true as well as what to do.
Some scholars like to point out that the Bible is not a math or science or history textbook, and that it doesn’t say everything that is true or can be known. That’s true enough, but this passage does tell us what Scripture is sufficient for. When it comes to faith or practice, Scripture can make the man of God entirely competent, ready and prepared for every good work that God expects him to do. God’s Word tells us everything we need to know in regard to life and godliness. It’s not inaccurate in its scientific or historical content, nor is it lacking in its theological instructions. It doesn’t need the help of pop psychology, the “improvements” of modern science or the re-interpretation of further revelation. Scripture is all we need when it comes to what to believe and how to act. Let’s trust its breadth while we carefully study its depth.